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Enhancing Organizational Performance

Archive for November 21st, 2009

Sweet Dreams

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I want to build a shining city on a hill. Day-to-day sometimes you wonder what all this activity we engage in means, why are we here, what are we supposed to be accomplishing? Any rational thinking being will have thoughts like that at some point. I had a professor who once told me that neurotics build castles in the sky and psychotics live in them. Well I don’t think I am neurotic or psychotic, but I want to build, to create, a shining city on a hill. What do I mean by that? I would like to be part of creating an environment where people are excited about being part of something truly special. Where each and every member has opportunities excel and to develop to their fullest potential. Where they can not only contribute organizationally to the fullest extent they can and are not simply rewarded for their efforts but feel rewarded by their efforts. Where people feel like their efforts have an impact on benefiting humanity broadly. I want to build an organization where people can be intellectually stimulated to question and probe why things are done the way they are in the spirit of continual improvement not only for the organization but for those served by the organization as well. I want them and I guess by extension myself to feel like what we are doing really matters in the greater scheme of things. I want people to laugh to have joy at and in their work. Is this a general path to fulfillment or simply my own path? 

The other night we were traveling out of town for a family event. When we got to the hotel I was pretty exhausted by the long drive. We had dinner with some relatives and after that I was more or less ready to put my head on the pillow and get some shut eye. At the hotel our room had one king sized bed. So my wife and I along with my 8 year old decided to all just share one bed rather then opening the couch up. We all fell asleep rather quickly and after a few hours I was awakened by my daughter laughing in her sleep. I lay there listening to her laughter and realized that I would be very content to listen to her laugh, listen to her sweet dreams all night long. I was pretty sure I would be up in the morning feeling refreshed from that experience. Even now as I think of it, it brings a smile to my face.

Building an organization where people can laugh, where there is a joy to the work may be a critical aspect of organizational development that is often overlooked. There are however some advocates of laughter at work. For instance the Global Coaches Network on their website claims that:

  • laughter increases productivity
  • those who laugh out loud are more creative at problem solving than those who don’t
  • those who laugh have better memory retention than those who don’t
  • those who laugh have less stress, and miss less time from work than those who don’t
  • laughter is a major coping mechanism
  • those who laugh together may work more effectively together than those who don’t.

I don’t know if these statements are backed up by research but they certainly feel right. It reminds me of the old vaudeville joke. A man walks into the doctor’s office saying, “doctor, doctor it hurts when I do this” (picture man bending his arm) and of course the doctor’s response is “don’t do that”. Well when we laugh at work we are running into the doctor’s office saying “doctor, doctor I feel better when I laugh” and the response from the doctor (in this case I like to picture the doctor as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist) is “you should laugh more”.

I can’t imagine that I am alone in wishing for this sweet dream and I hope there are many of you out there who are interested in laughing some more and finding joy in and at our work.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 21, 2009 at 8:01 am

Powerful Words and Behavior

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How important are words? Do words have the power to shape our thinking or are they nothing more than a reflection of what our minds are already processing, giving substance to existing abstractions floating in our heads? That is the essence of a debate that has gone on now for more than 100 years. Think for a minute of the words we use to describe numbers, one, two, ten, fifty. Are we naturally inclined to develop words to describe numbers? Do the words themselves, the words that we have made up to signify quantities give us the ability to think both abstractly and concretely about numbers, or is the ability to think numerically built into the structure of our brain? Said another way, is the ability to think logically about quantities an inherent ability, independent of language, and the words we have developed simply an expression of that ability or do the words shape our ability to think in a numerical sense?  

There is a tribe from Brazil, the Pirahã, who have no word for the number one or any other exact quantity. This is apparently the first group ever studied that has no concept for the number one. A new study undertaken demonstrates that the Pirahã can still convey quantity somewhat but are essentially using words that mean few, some and more. Other researchers contend that the words they are using mean one, two and many. In either case in Pirahã society the need for being able to quantify things precisely and hence develop a language system that allows for that was not a cultural priority.  

