Tag Archives: Organizational Change

Leading People Through Organizational Change

Change Prezi

A Prezi on Leading Organizational Change

When it comes to installing a “new” practice, system, or process and making it “the way” of producing specified results, anyone who has lead such a change initiative knows that success or failure often comes down to the conduct of leadership and the extent to which people adapt.

Click this link to learn what effective change leaders know about helping people transition from the way things are to the way they need to be.

When you’re done, come back and let us know what you think of the message and the medium!

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“Productive Meeting” is Not an Oxymoron

The Stake Out

“Hey,” said Alberts as he struggled to pull what looked like a football wrapped in butcher paper out of his coat pocket. “Anybody want a sandwich?”  Both men shook their heads. “Nah. I’ll just chew on my coffee” said Lewis swirling the dregs in his cup.

“You guys look beat. It’s after 7. What are you doing here so late? What’s the situation?” queried Alberts. Dawes tossed his magazine onto the van floor and stood up to stretch. “We’ve spent all day witnessing a colossal mess of meetings. I haven’t seen anything this bad since that boardroom debacle back in ’98. We thought it was going to be a slow day. According to the room scheduling program, there was a meeting at 8am, one at 10am, an 11am, and then nothing until 2pm with no other meetings after that.” Alberts looked over at the video feed streaming on the laptop screen. A group of distraught looking individuals were huddled at the far end of a conference room. Take-out containers, empty soda cans, and wadded up napkins were pushed into a disheveled mountain in the middle of the long oval table. “So what happened?” asked Alberts squinting at the screen.Meeting

“I’ll tell you what happened” replied Lewis swiveling his chair around. “Our informant completely played down the severity of the situation. This copany is in far worse shape than we thought.” Without pausing to take a breath, Lewis barreled head long into a rant that would make Dennis Miller proud. “The 8am meeting was between Mr. Jenkins, the company President, and his executive team. Three of the eight people scheduled to meet actually showed up on time. Jenkins strolled in at 8:18am with the other four people hurrying in on his heels. It’s their weekly meeting, so no one thought it necessary to put together an agenda. McMichaels, the VP of Operations got hung up on a production issue. Jenkins started brainstorming on the flipchart and before you know it, the 10am group is gathered outside the meeting room watching the executive team through the glass walls. Stevens, a marketing manager leading the 10am meeting, was so intimidated he just stood there without saying a word. Fifteen minutes later, the execs vacate and Stevens finally gains access to the conference room. He had an agenda, which was good. But two people in the meeting never looked up from their BlackBerries. The domino effect of delayed meetings was well underway. The 11am meeting didn’t get into the room until noon. Instead of diving right into it, the group decided to get their lunches. This was no working lunch. We learned some interesting information about everybody’s kids and vacation plans as well as the plot of this week’s NCIS. By the time they started discussing issues, it was 1:05pm. One woman brought up the same production issue that came up in the executive meeting. She would not let it go. No one interrupted her. Halfway through, a guy walked out of the meeting stating that he had to go to another meeting. Having reached no significant conclusions by 2:15pm, the group decided to schedule another time to reconvene on the original points they were supposed to cover. The 2pm meeting participants settled into the room at 2:25p. At 2:26pm, Holt, an analyst, announces that he has a 2:30pm meeting so he can now only stay for a few minutes. Benson joins the meeting at 2:40pm. Despite his efforts at a covert entrance, the whole group stops talking. He explains that he had three meetings booked at 2pm so he decided to attend all three but only stay for twenty minutes in each.” Exhausted from his recount of the day, Lewis swiveled back to the computer screen.

“Wait a minute. Is this the 2pm group still?” Dawes smiled at the shocked look on Alberts’ face. “No man. They cut out at 4:30. This was a quick impromptu gathering that started at 5pm. One of the HR managers asked a few people to join her for a short conversation. She promised it would only take a minute.” “Wow, this company is going to need the full court press” said Alberts as he slumped into a seat. Lewis thought about the true meaning behind Alberts’ words, “the full court press.”

