Process reviews make not an organisation improvement system!

IMG_6898[1].jpgThe most common observation in my consulting practice is the claim that process reviews conducted by an “intervention group” are the organisation’s improvement system. Unfortunately on their own process reviews will only solve point in time problems.

Process reviews can be very effective interventions to improve a process and many process reviews combined may cover much of the organisation. However the outcome is usually a temporary or even a permanent improvement that plateaus very quickly. That is because an organisation, like any living thing, has an immune system that will fight off foreign bodies and seek to maintain the status quo.

The immune system should not be considered as “resistant to change” or “acts of sabotage of the program.” It is how systems work and we should be grateful for its existence. Rather the intervention team should consider what makes up that immune system, how to temporarily dampen it to enable the intervention to take hold and finally how to re-engage it in a way that it now supports the changed organisation.

There is no one way to achieve this outcome but there are a few principles that should be considered:

  1. Treat people like adults and respect their position. There is normally a very good reason for it.
  2. Be clear on the intent and live by it.
  3. Design the intervention in a way that builds demonstrable, and well-earned trust with those affected by that intervention.
  4. Adopt a learning posture to the program balancing EQ/IQ.
  5. Be the catalyst. It is not your party.
  6. People need to experience what “it” is, not be told what “it” is.
  7. The teacher arrives when the student is ready.

These are the main ones. I am sure you can think of others. Living these principles within the intervention should lead to a well formed self-sustaining system.

It is much easier to run a process review than to build a true improvement system. It is a bit like chess. The rules are simple but the strategies are not! Those that have mastered the strategy  reap deep rewards in customer experience, employee engagement, productivity, profitability and change agility.

Take the plunge and go all the way!

 

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Process reviews make not an organisation improvement system!

Break the spiralling demand for meetings!

IMG_6821Dad blog.jpgHave you ever wondered why you spend so much time in meetings? I have watched many executives become slaves to their diaries.Hourly meetings were the norm.

To try and free up some time new norms were developed and became common place such as:

  • 30 min meetings
  • Send out agenda before the meeting
  • Start on time and finish on time
  • Allocate a chair and time keeper
  • Select attendees carefully to those necessary to achieve the agenda objectives
  • Review actions at the end of the meeting
  • Learning loop on how to improve the meeting next time
  • Issue action list within 24 hours of meeting

These are all very good practices to improve the value of meetings and should be adopted. Some organisations even insist on meetings being conducted standing up so that they are more focused and reduce the duration.

However, these norms do not reduce the number and amount of time spent in meetings. If meetings get shorter then you can fit more meetings into the day. Hooray! Not!!

What is the root cause of this growing need for meetings? I believe it is a downward spiral caused by deteriorating access certainty. If I need to speak to another executive that person is always in a meeting. I leave a message. The call is returned and I am in a meeting and the merry–go-round continues.  I resort to email or messaging but in many situations that is not a good medium for the issue at hand.

The only way I can have that conversation with certainty is to coordinate a time to do so i.e. a meeting. This perpetuates the problem rather than solve it. It gets me what I need but I have contributed to the deterioration of the “system.” Everything slows down.

Here is the story of how one executive broke the destructive cycle and freed up his diary on a daily basis without slowing down (in fact speeding up the organisation).

He hypothesised that if he could increase the certainty of access his diary pattern would change significantly (and it did). He would invest this additional free time in being more proactive with his interactions with others. See my blog “Let every interaction be an inquisitive one!”

The executive’s workplace had a café at the front entrance to the building where 90% of employees would pass on their way to work. He would have breakfast each morning at a table facing the crowd of people entering the building greeting people waiting for their coffee order. This signalled he was  happy to have a conversation on the fly. It became the place and time where conversations were certain to occur. People, who had appointments that day, would stop and have a short conversation about that appointment.

The executive would ask the appropriate questions, debate issues etc and achieve what the meeting was set to achieve.  “Now that we have had this conversation do we still need to meet?” Invariably the meeting would be cancelled and everyone was free to get on with other pressing issues. At most this took 5 minutes.

Better still others would stop by and say “I need to meet with you regarding X.” The action was to do it then and there relieving the need for a scheduled meeting at all. Again only 5 minutes consumed and there was no hold up waiting for an agreed time to have the meeting.

You may not find this a suitable practice for you but think strategically about your time and create certainty of access.

 Take charge and break the pattern!

Break the spiralling demand for meetings!

Let every interaction be an inquisitive one!

IMG_6784.jpgBy their very nature large organisations can be difficult things to navigate. Knowledge is not perfect despite the emergence of digital social systems. The role of managers, and all of us for that matter, is to make sure we fully participate in the success of the organisation and part of this means that knowledge, insights and contribution move as quickly as possible to those that will benefit from it.

Senior executives have a critical role to play because they have a privileged perspective/ vantage point and can act as role models to the behaviour that will achieve this end.

The question is HOW? Start by using the ingenuity that got you to the top of your organisation!

The following is the approach of one successful executive that did just that.

  • Instead of people coming to the executive to meet he went to them. This created many opportunities to bump into people along the way he would not normally come in contact with.
  • He would walk a different floor each day and speak to people he would not necessarily have cause to speak to. His excuse to interrupt was to offer a lolly (sounds corny but it worked for him). It proved to be so popular he would be stopped regularly and asked why he had not been to a particular floor for a while! Even this enquiry was another opportunity for another interaction.
  • Breach the unspoken elevator protocol and strike up a conversation. It helps to know that all floors of the building were occupied by the same organisation.

These are just some examples of the chance interactions that this executive exploited to great business advantage each day. The content of these conversations was critical and structured. The opening questions would drive the conversation.

  1. What are you working on right now?
  2. What challenges are you facing?
  3. What are the 3 things that would make a big difference to the outcome?

From this simple exchange the executive had the opportunity to offer an insight or perspective, re-frame the problem in a way that the problem may be solved in a better way, suggest a person to speak to because that person had solved it before or are working on a similar or related issue, reinforce the importance of their work and offer encouragement or to just say thank you. Notice that none of this adds to the executive’s workload.

You could easily have 50 or even 100 of these high value interactions each day without consuming any more of your time. Through your inquisitiveness you let people know you are interested and care, their work is important, help them in ways they will only fully appreciate and can complete your day knowing that the gift you gave each one of these employees will positively impact their day. In a time where 76% of workers in Australia are NOT engaged with their work (Gallup State of the global workplace report) what possibly could be more important!

Let every interaction be an inquisitive one!
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