As strange as you might find it, that there is a society without words for specific numbers, remember that the first evidence for the use of the concept of zero is from the Sumerians in Mesopotamia about 5000 years ago. From there it traveled to the Indus Valley, and was used in Hindu society. In the Indus Valley it was picked up by Arab merchants and became very important in their trade and spread throughout Arab society. The Greeks only occasionally used the concept and Romans had no concept of zero (for those of you who remember Roman numerals try writing zero). On the other side of the globe the Maya independently invented their own version of zero. The concept of zero slowly migrated around the world and did not make it into European society until the late middle ages, as Europe was stubbornly holding on to the use of the Roman traditional counting system rather than adopting new methods. So while we take zero for granted today, it is a relatively new concept for western culture.   

Do words shape our thinking? One urban legend states that Eskimos who live in snowy places, and hence deal with snow more regularly than most of us have developed many more words than exist in English to describe types of snow. That is apparently not true. First off Eskimos are not a unitary people and of the many groups that consist of Eskimos, many different languages exist. Second the language structure of these groups is different, allowing for combinations that do not exist in English, making comparison between the numbers of words that exist to describe snow very difficult. They may or may not have a few more words than in English to describe snow but it is certainly not hundreds as the urban legend claims.  

There are words that have been consistently used to reinforce messages of hatred, words that need no repetition here. Those words tend to be used over and over to denigrate others within societies around the world. Does the constant use of words of hatred reinforce the pattern of biased and bigoted thinking within the minds of those who use them or are they simply an expression of what is already there? Clearly some believe that words of hatred create beliefs and behaviors of hate, as there are school children in various locations who are learning the vocabulary of hatred and to hate as part of their daily lessons. But what then happens to these children later on? Can they ever put the hatred aside once it becomes part of what they are, part of their essence? The future for the majority of children who grow up on hatred looks very bleak and greatly saddens me.

There is a raging debate going on about the vocabulary of rap music. Words that denigrate are built into the lyrics of certain performers. These words perpetuate negative stereotypes but are rationalized as somehow being ok since they are coming from within a community. I can’t agree with this at all. I strongly believe in first amendment rights but people should be aware of what they are doing and the implications of the choices they make. Words of hate will have hateful results – regardless of the source. Just as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is not protected speech, yelling out hate filled words for mass distribution should not be protected speech as well.

Stringing together words of hatred into sentences can produce what some would call jokes. Jokes made at the expense of others, jokes that denigrate others for being different or being perceived as a threat to those giving word to those statements of hatred, hatred couched in supposedly humorous terms.  

Each organization also has a vocabulary, words that they use in their day-to-day operations. (I am not talking about acronyms.) How important are the words that get used in our organizations? They can be no less important than the impact that words have in our everyday lives and in our shared histories. Developing unique organizational vocabularies that allows for both abstract reasoning and concrete discussions on the issues critical to the organization’s success may give an organization a competitive edge. Unique vocabularies, ways of expression may allow the organization to consider concepts and ways of working that competitors are unable to replicate. Words are important, they have power and they have impact and they should be used with care. People when speaking for themselves need to choose their words with care. People when speaking on behalf of organizations need to choose their words with care as well.

© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 21, 2009 at 7:56 am

Measuring what you are Managing – Part 1

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There are times when rigorous measurement of programs, processes or choices can greatly aid in the decision making process and surveys can be used in that evaluation. For instance, in organizations when the amount of resources that can be brought to bear are limited and difficult decisions need to be made about the deployment of those resources, a measurement process that gives insight into the expected benefits of action A vs. action B can be especially helpful. Consider the following situations:

