Posts Tagged ‘organizational effectiveness’

Everything that I ever needed to know, I learned from…

I remember a book called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum, which talks about some of the simplest rules in life that everyone should practice as they get older.  Some of these include such truisms as “play fair”, “put things back where you found them”, “say you’re sorry when you hurt someone”, and “flush” (you can see the complete list here).  Needless to say many of these are seen to be applicable to the business world.  That is what really got me to thinking!

I was watching my 14-month-old son the other day, as he was playing with a toy.  The toy is a Chuck The Dump Truck, which talks and moves, and sort of reminds me of a cartoon version of the old Tonka trucks.  Now, generally that wouldn’t be a big deal except that until now he really had very little interest in it, but as time has passed and he continues to develop I am amazed at the changes that happen.  When we got him the truck two months ago for his birthday, he showed little to no interest and really didn’t understand the concept of it.  But after some time, he has figured it out on his own and was rolling it around the living room; it was a proud moment, and I was so excited to see it happen!  As soon as I saw it, I told him “Good job!  I’m proud of you buddy!”  to which he sat up on his knees, smiled, and clapped his hands, and then went back to playing.

There are quite a few lessons to be learned from being a parent, and from watching kids grow and develop, that can and should be applied to the business world.  I find myself always marveling at the natural development of small children and how the constantly find everything around them to be interesting.  Most adults are very similar to this, but too often I think that this trait gets stifled (amongst others).  This in turn stifles the organization that they belong to and affects every component of the organization.  We can call it what we want (satisfaction, engagement, etc.) but the truth of the matter is that there is certainly a piece missing.  Children are looked at as being amazing and special, and treated as such.  They are told the rules by those more senior around them, and then generally have those things modeled for them.  They are encouraged to grow and develop, and to see the world as a wonderful place.  What happens when they get older?  Why is it that the support component disappears?  Who continues to tell them “good job” and show excitement for their growth and development?

These are components that need to still be alive and well within each and every organization, and the leaders in the organization truly need to be leaders, just as parents and grand-parents are.  This isn’t to say that people should be removed of responsibility for themselves, but the support structure needs to continue to be there.  Ask yourself, where could you/would you be today with that type of support structure?  Or where are you today after having that type of support structure?  Are you passing it along?  For those of you reading this that are parents, what have you learned from your children today, and how are you using it?


Is “Monkey Business” a reality in real business?

One of the things that I inevitably find myself drawn to is science of any kind.  I think that’s why I fell in love with cooking; it’s simply a form of chemistry that’s edible (and for those that know me, I LOVE to eat!).  With that in mind I always seem to be reading a new article somewhere about some type of science, which then causes me to make connections and comparisons to things I already know.  In fact, I almost wrote a blog today talking about how we need to challenge what we already know in business and scrap what we thought we knew before based on an article that I read yesterday involving a string theorist who is challenging the concept of gravity(if you’re interested, you can read that article here).  That is, until I read an article that I think really speaks to why we are where we are currently in the business world, and why having an outside perspective can really help in making change.  I think as you read this, you will understand the connection quickly as well as be entertained with the test itself.

First, before you go any further, I want you to take a look at this video:

So how did you do?  It’s really interesting how something so obvious can go unnoticed.  I’m pretty sure that you can already begin to make the same connections that I did.  How often are we told what to focus on in our business life (or any aspect of life for that matter) that we miss something so big, hairy, and conspicuous?  I’m fairly certain that we can all relate to this.  In the business world I think this is where there are many mistakes made, because we’re so focused on expected outcomes, or measurements, or whatever it may be at the time that we fail to see the unexpected things that are happening or could be coming.  That stops us from being able to adjust and be agile enough to meet needs as they happen.

