A Productivity Win Via An Electronic Bike

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No more long exhausting automobile commutes!  Yesterday I purchased an electronic bicycle that I am using to travel to and from work.  My automobile commute involved heading far north and south of my final destination, while the bike path runs directly as the crow flies from my home to my office.  As an organizational development consultant, I view this effective and efficient method of getting to work as a personal and professional process improvement.  I am avoiding all the “non-value add” time spent in my car!

Anyone who has a long commute can attest to how much it impacts ones life.  After starting my day by spending almost an hour in my car crawling along the highway, I am less than enthusiastic knowing that I will be ending my work day spending even more time inching my way back home.  I am clearly not alone in this sentiment.  Tens and thousands of others are experiencing similar commutes which have become even longer in the Twin Cities given the recent launch of tunnel and exit construction. In fact, the Star Tribune noted my e bike solution as a creative way to avoid traffic jams [http://strib.mn/2udEHyj]

An electronic bike! You may be asking: Why don’t you just jump on your regular bike and pedal the 20 miles each way?

The simple answer is that I am not an exercise junky who wants to bike that far day after day.  I have been known to bike 40 miles on a nice summer weekend day.  Granted, most of these trips are part of bike brewery tours with neighbors where biking is not the main attraction!

You get the idea.

  • I am not one of these spandex clad bikers who you only get a glimpse of as they whip past you on the trails.
  • I am also not keen on having to rent locker space at my office gym in order to shower each morning.
  • However, the other option of sweating like a pig while manually biking to work and then heading directly to meetings would not be appreciated by my co-workers!

The pedal assist electronic bikes like I purchased have an electronic motor to assist the rider.  Th e motor kicks in while I am pedaling.  As a result, I am still getting plenty of exercise.  The key benefit here is that my commute goes from a daunting trek to being very doable.  I still get exercise, am refreshed by the outdoors and, on top of all that, cut my commuter time by a third!

Why write about e-bikes in an Organizational Development blog?  The answer is simple.  Personal productivity solutions can have a significant positive impact on our entire lives. As an organizational development consultant I spend most of my professional life building high performance workplaces for more productivity, fulfillment and connection.  Helping leaders and employees get more work done and be happier in the process makes a big difference and is gratifying.

However, I am only impacting folks lives 9 to 5.  If these workers are burned out from arduous commutes each day, the impact of organizational interventions is dampened.  In addition, as a productivity practitioner my effectiveness is also impacted as I join my peers on this long commuting march.

We are clearly impacted by our total environment on and off work.  I am more effective, efficient, and healthier as a result of my e-bike. That is a win – personally and professionally.

Note: The content of this blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

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If Mayors Ruled the World!

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If Mayors Ruled the World [http://bit.ly/1kq50ah] it would be a better place!  This premise of a recently released book is becoming increasingly true as each day passes.  As gridlock and a circus-like atmosphere permeates Washington, with many State governments not far behind, the important work being carried out at the City level chugs on!

During my two years of leadership and organizational development work at the City of Minneapolis, I witnessed first-hand smart, hard-working employees make this City run.  A small subset of these efforts hit the papers.  Rather, most of the stories we read about in the media concern highly visible construction projects, the latest neighborhood fracas and interesting tidbits a council person muttered at the last committee hearing.

However, these topics are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the practical work the City carries out that positively impacts citizens each and every day.  I am talking about the folks who ensure that the water that comes out of your tap tastes good, the roads you take to work are quality, the building where you work is safe, the restaurant where you have lunch is a healthy environment, the park where you take your kids is enjoyable…   You get the idea.

The combined impact of each and every service provided by our City, which we too often take for granted, is significant.  Here are additional wins from a rush of other recent books about Cities:

  • A Country of Cities: Ninety percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 86% of our jobs are generated in metropolitan areas. And, by the way, these metropolitan areas comprise 3% of the land in the U.S. [Chakrabarti, 2013, http://amzn.to/2rTZDKT%5D
  • Green Metropolis: Cities are poster children of sustainability since density linked to infrastructure consistently lowers carbon footprints per person. This allows for the creation of walkable neighborhoods which builds community connections. [David Owen,2010, http://amzn.to/2r2GPrw%5D
  • Triumph of the City: People with a powerful skill ready to tackle the problems of the day tend to migrate toward and settle in cities. Cities such as Minneapolis and Boston have capitalized on great schools and a highly educated workforce.   [Edward Glaeser, 2012, http://amzn.to/2t1WBUu ]

The authors of these books praising Cities all make the similar point that City’s offer us solutions to the big problems of our day.  These author admittedly down play the challenges in many major cities around public education, equity and inclusion and maintaining quality of life at reasonable price points.  However, even on these fronts, Cities are diving in and making progress.

