Author Archive for Patti Blackstaffe

Why People’s Experience Matters

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The point in the image to the left is clear about human experience:

What you design for people, and the experience they prefer are often two separate things. 

In change management, this is significant, because when change rolls out to the organization, utilization is driven by experiential use – and ‘people experience’ will always be chosen before an isolated design will.

Design thinking is sexy, it is pretty, and it is important, but it falls short when the experience for the stakeholders is dismissed or forgotten in the change plans.

Experiential Design requires a high level of engagement.

Unfortunately, ‘human experiential design’ is viewed as counter to the task at hand by most technical teams, they see the big job as rolling out technology and they focus on the push, and not a handshake.

Not great when you are standing on the cliffs of change.

If you want a change management plan to work, then you must understand the users’ current experience, how they will experience the change, and work with them to develop a new experience; one that will change behaviour, drive the business objectives for that technology, and one that people can get behind.

There is nothing worse for a company than to spend millions on the change only to have users adopt none of the features that drove the need for change in the first place. Worse yet, choose to side-step the change all together!

Have you built a Journey Map?

Are you shaping your projects as ‘hospitable’ for the people being asked to change?

Drop us a line and let us know what you think!

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Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.

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What you tolerate, you propagate!

Shocked Behavour

They did what??

Much has been said in magazines, articles, blogs, and on social media regarding Silicon Valley’s recent gender issues. With the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and the recent resignation of Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure from 500 Startups, we believe there are ways to stop your company from moving down the same path.

The two good-old-boys above resigned because of a media storm that occurred when they were ‘found out’ not because the behaviour was dealt with internally. Only after large public descriptions of their activities hit the media were their respective organizations compelled to take action. We are proud of the women who have taken a stand to highlight the issues, yet the internal workings of the companies continued to display long-held misogyny and hubris that went mostly unchecked regardless of the fact they knew it was happening.

We have some advice for organizations who are worried about ensuring more equanimity between the genders and who are trying to figure out how to salvage their own organization before they, too, become headline news. We’ll start with the title of this post, a saying we repeat in all of our transformation work.

What you tolerate, you propagate

This means that every time you let even one individual get away with illicit, illegal, immoral, harassing, bullying, or unethical behaviour, you are saying you “tolerate” that behaviour. If your organization tolerates it once, then it will tolerate it again, and in-action on these issues is what truly creates your culture. When it is tolerated by the senior leadership, well, you have just paved the road to a slow but sure demise.

If a company wishes to change its culture, it must first make a clear decision on what they are willing to tolerate, then be very transparent about the consequences for what they will NOT tolerate. Here are a few thoughts about transforming a culture and standing firm on gender issues, bullying, sexual harassment, poor conduct, or other ‘bad person’ issues that companies will face from time-to-time.

“We are….”

Decide who you are as an organization by creating your “we are…” statements, here are a few examples:

  1. We are an equal opportunity culture that champions equality and diversity.
  2. We are a culture of respect in the workplace and we believe in honest and transparent business conduct.
  3. We are a culture that champions merit and compensates hard work of all individuals.

“We Do Not Tolerate”

Identify the type of behaviour you wish to curb by being very transparent about what you will not tolerate, here are a few examples:

  1. Harassment in any form will not be tolerated. (Then give clear examples of what harassment looks like)
  2. We do not tolerate the undermining of individual merit based on race, color, ethnic, cultural, community or national origin, religion, sexual orientation/identity, family or marital status, gender, disability or age.
  3. We do not tolerate illicit, illegal, immoral, unethical business conduct. (Then give a few clear examples)

Consequences

It is important to have processes and guidelines in place for how your organization will apply consequences for the actions and behaviours you say you will NOT tolerate. The processes must be in line with your State or Provincial Labour Standards, and they must be followed fairly, no matter who the individual is who ‘crossed’ the line.

Once you are familiar and clearly understand the legal State or Provincial standards and how to meet them, then you must define the manner in which your organization will roll out those standards in addressing the actions you wish to change.

Caution

Employees WANT to trust the company they work for. If for any reason one or two people in the organization are let to get away with behaviour not tolerated of others, you will have created a significant trust issue. Employees want to know they have somewhere they can go and still be protected from retribution if they report wrong-doing. Sadly, many organizations tend to sweep poor conduct and behaviour under the rug rather than deal with it head-on. This puts the whole company at risk, and that company can wind up in the same situation as Uber or 500 Startups.

The Good News

There are many companies who follow good practices with regard to respect in the workplace. Activities that have been transforming for some of the ones we have worked with are below:

  • They have mandatory training on their “Respect in the Workplace” program.
  • They follow the same process and subsequent consequences for investigating complaints regardless of the title or status of the individuals involved.
  • Managers are provided information to better understand what harassment, inequality, or disrespect look like.
  • They put an investigator in charge who is neutral to the individuals involved, some use an outside service.
  • They provide employees with an anonymous “whistle-blower” process or tool that protects complainants.
  • They are clear and transparent throughout the organization on what are and are not tolerated behaviours and actions.

