Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Posts Tagged ‘Alignment

Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More

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Taking time to figure out what really matters in the long run shouldn’t be such a rare luxury. But it is.

Find time to breathe.


(Within this self-talk is a testimonial to the importance of personal, values-based connecting, and the need to check in with the plan now and then. A few links below may help to make it more clear-ca)

Maybe a little air time will ensure some accountability on my part to git r done… if you’ve peeked in here before you know by now that personal vision, values, planning and alignment are a big deal in my world. So big that I’m on a mission to get something out there to help others make their connections.

There is a grander purpose behind being personally connected. Quite simply: things are a mess on a global, national, societal scale. The only way we can collectively impact things is to first tidy up our own lives one-by-one. I want to contribute at that level. It’s absolutely critical to me personally as my long-time personal vision is: make an impact, leave a legacy.

A few months back, I asked What Drives You?  preceded by What’s Your One Thing?  (remember Jack Palance as cowpoke Curly in City Slickers?)

My One Thing is to Connect. First with myself, so I can more effectively help others do the same. My strategic intent is to do my part to make others’ lives more meaningful, therefore making the world a better place, all in the interest of The Greater Good  — a group I host on the Employee Engagement Network.

It all comes down to leveraging the power of influence we each have: One Pond, One Pebble

This Connections book project has consumed me, as it targets my vision and matches up with my core values: creativity, freedom from unnecessary constraints, helping others. Even my interpretation of the value spirituality is tapped. In its essence spirituality to me means connecting…with myself, with all that is around me, (the Tao or the Force, which is it?) with others, with a greater purpose and the being who is greater than me.

I’m lucky-all this high-falootin’ stuff has been important to me for quite some time. Not everyone can claim that. And there is my Driver to help me reach my Vision! I now have to gear up to attack the “helping others” value factor in the equation, something that has been missing in my values-based action plan lately.

As I maintain throughout the Connections project, it is absolutely essential for each of us (and for society / the world / the Greater Good!) to connect with our values, to establish a values-based purpose in life. Out of the collective of individuals with strong personal values comes strong shared values, norms, healthy culture, healthy companies.

All this with a renewed sense of urgency. See Gotta Love Those Life-changing Events.

My most powerful strategic lever for propelling me toward my vision is the Values piece from Connections. Gear it up!

Ain’t Wastin Time No More!


So that’s what’s up with me lately. How are you doing? Are you connected? Taking time to figure out what really matters in the long run shouldn’t be such a rare luxury. But it is. We’re continuously reacting to our surroundings, inundated with the pressures of daily demands, juggling an abundance of urgencies thrown at us from every direction.

Find time to breathe.


Written by Craig

September 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm

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

More on Performance Management

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See prior post. Another performance management conversation is taking place now on the EEN, a few excerpts and my thoughts follow. You have to sign up and be a member of the specific group to join the discussion, but at least you can check it out here.  

David Marklew started the discussion with this:

What would the reaction in your organisation be if an announcement was published stating that they (performance appraisals) were being scrapped – happy faces or sad faces from both sides? I’m smiling just at the thought of the reaction.  

Is perf mgmt just a seasonally hot topic? Maybe, considering that PM is typically only thought about “seasonally”. One of my issues with it, or more accurately with the way it is misused.

First need, I think, is to re-think what it is: an alignment and planning process, then a project management / status reporting tool. As such, it cannot be a semi-annual check-box ritual to comply with HR policy. If a project management tool, and the business plan drives the projects, how frequent should the touches be? Re-positioning elevates the relevance and importance.

(John) SMART objectives tend to be outdated very quickly – far more quickly than the time to the next appraisal…Per the comment above, when projects and priorities change plans need to change too. No way can they be carved in stone at the start of the period and left alone.

(John again) some managers will avoid feeding back on performance and development progress if there is nothing in place. This is one of my biggest concerns. Hate to say it but sometimes we need to be nudged into talking to one another!

Alison nailed it for me: It isn’t the tool which needs to be abolished, what about the skill of the user, how it’s used and how it’s positioned, these are surely key to how engaging the action is, like with most tools….Perhaps tailor made appraisals with a central core of organisational requirements might engage

If core competencies, or guiding principles etc etc exist, how well do they get driven into reality? To me, using a perf mgmt process is one ideal way. An issue, however, is how to objectively assess a person’s performance on the softer attributes.

At issue also is what Alison notes as the skill of the user. Like most anything else clarity, fairness and consistency are essential. Without these perf mgmt is a dangerous loaded weapon.