  • A school system wants to know if the investment it is making in advanced teacher training is improving educational attainment among its students;
  • The GAO wants to know if efforts in information dissemination by government agencies can be documented as furthering government agency goals;
  • A corporation wants to know if changes made in a reorganization are achieving the desired impact in terms of increasing organizational effectiveness and customer satisfaction;
  • A zoo wants to know if it should proceed with increasing elementary school outreach by investing in an animal travel program, developing an on-site hands-on children’s zoo, or investing in bringing in more exotic animals and building new exhibition space in order to maximize attendance;
  • A retailer wants to know if it should invest in more physical retail locations, beef up its website or send out additional catalogs with its limited budget dollars;
  • A benefits departments wants to know how the company’s redesigned benefits package is being perceived by employees and how well the execution of the benefits program is being conducted by the new outsourced provider;
  • A refiner wants to know if it should invest in a new Greenfield plant (a tangible asset) or if there would be greater ROI if it invested the equivalent dollars in additional training for all of its workers that would be expected to increase efficiency and throughput in its existing manufacturing assets (an intangible asset);
  • A sales department wants to measure its sales funnel of potential deals, to determine if its marketing and sales efforts are having the payback it desires and to predict future sales volumes for the organization.

All of these decisions or potential decisions can be enhanced by an effective effort aimed at program evaluation. Clearly having effective measures is invaluable to those trying to manage these kinds of decisions. Where to invest, how much to invest, when to invest are critical decisions and managers would be well served to seek out systematic measures to enhance their judgment. The American Evaluation Association defines evaluation as “assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, products, and organizations to improve their effectiveness.” While organizations vary in their efforts at program evaluation one interesting statistic comes from NASA-Goddard which has determined that for them between 7% and 9% of a total program’s budget should be spent on evaluation, and a recent Air Force initiative devoted 15% of the project budget to a rigorous evaluation of whether their new inventory control system was working as planned. Program evaluation though has been around long enough and has been practiced by a wide enough variety of people that not only have myths sprung up about program evaluation but other documents that attempt to debunk the myths of program evaluation are also in existence.

Traditionally when organizations have thought of program, policy or initiative evaluation what springs to mind is a list somewhat like the following as areas to be evaluated:

  1. Perception of Benefits –medical, life, dental, disability, wellness, stock options, matching contribution to retirement, vacation, maternity policy
  2. Views of Pay & Bonuses
  3. Health Safety and Environment (HSE) Emphasis and Policy,
  4. Effectiveness of Diversity Programs,
  5. Work Life Balance Initiatives,
  6. Psychological Recognition Efforts,
  7. Development & Training Opportunities,
  8. Advancement Systems,
  9. Physical Conditions,
  10. 10.  Job Security.

One of my goals is to broaden out that traditional definition to include a broader array of various types of programs, policies and initiatives that an organization may undertake and would benefit from a rigorous evaluation methodology.

Many program evaluations have been sneered at as wasteful efforts due to poor evaluation methodologies being applied, but another factor that creates the typical cynicism is that whether a program gets continued funding may be somewhat contingent on issues outside of the effectiveness or the evaluation of the program. Common problems facing program evaluation consist of unclear program goals (so how do you know if you have accomplished the goal?), difficulty in collecting data, a lack of cooperation among those responsible for implementation (those whose plates are already full) and the politics of and vested interests surrounding various programs.  Yet with a methodical approach insights can in fact be gained without too much pain into whether the program is having the hoped for impact.

Program evaluation can take place within a specific window in time or it can be an ongoing activity. For instance, an organization might implement a phased-in approach to a new program, or a new product/service etc. and decide that after 6 months the program will be evaluated to determine its impact, and whether funding should be continued at the current level, increased or diminished. If there is a positive finding to the evaluation effort, the program would be rolled out to the rest of the organization. Other organizations may not use a phased in approach and may simply have two or more programs being performed simultaneously in the organization and then conclude possibly, that it cannot afford all of them, so which ones are benefiting the organization more? An evaluation might be done once, at a single point in time to help to make that decision. Other organizations might decide that long-duration type programs, ongoing efforts, need to be constantly or periodically monitored to ensure that they are still delivering the desired for outcomes or that processes associated with them are not deteriorating in their effectiveness.

