Saturday, September 22, 2012

Improving Performance Improvement Plans

Performance improvement plans (PIPs) should be explicit and clear in scope, intent and language. A PIP that is not understood is worthless (to the employee and to the company). It should reflect data and facts, rather than subjective thoughts. A plan that suggests one thing and means another can demoralize others in the organization who see what is happening and interpret it as disingenuous.

PIPs also need to be timely. Putting someone on a PIP without a triggering event when the person is following what has become a persistent pattern over years may be of benefit, but imagine what could have developed had that PIP been a kernel in the popper after the initial incident or early signs of the behavior pattern.

PIPs should connect the dots between where things stand today and where things need to be sustained in the future. They need to include the problem, desired behavior modification, strategies to achieve the desired state, goals, time lines and check-in dates. They should Point Out Potential -- in  other words, PIPs should POP.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Build on Strengths to Manage Performance

Opportunities abound to incorporate an asset-based approach to managing performance and developing teams – once you’re inclined to that frame of reference. Look back to the organization’s strategic direction (and ideology) to identify clues for expectations, needs and guiding principles. Leverage that information to link people’s strengths with the cultural expectations. Help people find their way to them. Awareness goes a long way, too. Give people tools to explore their strengths. Create a common language through which to discover the strengths of colleagues. Incorporate it into team-based activities and highlight divergent strengths-based contributions in project reviews or milestone celebrations. Make it part of your own management creed and reflect upon your adherence to it. Understand it, believe it, and live it -- such that you can be strong, have hope and seize the day: Perfer, spem habe, et carpe diem.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Friday, August 31, 2012

5 Questions to Clarify a Project

Here are five questions to set the wheels of your next discovery project in forward motion:

1.    What’s the issue?
2.    Why does it matter now?
3.    To whom?
4.    Toward what end?
5.    By when do you need the information?

Never underestimate the impact of knowing which direction you’re heading, why it matters and whom you need to bring along. Don’t assume you know what’s going on in the mind of the person who asked you to dive in, and don’t sit back when the answers to these questions reveal what might be an alternate or preferred path to move things along in the best interest of your organization.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

People are the Powerful Core of Organizations

It's hard for many people to think about what's possible and approach life building upon strengths, rather than obsessing on weaknesses. Yet, it can be so much more energizing and rewarding to focus on potential rather than power.

Marcus Buckingham’s comment that “the experience of the team trumps the experience of the company” reinforces the incredible power of people as the core of organizational performance. Imagine the possibilities for growth when managers engage them, support them, recognize them and frame things in a way that is meaningful to them. Such exciting potential for those of us devising means through which to do just that in helping managers make it happen (i.e., first us with them, then, they with their staffs).

Yet, it cannot be forced. It's been said that people don't resist change, they resist coercion. Offer it. Model it. Shape it within the construct of things that are meaningful to those you are seeking to persuade. Help them find the relevance and demonstrate some rigor in why it matters. You just might be amazed at what happens.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Ties That Bind

An approach focused on human capital management speaks volumes for soulful sustainability. Organizations reflect their leadership who influence the employees who inform stakeholders. A lack of understanding about how human competencies are fed and nourished damages those connections and cracks the chains that bind them.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Culture Reflects Intentions, Actions & Impressions

While I think this article about corporate culture starts from an incorrect premise as it confuses the role of taglines in the world of corporate advancement, it does get a lot right about the origins and challenges of understanding, adapting and advancing corporate culture. It shares an excellent quote from William Rothwell, professor of Workforce Education & Development in Penn State's College of Education: "I sometimes hear managers say that they want to 'change the corporate culture.' But they often forget that the culture is the result of a group or organization's experience. To change corporate culture, then, requires giving an organization a new experience. Organizational leaders shape the culture based on the role models they set, the actions they choose to take, and how the people of the organization perceive those actions."

