We don't know what's next for business - but what we do know is how to help you be ready. This blog is all about anticipating the future and positioning you for success.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wish List for 2013

‘Tis the season for making lists and checking them twice, and I’m betting that one of those lists that you’ll be spending time on has to do with work and your wishes for making meaningful improvements. Am I right? Don’t we all want to make a fresh and improved start in January? Well, if you’re like me you’ll be setting goals for improving workplace productivity, relationships, and fun. Here are five tips on how to narrow down those wishes to the most important ones that will have the greatest positive impact.
  1. Identify what is no longer going to be something that you do. I think this is critical. Don’t keep spending time and energy on tasks, people, customers, reports, problems, or whatever it may be, that don’t make you happy or support getting your organization to its goals. Take the time to be clear about what you should be doing, as well as what you shouldn’t, before you go any further with your list making.
  2. Make this the year of the elephant. So often I see organizations tip-toe around issues, personalities, and/or problems that are obvious to everyone. No one wants to "rock the boat." But at the same time, isn’t that elephant sitting in on and disrupting every meeting, taking advantage of privileges, leading managers around by the nose, or stirring up one conflict after another? Isn’t the result of appeasing the elephant weighing down your organization’s morale, energy, leadership confidence and overall productivity? Utilizing a planned and focused organization development methodology to address and eliminate the elephant can be just the spark your organization needs to set 2013 on fire.
  3. Don’t take it all so seriously. I’m not advocating you relax the quality of your work or the commitment you have to your organization. What I am suggesting is that you wish for and find a way to balance personal time with time dedicated to hard work, 24/7 expectations, and an economy that appears it will remain anemic for the next 12 months or so. Somewhere in among all the things you’re doing you need to have fun. That can be a collective fun with workplace potlucks or planning time for personal breaks, or whatever you enjoy that can recharge you. If you’re looking for a fabulous book on the importance of play and creativity don’t miss reading Play, by Dr. Stuart Brown.
  4. Make learning a priority. Professional development is one of the key areas that has been cut during this recession. The sad thing about that is that we all need continuous improvement. It doesn’t matter if it’s people skills, leadership techniques, certifications, or staying up to speed on the latest technology impacting the way we work. In this global environment where the only thing we can count on is change, learning is important for sustaining a competitive advantage. In 2013, do what you can to open your organization up again to investing in the minds and spirits of your employees. You may find executive coaching is a great way to invest in development while having the least amount of disruption on productivity.
  5. Play the role of reporter. So much of our focus these days is on "ME." Take 2013 to move that focus to make it all about your colleagues, co-workers, customers, family and new acquaintances. Have an inquiring mind that wants to hear their stories, ideas, opinions and experiences. Learn to use your ears more than your mouth. Value the input and feedback from others and reinforce their value and contributions to the organization. Improving communication and collaboration in the workplace is important for creating and sustaining trust, as well as motivating risk-taking and innovation.
Creating your wish list based on these ideas will go a long way toward introducing and sustaining positive change in your organization, leading to success in 2013.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving, A Special Holiday

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday connected with memories, traditions and schedules.

Did you know that Thanksgiving has historical roots that go all the way back to 1621, when a good harvest was celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth Massachusetts? They wanted to "give thanks" not only for the bountiful crops that would carry them through the winter, but also for the assistance Squanto and the Native Americans gave them in learning how to survive in their new world.

With that beginning, Thanksgiving has continued to offer us a time to stop and give thanks in whatever way is meaningful. Thanksgiving has links to religious teachings, as well as a secular opportunity for renewal of the spirit through the act of being grateful.

Cultivate a New Habit

The MayoClinic recommends that we cultivate a focus on gratitude to not only reduce our stress levels, but to also bring about more personal happiness. It’s not difficult, but it takes a commitment to make the time. Here’s all you need to do: take the time to start and end each day by thinking and speaking thoughts of gratefulness. The Clinic staff reminds us that embracing gratitude is more than saying thank you. The conscious act needs to encompass the wonder and appreciation for someone or something with the thankfulness of having had the experience.

I’m fortunate- I grew up in a household where writing thank you notes was a must after every occasion, and I’m so glad that I learned that expression of sharing my gratitude. Not only does it make me feel good to be grateful for the kindness of friends and family, but I hope it also helps them appreciate the connection and thankfulness we have with each other. But being grateful goes far beyond the birthday and holiday gifts and hospitality we enjoy. It’s also appreciating the not-so-obvious gifts we receive every day through encounters with kind strangers, or the beautiful seasons that Mother Nature orchestrates, from the buds of spring to the unbelievable colors of fall. When’s the last time you took the time to enjoy the seasons or to be amazed by nature?

Every day we’re given the opportunity to start fresh. Why not use this week to start a new habit - expand the Thanksgiving routine of embracing gratitude into your daily routine and see what changes it brings to your life. According to Ellie Peterson, author of Meditative Movements, taking time to focus on being grateful about what is good in your life will increase positive thoughts and feelings and eliminate negative and depressing feelings of self-pity and resentment.

So What’s Next?
On Thursday, I’ll gather with friends and family, like so many of you, and we’ll share a glimpse of what we are grateful for. Hearing and being in the moment of what each person chooses to offer is such a gift.

Learning to be grateful for things in our personal life can wrap into being happy and grateful in our professional lives as well. There’s a lot to be said for the culture of collaboration and trust that can be influenced by personal commitments to being grateful for what we have, rather than resentful for what hasn’t come our way yet.

Even when the universe presents some tough challenges, we still have so many things to be thankful for, if we just look at the positive side of life rather than the negative. And, although it’s just as easy to look at the glass half full, we often get caught up in a first reaction of "I didn’t win." Dr. John DeMartini, author, doctor and philosopher offered this quote on the topic of gratitude, "Whatever we think about and thank about, we bring about."

I’m grateful for this opportunity to plant the seeds of daily gratitude in the garden of your mind. Together we can all make a difference by appreciating the many opportunities we have each day to give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The White House, Congress, Your Organization, and Change

Exceptional leaders realize and are quick to take action when dysfunctional behaviors in their organizations set the stage for impending chaos and destruction. These leaders have learned to work with change, not ignore it.

Dysfunction can form on a variety of organizational platforms. Have you ever experienced negative consequences, missed opportunities, or a hostile work environment as a result of any of the following?
  • Broken relationships
  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of customer confidence
  • Inability to communicate
  • Silos curtailing the ability to unite
  • Ego maniacs, who will not listen or accept the ideas and opinions of others
  • Resistance to the changes a global, technically advanced society is driving
  • Fear of losing some level of power or authority
  • Inability to embrace a vision of "we’re in this together" rather than "it’s all about me"
Whether you work in the public or private sector, if you are responsible for reaching performance goals and are encountering resistance, be aware that you can harness power for achieving successful change by correctly planning and implementing change initiatives that involve and motivate employees and stakeholders to engage in adapting to the future.

The Dynamics of Human Behaviors

Nothing changes in an organization until the people involved understand the need for change. If performance doesn’t evolve to match expectations, a performance improvement plan might be helpful, or perhaps assigning an executive coach to work with a struggling employee might be a practical way to achieve transition. When we’re dealing with change and dysfunction in our political arenas, of course we always have the option to express our satisfaction with the pace of change through our right to vote.