As a result of doing organizational development at the City of Minneapolis, I had a front row seat to the work cited in these books.  At a leadership level, the City Coordinator function brings an outstanding level of strategic expertise.   Regulatory Services, Planning, Property Services, Fire, Communications and Public Works leaders are paving new ground (In the case of the latter, literally!).  To name just a few of the amazing leaders.

Combine all this with Human Resources leadership with a compelling vision for building Talent Management of the future.  This capability allowed me to deliver one of the most innovative Leadership courses in the country hands-down – public or private sector.  This six month program involves emerging leaders from across City Departments exploring how to increase skills and collaborate more.  The program also involves bringing in some of the most experienced leaders from the Twin Cities in government, nonprofit and the corporate sectors.  They deliver practical, real-world advice that hits the mark.

Equally impressive I worked with young up and coming leaders doing incredibly innovative work with their teams.  A few examples of the many:

  • Imani Jaafar is partnering with various City departments on Civil Rights Office efforts which are practical and get to the heart of challenges.
  • Kim Keller’s Regulatory Services internal services group is finding new ways to move quickly from strategy to execution.
  • Patrick Hanlon’s Environmental Health staff dedicate 20% of their time to cutting edge projects which have had sizable impacts. [Take that Google!]

These are the types of innovative leaders that every organization in the world is trying to attract and retain.  Ramping up the level of leadership is the key to making great public organizations even better as pointed out in Transforming Public Leadership:

“Leaders possess the ability to structure conversations that create a sense of collaboration and a feeling of mutual support by their ability to communicate openly about what may be achieved in the future and what can be achieved through each individual’s purposeful actions so that those involved believe in themselves.” [Christine Gibbs Springer, 2007, http://amzn.to/2sRUnHP%5D

In the end, these local City efforts perhaps do not have the scope that national and state-wide initiatives make.  However, given the latest news coming out of Washington, perhaps local public servants making a difference in our daily life is the real news!

Note: This blog does not express the views of my employer.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Renew Your Organization

death desert.jpeg

Whipping down the streets of Washington D.C. in a taxi, I was dreading my arrival at a recent business acquisition.  I mistakenly believed that my organizational design role was to break the hearts of these leaders.  Twenty years earlier, they had founded a company in their garage and now they had made it big, having been purchased by a Fortune 100 company.  I erroneously thought that my role was to deliver the news that their small company ways of doing things would now have to completely change.  They would need to assimilate to the mother ship!

I glanced down at the final piece of research I had gathered in preparation for this meeting.  It was the Ichak Adizes model of an organizational life cycle (Ichak Adizes, www.adizes.com, 2017).  This holistic and intuitive approach fundamentally changed how I approach recently merged companies, as well as how I engage with all smaller entities within larger organizations.

The Adizes model of an organizational life cycles provides a metaphor for viewing the stages of organizations.  Adizes wisely observed that the basic principles for managing organizations as they mature are similar to living organisms.  We have all exclaimed in frustration at some point that managing our staff is like trying to deal with a bunch of unruly kids.  Adizes took this statement usually made in jest to a whole new level!

Adizes pointed out that the predictable and repetitive patterns of behavior that humans experience as they grow and develop are similar to what organizations experience. As a result, just as you develop ways to help your teenager move from adolescence into adulthood, you can leverage similar strategies at an organizational level.  One can reflect on the characteristics of the organization at each stage and, more importantly, identify prescriptions that will assist the organization to move to the next stage.  This model, metaphorically, allow long standing bureaucratic organizations to detour and in some cases even avoid death.

The organizational implications and lessons that fall out of Adizes model are wide and deep.  However, my main concern was that I was about to be dropped off at the door step of the founders of the small company that we had recently acquired.  Wasn’t there a more positive message that these leaders should hear as we become the same company, working towards the same goals?  This is where Adizes learnings about why large mature companies buy small growing companies is invaluable.

Adizes maintains that the large bureaucratic companies desperately need the small innovative companies in order to grow and stay alive.  While established companies often times have a great deal of cash and strong financial statements, they have many factors working against them.  Adizes points out that they tend to:

  • Be interested in reducing risks
  • Reward employees who follow directions versus innovate
  • Value uniformity and consistency

This push towards maintaining the status quo is exactly what brings down many of these organizations.

