Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Archive for January 2011

Outside-the-Box Engagement

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Engagement has everything to do with connecting, a couple of examples follow. This is relevant to “the Greater Good” to which I have a deep personal connection.

I play a little music on the side, with a couple of good friends. We’ve played anywhere from horse barns to islands to state fairs. Think (very) poor man’s Crosby, Stills and Nash only a little more eclectic. We take on anything from Prine to Motown, showing each the same level of disrespect as we spin them our own way. There and Back Again.

OK, I’ll admit we’re pretty good even though that’s being mildly prejudiced.

We’re thankfully past having to make a great deal of money playing music, so we do a lot of events that are along the “greater good” lines…nursing homes, benefits etc. This past Veterans Day we were part of a tribute that included some extremely engaging food. While we were enjoying our pay for the day afterwards, a Navy vet with a WW II hat came over to visit with us.

One of my music partners is involved in a project for which he informally video interviews veterans, capturing their raw recounts of their experiences and their lives in general on video. He mentioned the project to our new friend, who thought a moment before replying “well, I don’t have a whole lot to talk about.” Famous First Words. We spent the next 45 minutes connecting with this man who survived Pearl Harbor, saw several of his good friends go down, and in the process I hope we helped him connect back to his life.

We were all deeply humbled at this meek man’s greatness.

Same event, different story. My partner had finished a song that morning he called “I’ve Got Wheels” that he wanted to do as a tribute to vets. A quick synopsis….young boy gets his first tricyle, refrain “Look at me, dad…I’ve got wheels.” As a teenager he gets his first car, same refrain. A few years later the young man goes off to war, comes back and de-planes …his first words to his dad were, you guessed it.

I have a couple of songs that can really hit me as I’m singing them, and on occasion I’ve struggled to get through them. But my partner absolutely and completely choked up and had to stop halfway through the first verse, which was “only” the little boy taking his first spin on his new tricycle. Talking with him afterwards, he said he was so emotionally connected and the visual was so vivid he couldn’t continue. And this was not based on a personal experience, it was simply a story he wanted to tell.

This is an example of an external event or stimulus, magnified by an intense emotional connection. Maybe too intense to be relevant for workplace engagement? But how powerful would it be if we could be driven by even a small fraction of that level of connection, at work or any other activity, or in our lives?

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Written by Craig

January 8, 2011 at 11:12 am

Charlie Brown on Strategy and Archery

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Charlie Brown was practicing archery in his back yard.  Instead of aiming at a target he would shoot several arrows at the fence, then walk over and draw a bulls-eye around wherever each arrow stuck.  

Lucy walked up and said “What ARE you doing, you blockhead? That’s not archery!”

To which Sir Charles replied “But this way I never miss.”

 Hopefully, that doesn’t resemble your approach to strategy too closely. But then again, maybe Charles was on to something. (I think, but am not sure, that the Charlie Brown Archery Lesson story should be credited to Mr. John Maxwell.  If not, that man is worthy of mentioning regardless)

How about these Quotes of Note…do any strike a chord with you?

 “The top determinant of effective strategy execution is: Everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible. In companies strong on execution, 71% of individuals agree with this statement; that figure drops to 32% in organizations weak on execution.” (The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution. Harvard Business Review, June 2008)

“Do your employees know their three most important priorities out of all the items on their to-do lists? Are employees clear on how their work supports the organization’s goals?” (Uncertainty’s Antidote, BlessingWhite)

The CEO and the leadership team create the company’s strategic vision and set its course. But…that vision may be opaque to many, which can create resistance or confusion among senior managers and frontline employees and can thwart execution and change. “No strategy can just be handed down to an organization,” says Kirk Klasson, former vice president of strategy for Novell. “Without achieving real understanding and agreement, there will be lots of grinning and backslapping over the strategy but zero change when people get back to their offices.”  (The Chief Strategy Officer. Harvard Business Review, Oct2007)

