Do You Set The Example?

May 12, 2011

Is there anyone reading this blog who answers to no one but who runs an enterprise with more than 20 employees?  If you meet these two rare but simple criteria, you might like to refrain from reading the rest of this blog as I’m talking about you – and not always in glowing terms.

Implement | Plan Strategic | Implementing | Implementation plan | Implementation management | Strategy Implementation | Implementations | Implementation guide | Implementation processFor the majority of us, though, we are not at the top of the pecking order, but we do have others who respond to us and for whose performance and well-being we are held accountable.

Now here’s a strange thing.

We complain about the way we are treated by our superiors, but equally our subordinates complain about us!  And nine times out of ten, both ourselves and our subordinates are complaining about the same things!

What are they?

  1. Management do not adequately consider the detailed implications of their strategic plans to assess their realism and practicality
  2. Management do not explain the rationale behind the planned changes
  3. Management do not involve those charged with the strategy implementation at the strategic planning stage
  4. Management do not set clear realistic targets
  5. Communication and feedback is lacking at both the pre and post strategic planning stages
  6. When some aspect of the strategic plan is clearly not working as intended, it’s those charged with the strategy implementation that get the blame

I could go on but these are six of the most common.  Now, if lower management blames middle management, who in turn blame senior management, where does the buck stop?  With the CEO of course! And the most important role of the CEO? Contrary to what most people think, it’s not to get the strategy right – it’s to create the culture in the organisation necessary for effective execution.  And there is only one way to do that and that’s by example – personal example.

If you don’t consult and involve your fellow executives, you must expect them to commit the same omission with their own reports.  If you do not stress the importance of communication and feedback, your senior management won’t either.  If you take the view that only senior management need to be conversant with the Big Picture they will keep middle and lower management in the dark as well.  The CEO sets the tone.

What sort of organisation do you want to lead?  One that is beset with internal politics?  One where beating the internal competition takes precedence over winning against external rivals?  One where management at all levels bitches and complains about the lack of involvement and lack of communication?

Or do you want to lead an organisation that is aligned behind a common goal, one that exhibits a sense of community, one that truly values its employees and for whom people are happy to work?

Surely no one would want to lead the former?  Yet the former is all too common.  The reality is that in any market sector there are a limited number of strategies that the organisation can adopt.  The key to performance is strategy implementation.  I am reminded yet again of the Harvard Business Professor who asked his students – “what do hospitals do?”  His students responded – “they cure the sick”.  “No, nurses and doctors do that”, was the Professor’s counter response.  “The role of the hospital is to create the environment in which the best doctors and nurses want to work”.

What’s the environment like in your organisation?

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A New Year’s Resolution – Communicate

January 21, 2011

If I ask people whether they enjoy their work life and the response is negative, there is an odds on chance that they will cite lack of communication as one of the key reasons.  This anecdotal evidence is supported by the findings from bpi’s Employee Feedback Surveys.  Among the 60 odd statements that make up the survey, many relate directly or indirectly to communication.  Three of them are reproduced below.  Respondents are asked to rate their degree of agreement with each statement on a scale of 1 – 10.

  • We are sufficiently informed about decisions that effect us
  • We are sufficiently consulted by decisions that affect us
  • We are sufficiently involved in decisions that affect us

What we consistently find is that:

  1. The average rating indicates disagreement with each of these statements; and
  2. The last statement has the lowest rating of all

The_Benefits_Of_Communication_SkillsHow important is communication to an organisations well-being? 

In the Wagon Wheel Way™ communication is the grease on the axle that keeps the wheel rolling.  No grease and the wheel seizes.  Or if you prefer a biological analogy, communication is the Central Nervous System of any organisation.  If it’s damaged, paralysis is the result.

Macro versus micro communication

One needs to distinguish between macro and micro communications and between communication that takes the form of a debate and that which is used to inform people of decisions that have been made as a consequence of that debate.

Macro communication tends to be associated with the dissemination of information whilst micro communication mostly involves debate and feedback between individuals.  Macro communication is more about “telling” whereas micro communication involves a lot of listening and decision-making.

What to communicate

The basis of effective execution is organisational alignment and organisational alignment has three components to it.

  • Everyone knows where the organisation is now
  • Everyone knows the destination and the journey
  • Everyone knows their role in getting there

The more people involved in determining the above the better.  Remember the axiom that the more people that plan the battle, the fewer there are to battle the plan.

  1. Everyone knows where the organisation is now 

    If you are planning a new direction for your organisation or merely needing to do  better what you already do, you have to be able to explain what has happened in your  business environment that has necessitated this re-think.  90% of people in your  Company will change if you give them a good enough reason to do so – but 70%  would prefer to maintain the status quo.

  2. Everyone knows the destination and the journey 

    Organisations need goals that everyone can relate to.  I’m not talking about nebulous  visions.  I’m talking about Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Time-related Results.   People need to know how the Company plans to achieve its goal.  What are the one,  two or three major strategies?

  3. Everyone knows their role in getting thereIf you want your staff to feel engaged to the organisation they work for, they need to  understand how their work relates to the achievement of the overall goal.  If they are  involved in determining this so much the better.

In addition to organisational alignment, there are four further factors that are crucial to effective execution and communication plays a vital role.  They are the management of change, leadership, teams and teamwork and employee engagement.  Here is a selection of the negative comments I hear and which are linked to communication.

“If they had only asked us, we could have told them that it wouldn’t work in the way that they envisaged”

“I watched “Undercover Boss” last night.  I wish our management would spend a day or so on the ward with us – then they would appreciate the lack of resources”

“I wish I understood why they want all this paperwork – what do they do with it?”

What to communicate is one thing, how to communicate it is another

Today we are spoilt for choice.  Web sites, blog sites, intranets, emails, Facebook, Twitter, news bulletins, in-house magazines and newspapers etc.  But I’ve deliberately left out the two most effective means of communication.

What are the two most effective means of communication?

Communication through listening and communication through action.  When did you last deliberately set aside time to wander around, engage your staff in conversation and simply listen to what they have to say?

When did you last spend a day with one of your service people responding to a customer complaint or sitting with your warehouse manager learning how your IT systems work in practice rather than in theory?

A lot of managers would tell you that they don’t have time to do these things.  The reality is that they don’t have time because they are too preoccupied dealing with the issues that arise from a failure to do these things in the first instance.


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