Archive for the ‘Action Planning’ Category
Employee Engagement is often viewed as a magic bullet. All we have to do is increase our levels of employee engagement and all will be well. Is your engineering done poorly? That is because your engineering employees are not engaged enough. They would exceed your customer’s expectations if they were more engaged. Putting your stores in under-performing locations? That would not happen if your real estate people were more engaged. Are your customers unhappy with the quality of your products? If only you could make your sales people were more engaged. This kind of thinking is of course nonsense, but there is a deeper issue here.
Some, if not many organizations have bought into the notion that increasing employee engagement should be part of an organizations’ strategy. But that is like saying reducing an ill person’s fever should be the strategy to get them well, without addressing the underlying cause, like the tumor that is spreading rapidly in their pancreas. Maybe if we brought the fever under control that tumor would resolve itself? Not likely.
As we conduct employee surveys there are several distinct kinds of questions that are used to gage what is happening within an organization and how it is functioning. One question type is called an independent variable. These are items like “do you have the training you need to get your job done?” They are directly addressable if the response scores are low. Another question type is called a dependent variable, such as “I am proud to work for XYZ”. These kinds of questions are dependent on other things driving them high or low, such as, we were just caught up in a bribery scandal, so I am not so proud to work here. How would you address pride in that circumstance? While there may be other underlying issues, simplistically, you would address ethics in order to bring pride back to higher levels. There are other kinds of questions we use in surveys but discussing these two types will make my point.
Good strategy for an organization is strategy that is simply stated, easily understood and directly addressable. Good strategy could be thought of as independent variables. Is your engineering done poorly? Good strategy may be to upgrade or bring resources to your engineering group. Maybe you hire or maybe you acquire or maybe you outsource, but the hallmark of a good strategy is that you can directly address the improvement needed of the engineering function. The engineering employees will become engaged when they have what they need to do their jobs well, are treated in an equitable fashion, with respect etc.
A strategy that states, we will increase employee engagement as the strategy itself, is not directly addressable and does not give the management team any insight into specifically what needs to be done to accomplish that goal. Without insight into the direct strategic actions that must be taken you get warm and fuzzy words that are not directional and will be impossible to accomplish.
Having high levels of employee engagement is a good end result, but it is an end result of other strategic actions you take and is simply not strategic by itself.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: http://www.orgvitality.com
There are those who think only they know best when it comes to organizational decision making. And while it is perfectly ok to have strongly held opinions, it also behooves one to know when to listen to the wisdom of the crowd. Assuming that you have crossed the Rubicon and are ready to heed or at least consider the advice of those who are usually more than willing to share some, there are some guidelines that if followed can make the process not too overwhelming and perhaps increase the probability of success. This is a quick summary and the highlighted links will point you to more detailed discussions on each topic.
- Don’t try to do too much. If every manager within an organization once a year picked one meaningful thing that went above and beyond and actually made it happen, significant positive change would occur. If two things were chosen, one should support an overall organization-wide initiative and one should focus on local conditions. By limiting the number you also eliminate excuse-making. You either did it or did not. Reference: The One Thing.
- Every organization has strengths. Sometimes picking actions that build off of and are natural extension of the strengths, the skills and talents already in place will be more successful than actions that come out of left field. If you are trying something new as an action and do not know how to accomplish it, set a learning goal – how you will learn more about and develop the skills that enable you to succeed on the action. If you are very familiar with how to improve on a particular issue then set a specific measurable goal. Reference: Increasing the Wealth of Organizations.
- People are people. We can spend our time searching for the differences between us, but when it comes to the world of work and what people fundamentally want and expect out of the work environment we are all much more similar than we are different. We all more or less want the same things. Find me a person on this planet, of any age, of any gender, of any ethnicity for instance, that does not want to be treated with respect and dignity. (I exclude those with pathology). Think about how the actions you are considering can help fulfill these basic universal needs. Reference: People at work: or it is Life and Searching for a gang in Nebraska.
- There are no magic bullets – success, most of the time, boils down to some brain power, hard work and a dose of being in the right place at the right time. Those who spend their lives searching for magic bullets, elixirs, quick fixes will spend their lives searching in vain. Reference: Models, Representations of Reality
- Don’t prematurely shut down the creative process. Create a lot of good ideas in a brain storming mode. On a second or third pass through the ideas generated, narrow the field. Pick the one thread that can be most leveraged, the thread that could unravel or hold together the whole organizational tapestry. Reference 40:1
- Your actions are at risk for failure. As you plan them out, understanding common reasons why actions fail can help you avoid pitfalls. Actions can fail because of a. lack of knowledge/training, b. lack of correct business processes, c. lack of desire/support. Reference: Errors
- It can be good to measure, to create metrics to measure your progress, but just because you are not measuring does not mean what you are doing is not good. Where you can create metrics, do so. Reference: Managing what you are not measuring, and Measuring what you are Managing.
