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!

 

Process reviews make not an organisation improvement system!

Trust+Transparency+Traction→ Transform

trust, transparency, tractionI have sat through many Post Implementation Reviews (PIR’s) of transformation initiatives whether they be technology led, business model changes or Post-Merger Integrations and one of the most identified areas for improvement was communication. Have you ever wondered why this was the case? Over the years a lot of energy and capacity has gone into change management including internal change management protocols, communication support etc but the dial has hardly moved on the communication issue. It can’t be lack of channels, insufficient information or access. Are they listening? And if so why are they not hearing?

A number of years ago I hypothesised that this had 2 main elements, the first was the extent to which there was sufficient trust in the work environment and the second was the speed of learning. (See my blog on transform @ the speed of learning).  This is how I came to the model of Trust+Transparency+Traction→ Transform

Under conditions of uncertainty and stress that inevitably accompany a business transformation the establishment of trust is an important first step. Unfortunately most executive committees and transformation managers assume this already exists, underestimate its importance or worse ignore it.

Trust is a relatively well understood concept. You know when you have it but how do you get it? The approach taken with one person may increase the trust between us while the same action may have the opposite effect with another person. This becomes even more complicated when dealing will large groups of people.

“The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey provides a very effective model to develop corporate trust. Covey postulates that Trust is made up of the 4 cores of credibility (Integrity, Intent, Competence and Results). From my experience with large organisations one will be a key “core” that helps define the success of the other elements of the cores of credibility.

For example a major insurance business I worked with had a key core element of “Integrity”. If we had not demonstrated the “Integrity” credentials but led with “competence” messages it would have been interpreted as being smug. If we had led with “results” credentials those results may have been interpreted as manipulated or misleading. However once integrity was established then the interpretation of evidence that supported competence and results would be reinforcing the trust not detracting from it.

In contrast another client’s key core of credibility was “Results”. Had we led with “Integrity” it may have been interpreted as being weak or vulnerable and leading with “Competence” messages would have been followed by “I’ll determine how competent you are. Show me the results?!”

It is therefore critical to correctly identify an organisation’s key core of credibility and tailor the assignment and communication to demonstrating that attribute first. Without this you are seriously misfiring on your initiative.

Having identified the correct key core of credibility it is necessary to demonstrate that core through word and action.To do that effectively will require you to operate in an open and transparent manner. How else can others assess you and the assignment’s bone fides?  To do otherwise would undermine the attempt to establish trust.

There are situations where it is difficult to operate with complete transparency at all times e.g. when in early discussions of a possible merger. However, management will be judged by the reasonableness of their actions once it is in the open. Reasonableness will be defined by the level of trust that exists. It is therefore advisable to have a high level of trust in place before it is necessary to operate behind closed doors.

Let your “action to get traction” reflect the key core of credibility! In a takeover context, we were managing the reduction in management headcount across the combined organisation. That organisation’s key core of credibility was Integrity. To demonstrate our commitment to integrity we appointed the outgoing CEO as one of the candidate reviewers for the new management appointments. He was highly respected and was able to speak for managers of the acquired organisation. This was one of many actions taken to reflect the integrity of the system and building trust in the PMI process.

In summary during times of uncertainty communication effectiveness is determined by the level of trust. If the trust does not exist it is necessary to build that trust before people will listen to the other messages. The 4 cores of credibility is a very useful model to define the communication of trust which must be backed up by an environment of transparency and actions that reflect and evidence the key core of credibility.

Trust+Transparency+Traction→ Transform

Transform @ the speed of learning!

IMG_6750I have participated and led numerous transformations in my career including new business models, M&A, cost take out, performance and productivity initiatives (LEAN, 6σ), technology led initiatives etc. One thing they have in common is an underestimation of what it takes to transform a large organisation.

There are many reasons for this including:

  • A weak learning culture.
  • The existing systems and processes are so ingrained in the organisation and the people that it is very difficult to un-program and reprogram.
  • There is a very strong emphasis on compliance.
  • A developed distrust of major change.
  • The sheer number of people that have to make the transition.

Often the transformation effort involves a study of the issue within its business context, solution definition, action plan and estimation of the benefits followed by implementation including some training. When presented this way it appears that all you need to do is follow the bouncing ball, create tension by implementing the changes and watch the employees’ catch-up. Unfortunately this rarely leads to true transformation.

Why is this unlikely to be the complete answer?  I think one of the main reasons is that the organisation’s ability to change is determined by its speed of learning (not to be confused with the speed of training). Training is an action taken to impart knowledge. Learning is a human state that enables new knowledge to be absorbed and integrated into actions.

Learning involves motivated enquiry, a deeper understanding of the environment, a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo, a desire to know and solve problems, courage to experiment and a sense of empowerment within an effective control framework to achieve the right things. It also requires trust within the group. I call this the learning posture.

The deeper the learning posture is engrained in the organisation’s culture the faster transformation can be effected. If the organisation learns too slowly it is likely that the CEO will kill it off believing the transformation is not working. The good news is that with careful design and implementation a strong learning posture can be developed and nurtured as part of the transformation. The faster a transformation is expected to occur the greater the emphasis should be placed on actively nurturing a learning posture.

To develop a learning posture:

  1. Create little hubs as a starting point so people can see and experience the learning posture and what the transformation means. Showing people is far more powerful than trying to explain it.
  2. Let the work be the learning and the learning be the work. This means creating and maintaining a short cycle review and learning process that the workgroup conducts on itself. The role of the leader is to encourage a constructive mindset that involves honest critique in a safe environment. In this situation the work experience is also the learning experience.
  3. Introduce short duration training as appropriate. This training should occur after the need is experienced by the team rather than in anticipation of the need. This is counterintuitive but will yield better results. Participants are more likely to be attentive and in a learning state if they have a personal felt need for that training.
  4. Training should be experiential rather than information sharing. It should be designed for participant discovery not a platform for the trainer.
  5. Develop skills in how to ask effective questions. Extensive real time coaching should be incorporated here especially for managers who are accustomed to directing action rather than creating a learning environment.
  6. Maintain an environment of mutual respect and trust. Again real time, in the field coaching may be necessary.

 

In summary, to achieve a high impact and speedier transformation then the design and implementation of the transformation should have at its core the establishment and maintenance of a learning posture.

Transform @ the speed of learning!
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