Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Archive for the ‘Culture Change’ Category

Dual Residency

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Been in process of updating / doing a blogger’s version of a 5-S. Newer stuff is here: One Pond-Ripples. Focus: influence and impact, values based leadership and engagement, community and this wonderfully esoteric thing called The Greater Good.

I will be pulling a few posts from this blog forward after updating so stay tuned!



How Countable Are You?

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“Countability” was coined by John Maxwell in The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork:

9. The Law of Countability. Teammates must be able to count on each other when it counts. Is your integrity unquestionable? Do you perform your work with excellence? Are you dedicated to the team’s success? Can people depend on you? Do your actions bring the team together or rip it apart?

My leader has asked the questions many times: what exactly is “accountability”? What does it mean to hold someone “accountable”?

It’s time to take a swipe at this snipe called accountability.

I am your leader, I am counting on you to make the best possible decisions within your area of responsibility. By the same token, you can count on me as your leader to clearly define what’s expected of you, and to make sure you have the information, skills and tools to deliver on those expectations. A good leader does not count on more than their followers can deliver. A good follower delivers no less than what they are capable of.

Don’t expect me to make decisions for you when you are capable of making the call yourself. That’s just abdicating your responsibility. And, no offense but I have more important things to do. If you make a decision to the best of your ability, within your defined area of countability, you will not be chastised if the decision turns out to be wrong. We need to figure out WHY it was a wrong call, and learn from it together.

We have more than enough definition and structure: work instructions, standard work, targets, ISO9001, leader certification, hourly associate performance expectations and assessments, salaried performance management, policies. All we need to do is execute consistently every day to the best of our ability. No exception to this is acceptable or justifiable on the leaders’ or followers’ part.

Our success hinges on clearly defined expectations and responsibilities and leaders supporting the team–providing what they need, enabling followers to get the job done. A leader cannot succeed without ensuring the success of their followers and having a team that is countable. That is a leader’s number one job.

A company cannot succeed without people who are countable, people who do what is expected of them, up and down the line. When people deliver the goods, they need to know it. When they fall short, they need to know it. And if they need help to pick things up a notch, they need to get it.

Countability applies to all levels of leaders and all followers. No rocket science, nothing more than fundamental chain-of-command.

How countable are you?

Written by Craig

July 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

One Pebble, One Pond

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 I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do…

So I’ll leave it up to you. (Ten Years After, 1971)

1971 was at the tail end of the most socially conscious decade in American history. A great many movements and world-changers. I’d Love to Change the World lamented the state of society, and a perceived helplessness to do anything about it.

The “Occupy Anything Anywhere” movement 40 years later is nothing new. We used to call them “sit-ins” back in the day…right on.

Sit-ins, demonstrations and unauthorized occupations are not the only way to effect change, and possibly not even the most effective. What happens after the tribe disbands, and the event and press coverage go away? Change is more than an event. South American social guerilla / change agent Che Guevara knew it. He maintained that the only way to achieve lasting change is through controlling the education and communications systems–what people learn and what is continuously reinforced.

For those of us who are not radical wearers of Che beanies seeking to overthrow governments, for those who can’t take months off work to camp out in a public park to make our statement, we still have a huge impact opportunity in front of us.

It starts with one pebble, one pond — with me and my circles of influence. The tiny ripples from my single pebble eventually overlap and join with others, until the smooth pond surface is in constant motion, unrecognizable compared to the mirror surface it once was.

If nothing happens over time, the pond surface will revert back to what it was.

Nothing lasts without continued effort and focus on what must be accomplished. We need more pebbles and more people dropping them. One pebble, one pond.

Circles of Influence, Meet Chain of Command

Influence is the unofficial authority a person of credibility has, and it has impacts that reach way beyond positional power. People comply to the orders of a position, they commit to follow a person of influence. Big difference!

This is not a denouncement of chain of command, it’s an endorsement of influence. A positioned person needs influence to be an effective leader of people; without influence that person is just a manager of things. Credibility feeds influence, which feeds things getting done. So if credibility is the trigger, how do you ‘do’ it?

