Strategists in Human Capital!
Affinity International Consulting presents Futurepoint

Saturday, November 25, 2017

From inboxing to thought showers: how business b$%^&*it took over!

In early 1984, executives at the telephone company Pacific Bell made a fateful decision. For decades, the company had enjoyed a virtual monopoly on telephone services in California, but now it was facing a problem. The industry was about to be deregulated, and Pacific Bell would soon be facing tough competition.
The management team responded by doing all the things managers usually do: restructuring, downsizing, rebranding. But for the company executives, this wasn’t enough. They worried that Pacific Bell didn’t have the right culture, that employees did not understand “the profit concept” and were not sufficiently entrepreneurial. If they were to compete in this new world, it was not just their balance sheet that needed an overhaul, the executives decided. Their 23,000 employees needed to be overhauled as well.
The company turned to a well-known organisational development specialist, Charles Krone, who set about designing a management-training programme to transform the way people thought, talked and behaved. The programme was based on the ideas of the 20th-century Russian mystic George Gurdjieff. According to Gurdjieff, most of us spend our days mired in “waking sleep”, and it is only by shedding ingrained habits of thinking that we can liberate our inner potential. Gurdjieff’s mystical ideas originally appealed to members of the modernist avant garde, such as the writer Katherine Mansfield and the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. More than 60 years later, senior executives at Pacific Bell were likewise seduced by Gurdjieff’s ideas. The company planned to spend $147m (£111m) putting their employees through the new training programme, which came to be known as Kroning.
Advertisement
Over the course of 10 two-day sessions, staff were instructed in new concepts, such as “the law of three” (a “thinking framework that helps us identify the quality of mental energy we have”), and discovered the importance of “alignment”, “intentionality” and “end-state visions”. This new vocabulary was designed to awake employees from their bureaucratic doze and open their eyes to a new higher-level consciousness. And some did indeed feel like their ability to get things done had improved.
But there were some unfortunate side-effects of this heightened corporate consciousness. First, according to one former middle manager, it was virtually impossible for anyone outside the company to understand this new language the employees were speaking. Second, the manager said, the new language “led to a lot more meetings” and the sheer amount of time wasted nurturing their newfound states of higher consciousness meant that “everything took twice as long”. “If the energy that had been put into Kroning had been put to the business at hand, we all would have gotten a lot more done,” said the manager.
Although Kroning was packaged in the new-age language of psychic liberation, it was backed by all the threats of an authoritarian corporation. Many employees felt they were under undue pressure to buy into Kroning. For instance, one manager was summoned to her superior’s office after a team member walked out of a Kroning session. She was asked to “force out or retire” the rebellious employee.
Some Pacific Bell employees wrote to their congressmen about Kroning. Newspapers ran damning stories with headlines such as “Phone company dabbles in mysticism”. The Californian utility regulator launched a public inquiry, and eventually closed the training course, but not before $40m dollars had been spent.
Advertisement
During this period, a young computer programmer at Pacific Bell was spending his spare time drawing a cartoon that mercilessly mocked the management-speak that had invaded his workplace. The cartoon featured a hapless office drone, his disaffected colleagues, his evil boss and an even more evil management consultant. It was a hit, and the comic strip was syndicated in newspapers across the world. The programmer’s name was Scott Adams, and the series he created was Dilbert. You can still find these images pinned up in thousands of office cubicles around the world today.
Although Kroning may have been killed off, Kronese has lived on. The indecipherable management-speak of which Charles Krone was an early proponent seems to have infected the entire world. These days, Krone’s gobbledygook seems relatively benign compared to much of the vacuous language circulating in the emails and meeting rooms of corporations, government agencies and NGOs. Words like “intentionality” sound quite sensible when compared to “ideation”, “imagineering”, and “inboxing” – the sort of management-speak used to talk about everything from educating children to running nuclear power plants. This language has become a kind of organisational lingua franca, used by middle managers in the same way that freemasons use secret handshakes – to indicate their membership and status. It echoes across the cubicled landscape. It seems to be everywhere, and refer to anything, and nothing.

