Sunday, April 21, 2013

Attention! All Management is Change Management

Although I have spent the last ten years with Change Management in my title, my early years were  in the day-to-day operations of organizations.  Thus I have a broad view on this matter.  With experience leading teams in Operations, HR, Sales, Manufacturing, Best Practices and Service, I want to state for the record that ALL management is change management.  (One of Bohn's Rules).

Why is that important Dr. Bohn?   Here's why:

We'll start with the easy answers and move to the tough ones.

  1. Most managers are responsible to induce a form of change or their employment could be jeopardized.   (Corporations generally don't pay you to maintain the status quo - you're there to make something better.)
  2. Most managers actually do make change happen, and many do it well.  They show year-over-year improvement and they are compensated for those successes.
  3. Managers, educators, leaders know when "something's gotta change around here!"  They see it, feel it in their gut, sense it, and know it.
  4. Change has been a constant in business ... forever.  The Laws of Physics do not change, but lots of products using the Laws of Physics are developed every day.    Businesses change to survive.
Some tough answers:

  1. Change Management has a multiplicity of models.  While that's good, it sometimes confuses the users of the process.
  2. Change Management has developed a mind-boggling array of toolkits, frameworks, templates, job aids and other paraphernalia.   No end-user can keep track of the stuff - but they do have binders of materials from various change workshops collecting dust on their bookshelves.
  3. Some Change Management gurus don't know a whole lot about business ... and it shows when they present.

And the toughest of all:

  1. Some executives have trusted change management systems and invested heavily in the models ... only to see their investments become a sunk cost (sometimes with a commensurate loss of business).
  2. Some executives have heard all the presentations and invested only to realize the change team was weak and ineffective.
  3. Some executives see CM as an ad hoc organization off to the side, brought in only as a last resort.
  4. Some executives have trusted external resources (aka Consultants) to help them with the model, only to see changeover from the external resource which resulted in a lack of continuity which ultimately resulted in a failed project costing  ... millions.  One can hardly blame the skepticism in the executive ranks for this discipline. 
... and yet, every one of those executives has had to manage change.  They've sometimes done it the hard way, with brute force, or with organizational savvy/power/political alliances.  And sometimes they've done it because they were ... drum roll ... great change managers (and they didn't even have the title!).

So ... the big need is for an integration of the fine tools developed by the change experts with the operational expertise of truly good managers and leaders.   What a change that would be!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why Employee Engagement Surveys will not solve Organizational Level Problems

After four decades of managing teams, having direct workplace involvement and conducting observations in personal engagements with scores of companies, I have observed these Common and Chronic sources of Organizational Ineffectiveness (supported by academic research):
Silos: great for farms, but not for corporations  Organizations are often siloed.  Departments focus on their own needs to the exclusion of the success of others.  This behavior has a significant negative impact on organizational output.
Too much stuff  Managers are defocused because of excessive (and sometimes, conflicting) initiatives.
Directional Uncertainty   People are sometimes uncertain about how their work fits into organizational success exacerbating ineffectiveness.
Sound Bites Don’t Work  Leaders use sound bites to communicate, often leading to organizational confusion.
Breathing Dinosaurs  Ineffective projects and programs are left in place, draining precious organizational time and energy. 
What does organizational ineffectiveness look like in practice?

  1. Communication bottlenecks prevent the right information from getting to the right people at the right time often impairing decision making.

  1. Teaming to solve problems is hindered.

  1. Uncertainty increases and employees don’t know how to support the organization’s mission, so work is often misaligned.
  1. Incomplete or unnecessary projects absorb valuable resources.
  1. The organization demonstrates poor levels of managerial accountability.

  1. Ineffective leaders remain in positions of authority, negatively influencing others.
Why is this important?   While Employee Engagement surveys are beneficial in understanding individual and departmental concerns, an Organizational Level analysis is required to solve organizational level problems.

At ProAxios, we recommend analyzing the level of Organizational Efficacy.  Contact us for a diagnosis. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Organizational Self-Awareness: The beginning of change.

Personal Self-Awareness

Throughout life, we often get external cues to force change:
  1. Medical news brings us an awareness of a need to change our health habits.
  2. Traffic tickets inform us we need to change our driving habits.
  3. Family stress brings us an awareness of a need to change the amount of time we spend with others.
  4. A bad performance review brings about awareness of a need to do things differently in the workplace.

External cues are helpful, but rarely bring about lasting change.  In psychology, the beginning of individual and personal change is self-awareness, the challenging, difficult and sometimes painful process of learning things we need to know to gain a fresh start.
  1. Psychological self-awareness brings about a clear understanding of blind spots and areas for improvement.
  2. Psychological self-awareness is the starting point for change.  It often involves discovery of previously unknown issues.
  3. Psychological self-awareness jolts us out of lethargy and causes us to do things differently.
Sometimes it has been called "soul-searching".

Organizational Self-Awareness

Most often, organizations get these external cues that force them to do course correction. 

