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.

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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.


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.


12 Things Good Bosses Believe

May 31, 2010

Bob Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University . He writes an excellent blog, as well writing for, among others, the Harvard Business Review.  A believer in evidence based management, he is one of the sanest and more interesting writers on management out there. This is all a forerunner for one of his latest pieces on the 12 things good bosses believe. These include:

  1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
  2. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
  3. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”
  4. Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
  5. How I do things is as important as what I do.

The rest are available at the HBR blog.  For my part, I will add that a leader needs to get his people to understand why the organisation does what it does.  This is crucial to getting buy-in and that all important engagement.


Do your employees trust your Leaders?

April 25, 2010

Recent research from marketing company Maritz Research paints a poor picture of employee’s attitudes towards their work, organisation and Leaders.  Some of the key findings include:

i. Only eleven percent of employees strongly agree that their managers show consistency between their words and actions,

ii. Worst still, only seven percent of employees strongly agree they trust senior leaders to look out for their best interest,

iii. Surprisingly, the same percentage (seven) strongly agree they trust their co-workers to do so,

iv. Twenty percent of those surveyed disagree that their company’s leader is completely honest and ethical,

v. Finally, one-quarter of respondents disagree that they trust management to make the right decisions in times of uncertainty.

While the results are based on a poll of American workplaces, these findings should resonate in every organisation.  In times of significant change and uncertainty, it is not surprising that trust is low.  The question that is applicable for most Leaders is what to do with these results? I have blogged previously about Leadership in a time of crisis based on a McKinsey survey. The top two organisational qualities needed during a crisis were Leadership and Direction.  Too often, organisations spend their time, effort and resources looking externally in a crisis forgetting the importance of spending the same time effort and resources internally engaging with the workforce.

The survey results are the outcome of the failure to look internally.  What are you going to do ensure that these are not replicated in your organisation?


Managing your top teams anxiety

April 9, 2010

All of us suffer from anxiety; it happens when we face into a new, difficult or challenging situation. Anxiety in itself should never be an issue but it can be a problem if it is not recognised and managed.  Organisations that are undergoing upheavals are likely have increased levels of anxiety. Leaders need to learn to recognise and manage the anxiety in their top teams to ensure that it does not affect performance at a time when the they need to rely on the tope team more than ever.

People Management list some of the steps that can be taken to manage anxiety. Aimed at L&D specialists, the article is equally valid for Leaders. Some of the steps for managing anxiety include:

Validate feelings
Get your top team to talk about how they experience the pressures they face. As we often feel weak if we acknowledge being less than confident, this normalising of emotions can be helpful.  A leader can start the process by admitting that they have anxieties.

Challenge behaviour
Empathy is important but honesty is vital.  Leaders need to understand the negative impact on their team – and the wider organisation – of the failure to manage anxiety. Direct criticism may evoke defensiveness; simply describe how the organisation experience the practical consequences of this behaviour.

Identify triggers
Having helped your team understand the impact of their behaviour, work to identify key situations, people or events that trigger anxiety. The more we are aware of our default position(s), the better we can resist them.

In the pressure cooker of modern organisations, it can be seen as weak to acknowledge the existence of anxiety.   It is the Leader’s responsibility to address this issue – failure to do so can increase the likelihood of a failure of performance.