 The process of developing the strategy and then crafting the statement that captures its essence in a readily communicable manner should involve employees in all parts of the company and at all levels of the hierarchy. (Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?  Harvard Business Review, Apr2008)

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else. (and) If you come to a fork in the road, take it. (famous catcher, coach and management guru Yogi Berra)

Last, a quick refresher on engagement…the landmark 1998 Gallup study has been validated numerous times, with follow-ups and additional research by numerous ‘heavy hitters’. The study showed companies that scored higher on the Power Statements also realized 50% higher productivity; 44% more profit; 13% higher retention. Among the Power Statements are key elements in achieving a high engagement culture of aligned people:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • The mission / purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

Written by Craig

January 2, 2011 at 1:03 am

Posted in Strategy

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The Formula-It Ain’t Rocket Science

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It should be easier than this…what happens to The Plan on the journey from the board room to the end of the year? Sure, nothing can be carved in stone and there are no guarantees. But still, where are the disconnects, what gets in the way of flawless execution of the plan?

The formula that follows is not rocket science. It’s fundamental management. But if you were to take a straw poll of your company to measure how well you are doing for each of the formula steps, how would you fare? I have a simple assessment in my pocket, if you dare…

The formula is based upon what people need to become and stay highly engaged and committed, highly satisfied high performers. Highly engaged people have bought into the company’s goals, and put forth the effort it takes to hit the mark. The formula also factors in those things the organization needs to achieve flawless execution: people on the same page, effectively cascaded and communicated goals. Finally, elements of change management are included that are essential for getting people comfortable with making the jump to the new world.

  1. Establish clear vision–line of sight to the top so people know what’s important and why, and understand their role in bringing home the organization’s top goals.
  2. Align: get on the same page, both publicly and privately. Leaders can’t be cowboys, their action plans and especially their daily actions must be an extension of the company’s top goals, and they must fully understand that connection and the importance of their role. It used to be called “company man”. But it’s simply being a team player.
  3. Set clear expectations so people know what to do, not just when it’s convenient but every time, every day. Constancy of purpose leads to consistency of effort and we need consistency. Deming was right–variation is Public Enemy #1.
  4. Ensure accountability to execute the plan. Chain of command must demand it. Expect execution, not when it’s convenient or only when there is 100% agreement, but every time.
  5. Provide support: (a) from leadership’s mentoring and modeling, which makes clarifying and reinforcing expectations much more credible; and (b) by providing systems and tools, information and skills needed to ensure the team can deliver on their accountabilities.
  6. Reinforce and follow-up by continuously verifying accountabilities are met and making sure the team has the tools they need to deliver the goods.
  7. Follow through. Make tough choices if there are still people who either can’t or won’t deliver on their accountabilities.

The Formula sounds heavy on Command and Control, which is more than a little out of character for me. But let’s go through the process from the top, slipping the John Everyman  hat back on…

If the vision is not compelling enough to me, then am I in the right job with the right company? Or, has the story just not been told well enough for me to buy in? I really do crave something a little more meaningful than just doing the same old stuff day in day out with little apparent purpose.

Don’t worry about how I’ll react if you lay out my expectations and accountabilities in no uncertain terms. I could stand the clarity, seriously–it beats the heck out of guessing what you expect me to do then being told later I guessed wrong.

Number 5 is my Ace in the Hole…that one is all on your shoulders. Like it or not, I watch you. And I tend to mirror your behavior and your attitude…it’s safer that way. “Do as I do” carries a lot of weight, can you handle it? As far as 5b goes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you expect me to go out huntin’ grizz I’m going to get mauled if all you’re giving me is this worn out old slingshot. Don’t set me up to fail-it makes you look bad too.

It would be wise if you would check in now and then to make sure things are going according to plan. And if I’m not willing or able to deliver the goods even after you’ve made my expectations clear and made sure I have what I need to deliver, then we both have a problem.

And I deserve your solution.

Written by Craig

January 2, 2011 at 12:17 am