Wouldn’t you think that someone would notice?  This is where I think that it’s important to understand that there are those around you that can see what’s going on, but the question is whether or not you will listen.  Of course, there are also many people who you are surrounded by that are seeing exactly the same thing as you are, because they are as focused and immersed in the situation as you are.  I believe this is part of the reason for the proliferation of consulting.  It’s also the reason that leaders are saying that the number one trait that they are looking for in their senior leadership is innovation, which if we use this study can be primarily described as the ability to identify the unexpected issues as, or before, they happen and then create solutions based on that vision and understanding.  Everyone knows that there are things that they are missing, but just can’t quite seem to grasp.  (It begs the question if this is why MBA’s are beginning to be questioned as the grail of the business world.  That’s not to say that education is bad, but perhaps there needs to be some changes to the program.)

Even with all of the people who are able to see what is going on and being able to discover or create solutions, many business are mired in what they have always been doing or are concentrated on the new hot focus of the moment and miss the opportunity to identify the gorilla in the room.  Just as in the video above, it’s obvious that it doesn’t make you a bad person, or a business a bad business.  But by being so focused on only one thing, you can really lose sight of the things happening around you and the business and the related human capital will suffer because of it.

So now that you know what you’re looking for, let’s try again (don’t read ahead until you watch this!):

Okay, so I’m going to guess that this time you noticed the gorilla…but what about the curtain change and the person leaving?  i will admit, when I watched the second video, I noticed the gorilla and the person leaving, but not the curtain change!  So what does this tell us?  When we are given a suggestion of only one thing to look for or focus on, whether it be directly or indirectly, we can lose focus on other things that are changing around us.  In other words, we need to be able to keep our, and our team’s,  focus broad and be willing to listen to feedback about the changes happening when we get it.  Just because we didn’t or don’t notice it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real, and unfortunately we don’t generally get the opportunity to rewind and see it over again (or at least if we can, by that time it’s too late!).  It’s also important to note here that we need to involve multiple perspectives consistently, so that we can see all angles of a situation, and facilitate proper measures to address, embrace, and capitalize on the changes.  As Dr. Rupert Loyd often talks about in his blog Relational Leadership this is an important concept, albeit a difficult one for many leaders to genuinely accept and utilize.

In conclusion, many of the things that I talk about for change management, organizational development, human performance improvement, and performance consulting as a whole is summarized through these videos and the concept surrounding them.  Utilizing outside perspectives can certainly help, but even more important is to develop your organization and yourself to function in the same manner as a performance consultant: questioning, analyzing, evaluating, gathering input and feedback, looking at things both systemically and systematically to ensure that all pieces fit at all times, and continually looking for ways to improve what is being done.

The original article from which these videos were pulled can be found here.

Name that title!

Have you gone on to the job boards recently?  Things like,,, or  It can be quite enlightening when you peruse these boards and look at what companies are looking for, and what the associated titles are that go along with it.  In fact, it has really shown me over the last couple of days just how much confusion there is from one organization to another, even within the same organization (some of which are consultancy’s) as to what the definition of a specific function is.

Some of the titles that I have found are things such as”Director of Professional Development”,  “Director, Organizational Effectiveness”, “Change Management Associate” or “Strategic Communications and Change Manager”.  Now, from the titles of these positions one would be led to believe that there must certainly be a difference between them; contrary to that belief I found that most of the positions, regardless of title, were aiming to achieve the same goals.  Those goals were usually stated as “responsibility for providing strategic and operational leadership and consulting expertise in the area of organizational effectiveness, change management, and talent development” or “provide leadership, help our corporate leaders plan, implement and influence programs and individuals to increase our organization’s efficiency…will possess strong expertise in organizational design, change management, coaching, facilitation, succession planning, learning and development, and strategic planning”.  When you look at these, they both look like they could come from the same exact posting, but the first was for an Organizational Change Management Manager and the latter was for a Director of Professional Development.

After seeing something like this, I believe there is no question of the belief of organizations in the importance of the things these positions are trying to accomplish.  No matter what the title is, organizations are realizing that they have to do something different from what they are today.  I think there is still somewhat of an identity crisis that is taking place in this realm, and I’m not sure if, when, or how it will be rectified but at least there is some type of recognition of the need to make a change.  What does this mean for the Organizational Development/Performance Improvement industry?  Only time will tell, but I believe it’s safe to say that there is certainly quite a bit of, at the very least, acknowledgement of the necessity of these types of positions. 