Enter the newly acquired kid on the block…  These small nimble organizations typically offer growing technology in new markets.  And most important, they have flexible ways of thinking and working, quickly embracing new strategy.  This provides an agility injection into the staid bureaucratic organization.

Based on this line of thinking, you can probably guess the end of the story.  I did inform the founders, who it turned out still acted more like teenage rebels than leaders, that I would be helping them introduce more structure and control.  They understood that this was an important part of their growth and development.

However, the larger, more amplified message was that our now combined companies needed their innovative products and new markets.  And most importantly, we needed to tap into their agile approach of doing business and infuse some of that bias for action into our increasingly unadventurous culture.

I had falsely believed in a compliance focus in working with newly acquired companies.  I was all about sticking pins into them for their own good.  Adizes helped me realize that the actual opportunity lay in bottling up the innovative thinking and approaches that the smaller companies offer and infusing them into the larger bureaucratic culture.  This strategy offers big wins as the ripple effect positively impact a hundred times more employees than are housed at the acquisitions.

In the years following my mergers and acquisition role, I have applied the Adizes approach in working with all types of small, innovative departments and teams within larger organizations.  As I help these groups grow and accomplish their larger objectives, I make sure to avoid squashing their agile thinking and approaches.  In fact, I help them find ways to capture these innovative approaches and embed them into the larger organization.

With mixed results Americans spend millions of dollars a year on products which claim to help us stay young.  The Adizes approach offers a tonic that really does allow old dying organizations to reclaim youth!

Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not reflect the views of my employer.

A Quick Approach for Developing Impactful Business Processes

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Organizational fatigue has set in regarding launching large-scale re-engineering and process improvement efforts.  The time and resources it takes to carry out a major re-haul of processes is daunting. Besides, too many organizations have experienced too little benefit from these massive efforts.

The solution to this challenge, however, should not be inaction.  Crafting business processes which lead to effective and efficient operations is critical.  The key, for many organizations, is to launch a few short business process sessions in order to identify a critical few new or revised processes that will make a difference.

Below is an easy three step process for quickly putting business process wins in place:

Definition of Business Process

A business process is a series of actions or procedures designed to produce a product or service.  It is a general (high-level) approach to completing specific work activities.

Criteria for Quality Business Processes

Clear and consistent business processes should:

  • Encourage accountability at all levels.
  • Improve customer satisfaction through more efficient business practices.
  • Establish clear roles for employees to avoid confusion.
  • Reduce redundancy in work.
  • Customize solutions for different customers.
  • Improve communication between functions.

Steps for Establishing and Aligning Business Processes

  • Step One: Analyze
    • Identify the major strengths and weaknesses of the current processes
    • Objective: To utilize best practice and avoid pain points
  • Step Two: Brainstorm
    • Brainstorm options re: new and aligned processes
    • Objective: To ensure you dig deep and generate many ideas
  • Step Three: Select
    • Assess options against criteria and select the critical few new processes
    • Objective: To ensure that we are adopting useful processes

For example, I guided an operations team through this three step process.  As a result of three, half-day meetings we came up with a dozen new and revised processes that were designed to have a big impact on quality and speed.  The new processes addressed everything from how the team accessed resources, to how they interacted with internal customers.

They key to success was to avoid getting bogged down on details.  The team knew first-hand where the pain points lie and I simply helped them quickly identify fixes.

One might argue that a more in depth process re-engineering effort involving dozens of staff over a period of months would have resulted in larger wins.  Perhaps in theory it would have.  However, in reality that would have never happened. Leadership was not prepared to invest in a large scale process effort.  However, the entire organization was very happy with our quick wins…

General Questions to Consider When Identifying Business Process Changes

Finally, here are some to consider when identifying business process changes.  Answering these questions will help ensure that you establish business processes which are successful:

  • What tasks do employees perform today and what tasks do we want employees to perform in the future?
  • What observable behaviors will employees be expected to display?
  • How will interrelationships between your work group and other work groups change?
  • How will the timing and/or sequence of projects or tasks change?
  • What completion timelines need to be built into business processes?
Note: The views expressed in this blog are my opinions and do not reflect the views of my employer.

 

Organizational Structure: Start with Design Principles

House project

It would be foolish to design a home without first thinking through your needs. How much living space do you need? How many bedrooms?  What style do you like?

However, organizations are built each and every day without considering these types of fundamental questions around what the design is attempting to accomplish.

In order to create organizational structure, the key is start with design principles which are statements about what the design should provide.   It is critical that these design principles guide the entire design process since they focus us on creating an organization which accomplishes our objectives.