Regardless of the sector you are working in, consider these points as you prepare to drive successful change in your organization:
  • Just by our nature, it’s important to assess and understand the readiness of people within the organization to embrace change. If they’re not ready, you can’t force it. However, before giving up on our employees or public servants, consider and plan for the impact of human dynamics of change. We live in a sophisticated and complicated global marketplace. Initial steps are often needed to help employees prepare for a transition. Before they can attempt to move forward individuals may need:
    • help in understanding the reason(s) why change has to happen.
    • new skills and abilities to engage in exploration of ideas and/or dialogues that aren’t all about them.
    • clarity of their role and responsibilities for effecting change in the organization.
    • a way to save face for what was said or done in the past, in order to move on.
    • to celebrate the achievements of the "old way of doing business" in order to accept the new, fast-paced, technology-changed ways of the future.
  • The pace of change will probably be different for each individual involved in a change effort. Pace is often determined by past change experiences, how rooted the employees are in the belief being changed, and their personal abilities to successfully manage their own change, as well as motivate and lead others to change.
  • Fear of the unknown is a common barrier to embracing change. As much as possible, help individuals understand what the future is going to look like and what role they will be playing in a "changed" world.
  • Frequent communications about change, the importance of change for survival, and the successes the organization is achieving – big and small – will be important for employees to hear and identify with. Repeat these messages through a variety of communication channels.
  • Providing training and a change model for successfully managing personal change can also be helpful in assisting with a road map of the behaviors required for successful change, and where those "change monsters" might be hidden. Consider sharing these resources:

So What’s Next?

We all know the world is going to continue to change. But, have we really considered what that requires of each and every one of us? There is no doubt about it. You hear people say it every day, "The only thing you can count on is change." So, it’s inevitable – we all need to build skills that support flexibility, resilience, collaboration and respect for diverse options, ideas, and styles.

Just as organizations need to improve relationships, communications and performance, so too does the White House and Congress. They’re going to have to learn to work together if we’re to move beyond the gridlock and dysfunctionality of today’s political climate. As a result of stakeholder expectations, businesses, as well as government agencies, are going to have to continue to look for ways to streamline processes, cut costs, integrate technology and train employees on the competencies required for the future.

Change has been following us like a shadow for a number of years. Many organizations have avoided it, but yet continue to catch a glimpse of it lurking along the sidelines. A few have successfully navigated the change process and have instilled a culture of continuous improvement in their organizations. But the sad message is that the majority of organizations that have attempted to change have failed. I’m sure you’re aware of this, but here’s the disappointing fact - over 70% of organizational change initiatives fail, primarily because of:
  • lack of planning.
  • lack of employee preparedness and participation.
  • lack of leadership buy-in for the long haul.
Getting serious about successful change requires:
  • commitment at the top to the change message, required resources and a willingness to remain committed over a period of time that relates to the complexity of the organizational changes being introduced.
  • abilities to motivate managers to check their egos at the door and be open to new ideas and approaches.
  • assessment and employee participation to determine readiness and what’s required for successful change.
  • adequate planning and communications about short- and long-term goals and objectives.
  • a common language about change, so everyone is speaking and understanding the same message.
  • celebration of big and small successes, to continue to motivate stakeholders and reinforce the benefits of the vision of the future.
  • support and guidance by professionals experienced in a variety of change management methodologies, tools, and practices that allow change to be experienced in conjunction with the cultural and business advances the organization is seeking, and not as a stand-alone change management training exercise.

The future holds change for all of us. That’s a very good reason to embrace it, aid your organization in understanding it, and building the appropriate team with the skill sets to work with change, rather than against it.


This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Astronauts, Dinosaurs and Zombies: Halloween or your Workplace?

Ghouls, goblins and things that go bump in the night! Enjoy - it’s the season.

Halloween has grown into a major holiday. The American Federation of Retailers estimates that 7 out of 10 Americans will get into the haunting celebration – spending about $80 on festivities including food, costumes and decorations. Many offices now offer celebrations in addition to the parties and trick-or-treating events that go on after hours.

The idea of the alter egos individuals assume during the celebration started me thinking about how we classify employees when the costumes are packed away for next year. How would you rate your employees when it comes to these categories: 

Understanding these work style preferences can aid in the design of appropriate engagement strategies.

Astronauts – creative, energized and self-motivated individuals who are invigorated by the challenges of change, technology, and new opportunities.

Dinosaurs – individuals who are significantly connected to the past. They usually can be spotted by the phrases, "We already tried that and it didn’t work" or, "We never did it that way before." They’re seriously reluctant to accept change and often create drama when change is presented.

Zombies – totally disengaged employees. They report to work physically, but aren’t engaged emotionally or mentally. Definitely your "walking dead."

The best time to begin engaging employees is through the hiring process. Integrate information about the organization’s mission, vision, values and goals into sourcing and recruiting documents and processes. Ensure that your HR staff and managers participating in the hiring process also understand the importance of incorporating this type of information into their interviewing and selection practices.
The on-boarding process is then an extension of the type of culture, performance expectations and engagement the organization is expecting from its employees. On-boarding, or what we used to call orientation, is a planned, progressive indoctrination of the organization’s expectations for employee involvement and practices for empowering and starting each employee on the right foot. The process is usually planned to cover information that should be understood and integrated into day-to-day performance by the employee after 30, 60 and 90 days.

Partnering a mentoring process with on-boarding can also be extremely successful, as the employee now has another avenue to for getting information and checking in on assumptions, perceptions, etc.

If you’re not familiar with a good frame work for on-boarding, check out Michael Watkins' book, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels.

The following tips can also help to motivate and excite new employees, as well as those established in the organization:
  • Share the enthusiasm and energy of the owner, leader, management team, etc. Communication about passion for the work the organization is doing can be very contagious. Celebrate and visibly acknowledge the events, outcomes, deliverables, and results the organization is proud of.
  • Invite employees to be involved in what’s going on in the organization. Employees are more likely to be engaged if they believe the organization values their insights, opinions and ideas. Organizations get into trouble with "Zombies" when employees feel neglected and unappreciated.
  • One solid way to keep employees motivated is to make sure they know how much customers and stakeholders appreciate them. Make sure that messages regarding customer appreciation are shared with the employees who deserve it, as well as their counterparts. Celebrate the compliments and help to remind employees of the impact of their work.
  • Link work expectations with performance management. Employees need to see how their work aligns and supports the overall mission of the organization in order to become personally invested. Employees that recognize their value are more likely to be enthusiastic, creative and willing to go the extra mile without being asked.

So What’s Next?

Implementing a successful employee engagement process can greatly reduce turnover and improve performance results. Research indicates turnover costs can be estimated up to 200% of an employee’s salary. Once you find the right talent, and you’ve invested in the training of that employee, the wisest next step is to engage and retain them. However, not all employees are going to be Astronauts.

The performance management system also needs to support the training and development of Dinosaurs who are afraid to step into the 21st century and engage change, technology and flexible work styles. No organization today can afford the drag of employees who are not motivated and engaged about the future. Yes, we need to honor the past and the success that old practices brought to the organization, but at the same time, we need to have a mentality of forward thinking that provides the competitive edge to compete in the global economy.

Taking care of the Zombies. Organizations that spot Zombies in meetings, cubicles, or strolling down the hall on any day other than Halloween need to take action. Addressing Zombie attitudes and behaviors needs to be a priority and can easily be integrated with a good performance management system.