Let’s just hope that with the confusion of titles and responsibilities that these companies can get the right people to fill the right positions, doing the right things!

Something new?! Oh no!

The title of this blog should say a lot.  Most of us know that the only sure thing in most businesses today is change.  But what does that really mean to company, and the people who are part of it?  What does it mean to the customers and clients that are being served?  There is now and probably always will be a certain amount of change resistance in any situation.  So how do we manage this process, and what do we need to know?  One of the best courses that I took on the subject is a two-week program through Ithaca College which is taught by Dr. Kalman called, aptly enough, Change Management (this class is offered as a part of the Performance Improvement Management Certificate in conjunction with the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)).  I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about this amazing process and the science behind it!  I will attempt to share my knowledge of the subject while adding in my own thoughts and observations.

First we really need to define a few things.  There are a two levels of change: transformational (radical) and incremental.  The difference is that with transformational, you are changing the culture and the very fabric of an organization.  Incremental change can still be a huge change, but it is more along the lines of strategic change to say processes, products, services, equipment, technology, etc.  The next thing to keep in mind is that there is proactive versus reactive change.  These are pretty much self-explanatory; the former is based on innovation and planning and the latter is based on response to a challenge or threat, which could be internal or external (for those followers of the SWOT or HPT systems, this should be very familiar).  The last component is directly related to whether or not the change is proactive or reactive.  Change will either be planned or unplanned.  As I am sure you can deduce planned change is generally on the proactive side, while unplanned change is generally reactive.  Knowing these areas for change can truly help in defining what direction to go in and help in determining your basic project components (time, cost, and quality) and which one is most important (as much as we would like them all to be the most important, only one can be, but that is for a whole different blog post entirely!).

Once you have determined what type of change you are dealing with you need to be able to communicate what that change is, whom it will affect, and how.  This is the kind of information that senior leaders will certainly not only want to know, but need to know to support and drive the change.  If it isn’t supported at every level, change will fail.  We will talk about that in more detail shortly.  First, how do we determine who the change will affect and how?  This is where it helps to have people with knowledge of performance consulting/analysis knowledge.  There needs to be a process of communicating with people in every level of an organization to gather data and determine what the feelings and thoughts on the change are, which will help to implement the change with as little resistance as possible.  This means survey’s, focus group’s, and interview’s at different levels and over the entire population that will be affected.  This will also help to identify change agents, or members of the population that can help to drive the change from within the different units and teams which can really help the success of the change initiative in the long run.  During this process you should be looking for ideas and suggestions for how to implement the change easier, reasons for or against the change (sometimes you may find that it is a completely unnecessary change during this process), as well as any potential roadblocks that may keep the change from happening.  All of this information will make it much easier to be successful in implementing the change, especially if the people who are being talked with feel as though they were really a part of the change, not merely a victim of it.

So what can stop change from happening?  The first article that I think explains resistance to change very well is  “Choosing Strategies for Change” (Kotter & Schlesinger, Harvard Business Review 2008).  In it they identify four reasons that people resist change: Parochial Self-Interest, Misunderstanding and Lack of Trust, Different Assessments, and Low Tolerance for Change.  I have personally experienced some of these (as I’m sure many other have) and know them to be very accurate.  I also found the article “Change Through Persuasion” (Garvin & Roberto, Harvard Business Review 2005) to be very clear in their offering of the “6 Ways to Stop Change in It’s Track’s”: A Culture of “No”, The Dog & Pony Show Must Go On (the presentation is more important than the change), The Grass is Always Greener (change attention to new products, services, business, etc.), After the Meeting Ends Debate Begins (conversation doesn’t happen in the meeting, but will afterwards and often covertly), Ready Aim Aim (inability to choose one definitive course), and This Too Shall Pass (wait it out, we’ve been here before).  By identifying these 10 different roadblocks and addressing them when they are noticed, you can help to ensure that your change initiative is successful and doesn’t get caught up on the path to completion and success.  You must always be aware that these types of things can happen, and plan for what the next steps are if, and when, they raise their ugly head.