Like so many other companies the Meeting Squad was called in to help, this one was going to need a lot more than just an agenda template and a few meeting ground rules. The heart of the matter lay in the company’s culture. Emanating from the executive team, a host of attitudinal and behavioral miscues had permeated the whole organization. It’s a congenial place to work. Everybody likes each other and no one wants to jeopardize the positive rapport they all share. They’re under a misguided notion that holding each other accountable to meeting rules and etiquette would damage relationships and stagnate creativity. The entire staff has been complicit in allowing meetings to run amok like children at recess. The price is a dramatic loss of productivity and efficiency. However, after years on the Meeting Squad, Lewis knew that “productive meeting” did not have to be an oxymoron. His gaze shifted to the checklist taped to the wall of the van.

The list was titled, Starting with Company Culture. Here’s what it said:

Grassroots: locate people already conducting well-run meetings or find willing converts. Be sure to identify respected individuals with credibility. Designate these individuals as Meeting Champions. Equip the Champions with the tools and techniques to run productive meetings. Check in often to hold them accountable and encourage them through the challenging moments.

Coalition: build a network of influential managers willing to support the culture change initiative. Elicit their help in drafting a Meeting Manifesto outlining guidelines for redefining the company’s culture around meetings. Leverage the influence of the Coalition to gain access to senior management.

Top Down: present a business case to the executive team illustrating the tangible improvements to morale, productivity and output that can be achieved by implementing a company-wide strategy to improve the effectiveness of meetings. Encourage the executive team to edit and help finalize the Meeting Manifesto. Teach the executives the meeting leadership principles and tools needed to make the Manifesto a reality. Earn permission to hold them accountable to communicating the Manifesto and modeling the desired attitudes and behaviors.

Roll-out: when sufficient momentum has gathered around the idea that the meeting culture is changing, train the remaining staff on the tools and techniques required to run efficient meetings. Establish a recognition program to reinforce consistent application of new guidelines and methods. Help departments with their own sub-cultures tailor the meeting norms to fit the nuances of their environment. Continually assess progress and make modifications to incorporate best practices.

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Culture: The Organizational “12th Man”

Lately, I’ve been juxtaposing my passions to see what ideas would form. When I fused the game of football with principles of leadership, I realized how underutilized the “12th Man” strategy is as a resource for shaping organizational dynamics.

For some, it is the sunlight dappling on brilliantly colored leaves. For others, it is the crisp air so cool and refreshing. For me, the only reason not to weep openly at the passing of summer into autumn is the screech of referee whistles and the giddy feeling I get at the sound of shoulder pads cracking together.

Though a strong supporter of the home team (Bears), I enjoy the sport too much to be limited to one game a week. The Seattle Seahawks are always high on the list of teams to watch because of Matt Hasselbeck*, the gitchy color of their new uniforms, and my fascination with the power of the “12th Man.”stadium

For those of you who prefer sports with diamonds or hoops, in football, 11 men from each team square off against each other on the field. The Seahawks refer to the fans in their stadium as “The 12th Man.” Due to the acoustics of Quest Field, when the spectators join together in full voice, it makes it nearly impossible for the opposing offense to communicate with each other. Watch some time. During the game, members of the Seahawks defense call the “12th man” into action by pushing their hands in the air palms up. This signals the fans to raise the volume to deafening levels. The “12th Man” has become such a force to be reckoned with, other teams prepare for it by blasting music onto their fields during practices.

What I find most compelling about the “12th Man” is that it broadens the point of view from which to consider how the game is played and won. Typically, the twenty-two men battling it out across the line of scrimmage are the center of attention. When the spotlight is on the quarterback, the linemen, and the snap of the ball, the fans in the stadium are merely blurred images on the periphery. However, the “12th Man” is the eye-in-the-sky camera point of view. It encompasses not only the players on the field, but the atmosphere in which they are playing.

In many businesses, the camera is often closely trained on the marginal difference between the line of scrimmage and the first down. It’s a limited ten yard perspective that captures only the players and the voice of the coaches transmitting messages into the quarterback’s helmet. When it comes time to make organizational improvements, it’s important to consider the broadest range of factors. Changing behaviors by changing processes, systems, or incentives neglects the impact of the environment on people’s ability to adopt these new practices. If the organizational culture is not conducive or accepting of the changes, they will not last.12thmanstand

The “12th Man” is not a Seahawk’s creation. It was started in 1922 when the Texas A&M Aggies played Centre College, the nation’s top ranked team. It was a grueling game that depleted the team’s reserve of players. Out of desperation, the Aggies’ coach had E. King Gill, a former football player, suit up and stand by. Gill was never called in but he remained standing at the ready. When the Aggies are down, the fans stand up for the whole game—ready in case the team needs them.

