Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Positiveness (Happiness) drives change in the workplace

In 1987 I joined a large banking group in South Africa as the Customer Communications and Training manager of their new electronic banking division. I knew I was in trouble when during the first week on the job I was told of a photo shoot with the then CEO. Apparently as the photographer was about to take the photograph and said “smile”, the CEO stood up with a serious face and said, “Young man, banking is a serious business, we do not smile around here”. Whether this story was true or not is unimportant. What is important that it was told and re-told many times and ultimately became part of the culture of the company. The corporate culture was harsh and militaristic, indeed a number of senior executives were former military officers. Some months into my new role, I was asked to do a presentation to a group of senior managers. After my presentation, one of the members of the audience approached me and pulled me aside. He said, “I know you are new here, so I’d like to offer some advice, and that is to remove the emotional words from your vocabulary. Emotional language does not go down well in this organization”. He was certainly correct – the organization was perhaps the most emotionally barren organization I have ever worked with. There were pockets of passion and energy—however these were exceptions and primarily the result of initiatives taken by specific individuals (including my immediate boss, a remarkable individual who was the only reason I continued to work in that environment).
(To read the full article, click on the link below)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Merit's Engage-to-Change Research

About this Report
For a decade or more, research by leading research groups such as Gartner
and others have shown convincingly that the great majority of large-scale
change or transformation projects fail or under-deliver. While this information
has been consistent during this period, there has been less tangible
information on how to address these problems.
Most leaders and managers, who are responsible for implementing
organizational change, experience the trials and tribulations of large-scale
project work on a day-to-day basis. Over the past few years however we have
become increasingly concerned (as the rate of change projects escalates
dramatically in companies) that we see the same challenges and mistakes
occurring over and over. Yet as external consultants we don’t often have the
leverage to make the significant enterprise-wide improvements that would
greatly enhance organizational adaptability and the success of projects.
This research study was designed to test our experience and thinking about
what we collectively believe “works”, and add research rigor and statistical
data to our recommendations to our clients on how to be more efficient and
effective in large-scale change initiatives. This research has supported our
hands-on, albeit subjective, thoughts and experience about what works,
but has produced a number of fascinating and thought provoking insights.
Increasingly, the results of this study are reinforcing our consulting methods
and recommendations to our clients, and we hope readers of this report will
find it useful as well. The bottom-line is that with careful planning and by taking
a proactive approach it is possible to address the problem of failing projects.

Read the full report here

Monday, April 18, 2011

Managing Organizational Change in Kazakhstan: In the rush to implement organizational changes, companies often don’t take the time to prepare their employees for change – and pay dearly.

In 2005 I had one of the most profound career experiences of my life. I was facilitating a Organizational Effectiveness project for a major California company in their Kazakhstan operation, and was holding a meeting on my second day on the job (on a side note, it was 120 degrees outside, and on its way getting hotter). In the conference room were about 20 or so employees of the company, from Europe, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and the US. There were also about 5 interpreters in the room to ensure everyone understood what was being said and to make themselves understood. Not only was I like a “deer in the headlights’ from being across the globe literally in another world, but it was daunting to consider how I was going to ensure that all of these diverse individuals were aligned and in support of the goals of the project. Well, I could not believe what unfolded.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Future of Work

In 1994 I was travelling to several countries visiting various banking groups to analyze how they engaged their employees in Total Quality Management practices. I happened to be in New York visiting (then) Chase Manhattan Bank, and while doing some weekend touring visited St. Peter's Cathedral. I was just about to leave and I happened to walk through their small bookstore and a book caught me eye - The Re-Invention of Work by Matthew Fox. I read this book cover to cover on the plane flight home. This weekend (in the middle of a snowstorm in Tahoe), I'm reading a similar book, The Future of Work by Thomas Malone. Absolutely intriguing to anyone interested in Employee Engagement, Organizational Change, employee participation and related topics. Here's a quote that refers to how new communication technologies, especially social networking, is allowing workers to assume far greater levels of decision making  than ever before:
"For the first time in history, it is now becoming economically feasible to give huge numbers of workers the information (and I would add influence and power) they need to make more choices (and decisions) themselves. Today, many more people in business can have the kinds of freedom that used to be common only in small organizations. And that can be very good news for productivity and for quality of life. When people make their own decisions, rather than follow orders, they often work harder and show more dedication and more creativity." 
That is so on the mark, its amazing. The question I always ask is why do we still have so much command and control bureaucracy that stifles worker innovation in large corporations today. This is a remarkable book - go onto Amazon and buy it.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Excellent article on Employee Engagement

I strongly recommend that you read this article on Employee Engagement published by the Economist and sponsored by HayGroup: http://businessresearch.eiu.com/sites/businessresearch.eiu.com/files/LON%20-%20PL%20-%20Hay%20report_WEB.pdf

Friday, January 7, 2011

Herding Cats

Employees are our most important asset – Really?

This is a valuable read if you have not read it before. It’s titled “Human Change Management – Herding Cats” (link) by Mark Dawson and Mark Jones of PWC (I refer to them as “the Marks”). They tell an old but pertinent story – one that has been around for so long, but sadly is still as (or maybe more) pertinent today. Essentially too many companies give lip-service to this mantra but seldom back it up.  “The Marks” describe what is now an old and sad tale – while organizational change becomes the norm, most change efforts fail or under-deliver. And evidence continues to show that much of the reason is that companies simply do not place adequate effort or investment in changing hearts and minds of their people.

Organizations don’t adapt to change; their people do. Implementing the right technology infrastructure and streamlining the business processes that flow through it are essential ingredients for effective organizational change. These components are well studied, mechanized and reasonably standardized. Methodologies, measurements and best-practice guidelines are available to optimize their implementation. But the human element that needs to make use of these systems in order to supply the leadership, judgment, flexibility and innovation needed to achieve business success is the most critical ingredient – and least understood… Most companies say their most important assets are their people, but few behave as if this were true.

Executive Leaders are the Key to Successful Organizational Change! But middle managers are where the “rubber meets the road” to drive change!

Gartner Inc., the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, have frequently noted that the critical success factors for managing SAP (the German Software company) and other ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning software) implementations are people issues; behaviors, skills, actions – the “soft” side of managing ERP implementations, business process redesign, organizational restructuring and other strategic change initiatives …

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed …. Something Changed?

This old wedding custom has its roots in Victorian times and a lot has changed in the interim for sure. But there is a lot to be said for aspects of this tradition when it comes to organizational change. Very often, when organizations are facing large scale changes such as technology implementations, business process changes and restructuring, many companies will bring in big consulting groups who are experienced at systems integration and change management. In a recent technology implementation project where we were partnering with a large consulting firm, we were concerned that that the change management strategy being applied was mostly “Something New” instead of a mix of “Old” and “Borrowed”.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Social Networking in the workplace - embracing the creativity of all employees:

Recently, while with Levi Strauss & Co., we conducted an assessment of the learning and development aspects of the SAP implementation, and I was holding interviews with managers and employees across the Finance organization. Because of technical problems, most technical support staff had been pulled back to try and solve the problem, creating a situation where users in the field where left to fend for themselves. I was amazed at how resilient many of these people were in the face to having to perform with a totally new process and technology, with little or no technical support to answer an ever changing scenario of technical fixes that were being put in place. Most impressive was how some teams had set up informal collaboration networks to pose questions on how to perform tasks or were instant messaging each other to share knowledge in this rapidly changing environment.