There are many great models out there to follow for Change Management, and certainly too many to list here.  I strongly recommend that you study them, and make sure to find the right one for the right change.  No one model will work for every change, but the good news is that there are plenty of options, so work with them and put together your own tool belt, and before you know it your colleagues will be saying “Where does he get those wonderful toys!”  I hope that you enjoyed this week’s article, and we’ll see you again next week.  Please feel free to contact us and suggest a topic that you want to know more about in the Performance Improvement and Organizational Development areas, and we will do our best to get them posted!  And as always, you can contact us at Provative Business Consulting, LLC ( for assistance with your Change Management, Performance Consulting, and Organizational Development needs.

I’m a leader/manager/supervisor…now what?

How many people have asked this question?  Whether it has been asked of you, or by you, it’s almost a guarantee that you have heard this.  Many people begin with a company and as they learn the job and the corporate environment, they begin to get noticed as someone who has talent and ability.  But how many times has that same person been identified as a great talent, only to be put in a leadership or positional authority position and fail?  Why?  Who’s responsible?  How can it be fixed or avoided?

As I continue to strive for my own personal and professional development I come across many things that spark thoughts and feelings, and this topic is no different.  I’m currently attending two certificate courses through Ithaca College, and in one of them we were required to read an article titled, “Leadership’s Online Labs” (Reeves, Malone, Driscoll).  The premise behind the article is that people utilizing MMORPG’s (Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game’s) are actually gaining leadership and business skills from playing these games.  As someone who has grown up around video games, and more importantly online games this article really made sense to and spoke to me.

Many times in an organization we can forget all of the components that are necessary to form great leaders, foster open communication, build relationships, etc.  Unfortunately that can be the ultimate downfall of an organization, from the inside out.  One of my favorite quotes from the “…Lab’s” article is “Getting the leadership environment right may be at least as important to an organization as choosing the right people to lead.”  Wow.  That is powerful!  Think back to your own experiences.  Has there ever been a time when, no matter how confident you are or were in your abilities, that you failed to produce as a leader because the environment wasn’t right?  Perhaps you have been witness to an event like this?  When someone is developing their capabilities, especially as a leader, it can not be assumed that simply because they have a title they have all of the answers.  In most cases when someone is promoted in to a position they have not necessarily dealt with the issues that they will need to deal with in their new position, and should not necessarily be expected to have all of the answers, much less the right answers!  Having the right environment in place to help nurture and grow that persons capabilities and experience, the same as when they were producing in other positions in the company prior to being promoted, is crucial.

This line of thinking is counter-intuitive to everything that we know today.  But one of the lessons from the “…Lab’s” article is that in these MMORPG’s the members of a team, including the leadership, are expected at times to fail in order to come up with a better solution.  “Organizations can help prepare leaders by fostering a culture in which failure is tolerated.  They can expose leaders to risk by mimicking the structure of games, breaking down big challenges into small projects.”  Many times in these games, teams will go on a mission with the intent of success and find that they are exorbitantly under-prepared.  In such cases they can retreat, reformulate, reorganize and try again utilizing the information gained from the previous failure.  In some cases this may happen a couple of times before finding the correct combination that allows the team to succeed.  I am not by any means suggesting that any business, least of all small and medium-sized businesses, should allow for continuous failure in the hopes of eventual success.  I am however suggesting it be made acceptable for failure to happen, so long as there are lessons learned from a valiant effort, with a new and more educated plan on the other side. 

New leaders in an organization, even promoted from within, are no different than a new hire starting with your company on the front-line.  They are going to need the extra attention necessary to move them, and your organization forward.  If you are promoting someone in to a leadership position, it is probably because you have identified them as being talented, intelligent, and capable.  Don’t forget that they need someone to show them how to use their talent, intellect and capability, and that person generally is you.