The article also affirms the valuable shift that is occurring among the expectations of top executives. The authoritarian approach is being morphed into a facilitative one ... something about which we must be cautious because we can't replace one for the other, rather we need to fuse them together. A leader must be ready to set a direction and provide decisions, some which are not going to be favored or evolved through the ranks of the organization. Exercise good judgment and caution -- and you can proceed toward an evolved and enlightened executive position.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Culture Change Demands Commitment

A new IBM research study points to changing attitudes among CEOs in their efforts to create workplaces that foster greater collaboration, transparency and openness. More executive leaders are identifying value in having employees who speak up, take initiative and work well amid changing team structures. A critical aspect to delivering on that value is ensuring shared values among the people in the workplace. Establishing a clear ideology and communicating it both clearly and consistently in ways that connect with employees brings people together around a common purpose and toward a shared aim. This common ground and common bond fuel collaboration in an appropriate and forward-focused way. Plus, they can work through changing conditions together in the better interest of the organization and its stakeholders.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Ways Take Time, Patience & Focus

In my opinion, it is foolish to believe that an organization that experiences a new way of thinking can automatically replicate it. It takes, they say, seven times before people recall messages, why do we think that people can effectively implement new approaches after one exposure? See the light, create a path and stay focused on moving forward. There will be bumps along the way, but the forward focus makes progress possible.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Monday, March 26, 2012


No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
-- John Donne
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Management Matters

When did it become passé to be good at being a manager and to hire people who were expected to be good managers? People want their managers to work with them, to guide them, to support them and hold them to established expectations. So, why am I continuing to see people who are, in fact, good at management the ones not advanced into management positions in favor of those with stronger technical skills or like-minded thinking with existing managers. ‘Tis true what they say, the Peter Principle lives.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Annual Appraisals Are the End, Not the Beginning

Performance appraisals are a necessary and wonderful thing, but too many people approach them with dread -- if they acknowledge them at all.

If you supervise people and dread the annual appraisal, reframe it. The annual appraisal is not a once-a-year review, it should the culmination of conversations that have taken place over the course of the year.

Take on a “bit by bit” mindset and remove the dread of performance discussions for the supervisor and for the employee. Remember that when you avoid something, you often end up making it a much bigger deal that it need be.

Think about how your weekly staff meetings become the foundation for tracking progress and adjusting expectations. Then, remember that weekly check-ins feed into monthly milestones, quarterly reviews and annual appraisals.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Monday, February 20, 2012

A (brief) Word About Six Sigma and TQM

Six Sigma is highly rigid and structured, whereas TQM offers greater flexibility and fluidity for implementation. There is a shared focus on reliability and consistency, but the approaches are quite different. TQM places a higher emphasis on developing the people side of improvement through knowledge transfer and decision-making, whereas Six Sigma focuses on the process side of improvement through things such as batch reductions and streamlined activities.

While the language is different, both approaches do focus on value-added aspects to promote greater efficiency and effectiveness. One could argue there is a similar success to their applications, though one could also postulate there are additional nuances required for the implementation of improvement projects using a Six Sigma methodology.

It is not enough to train people in the basic principles of any employee involvement and enhancement methodology. It must become an expected way of life and rewarded when witnessed. Otherwise, the tools become relegated to the expectations of few and the mass misrepresentation of many.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Harder Side to the Soft Side of Business

Downsizing can be essential for an organization to survive. Its use as a successful strategic intervention, however, is too often marginal. Leaders often fail in the design and falter in the deployment. They connect the wrong tactic with the right intention. They use it as a means to a different end. They seem to forget the power of fear and bury the emotional implications of affecting someone’s livelihood (and/or reputation).

Downsizing as an improvement strategy is limited in its success. Perhaps it is semantics, but downsizing as a strategy seems wrong. In my work, it is a means to a strategic end. It may be an essential activity in order to align the resources with the intended outcomes and put people in better positions (literally) to advance the mission and achieve success.

