1. Lots of Activity, No Progress

    June 18, 2017 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Harry Hertz

    I recently read an HBR blog entitled, “How Aligned Is Your Organization?” The authors attributed a lack of internal organizational alignment to four reasons. The last, and I thought very important one, was that activity is mistaken for progress. Measurement of activity rather than progress is a common problem in organizations. Frequently, it starts with a desire to measure and manage by fact, and the easiest measures to begin with are activity measures. Activity measurement is not wrong, if you are measuring the right activities. In this blog post, I want to explore activity measurement and the achievement of progress.Activity is undertaken with the intent of producing results. And the direct results of activity are generally easy to measure (e.g., widgets produced, calls answered, time spent). Activity alone generally relates to operations and the results generally answer a question that begins with “What did you do?” You may have made twice as many widgets in half the time. You may have answered twice as many calls in only 120% of the time it previously took to answer half that number of calls. However, what you did may not yield results that relate to progress. Activity alone does not get at progress.

    In the Baldrige Excellence Framework, Results are scored on four factors. The first three are: levels, trends, and comparisons. You can measure all three of these factors for the activities described above and be very proud of your accomplishments. So what is missing?

    What if all the widgets were defective? What if all the calls answered did not resolve the callers’ issues? “Positive” activity, but no progress. The activities were measures of output, but not outcomes. The outcomes, which are measures of progress, were negative. Furthermore, the widgets may not have had the features that customers want. And with the heavy focus on widget production, the company may have missed that a replacement product was coming from another industry (e.g. digital imaging and ink replacing film and processing chemicals).

    All the customer calls you answered may have been due to poor guidance your organization provided at the start, requiring the need for further information.

    The activity measures perfectly answered the “What did you do?” question, but did not address the important questions of how well you did it, why you did it, and how important those activities are. To answer those questions we need more information about organizational context, strategy, leadership vision, and customer desires or needs. We need a systems perspective. We need an integrated set of questions and not just questions about level of activity, no matter how positive that activity’s results may be. The activity you are measuring may not even be an important activity to measure. The Baldrige Excellence Framework provides this systems perspective, through an integrated set of questions that cause thought about key organizational linkages.

    So how do quality improvement tools fit into this whole equation? They fit in very well, if applied to the right processes. Otherwise we could spend time on PDCA cycles or having Kaizen blitzes on unimportant processes, wasting people’s time and organizational resources, both of which are precious. These tools display their great value when applied to important problems. They need to be used with the good of the organization in mind, with a focus on processes that contribute to progress. We can then link the activity measures to not only output, but to the outcomes that will sustain the organization going forward.

    Finally, let me return to Baldrige Results factors. As stated previously, three are: levels, trends, and comparisons. The fourth and vital factor is integration. Are you measuring the results that are important to customers, strategy, financial success, and employee loyalty? And to emphasize the importance of integration, it is the only results factor that is also used as a scoring factor for processes. It is the measure of an aligned and integrated organization. It is the measure of systems thinking on the part of the organization. It is what moves our organizations from activity measurement, to measuring the right activities, to measuring critical outcomes, to achieving progress.

    How is your organization performing on its integration factors?


  2. Gettging airborne: Cultural transformation in the Navy

    February 14, 2017 by ahmed

    getting airborne 01

    Originally posted on BTOES insights by Chris Seifert

    When Ernie Spence arrived as the new commanding officer for the Navy’s largest F-18 training squadron, he was met with disarray. Of the squadron’s 117 planes, most had fallen into disrepair – leaving just one plane safe to fly. As a result, the team responsible for training about 60 percent of Navy squadron pilots was more than a year and a half behind schedule.The maintenance and spare parts delivery schedules for the Navy aircraft had been planned back in the 90s. As American involvement in the Middle East began to ramp up a decade later, Navy missions required these planes in action far more than initially expected. The squadron quickly found itself going through its spare parts at a much faster rate than it had resourced for, forcing planes out of commission while awaiting components that never came. As time wore on, the squadron deferred regular maintenance on the idle aircraft, eventually even using them as sources of spare componentry for other planes in need of repairs. Soon, the amount of work it would take to bring any single plane back to service became far too daunting to take on.