Organizations need to be clear when it comes to performance expectations, including behavioral characteristics. Employees who do not exhibit the expected behaviors and/or performance levels need to be counseled, and/or provided with assistance if it’s determined they need some additional training in order to be successful. They also need to be put on notice after an appropriate time goes by without expected results, that unless performance improves the organization may have to take action, as it appears the requirements of the position are not a fit with what the employee has to offer.

That’s tough medicine, and a diagnosis managers often shy away from. But every employee needs to make contributions for the success of the organization. No organization today can afford to have a "part-time" effort being put forth from a "full-time" position. If there’s a mismatch of requirements and talent, deal with it and move on, the sooner the better.

Halloween is a one day occasion. I hope you were able to enjoy the festivities - without allowing Zombies to invade your organization.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com; 770.587.9032

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What do Sex, Religion and Politics Have in Common?

If you’ve been working for any length of time, you should know the answer to this question. In order to maintain a civil work environment with minimal stresses on relationships, it’s best to keep workplace conversations about sex, religion and politics to a minimum.

But here we are, just a few weeks from a major election - what should employers and employees be aware of in order to avoid conflict, lawsuits, loss of customers and maybe even employee turnover?

First, as an employer:
  • Be clear with policies that address solicitation, distribution of materials and harassment. Employees should understand expectations for what is deemed appropriate behavior in the workplace.
  • Be transparent with your staff about why politics should be addressed outside the office. Focus on productivity, customer relationships, trust, solid team relationships as all-important reasons for not falling into the trappings of verbal and non-verbal politics in the workplace.
  • A good practice is to encourage employees to be active in their communities, including political. Policies should advise employees to work within the constraints of laws when it comes to their volunteer work and political contributions. Further, employees should be inspired to participate and support the community issues and candidates of their choice, during non-work hours.
  • Be aware of the awkward position an employee is placed in when a manager invites them to a fundraiser or a speech. How are they supposed to say "no" without looking bad? Don’t go there. Allow employees to make their own decisions about where to spend their time and money.
  • Be considerate of the "brand" your organization is promoting and respect the boundary when it comes to mixing business with politics. Public announcements endorsing a candidate or an issue could result in offending customers. It isn’t worth the risk.
  • Encourage managers to appropriately address any political buzz they become aware of in the office. Allowing office conversations to start could lead to escalations, as well as confusion about what is and is not appropriate. Remember, passionate displays by employees for one candidate vs. another can inflict serious and unnecessary damage to workplace relationships and if viewed as a hostile work environment, could result in substantial financial penalties.
  • Promote an environment where employees are comfortable, positive and productive. Don’t let politics interfere with work, relationships or trust.

Employees also have a responsibility for properly managing politics in the office:

  • Leave the buttons and flyers at home. Non-verbal messages and symbols can be just as offensive as verbal remarks. Although not much can be done about bumper stickers, be aware they do send a message.
  • Be respectful of the practice that politics don’t mix well with work, and refrain from any enthusiastic expressions about campaign issues, personalities, or impact on work practices, regulations, etc. Be aware political talk can be viewed as offensive to co-workers, as well as customers, causing the situation to be experienced as a hostile work environment.
  • Social media has blurred the lines between personal and professional lives. Be careful in your postings to demonstrate respect for those friends, family members and work colleagues who might be "following" you. Remember, no matter what happens on the scene of national politics you are still going to have to interact and work with these individuals after the election. Don’t post anything that could negatively impact your relationships.
  • If you do have a work colleague that agrees with your point of view and is someone you believe you can comfortably speak with, hold those conversations for after work. You don’t want to make others, who might overhead you, uncomfortable.
  • It you stumble into a conversation where it becomes obvious you have a difference of opinion, take the high road and agree to disagree. Neither one of you is likely to persuade the other to change his or her mind, so just let it go.
  • Think twice before sending or forwarding an email that contains a political message or bias. If it isn’t work-related, don’t send it.
It’s wonderful to have a love of country that brings out passions for getting involved with the political process. However, let’s just help each other get through the next few weeks appreciating the freedom we have to agree to disagree in a respectful manner and use our passion, after hours, to support our causes.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about providing the guidance and support organizations need to be efficient and productive. If your organization is in need of change management, human resource management, or training consulting services, visit our website at www.evolutionmgt.com or contact Debbie for more information: debbie@evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032. EMI is a certified SBA 8(a) business and also holds certification as a woman-owned, small business through NWBENC.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Do You Do?

Think about the last networking or social event you attended. What was the most common question you were asked? That’s right - "What do you do?" A good ice breaker.

We all like to talk about how we spend our work time; well, at least most of us do. I happen to love what I do: Organization Development (OD) consulting. It’s interesting; it’s multidisciplined; and although there are certainly similarities across human behaviors and organizational processes, each organization is unique.

I’m often asked what OD is. My answer can be short: "OD is an approach to bring about organizational change." Or, depending on who’s asking and how interested they are, I might go on to say: "Usually I’m engaged when leaders realize they must change in order to adapt to some type of change in their environment: changing market conditions, changing expectations of customers, changes in funding capabilities."

Why Organizations Need OD

You may not be thinking about Kurt Lewin while working on organizational change, but the father of modern social psychology is also widely recognized as the founding father of OD. Through Lewin’s research we learned the importance of group dynamics and action research, two of the key foundations for organization development work.

It was Lewin who wrote, "If individuals are active in decisions affecting them, they are more likely to adopt new ways. Change proceeds in a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action and fact-finding about the result of action."

My experience demonstrates that leaders may recognize that their organizations must change, but few have more data beyond their own perceptions about what’s wrong. And very few know how to go about planning and implementing change. There are some that attempt change alone, but their attempts at forced change are overwhelming disasters, ending with employees feeling disillusioned and wondering, "Who’s steering the ship?"

Organizations sincere about wanting to plan and initiate successful change need organization development knowledge and experience provided by an internal or external OD consultant. The OD consultant’s role is not to examine, diagnose, prescribe and fix the organization. Instead, the consultant serves as the catalyst for guiding and facilitating processes designed to help the organization look at itself, understand its challenges, and create actions to close the gaps between who or where they are, and who or where they want to be.

The OD consultant is capable of calling on techniques, theories and methodologies from a variety of disciplines; i.e., behavioral sciences, anthropology, sociology, thinking and organizational learning, mind maps, body mind synchronicity, decision making, and coaching to list a few. This is not a consulting field where "one size fits all." What works for one organization will probably not lend itself to another organization. The consultant will take the time to listen and explore with the organization their history, culture, practices, expectations and change objectives before suggesting options for how to move forward in planning for change.

Organizations have been utilizing OD support since the ‘50s, and they still need it. The OD interventions designed for the organization will be unique to its people, considering a diversity of ideas, perceptions, readiness, beliefs, expectations, etc. As Warren Bennis wrote in 1969, "Change is the biggest story in the world today, and we are not coping with it adequately…." I think that statement is timeless. Change continues to challenge us. It’s demanding, elusive, and yet ever present and impactful. Why do organizations need OD? In order to survive.

How Does The OD Process Work?