Below are ten organizational design principles from groups that I have consulted for:

  1. Build depth of leadership capability
  2. Be more agile via delivering faster
  3. Create cost efficiency
  4. Optimize people and system resources
  5. Enable process efficiencies
  6. Create best in class customer satisfaction
  7. Foster better service delivery
  8. Increase manager accountability
  9. Enable collaboration between departments
  10. Build internal change readiness

For example, I helped design a very different type of structure for the organization hoping to increase leadership skills versus the organization seeking to deliver products faster. In order to improve leadership, we crafted a structure that would challenge leadership to gain new skills, knowledge and abilities.  While at the organization looking to deliver products more quickly, we streamlined the structure resulting in more agility.  Clearly, depending on outcomes, the types of functions created, how they are organized and the roles and responsibilities within those functions are going to be very different.

Design principles are the foundation for trade-off decisions.  The design principles provide leadership with a tangible way to surface and discuss competing interests and outcomes.  Leaders are able to clearly state the improvements that they want to see as a result of the design.  This allows for a robust discussion across parties helping leadership gain consensus around the primary outcomes. [JayGalbraith.com, 2016]

I typically have leadership rank the importance of design principles since it allows them to evaluate the value of various design solutions.  I have found this to be the most effective and fastest way to determine which outcomes are most important to leadership.  We can then more easily determine whether an organizational design that is functional, divisional, strategic business unit, matrixed or project based will result in the best outcomes.

Jay Galbraith [JayGalbraith.com, 2016] makes a strong case for the importance of robust design principles.  He says that the criteria should be debated, rated, and kept prominent throughout the design process.  As a result, design principles are a topic in each and every conversation that I have with clients about the new design.  Clients find that as a result of this ongoing exploration of the principles, their understanding of what they are driving towards via the organizational design and how to get there becomes clear.

Questions:

  • Imagine that three years from now the Wall Street Journal [WSJ] names your organization the best in your field. What is the WSJ saying about you that makes you the best?  [This will provide you with clues as to your design principles.]
  • How can we best organize our work and people in order to accomplish our strategy?

Note: This blog reflects my thoughts and not the opinions of my employer.

Organizational Change Management Employee Assessment Tools

employee-action

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is essentially about People Readiness for an upcoming work place change. The practice can involve working with leadership, employees, internal customers and other parties to ensure that they are prepared for a new product, service, technology tool, etc.

However, it is important to focus on the readiness of the employees who are end users of the change being rolled out. It is critical to work with these employees to build understanding and support of the change, ensuring they are prepared and feel involved and supported.

We will explore three key assessment tools one can leverage in order to measure the degree and type of change employees are facing. Stakeholder Analysis, Business Impact Assessment and Gap Analysis.

The data gathering for these assessments can involve quantitative research such as an analysis of business documents.  However, the data is most often gathered via qualitative research methods such as interviews and surveys.

We will discuss the purpose of each of the tools and a template example will be provided. The first tool is a Stakeholder Analysis.

Stakeholder Analysis – Description

Stakeholder analysis is particularly useful when you need to anticipate the reactions of, or seek support from, various stakeholders. In this context, a stakeholder is any person, group, or entity that that can influence the success of, or is impacted by, the change effort.

Leader and Department-level analysis is particularly important since it helps one develop a point of view on what changes need to take place at the various levels for success. It highlights anticipated reaction, what stakeholders need from the strategy, what the project team needs from stakeholders and a plan to address.

Template Example

The below Stakeholder Analysis worksheet provides a structure for identifying and examining your key stakeholders and their definition of success.

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Business Impact Assessment – Description

The business impact assessment will help you target your change efforts during large change projects. These changes may be significant in terms of the number of people impacted and/or the magnitude of change involved. In such cases, the severity of change rarely hits all departments with the same amount of impact. This tool helps you determine where to focus your change efforts in order to help prepare the maximum number of people, in the most critical areas.

Template Example

In the below business impact template the departments which are impacted by a change have been plotted. The numbers of people impacted by the change are indicated on the Y access, while the magnitude of change is plotted on the X access. As a result, the department that will experience the most significant change are located towards the upper, right hand portion of the image. The template provides a visual depiction suggesting that the Departments in this area will require the most change resources.

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Gap Analysis – Description

The gap analysis provides important intelligence in terms of how the organization will be affected, the type of change at hand, and the most appropriate change strategy to employ. Findings at this phase include change management theme gaps to address for success: E.g.: Training, Collaboration, etc.

If I had to select just one change tool to employ, this would be it. The gap analysis tells us the areas where employees impacted by the change will be challenged the most. This allows us to design targeted solutions resulting in employee readiness.