Great companies can and do exist, with some of the tips above, we simply need to follow their lead and begin shaping the culture we really want, not the one that has simply evolved because we were too uncomfortable to deal with the issues.

Are you new to our blog? We'd love to have you stay, sign up for our newsletter HERE.

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Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.

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2 stages missed in your change management story

In Project management, just like a great story, there are three main stages.

  • Start (setting, characters, goal) PMI – initiating
  • Do (plot and climax) PMI – planning, executing, monitor & control
  • Finish (discovery, how the hero is changed) PMI – Closing

Many companies see change management as a “doing” activity, where you bring a change management resource (OCM lead) in at the execution phase of the project. The OCM lead is then asked to “smooth things over” or “make it nice” for the people.

Typically, this means – plan the training and communications at the lowest cost possible to the project. Likely, the project wasn’t resourced to include a fully baked change program, to begin with. All good stories are about the people.

I could list a hundred reasons for the fallacy around this thinking and why OCM needs to be included from Start to Finish, (or as we like to call it, Readiness to Sustainability) but I will only list a couple here:

  1. It is not about the technology, it is about how the technology is utilized, used, and being implemented to create efficiency and productivity. That is all about the people.
  2. The technology does not install itself, a team of people does, the integration efforts are also about people. OCM applies to the group making the changes as much as it does to the end-users being implemented.
  3. People are messy. They come with different viewpoints, challenges, aspirations, desires, experiences, and talents, then you throw them into a room to make the change and you choose not to manage that dynamic from the human side and stand firm it is only a technical exercise.

By the time your project is in execution mode, or just prior to execution, it is too late to start the OCM story, so the OCM lead is forced to do what they can with the little they have to work with. This costs the company in many areas:

  • The time to build awareness and pre-training has been lost.
  • Team engagement does not occur, increasing risk and resistance.
  • Gaps in knowledge and understanding for isolated project streams.
  • Minimal training opportunities, leading to poorly utilized software solutions.
  • Limits the communications to emails that are likely ignored.
  • Drop in user efficiency and proficiency.
  • Poor hand-over to final owners of the solution.

I could go on, but those are key to the success of a project. One might argue that the people will make their way through it so why add dollars to the cost of your project?

Because you can spend the money in resources during the project, or you can spend much more AFTER the project closes in support and productivity loss.

Having a people change strategy with an OCM who partners with the Project Manager from readiness to sustainability will save you money. Maybe not in the project budget itself, but it definitely will through sustainability.

An OCM lead should be there through the whole story to:

  • Help develop the desired state (what is the goal?)
  • Build the vision and benefits (visualize the goal and why it is important)
  • Better understand the stakeholders (build out character understanding and how changes impact their lives)
  • Properly build the awareness plan long before execution (know the plot and what the characters will do about it)
  • Keep the technical streams engaged and fully aware of their actions on impact events. (technical solutions people are not always aware that even small changes are impacts.)
  • Gain agreement from stakeholders about the roll-out of the solution (all protagonists need supportive actors)
  • Empower the support team through the development of DIY troubleshooting collateral (discovery of a new normal)
  • Develop hand-over packages that provide a clear understanding of how people will do things differently from now on. (conclusion)

Every OCM has the potential to transform how you make change happen if they are brought in and are given the ability to positively impact the success of your projects. They are crafters of a new story, writers of a new direction and will save you dollars in the long run. Not to mention, they will contribute to the ROI of this technical investment you have made.

One way to determine if your company is flexible enough to be ready to change is to better understand the company’s change maturity level. Prosci has an easy chart to determine this:

At which project stage does your company bring in Change Management resources?

Linkedin Articles on Change:

Project Engagement Can Drive Action

Outside Observations of a Project Failure

Your Grand Investment and Why it Fails

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When employees care – office politics

Change Mangement is all about people strategy, from sponsor to front lines. Because of this, we get to meet many caring people who want nothing more than to do a great job and help the team find success.

One piece of advice for senior management teams and sponsors is to allow us to help you identify these people because regardless of scope, budget, or schedule, they are the ones who will make a difference for your projects.

There are many different reasons people walk into your company’s door and why they stay and do their job. Some of them are passionate about the work, some want to expand their career, some are motivated by salary or path, and for some, it doesn’t matter where they land so long as they are able to do what they do best, and with great quality.

The employee that truly cares about the people, the work, the outcome – these people will make a difference to leaders and their organizations. You, as a leader, need to know who they are and let them do it. Why? Because they will make you and your project shine!

Office politics exist in every company or organization where people are gathered to get a job done. Senior managers who focus on their own motivation or agenda and fail to see those who truly care are actually doing themselves a disservice. Their KPI’s (key performance indicators) are definitely important, but if meeting those KPIs are at the cost of the growth and quality of the work, success will come slower.

BUT, leaders still have a silver bullet – and it lives with the people who care. True leaders know that even though they have to meet specific criteria set forth by the people above them, that it’s the people reporting to them who make them successful. And this kind of success happens when the leader’s agenda doesn’t get in the way! Tricky work, but worth the effort in the long run.

Why don’t some leaders do this?