(David B) they have become so bureaucratic that many managers dread that “time of the year” when they have to be done…think about it, a time of the year, not ongoing!  I’m in the camp of de-formalizing them, but making sure at the same time that that kind of communication doesn’t fall through the cracks, and that people get feedback along the way.  So yes, scrap the “system”…

Need: ongoing, regular touches. Give people the skills they need to effectively use the process, including giving and receiving feedback (TALKING to each other??!). Use the process to manage execution of the business plan, as well as to drive the softer attributes into reality.

Balance the process by adding the individual development element.

David B said expect managers to do their job…. a well designed perf mgmt system should simply be a value-adding tool to help them do their job!

Written by Craig

March 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Performance Management-A Three Legged Stool

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It’s that time of year again…buckets of frantic activity to beat performance management compliance deadlines set by HR.

We’re having a good exchange of ideas on performance management initiated by Les Allan on the Employee Engagement Network: CIPD Members Say Performance Management Systems Fail to Engage.

Just a couple of highlights here, and an invitation to join in the discussion, either here or via the link above.

When org strategy and operational goals is the singular focus, I totally agree with a point Les makes-big problem. If I am to take ownership of my plan, there had better be something in it for me. Smart PM systems strike a balance by including personal / career development and growth.

“Good” systems include behavioral attributes like the collaboration and cooperation that Les mentions in his post, and these are absolutely critical. Much more difficult to objectively assess than “did you / didn’t you get your projects done”. But essential reminders at the least.

Putting a number on people is one of the big objections Les raises…a tough one. There is the necessity of objectivity beyond “Joe sure does good work”. The issue becomes inconsistency in interpretation and application of even the clearest rating criteria. The goal is simple: each associate has clear criteria on what must be done to “exceed expectations” and those expectations are measurable. But how do you ensure that three is three among all managers and associates?

That sounds strangely like alignment, planning and measuring goal attainment. Hmmm…pretty important stuff.

Good system=three-legged stool:

  1. Operational goals, effectively cascaded to manage execution of the business plan;
  2. Behavioral attributes to define cultural elements: this is how we behave as we are attaining our goals;
  3. Personal / career growth and development, not only to satisfy the individual’s craving to be all they can and want to be, but to build bench strength and support succession needs. 

All of the above is built on a solid foundation of collaboration between manager and associate. If it’s top-down directive forget about it. I may comply because I’m a good soldier but I won’t commit. Big difference.

Head, hands, heart.

What’s Your “One Thing”?

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City Slickers Dialogue: Metro Man Mitch (Billy Crystal) and Cowpoke Curly (Jack Palance)

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? This. [holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.

My personal vision, developed 15 years ago: leave a legacy, make an impact. I have a detailed strategy and ever-adapting action plan to support that vision but won’t bore you with it here, except to say that my strategic pyramid is based on personal values, a few attributes that have been my deepest drivers since at least junior high. A long time ago! I am certain these are deep, personality-anchored values, not just transitory or behavioral based on where I am at present.

I’ve given it a good deal of thought, in part through the work on this project. I am certain my “One Thing” is to connect. That is what my personal well-being and engagement is dependent upon, and connecting will allow me to become an effective enabler of engagement for those in my circle of influence….my ticket to leaving a legacy, making an impact.

There are many different connections, one being the connection among all I do in my life. It flies in the face of work-life balance, but I Am What I Do. Am I just lucky enough to be involved in something that allows me to attack the whole enchilada at once, with one focus, and not have to be overly concerned with maintaining that precious balance? Or maybe I’m deluding myself and I really am a workaholic headed for burnout?

There is a lot at stake. Those dynamics bear close watching, and I’m on it!

I teach at a local college now and then, most recently my personal favorite Total Quality Management: Performance Excellence. “Total quality” means just that: it encompasses everything we do at work, at home, in the community. Performance excellence in its broadest sense is meeting expectations first time, every time, on time–again at work, at home, in the community. So the class has a decidedly “big” flavor. Workplace-specific concepts and theories are applied to students’ private lives and vice versa.

Class exercises, discussions and projects are absolutely relevant to my day job. What applies in class applies to work, applies at home, applies socially. I research one and it applies directly to the other.

I get a lot of good out of reading and contributing to discussions on The Employee Engagement Network, a growing global social network of over 3,000 devotees of engagement (easy to find: Google it).  What I read there, what I contribute there has everything to do with what I do at work, what I share in my college class, who I am at home, my role in the community.

I am what I do, I do who I am. I am connected.

Your Challenge: connect. It’s a good place.

Written by Craig

February 16, 2011 at 6:12 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