  1. Downturn in the stock market.
  2. Competitive threats.
  3. Revenue gains without commensurate profitability gains.
  4. High turnover.
  5. High Voluntary Absenteeism.
  6. Poor Safety Records.
  7. Litigation.
I offer that those external observations are effects, not causes.  They are after-the-fact data, not the driving force inside the organization.

How can an organization develop self-awareness?

Organizations are not people - - - but they are made up of people who have a sense of how an organization is performing.

Classic water cooler conversations regarding an organization’s ability to weather storms  reflect employee perceptions of the collective power of their organizations to manage in the face of struggle. In short, employees have an awareness of their organization’s collective ability to produce financial outcomes and persevere in difficult business climates. 

The key to gaining organizational self-awareness is to provide people with an opportunity to turn their gaze to overall organizational capability. 

At ProAxios, we call that a sense of Organizational Efficacy. 

Organizational Insight

Monday, April 8, 2013

Master Skill - Influencing without Authority - Part 2

Of the Master Skills needed by every manager, none is more critical than the ability to effectively influence others who are not direct reports.

In any corporation there are scores, even hundreds of initiatives calling for 'teamwork', 'participation', 'involvement,' and 'action'.   Though the initiatives are many, the workers are few.  (I am respectfully paraphrasing The Rabbi).  In other words, while creative initiatives, programs, ideas, and concepts are developed at rapid rates, very often those initiatives are disconnected, and thus no one in the corporation truly has an idea of the full workload being imposed upon the workers.  No one.

New programs are the darlings of an organization, they get a lot of press, a lot of attention, a lot of executive support, and a lot of money.  (That is, of course, until they become 'old' programs, because, as I have mentioned before, novelty is the bane of organizational success.)

So when we come to our peers and ask them for someone on their team to participate on our team, they remember all the existing initiatives and quietly ask themselves:

 "How will this initiative be any different from everything else that is going on?" 

The way you respond to the inward doubt of your peers will predict whether you will get the resources you need.

So what do we do?

  1. WIIFM - Remember - everyone in business needs to get something for what they give.  You can argue for altruism all day, but in the end, people will not simply dole out time and precious resources without some form of reciprocity.   Their careers are at stake, their reputations are at stake, and their own form of energy management is at stake - in short, they only have so much to give.
  2. TRACK RECORD: This is a moment where you point to successful projects you have led in the past.  Now is the time for evidence of your commitment to them and to the resources they will engage.
  3. REFERENCES: You can also say "contact so-and-so for their experience with me".  References work as well within companies as they do to get into a company.
  4. QUID PRO QUO: offer to provide them with help.

Keep your promises.  Over time, you will build a reputation in an organization.  It will be a reputation as a taker or a giver. It you are helpful to others along the way, if you keep promises and use their resources well, it will be easier to make a request the next time.  The opposite is also true.  People know when someone is taking advantage of them ... and they will remember.

One cannot overstress this skill of Influencing Without Authority.  And it will be all the more critical as the pace of business accelerates even more. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Master Skill - Influencing without Authority - Part 1

Every manager has had a moment where they are called into an office by a grinning executive who announces:

"We have a project for you to lead."

While many among the organizational ranks have a position of authority, very often managers are put into roles requiring an ability to influence others who do not report to them. 

In the life of the average manager, these situations are a critical moment for success or failure.   Organizations expect more and more from all of us these days.  Managers who demonstrate the ability to influence team members for the common good are quickly noted and promoted by those in positions of power.
The possibility of the win comes from a sense of one's own abilities, skills, resources and a sense of control (managerial efficacy - which I will speak about at a later date).  
The manager goes from a moment of joy ["Wow, what a great opportunity to build my reputation in the organization"]

to ...

a moment of panic ["Wow, I just realized how many people we'll need on this team and none of them report to me."].

The very people we need to influence ...

  1. Are already extremely busy,
  2. Have no real need to help unless they are required to do so by their boss,
  3. Have no real need to help you, because they too are navigating their career paths seeking the big wins and commensurate rewards.
So, how to influence to engage them? 

The biggest mistake I have seen managers make looks like this: They send an email to the people who need to be on the team, then send a meeting invitation.

I need you to be at 8:00 AM Conference Room A101 on June 16th for our kick-off meeting on the XYZ project.  The meeting will last most of the day.  See you then.

When most leaders see an email like this, they are generally annoyed and sometimes incensed.  If you use this approach, you've already set them against helping you by irritating them ... and in some ways, disrespecting them, though you may not see it that way.

What's the alternative?

Pick up the phone and ask them if they have a few minutes to talk or meet for coffee.  Sit down for 15 minutes and explain what's happening, then listen to their concerns. 


The principle here is one of "Push at the end, not at the beginning."  People simply don't like having things dropped on them, they want to understand, and it will take some doing on your part to show how their interests can be served.  That's important, because people need to know 'what's-in-it-for-them?' Altruism may work in the volunteer world, but in business, people need to know that their pain will benefit them in the long run.