  • Some feel threatened by people who outshine them.
  • Some are so driven to meet their agenda, they barely notice the people.
  • Some just aren’t good at seeing anything other than their own needs/wants.
  • Many assume everyone else is motivated by the same things they are.

If you are in management, think about your agenda and find the people who care, then let them use their strengths.

If you are an employee and caring about your work is perceived as a threat, consider where your strengths can be applied. Begin your plan to find a leadership team that wants you to contribute to their success. Find a leader whose agenda doesn’t stop you from being a terrific employee contributor.

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Outside observations of a project failure

Redwoods credit: PBlackstaffe

This article was first published as a LinkedIn post; March 19, 2017

update April 5, 2017 – Link: (Executives in department overseeing Phoenix pay system took home $4.8M in performance pay. It would be my suggestion that a full review of how projects are rolled out, from supplier evaluation, project management practices, change management, sustainability, and project governance are performed at all levels. Are there ‘best practices’ being performed?)

Maclean’s Magazine wrote an article in January about the Canadian Government Phoenix Pay System that has been plagued with issues, exceptions and poor results. The impacted numbers are mentioned in the article, a remarkable 82,000 payroll cases brought forward last summer with approximately 8000 remaining cases as of this January. Bear with me as I break down my thoughts on a section of the article about the project, and yes, it does relate to change management because I believe change management has a bigger role to play in projects.

A quote in that article caught my eye and gave me pause…

“In projects like this, especially with an organization like ours, when you have the equivalent of 100 companies implementing a system … there’s going to be … multiple points of failure,” said Marie Lemay

The quote left me uncomfortable for two reasons:

  1. it seemed to justify an expectation of multiple points of failure
  2. with 100 companies implementing, I wonder about fragmented deliverables and project stream silos.

Multiple Points of Failure

In large, complex and technology dense environments, collaboration is a key element to understanding the impacts of a technical roll-out. I don’t have the inside scoop on why 100 companies were integrating or what went wrong with the project, but I can surmise a few points.

First, let me note that if this implementation was a critical infrastructure with human safety at its core, the due diligence would be such that NO point of failure would be acceptable, period.

With large impact and complexity, a person in charge must have the courage to ‘own’ when a project is under-resourced, too fragmented, or the impact has not been fully tested or analyzed. That courage has to come from someone who is more concerned about final results and quality than budget, scope, and schedule (even if their role is on the line). With something that big, RESULTS matter. Budget, scope, and schedule become minuscule when, at the support end of the project, costs to fix the system rise astronomically. This project reached a critical failure for poorly managing a project to sustainability (likely in multiple areas). Add to that the PR nightmare and the pain it has caused hard-working employees, the realization is that technology is never about technology, but rather, the use and impact it has on people. In something this far reaching, expecting points of failure should never be an expectation! Mitigating risks should be.

Fragmented Deliverables – ‘it’s not your scope’

Anytime you have multiple streams of development occurring on a large, complex project, there is a great deal of work to be done to ensure collaboration. I won’t say it is easy, but I will say it is necessary. Whenever project or development teams on a large project are divided into separate streams, and they do not have a history of on-going collaboration, you increase the risk for points of failure. But to expect it rather than pull together work-stream fragmentation is a recipe for disaster. In the case of 100 companies with separate scope and deliverables, this fragmentation needed to be managed very carefully and dollars spent on coordination.

Collaboration efforts are important for identifying gaps. How, you might ask? Well, when tech teams are buried in their work as specialists and subject matter experts, they can lose sight of the forest and get stuck in the trees they know best. Someone neutral or from a different specialty or competency can often see the gaps far better than specialists can see from the inside. But, teams must be open to letting them in.

Collaboration does not happen magically, it needs help and nurturing.

Organizational Change Management for the Project Team?

The two points above line up very well with the most common areas of concern we see in failed complex technical projects.

  1. Failing to mitigate ALL risks and impacts for both the technology and the people impacted.
  2. Fragmented development where the project team is split into separate subject matter areas focusing on deliverables in a separate stream and who are infrequently brought together to collaborate in rich action-oriented sessions.

In the case of one of my clients, there was continual resistance that the technical team gave me – they considered it “butting in” when change management for project workflow was recommended. They wanted to know why I was being included in all technical meetings and decisions. In a recent conversation with a member of that technical team, I was told that because of my insistence we broke through silos and collaborated better as a team, and the project was successful as a result. He said he is now sold on the concept because he has seen it work. Why?

Because change mangement is about ‘people strategy’ and project teams are made up of people, too!

Managing change isn’t just an exercise you toss in at the end of a project to ‘make it nice for the end users’. Change management is a highly researched and well-developed competency that involves many activities to mitigate risk and realize success in adoption and sustainability. When a good change management person, who understands technology and development, is included throughout the entire project, they bring strategies and tactics with them that facilitate team cooperation and collaboration.

So in the case of the Phoenix Pay System, I wonder what kind of change management was supported, resourced and applied to the implementation of the technology, but moreover, what kind of support was there for a change management team to help mitigate the risks during the project itself?

Organizations have to stop seeing change management as a ‘soft skill’ afterthought that gets applied only to build out a communication and training plan at the end-user stage.

