Judy Dobles, General Management Consulting

YOUR TOUGHEST BUSINESS CHALLENGES SOLVED.

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  • Many times when teams work on solving challenges, ideas are put forward that can be polar opposites in many ways. As a result the team divides and cannot create a workable solution. As a leader, the way forward lies in finding a middle path between opposites.

    As a member of over 15 leadership teams during my career I have experienced times when teams were divided over certain issues and required actions. The differences can be summarized as follows: more control, less control; in-source, out-source; centralize, de-centralize; include more people, include fewer people; skill required, skill not required and more policies, less policies. Although there was validity to each side of the issue, you can see they were polar opposites. As a result the teams found themselves unable to move forward due to lack of agreement.

    At this point, let’s recall the story of Goldilocks. Goldilocks finds the all the items of Baby Bear – much too small, she finds all the items of the Papa Bear – much too big. Then looking at Mama Bear’s items – she finds they are just right. Use your imagination and consider the analogy to business. Goldilocks found a workable solution in the middle; one that was just right. In business, a leader can assist a team to find the right answer by blending and balancing two opposing points of view.

    Let me share an example. At one point, Travel and Expense Accounting reported to me. In my company there were 8,000 travelers, which resulted in many expense reports every year. The process was audited annually. During a visual inspection of perhaps 1,000 expense reports, one report with an inappropriate expense of $100 was found. As a result the audit department stated that it was mandatory that all expense reports be reviewed by the Travel and Expense Accounting group, of roughly 2 people. Our company had automated the entire expense report processing and required the supervisor’s signature prior to payment. Our supervisors did a pretty good job in “policing” the expenses. Expenses from the air carriers and AMEX pre-populated the expense report. Exception reporting software was also used. Although we knew errors would never be 100% eliminated, we knew they were minimal.

    The recommendation of the auditors would have required that we hire additional people. However, we knew that the cost of the salaries would exceed the savings of “inappropriate expenses”.

    Theoretically, the audit recommendation was correct. However, practically it made no sense. In the end, the middle ground agreed to was that bi-annually we would send out a gentle reminder note to all supervisors regarding their responsibilities relative to checking and approving expense reports. This made a lot of sense since you have new people joining the company and individual’s becoming supervisors during the year, who may not get the training needed.

    In summary, my role was to work with the internal auditors, Travel and Expense Accounting and Controllers to come up with a workable solution that everyone could agree to. When you recognize the validity of everyone’s point of view, you can help the team find a solution that is “just right”.

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  • As a leader, I believe it is imperative that you ask people to bring the data. I am sure that you have experienced a situation where something has “gone wrong” and everyone has an opinion. Everyone knows who or what to blame. And certainly, everyone thinks their opinion is correct.

    In situations such as these, I ask people to state crisply and clearly what they believe the situation is. They also know that I expect to have data that supports the issue or the cause for concern. Without that, there will be no discussion. I will gently turn them out of my office until they get the data.

    Why do I feel so strongly about being data-based? From my quality training, one statement is etched in my brain: “A point does not a trend make”. It is human nature to take one event, and draw conclusions. Those conclusions invariably are wrong. The result is time and effort wasted. Let me illustrate with an example.

    I was helping an organization with their call center operations. Initially, I received a few phone calls from corporate stating “no one is answering the phones”. This conjures up an image of 15 – 20 people sitting around with their feet on their desks doing nothing, while all around you hear the cacophony of phones but no one answering. Sitting on the floor with the team, I can assure you that never happened. I asked how they knew no one was answering calls. Did they have data? Oh, no data, a customer just called and told me.

    The beauty of the situation was the company had great telephony that captured the incoming calls, call times, wait times and dropped calls. They also had a daily staffing chart. The call center manager and I defined the situation as follows: in some cases a customer calls and cannot get through to customer service. Definitely, it is an issue that must be solved. However, it cannot be solved by just “telling people” – be sure to answer the phone. We needed to understand what was happening; we needed to see the data.

