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, 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.