It hasn’t always been this way. A certain amount of empty talk is unavoidable when humans gather together in large groups, but the kind of bullshit through which we all have to wade every day is a remarkably recent creation. To understand why, we have to look at how management fashions have changed over the past century or so.
In the late 18th century, firms were owned and operated by businesspeople who tended to rely on tradition and instinct to manage their employees. Over the next century, as factories became more common, a new figure appeared: the manager. This new class of boss faced a big problem, albeit one familiar to many people who occupy new positions: they were not taken seriously. To gain respect, managers assumed the trappings of established professions such as doctors and lawyers. They were particularly keen to be seen as a new kind of engineer, so they appropriated the stopwatches and rulers used by them. In the process, they created the first major workplace fashion: scientific management.
Charlie Chaplin ‘satirising the cult of scientific management’ in 1936 film Modern Times. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext
Firms started recruiting efficiency experts to conduct time-and-motion studies. After recording every single movement of a worker in minute detail, the time-and-motion expert would rearrange the worker’s performance of tasks into a more efficient order. Their aim was to make the worker into a well-functioning machine, doing each part of the job in the most efficient way. Scientific management was not limited to the workplaces of the capitalist west – Stalin pushed for similar techniques to be imposed in factories throughout the Soviet Union.
Advertisement
Workers found the new techniques alien, and a backlash inevitably followed. Charlie Chaplin famously satirised the cult of scientific management in his 1936 film Modern Times, which depicts a factory worker who is slowly driven mad by the pressures of life on the production line.
As scientific management became increasingly unpopular, executives began casting around for alternatives. They found inspiration in a famous series of experiments conducted by psychologists in the 1920s at the Hawthorne Works, a factory complex in Illinois where tens of thousands of workers were employed by Western Electric to make telephone equipment. A team of researchers from Harvard had initially set out to discover whether changes in environment, such as adjusting the lighting or temperature, could influence how much workers produced each day.
To their surprise, the researchers found that no matter how light or dark the workplace was, employees continued to work hard. The only thing that seemed to make a difference was the amount of attention that workers got from the experimenters. This insight led one of the researchers, an Australian psychologist called Elton Mayo, to conclude that what he called the “human aspects” of work were far more important than “environmental” factors. While this may seem obvious, it came as news to many executives at the time.
As Mayo’s ideas caught hold, companies attempted to humanise their workplaces. They began talking about human relationships, worker motivation and group dynamics. They started conducting personality testing and running teambuilding exercises: all in the hope of nurturing good human relations in the workplace.

This newfound interest in the human side of work did not last long. During the second world war, as the US and UK military invested heavily in trying to make war more efficient, management fashions began to shift. A bright young Berkeley graduate called Robert McNamara led a US army air forces team that used statistics to plan the most cost-effective way to flatten Japan in bombing campaigns. After the war, many military leaders brought these new techniques into the corporate world. McNamara, for instance, joined the Ford Motor Company, rising quickly to become its CEO, while the mathematical procedures that he had developed during the war were enthusiastically taken up by companies to help plan the best way to deliver cheese, toothpaste and Barbie dolls to American consumers. Today these techniques are known as supply-chain management.
During the postwar years, the individual worker once again became a cog in a large, hierarchical machine. While many of the grey-suited employees at these firms savoured the security, freedom and increasing affluence that their work brought, many also complained about the deep lack of meaning in their lives. The backlash came in the late 1960s, as the youth movement railed against the conformity demanded by big corporations. Protesters sprayed slogans such as “live without dead time” and “to hell with boundaries” on to city walls around the world. They wanted to be themselves, express who they really were, and not have to obey “the Man”.
In response to this cultural change, in the 1970s, management fashions changed again. Executives began attending new-age workshops to help them “self actualise” by unlocking their hidden “human potential”. Companies instigated “encounter groups”, in which employees could explore their deeper inner emotions. Offices were redesigned to look more like university campuses than factories.
 Mad Men’s liberated adman Don Draper (Jon Hamm). Photograph: Courtesy of AMC/AMC
Nowhere is this shift better captured than in the final episode of the television series Mad Men. Don Draper had been the exemplar of the organisational man, wearing a standard-issue grey suit when we met him at the beginning of the show’s first series. After suffering numerous breakdowns over the intervening years, he finds himself at the Esalen institute in northern California, the home of the human potential movement. Initially, Draper resists. But soon he is sitting in a confessional circle, sobbing as he tells his story. His personal breakthrough leads him to take up meditating and chanting, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. The result of Don Draper’s visit to Esalen isn’t just personal transformation. The final scene shows the now-liberated adman’s new creation – an iconic Coca-Cola commercial in which a multiracial group of children stand on a hilltop singing about how they would like to buy the world a Coke and drink it in perfect harmony.
Advertisement
After the fictional Don Draper visited Esalen, work became a place you could go to find yourself. Corporate mission statements now sounded like the revolutionary graffiti of the 1960s. The company training programme run by Charles Krone at Pacific Bell came straight from the Esalen playbook.
Since new-age ideas first permeated the workplace in the 1970s, the spin cycle of management-speak has sped up. During the 1980s, management experts went in search of fresh ideas in Japan. Management became a kind of martial art, with executives visiting “quality dojos” to earn “lean black-belts”. In their 1982 bestseller, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman – both employees of McKinsey, the huge management consultancy agency – recommended that firms foster the same commitment to the company that they found among Honda employees in Japan. The book included the story of one Japanese employee who happens upon a damaged Honda on a public street. He stops and immediately begins repairing the car. The reason? He can’t bear to see a Honda that isn’t perfect.
While McKinsey consultants were mining the wisdom of the east, the ideas of Harvard Business School’s Michael Jensen started to find favour among Wall Street financiers. Jensen saw the corporation as a portfolio of assets. Even people – labelled as “human resources” – were part of this portfolio. Each company existed to create returns for shareholders, and if managers failed to do this, they should be fired. If a company didn’t generate adequate returns, it should be broken up and sold off. Every little part of the company was seen as a business. Seduced by this view, many organisations started creating “internal markets”. In the 1990s, under director general John Birt, the BBC created a system in which everything from time in a recording studio to toilet cleaning was traded on a complex internal market. The number of accountants working for the broadcaster exploded, while people who created TV and radio shows were laid off.