    A group of us huddled together, and determined to create the following:
    • Histogram of calls, in 15 minute increments for the last 4 weeks.
    • Chart of people working in 15 minute increments for an entire week. [This did not change by week.]
    • Chart of the number of dropped calls in 15 minute increments.
    • Histogram of the length of calls, and the average length of a call.
    • List of all one-off actions during this time, such as the launch of a new product or the mailing of a brochure.

    Once the data was assembled, we reviewed the data. The graphs made the issues easy to see visually. We found both daily and weekly patterns in the timing of the incoming calls. Not surprisingly, call volume was not a straight-line. There were peaks and valleys. However, in general, staffing was a straight-line. It was also apparent that when a significant communication touched the customers, call volume also increased.

    So, with the help of the staff, we created a weekly staffing document that more closely matched the call volume. We continued to monitor dropped calls, and found that they significantly decreased. The team agreed to chart the data on an on-going basis to ensure the customers were getting the service they deserved.

    The benefit of listening to the data to it is twofold:
    [1] It builds trust between teams and individuals. It takes the emotion out of conversations when something goes wrong. No longer are two teams pointing fingers at each other. Rather, they are working together to figure out what is going on and fix it.
    [2] It allows the team to see what is happening in the process. It pin-points the real issue and allows them to develop a workable solution.

    Without the data, the team would never have figured out what was going on. They could never have developed a solution. The lesson of the story is: find the data, it will always help you discover the root cause and develop a lasting solution.

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  • “The only thing constant in life is change.” François de la Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

    In reading the multitude of media sources, which bombard us daily, we know the rate of change is ever increasing. Even with this knowledge many people still are surprised and angered when they need to start over and re-invent themselves. It hits the over 40 crowd and the under 40 crowd, no one is immune. Any time you start to feel comfortable you are at risk. To me, being comfortable means you are on the flat part of the learning curve and no longer growing.

    When you are faced with the need to re-start your career or start-over what should you do?

    To embrace change you have to let go of the old comfortable patterns. To do that you must grieve before you can move on. Change involves loss at some level. During my college years I had to read the book “On Death and Dying”, by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Initially this was focused on the medical community and the death of a loved one. She later expanded this concept to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss or tragic news. The loss of a job is tragic news for the person impacted. As an individual you need to “grieve” for your job and the circumstances you find yourself in. Although it is important to recognize the emotions you are experiencing you cannot wallow in self-pity. The process may not be linear, but you need to go through all the steps.

    To adapt to change you need to understand the 5 phases of grief, acknowledge your own personal emotions and then move on. I clearly remember the time when I realized that my dream job was not going to last forever. The Fortune 500 company I worked for would stop growing and employment levels would decline. Since 1980, the decline has been drastic; 120,000 to 17,000, an 85% reduction. However, I knew that if I did not take charge of my emotions and career, no one else would. It was important to see change as an opportunity not a set-back. I personally allowed myself 24 hours to grieve. That is a bit short, but again, you cannot dwell on the negative. It does not move you forward.

    Listed below are the 5 stages of grief, developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

    1. Denial: “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
    2. Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
    3. Bargaining: “I’ll do anything, can’t you stretch it out a year?”
    4. Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
    5. Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

    Additional background can be found on this site, as well as many other websites.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model

    How can you use this information to help with the initial question?
    As an individual, recognize that change is part of life. Take charge of managing your career. Pay attention to what is going on in the economy overall. Learn how to grieve, let go and move on.
    If you are a supervisor understand that employees need to take time to internalize change. Acknowledge and accept that they will experience a variety of emotions. Help them with their journey.
    The future will come, whether we plan for it or not.

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  • Perusing the internet recently, there appears to be a lot of energy around improving meetings. Atomic Object is holding stand-up meetings to help speed them along – which I heartily endorse. While participating in conversations, the topic of meetings frequently comes up and not in a favorable light. So what can be done about it? Here are 7 easy steps that can be used immediately.

