Change: it is not easy but it does not have to be complicated

April 20, 2012

As an HR and Management Consultant, I continuously work with businesses, large and small, who are adapting and changing in order to survive. Change is not easy – as organisations and their people will tell you. With thought and planning, however, it can be managed to the overall benefit of both.

Using the SCOPE model of Change, HR Dynamics and our sister consultancy, Organisation Dynamics have worked with businesses to bring about effective and lasting change.

Strategy – Do you have a clear Vision and Strategy for your Organisation?

Culture – Have you taken the impact of your Organisation’s Culture on your change into account?

Organisation – Have you assessed your Organisation’s capability for change?

Performance – Have you aligned your People’s Performance to the new Strategy?

Engagement – Are your people engaged with and bought into your new Vision and Strategy?

I will expand on each of these in forthcoming posts.


Why failing to focus on the organisation can lead to strategy failure

June 2, 2011

McKinsey, the international management specialists, write in their latest quarterly newsletter about the dangers of ignoring organisational growth when developing a new business strategy (the where’s and hows of growth).  The authors, Martin Dewhurst, Suzanne Heywood, and Kirk Rieckhoff, make the case that “organizational processes and structures that are well suited to today’s challenges may well buckle under the strain of new demands”. Based on the experiences of 3 businesses that faced growing pains, the article focusses on three aspects of the organisation side of the equation.

1. Is the structure appropriate for the strategy?  An organisation’s structures (and culture) evolve over time based on the existing needs of the business.  However, these same structures can stifle the possibility of growth.  Any established structure will have a built-in inertia.  Management need to understand how best to adapt, change or even work around the existing structures in order to bring about the new strategy.

ii. Are the processes ‘fit for purpose’?  Organisational processes evolve to fit the current purpose of an organisation. Start ups, for example, tend to be informal.  This allows a collegiate approach to decision-making. However, as the start up moves to the next phase, informal processes not only are no longer inappropriate but could hold back growth.  A meeting with 5 can be informal, a meeting with 25 cannot.

iii. Have your people the skillsets?  As a business grows, so does both its complexities and ambiguities.  Skillsets that were  appropriate for a simple organisation tend to be lost in a growing organisation.  If the business does not give its employees the ability to cope with the new complexities, even successful employees will flounder or even fail.

Creating a new strategy is exciting for a management team.  Creating a new organisation to implement that strategy may not be as sexy but it is equally as important; as I have written previously, culture will eat strategy for breakfast.


Is your mind open or closed for business?

May 12, 2011

We live in an age where we are expected to be certain.  And if we are not certain, we at least are expected to act as if we are.  The problem with certainty is that it can lead us to becoming closed to alternatives. The more that we match the expectations around being certain, the less likely we are to being open to admitting that our position may not be the correct one.  Certainty that is not open to challenge can lead to a dangerous approach that is more about command and control than it is about leadership.

Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer with N2Growth, writes about Leadership and Changing your Mind.  He talks about how “the rigidity of a closed mind is the first step in limiting opportunity”.  Leaders according to Myatt should be  more worried about the right outcome and not focus on being right.  Where leaders become obsessed about being right, those around them become less willing to challenge them which leads to group think and a failure to see problems before the arrive.

Smart leaders are not afraid of being challenged. As Myatt notes, they “don’t tell people what they should think, they surround themselves with great thinkers”.  Recognising that you may not have the only answer allows you to take on board other views, refine your position or even abandon a line of thinking as a bad idea.  ” When you fear being wrong more than being proven wrong you have arrived as a leader.”


Why Big Hairy Audacious Goals are not enough?

April 28, 2011

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) has been around for some time.  The notion of the BHAG was first put forward by two James Collins and  Jerry Porras in their 1996 article Building Your Company’s Vision. A BHAG, as defined by Collins and Porras, aims to encourage companies to set “…an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future.”  BHAGs can help provide a single focal point that acts as a catalyst for a company’s (and its employees) actions.

However, BHAGs on their own are not enough. In fact, the fact that they appear to be so daunting (or they would not be a BHAG) can create the fear of failure in employees, leading to a paralysis of action.  If the goal is seen as so large, and far away, as to be unachievable, it can act as a demotivator – the opposite effect of what a BHAG is supposed to achieve.