As companies have become increasingly ravenous for the latest management fad, they have also become less discerning. Some bizarre recent trends include equine-assisted coaching (“You can lead people, but can you lead a horse?”) and rage rooms (a room where employees can go to take out their frustrations by smashing up office furniture, computers and images of their boss).
A century of management fads has created workplaces that are full of empty words and equally empty rituals. We have to live with the consequences of this history every day. Consider a meeting I recently attended. During the course of an hour, I recorded 64 different nuggets of corporate claptrap. They included familiar favourites such as “doing a deep dive”, “reaching out”, and “thought leadership”. There were also some new ones I hadn’t heard before: people with “protected characteristics” (anyone who wasn’t a white straight guy), “the aha effect” (realising something), “getting our friends in the tent” (getting support from others).
Advertisement
After the meeting, I found myself wondering why otherwise smart people so easily slipped into this kind of business bullshit. How had this obfuscatory way of speaking become so successful? There are a number of familiar and credible explanations. People use management-speak to give the impression of expertise. The inherent vagueness of this language also helps us dodge tough questions. Then there is the simple fact that even if business bullshit annoys many people, in most work situations we try our hardest to be polite and avoid confrontation. So instead of causing a scene by questioning the bullshit flying around the room, I followed the example of Simon Harwood, the director of strategic governance in the BBC’s self-satirising TV sitcom W1A. I used his standard response to any idea – no matter how absurd – “hurrah”.
Still, these explanations did not seem to fully account for the conquest of bullshit. I came across one further explanation in a short article by the anthropologist David Graeber. As factories producing goods in the west have been dismantled, and their work outsourced or replaced with automation, large parts of western economies have been left with little to do. In the 1970s, some sociologists worried that this would lead to a world in which people would need to find new ways to fill their time. The great tragedy for many is that just the opposite seems to have happened.
Simon Harwood (Jason Watkins, centre) of W1A, the BBC’s fictional director of strategic governance. Photograph: Jack Barnes/BBC
At the very point when work seemed to be withering away, we all became obsessed with it. To be a good citizen, you need to be a productive citizen. There is only one problem, of course: there is less than ever that actually needs to be produced. As Graeber pointed out, the answer has come in the form of what he calls “bullshit jobs”. These are jobs in which people experience their work as “utterly meaningless, contributing nothing to the world”. In a YouGov poll conducted in 2015, 37% of respondents in the UK said their job made no meaningful contribution to the world. But people working in bullshit jobs need to do something. And that something is usually the production, distribution and consumption of bullshit. According to a 2014 survey by the polling agency Harris, the average US employee now spends 45% of their working day doing their real job. The other 55% is spent doing things such as wading through endless emails or attending pointless meetings. Many employees have extended their working day so they can stay late to do their “real work”.
Advertisement
One thing continued to puzzle me: why was it that so many people were paid to do this kind of empty work. One reason that David Graeber gives, in his book The Utopia of Rules, is rampant bureaucracy: there are more forms to be filled in, procedures to be followed and standards to be complied with than ever. Today, bureaucracy comes cloaked in the language of change. Organisations are full of people whose job is to create change for no real reason.
Manufacturing hollow change requires a constant supply of new management fads and fashions. Fortunately, there is a massive industry of business bullshit merchants who are quite happy to supply it. For each new change, new bullshit is needed. Looking back over the list of business bullshit I had noted down during the meeting, I realised that much of it was directly related to empty new bureaucratic initiatives, which were seen as terribly urgent, but would probably be forgotten about in a few years’ time.
One of the corrosive effects of business bullshit can be seen in the statistic that 43% of all teachers in England are considering quitting in the next five years. The most frequently cited reasons are increasingly heavy workloads caused by excessive administration, and a lack of time and space to devote to educating students. A remarkably similar picture appears if you look at the healthcare sector: in the UK, 81% of senior doctors say they are considering retiring from their job early; 57% of GPs are considering leaving the profession; 66% of nurses say they would quit if they could. In each case, the most frequently cited reason is stress caused by increasing managerial demands, and lack of time to do their job properly.
It is not just employees who feel overwhelmed. During the 1980s, when Kroning was in full swing, empty management-speak was confined to the beige meeting rooms of large corporations. Now, it has seeped into every aspect of life. Politicians use business balderdash to avoid grappling with important issues. The machinery of state has also come down with the word-virus. The NHS is crawling with “quality sensei”, “lean ninjas”, and “blue-sky thinkers”. Even schools are flooded with the latest business buzzwords like “grit”, “flipped learning” and “mastery”. Naturally, the kids are learning fast. One teacher recalled how a seven-year-old described her day at school: “Well, when we get to class, we get out our books and start on our non-negotiables.”