    [1] The leader of the meeting must have a clear and specific stated purpose for the meeting which should be shared ahead of time with all attendees. If that does not exist, there is no sense in holding the meeting.

    [2] There should be an agenda which is published ahead of time. Each agenda item should note who will lead the discussion, what the end result of the discussion will be and approximately how long the agenda item will take. The length of the meeting should be determined by the length of each agenda item. If you need 40 minutes, plan for that. Not 30 minutes or 60 minutes, which seem to be standard default duration for meetings.

    [3] Pre-work may be required on the part of the attendees. Ensure they are aware of it and have the proper time to prepare.

    [4] Use an action register. Meetings should not be just information sharing. There are many other ways to do that. The entire point of holding a meeting should be for people to work together and accomplish something. However, all work cannot be done at once. There will be action items and the action register allows proper follow-up. An action register contains: the action item, the person responsible for the action, the date assigned and the due date.

    [5] Create meeting ground-rules everyone can agree on. This brings order to meetings and opens the door for useful participant feedback during the meeting. Having the team create their own set of ground-rules builds camaraderie and trust. Some of my favorite ground-rules are:
    • I will only make statements that add value and stick to the purpose at hand.
    • I will behave openly with others.
    • I will focus on a one-conversation concept.
    • I will look for “how we can” rather than “why we can’t.”
    • I will honor my commitments.
    • I will offer alternative proposals to those things with which I disagree. But when I leave the room I will support the majority.

    [6] The chairperson must be a leader during the meeting. They are ultimately responsible for keeping the session on track. They need to know when to speed things along and when to give more time to a topic than was originally allocated. They need to ensure participants are full participants, not texting, playing Angry Birds or otherwise multi-tasking.

    [7] Appoint a note-taker and publish the notes right after the meeting. Meeting notes should be a summary of decisions and actions decided upon in the meeting. It is extremely helpful in the case of weekly team meetings. It allows people that could not attend to quickly get up to speed. The note-taker can be a rotating responsibility.

    In summary, meetings are a necessary part of the business world. However, they must be crisp, concise and to the point. If you do not like how meetings are being run, use this list to make some suggestions. I think it will be appreciated by all attendees.

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  • Recently, I have read with interest several posts about e-mail and how much of it is a waste of time.  The posts “griped” a lot about e-mail but failed to address the fundamental issue.  Supervisors must help their teams solve e-mail overload.  The role of supervisors is to understand the day-to-day operational issues facing their teams and, once understood, take the action necessary to solve them.

    To illustrate this point, I would like to share a real example from my time as the Regional Finance Director of Europe for a Fortune 500 company.  There were 500 people in the organization and I had 20 direct reports, representing every western European country.

    At one staff meeting, the topic of what an enormous waste of time email was came up.  The team agreed they wanted to tackle it.  I could have passed it off to the CIO or another senior executive but they have bigger fish to fry.  It was an issue for the finance organization and me.

    So, one person and I got together for 1 hour to develop a path-forward which would be approved by the regional finance leadership team [my 20 direct reports].  Although the e-mail issue was quite irksome, it did not warrant a separate workshop with a lot of people in attendance.  We created a list of e-mail issues, personal actions to take and permissions to be granted which was shared at the next team meeting.  With a few minor tweaks, we were committed to implementing our new guidelines.

    Here is a sampling of what we implemented and communicated through-out our organization.  My guess is with a few additions of your own, you would quickly have something that could make an impact on your organization tomorrow.

