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Achieve Positive Outcomes Through Engaging Decisions

Decision making is the navigation system of choice for determined people and organizations. The word ‘ambitious’ is chosen intentionally.

Leaders often must wait to see the results of their decisions. Should they judge all decisions by outcomes? No.

Leaders need not wait for the results to measure their decision-making effectiveness. Instead, they ought to examine the process that they employ to make critical choices. By appraising the decision process in real time, as they make choices, they raise the odds of making sound choices.

Achieve Positive Outcomes Through Engaging Decisions Think about a decision that you and your team are trying to make. Do you considered multiple alternatives? Do you surface and test your assumptions carefully? Do rebellious views appear during your deliberations, and do you give those ideas proper consideration? Are you fostering high commitment and shared understanding among those who will implement the decision? A quality decision-making process tends to enhance the probability of achieving positive outcomes.

Good process does not simply mean sound analytics (the best use of the latest strategy framework or quantitative financial evaluation technique). Good process entails the astute management of the social, political, and emotional aspects of decision-making as well. An effective leader does not just produce positive results by pondering in on the content of critical choices in a wise and thoughtful manner; he also shapes and influences how those decisions are made.

A decision made before a problem has been solved (an ‘early decision’) is likely to fail. Leaders can augment the quality of their decisions in two ways:

  • Constructive Conflict. Leaders must cultivate constructive conflict to enhance critical and divergent thinking, while building consensus so as to facilitate the opportune implementation of their choices. Managing the tension between conflict and consensus is a challenge. Consensus is not unanimity, like-mindedness, or pervasive agreement. Instead, it’s a high commitment and shared understanding among the people involved in the decision. Leaders can build buy-in and collective comprehension without appeasing everyone on their teams or making decisions by majority vote.
  • Decide How to Decide. Assess who should be involved in the deliberations, what interpersonal climate you want to foster, how individuals should communicate with one another, and the extent and type of control that the leader will exert. Leaders have several levers that they can employ to design more effective decision-making processes and to shape how they unfold over time. Leaders should be directive when it comes to influencing the way in which decisions are made in their groups without trying to dominate or micromanage the discussion and evaluation. Deciding how to decide enhances the probability of managing conflict and consensus effectively.

Leaders must strive for a balance of assertiveness and restraint. The question is not whether they should be vigorous and directive as they make strategic choices, but how they ought to wield their influence.

To make the most of the expertise and ideas that other members possess, leaders need to refrain from pronouncing their solution to a problem, before giving others a chance to offer their perspectives. They must acknowledge that they do not have all the answers, and that their initial insight may be incorrect. Their behavior, principally at the outset of a decision process, can encourage others to act deferentially. Even the best choices mean little if interdependent units won’t cooperate to execute the decision.

By exercising restraint, leaders recognize that their knowledge in a particular domain is often imprecise and incomplete. Undemonstrative leaders constantly search and explore for new knowledge, rather than seek the data and opinions that confirm their opinions.

Reflect on past choices and scrutinize how you make decisions. Experiment to enhance your odds of making sound choices, and solicit others who will devotedly execute your plans.

Decision planning can be significantly enhanced by using a team, and in companies and organizations there is no choice.

Posted in Management and Leadership

The Intrapreneur’s Ten Commandments

'The Entrepreneurial Mindset' by Rita Gunther McGrath (ISBN 0875848346) Gifford Pinchot III, the creator of the word intrapreneur created 10 commandments:

  1. Come to work each day willing to be fired.
  2. Circumvent any orders aimed at stopping your dream.
  3. Do any job needed to make your project work, regardless of your job description.
  4. Find people to help you.
  5. Follow you intuition about the people you choose, and work only with the best.
  6. Work underground as long as you can – publicity triggers the corporate immune system.
  7. Never bet on a race unless you are running in it.
  8. Remember, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
  9. Be true to your goals, but be realistic about the ways to achieve them.
  10. Honor your sponsors.

Later Gifford Pinchot III added six more commandments,

  1. Ask for advice before asking for resources.
  2. Express gratitude.
  3. Build your team; intrapreneuring is not a solo activity.
  4. Share credit widely.
  5. Keep the best interests of the company and its customers in mind, especially when you have to bend the rules or circumvent the bureaucracy.
  6. Don’t ask to be fired; even as you bend the rules and act without permission, use all the political skill you and your sponsors can muster to move the project forward without making waves.