When I talk about OD, I often point to the benefits that can be achieved by any organization: private sector businesses as well as government agencies. Some of the benefits include expanding organizational capabilities to:
  • improve interpersonal and team processes and relationships.
  • create a pathway for more effective communications.
  • enhance the organization’s capabilities to cope with challenges.
  • improve leadership and managerial competencies and abilities.
  • deal with conflict in a healthy manner.
  • cultivate an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.
  • structure the organization to improve efficiencies and performance.

The OD consultant starts with the end in mind; i.e., a process to answer the question, "What does the organization want to achieve?" Based on the answer the organization agrees to, the consultant will work with the various stakeholders to develop a Change Plan or "travel guide." Think of the guide as a map detailing how to successfully move from Point A to Point M using collaborative and facilitated processes along the way.

Organization change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that demands sufficient acknowledgement of elements such as: time, patience, expertise, data gathering, analysis, planning, resources, collaboration, co-creation, trust, confidentiality, conflict, fence-mending, coaching, facilitation, exploration, intuition, decision making, risk-taking, stakeholder participation, open communications and let’s not forget coaching or training along the way. Yes, I love what I do!

So What’s Next?

Every organization today is faced with issues of change: Budgets are being cut and people are retiring and leaving with knowledge and experiences that haven’t been documented. Workplaces are dealing with management styles that haven’t kept up with the expectations of the current workforce. Multiple generations working together are clashing over expectations and preferences, workplace cultures aren’t adapting quickly enough resulting in a lack of productive ways to work together. Technology is changing faster than organizations can assimilate to, and the list continues to grow.

If your organization is considering a change initiative, the first step is to ensure the organization has the leadership bold and secure enough to take a good look in the mirror. Next identify internal or external OD resources to assist. This point can be dicey, because the OD consultant needs to be neutral. If the OD consultant is too close to management, it may be difficult for employees to be candid and hopeful that positive change can occur.

The worst thing I’ve seen organizations do is recognize there is a problem, but sit back and hope that it resolves itself. I’m not saying it never happens, but the odds of the problem resolving itself are slim. What usually happens is the culture begins to accept the dysfunction that the problem is causing and then begins to fester, resulting in other dysfunctional reactions and solutions filling in the void that management is not addressing.

If it’s time to address change in your organization, find the right resources to help develop your guide to successful change. If EMI can assist you, we’d appreciate your consideration. Make change happen so that the next time someone asks you or your employees, "What do you do?" the answer can be, "I work for the best organization on the planet!" Wouldn’t that be cool?

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. If you found this article interesting please pass it along to others in your network who can also benefit from it. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR and President of Evolution Management, Inc. an SBA 8(a) certified firm. For 18 years, EMI’s team of experienced HR and change management consultants have been partnering with organizations interested in improving their workplace environments, as well as their organizational performance. We’d appreciate an opportunity to work with you. Contact us at 770.587.9032 or visit our website at www.evolutionmgt.com.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Taking Care of Business or a Boondoggle?

Why is it when times get tough the first thing most business leaders look at cutting are those activities that help with employee engagement, retention, customer service and, in a not-so-indirect way, profitability?

Yes, I know we’ve all been focused on cost cutting and reducing overhead however we can. But, have you noticed what those cost cutting measures have resulted in for some organizations? In my experience consulting with businesses and government agencies focused on improving their workplaces, I see:
  • Poor morale, resulting from employees not feeling valued.
  • Disengagement. Very often the workforce has been downsized, while the workload remains the same. Employees feel abused and taken advantage of. Their response: only do the minimum of what’s expected.
  • Anger and frustration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace violence — including assaults and suicides — accounted for 18% of all work-related fatal occupational injuries in 2010.
  • Decline in customer service. Employees mirror the way they are treated by their managers as they engage with customers.
  • Theft and fraud. It can be stealing supplies, money or padding the time sheet – if employees don’t perceive they are being treated fairly, they will take advantage of opportunities to "make up" for what they assume they are missing.

Strategies for Engagement

I know, the word "engagement" is way overused these days, but you get my point. Good leaders know the benefit of keeping employees happy. They want their employees to look forward to getting up and coming to work. They see the benefits of employees invested in doing a great job and collaborating with other team members to ensure a quality job is completed on time and within budget. They hear the results – fewer customer complaints – as well as see revenues growing as customers come to know they can count on the organization’s reputation for quality service, products and care.

Organizations in both the government and private sectors seem to be afraid to spend money on keeping workers happy and engaged. But at what price? Yes, there are a few organizations where unexplainable decisions have been made as far as recognition and training. But should everyone suffer because of a few? What happened to common sense? A few hundred dollars - or even a few thousand dollars - a year invested in an organization’s top assets shouldn’t be perceived as a boondoggle, it should be applauded as a responsible way to take care of business.

According to an article written by Leslie Caccameseon for Great Place to Work there are five ways to make employees happy – and therefore improve your workplace performance. I’ve taken the liberty to elaborate on her points.

  1. Give them a sense of meaning. Help employees understand how their contributions fit with the mission and goals of the organization, as well as how the organization benefits the community and world at large.
  2. Provide opportunities for growth. Research indicates that employees are happier when they are learning – and we all know how important continuous learning is. Training and development, executive coaching, on-line webinars, shared libraries, job rotations, job sharing, all go a long way to boost morale and engage employees in understanding and operating the business of the organization. It may seem counterintuitive, but investing in the employability of employees is an excellent strategy for improving retention, knowledge management, morale and performance.
  3. Insist on providing freedom to balance work and personal commitments. Think of employees as people, not positions. There is so much that people are dealing with today. Don’t forget in addition to their work duties, employees may also be dealing with issues such as young children, aging parents, family members without jobs, daycare issues, medical issues, and the list goes on. People need to be able to attend to their lives, as well as their work, in a way that makes sense to both the employee and the employer.
  4. Demonstrate your interest in hearing their ideas. Employees are more content with their jobs when they feel that management sincerely is interested in their suggestions. Ask for opinions and ideas and work at keeping communications open.
  5. Be true to Maslow. We all know employees can’t focus on the bigger issues until they’ve achieved security regarding their basic needs. Demonstrate how your firm values people by valuing fair wages, benefits and bonuses that represent a fair share of the organizations’ rewards. Adopt an attitude of "we’re all in this together" for the good times as well as those that are challenging.
So What’s Next?

In her new book, Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, Dr. Noelle Nelson cites research that indicates "companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity and assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t." A marketplace where 90% of employees indicate they are willing to move to a new organization demonstrates the significance of the need to connect with employees on the things that are important to their workplace satisfaction. Turnover is never cheap and can have such a significant impact on productivity.

From the Human Resources perception, it’s not all about wages and bonuses. Yes, everyone wants to be compensated fairly, but what we hear time and time again through employee surveys is that they also want to be included, consulted, appreciated, recognized and developed. There are many actions employers can take to engage with employees that are inexpensive, yet very beneficial for opening up communications and relationships.

I agree that no organization, government or private sector, should be holding retreats and meetings costing millions of dollars. However, it’s not the events we should be scrutinizing – they’re important. Employees need to connect with others to build teams. They need to be recognized for past contributions and receive training on new skills and technologies that they’ll be working with in the future. Meetings, retreats, or trainings organized for the purpose of developing your number one asset – people - should continue to be authorized. It’s the manner in which the event is planned and funded that should be receiving the extra review to ensure its within acceptable limits for employee development.