    Name and description of e-mail issue Individual commitment to action Permission granted by me, as regional finance director – meaning I take the heat if anyone got upset
    PING-PONG: The need to forward notes back and   forth between people resulting in very long notes that are hard to decipher If you are starting to reply for the second or third time, pick up the phone instead. Ok to reply back that you need to talk in person and will not reply via e-mail.
    RAMBLING PROSE:   A note that is written   in the stream of consciousness format, electronic babbling, no clear structure or purpose Start immediately composing notes clearly.  State the   purpose and action requested. Be brief.    Outline  facts crisply and clearly. List alternatives. Make it easy for reader understand it. Ok not to read the note.  You should not have to spend oodles of time figuring out something that the sender did not have time to organize.  Pick up the phone and call the sender or politely ask the sender to resend in a clear fashion.
    TELL   EVERYONE: the need to copy in many people, most of which do not need it and waste time reading it or worse, reacting to it Use .cc sparingly,  if the issue is critical it is probably better to have a quick 10 or 15 minute teleconference If you are on a .cc list, it is OK to toss the note right into the trash.  Either you need to take action or you  don’t.  If not, the day is too short to   read things that might be interesting but not germane to the work at hand.  I personally told my staff that I would throw away any and all notes where I was on the .cc list.  Ask yourself this, do you read each and   every piece of mail that you get at home?
    IT’S A BAD DAY   SYNDROME: using   words in a note that you would never say to someone in person.  These notes upset the receiver and cause them to lose focus on the issue at hand. If you have a negative   message that needs to be delivered, do it in person or over the phone.  Keep your notes fact based. If you are “upset” by a note do not respond immediately. In this case, as the leader of the organization I stated that notes such as these will not be tolerated.  They are like bullying and undermine the sense of teamwork we are working so hard to build.  All communication, whether it be electronic or in person, must follow the values of the company.
    IT IS WRITTEN   THEREFORE IT MUST BE TRUE: the tendency to read a note and assume everything in it is true Do not jump to conclusions.  Work to get the whole picture.  Get all the facts before taking action.  If you are the sender,   be sure to compose a clear and concise note about the issue you are raising.  Do not make it sound like it is the absolute truth when it may be part of a larger picture. No one knowingly writes notes to share things that are “untrue”.  However, some topics are very broad and complicated. This item causes a lot of energy to spent on “issues” that really aren’t issues when all the facts come to light.  Truth can be elusive and many times when you hear two differing views the truth lies in the middle.
    UNCLEAR SUBJECT   LINE: using   a very non-descriptive subject line Be creative in the use of the subject line.  It can help people prioritize and find the note at a later date.
    CRYING WOLF:  the   tendency to always mark notes as urgent Treat others as you would like to be treated.  Give people  realistic timelines for when you need something.  If you need it on Friday, do not say you   need it on Wednesday. I gave my staff permission to tell the individual when they would be able to respond.  Only if they could not work out a compromise on their own would I get involved.

    As leaders for the broader finance organization, we had a real day to day issue that was faced by all the individuals.  We owned it and solved it.  Shortly thereafter I shared it with our CIO, and it became part of an overall communication effort to improve e-mail.  We started small – and focused on our organization.  We developed a remedy that could be applied broadly and was.  If we had waited for someone else to solve our problem, people would still be complaining.

    Hopefully this discussion sparked some ways you and your teams can make e-mail more manageable.

     

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  • On the surface it seems to be such a simple thing: set annual goals for work you do day in and day out. However, in my experience, many times staff struggle a bit with developing goals, especially when faced with a blank sheet of paper. Goals are a reflection of how individuals add value and make contributions to the overall success of their department and company. I believe strongly in letting staff take the first go at setting their annual goals. This gains their support during the year.

    With the help of my team, we developed 6 overarching categories to assist in the annual goal setting process. Every goal should fit into one of the categories.

    The categories that have worked well for me and my team are:
    (1) Cash-flow, cash-flow, cash-flow. Any action we can take directly or any action we can influence that results in an improved cash-flow position is critically important. (Examples: reduce bad debt expense, increase revenue, or implement an idea that results in lower costs.)

     (2) Process and quality improvements. Eliminating defects and reducing cycle time in business processes improves customer satisfaction and the bottom line. The relentless pursuit of improved quality is a highly sought after skill and allows any individual to make significant contributions to their organization.