For example, if the analysis shows that employees will struggle most with technology tools that suggests a very different change intervention involving developing capability around technology, as opposed to addressing soft skills like communications or collaboration.

Template Example

In the below template example the various departments are listed across the table Department 1 through Department 8. The various change themes which will be challenges for employee adoption are listed in the first row. The triangles indicate the departments which will experience these challenges. In this organization all Departments will experience a change challenge in the areas of communications and collaboration.

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Conclusion

As our organizations experience increasingly significant levels of change, figuring out how to roll out projects which accomplish the organizational results we seek is critical. The tools outlined in this blog will provide you with the data and knowledge to design change interventions which will help ensure employee readiness. There are many important change activities that we can tackle, however, ensuring that employees can and will implement the change is clearly the most important step towards a successful roll out of a critical organizational initiative.

The Most Effective Method For Engaging Employees? Simply Ask Questions

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Brian Grazer (2015), the movie producer of such blockbusters as Apollo 13, Splash, 8 Mile, A Beautiful Mind and Friday Night Lights, popularized the notion of being curious and asking questions in his best seller A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.  Grazer makes the case that asking questions allows us to understand and imagine the perspective of others.  This is obviously a useful skill when one is crafting a movie plot line that will grab the attention audience.

However, Grazer also contends that the ability to ask questions is a strategic tool for many professions.  Don’t we want police detectives who are able to predict criminals’ next move, military leaders’ ability to stay ahead of the opposing armies and coaches’ ability to grasp the game plans of the opposing team and put counter plans in place?

Similarly, it is useful for organizational leaders to understand the wants and needs of our workforce.  The best way to get into the minds of employees is to ask them targeted and insightful questions.  Rather than guessing your employees needs, the most credible original source is the employees themselves.

This method of asking questions may sound like a simple task.  In fact, it may not sound like a method at all!  Isn’t asking questions an intuitive human behavior? Research and practice would suggest not. There is more to asking the right question, at the right time, to the right group of employees than initially meets the eye.

However, asking powerful questions is learnable.  Skilled facilitators such as Dorothy Strachan (Questions That Work: A Resource for Facilitators, 2001) advises us to ask ourselves the following three fundamental questions in crafting questions for others:

  • What do I want to ask?
    • What information do we need to accomplish our work? For example, background information, data points, reflections, interpretations, etc.
  • Why do I want to ask this question?
    • How will the response to this question lead us to accomplishing our work? For example: Input of data, offers up a new approach, prioritization, clarification, etc.
  • What response might I get?
    • What is the possible range of answers I may get when I pose this question? For example: An initial response, confusion, curiosity, etc.

Your responses to these three questions will help you select a series of questions that will allow you to accomplish your purpose.  This exercise will also help you craft individual questions for getting the most useful data back.  Finally, the responses will help you figure out who else you need to ask these questions in order get accomplish the objective.

By asking myself these three questions, I developed a series of questions to ask during a change management initiatives that involved launching a new product.  The objective of asking these questions was to engage this operations group in the change.  I was attempting to build ownership in the employees for the change.  The questions I asked dozens of times over a period of months were:

  • What is it about this approach that most interests you?
  • How will you use this approach?
  • How should we evaluate the success of this approach?
  • What can we do to ensure that you are committed to this approach?
  • How can we transfer ownership of this approach to you?

The answers to the last two questions get directly at figuring out how we can ensure that employees are able to accomplish the work at hand and will continue to over time.  The employees I posed these questions indicated that in order to be committed to rolling out this new product over time they needed more information about how the product worked, they needed to talk to potential customers to learn more about their needs and they needed to craft a more defined implementation process.  Once I was aware of these needs, I was able to help facilitate them becoming a reality.

Our Hollywood producer, Grazer, provides us with what is perhaps the most convincing reason to start asking more questions: You can stop having to force, trick, cajole or even charm your workforce into being better.  Instead, your employees will have the internal drive and excitement to carry them through any challenging work.

How does this happen? Peppering your workforce with interesting questions will inevitably lead to dynamic two-way conversation.  Your employees will be actively engaged with you.  At this point, your team will have the same level of enthusiasm and commitment for the tasks at hand that you do.  By creating in your workforce a high level of interest and curiosity for the work at hand, you are essentially generating a self-sustaining culture of productivity.

Who would have predicted that asking key questions could result in such a powerful outcome!

Questions:

What are some key questions that you want to start asking your workforce?

What is your response to Grazer’s three fundamental questions?

What will asking these questions mean for you and your organization?