It is high-time that companies realize project managers and change management leads work best as equal partners to provide a rich and well-delivered technical project. The more highly complex and technically dense, the more important it is that a technology/human combined solution is supported at the senior sponsor level.

Focus on collaboration and quality requires the same amount of attention that budget, scope, and schedule do. After all, successful projects are successful when they positively impact people, that is what results are all about. Organizations need to pay attention to critical systems such as this and put dollars into the human side of change when resourcing and do so at the beginning of the project.

The quote gave me pause and made me think, perhaps it’s time we look at a different way of managing projects, especially when they are as complex as the Phoenix Pay System. Deep dives into impact analysis and the benefits of using a full change team partnering with the technical team may have made a difference here.

More articles on the Phoenix System issues:

Eroding Faith In the System

Protest Against Phoenix Pay System

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Why a Journey Map Matters

When we take on a project, one of the first things we do is to lay out a journey map. We do this because it helps us tell a story, outlines where we are going, and most importantly, it outlines the stages or gates that help us know if we are making progress.

For a full change management overview of the journey, there are three specific views that will make a difference.

  1. Sponsor journey map
  2. User journey map
  3. Development (or project) journey map

Sponsor journey map

The sponsor journey map gives the sponsor an idea of what we are doing, the key dates when activities are occurring and the approval gates the sponsor will want to ensure approvals are performed. This journey map

User journey map

The user journey map is the journey the user will go through so the project team can layout the path that the user can expect to follow during an implementation. This will include informing their teams about when communications will come out, dates that will impact the users, and the implementation, training and support plans. It will give key dates and provide them will information they will need to know on the “day of” cut-over.

Development (or project) journey map

This is the journey map that allows all specialties to work with and is the most detailed. It will identify the following:

  • Phases of the project
  • Important design or decision dates
  • Specific changes that will occur and how those changes impact the business, users, or customers.

These are important items so that the specialist teams can provide the support needed for the project. Specialist teams such as training, communications, development, document managers, etc.

To truly provide a rich experience for the people being impacted by change, without a journey map they may flounder in understanding what actions to take, the key messages that need to be shared, and the plan moving forward. During a project, the journey map matters!

It is not the only thing that matters, there is a lot of work in a project that involves readiness, development and sustainability planning, but the journey map can remove a lot of headaches and help everyone see the bigger picture.

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Did your technology investment fail?

Technology solutions

Efficiency at the cost of humanity may cause more harm to a company than good. Well-designed people strategies and tactical action among teams as aligned with efficiency models, yes, but let’s not try to solve productivity with the implementation of software if people strategies have not been considered in the overall plan.

Let’s decode this from the corporate speak…

If you are going to buy the software there needs to be a plan in place for the people who use it!

Case in Point

Shared with us in a meeting this week was the sad story of an organization who indeed did buy a software solution but put no plan in place for the people who will use it. That plan would have involved the following:

  1. Communicate: Know the desired outcomes for the software and how it is intended to be used, then convey it to the people who will be using it. (Vision)
  2. Implement well: A lot of software has multi-level offerings which allow the product to scale along with your company’s growth by providing additional plugins and add-ons to increase functionality. Hire someone from the vendor site to come in and assist the project team in implementing the solution. Target specific needs and functionality to meet desired outcome. As an added change management strategy, ensure that front line users and decision makers are included in design workshops to make sure the tool is being built and rolled out to meet actual need. This will simplify the task for your IT team who are unfamiliar with the software and generate increased buy-in as teams get involved.
  3. Train: When you ask your employees to self-learn a new software, that software will not give you the bang for your buck that you were hoping for. Your team is likely too busy in their day jobs to find resources and play with the tool. Why would you want them to trade efficiency for a savings on training? Let them learn from an experienced trainer, with all the hints, tips and shortcuts provided in a day or a weekend to benefit your investment rather than the plethora of hours your team is taking away from the day-job as they navigate their way through self-tutelage.

Non-technical people often make the assumption that those who appear tech-savvy instantly know how to use all technology. This, simply, is not the case and why it is so important to provide administrators and users with training and certification courses. In addition to that, you want your team using the software in a consistent manner.

If you want to realize a decent return on your investment (ROI) from your new “efficiency” or “Client Relationship Management” tools, you need to wrap some people strategy around their use. Fail that, and you fail your expected ROI.

I laugh when someone states, “That technology was a waste of money.” When more often than not, the technology was never the problem to begin with, it was the lack of people strategy around the solution.

This version of this post was also presented on Linkedin as “Your Grand Investement and Why it Fails”

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So, What Say You?

AwkwardHave you ever shared something out loud and it came out in such a way that you offended someone, but were not aware of the horrible impact you had? I have, and it was not until I began noticing that I was being “put in my place” over and over again, or when word began filtering back to me that it had been discussed by others.

Sadly, what was said was never meant to come off as condescending or rude, but the judgement stuck. Before someone made an effort to get to know me, to learn about my heart, before anyone even tried to cull from me the actual meaning of what I was trying to convey, the words were judged, shared, and shared again.