Gifford Pinchot - Intrapreneur's Ten Commandments Gifford Pinchot III is also the grandson of the first Chief of the United States Forest Service and the 28th Governor of Pennsylvania, Gifford Pinchot. The younger Pinchot has been distinguished for carrying on his grandfather’s work in environmentalism. In fact, Gifford Pinchot was an innovator of U.S. forestry and conservation and public official. With Theodore Roosevelt, Pinchot helped to found the Bull Moose Party in 1912. From 1923 to 1927 and from 1931 to 1935 he was governor of Pennsylvania. In his first term, he forced a restructuring of the state government and the establishment of a budget system. He settled a coal strike by mediation in 1923. Pinchot’s autobiography, Breaking New Ground, was published after his death in 1947.

Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

Tips for Mentors and Mentees

Tips for Being a Great Mentor

Mentorship Experience: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett Having a great mentor can do wonders for your professional development and career. Describe what you’ve learned from them and how those skills will help your career going forward. Don’t focus on the relationship’s inadequacies—accentuate the positive. Effective mentorship takes time. Mentors trade away hours they could use to chase their own career goals and spend them on someone else’s.

  • Mentoring is about instituting a partnership that helps your protege learn. It is not about your being an expert or the authority.
  • Great mentors foster discovery, they don’t coach; thought-provoking questions are much more powerful than smart answers.
  • Your protege will learn more if you create a association that is safe and comfortable. Be authentic, open, and sincere.
  • Your rank or position is your greatest obligation—act more like a friend than a boss.
  • Great listening comes from genuine curiosity and obvious attentiveness.
  • Give feedback with a strong focus on the future, not a heavy rehash of the past.
  • Mentoring is not just about what you say in a mentoring session; it is also about how you support your protege after the session. Focus on helping your protege transfer learning back to the workplace.
  • If your mentoring relationship is not working like you hoped it would, clearly communicate your apprehensions to your protege.
  • Mentoring relationships are intended to be temporary. When your protege has met his or her mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end.

Tips for Being a Great Mentee

How to Make the Most of a Mentorship Experience The best mentors avoid overriding the dreams of their mentees. If an employee and a job aren’t a good fit, or if an ambitious employee realistically has limited upward mobility in a company, a good mentor will help that employee move on. They might be better suited to another role within the organization, or even to a new path somewhere else.

  • Select a mentor who can help you be the best you can be, not one you think can help you get a promotion.
  • Remember, you can sometimes learn more from people who are different than from people who are “just like you.”
  • Get transparent on your goals and expectations for a mentoring relationship.
  • Communicate your goals and expectations in your first meeting.
  • Mentoring is about learning, not looking good in front of your mentor. Be yourself and be willing to take risks and experiment with new skills and ideas.
  • When your mentor gives you advice or feedback, work hard to hear it as a gift. Just because it may be painful does not mean it is not beneficial.
  • If your mentoring relationship is not working like you hoped it would, clearly communicate your concerns to your mentor.
  • Great mentoring relationships take two people—a partnership. Look in the mirror before you conclude a poor mentoring relationship is all about your mentor.
  • Mentoring relationships are designed to be temporary. When you have met your mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end.
Posted in Management and Leadership

Managers Struggle to Cope Well with Rapid Change

Managers Struggle to Cope Well with Rapid Change Many managers grapple to cope well with swift change. Some must work longer. Now what matters most to companies are such traits as flexibility, adaptability to change, and problem-solving capability. These changes in expectancies require a 180-degree shift in thinking.

Leaders must change themselves before they can be effective at leading change by example. The initiative achieved initial cost savings but hesitated as employees began to question the leadership team’s vision and dedication. Here’s a 6F model to describe how people respond to change.