Surveys can be used for both single points in time and on-going long duration reviews as well as to measure program processes, content, and outcomes and there are appropriate uses to all in program evaluation.  Some of the questions that program evaluation efforts can be used to answer include:

Process

  • Is the program being carried out well, and how can it be improved?
  • How can you measure the impact of various programs on organizational processes?

Content

  • Are the people targeted by the program understanding, retaining and actually utilizing the content being provided?
  • Is the content covering all critical areas?

Outcomes

  • Will the program have an impact on organization effectiveness, increasing the organizations ability to perform?
  • Which programs are the most cost effective, providing the biggest bang for the buck?
  • How can I measure the return on investment (ROI) of various programs?

© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 21, 2009 at 7:50 am

Hanging by a Thread

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I am sure you have seen one of these, the little desk toy that has a series of steel balls in a straight line, suspended from nylon strings in a small frame. You pull the ball at one end away from the others, and then let it go. It smacks against the next steel ball in the series, which doesn’t appear to move, but the ball at the opposite end bounces away, at least as far as it’s string will let it, only to swing back and cause the original ball to bounce away from the others and so on until the little gizmo runs out of energy and the balls at each end swing slowly to a halt, waiting for you to re-energize it by pulling up on a ball at one end again and letting it go.

I was at a lecture where the ball which you originally pull up on was called the independent variable, when manipulated it has the potential to cause change. The ball at the other end of the contraption is described as the dependent variable, or outcome variable, an item that is affected by the change in the independent variable. While the lecture itself was extremely good and thought provoking, I could not stop myself from thinking about those balls in the middle of the contraption, those balls that do not appear to move but simply sit there hanging by a thread. The reality of course is that the balls in the middle, which do not appear to do anything, conduct energy through them to the ball at the end, which because it is at the end has the freedom to swing away from the other balls when it receives that energy load rather than being trapped by balls on either side.

In the experiments that were being presented in this lecture, there were causes or independent variables being described called Means Efficacy, which in my lingo is the Confidence that someone has about the equipment and resources given to them to accomplish their task. Not their actual ability to perform the task objectively measured, but their Confidence that they have the best equipment, resources etc. available to perform the task. The findings, in experiment after experiment, was that given equal starting positions, those with the most Confidence in their Means, meaning equipment, resources, etc. will outperform those in an identical task, with equal Means objectively, but with less Confidence about those Means from a subjective perspective. Apparently being Confident about your Means leads to higher performance, even against others who have identical Means but lack only in Confidence about those Means.

Means Efficacy has been developed by Dov Eden, a distinguished I/O Psychology professor from Tel Aviv University. This concept needs to be distinguished from Albert Bandura’s notion of Self Efficacy, which has to do with your belief in yourself and in your own internal abilities, which has a very long track record and has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Means Efficacy is not the belief in yourself, but rather belief in external variables, your equipment and the resources being made available to you. He also distinguished the concept from Situational Efficacy, which is not about the equipment and resources but about your belief that the Situation in which you find yourself will somehow affect your performance. One example given was the home field advantage of a sports team.

Back to the balls in the middle. In a two ball set-up the same concept will work, but of course would not be as interesting and would not convey the energy over the same distance as the contraption with multiple balls in a line. But what got to me is that the experiments presented cause and effect without measuring the why. Maybe the why is not important, it probably was not for the purposes of proving the concept, but I get the feeling that the why will be very important as we deal with real world challenges.

For instance in one experiment young children, playing a version of Chinese checkers, were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the one condition you appeared to have a superior starting position on the board, even though it could mathematically be shown to be the same at the other starting position randomly assigned. Those children assigned to the identically strong but weaker appearing starting position more frequently lost the game. Cause and Effect. But Why? What did the children with the better appearing starting position do differently that caused them win more frequently? Did they strategize more? Did the play more aggressively or take fewer or more risks? We don’t know. If we were to know what the “winning” combination was, we then could develop a strategy that could be taken to those who feel that they are in weaker starting positions and say to them, “look, you may feel that you are in a weaker position, but here is a strategy that can help you succeed”. We could help those that feel disadvantaged, or disillusioned, or have been labeled by current testing or selection procedures as “less likely”, those who may also feel like they are hanging by a thread.