In the end I was made to feel ostracized and ignored. No amount of good-effort on my part will likely change the opinion I had given them with two poorly worded sentences. They will never know how much I admire their talents, their contributions to their work or how much I wish to learn from them.

The personal brand had been set, the path drawn and the relationship skewed.

My fault for not choosing my words more consciously, for allowing some things going on in my personal life to cloud my ability to say what I really meant, and for uttering sentences that poorly described what I was trying to convey.

Yes. Lesson learned, think first, and speak later.

But I have to wonder what makes us so afraid to say;

“Are you aware how what you just said made me feel? That I felt lessened by those words?”

Oh how different things might have been! How easily I could have been given an opportunity to right the sentences, to utter what I really meant. What a lovely opportunity I would have been given to build a relationship rather than be branded.

Our words matter – mine did and I must live with that. But actions matter too.

Dealing with ‘difficult people’ is never easy, but it is swiftly accomplished if you are first willing to approach the ‘difficult’ person directly.

Leadership lessons for me:

  1. What I say and how I say it matters, always.
  2. Try to address the person making uncomfortable statements first.

All of us are both easy to get along with or difficult to get along with, depending on the audience, what one is going through, or the environment in which they find themselves.

Have you ever wished you could take back words that were conveyed in a way you never meant to convey them?

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Culture Matters in M&A

ROIEvery company has their own culture – basically, the manner in which employees behave, follow common norms and interact with each other – this includes values, behaviours, assumptions, and the understanding of a common mission. The culture makes up a company’s ‘personality’. Within that, you will find teams and departments that have their own slightly different culture from the overall company culture, ‘mini’ cultures of a sort.

Typically there are many similarities between the two, although it is possible for companies with a highly competitive culture contain mini cultures of collaboration and entrepreneurial kinship. For example; where the operations are somewhat cut-throat yet the development team isolate into a unified and solid group of collaborators.

Most companies have a pretty good unwritten understanding of their own culture and with just a few questions are able to define the existing culture fairly well and then work with us to identify areas of needed growth or change. It is when companies merge or an acquisition has been made that culture becomes a significantly different conversation. Sadly, few mergers and acquisition (M&A) pre-work evaluates the differing cultures to identify risks associated with the merger or acquisition.

The greatest risks associated with bringing two companies together often lay within the strongest reasons why two companies want to join forces in the first place:

Financial – M&A selection is vital to understanding the financial benefits and possibilities due to a complimentary, formerly competitive or growth opportunity into play.

Brand Association – There are some great benefits to leveraging a solid and well-loved brand to create a stronger and more powerful company offering to the customer.

Knowledge – Picking up or combining forces to obtain or grow the technical or industry knowledge for a company, add technical competency or expand an offering based on an additional functionality desired.

All the above sounds pretty great, but what’s great on paper is not always deemed so great by the people being asked to live the change. In fact, the people with the greatest power to make or break a merger or acquisition can be middle management through to front lines and yet those areas are the most often ignored within the M&A transition plan.

Understanding cultural risk, cultural collision and people strategy are vital in making certain that large investments such as M&A actually realize their return on investment.

Transitional planning is needed right from the beginning of a merger, preparing for culture clash or shock, planning around every small change that affects the manner in which people from both organizations do their everyday work, creating a change plan that involves a solid communication strategy, all of these are vital in an M&A program.

Based on research, where does a good transitional plan begin?

  1. Organizational Culture Assessment: a system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs which govern how people behave in organizations. Evaluate each company and determine any commonalities.
  2. Evaluate the 8 Organizational Cultural Characteristics: evaluate the priority that the company values would assign to each of the following organizational characteristics.
    • Innovation – risk orientation – evaluate priority high, moderate, or low.
    • Attention to Detail – precision orientation – high, moderate, or low value?
    • Emphasis on Outcome – achievement orientation- high, moderate, or low?
    • Emphasis on People – fairness orientation – high, moderate, or low?
    • Teamwork – cohesiveness orientation – high, moderate, or low?
    • Aggressiveness – competitive orientation – high, moderate, or low?
    • Stability – maintenance orientation – high, moderate, or low?
    • Agility – change orientation – high, moderate, or low?
  3. Develop a transitional plan based on a comparison of both companies developing action items that address commonalities and friction points.

These are steps for the beginning while the purchasing company is assessing financial risk. Companies putting out money to purchase or merge with another company should understand the cultural risks of the deal. Comparing the two organizations is vital in knowing just where to begin with a transition plan.

Do you have examples of organizations that have merged and failed to do the cultural assessments and develop a solid work it into a solid transition plan?

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(Note: 8 Organizational Culture Characteristics from Professor Roger N. Nagel at Lehigh University – our assessments and research utilizes these characteristics in addition to other organizational research.)

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A New Manager’s Guide to Honesty

LeadingFirst, a short story.

Not long ago, a team we are familiar with described their experience with a difficult manager. The frustration level was such that the core team were ready to quit.

Their issue? A lying Manager.

The team was weary, distrustful, often cranky and angry at each other, and they were beginning to unravel thread-by-thread. It was easily traced to the manner in which the manager had been handling the team.