    “While there were external pressures, the majority of the group’s issues were internal.”

    The way Ernie saw it, while there were certainly external factors that put the squadron in a difficult situation, the majority of the group’s issues were internal.

    “There are externalities that affect every organization,” Ernie says. “But does the leadership actually take stock and measure what the effects of those will be? Do they allow the cumulative effect to pile up to the point where they appear to be unmanageable? If so, what becomes the tipping point where they decide, ‘We have to start dealing with this issue?'”

    To remedy the mindset that made the squadron so vulnerable to change, Ernie set out to augment its culture.

    Implementing culture change in a complex environment

    The F -18 training squadron is the Navy’s largest, comprised of about 1,300 military personnel, contract partners and government civilian employees spread across multiple sites. Implementing deep and lasting cultural change is never easy, but it is made far more difficult in such a complex environment. To truly change the way the squadron approached its work, Ernie had to engage with people both as individuals and as a collective unit.

    “Every single individual in an organization has the ability to make a difference.” Ernie says. “But for the organization to truly be successful, every single person must contribute to making that difference.”

    “That was the fundamental difference in culture that the squadron was missing. It was the notion that of those 1,300 folks there, any one of them could have sent them on the path to making the squadron better and more capable of operating the way it should have been. But, in order to really get the results that were required, we had to get every single person on board and working toward the same collective goal, taking a very methodical approach to how we were doing business.”

    getting airborne 02
    Ernie’s squadron was responsible for training about 60 percent of Navy pilots.

    Seeking alignment through belief

    To align the group, Ernie’s first step was to decide what a culture of success would look like. What mission, vision and values did they have to embrace to better perform their jobs? Having defined these ideas, the next step was to figure out how to turn them into action. In Ernie’s squadron, this posed a particular challenge. Because military leadership is relatively transient, people who don’t agree with particular leaders’ strategies can simply wait them out, resisting change until the commanding officer is replaced. So, Ernie knew he could not be passive – he had to actively make sure every individual bought in to the new culture.

    What Ernie realized motivated most people was meaning. For the problem he witnessed wasn’t that people weren’t willing to work hard, but that they believed their jobs didn’t matter.

    “Once an organization starts to falter, it’s easy for folks to come to work and say, ‘It’s not important what I do today,'” Ernie says. “What I saw in that particular squadron is that a lot of folks were coming to work and they were working very hard, but they were working on things that were meaningful to them at a very individual level – they were not contributory and not focused or coordinated across the entire organization. You had a lot of folks that were doing a lot of things, but not working toward what the squadron existed for.”

    Before he could expect someone to get behind the culture, he had to demonstrate why the new mission was meaningful, then explain precisely how that person’s job would contribute to realizing the mission. Having inspired belief in the new culture, Ernie eliminated actions and processes that did not align with the squadron’s values or move it closer to its mission. In their stead, the leadership established a new set of fundamental expectations designed to guide future action toward the squadron’s mission.

    Cementing culture with constant communication

    To drive their importance home, Ernie made these expectations the focal point of every policy decision, newsletter publication, team meeting, performance review and hiring decision going forward. Every action the squadron took from then on was shaped by the culture it was striving toward.

    “Driven by a new organizational culture, Ernie’s squadron saw dramatic results.”

    After about six months of constant communication, every member of the squadron was able to repeat from memory the group’s mission and the expectations that guided their behavior. According to Ernie, this is when he truly began to see a shift in the squadron’s day-to-day productivity toward the goals they had set out to achieve. Rather than taking his foot off the gas when he smelled success, Ernie says the key to sustaining the new culture was working as hard to promote it after six months as they did on day one.

    Driven by a new organizational culture, Ernie’s squadron saw dramatic results. Within six months, it had managed to bring about 20 airplanes back into service. By the time a year went by, it had completely restored nearly 60 planes, returning about $3.5 billion worth of Navy aircraft to the skies. With a functional fleet back in the air, it took less than a year for the squadron to get on pace to complete its training schedule. Plus, the new operating models were more efficient, cutting maintenance costs by as much as 36 percent.