People earn credibility, and a company or organization does as well. Both earn credibility when they consistently deliver results with integrity…

with integrity?!

Credibility and integrity are almost interchangeable. One certainly enhances the other. The difference: while credibility has to do with how well you do things, integrity comes into play with how you behave while you’re doing those things.

You can have one without the other:

John is the go-to guy for this kind of project. He can do it in half the time and get amazing results. But watch out…his “get it done whatever the cost” approach has left broken people in his wake more than once. But that’s the price you pay for tapping his expertise. Ouch.

Mary is the consummate team player. She’s great to be around, and you can always count on her to be there and do what you ask of her. But she has a hard time taking the initiative to move forward on her own without approval. It’s really tough to find something of importance that you can be sure she is able to do without guidance, and you need low maintenance self-starters to get this project done. Ouch again.

What we really need is John and Mary in one package. But if you could only have one which is more critical—credibility or integrity?

Written by Craig

April 11, 2012 at 7:55 am

Norms and Culture: Structured or Organic?

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For well over a year I’ve been working hard on the boss (OK…I’ve been obnoxiously, doggedly persistent) on how badly we need to put clear definition and substance behind “The (Company Name) Way”…our version of a beliefs statement. I’ve been looking at norms and culture as something you can set clear expectations around to accomplish. But have I been missing the mark?

Culture is defined by shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices, expectations (norms) rules and a lot more. Norms are implied or stated behavioral expectations based on the group’s beliefs. Norms may be reinforced by official mandate and / or informal social pressure. There are rewards for compliance, and consequences for noncompliance.

Beliefs are highly individual. My beliefs may be considered by others to be highly quirky. But when a group shares the same quirks, somehow the quirks magically become norms that go a long ways toward defining a culture! So culture only takes hold when a critical mass believes in the same thing and lives it every day, whatever “it” is. If culture is strong the pressure to comply to norms is greater. By the same token the greater the compliance to norms, the stronger the culture. Culture and norms….chicken or egg?

My head hurts now, so back to the original dilemma. Can you force the issue with either culture or norms?

Money can’t buy it, slogans can’t make it happen, bosses can’t demand it. And laws and policy will get you compliance if you’re lucky. Maybe you can’t craft culture or mandate norms. 

You can’t put substance and structure into beliefs to make them more real, you can’t force “shared” beliefs even if you set clear expectations to behave in a way that models a set of beliefs. Beliefs are what they are, and they are highly individual.  By the same token you can over-document vision, and if you publish stated values they become dogma: We believe the moon is made of blue cheese and YOU will believe it too… or else!

Seriously? Culture, norms, values, beliefs just happen? I have a hard time leaving such critical things to chance.

What are the pros and cons? Can you / can’t you….should you / shouldn’t you clearly define and neatly package culture, norms, values, beliefs?

Written by Craig

March 21, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Was Darwin Right?

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It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change. (Darwin)

Following is a real-world dilemma, once again using the bell curve. What would you do?

You’ve been tasked to research leadership development material for a rather “young” group of leaders in a startup operation. Based on comments and observation you are concerned with the varying levels of team leader buy-in to the training. Your original focus was “what is the best way to get everyone on board?” But the initial effects of the kool-aid have worn down and now you’re beginning to wonder “can we realistically expect everyone to happily hop on the bus and go to Disneyland with us?”

Framed in terms of variation and natural distribution, below is the bell curve of leader buy-in. The left tail is comprised of nay-sayers and no-wayers, while the right tail has visionaries and natural leaders. The largest population is the fence-sitters in the middle.


Would it be more effective to offer elective leadership development to any interested person, regardless of whether they are currently leaders? The “deadwood” on the left can choose to participate and improve, and we may convert some of them. But if they don’t want to or can’t get on the bus, we can’t drag them on board and expect good results.

I really hate to ask this…would we be better off developing from scratch those with potential and the right attitude, rather than attempting to shape and mold miscreants against their will?

This is a major shift for me, may lose some sleep. Your thoughts?

Written by Craig

June 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm

The Big Sleep…Vision or Delusion?

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What a holiday season. I kicked back to take a nap, to get primed for the feeding frenzy of bowl games that loomed ahead.