In the introduction to his 2015 book, Trust Me, PR Is Dead, the former PR executive Robert Phillips tells a fascinating story. One day he was called up by the CEO of a global corporation. The CEO was worried. A factory which was part of his firm’s supply chain had caught fire and 100 women had burned to death. “My chairman’s been giving me grief,” said the CEO. “He thinks we’re failing to get our message across. We are not emphasising our CSR [corporate social responsibility] credentials well enough.” Phillips responded: “While 100 women’s bodies are still smouldering?” The CEO was “struggling to contain both incredulity and temper”. “I know,” he said. “Please help.” Phillips responded: “You start with actions, not words.”
Advertisement
In many ways, this one interaction tells us how bullshit is used in corporate life. Individual executives facing a problem know that turning to bullshit is probably not the best idea. However, they feel compelled. The problem is that such compulsions often cloud people’s best judgements. They start to think empty words will trump reasonable reflection and considered action. Sadly, in many contexts, empty words win out.
If we hope to improve organisational life – and the wider impact that organisations have on our society – then a good place to start is by reducing the amount of bullshit our organisations produce. Business bullshit allows us to blather on without saying anything. It empties out language and makes us less able to think clearly and soberly about the real issues. As we find our words become increasingly meaningless, we begin to feel a sense of powerlessness. We start to feel there is little we can do apart from play along, benefit from the game and have the occasional laugh.
But this does not need to be the case. Business bullshit can and should be challenged. This is a task each of us can take up by refusing to use empty management-speak. We can stop ourselves from being one more conduit in its circulation. Instead of just rolling our eyes and checking our emails, we should demand something more meaningful.
Clearly, our own individual efforts are not enough. Putting management-speak in its place is going to require a collective effort. What we need is an anti-bullshit movement. It would be made up of people from all walks of life who are dedicated to rooting out empty language. It would question management twaddle in government, in popular culture, in the private sector, in education and in our private lives.
The aim would not just be bullshit-spotting. It would also be a way of reminding people that each of our institutions has its own language and rich set of traditions which are being undermined by the spread of the empty management-speak. It would try to remind people of the power which speech and ideas can have when they are not suffocated with bullshit. By cleaning out the bullshit, it might become possible to have much better functioning organisations and institutions and richer and fulfilling lives.
André Spicer

Thursday, November 23, 2017

8 silly workplace rules!

Companies need to have rules — that’s a given — but they don’t have to be shortsighted and lazy attempts at creating order.
I understand the temptation. As my company has grown, so has our difficulty maintaining standards. There have been many instances where someone crossed a line, and we were tempted to respond with a new rule that applied to everyone.
But that’s where most companies blow it.
In just about every instance, upon closer inspection, we realized that establishing a new rule would be a passive and morale-killing way to address the problem. The vast majority of the time, the problem needs to be handled one-on-one by the employee’s manager.
When companies create ridiculous and demoralizing rules to halt the outlandish behavior of a few individuals, it’s a management problem. There’s no sense in alienating your entire workforce because you don’t know how to manage performance. It makes a bad situation that much worse.
Here are some of the worst rules that companies create when they fall into this trap.

