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 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


Time – how to manage it better

March 30, 2011

Time. There is never enough of it to get to the bottom of our To Do Lists. No matter how many items that we take off the list, the more we seem to add. Peter Bregman writes about how to better manage those inevitable lists. Bregman talks about turning intention into an action what he calls “the power of when and where”.

By deciding the where and when we will do an item, we significantly increase the likelihood of accomplishing it.  “The reason we’re always left with unfinished items on our to-do lists is because those lists are the wrong tool to drive our accomplishments. A list is useful as a collection tool”.

However, a calendar is the ideal tool as it already  is the place where we decide where and when. Bregman believes that as it already guides our accomplishments. And given that we have limited time each day, this will force us to prioritise.  If you haven’t scheduled something, you can begin to question why you have it on your To List to begin with.


Google’s Rules: How to be a Better Boss

March 15, 2011

The New York Times recently reported on a very interesting project at Google.  Project Oxygen was started internally to identify for Google what it takes to “build a better boss”.  By doing what Google is best at – data-mining – the company looked back over 10,000 employee interactions such as performance reviews and feedback surveys. The outcome was eight characteristics that Google employees admire most in bosses.

While the list may seem to state the obvious – empower your team, have a clear vision, help employee’s career development – what surprised Google most was that having a manager with key technical skills was ranked as the 8th and last leadership trait.  This was, to a certain extent, counter to the prevailing engineering bias in Google; “you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you”.

Going further with the data analytics, Google looked at the outcomes of managers and their impact on employees. With a starting point that the best managers have teams that perform better, are retained for longer and are overall happier, Google built these traits into their hiring process for new managers and their development processes for existing managers.  The outcomes were startling.  Google showed a statistically significant improvement in managerial quality for 75 percent of the worst-performing managers.

The trait identified by employees as the most important managerial behaviour: Be a Good Coach.


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.