The very challenges that bring an organization to this crossroads are often the circumstances that undermine its successful execution. A poorly managed business with a lack of leadership is not necessarily going to benefit from systemic redesign, organizational redesign or downsizing if the intended outcome doesn’t address the leadership void and the lack of business acumen. Also, cutting positions to reduce expenses can be “penny wise and pound foolish” when you diminish the ability to deliver on service or damage relationship channels with key clients. An organization that suffers from poor or disingenuous communication will only suffer more as a downsizing unfolds and people are left wondering or worrying about their future. Executive management without vision will not see more clearly after the downsizing is complete.

Successful downsizing requires broader consideration and visionary planning that starts with the end in mind (ala Stephen Covey). If institutions followed the steps outlined in the text perhaps downsizing would be perceived less negatively and the impacts felt less dramatically. Organizations that consider the options and the consequences are more likely to find success through the downsizing effort. Companies that work from a platform of respect and consideration are inclined to realize the positive results.

Downsizing can be brilliant when truly connected to the strategic intentions of an organization. It can make unworkable situations manageable. Downsizing can even help address weaknesses, when it is intended (and known) to be occurring for that purpose. Downsizing has a necessary place in the quiver and should be used by those skilled in its integrated design, multi-faceted deployment and long-term delivery.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Person's Self-Vision Can Be Gold

We all have visions of ourselves, however incomplete. Me? I envision myself as someone who works to make things better for other people. I fancy myself as someone who finds clarity and enforces the value of consistency. It blinds me to the weaknesses that inherently go along with it. For instance, I can come off as idealistic or staunch. It isn't the intention, but it can be the result of seeing a way in which clarity and consistency go hand in glove. So, if you work with me -- play into it. Think about the ways in which the organization could be better and challenge me to see it, understand it and move it.

When you work with someone who sees themselves as an educator (which might be a kind way of saying "seeming know-it-all"), put them in situations through which they can share their experiences and expertise to help other colleagues find ways to make improvements. Let them talk. Listen. Gently probe and redirect. And, then, ask them how they would suggest that you tackle A, B or C or what they think you might want to consider in achieving an intended impact.

It isn't easy, but playing into someone else's vision of who they are can make your more effective in navigating or influencing the desired change.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Build Better Relationships

A few tips for building productive relationships -- be they between Boards & Executives or Executives & Staffs:

  • Be clear on roles and responsibilities (and be distinct so people don't get confused)
  • Develop a shared understanding for mutual accountability (the two-way street of responsibility)
  • Understand each other's personal/professional intentions (avoid assumptions or projections)
  • Be direct and transparent during recruiting (paves the way for good things to come)
  • Pay attention to how people are brought into the organization (you care now, they care later)

Consider that when people feel informed and confident, they can become better sounding boards and reviewers. The resulting level of engagement often becomes more productive for everyone.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No More Meeting Complaints

No more complaining about wasting your time in meetings. If you truly believe that your time is being wasted, do something about it. Even when you don't control the meeting, you can influence it.

You can ask the organizer (before the meeting begins) about the purpose and the intended outcome. If you don't like what you hear (or you don't believe it), you might even ask a tactful question or two to either uncover a rationale or to prompt a reconsideration or redirection by the person who called the meeting.

You can engage in the discussion. Sometimes, the best meetings are those in which you don't see an obvious purpose but you do hear the avenue through which you can speak to help give it more meaning for yourself and/or for those around you.

You can always not go. Don't absolve yourself of the associated responsibilities, but depend on a follow-up with the organizer to get the assignments. And, remember, then when you don't attend, you give up your opportunity to influence what goes on and what comes out of the meeting. (In other words, if you don't go, you are expected to go along with whatever was discussed, determined or decided.)

You can, also, go and discreetly do other things. I'm not suggesting you engage in Blackberry bingo or laptop lunacy (neither sends a good message), rather catch up on reading printed reports or articles, refine your to-do list, review your group's progress against its strategic plan or just reflect on issues of the moment.

Meetings are not going away -- and good meetings are means through which to make solid progress through any organization. So, become a good meeting goer and use your influence to make the meeting better for everyone.
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Previous Posts