Sadly, the issues they had went on for a number of years:

  • They were all privately told different versions of what was going on in the team.
  • The manager made promises to all of them, separately, but did not always back it up or follow it through.
  • The manager continually deflected accountability for actions by pointing in any direction but his own, including pointing up the chain or at other team members.
  • Many of the stories pitted members of the team against one another.
  • The manager promised roles to team members when that role already belonged to other team members, without using professional due process.

In addition to lying, the key ingredients to frustration were the manager’s inability to take ownership or accountability for most actions, especially anything the employees disliked or when they challenged his lack of willingness to be open about future planning.

The thing about lying is, as mentioned in a previous post Liars get caught, period, the lies are almost always found out, eventually. When a manager lies to his team, he destroys trust. Avoiding difficult situations, or conflict altogether, are as good as lying and continues to diminish trust within a team.

Ways to be an honest Manager, especially through change

Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for moving the team forward. The manager who falls into the habit of blaming their bosses for decisions made loses the team and creates an ‘Us against Them’ environment. This can be avoided by one of the foundational principles of management, keeping the team unified and in alignment with the company strategy.

  • Take ownership of the decisions which are out of your control and made at a higher level.
  • Champion these decisions as your own and encourage your team to do the same.
  • Recognize when you are powerless to change the decision and move on professionally, even if you disagree (keep it to yourself) as you are the ambassador for the people who lead you.

Build the functional capability of the team as a team. Many a manager believes that once given the title they are empowered to make all the decisions and the team must simply follow it through. While that may be true in terms of power and authority, by disrespecting your team members’ valuable knowledge and ignoring group decision making, a manager may be putting the team, and ultimately the company, at risk.

  • Make meetings productive by listening, not by trying to be the smartest person in the room. Ask a lot of questions and get answers from your experts, leverage the team ‘on the ground’ and utilize and respect their knowledge.
  • Mine solutions from the whole group then ask all in the room to question the validity and be the ‘friendly critic’ who can identify associated risks.
  • Keep ‘water cooler’ conversations away from planning and decision-making unless you are focused only on that team member’s performance.
  • Never make promises you cannot keep, the entire team will slowly begin to distrust your leadership.
  • Focus on the strengths of the whole team united, the importance of a team that works together and is not in conflict.

These are a just a few ideas for helping your build honesty and trust within your team. An honest, transparent and trustworthy manager is far more effective than a top-down, distrustful one. Leadership is not about you, it is about the team and what is best for the company. Open, honest transparency will be a far better guide through change and will serve you as a new leader in all walks of life.

What ideas can you share with new managers?

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Your Yes Men Are Hurting Your Business

clearYes men are the people always willing to agree with or go along with the leader for any of a number of reasons.

Yes men (or women) have a reason to believe that contradicting the boss or executive is detrimental to their career.

If you see this in your business, and you are at the top – you did this. You either inherited or created a culture of Yes Men and you likely have failed to address it.

At first it feels good. It’s great to feel like the smartest person in the room that everyone looks up to, the person who everyone agrees with. But it does not bring change, it will not bring innovation, it will never make your company distinctive or set you apart from the competition. It will stagnate you.

Yes Men fail in the actions your business really needs:

  • Challenging how money is being spent and why
  • Courage to innovate
  • Willingness to be accountable for a creative solution
  • Desire to adopt new ways of marketing or selling your brand
  • Being a unique player in a highly competitive market

Sure your business is doing fine. But, are you okay with fine?

Yes men are more about someone’s ego than what is right for the business.

Be willing to hire strong, capable people who are experts in their field. Create an atmosphere of trust where they feel safe telling you what they believe or think. Learn how to facilitate the kind of meetings that pull the best ideas out on the table. Ask yourself these:

  • When a “friendly critic” comes into the company, are they embraced or chased out?
  • Do you take challenge as a personal attack?
  • Think about it. Who could you ask or trust in the business to tell you what you really need to hear?
  • Who is the person who has the guts to challenge the status quo?
  • Are your ‘challengers’ really contrarians or do they have a passion for success?
  • Are they discounted because they are not following in the steps of your Yes Men?

Are you a strong enough leader to allow yourself to be challenged by your employees?

It’s YOUR culture, what are you going to do about it?

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What’s the Protocol?

What the Show ‘Covert Affairs’ Can Teach Leaders. 

Covert affairCovert Affairss is a spy show about CIA operatives. A few years ago I learned a hard lesson when I failed to ask a very important question while media were gathered around a significant event; “What’s the protocol?” This question appears a lot in Covert Affairs.

Background

Let me explain. As the Chair Person of a Board of Directors of a not-for-profit, I was given the honour of leading a ground-breaking ceremony for a new school being erected that served preschool children with disabilities and their families. I will admit, it was a great feather in my cap personally, and I was extremely proud to see the model moving to the building of a school, when all previous expansion had been through purchase of an existing building or rental. I had spent almost 10 years with this organization and saw it grow from one building serving 173 children to the building of a 6th school that would eventually assist over 900 Children with disabilities. I was very proud of that growth, especially since during that time the organization successfully maintained the importance of focus on the child with an 83+ percentage of outcomes reached.