    (3) Putting the customer 1st. Every individual has daily interactions with either external or internal customers. Treating customers well, solving their problems and creating a simple and efficient interface are all elements of enhancing customer satisfaction. This creates value. A satisfied customer is one that returns again and again.

     (4) Developing employees. Employees are the engines that drive all internal processes. They are a company’s most important resource. In order for any organization to grow, employees must grow also. Demonstrating the ability to help individuals grow and learn is a major contribution.

     (5) Implementing a major new initiative. Periodically a department or company will implement a major change. It could be a new ERP system such as SAP. It could be a new payroll system. It could be the implementation of a global shared services organization. Any of these initiatives require dedicated resources to implement.

     (6) Enhance internal controls. Internal controls are the mechanism by which a company safeguards its assets. Finding ways to improve internal controls in a cost-effective manner benefits any company. Not only can it prevent a future monetary loss, it can also result in improved information for management.

    When talking to individuals and teams it was important to note that for a given year you may not have a goal in every category; perhaps only 3 or 4. However, the categories allow staff to know what is important overall. We would share our individual goals in a team meeting so that everyone could see how collectively the goals allowed us to make significant contributions to the company. These 6 categories allowed teams to effectively set goals on an annual basis.

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  • As leaders and supervisors you have seen average work output and you have seen absolutely excellent work output. Why is there such a difference? I believe it has to do with how a supervisor sets expectations. Many times a person may know what the end point is but they do not always know how to accomplish it. For example – a business case. An individual may know the basics but has not heard clear overarching expectations that would result in excellence. I call these behavioral or operational expectations. They address how to go about doing the work.

    I developed these expectations as guiding principles for my staff. We talked as a group about what they meant and, in turn, they appreciated the fact that I made my expectations crystal clear. This conjures up the mental picture of bowling. Imagine a piece of black cloth suspended just in front of the pins. As you bowl, you do not know what the target is and you do not know how well you did.

    Whether you are a supervisor or individual contributor, my hope is several of these expectations will resonate with you and you can incorporate them into your daily work.
    Behavioral Expectations for Excellence
    (1) Does the question pass the logic test? Sometimes urgent questions or issues come up but they have not really been thought out. If it is the wrong question to be asking and investigating, stop the work quickly. Use judgment to decide if your supervisor should know about the work. In some cases, no matter how close the economics are, the decision may still rest with the manager of the organization.

    (2) Passes the logic test so on to the next step. Determine what you do not know. What other departments might be interested in the topic or have information that could be useful? Detailed information outside of your department or expertise may be required in order to make a decision or gain approval for an action. (Some examples of departments: insurance, compensation, internal audit, external audit, corporate communications, legal, tax, corporate financial reporting, business unit or manufacturing unit.)

    (3) Calculate the numbers. Go “crazy” on the analytics. Be data driven. Everything should be looked at with cash flow in mind. An economic analysis must include the impact on all financial statements – balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement.

    (4) Assess against the “red face” test. This is all about considering the unexpected and preventing unintended consequences. What could happen that would make this a bad decision? In what other way could people interpret the decision or action? How will we answer their questions? Three years from now will I still be proud of this work?

    (5) Volunteer for leadership. When you hear an issue come up that you want to take responsibility for, just say so. I am looking for people that step up to the plate even when it seems that their plate is full.

    (6) When you get a project or topic area to be in charge of you get the whole thing. You will have to coordinate the work of all groups and individuals that interface with the given topic. Personal power and networks are a must. I cannot stress enough the importance of continually thinking about all things that should be considered so that all contingencies are covered. The bigger the project the bigger the impact if something does not go as planned.

    (7) Exhibit calmness – be a duck. Above the surface of the water a duck always looks serene and in control. Underneath the water the duck is paddling intensely. People around you need to see you are confident and in control of the situation even though inside you may be thinking intensely about many things.

    (8) Written, oral and visual communication skills are essential. The ability to quickly use Excel, PowerPoint and Word, in a crisp, concise and artistic way, will make your job easier. Help each other out. Have someone else look at the work. Listen to their suggestions. Many times we only get one chance with our audiences. We want to spend it explaining content rather than format.