  3. It’s not how much you practise, but how often

    February 12, 2017 by ahmed

     

    Like many people, I like to make resolutions at the start of new year. New Scientist reported that only 10% of the resolutions made in January will survive until December. In many instances, it is because new habits were not formed so we can make the necessary changes to our lives.Lots of my resolutions involve learning new things – a language, a new way that I want to behave, a craft I have always wanted to master. I am not alone in saying that I don’t achieve mastery for every resolution that I’ve made over the years, and it’s not without the best intentions.

    Psychologist, Ebbinghaus observed that once we learn something, without practice we soon forget.

    Did you know that 70% of what you learn is lost within 24 hours after learning without practice?

    In 2008 psychologists at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that if you test your knowledge regularly at carefully timed and ever expanding intervals, new knowledge will be retained. The good news is that there is an easy way to retain 70% of what you have learnt for the long term. ?

    information-remembered

    How do you do this? The research suggests that to learn new things, you need to be able to recall and regularly use what you have learnt.

    But what happens if you take a break and don’t use this knowledge often? Will you forget? How long have you got before you need to completely re-learn what you have lost?

    he Carnegie Mellon psychologists found that to retain 70% of what you have learnt you need to practice within 1 hour after receiving the information, and then again after 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, and then after 6 months.

    My advice is, when planning to learn anything new that you want to become competent in, answer the following questions first,

    • Will I need to use this knowledge within the next few months?
    • Do I have time to practice within 1 day following the learning?
    • Will I be able to practice, or apply this new knowledge 1 week, 1 month and 6 months following the learning?

    Unless you answered yes to all, you may be wasting effort and you should change your current plan.

    This article has been provided by Michael Voss, Owner of PYXIS & Associate Consultant of COER (Centre for Organisational Excellence Research, NZ)


  4. Building employee trust: Tips validated by the Baldrige excellence framework

    January 19, 2017 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Christine Schaefer

    In an online Harvard Business Review article this month, Sue Bingham, an expert on creating high-performing workplaces, addresses a growing concern among business leaders today that employees don’t trust their organizations. She then describes four practices to build employee trust. Those who have already read the latest edition (2017–2018) of the Baldrige Excellence Framework will see that Bingham’s four tips align with the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the framework).

    Following are examples of the connections.

    1. “Hire for Trust.”

    In elaborating on this guidance, Bingham cautions, “Don’t assume that technical skills and knowledge trump character.”

    The workforce-focused section of the Baldrige Criteria (known as category 5) begins with this assessment question as a basic requirement: How do you build an effective and supportive workforce environment? An organization being evaluated against the Baldrige Criteria is expected to describe systematic processes in response to that question and to the more specific question How do you recruit, hire, place, and retain new workforce members?

    Baldrige evaluation factors include whether (and the degree to which) an organization’s process is deployed, improved, and integrated. In regard to hiring practices, organizations scoring high in this area of a Baldrige assessment often describe hiring processes that use behavioral-based and team interview practices, among others (though the Criteria do not prescribe particular approaches), as means to aligning hiring outcomes with the organization’s identified values and related organizational culture.

    In her HBR article, Bingham makes clear that in high-performing organizations, trust is a key part of the culture. Also emphasizing the importance of the values that define the organizational culture, the leadership section (category 1) of the Baldrige Criteria begins with questions that ask leaders how they set and deploy the organization’s vision and values.

    2. “Make Positive Assumptions about People.”

    Bingham points out that negative assumptions by leaders about employees lead to micromanaging, which conveys distrust. She counsels leaders to “give challenging assignments with the clear and confident belief that your expectations will be met” and also recommends that they “promote transparency.”

    In the “Workforce Engagement” section (item 5.2), the Criteria ask about fostering an organizational culture characterized by open communication. The Criteria also ask, How do you empower your workforce?, stressing that leaders should give people the authority and responsibility to make decisions and take actions. When this happens, decisions are made closest to the front line, by people who have knowledge and understanding related to the work to be done.

    At a more fundamental level, the 11 core values and concepts of the Baldrige framework (and Criteria) include visionary leadership, valuing people, and ethics and transparency. In describing the valuing people concept, the Baldrige Excellence Framework booklet states (on page 41 of the 2017–2018 edition), “Valuing the people in your workforce means committing to their engagement, development, and well-being.”

