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October 2011 Archives

The Change You May Not Make

Published on: Oct 31, 2011 | Tags: General, Change Management, Productivity, Organizational Development, Management

A revolution is change. Companies experience many areas of change. At times, multiple changes occur at the same time. A short list of potential change areas might include:

  • Technology
  • Geography
  • Restructure
  • Downsizing
  • Growth
  • Projects
  • Processes
  • Personnel
  • Customer requirements
  • Market demands

 My observation is that some organizations assume that they have the management or leadership capacity to achieve a desired change and employees should accept it while others believe the opposite. I have observed many companies and certainly most employees experience various organizational revolutions, particularly in the past few years. Most of these changes are imposed on an organization for survival, to maintain competitive advantage or ensure support of constituents. In the midst of these changes, there is a revolutionary change that may be ignored, yet presents a great opportunity.

 What would happen in your organization if the way people work together was revolutionized? Not that we are failing to get the job done, but what if we can achieve more in a work environment that has positive effects on people. I presented symptoms reflecting the need for the revolution in a previous blog. If your company decided to change the way people work together what might the results of that revolution be? 

  • Healthy conflict that results in innovation
  • People operating out of their strengths
  • Work with purpose
  • Goal attainment
  • Engagement
  • Commitment
  • Collaboration
  • Accountability
  • Empowerment
  • Healthy communication patterns
  • Clear expectations

 The revolution that results in change of this kind will grow out of an investment in leaders who create workgroups that reflect these attributes. Is it possible for an organization to develop leadership with the skills and passion to intentionally bring people together well and achieve great results? You may say yes, but it is not as easy as it sounds. If you want to move this direction, first consider what you, as a company, believe about management and leadership. That may be the first change you have to make. The second step is to ensure that your investment in development is resulting in effective leaders by your definition. This requires taking a step behind the courses and coaches you engage to determine the theory and philosophy that instructs both their approach and content. Your investment in leadership is reflected in your employees. Is it providing the return you desire?

When Organizational Change Becomes Organizational Evolution

Published on: Oct 24, 2011 | Tags: General, Organizations, Change Management, Organizational Leadership

Organizations experience change and evolution similarly. They should also be differentiated in recognition of the value of leadership that possesses the capacity to build teams in either scenario. The primary challenge in either scenario is people. While changing technology, location, strategy, or customers present a high level of difficulty, it is the potential resistance of people who are interwoven into multiple levels of responsibility that produce failure or resounding success when change occurs.

 Change and evolution are the similar in that people experience them in much the same way. For the most part they are not differentiated in practice. With either, things are not going to be what they have been and you know it. Both create questions about the future, stability, and bring a sense of loss. They also equally present new opportunities. You will recognize the reality that once began, change or evolution means you are going to end up in a different place than where you are today. The result may be a difference in position, responsibilities, coworkers, employees, supervisor, or a position in another company. Something will be different. Finally, change and evolution can both be a reaction to internal or external forces. Either can be driven by the proactive desire to ensure growth leveraging competitive opportunities that exist in the market as well as the internal need for improved effectiveness and efficiency.

 There is a point when change and organizational evolution diverge. There are indicators you will observe when this occurs. The first indicator is an unknown outcome. In change, a fixed outcome is defined, but when evolution kicks in you find yourself saying, “I don’t know where this is going.” In addition, there will be no answers to the questions people ask. When a defined outcome is given for a change process, the answers can be found between the current state of the organization and where it is going. You cannot answer questions when you don’t know where or when the evolutionary process will end. Your mental model does not contain the information needed to compute what is happening. You may try to manage the process, but will determine it is emergent in nature as variables come together in ways you cannot predict for results you did not expect.

 Whether undergoing change or addressing the realities of evolution you will require leadership with the capacity to build teams and develop individuals that can adapt. Otherwise you may miss the critical opportunities that exist in both.

Do you believe in evolution?

Published on: Oct 17, 2011 | Tags: General, Management, Organizations, Change Management, Organizational Development

This is a controversial question. I am not referring to the ongoing scientific debate. The question relates to your experience as a person in an organization. A little more information might help you answer the question for yourself. I am asking you to consider what you believe about organizations. Do you believe that your company is in a constant state of change? The rate of change in the companies and agencies I am aware of is constant and relentless. Seth Godin wrote about how many voicemails and emails go unanswered.  I know many of those I contact are slow to respond if they do so at all. I have spoken with people who say this is a growing problem that affects productivity in their company. Can it be the fast pace and constant change in organizations generates more work than you can get done, forcing you to leave some responsibilities undone?