    (9) Figure out what issues are facing the department and company. Your ability to anticipate and be proactive will help you do this. Solving these issues and problems accomplishes two things: improves internal processes and makes your boss look good. Both will help you in achieving your career goals.

    (10) The quicker the better. Go talk to your supervisor early on with concepts and ideas. It is much better to have shorter and more frequent meetings. Avoid waiting for perfection. If you wait too long you may find yourself starting over. Exhibit high energy and urgency.

    (11) Pretend you are the CEO or CFO. What else would you want to know? Get the answer to that question.

    (12) It is better to actively decide not to do something than it is to never consider it in the first place. A passive decision is a lost opportunity.

    (13) Strive to reduce cycle time and eliminate defects in everything you do. Set ambitious goals. Learn from the past and apply it to the future. You can always improve.

    (14) A supervisor needs great breadth in their position. Therefore, approach your projects with great depth. If a supervisor feels they have to get into the details, then you need to improve. Ask for feedback.

    In today’s business environment we must strive for excellence. What was great a year ago is average today. Discussing these behavioral expectations with your team will allow you to achieve superlative results.

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  • During the middle of my career, I had the good fortune to work with Harry Kavetas, a capable and insightful CFO. One of our conversations focused on career planning. The insights I gained are timeless. So, I would like to share with you in the hope these insights might be beneficial to you and your team.

    (1) Have FUN. Fun is fundamental, universal and necessary. If your job is not fun, it is probably time for a move.
    (2) The distinction between your professional and personal life is not always clear. Know the tradeoffs that accompany your aspirations. Write them down on a piece of paper. (Unless you can clearly articulate them in prose, you probably have not thought them out thoroughly.) Share them with the significant others in your life. The career choices you make will impact people near and dear to you.
    (3) A core set of required capabilities are table-stakes for every job. However, two intangible criteria, reputation and credibility, are critical. Your personal credibility is built over time by doing what you say what you are going to do. To obtain jobs of increasing responsibility, you must have the confidence of the people in power. No matter how good you are, if they do not have this confidence in you, you will not be put into positions of increasing responsibility.
    (4) Never let your manager be surprised.
    (5) Dive into problems. Wade into the middle of thorny issues. Your job is to search for opportunities, economic value and “the truth”. Never pull back from an issue because it is difficult. You must share the “brutal, crystal clear truth” at all times. Remember, this is never anything personal…. just the truth and only the truth. Also, sometimes the truth is not self-evident. You will hear two sides to each story, and the answer is usually somewhere in the middle. Always listen to both sides.
    (6) Know if you are in the game or out of the game. Know if you have made it into the qualifying round. Know the competition – both internal and external. Be brutally honest with yourself about your shortcomings. Know how you can improve and work on it.
    (7) Get meetings with key clients. Ask them how they think you are doing. Know that every time you have a meeting with a senior person, not only are they listening to the specific job content, but they are also forming judgments about your broader capabilities. (Everything is a test.) Take every opportunity you can to seek performance feedback, especially when something does not go well. Always do a post-mortem. Ask what could you, personally, have done differently to change the outcome. Always have one idea and assimilate it into your future behavior.
    (8) No one will tell you, “You won’t get the job”. Ask. Know that as the number of jobs gets smaller, the odds of getting a particular job also get smaller. (Example: there is only one CFO position at a company.)
    (9) The most important criteria for determing your ability to assume and achieve greater responsibility are past outcomes. What tangible things have you accomplished?
    (10) Keep your options open. At some point, decisions become mutually exclusive. At that point, to take one path means that others close behind you. Once you are on a new path, other options open up that you may not have known ever existed.
    (11) What do you have a burning desire to do? You must have a passion about what you want to accomplish. It shows if you don’t.

    In the final analysis, your hopes, dreams and aspirations are personal. They are different for each of us; hence, there is no right answer. Follow the saying, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — Shakespeare. Know what you want, let your supervisor know, and work together to achieve it.