    In addition, in describing visionary leadership, the Baldrige Excellence Framework booklet states (on page 40 in the 2017–2018 edition), “Senior leaders should serve as role models through their ethical behavior and their personal involvement in planning, providing a supportive environment for innovation, communicating, coaching and motivating the workforce, developing future leaders, reviewing organizational performance, and recognizing workforce members.”

    3. “Treat Employees Fairly, Not Equally.”

    According to Bingham, a disciplinary policy that treats everyone the same “strips people of their individuality and unique abilities to contribute.” She advocates that leaders instead have supportive discussions with individual employees when there are concerns about performance, given that being treated with respect and support can make people feel safe enough to accept responsibility and motivate them to determine solutions to effectively address their problems.

    Again, in describing the valuing people concept, the Baldrige Excellence Framework booklet states (on page 41 of the 2017–2018 edition), “Valuing the people in your workforce means committing to their engagement, development, and well-being. Increasingly, this may involve offering flexible work practices that are tailored to varying workplace and life needs. Major challenges in valuing your workforce members include demonstrating your leaders’ commitment to their success, providing motivation and recognition that go beyond the regular compensation system …”

    4. “Create a Zero-Tolerance Policy for Deceitfulness.”

    Bingham states, “High-performance companies value trust so much that they implement and enforce zero-tolerance policies for betraying it.”

    Of course, to build trust leaders must be held accountable to the same values and policies. The Baldrige Criteria requirements in the leadership section (category 1) emphasize leaders’ personal actions reflecting the organization’s values and legal and ethical behavior. In the “Senior Leadership” section (item 1.1), Criteria questions include these: How do senior leaders’ personal actions reflect a commitment to [the organization’s] values? How do senior leaders’ actions demonstrate their commitment to legal and ethical behavior?

    What’s more, the Baldrige framework booklet’s description of visionary leadership states, “As role models, [senior leaders] can reinforce ethics, values, and expectations while building leadership, commitment, and initiative throughout your organization.”

    I’ve drawn out but a few of the ways the Baldrige framework aligns with Bingham’s expert guidance on building trust with employees. But from this sampling of material, I hope it’s clear that using the Baldrige framework to lead and manage an organization will put one on the right track to cultivating employee trust and high performance.


  5. 5 (budget) hacks for building amazing office culture

    November 22, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Ryan Holmes

    To be honest, my first office wasn’t much to look at. In fact, it wasn’t an office at all. It was my loft apartment in Vancouver. There wasn’t a fancy coffee machine or a foosball table or even a real desk to work at. But there was a rooftop patio – a little space where my tiny team and I could retreat to after work, to have a drink and admire the view. To this day, I’m convinced that that rooftop, and the culture it created, was one of the main reasons they stuck around.

    The phrase company culture is used so often that it can feel like an empty buzzword. But culture is what inspires employees to come to work, and to work hard. It’s what differentiates you from all the competitors out there, selling the same products in the same space. It’s the extra gas in the tank that helps you weather the bad times and excel during the good times.

    Some elements of culture are deep and sacred: the values and mission that underlie whatever it is you sell or make. Others represent a real – and important – investment: benefits and options plans, company retreats, sleek offices, etc.

    But building culture doesn’t always have to entail a huge cost or commitment. In fact, some of the most powerful culture-building tools are essentially DIY hacks. Hootsuite now has around 1,000 employees and we help more than 800 of the Fortune 1000 companies manage their social media. Pretty much everything has changed since those early days. But one constant has been finding creative ways to cultivate culture, without breaking the bank. Here’s a look at some of the most effective tools we’ve found over the years:

    The rooftop patio principle: After my first experience with a rooftop patio, I was hooked. My second office had one and, when we outgrew that, so did my third. These weren’t fancy spots, by any measure (and they didn’t add much to our leasing costs). But they did offer a space to retreat to that wasn’t a workspace. I think having this kind of safe zone completely changes how people interact and blends the lines between office and life (which is one of the real secrets of great culture).

    The rooftops became the scene of impromptu lunches and after-work beers. They hosted parties and off-kilter competitions. They offered a refuge from the pressures of growing a company and a place to let off steam. I was reminded how important this principle is recently when our London office finally graduated to a new space with an expansive rooftop patio. Suddenly, they’re hanging out after work and gelling as a team. At the end of the day, just putting a keg beside your desk doesn’t make a party. A dedicated space can make all the difference.

    The company that eats together, stays together: Food is a natural bridge builder. But company dinners, especially when you grow to a certain size, can get prohibitively expensive. Not to mention, when you’re stuck at a table it can be a challenge to mix and mingle, which kind of defeats the purpose. We overcame this early on with a pot-luck style strategy that brought together the joys of eating with the thrill of competition: the guac-off.

    Our first guac-off in the company’s early years featured 11 competitors and three simple rules: no pre-made guacamole mixes; contestants have to prepare their creations live; and everyone has to have fun. Since then, it’s become an annual tradition. We’ve evolved different categories (authentic, fusion, freestyle, etc.) and on occasion added margaritas to the equation. Over the years, we’ve embraced other DIY food traditions, as well. Among my favorites: “rookie cookies.” New employees have the option of baking (or buying) cookies for their department. These are set out on their desk, which lures over the rest of the team for casual introductions throughout the day. It’s a low-stress way to meet new colleagues and informally onboard new hires.

    Company clothes people actually wear: Lots of companies pump out piles of t-shirts, beer koozies, keychains, hats and stickers with their name and logo on them. This swag is then pawned off on employees, as well as customers and prospects. Nine times out of 10, it’s ugly, poorly made and discarded as soon as it’s handed out. We found that taking an entirely different approach can be an effective differentiator and culture builder.

    For starters, we handed the creative process over to our own graphic designers. And we emphasized that the goal wasn’t to plug Hootsuite but to create t-shirts, hoodies, even socks, that people wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in. The result: company clothes that people actually want to wear, inside and outside the office. In fact, there’s always a backlog of orders for the latest designs. This isn’t a costly measure by any means. But putting a little style in your swag reinforces the feeling that there’s something special going on and something worth being part of.

    The power of random coffees: One of the biggest challenges in fast-growing companies is silos. Imaginary walls spring up between departments. Before you know it, the sales team and the engineering team, for instance, feel like two totally different companies. They’re not meshing socially and – just as worrying – they’re not collaborating or exchanging information on projects. This lack of coordination inevitably hurts the final product and the customer’s experience.

    This is a huge problem and there’s really no easy fix. But one hack we’ve discovered to at least break the ice is a random coffee program. Employees sign up and are paired with a peer – blind date-style – from another department. They then set up a time to meet over a coffee break. It turns out this can be just the nudge needed to open up a future connection with other teams. It’s not that people don’t want to cross departmental divides, after all: Oftentimes, it’s simply that they don’t have a space or a system to do so.

    DIY parties are more fun: Company parties aren’t just a nice perk, they’re also a way to strengthen bonds between team members. But here’s the thing: gatherings for dozens – if not hundreds – of people can easily get cost-prohibitive. If there’s a restaurant or venue involved, even a simple event can break budgets. As a result, many companies limit themselves to just one or two bashes a year, despite the clear culture-building benefits.

    Early on, we found a workaround, really out of sheer necessity: a DIY party concept we called Parliament. Each month, two departments would join forces to host a fete for the entire company, in the office. We’d give them a modest budget of a few hundred dollars and pretty much complete autonomy to design their dream party. We even added a competitive element: at the end of the year, employees would vote on the best bash, with winners getting year-long bragging rights. The result was a crescendo of increasingly creative themed parties: from a Mexican beach night to a disco-themed country fair and an ‘80s-inspired high-school homecoming. All of this may sound silly, but these Parliaments went a long way toward crystallizing and strengthening our culture as Hootsuite grew from 100 to 1,000 employees.

    None of these culture-building hacks is especially deep or involved. And none of them will mean much unless a company already has a foundation in place: a mission, a commitment to employees, a healthy work environment. But, in many respects, a company culture is the sum total of the little things. It’s whatever makes someone excited to come to work at the start of the week, rather than indifferent. Creating this atmosphere doesn’t require a huge budget or elaborate perks, but it does require genuine attention and interest from management. Great cultures may be born organically, but to grow and thrive they need support.