 If you believe that organizational life is experienced by long periods of stability followed by predictable change, you probably don’t believe organizations are evolving. You may however, find empirical evidence for your belief hard to come by these days. If your experience is more like that of a person in an unpredictable, unstable environment (like a thunderstorm or a hurricane depending on the day) where you are constantly adapting without being sure of what the result of the change will be, you might buy my argument for evolution.

 We need a revolution in how we work together because many current management and labor practices were developed for a time that organizations were considered machines. Theory supported the belief that the machine could be controlled by the practice of scientific management principles. This belief and these practices served well in a time of less change lived at a slower pace. That day is over.

 If organizations are always changing with results that cannot be absolutely controlled or at times even predicted, then we need leaders who can deal with complexity as they navigate this environment. These leaders will be required to bring people together faster.  They need the skills that address the reality of group dynamics in a complex system. Updating old practices based on past beliefs and outdated assumptions will not suffice. These evolutionary times require a revolution in our thinking that will revolutionize our practices. Are you ready for a revolution?

The Need for a Management Revolution

Published on: Oct 10, 2011 | Tags: General, Management, Organizations, Productivity, Team Leadership, Organizational Leadership

A revolution sounds like an extreme measure for a company or a leader to consider. You might ask the question, “Do we really need a management revolution?” Revolutions occur when competing or incompatible ideas clash. The better question may be “Are your current practices in management serving you well and will they carry you into the future?” If current management practices work, then you should do more of them. If they are not working, more use of them takes you where you do not want to be, faster. Renaming the old practices with different terms does not change them in reality. It does not fool those you lead either. 

What evidence exists that the revolution must occur? A few of the recurring symptoms you might experience include: 

 Consider how these symptoms impact your company, your people and your customers. You may begin to sense the need for a revolution. Multiple research studies have found the primary reason most employees leave their position is a bad relationship with the boss. What does this say about our approach to management? Do those of us who lead people want to be the reason they leave, or do we lack the knowledge, skills, and tools to develop productive work environments where people can thrive? 

I believe we need a revolution. A revolution that makes companies great places to contribute This can occur as we change the assumptions we have about the use of control and authority.  This revolution develops people and creates teams who experience the freedom to contribute in a manner that the person, team, and company all succeed. The symptoms of a revolutionized organization include: 

  • Collaboration
  • Mutual respect
  • Appreciation of diversity
  • High morale
  • High performance
  • Ownership
  • Accountability
  • Open communication
  • Trust
  • Shared expectations
  • Measureable goal achievement

Would you agree that the alleviation of the symptoms described in the first list above by replacing them with those on the second list will be anything less than a revolution?

Revolutionary Teams for Evolutionary Times

Published on: Oct 04, 2011 | Tags: General, Management, Team Work, Organizations

A revolution can be defined as a fundamental change in the way of thinking about something. Gary Hamel, in his book The Future of Management, describes the need for a revolution in management. He asserts that management must change. Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, observes that management as it has been practiced makes the wrong assumptions about people. This is true even though there have been attempts to upgrade the old system. The 100 year old practices of scientific management are fundamentally flawed as a method of meeting the organizational challenges of today. It is time to revolutionize the way people work together.

To incite the revolution we will think differently about how people come together to get work done. We will observe companies, non-profits, and government agencies through a different lens. The organization, group, and individual levels that exist in all companies will be examined in the context of their interactions. This basic change of lens will challenge the way we think. It will force us to look at what happens between people who work in a system where every part impacts every other part. The questions we ask will no longer be, “How do we fix the problem?” We will begin to ask, “How did we create the problems in the first place?” 

The challenge in achieving a true revolution will be the examination of long held beliefs and assumptions about management, control, authority, and our humanity. Many have failed to consider the impact of most of these beliefs and assumptions on how we work. This failure has undermined our ability to become interdependent, and fueled our inability to achieve higher levels of performance.  Even when we do examine them, these existing beliefs and assumptions so influence our thinking it is almost impossible to move beyond their power because we have not seen a true alternative. When you see an alternative you will find hope that the revolution can occur.

My system for Leading Teams revolutionizes the way people work together. It is a system for developing teams that uses this new lens. An approach that is distinct from scientific management. It positions organizations to adapt in the evolutionary times that are represented in the constant change companies of all types and sizes experience. Are you ready for a revolution? 

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