The Protocol

As a leader intent on supporting the good work of the team, I don’t particularly care for the focus on me, but as an ambassador of the organization it was occasionally my job to showcase the organization to groups. What I had never done before was a ground breaking ceremony. I worked hard in preparation, the Development team had prepared a schedule, a script, reviewed my speech, and I’d practiced until I was blue in the face. They had a wonderful child there who would be helping with the ground-breaking and many community individuals, dignitaries and media had been invited. The event had been very well organized and I was amazed at all that went into it. I just had to show up and be the spokesperson.

What I forgot to ask about the dignitaries and their respective roles, was; “What’s the Protocol?”

My role had always been to highlight the organization and its history, to use real and compelling examples of children and their progress, the heart-strings would always find themselves drawn into the story. I loved it being about the kids, about success and about the way kids overcome adversity. I was on a role, and my young 5 year old helper was a smashing hit, I made sure of it.

Sadly, I was completely unaccustomed to the importance of political dignitaries. Basically, I failed to understand the significance of their presence as it related to the funding, publicity and importance their role plays in the ongoing workings of a non-profit school. Their presence was about future dollars!

Basically, they were ignored. Ground-Breaking

And the Crowd Dispersed

Yes, there were photos with them at either side of my little pal and I holding the golden shovel, but they were just a stand in presence to what should have been a more significant role. What a wonderful media gift it would have been had I known the best part would have been giving those politicians the shovel and asking them to take the first dirt with their new little 5 year old friend and stepping back to let them!

Then I forgot to properly thank them, I took my little 5 year old over to the play area the event team had set up and I talked about the kids, with my little friend sharing his laughter and heart with the crowd. Oh the media loved the little guy – and I was asked for interviews later (which I never do well as cameras intimidate me) and those politicians went on with their busy day, wondering why they’d been called to attend in the first place. Talk about poor political moves!

In the end, the Development Team deemed the event a success, as they did get some much needed media attention, the cameras moving to the main school to shoot additional footage. They never once commented on my faux paus or political immaturity, but I am sure words unsaid were thought. Conversations around, “how do we keep MLA so-and-so here for a bit?” and other comments I heard as the crowd milled about in smaller groups made it obvious, and I grew increasingly aware of what I’d just done.

What’s the Desired Outcome?

Leaders, managers, employees all function under a layer of expectation and understanding. Some of the expectations may seem obvious to their bosses, but not to them. By asking the question, “What’s the protocol here?” gives them an opportunity to truly understand the expectations being placed upon them.

Basically, all meetings, all gatherings and all activity needs to lead to a desired outcome or outcomes. Some of those will be assumed. Some of us will be so entrenched in our duties we will fail to see the importance outside of our typical actions. We need to always be asking – what is the desired outcome, what is my protocol in this situation. Many a problem could be avoided, especially in terms of media communication of we knew that.

Change Management includes a strong definition of desired state for a reason, we want all activities to lead to the desired outcomes we are trying to achieve. Without a clear understanding we will be involved in changes that will be less than successful than we had planned.

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Change Management & Leading

Where Are We Going?

Change Management (CM) is quite the buzz word in business lately – everyone knows they need it, but few organizations truly understand the science or the way to go about leading and managing change for their organization. Many companies are still fixated with tossing it into a separate department or onto a specific project for the middle managers or project managers to ‘figure out’. For many companies, especially project-specific ones, the focus appears to only be on getting buy-in for difficult changes.

“Let’s wrap a little change management around that.”

It’s a frustrating phrase we hear quite often in our consulting practice that not only demeans change management professionals and the means by which change is successfully adopted, but it also makes it sound like the people were the afterthought – like a dictator suddenly realizing three minutes into a coup that they may need a strategy for placating the masses.

“Change Management is about bringing the people with you through change, not shoving it down their throats in a more digestible fashion.”

~W.Blackstaffe

Change Management is just a small bite of Organization Development, not the whole meal. Leading change for the entire company is best accomplished by the leadership within the organization first. It is not enough for an executive body to decide to make a change, there are some very important readiness steps that are often missed. Projects that are completed fully through to implementation before the organization decides it’s time to bring on a change manager miss the most important steps to successful change.

In this article by Forbes, Donna Wiederkehr offers some very poignant advice on preparing the change at the leadership level in her commentary on change.

  • Have a clear vision
  • Articulate the vision
  • Give your teams a reason to believe
  • Use transitions for inspiration, not just explanations

Most of this is prepared in the decision-making process, long before project start or during implementation, and the heart of it is developed at the leadership level. Read more of her article to dig a little deeper into Donna’s thoughts on change.

Our point is this: A watered-down Change Management effort designed solely for last minute buy-in is not going to be as effective as creating an organization that is Poised4Change™. Your organization needs to be capable of handling the many forced changes through market disruptions, environmental change and technological shifts that businesses are facing today. Companies need an overall change strategy that reaches the heart of the employees who are being asked to make changes on a continual basis.

What do you see missing in change efforts you have been involved with?