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  • Empower employees by authorizing and investing power in them so they can engage in activities for and by themselves. The definition I like best states, “An organization empowers its people when it enables employees to take on more responsibility and to make use of what they know and can learn. Empowered individuals know that their jobs belong to them. Given a say in how things are done, employees feel more responsible. When they feel responsible, they show more initiative in their work, get more done, and enjoy the work more” ( Byham, Wellins, Wilson 22). Achieving a vision requires a lot of work. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”

    Coach and develop employees so they gain the new skills and capabilities needed for achieving excellence. In many instances a new future requires new skills, knowledge or ways of working that employees may not have currently but can readily learn. Take the time to evaluate what new capabilities and competencies are required and provide the appropriate training and coaching. The added benefit is that individuals enjoy learning and growing which contributes to their spirit and enthusiasm.

    Measure your progress and reinforce desired behaviors so that you know when you have arrived at the targeted destination. When developing your strategy and tactics, you would have created goals and timelines. Use data to monitor the organization’s performance against those goals. Take corrective action as needed. In addition, by providing positive consequences to the team and individuals when desired behaviors and results are achieved, you increase the probability of attaining the vision.
    In summary, leading change is a journey with many participants, each playing a critical role. Before you launch a change initiative, you and your leadership team will need to think carefully about each step, develop an action plan for each step and document it. Use the roadmap as a check-list, to be sure you have covered all the critical elements.

    Imagine then, when you share the vision and the 10 steps with your organization, they may not initially agree, but they will know two critical things for certain. First, you and the team have given it careful thought and consideration. Second, you want and need their individual input; they are involved and part of the solution. The journey will not be linear or smooth. There will be bumps in the road. Your frequent communications will keep the organization up-to-date on progress. Soon, you will find the organization aligned and the vision achieved. Then it will be on to the next big thing.

    Works cited:
    Byham, W., Wellins, R., Wilson, J., Empowered Teams: creating self-directed work groups that improve quality, productivity and participation. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1991. Print.

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  • Continuation of Monday, Feb 13th discussion

    Any organization is made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. While this is a great strength, clarifying desired values is required. Stated values provide common nomenclature and expectations for everyone. They are standards of behavior that guide decision making and assist in identifying priorities in the workplace. Once the values are agreed upon, communicate these values through words and actions, every day. (Note: examples are easy to find. Google corporate values and the name of a company you admire. Almost always a link to their values appear.)

    People will never follow you to the future if you cannot show them the path of how to get there. Saying, “Trust me, let’s go” just does not cut it. At this point develop an effective strategy and tactics for moving the group from the current state towards the vision. Put it on paper; then position the path forward with the organization.

    Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Organizational change is typically monumental, something big, something new. For an individual to embrace the new, they must let go of the old. That is hard and does not happen overnight. Use multiple communication modalities to build a common shared understanding of the vision, the mission, the strategy, the tactics and the values. Always remember the first time you ever heard a really big new idea. My guess is you did not believe it. Just like Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, c. 1895, stated, “Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.” Help your staff and the organization through all the questions and concerns they have. My rule of thumb: you need to communicate 7 times, 7 different ways before people begin to assimilate the new concepts.

    Spend time to build alignment in the organization. By engaging with staff you will create a personal interest and willingness for investment in what needs to be accomplished. Doing this builds alignment and fosters harmony. Think about the sport of sweep oar rowing, which is done in pairs, fours or eights. If the rowers do not pull in concert with each other, the racing boat (or shell) gets off-course and slows down. The same holds true for a work team.

    Build an environment which creates spirit and purpose. The workplace must be one where individuals know that their thoughts, creativity, feelings and personal determination are valued and required as the organization moves toward the vision. The work place should be filled with enthusiasm and excitement directed and aligned towards achieving the vision. Everyone must get in on the action; there must be no passive watching from the side-lines.
    To be continued.

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