A small team creates a revolution

An accounting firm was having trouble making a decision at senior partner level to move forward with a series of our programs. Believe it or not one of the issues they identified was poor decision-making processes! In the end, we proved that a small team can create a revolution in culture change.

Out of frustration, one of principals decided to move forward with our programs in her regional office. We started out with our Profiling Program for the partners and managers and followed that with Strategic Planning, Performance Management and Advisory Skills Development.

In eight weeks, we have seen the changed processes and behaviours in the regional office create enormous interest in other offices. The interest was like a groundswell from people in middle management and junior levels who were interacting with people in the regional office.

small teams can create large scale change in an organisation.

The groundswell began as informal conversations and then we noticed emails being sent to managers, partners and senior partners. The messages were clearly motivated by a fear of missing out, FOMO.

The most common topic in the groundswell was about the new client projects the team in the regional office were working on. These were apparent both in SharePoint and the CRM used by the business. The most common topic among the senior partners was the increase of $55k in the 8 weeks after the Advisory Skills Program.

Other changes took a bit longer to be noticed. The Profiling Program expanded in the regional office to include all of the accounting professionals. As usual, this prompted people talking about their profiles and their efforts at becoming better communicators and relationship builders. People in the regional office would innocently ask about the profiles of their colleagues located in other offices and this generated the ‘why didn’t we do the profiling?’

The revolution was underway. In July we begin our Programs in the head office with a roll-out plan across the firm ending in September. You can drive organisational change beginning with a tribe. In our case, the smaller regional office became the role models for what is possible. They will now be our role models, coaches and mentors for participants in our upcoming programs.

Do you want to learn more about how we initiated and executed this revolutionary change in a staid culture? Get in touch.

What contributes to workplace stress?

In April 2018, Canada Life Group Insurance released a study showing that workers’ productivity is badly impacted by stress and anxiety in the workplace. The study shows office workers are impacted most severely.

Here are some of the findings of the research study that although not unexpected should still be very concerning.
* 30% of workers report feeling stressed or anxious due to high workloads and pressure to perform.
* Workers in cubicles and open plan offices are more regularly impacted by workplace stress than those that work from home.
* 23% of employees report lower productivity based on their feeling that their boss does not care about their wellbeing.
* 77% of employees offered flexible working arrangements say this improves their productivity.

I am always amazed at how many of my clients’ offices are rows of tables with computers. There are some reports that this trend is showing signs of reversing, nonetheless people are asked to perform effectively and be productive with other persons on either side and in front of them.

Here are some additional findings from the Canada Life Group Insurance research study. Notice the differences in the percentage of people reporting being stressed at work based on their office style:
* Cubicle style        37%
* Open plan            32%
* Private office        31%
* Work from home  17%

How we do professional facilitation

You will have a facilitator who has deep experience in senior organisational leadership and has worked with a wide and diverse range of clients. You are assured that the work will get done and clear outcomes and next actions are identified from your facilitated workshop.

We make it easy for you to conduct a great workshop. Our facilitators use visual information mapping tools that ensures participants are always engaged with the content and understand the connections between concepts, ideas and decisions.

We will meet prior to the workshop(s) to undertake careful planning and preparation. You will have the option to include individual and team behavioural profiling as part of the workshop. Our facilitator will do extensive research to understand your organization deeply. You will be confident that our facilitator will remain within the parameters you set for the workshop and we will honour the unique culture that exists in your organization. 

We understand the dynamics that exist when you bring people together for a facilitated workshop. Our expertise will ensure we get the best input from all participants and prevent the workshop being dominated by individuals or a lapse into ‘group-think.’

The most requested facilitated workshops include:

·        Strategic planning

·        Building an execution culture

·        Executive retreats

·        Sales strategy

·        Marketing strategy

·        Scenario planning

·        Team effectiveness

·        Culture change

·        Tactical response

·        Innovation, new product and services development

This is how we do professional facilitation. We suggest scheduling a call or personal meeting to discuss your vision for the ideal facilitated workshop. We will discuss your strategy, goals and concerns. Our facilitator will ask questions and offer some ideas you can use whether you choose to engage us or not.

Strategy without learning is flawed

Leaders of organisations around the world understand the strategic need to build capabilities in their organisations to remain competitive. There are many methods used to build capabilities and on-the-job training remains very common. Strategy that is designed without learning is seriously flawed.

Online learning is a key part of any strategy to build capability. In my experience, many organisations start out with a compliance focus for online learning. When moving to include other purposes for online learning, e.g. leadership development, it is critical that a framework is developed to support the learners and measurement of outcomes.