1. Bell curves and forced rankings of performance

Some individual talents follow a natural bell-shaped curve, but job performance does not. When you force employees to fit into a pre-determined ranking system, you do three things: 1) incorrectly evaluate people’s performance, 2) make everyone feel like a number, and 3) create insecurity and dissatisfaction when performing employees fear that they’ll be fired due to the forced system.
This is yet another example of a lazy policy that avoids the hard and necessary work of evaluating each individual objectively, based on his or her merits.

2. Ridiculous requirements for attendance, leave, and time off

 People are salaried for the work they do, not the specific hours they sit at their desks. When you ding salaried employees for showing up five minutes late even though they routinely stay late and put in time on the weekend, you send the message that policies take precedence over performance. It reeks of distrust, and you should never put someone on salary that you don’t trust.
When companies are unnecessarily strict in requiring documentation for bereavement and medical leave, it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of employees who deserve better. After all, if you have employees who will fake a death to miss a day’s work, what does that say about your company?

3. Restricting Internet use

There are certain sites that no one should be visiting at work, and I’m not talking about Facebook. But once you block pornography and the other obvious stuff, it’s a difficult and arbitrary process deciding where to draw the line.
Most companies draw it in the wrong place. People should be able to kill time on the Internet during breaks. When companies unnecessarily restrict people’s Internet activity, it does more than demoralize those that can’t check Facebook; it limits people’s ability to do their jobs.
Many companies restrict Internet activity so heavily that it makes it difficult for people to do online research. The most obvious example? Checking the Facebook profile of someone you just interviewed.

4. Banning mobile phones

If I ban mobile phones in the office, no one will waste time texting and talking to family and friends, right? Ya, right. Organizations need to do the difficult work of hiring people who are trustworthy and who won’t take advantage of things.
They also need to train managers to deal effectively with employees who underperform and/or violate expectations (such as spending too much time on their phones). This is also hard work, but it’s worth it.
The easy, knee-jerk alternative (banning phones) demoralizes good employees who need to check their phones periodically due to pressing family or health issues or as an appropriate break from work.

5. Draconian e-mail policies

This is a newer one that’s already moving down a slippery slope. Some companies are getting so restrictive with e-mail use that employees must select from a list of pre-approved topics before the e-mail software will allow them to send a message. Again, it’s about trust.
If you don’t trust your people to use e-mail properly, why did you hire them in the first place? In trying to rein in the bad guys, you make everyone miserable every time they send an e-mail. And guess what? The bad guys are the ones who will find ways to get around any system you put in place.

6. Stealing employees’ frequent-flyer miles

If there’s one thing that road-weary traveling employees earn, it’s their frequent flier miles. When employers don’t let people keep their miles for personal use, it’s a greedy move that fuels resentment with every flight.
Work travel is a major sacrifice of time, energy, and sanity. Taking employees’ miles sends the message that you don’t appreciate their sacrifice and that you’ll hold on to every last dollar at their expense.

7. Pathetic attempts at political correctness

Maintaining high standards for how people treat each other is a wonderful thing as we live in a world that’s rife with animosity and discrimination. Still employers have to know where to draw the line.
Going on a witch-hunt because someone says “Bless you” to another employee that sneezed (real example) creates an environment of paranoia and stifled self-expression, without improving how people treat each other.

8. Shutting down self-expression (personal items and dress code)

Many organizations control what people can have at their desks. A life-size poster of a shirtless Fabio? I get it; that’s a problem. But employers dictate how many photographs people can display, whether or not they can use a water bottle, and how many items they’re allowed to place on their desks. Once again, it’s the ol’ “If I could just hire robots I wouldn’t have this problem” approach.
Same goes for dress codes. They work well in private high schools, but they’re unnecessary at work. Hire professionals and they’ll dress professionally. When someone crosses the line, their manager needs to have the skill to address the issue directly.
Otherwise, you’re making everyone wish they worked somewhere else because management is too inept to handle touchy subjects effectively.

Bringing it all together

If companies can rethink their policies and remove or alter those that are unnecessary or demoralizing, we’ll all have a more enjoyable and productive time at work.
Travis Bradberry is the coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0and the cofounder of TalentSmart.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Passed over for a promotion!