We all want the individuals we interact with, whether at a restaurant, our insurance company, our children’s’ school, the airport, hospital, mall, or at a government agency to be courteous, knowledgeable, helpful and competent. In order to ensure those good connections, workers need to be included in the commitment to taking care of business – the business of people management.

Please feel free to comment on this topic or to share this article with others. Thank you for taking the time to consider this information. Have a wonderful day.


This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR and President of Evolution Management, Inc. an SBA 8(a) certified firm. For 18 years, EMI’s team of experienced HR and change management consultants have been partnering with organizations interested in improving their workplace environments, as well as their organizational performance. We’d appreciate an opportunity to work with you. Contact us at 770.587.9032 or visit our website at www.evolutionmgt.com.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Change Takes More Than a Great Idea

Have you seen the movie Salmon Fishing in the Yemen? It’s a British romantic comedy based on a book written by Paul Torday.

I recently rented the movie having heard very little about it. Imagine my delight when, in the end, the movie reveals itself as a leadership training video, disguised as a comedy. Who would have expected a lesson for leaders on organization development and the process of successful change? Organization Development (OD), as you know if you’ve been reading this forum for any length of time, includes methodologies for working with planned change at the individual, team and organization level. Organization has a broad definition and includes individuals, teams, businesses, and social/economic communities of people (i.e., Yemen).

So without giving away too much of the plot and the ending, let me share the overview of the story from a leadership perspective. We all know that leaders are responsible for bringing about change. The change can be specifically focused on improving profits, streamlining processes, introducing new technologies, and building teams. It can be as intense as improving economic conditions or creating opportunities for dialogues about world peace.

Often leaders with a vision - an aha moment - see solutions and possibilities and get so excited about these newly discovered opportunities that they totally forget to think about what steps are necessary to ensure a successful change. Can you see where I’m going with this?

It doesn’t matter if your vision is to bring salmon fishing to the desert or to modernize your manufacturing plant with robots. And, it doesn’t matter if you have all the money required to pull off a wild new idea. What does matter is understanding that visionary decisions involving change require appropriate planning and ownership by more than just the leader.

Transition and Communication Plans

It doesn’t automatically happen that a leader has a brilliant idea and all the stakeholders required for success immediately jump on board. In fact, human nature is more likely to cause stakeholders to resist change more often than to embrace it. That’s an important point to keep in mind. Stakeholders need to understand, participate, and own the change.

As a result of this need, the participation of an OD consultant on the change leadership team is invaluable to the change leader, as the consultant (internal or external) will assist the leader in understanding and clarifying the current "As Is" opinions, perceptions and expectations of stakeholders. Armed with an appreciation of where stakeholders currently are in their thinking, the leader is better positioned to design the planning and communications strategies for how to navigate the organization and all its stakeholders from the "As Is" state to the desired new state of "To Be."

A typical Transition Plan will include activities such as:
  • Interviews and surveys to gather appropriate data from stakeholders
  • Invitations to stakeholders to participate in facilitated events to share information and brainstorm about what is required to support successful change
  • Identification of short and long-term risks and techniques for mitigating each situation
  • Development of a reasonable change pace, including schedules for data collection and analysis, identification of themes and recommendations for strategic interventions
  • Ideas on mitigating risk
  • Clarification of goals including responsibilities, accountabilities, tasks and metrics for recognizing success
One note about the pace of change – if the organization goes too fast, stakeholders may have a problem catching up. If the change is occurring too slowly, momentum may be difficult to establish and sustain. Gauging the right pace is an important element of understanding the "As Is" environment.

A Communications Plan is a second critical tool to ensure that the right stakeholders are receiving the right information through the right medium, at the right frequency. Not everyone needs to know, or wants to know, all the details of the change. Not everyone wants to participate at the same level. It’s the leader’s responsibility to clearly understand stakeholder needs and to accommodate them in a respectful, inclusive partnership for change.

You’ve heard it before: communicate, communicate, communicate. You can’t communicate too often. Individuals translate messages differently. Utilizing a variety of methods for getting the word out, opening up the two-way dialogues, and keeping everyone informed is not a small task. Plan for and utilize the skills of a good change communicator to provide stakeholders with up-to-date information. Without these avenues, human nature will have stakeholders guessing at how to fill in the blanks, and usually the results are not with upbeat, positive messages, but more than likely rumors grounded in doomsday, negative, doubtful messages.

So What’s Next?

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, so let’s just end with a formula for positive, successful change:
Proper Project Speed

Economists continue to stress that US businesses are sitting on a lot of money, waiting to see what will happen with employment regulations and of course, the election in November. I caution business leaders about the dangers of leaping to invest and update business strategies too quickly before having a Plan of Action. Change can be an exciting journey if you’ve been involved in the planning and decision making. On the other hand, without appropriate information and participation, change can result in extreme behaviors grounded in fear and mistrust, blocking progress and innovation. And as we’ve seen in some situations, fears can go so far as to invite behaviors that sabotage any future change efforts by the leader.

So what’s next? If you’re a business leader and think that change is in the future of your organization, don’t wait until you’re ready to roll out the initiatives to realize you need to plan. If you’re not in a leadership position, encourage your leaders to take the time now to get the right people involved in understanding the vision, as well as helping to chart the course for a successful business shift. The first element to good project management is planning.

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. Please share your thoughts below. If you found this article helpful, I’m very happy for you to pass it along to others. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A King, SPHR, CEO and Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about changing individual and workplace practices and can help you navigate a plan for successful change. Contact Debbie for more information: Debbie@evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

EMI is a certified woman-owned, small business and recently receive SBA certification into the 8(a) Business Development program.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

We all do it: We all ask questions day in and day out. But have you ever wondered if you are asking the right questions?

A few days ago I stumbled across a book I hadn’t read in years, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, written by John G. Miller as an aid for reframing questions in order to generate more personal accountability, which in turn results in a shift in attitude and resulting behaviors.

As I thumbed through the book, I reread his guidelines for creating a QBQ:
1. Begin with "What" or "How" (not "Why," "When," or "Who").
2. Include an "I" (not "they," "them," "we," or "you").
3. Focus on action.
You get it. Not "When are they going to do something about this?", but rather "What can I do?"

Sounds simple until you start putting it into practice in difficult situations where you’d like to blame someone else. By using the model you’ll find yourself taking some personal accountability for the solution that is needed. Isn’t that what our bosses are looking for today? Employees with creativity and a willingness to take risks in order to make a difference?

So when the book opened to the short chapter (it’s only two pages) entitled, "The Risk of Doing Nothing" I saw the conundrum our workplaces are dealing with having one foot in old school practices and beliefs and one in the new, yet to be defined. We’re asking employees to avoid failure, but at the same time be creative problem solvers. How can we expect new solutions and new thinking if we’re not prepared to applaud mistakes?

Is Inaction a Viable Alternative?

Some people will avoid taking a risk at any cost. This avoidance is usually fueled by fear. A fear of failure, of losing credibility, of stepping into the spotlight, or worse, a fear of making a mistake and losing a job as a result. But in today’s highly-competitive market, can anyone afford to allow fear to hold them back?

We all recognize that no job comes with a guarantee of job security – just look at the unemployment statistics. And it may seem like not rocking the boat will afford smooth sailing, but the counterintuitive reality reveals that the fear of taking initiative because of the perceived risks that may be involved could just land you in the unemployment line tomorrow. As Miller writes, "Taking action may seem risky, but doing nothing is a bigger risk!"