How do you create a learning strategy that will help drive performance and be fully aligned with your strategic objectives?

  • Build your learning plans based on customer feedback and adapting to changes in expectations that customers have in dealing with your organisation and your competitors.
  • Assess how much of your learning and development resources are allocated to frontline employees. Performance increases in your frontline employees are often easier to measure and possibly faster to achieve.
  • When you develop learning plans, align the curricula to strategic objectives. A capability gap analysis is going to provide more accuracy to aligning learning with strategic objectives. I like to see capability gap analyses performed as part of a strategic planning project.
  • Learning and development needs to be predictive. Your strategy is designed to keep your organisation competitive. I recommend you drill down from macro-environmental changes in your market all the way down to succession and recruitment needs within a time horizon that makes sense for your business.

To support your learning strategy and sustain performance improvements, I suggest the following:

  • Consider incentivising self-directed learning. There are so many effective ways to do this.
  • Standardise learning processes as much as you can to assist in measurement. You may choose different target populations for standardisation as opposed to standardising across the organisation.
  • Some of the most effective capability building strategies include directly linking learning to the performance management process.
  • I encourage my clients to build learning more deeply into the fabric of a culture by adding learning engagement to the key objectives for managers. I have seen excellent results when managers include learning in their weekly and/or monthly team and individual meetings or catch ups. The benefits achieved include higher levels of learning engagement and a feedback loop on learning experiences and future needs.
  • Encourage blended approaches to learning by identifying subject matter experts in your organisation. You might consider adding communities of practice or a coaching/mentoring program to leverage knowledge in support of learning activities.

If you would like to discuss these ideas or want to explore implementing a new learning strategy in your organisation, you are welcome to get in touch with me via the contact details on this site.

High Performance Culture and Alignment

According to an excellent whitepaper by Aon Hewitt, (Getting Real About Creating a High Performance Culture, 2016),” ….46% of organisations identified defining or aligning culture as a key priority.”

Culture is a key competitive advantage. Change is occurring too rapidly to forecast accurately. The workforce is facing challenges in their personal lives that may lead to increased fear and uncertainty about the future. The separation between personal and work life has always been a myth. Now that we have non-stop news and information overload assaulting us from every device we have, it is impossible to imagine the workplace as a quarantine. It is a tough time to define, build and sustain a high performance culture.

In some experiences I have had recently, organisations have had leadership adopt a ‘batten down the hatches’ philosophy. The indicators visible to an external consultant working with such an organisation include poor strategic communication, confusion about accepted behavioural norms and fear. The fear is not always easily identified. I always find it in companies that lack meeting rhythm between managers and employees. I see it where there is little ‘ground level’ innovation going on to improve effectiveness and productivity. There are other ways fear is identified.

How does a leader deal with culture in this geo-political economic era? I suggest it is a return to some very basics of interpersonal relationship skills. It would be great if it was not a ‘return’ as opposed to a refocusing. Most people involved in an interpersonal relationship and particularly an intimate one, would identify communication as the primary contributor to the health of the relationship.

It is no different in an organisational culture. However, many leaders of organisations have behavioural styles that deliver communication in short direct bursts as opposed to a story or interactive dialogue. Communication is often delegated and diluted. People see through this and it only leads to greater fear, uncertainty and disengagement.

I believe vision is critical. Vision is critical to individuals, couples, families, organisations, communities and all the way up to nation states. Without a vision it is impossible to build a compelling strategy and even more impossible to engage people to execute the work needed to achieve strategic objectives. 

Without a vision, your mission will be detached and unaligned to anything meaningful to your people. Lack of meaning equals lack of engagement. Lack of engagement kills a high performance culture.

These are only two big picture contributors to a sustainable high-performance culture. Communication and vision. There are others. I offer below two of the most impactful high- level initiatives that will contribute to changing a toxic or poor performance culture to a high performance culture.

·        Learning and development is part of the culture and not dependent upon people asking permission or waiting for approval. Senior leadership support learning and allocate resources to learning opportunities openly. Learning is linked to performance management processes. Learning is used to support innovation and collaborative, social knowledge sharing.

·        Senior leadership is visible and accessible. There are some huge companies I have worked with that have leaders who leverage technology to remain accessible. When senior leadership communicates, they do so openly and transparently. Senior leadership repeats vital messages to ensure there is retention. The senior leadership never cease to show the alignment of strategy to the work that people are doing throughout the organisation.