Dear HR Professional,

I've been at my company for over two years, and while things are good for the most part, there's one issue bothering me. One of my colleagues (different boss, but same team) just got promoted and he hasn't even been here a year!

I believe I work just as hard as him, yet my boss hasn't even mentioned next steps for me. It doesn't seem like we're being judged by the same standards and I hate to sound whiny, but it just feels unfair. What should I do?

Signed,
Feeling Slighted


Dear Feeling Slighted,

It's such a disheartening feeling to know that you werepassed over for a promotion, especially when it feels like there's unfair treatment. The good news: This is an opportunity to have an honest career growth discussion with your manager—one in which you can clarify how your performance will be measured and then set goals for the future.

Here's a simple script you can use to start that conversation:

“Hi [Manager Name], I would love to work together to set some goals for how I can grow and progress in my career. I would really like to [goal] and I’d like your thoughts on what I’ll need to get there. Can we set some time to discuss in our next meeting?”

Before you meet though, make sure you reflect on where you are right now and where you want to go. It's important to think about only you and your performance. This is yourcareer growth conversation, not your co-worker's. As hard as it is, you'll have to remove him from the conversation entirely.

To reflect on your performance, ask yourself the following:

• What contributions have you made?
• What are your major accomplishments?
• What areas do you need to improve in?
• Have you grown in those areas?

And to think about the future, ask yourself the following:

• What does your ideal role look like?
• What are your greatest strengths?
• What have you enjoyed working on the most?
• What would you give up, if you could?

From there, you can work backwards and see if there are any skills or experiences you would need first in order to get to where you want to be. In discussing with your manager, he or she should be able to articulate any gaps in performance and areas where you'd need to grow.

I recommend setting goals with your manager that you can track over time (and then actually tracking them together).

Everyone progresses differently and there are multiple factors taken into account when making promotion decisions—not just length of time at a company. So while it seems unfair, there may be clear rationale as to why your co-worker was promoted. Try to avoid assumptions and comparisons with others and instead focus on creating your own plan with your boss.

And if after those frank conversations, you still feel there's unfair treatment, you can always reach out to your internal HR department to share your concerns or think about if this company is the right place to grow your career.


More About Shannon Fitzgerald
As Director of HR at The Muse, Shannon makes sure that the company delivers on being a great workplace for its growing team of Musers, from handling benefits to developing talent management processes. Shannon leverages her experience in benefits and payroll administration, new hire orientation, performance management, employee relations, executive coaching, and training and development to increase transparency and set policies that align with the company’s culture and core values. Before joining The Muse, she built and ran HR at a proprietary trading firm in Chicago (Go-Go White Sox!).

National Manufacturing Conference


Monday, October 23, 2017

10 " Must do" to manage change!