- You will make mistakes. It is a given. Mistakes and errors will occur as you pick and execute on your action plans. Don’t be so consumed with making the absolute right decision that you make no decisions or miss opportunities because of decision delays. Reference: Peanut Butter Anyone?
- Change happens- look forward not back. Reference: Well I Guess that is not Going to Grow Back.
- Openness and transparency regarding what you are doing is the best policy. If you cannot be open and transparent about it ask yourself if you should be doing it. Reference: Transparency and Organizational Success.
- Aim High. Reference: Abnormal Change.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
For many years, in manager training sessions which covered how to utilize your employee survey results, I always suggested to managers that they decide on which two or three issues were the most important and take action on that limited number. No more than two or three, not a long list of tasks, a long list that would almost certainly ensure that nothing would actually get done. Keep the list small, keep the list manageable. Everyone’s plate is already full and piling on to-do’s would simply become overwhelming. I am re-evaluating that advice, but my evaluation is not about whether managers should have a longer list of action items, but rather should the short list be even shorter.
While it may sound odd after spending so much time and energy on planning for an employee survey, collecting the data, analyzing it every which way and reporting it back, but I am beginning to feel that the best advice on what to do with it, in today’s environment is to pick “The One Thing” that rises to the top, that the management team feels will make a substantial difference and to go out and make a difference on it.
When you examine norm data and look at who are the top performers on a particular issue, which companies score most strongly for instance on customer focus, innovation, timeliness, cooperation, etc. or more broadly on Message, Performance enablement (against message) and Future related issues you find a somewhat different list of top performing organizations. Meaning that the list of top performers is a changing list, depending on which item you are looking at. It appears that a widely admired company for instance will not be the top performer across the board necessarily, but rather will excel in some areas, and be more average in others.
I would argue that no company has the time, energy or resources to simply come out and say that “we will be the best in the world on everything”, I would further argue that the logic doesn’t make sense. By definition resources are a limited commodity. No one has infinite money, people or time. Further there are relatively few cases where two companies exist in exactly the same market niche. In fact much time, money and people’s effort are spent in figuring out how to differentiate one’s products from the competition (both the products sold to your customers and the employee value proposition sold to your employees). Organizations need to choose which areas will be most critical to success in their niche. Will it be to become the most innovative, having the leading edge product to market before the competition, or to be the most responsive or to be the most value for the money spent etc? Sometimes these choices are somewhat contradictory. For instance if you are going to be the organization that provides the most value, stretching the consumer’s dollar, it can be difficult to be the most innovative, as innovation often carries a price tag as would concepts like being the highest quality or most responsive.
Companies that try to be all things end up having a confused Message that will hurt their performance, with changing directions and priorities the norm internally and customers seeing and experiencing inconsistencies. No one knows what the organization really stands for, including the organization.
Managers who are examining their employee survey results and require themselves to pick “The One Thing” are in essence defining what is important for their organization to stand for. What is the one thing that if done better than anyone else will enable the organization to succeed?
There is another aspect to “The One Thing” that is important and that is you can’t hide from it. When managers have picked 2-3 issues to tackle from their employee survey results they invariably go after “the low hanging fruit”, the easy fixes. While that is all well and good, sometimes after going after the fruit, they never quite get around to tacking the tough issues, the thorns higher up on the branch. Later on they can point to progress made in some areas, after all we got the low hangers, but the real challenges are still the real challenges, those thorns are still as sharp as ever. If managers pick “The One Thing”, when evaluating their progress they either did it or they did not, period.
The challenge is to pick “The One Thing” that has the potential for the greatest across the board impact, and that is where initial effort needs to focus. Which thing is the thread that if pulled will impact all the other threads that make up the organizational tapestry? Where do you concentrate? As you begin to think this through you rapidly come to the realization that picking “The One Thing” does not necessarily lead to any less work or effort to be expended in responding to survey results, it leads to a more focused, a more concentrated effort. In order to successfully accomplish “The One Thing” it is very likely that multiple other things need to be addressed as subtasks as well.
Should an organization pick one standard thing, driven from the top so that everyone is working the same issue or should local managers pick the one that is critical to them at their level? I believe that Sr. Managers should pick “The One Thing” that is critical at their level and they should champion it. They should be held responsible for getting it done and for driving it through the organization. Other managers within the organization should be picking their one thing, which is in support of the top level one thing, within their control, if the organization is to have a concentrated effort in responding to the survey results and actually make a difference on an identified critical dimension. I believe that there are some nuances that will come into play here depending on where an organization resides across the board on some issues, but in general that is the concept.
“The One Thing” can be scary. It is much easier to pick a whole host of issues, knowing that if you do a bit of everything you will likely touch on the ones that are really important to your organization, but you will touch on them in a lukewarm, less focused way. If you are looking for maximal organizational improvement impact “The One Thing”, while likely the most challenging, has the most potential to deliver.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com