              I woke up, not to New Years Day 2011, but 2013!

I was pleasantly surprise when I went back to work a couple days later to find the vision we had kicked around had, somehow, become reality:


We are the preferred provider and our customers’ dream supplier because we are fully engaged, completely aligned, clearly connected, absolutely committed to flawless execution every day, top-to-bottom, door-to-door.

From what I’ve gathered in so far, this transformation has taken an amazing amount of effort from the entire team. Not only the things we do every day, but our behaviors and even our attitudes have undergone incredible changes. What enabled that vision to become reality?

We boosted our capacity; we’re at full staff, full speed;

Our goals and values have been operationally defined…the team is on the same page.  We all have clear expectations and accountabilities, both task and behavioral, and they have teeth;

We evolved from suboptimized to synergistic, when we all finally realized the truth: my goals are much smaller than our department’s goals, which are much smaller than our organization’s goals;

Our senior leaders are committed to modeling, mentoring, coaching, and they can honestly say to their teams “do as I do.” And their teams did!

We have a strong, cohesive leadership team all the way through the individual contributor level;

Realizing we could not achieve one without the other, we balanced our efforts between process and people improvement;

We have an aligned strategy, coordinated efforts and consistent messages in internal communications, orientation, and training and development;

We implemented a user-friendly, value-adding performance management process that ensured flawless execution of our business plan, and have total buy-in to leverage the process because it makes sense;

We have achieved consistent execution by minimizing method variation and achieving true flow;

We initiated a strategy-driven, two-way communication process to educate and inform associates top-to-bottom, giving them all the information they need, when they need it.

This is great to wake up to! We have a strategy that is effectively cascaded and flawlessly executed. All levels are aware of the plan and are involved in achieving the goals they are accountable for. Everyone can clearly identify how their work has a direct impact on achieving our goals and making progress toward our mission….

….we keep score real-time with highly visible metrics that people are interested in because they know they affect the numbers with their work, and they have input on how to improve the numbers….

….people feel like this is a great place to work and you can tell it. We offer our associates ample opportunities to learn and grow at a personal and professional level, and we have a comprehensive strategy for both internal and external communication that is effectively and consistently executed.

What an incredible environment…this is something we can be truly proud to be a part of!


Vision, or Delusion? If we’re going to get there by 2013 and continue on toward the 20 / 20 vision, we’d better get moving! Happy Holidays to you, and a fantastic New Year from here on out!  CA

Written by Craig

December 31, 2010 at 11:47 am

About the Flawless Execution Web Site

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If you stopped by this blog, chances are you will be interested in visiting my other home on the web. I’d like to invite you to  Flawless Execution. No frills, just information that I hope is of value to you. Look around, and if something grabs your attention or you have a question or comment, email me at or come back to the blog and comment. I’ll be glad to help when I can.

I am a people and process improvement practitioner and have worked closely with organized labor leadership, as well as all levels and functions of management. This diverse background has given me a broad perspective on what it takes to achieve flawless execution. Defined:

Achieving a goal, meeting a requirement or completing a task in minimal time and effort, doing it right the first time, to perfection.

Flawless execution is the end result of doing many things very well, including providing an environment that promotes full engagement, alignment and cascading of the plan, ensuring clear expectations and accountability, continuously communicating with and involving the team, providing necessary system and skills support, and gathering and acting on meaningful real-time metrics.

Two attributes in particular make a real difference in achieving flawless execution, and are my points of emphasis:

• Dual Perspective: I have been both a driver and a do-er, in both operations improvement and people development;

• Double Vision: focus on both process and people to achieve excellence and optimal results.

Referencing back to the definition of flawless execution above: some companies are good at some of these things, some are good at others. The exceptional companies excel at all of these. It’s a lot like Deming’s insistence on all 14 Points or none. All are essential. Except I don’t quite have the credibility or clout WED did.

Last, I hope you’ll take time to consider The Greater Good: applying concepts, principles, tools and techniques from the worlds of business and industry to society, community, local government, education, individual excellence et al. This is a work-in-process: we all thrive on striving for the greater good!

Written by Craig

September 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm