Has Your Strategic Plan Fallen Down the Rabbit Hole?

Alice in Rabbity Hole WEBAn executive coaching client suggested that “everything in her company is in disarray and nothing is getting accomplished.” As I began questioning her, it was easy to understand why. Current projects for this organization include:

 

 

  • Restructuring a large department while finding a new leader for it
  • Opening two new branches in different towns.
  • Acquiring another company
  • A major remodeling project at headquarters
  • Preparing for a major bi-annual meeting to be held in four months
  • Putting together a succession plan in anticipation of the CEO’s retirement in a few years

Not only are there several major projects in the works, the CEO often loses track of what he has told his team, who is to do what, and how much progress has been accomplished on each project. In fact, on one of the new branch openings, three people had three different opening dates as their goal.

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All for one. And one for all.

3 MusketeersDo your team’s behaviors emulate the famous musketeer slogan? Can you really have such a utopian culture; or is this idea just as fictional as the musketeer story? If your company is in trouble, is the idea of creating such a team going to distract from more urgent needs? If teambuilding is the only focus – yes. We all know that when teams begin experiencing disruptive behaviors, it is the manifestation of a deeper issue.

Logic tells us that handling important business issues is imperative. However, your team can be part of that process and creating an “All for one. And one for all.” culture is achievable as is illustrated in the example of DaVita, a company that provides kidney dialysis.

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Are Costs Affecting Your Change Initiative?

Cost of ChangeChange doesn’t come easily…or cheaply. Here’s a scenario: The Board or Executive Team, meet and hammer out their strategic plan and go back to work at their desks and begin putting the building blocks in place to reach the goals they’ve set. A few months, or a year into the plan, they suddenly discover that not only is change expensive, but it’s costly in ways and areas the strategic plan, well had no plan for. Every type of change comes with a price tag.

Employee Costs: Regardless of whether the change is small, drastic, incremental, sudden, planned, or unplanned, people will pay a price in terms of emotion and productivity. People handle change differently. Some will create havoc and slow the change process down through change resistance. Others experience stress as they may fear losing their jobs, or they may struggle learning a new process or technology, or they may express anger over the merge with a bitter business rival. These reactions cost your teams and business heavily in lost productivity.

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Bystander Apathy

Bored WEBIn his book, The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, Josh Kaufman describes a phenomenon he calls “bystander apathy.” In essence, Mr. Kaufman suggests that any project without a leader won’t get completed. He cites committees as a perfect example, as they often do not have a leader and a project can linger inside a committee literally for years. Your organization’s strategic plan can be met with the same fate without accountable leadership.

Many leaders believe that change needs to involve everyone, and that’s a good thing. However, handing responsibility for that change off to everyone or anyone besides the executive team is not so good. Change begins at the top. Further, executives must be involved and held accountable throughout the change process. Much of this begins when developing the strategic plan.

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How to Create Change That Gets Results

Change Results WEBLast week, I wrote a blog about how change is changing. Recently Ron Ashkenas, author and internationally recognized consultant, wrote an article supporting the need for change to change. It’s no secret that many change initiatives meet with failure although the 70% failure rate has been brought under suspicion in a study by Mark Hughes, Professor at Brighton Business School. That is not to say that change is easy. Indeed, it is not and organizations and changing them is complex and difficult, and many efforts do meet with failure. There is an antidote that can, at the very least, alleviate many headaches of the change process.

Human Resources has a one word antidote that, while it can’t guarantee success, without it you are doomed to failure; that word is document, document, document. Change too has a word that while not guaranteeing success, can make all the difference in the world between success and failure; that word is prepare, prepare, prepare.

Once a decision has been made for the change in the form of growth, merger, or ownership, don’t try to hide the decision.

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Even Change is Changing

Chg 101Many people will resist change to the nth degree. Others will not only embrace it, but cause it to happen just for the fun of it. Whatever your preference when it comes to change, change itself at least in the corporate world, is itself, changing.

Organizations in general are beginning to understand that change management needs to be a required core competency. Therefore, if you are one of those team members who doesn’t deal well with change, you will need to ramp up your ability to handle and implement change at a higher level of expediency.

The CEO’s Role: CEOs, specifically, are also beginning to recognize the importance of their role in change management. As an example, a recent client wanted to change the bank’s culture to a sales culture. After meeting with a member of the client’s team, and then checking back in a couple of weeks later, I was informed that the bank had decided to roll out this change initiative beginning with the tellers and the CSRs (customer service reps). What I wanted to do would have landed me in prison. Rather, I chose the more professional, but very direct route, of suggesting to the team member that would prove disastrous for the change initiative. You see, while the tellers and CSRs do have a lot of customer contact, they are not the place to initiate a culture change.

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Essential Steps for Handling Difficult Conversations

Diff Conversa 2 WEBAs a “recovering” Human Resources professional, working in hotels no less, I’ve had my share of difficult conversations with both guests and employees. Conversations with employees ranged from body odor, to inappropriate dress, unprofessional behavior, rule infractions, personality conflicts, petty territorial disagreements, and you name it. While some workplace conversations can be difficult, avoiding them is not recommended. First, we’ll look at the consequences avoiding difficult conversations can bring and then look at the essential steps for handling them.

Some people think that because an individual holds a managerial position that he or she automatically understands how to handle difficult conversations. Further, while managers may think they are confident and competent at holding difficult conversations, Human Resources (HR) holds a different opinion as indicated in the graph below.

HR Graph WEB

                                                                                                  Source: Adapted from Handling Difficult Conversations at Work

Well certainly a CEO knows how to chew these conversations up and spit them out. The fact is, that most of us don’t enjoy holding these conversations and many of us are not that skilled at having them. In fact, according to a study appearing in a Sage Publication, these conversations can be unnerving and emotionally draining. So, as human nature dictates, we avoid the unpleasant and the awkward. Failing to hold training sessions for difficult conversations is only asking for trouble.

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Seeing Your Blind Spots

Hd in the Sand WEBBlind spots can be found in every element of business. A quote by Peter Thiel, cofounder and former CEO of PayPal expresses it best: “As CEO, you’re somehow both the total insider and the total outsider at the same time. In some ways you’re at the center of the organization. In other contexts, you’re like the last person to know anything.” Unfortunately, a CEO can create his/her own blind spots through their own behaviors and actions or non-action. Here are some examples and how to overcome creating blind spots.

The Disconnect: CEOs and teams have a disconnect on the team’s priorities. The CEO thinks that everyone on his team is on the same page, unfortunately that is not always the case. This was proven on a project for one of my clients. The Executive Team agreed to grow the organization. However, it came to light that including the Executive Team and going two tiers down, opinions on the growth of the organization ranged from at least one individual who had no idea that the decision was definite all the way to going global and everything in between to accomplish this growth. There were many pages of opinions and no one was on the same page. Clearly the CEO had not communicated his vision clearly enough to his own team or kept in touch with them on thiers. It is almost impossible to overcommunicate when change is on the agenda.

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