  • The Foggies. They either work in a comparatively stable environment or they simply choose to ignore change. They are in a “fog” so to speak. The challenge for leaders is to communicate scrupulously to help everyone understand the business realities. The challenge for individuals is to stay up-to-date with trends and to take responsibility for managing their own futures. Individuals in this state mostly contemplate what is right for them individually, and they have trouble seeing the larger picture of what is right for the organization.
  • Fakers pay lip service to change management The Fakers. This group tries to convince themselves and others that they are with the “change program,” even though they have no intention of changing. They pay lip service to management and hope they can get away with just “talk” and no action. The fakers may want to change but don’t know how and are afraid to admit it. They do not internalize the change message. They may be more comfortable taking small, easy steps when faced with a change situation—first articulating how they feel about the change and what they can and will do.
  • The Faultless. They see the changes, don’t like them, complain, and see themselves as victims. They may blame their leaders. The problem with attributing blame for others to “fix” is that it doesn’t change anything. They must move to a model of shared responsibility and accept that there is no one individual or group to blame. They must assess their own situation, how they are responding, and take personal responsibility for what is in their control to change.
  • The Fearful. Downsizings, scandals, terrorism, mergers, and acquisitions cause many people in a constant state of fear. The fearful may engage in self-protectionist, cautious, even paranoid behavior as they try to avoid an undesired fate. To address problems, ask: “About what am I most afraid? What are the odds of this happening?” Often, our fears are irrational. Some say fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real. Identify the fear, then decide what to do to handle the challenges of the situation.
  • The Fighters. Those who fight for the status quo are typically long-term employees who protect tradition; those who fight for change often act as vanguards and are seen as firebrands. Status-quo fighters might say: “We have always done it this way” or “We tried that 20 years ago and it did not work.” Sometimes they use a faker approach to lead others to believe they agree with the changes; but they work behind the scenes to thwart new plans.
  • The Futurists. The futurists are adaptable, flexible, global in their thinking, experimental, and career-resilient. They have a high self-concept and believe themselves to be in control of their destinies. Futurists are not fearful because they believe in themselves and have a plan B and C when the current situation does not work out. They are ready for the unanticipated.

When external consultants are hired to fast-track change, these change agents usually encounter a resistant culture. The more they fight for change, the more the resistance. Many change fighters either bow out or get pushed out of the system. Leaders need to coach fighters.

Everybody responds to change differently. Leaders help people get in touch with their natural response to change and cope with how to go with the flow in the wake of new realities. For change to cascade down throughout the organization, groups and individuals inside the organization whose behaviors previously symbolize the desired state must be involved in the change process.

Change is tough; transformation is tougher still Change is tough; transformation is tougher still, whether it comprises an individual or an entire organization. By encountering reality and helping employees appreciate the necessity for change, leaders were able to encourage the organization to follow the new direction at the heart of the largest rationalizing in the company’s history. Communications emerge in from the bottom and out from the top, and are directed to make available to employees the appropriate information at the right time and to ask for their input and comments.

Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. Full transparency is required. Change will come only when the people at the top look down and start insisting that others’ resources be handled like the scarce resource it is. The warnings of the urgent significances we face seem to be arriving with greater incidence and in ever more pressing rhetoric, but utilitarian progress is more objective than actuality.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Turn Conflict to Collaboration

Turn Conflict to Collaboration

I’m often asked to perform a quick fix on two or more people who are not getting along. Usually, I’m summoned to help them work out their differences. As a conflict mediator, I happy to help resolve disputes; however, I find that happy endings are rare. Often the conflicts that arise are symptomatic of bigger problems, system errors, things like poor leadership, dysfunctional work groups, inadequate performance management, and a lack of soft skills training and resources.

It is a mistake to limit the scope of conflict mediation to the immediate players in the dispute. You also need to look at the system. Without such an assessment, managers can easily get into the habit of treating the symptom while ignoring the problem.

Four Checkpoints

To assess the system factors that add to conflicts, I use four checkpoints:

  • Checkpoint 1: Is leadership being demonstrated? First check the leader to assess whether the conflict is a symptom of a bigger problem. Look for efforts made by the leader to address the conflict. Is the leader modeling effective conflict resolution skills? What has the leader done to create a supportive environment? Does the leader address conflicts? Is the leader held accountable for resolving conflicts? Are effective conflict resolution skills being practiced? If leaders are ineffective in handling conflict, are they are receiving any coaching or guidance?
  • Checkpoint 2: Do co-workers or team members foster a supportive environment for conflict resolution? Coworkers and team members (including those involved in the conflict) share responsibility for the interpersonal dynamics within their group. Look for group norms around conflict, who is impacted by the conflict, what isn’t happening that needs to happen to resolve conflict, how the group sees the role of the leader, what guidance and support does the group need from the leader.

Accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills

  • Checkpoint 3: Is there an accountability that supports teamwork and communication skills? Define appropriate behaviors. What gets reinforced is the behavior that gets exhibited. Are conflict resolution skills part of the criteria in performance reviews? Are core values reflected in the review process? Are team norms identified around conflict resolution and followed consistently? Is peer input part of the performance review process? Is the disciplinary process ever used for employees who exhibit poor communication or cooperation skills? The performance review process must reflect the desired skill sets required for effective conflict resolution. These include teaming skills, communication and problem-solving, collaborative and listening skills. Create accountability around these skills to foster effective communication and conflict resolution.
  • Checkpoint 4: Is the organization providing skill training and resources to maintain effective working relationships? It takes a proactive philosophy when it comes to effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Proficiency in the soft skills area requires time, effort and practice. By helping their people to grow in these areas, managers can’t empower them to resolve their own conflicts.

If any one of these four “checkpoints” are suspect, the conflicts that arise will likely be of a system error. If two or more of the are lacking, the system is faulty.

So, the next time there is a conflict, investigate whether or not the conflict is an isolated event or a system error. You might be surprised by what you find.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Four Strategic Shifts to Streamline Your Work Flow

Four Strategic Shifts to Streamline Your Work Flow

Behind every business strategy is a belief. What we believe about how the world works determines the policies we enact, the plans we devise, the processes we use, and the way we behave. Often, when we want to alter an outcome and improve results, we need to change the underlying belief. Then the processes and activities can be changed.

New product development is one area where erroneous beliefs keep us from getting the results we desire. The drive is always to achieve faster time-to-market and more predictable product development cycles, since finishing second in a winner-takes-all competition means, at worst, giving up millions in revenues, and, at best, delays in translating spending to revenue.

Here are four shifts in belief and behavior that make a profitable difference:

  1. Increasing throughput. The widely held belief is that keeping everyone going full bore-working long hours will speed things up. But most projects take longer than planned, and keeping everyone working longer does not necessarily improve speed. It’s more important to know what is limiting how much work can get through the system, and focusing resources there. Apply the most precious skills to tasks only those people can perform, offloading lesser tasks and ensuring the work arrives fully prepared.
  2. Exposing capacity. The entrenched belief is that idle system capacity is wasteful and should be eliminated. In reality, not having some extra capacity is sure way to miss deadlines and due dates. Too often, business capacity is pared to the bone, and projects fall behind. With no cushion, the system can’t handle even minor mishaps, let alone major problems. A reasonable extra capacity is not excessive but protective, helping to guard against sudden deviations. Flexible protective capacity can reduce project cost and time.
  3. Coherent work behaviors. Multitasking—working on several things at once—does not speed projects along. In fact, multitasking is one way to lengthen project time. Shifting attention among several different tasks inevitably wastes time. It’s almost always possible to speed up work by 10 to 30 percent just by eliminating multitasking. In truth, people cannot do more than one task at a time; they simply switch back and forth and lose time in between. The alternative is to get it, work it, and move it-working on a task until it is finished or you can’t do any more without more input.
  4. Acting globally. The common belief is that any improvement helps the organization, that local excellence always benefits the larger entity. However, local improvements may have no effect, or a negative one, on the bottom line. Becoming faster as a company simply can’t be achieved by optimizing areas. Since organizations are interdependent systems, it’s not always obvious how a change in one part will affect others. Changes toward “faster and better” may shift the balance of power, and people may resist or subvert change that hurts the ego or wallet. So, shifting to a global mindset may also mean adjusting rewards and incentives.

Speeding up product development requires knowing what makes work flow in a smooth and streamlined way. It’s not about keeping everyone busy all the time, eliminating all “waste,” juggling tasks, or making isolated improvements. The way to speed and quality is through stronger alignment—of behavior and belief, of practices and purpose—that frees us to strategically apply resources where real opportunities for improvement lie.

Posted in Management and Leadership

10 Commandments for Implementing Lean Business System

10 Commandments for Implementing Lean Business System

Regardless of the approach adopted, the role of the boss always turns out to be of paramount importance during the implementation of both technical and sociological aspects of lean business philosophy.

Having analyzed experience gained from cooperation with different enterprises, conversations with company bosses, the studies of subject matter literature and Internet sources, here’s are some thoughts on this role in ten points, dare we call them commandments:

  1. Have a clear vision and improvement goals for the whole organization. The process of gaining acceptance and preapproval for a proposal by evaluating first the idea and then the plan with management and stakeholders to get input, anticipate resistance, and align the proposed change with other perspectives and priorities in the organization.
  2. Be an engaged boss initiating changes. The boss’s involvement in training his immediate subordinates is also helpful in implementing Lean philosophy. Firstly, it gives an opportunity to get feedback on how the subordinates understand the subject matter and what their attitude to the announced changes is.
  3. Improve processes and the results will come consequently. Process improvement is not a one-day activity but it means continuous improvement. It is also important that the boss makes it clear to his employees Process improvement is not a one-day activity but it means continuous improvement. It is also important that the boss makes it clear to his employees.
  4. Create Obeya-like management centre. What actions have been planned to eliminate these reasons in order to improve the process? How these actions being implemented and what are the effects? How does it affect other processes and results?
  5. Determine indicators and bonuses that show one direction to the managers. The boss needs to be a coordinator of any actions undertaken in the company. He should efficiently lead his subordinates towards one common goal, since only in this way will he be able to ensure optimization of the company operations. Bosses, who evaluate their subordinates on the basis of various, often conflicting departmental objectives, make individual departments oriented on partial optimizations, which are seldom translated into optimization of the whole company operations.
  6. Motivate your people. Going to production floor in order to directly watch the process, talk to employees, confirm data and understand the situation (instead of relying exclusively on computerized data and information from other people). This practice shall be applied by both top management and lower-level management.
  7. Delegate the ownership of processes and places to your employees. Employees performing work, dealing with part of the process have a considerable knowledge of what is going on in this process in reality. Many of them are experienced workers, involved in the process for many years. It must be noticed that job rotation among management members is much higher than among lower level employees. Greater frequency of management members’ replacement accounts for the fact that lower-level employees, not managers, possess significant part of internal knowledge in the company.
  8. Engage everyone in problem solving and continuous improvement. Employees’ engagement in problem solving and continuous improvement results in many refinements which, at company level, bring about a speed of changes greater than that achieved by investment in new machines alone. In Toyota’s plants each employee makes on average from a dozen to several dozen improvement suggestions a year and in some plants over 90% of such suggestions are implemented. This results in productivity increment, fewer mistakes and greater safety at work stations.
  9. Teach your employees to achieve “the impossible.” The thing is to set a goal for people in the organization and make them move towards its achievement by showing proper behavior patterns. It will be a great success if the whole organization starts to think this way, not just a small group of enthusiasts who constantly want to change something (unfortunately, they are scarce in numbers). It can be reached by building good relations with employees. Feeling good in their work environment and having a sense of responsibility for their workstations, they are much eager and willing to use their creativity.
  10. Practice the routine of Gemba Walks every day. Going to production floor in order to directly watch the process, talk to employees, confirm data and understand the situation (instead of relying exclusively on computerized data and information from other people). This practice shall be applied by both top management and lower level management.
Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

Adapting to Change and Managing the Transition Successfully

Life is about adapting to change and ever-increasing demands. William Bridges was right: “It’s not the changes that do you in. Ifs the transitions.”

Organizations must continually change. The question is “how?” The leader’s task is to make change work by helping others through transition.

A successful transition …

  • Explains what is and what isn’t over. Some things never change: You will continue to serve customers and produce products. What changes is not what you do but how you do it. Help people identify what is and is not over.
  • Respects the past. The practices that frustrate you today were someone’s innovative solutions of the past. Do not criticize widely accepted practices. Accept them as right for that time while recognizing that times change.
  • Ensures the “important stuff” continues. What is the important stuff to you? Service? Ethics? Whatever it is, it must continue. Involve others in defining the “important stuff” and ensure that the change does not disregard them. This increases support for the change.
  • Sets the stage for the future. Today’s change will open your eyes to new opportunities. As you evolve, set goals for what you want to achieve. Measure and evaluate progress. And, show others how the change will move them toward a positive future.
  • Recognizes its day will end. Don’t assume that today’s solution will work forever. And don’t think that this will be the last change.

Long-term success depends on anticipating and responding to change and making the transition.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Implement a Retention Plan to Keep Good People

Implement a Retention Plan

Don’t be misled. A soft economy is no justification for abandoning your commitment to employee retention. Good people are needed today more than ever. You need people connected to your mission and focused on delivering your product or service as efficiently and effectively.

The economy will rebound, baby boomers will eventually decide to retire, and staff shortages will return. Generation X does not have enough bodies to replace the retiring boomers, and the Millennial Generation will not offer relief until 2008.

A difficult truth will be discovered when the bidding for talent returns. An exorbitant compensation package might not attract people in a post-scandal economy. And, it won’t retain them or ensure the productivity your business needs to survive.

People hire into organizations. They stay, leave, or contribute based on their relationship with their manager and their opportunity to both contribute and advance in their jobs. They want to work in a place where they can succeed and feel their contribution is appreciated. A positive response to each of the following questions will help you stay connected and keep your best.

Workplace where employees succeed and feel their contribution is appreciated

  • Does a dear focus and direction exist for the business and the individual? Specific goals linked to a common, compelling vision provide a sense of contribution and focus. Commitment to the job is enhanced when a visible link exists between individual performance and organizational success.
  • Do people receive the time, tools, and training to accomplish their jobs? Frustration develops when barriers hinder success. An investment in tools and training reinforces the idea that quality is important.
  • Are efforts recognized and appreciated? Sincere recognition to your stars ensures that they don’t look for a better environment in which to utilize their talents. Poor performers can be motivated when managers recognize their value rather than only look for the negative. Those who do a good job each day view recognition as verification that their performance matters. A one-percent increase in performance from those who simply meet expectations makes a tremendous difference in the bottom-line.
  • Is poor performance addressed? Top employees grow weary of doing more than their share of the performance load. They want those who are not meeting expectations to be dealt with fairly.
  • Are honest mistakes used as a learning opportunity? Most of the important lessons we learn in life are the result of honest mistakes. When people feel punished for those missteps a culture is created where errors are hidden communication lines are closed, and valuable knowledge that could improve performance and results is not shared.
  • Is specific and accurate feedback provided in a positive manner? Everyone wants information about how they are doing compared to the expectations for their performance. The best feedback acknowledges effort, points people toward success, and encourages personal responsibility.
  • Do people have fun? Environments that promote laughter contribute to higher morale, improved productivity, and lower stress. Having fun is not just playing games or dressing up on holidays. The ability to be relaxed and enjoy oneself creates a bond between team members.

Creating an environment that keeps people feeling connected to the mission and vision is every leader’s task It is the one sure strategy for achieving success.

Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Create Collaboration

How to Create Collaboration

The goal of collaboration is to achieve a desired outcome in the best way possible for all parties. Cooperation, synergy and teamwork can only be achieved if the parties pay as much attention to how they work together as they do to the work itself.

Before agreeing to collaborate, people must know the key elements: parity among participants, mutual goals, shared responsibility for participation and decision making, shared resources, shared accountability for outcomes, and mutual trust.

Collaboration is a highly interdependent process that requires an upfront commitment to work within these elements from all participating entities before going forward.

The collaborative process involves creating guidelines for how people will work together. You might customize these seven items to fit your situation:

  1. Bring the parties together;
  2. define the scope of the project;
  3. define success, expectations, or desired results;
  4. discuss leadership, roles, responsibilities, support, ownership, control, communication, decision-making, time management, prioritization, disagreements, accountability, resources, milestones, rewards, recognition, and evaluation;
  5. identify possible barriers to collaboration and problem solve around those;
  6. identify components that may not need to be completed collaboratively; and
  7. obtain a commitment to collaborate from each member to move forward under the guidelines.

Once people engage in the collaborative process, they are well on their way to achieving superior results. The process is not for everyone or for all situations that call for greater teamwork. It needs to be used with the right people, for the right reasons, and with the full support of management.

Posted in Management and Leadership