Organizations that have embraced lean manufacturing and Six Sigma methodologies recognize the importance of taking action through a process of asking the right questions. The right questions come from examining processes with the primary goal of maximizing customer value while minimizing waste.

When organizations encourage and nurture cultures where employees can safely step outside their comfort zone and take actions that have an element of associated risk, those employees are:
  • Learning and growing. Inaction on the other hand leads to stagnation and the inability to deal with change.
  • Discovering new solutions to old problems. Inaction is focused on the past, not the future.
  • Demonstrating courage and leadership. Inaction speaks volumes about fear.
  • Building confidence. Inaction shines a beacon on self-doubt.

As Miller writes, "It’s better to be one who is told to wait than one who waits to be told." Which behavioral style is your organization seeking?

So What’s Next?

Many organizations are still built on models of competitiveness and reprimands for failures. Performance management systems that rank employees against their peers. Reward and recognition programs based on the success of "established" processes, regardless of their current value to customers. It’s time for HR and OD leaders to take risks – to step out of the box and embrace bold changes. Inaction in this global, fast paced environment could cause the organization to stagnate and die.

I believe it’s time for leaders to develop organizational transition plans geared at shifting cultures. We need to embrace collaborative and supportive environments where individuals are encouraged to share knowledge and information, working together to find new solutions to organizational problems - and that means getting comfortable with failure. Did you know that Henry Ford, known today for his innovative assembly line and American-made cars, failed in early business attempts that left him broke five times before he founded Ford Motor Company? Making mistakes is an important part of the growth process. As information evolves and is transmitted so quickly, we need organizations filled with employees willing to share knowledge, not hang on to it because they want to be promoted over their colleagues.

It’s also time to re-evaluate our performance management systems and move toward continuous recognition of individuals for their strengths and contributions, as well as how they partner and work with others to improve workplace performance, profitability and customer satisfaction. In an environment where knowledge and ideas must be shared across disciplines and business lines in order to survive, it just doesn’t make sense to support old HR processes that undermine teamwork. The old "forced ranking" system that American businesses came to love as a result of its success at GE appears to be fading. A recent report published by the Institute for Corporate Productivity indicated the percentage of "high-performing" companies using forced ranking systems has plummeted from 49% to 14% in just two years.

Successful organizations are realizing that it’s not only time to ensure we have the right individuals doing the right work, but we need to be asking the right questions. A one-size-fits-all approach to operational and people management isn’t practical. These organizations are recognizing the value of cultivating a solid approach to organization development planning and implementation. They know there is no magic bullet or short-cut to good management practices of people, and ultimately the management of the business. It’s not about ranking or the numbers, it’s about dialogue.

So, are you and your business leaders asking the right questions? As you prepare for your fall retreats and strategic planning events for the coming year, I encourage you that this might be the most valuable question you can ask.

As always, I welcome your comments to my article. Please share your thoughts below. If you found this article helpful, I appreciate you sharing it with others. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are passionate about change and embracing the organizational designs and needs for a successful future. Contact Debbie for more information: Debbie@evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

To Be Successful, Manage Your Morning

I don’t know about you, but when the calendar turned to July 1st, I was asking, "What happened to May and June?" And does anyone else feel like you just get your day started and the next thing you know it’s time for dinner? What’s happening to make our days spin by so quickly?

Obviously it has nothing to do with the changes in nature. The earth is still spinning at the same speed – 24 hours. The problem seems to be with how well or poorly we are managing our time. Our expectations for a 9-to-5 work life, with weekends spent relaxing with family or a good book seem to have all but vanished. Instead, our expectations have morphed into an addictive world of 24/7/365 information and connectivity and an illusion that with all this information and technology we can do more. I refer to an illusion because even with all the gadgets we can surround ourselves with, the clock still ticks 60 times for every minute. Other things may be changing, but the human capacity element of this equation is still the same.

Is it Time to Reassess Your Time Management Practices?

Since I offer time management workshops to my clients, I’m very careful to not be a hypocrite; on one hand espousing great techniques for managing balance and order in your schedule, while on the other spinning out of control trying to catch up with my own commitments and projects. But every now and then even the doctor has to take a step back and check on healthy habits.

Recently Fast Company.com published an article by Laura Vanderkam, a nationally recognized journalist and author of the book, What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. I’m sure all of us have attended a time management workshop at some point, and have tried to develop and incorporate new habits into our lives based on the techniques shared. Changing habits can be a difficult task. Like with any behavioral change, it’s easy, especially when stressed, to fall back into old routines. So as Laura suggests, periodically monitoring how you’re doing is a good practice to maintain in order to sustain the changes you are interested in.

When I saw Laura’s article I was intrigued, because clearly I needed to take time to assess what I’ve got going on if I’m missing entire months! And she’s right: For most people the early morning hours are a great time to get things done. Mornings usually offer the best window of opportunity for time with minimum interruptions – which we know is a major derailer of our efforts to manage our time.

Personally, in an ideal world, I like to get my 4-mile walk started about 6:30 a.m. This works for me because it allows me time to get in my exercise before some ‘emergency’ wakes up, it provides me a guilt-free schedule that doesn’t cut into my work time, and I get the added benefits of ‘quiet time' - being with nature, renewed energy, and an opportunity to think about how I will organize my day when I do get to my desk. But as we all experience, the world doesn’t always offer the ideal.

In the past I’ve written about time management and suggested techniques such as:
  • Turn off your email pop-up feature when you’re working on your computer so you aren’t inviting interruptions.
  • Put an ‘away message’ on your phone and computer to help others manage their expectations of when you’ll get back to them.
  • Schedule ‘out of the office’ time to work on major projects or chunks of work where you need to be totally focused due to content or schedule.
  • Be mindful that more hours worked does not equate to better productivity; in fact, at some point overtime hours transform into less productive time.
  • Multi-tasking doesn’t make us more efficient; in fact, studies are confirming what we intuitively experience, all those tasks are really interrupters for each other. Best to do one thing at a time.

Here are a few additional points from Laura to help you, if you are interested in reassessing how you start and manage your day:
  • Track your time – To improve how you’re spending your time you have to know what you’re doing with it right now. Be aware of the decisions you are making and the reasons behind what you think you have to do.
  • Picture the perfect morning – As you are visioning how to spend possibly the best hours of the day, consider what you would enjoy doing, as well as utilizing some of this time for personal and professional growth.
  • Think through the logistics – Create the plan and assemble what you need for success.
  • Build the habit – Laura’s 5-step process to optimize a behavioral change: start slow, monitor your energy, attempt one habit at a time, and reward yourself.
  • Tune up as necessary – This is an important step, not to be overlooked. As you step back and reflect on what’s working and not working with your time management practices, be willing to let go of the rituals that no longer work and replace them with others that fit your current life.

So What’s Next?

Change is continuously happening and that change is impacting the way we work and play. We can’t assume the routine that worked for us last year or last week for that matter, is the optimal routine of what we should be doing tomorrow.

In organizational planning, we conduct assessments of the current requirements, consider the needs for the future, and work on plans to close the gaps between the points in time. The same process works for personal change. Consider what you’re doing now, what’s working and not, and how you vision using your time in the future. Once you’ve got a handle on what needs to change, the appropriate actions will become apparent.