The notion of what is being measured or not measured reminded me of a piece I wrote a year or so ago about a Manhattanite who wanted to live forever. Just in case you have not seen it, here it is again.        

There is an old story that goes something like this about a very rich man, let’s say he lived in Manhattan, who had everything he wanted out of life except for one thing – he wanted to live forever. He struggled mightily with trying to figure out how he could accomplish that goal. Finally he came to the realization that he needed the assistance of others if he was to accomplish that goal. He thought about consulting some I/O Psychologists he knew, or going to see his doctor, but he finally settled on the smartest people that he knew, the New York council of elders.  He went to the council of elders and he said, “I am a very rich man and I want to live forever. If you can tell me how I can accomplish that I will give the city ½ of my wealth.”

Well to the council of elders in the perpetually cash strapped city this was an offer that they just could not refuse. So they decided that they should figure out a way for this rich fellow to live forever. After much deliberation, the demographer in the group said, “I have been studying my charts and tables, and I have found that as far back as records have been kept, that no rich man has ever died in the South Bronx. So if the rich man were to move to the South Bronx he could live forever.” Well the elders were astonished. They decided to study the charts for themselves and they too came to the conclusion that no rich man according to their records has ever died in the impoverished South Bronx.

They went to the rich man and said, “We have found a way in which a rich man can live forever”. They explained to him that he needed to move to the South Bronx and asked for their money. Well, the rich man not being a fool said to them, “I will give you half the money now and half when I have proof that I will live forever in the South Bronx”. The elders protested and said that they had found the answer that the rich man was looking for, but there was little they could do as the rich man was very shrewd.

The rich man moved his family and all his possessions to the South Bronx and in due course he passed away, the city never got the second half of his wealth.

Morale of the Story: You can conclude anything you want based on your point of view and depending on how you are measuring it or not measuring it as the case may be, or you can’t live forever in the South Bronx, only in Hoboken.   

When we measure organizational performance, while not as obvious as in the above story, sometimes conclusions are based on what is not being measured as much as what is being measured and that can clearly lead to erroneous outcomes.

And, when we are measuring cause and effect, while the evidence of what causes the effect may be incontrovertible, sometimes understanding why that cause leads to a certain effect can be very beneficial when dealing with real world issues. Saying that, the evidence seemed very strong that a winning combination in maximizing employee performance would be to create conditions whereby the employees felt:

  1. A strong sense of Self-Efficacy – internally generating a strong sense of “I have the ability and am confident that I can accomplish this task”
  2. A strong sense of Means Efficacy – “I have been given the best equipment and needed resources to enable me to accomplish the task”
  3. A strong sense of Situational Efficacy – “I am starting this work in a position of strength; I have been dealt a winning hand and will succeed at this task”.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 21, 2009 at 7:45 am

Creating Confidence & The Long Island Murder

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On Long Island, in a neighborhood not all that far from NYC, there was a murder this month. In fact it was not so much of a murder as it was an old style lynching carried out by those with a mob mentality, a gang of high school boys who took sport in torturing their fellow human beings, viewing it as a pleasurable activity. They routinely hunted Latinos, shooting them with BB guns, jumping them and punching them as they drove around. This time, their sport led to the fatal stabbing and the death of an Ecuadorian immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, simply because he was Latino and easy prey. NYC that bastion of liberalism, where we are supposed to be more tolerant of people’s differences, where we take pride in our live-and-let-live attitude regarding how people live their lives, how could something like this happen here? It could happen anywhere. But that is not an excuse as much as it is a warning. As terrible as that crime was, another crime is now being committed and that crime is a failure of leadership in a time of crisis.    