1. Address the “human side” systematically. Any significant transformation creates “people issues.” New leaders will be asked to step up, jobs will be changed, new skills and capabilities must be developed, and employees will be uncertain and resistant. Dealing with these issues on a reactive, case-by-case basis puts speed, morale, and results at risk. A formal approach for managing change — beginning with the leadership team and then engaging key stakeholders and leaders — should be developed early, and adapted often as change moves through the organization. This demands as much data collection and analysis, planning, and implementation discipline as does a redesign of strategy, systems, or processes. The change-management approach should be fully integrated into program design and decision making, both informing and enabling strategic direction. It should be based on a realistic assessment of the organization’s history, readiness, and capacity to change.
2. Start at the top. Because change is inherently unsettling for people at all levels of an organization, when it is on the horizon, all eyes will turn to the CEO and the leadership team for strength, support, and direction. The leaders themselves must embrace the new approaches first, both to challenge and to motivate the rest of the institution. They must speak with one voice and model the desired behaviors. The executive team also needs to understand that, although its public face may be one of unity, it, too, is composed of individuals who are going through stressful times and need to be supported.
Executive teams that work well together are best positioned for success. They are aligned and committed to the direction of change, understand the culture and behaviors the changes intend to introduce, and can model those changes themselves. At one large transportation company, the senior team rolled out an initiative to improve the efficiency and performance of its corporate and field staff before addressing change issues at the officer level. The initiative realized initial cost savings but stalled as employees began to question the leadership team’s vision and commitment. Only after the leadership team went through the process of aligning and committing to the change initiative was the work force able to deliver downstream results.
3. Involve every layer. As transformation programs progress from defining strategy and setting targets to design and implementation, they affect different levels of the organization. Change efforts must include plans for identifying leaders throughout the company and pushing responsibility for design and implementation down, so that change “cascades” through the organization. At each layer of the organization, the leaders who are identified and trained must be aligned to the company’s vision, equipped to execute their specific mission, and motivated to make change happen. A major multi line
insurer with consistently flat earnings decided to change performance and behavior in preparation for going public. The company followed this “cascading leadership” methodology, training and supporting teams at each stage. First, 10 officers set the strategy, vision, and targets. Next, more than 60 senior executives and managers designed the core of the change initiative. Then 500 leaders from the field drove implementation. The structure remained in place throughout the change program, which doubled the company’s earnings far ahead of schedule. This approach is also a superb way for a company to identify its next generation of leadership.
4. Make the formal case. Individuals are inherently rational and will question to what extent change is needed, whether the company is headed in the right direction, and whether they want to commit personally to making change happen. They will look to the leadership for answers. The articulation of a formal case for change and the creation of a written vision statement are invaluable opportunities to create or compel leadership-team alignment.
Three steps should be followed in developing the case: First, confront reality and articulate a convincing need for change. Second, demonstrate faith that the company has a viable future and the leadership to get there. Finally, provide a road map to guide behavior and decision making. Leaders must then customize this message for various internal audiences, describing the pending change in terms that matter to the individuals.
A consumer packaged-goods company experiencing years of steadily declining earnings determined that it needed to significantly restructure its operations — instituting, among other things, a 30 percent work force reduction — to remain competitive. In a series of offsite meetings, the executive team built a brutally honest business case that downsizing was the only way to keep the business viable, and drew on the company’s proud heritage to craft a compelling vision to lead the company forward. By confronting reality and helping employees understand the necessity for change, leaders were able to motivate the organization to follow the new direction in the midst of the largest downsizing in the company’s history. Instead of being shell-shocked and demoralized, those who stayed felt a renewed resolve to help the enterprise advance.
5. Create ownership. Leaders of large change programs must overperform during the transformation and be the zealots who create a critical mass among the work force in favor of change. This requires more than mere buy-in or passive agreement that the direction of change is acceptable. It demands ownership by leaders willing to accept responsibility for making change happen in all of the areas they influence or control. Ownership is often best created by involving people in identifying problems and crafting solutions. It is reinforced by incentives and rewards. These can be tangible (for example, financial compensation) or psychological (for example, camaraderie and a sense of shared destiny).
At a large health-care organization that was moving to a shared-services model for administrative support, the first department to create detailed designs for the new organization was human resources. Its personnel worked with advisors in cross-functional teams for more than six months. But as the designs were being finalized, top departmental executives began to resist the move to implementation. While agreeing that the work was top-notch, the executives realized they hadn’t invested enough individual time in the design process to feel the ownership required to begin implementation. On the basis of their feedback, the process was modified to include a “deep dive.” The departmental executives worked with the design teams to learn more, and get further exposure to changes that would occur. This was the turning point; the transition then happened quickly. It also created a forum for top executives to work as a team, creating a sense of alignment and unity that the group hadn’t felt before.
6. Communicate the message. Too often, change leaders make the mistake of believing that others understand the issues, feel the need to change, and see the new direction as clearly as they do. The best change programs reinforce core messages through regular, timely advice that is both inspirational and practicable. Communications flow in from the bottom and out from the top, and are targeted to provide employees the right information at the right time and to solicit their input and feedback. Often this will require overcommunication through multiple, redundant channels.
In the late 1990s, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Charles O. Rossotti, had a vision: The IRS could treat taxpayers as customers and turn a feared bureaucracy into a world-class service organization. Getting more than 100,000 employees to think and act differently required more than just systems redesign and process change. IRS leadership designed and executed an ambitious communications program including daily voice mails from the commissioner and his top staff, training sessions, videotapes, newsletters, and town hall meetings that continued through the transformation. Timely, constant, practical communication was at the heart of the program, which brought the IRS’s customer ratings from the lowest in various surveys to its current ranking above the likes of McDonald’s and most airlines.
7. Assess the cultural landscape. Successful change programs pick up speed and intensity as they cascade down, making it critically important that leaders understand and account for culture and behaviors at each level of the organization. Companies often make the mistake of assessing culture either too late or not at all. Thorough cultural diagnostics can assess organizational readiness to change, bring major problems to the surface, identify conflicts, and define factors that can recognize and influence sources of leadership and resistance. These diagnostics identify the core values, beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions that must be taken into account for successful change to occur. They serve as the common baseline for designing essential change elements, such as the new corporate vision, and building the infrastructure and programs needed to drive change.
8. Address culture explicitly. Once the culture is understood, it should be addressed as thoroughly as any other area in a change program. Leaders should be explicit about the culture and underlying behaviors that will best support the new way of doing business, and find opportunities to model and reward those behaviors. This requires developing a baseline, defining an explicit end-state or desired culture, and devising detailed plans to make the transition.
Company culture is an amalgam of shared history, explicit values and beliefs, and common attitudes and behaviors. Change programs can involve creating a culture (in new companies or those built through multiple acquisitions), combining cultures (in mergers or acquisitions of large companies), or reinforcing cultures (in, say, long-established consumer goods or manufacturing companies). Understanding that all companies have a cultural center — the locus of thought, activity, influence, or personal identification — is often an effective way to jump-start culture change.
A consumer goods company with a suite of premium brands determined that business realities demanded a greater focus on profitability and bottom-line accountability. In addition to redesigning metrics and incentives, it developed a plan to systematically change the company’s culture, beginning with marketing, the company’s historical center. It brought the marketing staff into the process early to create enthusiasts for the new philosophy who adapted marketing campaigns, spending plans, and incentive programs to be more accountable. Seeing these culture leaders grab onto the new program, the rest of the company quickly fell in line.
9. Prepare for the unexpected. No change program goes completely according to plan. People react in unexpected ways; areas of anticipated resistance fall away; and the external environment shifts. Effectively managing change requires continual reassessment of its impact and the organization’s willingness and ability to adopt the next wave of transformation. Fed by real data from the field and supported by information and solid decision-making processes, change leaders can then make the adjustments necessary to maintain momentum and drive results.
A leading U.S. health-care company was facing competitive and financial pressures from its inability to react to changes in the marketplace. A diagnosis revealed shortcomings in its organizational structure and governance, and the company decided to implement a new operating model. In the midst of detailed design, a new CEO and leadership team took over. The new team was initially skeptical, but was ultimately convinced that a solid case for change, grounded in facts and supported by the organization at large, existed. Some adjustments were made to the speed and sequence of implementation, but the fundamentals of the new operating model remained unchanged.
10. Speak to the individual. Change is both an institutional journey and a very personal one. People spend many hours each week at work; many think of their colleagues as a second family. Individuals (or teams of individuals) need to know how their work will change, what is expected of them during and after the change program, how they will be measured, and what success or failure will mean for them and those around them. Team leaders should be as honest and explicit as possible. People will react to what they see and hear around them, and need to be involved in the change process. Highly visible rewards, such as promotion, recognition, and bonuses, should be provided as dramatic reinforcement for embracing change. Sanction or removal of people standing in the way of change will reinforce the institution’s commitment.
Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. It is all too tempting, however, to dwell on the plans and processes, which don’t talk back and don’t respond emotionally, rather than face up to the more difficult and more critical human issues. But mastering the “soft” side of change management needn’t be a mystery.