How can an organisation overcome this?  In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Bob Sutton argues that BHAGs can be too obvious, too blunt (to direct immediate performance) and too daunting.  Bob outlines the need for a company’s leadership to break the BHAG into small steps – a series of actions that can be taken to drive organisation activity towards achieving the BHAG.

A good boss does have to set out the strategic vision for the organisation.  But they must also “help them see what they can and must accomplish right now”.  Once employees see the quick wins, they will begin to believe that the BHAG is achievable and fear will turn to motivation and action.


Why action is the tool to achieving success

April 10, 2011

Why take a decision when you can be held responsible for failure?  Why stick your head above the parapet when you might get it shot off?  Why lead when you might not be followed?  When  we are in a world where the spotlight is ever increasing, why would any person put themselves in the limelight?

Rossabeth Moss Kanter, the Harvard change guru, writes in the Harvard Business Review that any action, no matter how small, can contribute to the saving of a company while inaction leads – or contributes – to a slow death. “Companies heading downhill have passive cultures. Unmade decisions pile up. Opportunities are lost. No one wants to risk making a mistake.”  Kanter, however, believes that there are 4 reasons why any action is better than none.

1. Small Wins Matter – because they lead the way to bigger wins

2. Accomplishments come in pieces – every step brings you closer to achieving your goals

3. Perfection is unattainable anyway – so just do it anyway. If you fail, you can try again.

4. Actions produce energy and momentum – action is motivating and encourages you to continue


What Next for Employees?

July 27, 2010

The Towers Watson 2010 Global Workforce Survey provides some interesting insights that should be taken into account by all Leaders when planning for the future of their organisations.  Based on 20,00 workers in 22 countries, some of the key points in the survey include:

  • Employees see security as a fast disappearing part of the employment relationship although 76% want a secure position above all else
  • Only 38% of employees think that their leaders have a sincere interest in their well-being while less than half think that their leaders inspire and engage them
  • Almost 40% of employees are either disenchanted or fully disengaged
  • 42% of staff think they have to go elsewhere to advance

As many organisations are finding out, it is one thing to keep employees when they have no other options but, when the upturn does come around – and for some companies, it already has – these employees will start to question how they have been treated during the downturn. The best of these employees will have the earliest options to move to what they consider to be a better job.

Now is the time for Leaders to begin reengaging with employees through, for example, challenging work design, growth opportunities and, putting in place recognition programmes.


Myths about teams

May 28, 2010

The latest edition of HR Dynamics newsletter focuses on how organisations can make the most of their people through better team work. If you would like to join our mailing list, please let us know at shane@hrdynamics.ie.  One article from the newsletter deals with some of the myths about teams.

Many organisations establish teams by putting a group of employees together to deliver on a particular project – and then label them a team.  When the sum of the parts does not equal (or is even less than) the sum of the individuals, the organisation blames the team, the team leader or the notion of teams.  Management attention moves onto a new focus and the idea of the team gets a bad name in the organisation.  But a team is more that the members; many managers fail to grasp; instead they rely on some common misunderstanding of what teams are – and what they are not?

Some of the common myths and realities about teams are discussed below. Note 1

Myth 1:  Teams are harmonious

Teams are made up of diverse groups of people with different needs, expectations and beliefs.  This diversity can – and often does – lead to conflict. However, it is the diversity of the team that will lead to its success if harnessed appropriately.

Myth 2:  People like teams

Research has shown that approximately one third of the working population like teams, one third are indifferent to teams and one third dislike teamwork.  However, when teamwork is appropriately fostered, high performance outcomes can create an environment that employees want to work in. Success breeds success.

Myth 3: Teams are simple

Teams are complicated structures and should only manage complex and challenging issues.  If the task is simple, it should be left to an individual.

Myth 4: Teamwork is a soft option

Choosing to introduce teams is one of the most challenging management options.  Teamwork demands that members practice their skills to the full at all times and in a consistent manner. The rewards that flow from successful teams are what make the challenge worth the effort.

By understanding the many misconceptions surrounding teams, leaders can help minimise the chance of the team failing before it has the chance to begin.  Next we look at the stage a team must go through before it can be a success.

Note 1: Based on The Myths & Realities of Teams © Wright Consultancy; www.consultwright.com