Nothing tests leadership more than crisis. Crisis represents an opportunity for leadership to shine or for it to fail miserably. Sometimes, but not always, leaders can simply muddle through, surviving the crisis simply because the severity of the issues lessen and not because of any direct actions they take. Suffolk County, where this crime took place, is run by a form of government that has a country executive, Steve Levy. Mr. Levy is of the opinion that the blame for the crime rests partly with the family, friends and acquaintances of the gang members for allowing them to pursue their sport. For him, blame rests with others and not with those in authority. But what created the atmosphere whereby this pastime was viewed as an acceptable sport?  Mr. Levy has a record of immigration enforcement, and in fact tried to use the local police to enforce federal immigration laws. The effect on the immigrants both legal and illegal was to turn them into victims with no options of redress. They could not go to the police, for they would immediately be suspected of being criminals themselves. They became victims without a voice. The evidence for this is clear, as now that the murder has been committed, a tidal wave of unreported crimes against the immigrant community is now being reported.

That along with other policies gave the gang a green light and set the stage for a lack of confidence within the immigrant community that officials would be there to protect rather than harm. It made officials including the police force assume roles similar to those that officials and police took as Europe lurched toward WWII, herding up the “undesirables”. In that kind of environment everyone is guilty rather than innocent and with unnecessary mass edicts, induced fear is the order of the day. Suffolk County under the leadership of Mr. Levy has an opportunity to break with the past and to create confidence in the system from the perspective of community members, create confidence in leadership, and create confidence that the future will be better than the past. How might they go about this?      

John F. Kennedy in a cold war speech in Berlin proclaimed, “…All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’” Kennedy’s proclamation, “I am a Berliner” demonstrated his solidarity and empathy with the people of Berlin who were being isolated by the Soviet blockade of the city. His speech was aimed at both the Soviets to demonstrate his resolve but also at the citizens of Berlin to increase their confidence that they would not simply be left to their own devices, but rather that we all stood together with them. But words are words, and action is action, Kennedy followed up his words with concrete actions that demonstrated to the people of Berlin that he meant what he said and that the confidence that he asked them to have was justified. Latinos who are hunted for sport in Suffolk County, New York? What is wrong with us? What is wrong with the system that we have let evolve to the point where such a thing could happen? Is it not too much to ask all of us to join with the Latino community and proclaim “Soy un Latino”? But now we need to follow up those words with deeds. The confidence of the Latino community and of every other minority community in Suffolk County has been shredded. How can it be put back together?

(There is an urban legend that says that due to a coincidence of terms, that Kennedy when addressing the crowd in Berlin actually said, “I am a jelly donut”, as a Berliner was the name of a popular breakfast pastry. Upon verification and with some closer inspection, given the context, this does not seem accurate, but rather some in the media at the time simply having fun with a play on words. Even in the face of extreme anxiety and worry over the Soviet blockade there was humor.)

Creating Confidence, is a process that looks at how entities and individuals, (e.g. public, private, governmental, community, NGO’s, teachers, physicians, etc.) can create confidence within the populations with which they interact. Creating Confidence also provides a framework whereby crises of confidence can be addressed and remedied. Creating Confidence is strongly linked to the notions regarding how to increase the perception that individuals have regarding their efficacy, doing away with responses that arise from a learned helplessness response and increasing feelings of empowerment, and an internal locus of control among people. Creating Confidence requires change at both the institutional level, creating well regarded processes and products that are aligned with stated intentions and those that are aligned with the issues of the day, and change at the personal level, creating a sense of ability on the part of the individual to be able to deal with the situation and an avenue for redress should the existing system be felt to be inadequate.

On a generic level, the Creating Confidence framework:

 

Internal External
Institutional/Organizational Improving internal processes and procedures, building a track record of success, having checks and balances in place, being well-run and effective Reflecting current issues and needs, being seen in a  positive frame, having products and/or services that are needed/helpful, being better than the alternatives
Personal Enabling individuals to thrive and prosper within the system/institution/organization, educating them on how to use the available resources, providing enabling structure and processes, creating a sense of fairness and equality   Providing alternative pathways, should institution/system path be seen as failing, an ombudsman or escalation process, transparency to the individual but also to the larger public enabling media and watchdog scrutiny

The impact of Creating Confidence is enhanced by thinking of what actions should be taken within this structured framework. In the case of the county executive, confidence can be thought of as having 2 dimensions, an institutional or systemic dimension and a personal dimension, each of those having an internal and external component.