If you’d like to read more specifics about Laura’s tips, check out her Fast Company article. Healthy living requires a balance of time for work, play, spirituality, family, friends, ourselves and community - not in any particular order. It’s a constant tug-of-war to find the ‘time.’ However, initiating and monitoring good habits can make it possible.

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. Please share your thoughts below. If you found this article helpful, I’m very happy for you to pass it along to others. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A King, SPHR, CEO and Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about changing individual and workplace practices and can help you navigate a plan for successful change. Contact Debbie for more information: Debbie@evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Larry Lewis
(Article or MP3 Options)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Knowledge Workers Require a Non-Traditional Manager

Recently I’ve been noticing a trend in organizations requesting assessments to determine what’s impacting the abilities of their teams to work together in a healthy and productive way. Often the anticipated solution is teambuilding. But what’s really driving dissention in so many cases are organizational ‘dinosaurs’ – managers clinging to traditional management approaches that no longer are effective in current workplace cultures and environments, and certainly don’t align with the needs of our 21st century workers. For these situations the recommended solution is most likely executive coaching or leadership training.

The last time I remember hearing managers referred to as ‘dinosaurs’ was about 20 years ago when organizations were moving into a workplace environment that required a computer on every desk Many managers couldn’t see the need, didn’t want to learn how to use one, and certainly didn’t want to support their staff transitioning to this operating standard they considered to be unnecessary. It was a classic case of ‘changeitis’ – trauma brought on by the evolving globe. Well I hate to say it, but a new generation of dinosaurs has been discovered, and one or more of them may be located in your organization. It seems to me our workplaces are once again at a significant crossroads - change or become extinct.

So what has to change? This time the out–of-date thinking has to do with management practices. It was in the industrial era that our ‘traditional management practices’ were developed. Most of the workers at that time were factory workers. Take a moment to contrast today’s workers with those of the industrial era. Today, most of our workers are knowledge workers, defined as workers who talk, text, and network. These are workers who use creativity and thought processes to accomplish their tasks. And most likely, these workers are responsible for making decisions on their own or collectively in a group. Are you beginning to see the disconnects? What was needed then versus now is impacted by so many things including: the work environment, job competencies, empowerment, technologies and innovation.

The command-and-control style of the 1950’s doesn’t work in the 21st century. Knowledge workers need to collaborate, communicate, and be creative in the manner in which they solve problems. The "I’m in charge so do what I say" approach just doesn’t work any longer. Now, I can almost hear some of you saying, "Well everyone knows that. That’s not new." But the reality is, not everyone has realized this yet, and it’s creating organizational chaos and hostile work environments.

So What’s Next?
We need to ensure that our current managers, those in the pipeline, and those we consider for future hires are aware that ‘command and control’ management practices are no longer applicable and that they employ management approaches grounded in accountability and collaboration, demonstrating a participatory, respectful and open management style. We need to offer training, mentoring and executive coaching to aid in transitions for those experiencing difficulty with the shift.

In addition to re-educating our leaders, we also need to change and foster workplace cultures that inspire and reward collaborative processes – environments valuing commitment and accountability, not compliance.

As we move faster towards virtual workplaces, managers will not be able to watch over their staff in the traditional sense of what we know that looks like. Employees will need to agree to goals and be accountable for achieving those goals together with their peers. Work will be accomplished at the location that makes the most sense for the work and the worker. As long as everyone knows the mission, vision and goals and is committed to doing a quality job, work should be able to be accomplished. Policies and procedures will need to be in place to support the transformations of our organizations.

It’s time to help the dinosaurs evolve. Create a strategy to educate managers and employees about changing times and the need to change workplace expectations and practices. Help them see the benefits of shifting from a compliance regiment to one of accountability and engagement. Have employees share their stories about the productivity benefits of working with managers who practice collaborative and participatory approaches. After all is said and done, you may still need a cultural assessment to help you develop next steps; I’d be delighted to help you. Contact me at 770.587.90320.

My point: Learn from the growing pains other organizations are experiencing. Don’t allow your organizations to get hung up and paralyzed by managers trying to force a square peg in a round hole. Many of the ‘traditional’ practices of the past are not relevant or appropriate in today’s environment. Eliminate the ones that no longer apply to your situations and replace them with practices that are more supportive and flexible, a better fit in today’s market. Don’t be left in the dust – embrace change, collaboration and team versus individual work units. For further reading on this topic consider Mark Addleson’s new book, Beyond Management: Taking Charge at Work.

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. Please click below. If you found this article interesting I’m very happy for you to pass it along to others. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized by change and can help your organization navigate the human and operational pathways to the future. Contact us for more information:  www.evolutionmgt.com; 770.587.9032.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Future of Training

A few months ago I wrote an article, What Should Your Business be Focused On?, summarizing some of the exciting and new topics I learned about when I attended the SHRM Atlanta Conference. One of the most interesting presentations was entitled Future Skills 2020, presented by Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti. In her presentation, Dr. Daugenti talked about the need to develop skills for creating computer games to train new employees on various aspects of their jobs. According to an article in the May issue of Delta’s SKY Magazine, the future may already be here.

The article by Dan Heilman illustrates how companies like Cold Stone Creamery are using games to teach store employees how to do their jobs and, as a result, are improving the company’s bottom line. By teaching employees through a game how to serve just the right-sized scoop of ice cream, they are avoiding the mistake of oversizing scoops which, when served thousands of times a year, could significantly impact the company’s ability to be profitable. But it’s not just ice cream stores. What about the medical device manufacturer training physicians on the proper way to use a new surgical robot? One company developed a simulator that was connected to a high-definition 3-D screen and awarded doctors points and a new level of gaming with every training module they mastered, putting an incentive and some fun into the learning process.

The future of immersive learning or "serious games" is growing. However, as Dan points out in his article, using games to teach is nothing new. Polo, for example, was invented for the purpose of training cavalry forces. Today games are proving to be an inexpensive and effective training tool, easily repeated and definitely engaging to a workforce comfortable with game technologies.

According to Stanford University professor Byron Reeves, "training is often boring and companies spend substantial money on videos and other materials that don’t get as much us as they desire or as they anticipate. The promise of games is that using consumer sensibilities and ingredients of great games can increase engagement with the materials." Seems like it’s a win/win for everyone.

So What’s Next?

I believe Dr. Daugenti’s assessment that the future will require competencies for designing training using gaming techniques is right on. In addition, here is what some other experts are saying about the future of training design and delivery:

"Companies will start doing what the U.S. Army does, requiring you to spend hundreds of hours in a simulator before you actually command a tank in battle – except it will be on a desktop computer as an avatar in a virtual environment and learning best practices about whatever environment you’re in." Bryon Reeves, Stanford University

"It will all go online. With teams and workers geographically dispersed, clearly face-to-face training is logistically challenging. Training will be a virtual world." Kate Hixson, Person Learning Solutions

"What seems like game play now will just be a part of your job, and it will be ongoing. It won’t be such anovert case of ‘Play this game, then go do your job.’ It will be more a situation of interacting with game mechanics every day as part of your job." Aaron Dignan, Undercurrent

Although we can see the influence technology is having on training, I think we also need to pay attention to the advice Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave students in his recent commencement address, "Take one hour a day and turn that thing off [referring to technology]," Schmidt told graduates at Boston University. "Take your eyes off that screen and look into the eyes of the person you love. Have a conversation, a real conversation." Mr. Schmidt is singing my song. There are lots of opportunities to teach new skills and techniques using games and the latest technologies but let’s not overlook the importance of also learning how to connect person to person, communicate with compassion, resolve conflicts in a positive manner, and celebrate the learning, successes and dreams of the people we live and work with.