If your business is fighting the good fight, but can’t seem to win, widen your focus beyond the players on the field. Take a look up into the “stands.” Analyze the stadium in which you are playing. Are the prevailing attitudes, accepted norms, beliefs, and behaviors hindering forward progress? Are there changes in the works that are incompatible with the environment in which they are being installed? Or, is the organization’s culture suited up and waiting for leadership to put it in play?




*http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlesports/archives/181310.asp?source=rss (he’ll be back!)

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Create, Capitalize on, or Be Capsized by Change


A Leadership Bell Curve

I’d like you to imagine leadership performance as a bell curve. We’ll distribute managers along the curve relative to how well they navigate the sea of market changes. In this scenario, those at the top 10% of the curve are called Superstars and Visionaries. The former possess the lunar strength to control the tides, churning the waves of opportunity. The latter anticipate the big waves and position their organizations to ride the crests. Together, Superstars and Visionaries are a powerful source of competitive advantage for organizations that leverage their talents correctly. We’ll come back to this point in a moment.

Moving along, we come to the middle of the curve. The “bell” is populated by the 80% of leaders who spend their careers feeling the tides of change crashing down upon them. After each wave roars over them, they have to fight their way to the surface. After quickly regrouping, they move immediately to reviving their teams. These leaders work side by side with others to plan and execute sound strategies for capitalizing on the current industry challenge or opportunity. Fueled by the encouragement of their leaders, teams of people swim fast enough in the right direction to successfully catch up to and capitalize on the latest wave in the sea of market changes.

Comparing the Superstars and Visionaries to the other 80% of leaders illustrates the point that the degree of impact the majority of management professionals can expect to have within organizations has more to do with their ability to coach the team than it does with their strength as an individual contributor.

Though they don’t roil the oceans or anticipate the next wave, the leaders who can consistently position their organizations to capitalize on the changes in industry tides are valued and known for their ability to get results.

That leaves us with one more group to consider. The last 10% of the curve is made up of consultants who patiently wait for the 80%ers to reach the beach so they can tell them how to better handle the next wave.

All right, not really. The bottom 10% of the curve consists of managers who react quite differently from the other 90% of leaders. Unlike the picture of hope and triumph described above, the situation at this end of the curve is best described as “every man for himself.” When these managers are hit by a wave of marketplace change, they become focused on self preservation. Leaving their teams to fend for themselves, they tread water in a desperate attempt to keep afloat. Some are washed ashore. Others bob helplessly in the water watching colleagues and staff struggle to survive.

This could be a harsh indictment of individual character, or it could illustrate how people react when they fall victim to circumstance.

Maybe the “self-preservationists” are not naturally narcissistic but rather a product of organizational culture. Restrictive processes, antiquated systems, or a lack of decision-making authority could hinder their ability to lead effectively. It is also quite possible that the members of this group are merely mirroring the behavior of the managers positioned above them in their organizational hierarchy. If the leadership behavior at this end of the curve is largely determined by operating conditions, then it stands to reason that the same is true at all locations on the curve.

As was discussed in the Sources of Influence post last week, we have to be careful not to commit the Fundamental Attribution Error. A person’s actions are not always dictated by character or personal qualities. The environment and conditions under which a person is expected to perform can have a profound impact on behavior and results. This means that someone struggling to survive at the lower end of the bell curve in one organization could actually be a Leader, Visionary, or even a Superstar under more conducive circumstances. Conversely, a change in circumstances could render a Superstar or Visionary in one organization a washed out “self-preservationist” in another.

Committing the FAE can have a drastic effect on an organization’s health. For example, hiring a Superstar or Visionary is not an immediate elixir for economic woes nor is it a guarantee of innovative dominance. The skills and talents of Superstars and Visionaries will only produce results if the people and their ideas are planted in a nurturing environment. On the other end of the spectrum, how many people are fired because their poor performance was attributed to inherent qualities without any assessment of external factors?boats

Whether an organization creates, capitalizes on, or is capsized by marketplace change rests less on the caliber of people at the helm and more on the conditions of the boat they’re given to steer.

How has this played out in your organization’s reaction to the Recession?

How will it impact your organization’s ability to drive or prepare for economic recovery?

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