 Issues to be addressed potentially within Suffolk County within this framework include:    

Organizational Internal – eliminate bureaucracy, do away with any non-responsive legacy systems, create an empathetic system one that does away with as much of the power inequality between the groups as possibly, ensure that disciplinary actions are taken on staff who violate agreed upon standards and regulation, create a well-run efficient system and establish a track record of fairness, proper treatment and protection for all community members. Leaders must demonstrate:

  • Competence – being clear about the mission of the organization, setting direction, being seen as a leader, being viewed as competent and completing what needs to be done
  • Compassion – an empathic response, displaying a genuine concern for people and what they are going through
  • Collaboration – seeking and obtaining the cooperation of all relevant parties in order to help each other and the organization, this is enabled by equalizing power relationships between the groups
  • Communication – disseminating relevant and accurate information, even if it means admitting that some things are unknown, you cannot over-communicate
  • Contribution Recognition – giving credit to those who help, sacrifice and contribute

(The 5 C’s first appeared in Saltzman, Reichman and Hyland, Leading the Organization in Times of Catastrophe, October, 2001)

Organizational External – assure that they processes and procedures in place are reflective of the current challenges facing the community, involve the community, make them part of the solution, listen.

Personal Internal – educate people on how the system works and how to make use of the normal administrative processes within the system, establish strong communications with the individuals within the community, and explain how the system will operate in a fair and equitable manner at the individual level.

Personal External – create alternatives for the individual, an escalation or ombudsman process, outside of the normal channels for use when people feel that the system is failing them.

Case Study: If you examine the arguments being made on how to fix the current economic crisis in a speech made by Barak Obama, the following pattern emerges:

Premise: “The economic crisis we face is the worst since the Great Depression… …millions of Americans will open up their 401(k) statements this week and see that so much of their hard-earned savings have disappeared.  …The credit crisis has left businesses large and small unable to get loans, which means they can’t buy new equipment, or hire new workers, or even make payroll for the workers they have…760,000 workers have lost their jobs this year…”

Obama Speech on Fixing the Economy Internal External
Institutional/Organizational “…it will take a new direction. It will take new leadership in Washington. It will take a real change in the policies and politics of the last eight years.”

 

“..I realize you’re cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you’re disappointed and even angry with your leaders.”

 

“We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle-class and we need to do it now. Today I’m proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners.”

“We’re still home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest ideas in history have come from our small businesses and our research facilities.”

 

“…create the jobs of tomorrow by unlocking the drive, and ingenuity, and innovation of the American people.”

 

“…America needs to end our dependence on foreign oil.”

Personal “…We’ll ensure every child can compete in the global economy by recruiting an army of new teachers and making college affordable for anyone who wants to go.”

 

“…extend and expand unemployment benefits to those Americans who have lost their jobs and are having a harder time finding new ones in this weak economy.”

“We’ll create five million new, high-wage jobs by investing in the renewable sources of energy that will eliminate the oil we currently import from the Middle East in ten years, and we’ll create two million jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads, schools and bridges.”

Obama’s Conclusion: “…We can do this if we come together, if we have confidence in ourselves and each other, if we look beyond the darkness of the day to the bright light of hope that lies ahead…”

While I did not sort the whole speech due to space limitations, you can certainly see that he covered the Creating Confidence bases.

Confidence can be created or restored, by working through in a systematic fashion and addressing those issues that created the crisis of confidence. Leadership has a critical role to play in this respect for they are the ones who are supposed to have their gaze to the horizon, seeing issues and challenges before the boat of confidence hits the shoals. Institutions and organizations in general can thrive or fail depending on the confidence levels that their citizens, customers, investors, employees, suppliers, members and others have in their ability to provide and the perception of the need for the services or products for which they came into existence.

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