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Open Letter to Criticizers of Restaurant Manager as new MLA in Alberta – no matter what party you support

restaurant_managementDear Criticizer,

RE: Graham Sucha voted in as MLA for Calgary Shaw

Both a daughter and a son in our family are restaurant managers, and I take great exception to the insinuation that restaurant managers are of a lower unqualified class of flunkies as portrayed by the comments I am seeing on several news posts. Let me make myself clear, restaurant management is one of the most complex, detailed, and difficult businesses in which to succeed and the companies that run them do not select flunkies to be in charge of their margins. 

So, for you salaried employees who work a 40-60 hour work-week, who are not in charge of your department’s budget, marketing, training, staffing, or procurement – perhaps you have a bit to learn about just what kind of a job this is.

The Restaurant Business is a Business!

It is hard-won, always changing, consistently challenging and one of the most difficult roles to take on because you must give up your whole life to make it successful. The dedication of someone who chooses restaurant management is tough, they must be responsible for much more than most MBA’s will have to experience in a life-time. Their fiduciary responsibilities go beyond duty and care, they are the stewards of the entire operation and must do so with fewer resources to support them than the average business.

Data Analysts

Restaurant managers must make good business decisions, and they must do so in good economies and bad. Data gathering and forecasting for both supply and service is a detailed and constantly moving target. They must gather data, understand the meaning behind the data and use that data to ensure consistency of service at the same time costs are being tightly controlled.

Re-engineering Gurus

Policies, talent management, streamlining, constant quality improvement, minute-by-minute business and resource optimization and continual response to environmental shifts outside of their control are all necessary for a restaurant manager to be successful. They are hit by more outside influence than most businesses and they are required to react on an instant.

Ultimate Customer Experience Experts

Few people either understand or care to learn about all that goes into your customer experience within an organization that gets an hour or two of your time while you are enjoying yourself. But to give you your water, wine and put a meal out in 12 minutes that is the right temperature, high quality, delivered with exceptional service in an ambiance that meets with your high standards is nothing short of miraculous. Restaurants require a high level of collaboration of all its parts, both front and back of house, and is like a well-oiled machine. Only an exceptional manager can achieve this kind of coordination from all their employees.

Business Management

I reiterate, restaurants are a BUSINESS. They have margins and budgets, supply, demand, service, and staffing issues. Unlike most businesses which are affected by occasional outside influences over the period of a year, restaurants deal with outside factors on an hourly basis. A downtown-city restaurant can have one day where they pull in $1500.00 in receipts to another day where $20,000.00 of receipts are brought in – all within the same week. This fluctuation of supply and demand cannot change the quality or experience to the customer, thus making their job extremely difficult. Budgetary forecasting, review of multi-year actuals, detailed understanding of the complexity of their location, client base, city events, sporting events, special days like Mother’s day, Father’s day, Canada Day, and more – are all on the agenda for pre-planning long before a customer even considers them. And as for competition, they have 8 other stores down the street that are vying for the very same customers so they must be dedicated 24/7 to win the hearts and loyalty of their customers, and they don’t do it by being lazy flunkies.

Personal Commitment

I’m guessing that some of you may head into work on a day off on occasion, that’s because you are dedicated! But did you know that the average restaurant manager is there on their ‘scheduled’ day off almost always as a rule? They are dedicated to their craft, they miss out on all of your fun events because nights and weekends are their busy times, they miss a lot of family functions, they are lucky if they marry a thoughtful spouse who is willing to manage children, house and home while they are consistently raising the bar to compete with the other store down the street, and at a lessor salary than you. So why do they do it?

It is a vocation, it is a love of people, of service and is a dedicated craft that involves dealing with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. They are faced daily with incredible experiences and for a moment are brought into the lives of their patrons who are celebrating, enjoying and feeding their lives through experience.

Yes, even the arrogant, entitled people who look down their noses at restaurant management as a lower-class choice in work leave with a meal served in only minutes with a high quality of standard and their glass filled.

Compared to a few MLAs of the past, I am thinking perhaps a little business management, by a people oriented person, would be welcome in our legislature, regardless of what party you support. The fact that this one chooses to seek advice from someone who is familiar with public life, is right out of the books of some of these folks.

Kind Regards,

Patti

NOTE:

I happen to know the young man that has been voted in as NDP MLA in Calgary Shaw and have witnessed his dedication and commitment, I am certain he will apply it as steadfastly to this new role as he has in management, and learn just as quickly. 

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Walter Blackstaffe – Hall of Fame Inductee

Congratulations to Walter Blackstaffe, one of our founders, for his induction into the Canadian Ski Alliance, Alberta Region Hall of Fame.

We are extremely Proud of Walter and happy to see his talent recognized. Walter has taught skiing all over Canada and in Switzerland and has made a strong contribution to the industry in many ways. He says he is most proud of taking part in mentor-ship programs with young people shaping their confidence and talent and his volunteering with CADS Alberta (Canadian Association for Disabled Skiers). Walter remains a continued positive influence to us at the office, to his students, his clients and the companies he works with.

Walter inducted into hall of fame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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