So what types of training could you take on line? What about some of your technical training, regulation updates, customer service skills, on-boarding, soft skills, or supervisory skills? Once you start investigating what other organizations are doing, it may be easy to come up with a training portfolio and format that allows each module to build on the other – and perhaps build on the characters or the gaming objectives. Be creative and have fun. Check out the examples available on my whiteboard below.

HR professionals have a challenging future – balancing people interactions with computer learning. It’s an exciting time and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about our changing role. If you found this article interesting I’m happy for you to share it with friends and colleagues.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organization Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are ready to assist with organizational change to improve effectiveness, efficiencies and the overall workplace experience for employees. If you’re interested in learning more about our services, please contact us: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Department of Continuous Renewal – Striving for a Holistic Approach to Change

Should organization's view change as a program, or as an event? This was the topic of an interesting conversation I recently had with a colleague responsible for guiding his organization through successful change. As a result of that thought-provoking exchange, I thought it might be helpful to my readers to explore ‘change’ and the field of ‘organization development’ since we’re all dealing with some kind of change.

In 1965 John W. Gardner, writing about change, speculated that perhaps what was needed in a world dealing with so much change was a "department of continuous renewal that could view the whole organization as a system in need of continuing innovation." Gardner, along with management consultants including McGregor and Argyris, was trying to identify a workable solution for dealing with the magnitude and complexity of change occurring in our country at the time in politics, society, and workplaces, as well as in relationships between different generations and races.

Gardner’s idea for the Department of Continuous Renewal does exist in many organizations today. It may or may not be titled Organization Development (OD) Department but that’s what the assigned staff is responsible for. However, almost 50 years after Gardner brought attention to the need for managing continuous change the OD profession, as well as the organizations in which we work, continue to struggle in clearly defining what organization development is and how to intentionally apply it.

Primary Characteristics of OD

OD is often defined as an educational strategy adopted to bring about a planned organizational change. With that said, be aware that the strategies designed and implemented can differ enormously from one situation to another. In some cases the need may be focused on assessing and understanding the organizational culture in order to make intelligent and well-informed recommendations about ways to improve performance. In others, the need may be helping employees adjust to the dynamics of working with peoples that are different from each other – in traditions, backgrounds, gender, years, education, work styles, etc. Yet another example might be helping a team impacted by a merger or acquisition realign with a new mission, vision and goal. Whatever the strategy, OD almost always concentrates on the values, attitudes, relations, and client – the ‘people side’ of business.

Secondly, the focus of the change work is directly linked with the demands the organization is facing, which vary in intensity and can be as extreme as changes required for the organization to survive.

OD relies on that educational strategy mentioned above to emphasize experienced behavior. Utilizing assessment, feedback, training, meeting facilitation, and other experience-based methodologies, the OD professional is able to generate publicly-shared information and experiences needed for adequate action planning.

Most often, the individuals guiding change - ‘change agents’ - are external to the organization. Certainly internal OD consultants do great work. I’m not declaring that they don’t. What I am suggesting however, is that external consultants have the benefit of bringing an innocence, or unbiased perception, when observing the organization and clarifying surfaced problems. Having experience working internally and externally, I find that there is usually, rightly or wrongly, a real or perceived notion that the ‘external’ consultant is bringing more experience to the engagement, which often aids in gaining executive commitment to change.

OD implies a collaborative relationship between the consultant and the client system, and that’s where my passion lies. The word collaboration can mean a lot of different things. As you consider the word, what does it mean to you? For me, it involves working with people jointly committed to a goal, working in a way that demonstrates mutual trust and influence. It’s a way of coming together where no one is alone.

OD leaders of change share a set of values about the world in general, and human organization in particular, which influence their strategies, interventions and responses to client system behaviors. We believe that bureaucratic and impersonal values reduce organizational effectiveness while values supporting human factors, open communications and trust lead to healthy and productive organizations.

And last, but not the least OD professionals are guided by a set of goals which include:
  • Improve interpersonal competence.
  • Shift values so human factors and feelings are considered legitimate.
  • Develop an increased understanding between and within working groups in order to reduce tensions and improve efficiencies.
  • Develop effective teams.
  • Develop better methods of conflict resolution.
  • Share and develop an understanding that the organization is an organic system; not a mechanical machine.
So What’s Next?

Considering these characteristics of OD, it’s easy to see that a program, or holistic approach to change, is one that can be more efficient and effective in producing and sustaining change across an organization rather than approaching it in small and random pockets dependent on the leader’s willingness to deal with change.

What difference would it make to your organization if the change program was managed by the ‘Department of Continuous Renewal’? What impact could an orchestrated change plan, with at least the following eight components, working simultaneously in concert with each other have on the success of your requirements for change? Noted below is a brief overview of EMI’s Holistic Change Model.©

I.   The foundation of the change program is built on the desired vision, mission, goals and culture, intentional values, performance objectives, behavioral standards, leadership expectations.

II.  Surrounding the core foundation are eight gears working in harmony with each other:
  1. Strategic Change Planning – including a Transition Plan, Communication Plan, clarification of language and definitions, structure and chartering of change team
  2. Individual Check-In – opportunities and tools for employees to identify where they are now, where they are going, what they need to let go of, as well as acquire, training needs, and chances for collaborating and participating in change initiatives
  3. Team Realignment and Development – understanding restructuring and impact of change, individual contributions, re-engagement, performance metrics and training
  4. Leadership Assessment and Development – clarification of leadership styles needed for organizational impact and goal achievement, assessment of competencies, attitudes, skills and passions, executive coaching and development
  5. Stakeholder Integration – assessment of needs, clarification of expectations, opportunities for collaboration and involvement with change team
  6. Performance Expectations – modified position descriptions, updated development plans, relationship building (internal and external), continuous performance management feedback and development
  7. Communications – frequent updates, two-way (horizontally, vertically and diagonally engaging employees) dialogues, integration of technologies and social media, effective planning and facilitation of meetings, easy to understand messages, attention to WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) questions, town hall/brown bag opportunities for staff and management to dialogue
  8. Change Metrics and Plan Modification – periodic check-ins, alignment of change plan with other internal and external impacts, celebration of achievements, program modifications
III.  Surrounding these eight dynamic components is a Program Management team to ensure:
  • Knowledge sharing occurs between the Change Team, organizational leaders and internal and external change consultants
  • Timely follow-up on action plans and open items
  • Barriers to change are addressed and resolved
  • Future needs are anticipated and planned for as the organization shifts
So often I observe an organization focused on an individual OD intervention, such as meeting facilitation, or executive coaching. It’s excellent that leaders understand there is a need. However, my observation is that the time and investment made in that one engagement would have a much better ROI if it was integrated into a more holistic approach to organizational change.

As you think about how change is occurring in your organization, I hope this glimpse of a holistic approach is helpful to you. As always, I welcome your comments to my posting; please click below. I also appreciate your sharing a copy of this article with others you believe will find it interesting. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organization Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are ready to assist with organizational change to improve effectiveness, efficiencies and the overall workplace experience for employees. If you’re interested in learning more about our services, please contact us: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.