  •  

Sample list of colleges, our clients have attended.

Process Overview

Continual Professional Development

We provide comprehensive continual professional development to professional associations auch as The Irish Law Society, Institute of Engineers of Ireland, The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and other leading professional associations.

Questions to ask Yourself

Drop us your email

In return, as a valued client, we will provide you with discount vouchers on select upcoming programmes. You will also receive advance purchase notification on "high demand" master class programmes.

Email:




Please note that we take your privacy seriously

Specialist Training

If you are a Corporate entity, SME, or a "not for profit" organisation with a specific niche training requirement, please contact us.

With our extensive national and world-wide network of training consultants, we are able to identify, source and fully arrange your training completely in line with your requirements.

Strategic Management

Strategic Management

We are very proud to deliver the only short course on strategic management available in Ireland. This course has been designed to be delivered in house and is specifically tailored for the Irish multi national IDA high value manufacturing and services sector. The programme is delivered over 20 hours as an integrated format over modules decided by the client. Strategy only works when everyone is on the same page and for this reason we offer this programme for each management forum to take advantage of this unique opportunity. It is fundamental knowledge that companies that have a strong foundation and understanding of strategy and how it shapes future sustainable success are the business units that achieve prolonged success within the greater company structure. Simply put, the business unit that talks the language of the CEO attracts the greatest interest and capital input. Success is always built on strategy. See a sample of our strategic training work.
Providing management solutions and training through consultancy contracts in operations and HR management.
Website by: Déise Design