What will it take to facilitate sustainable change in your organization?
What would successful change mean for your organization?
What outcome must you have over the next 12 months?
It’s essential for an organization to ask themselves these questions as well as to answer them honestly. It does you no good to have me or some other outside “expert” answer them. Your organizational system has all the answers now! The challenge is you have to uncover them. These answers are both hidden in plain sight and in the subconscious minds of your employees. When we come alongside you, we bring fresh eyes outside of your hierarchy and culture, and we ask questions that were off-the-table before.
One of the more disturbing trends we see, is the rising number of managers and executives in such a hurry they never or rarely bother to ask the question. Early on in my professional career, I was constantly challenged by managers and executives, with comments like, ‘what research have you done’, ‘what have you proved and disproved’, what solutions would you recommend and what would you not recommend’ and a favorite, ‘what will we know in six months, we don’t already know now.’ During any organizational change program we lead, facilitating the process of answering a sequence of questions encourages organizations to:
♦ Understand and Create Awareness of Your Current Culture,
♦ Define Your Desired Culture,
♦ Validate that Direction Quantitatively and Qualitatively, and
♦ Personalize Your Organization’s Culture Change Blueprint
to move you from where you Are today to where you know you want to Be.
Case Study: Don’t Look in My Cupboards
This Wood/Wood Products Manufacturer, faced changes such as declining access to local talent, scarcity in specialized staff willing to relocate, competition for talent at average wages, increasing visibility from state-sponsered training to automotive OEM’s willing to pay $0.25/hr, automated process decisions, technological developments from their competitors and demanding distributors buying product and those selling product. The board’s strategic plan was non-existent. They aimed for a 4% growth rate with more innovation. Innovation in their vocabulary means increased complexity to stay competitive adding cost to the transaction. Out of ALL of the above listed problems to solve, their main purpose – their WHY change now was to dramatically increase efficiency and create unity amongst the employees.
The first ‘ASK’ was:
Would you swap efficiency for innovation? Would you take unity over innovation? Could you afford to give up efficiency and the 4% growth rate to achieve innovation?
The executives of Cupboards looked confused and anguished. They didn’t like this line of questioning because they didn’t want to have to choose. Precisely, one of their main obstacles. They want to have it all! Their organization was exhausted – tired from reacting to every ‘like’competitor adding new product, new styling, new offerings. They’d step up and bull their way through only to abandon the ‘lastest project’ when sales didn’t warrant keeping up with the Jones’
The next ‘ASK’ was:
Can you eat the cake you bake and sell it too?
The leadership team found some questions annoying, but they heard the message. I realize my style is different, challenging, sometimes ball-busting and frankly that’s why you hire us – to look at your unique situation differently and that perspective will make you uncomfortable. You need fresh eyesight if you’re going to win this game! They had to decide: what is more important? Cost efficiency, growth, performance, new product development and innovation, or what?
We’ve discussed the direction before. Our Culture Influencing programs help organizations ask the right questions, manage competing values, goals, choose their focus and commit to a focused direction. The best leaders, the Elegant Leaders who lead with Voltage, ask the damn question! They understand to slow down, stop and engage in a conversation (something quite rare these days) and ask the damn questions to uncover key components to solutions required for pressing problems. I was sharing a ride from LaGuardia with a consumer products relationship manager last week and we had a very interesting conversation.
His manager, a VP, sent him countless emails during the week he was on vacation – two days with his daughter to college orientation and three days with his wife and rising senior in high school along the Outer Banks. He’d done all the common sense things – vmail and email OOS replies and his support team of three were aprised of all projects in motion. The younger almost middle-aged distaff executive kept after him looking for replies and responses to typical everyday situations, none of which required even the slightest bit of escalation.
Finally, after four days of bullshit from the VP, he called his VP back and asked the questions – did you not see my out of office email response? Did you check with my team prior to contacting me? Has something ocurred my team is unable to handle during my vacation? She never answered any of those questions, only seeking answers directly to transfer to her bosses above to cover her own ass, because she’s too damn lazy to:
1) walk the 40 steps to his team to get an answer,
2) make a call to his team to get an answer, or
3) send an email to the team and cc: him to get an answer.
This situation and thousands like it happen every day. How long will you and anyone else tolerate this culture, this behavior, this selfish disregard for the people we work with. If you’re finally sick and tired of status quo, you work in a toxic environment or you lead a toxic environment like this (chances are highly favorable you’re not reading this article anyway) or you’ve finally reached a point where tolerating mediocrity is no longer acceptable, then a conversation may be worth while. You have two choices: 1) I’m not comfortable talking to you yet, so I’ll read more, then click here, or access my private calendar for a conversation – no pitch, no obligation.
You have options: don’t do a damn thing, find someone you relate to, stick your toe in the water with our 90-Day Culture Accelerator™, have us coach your internal team to Advance Your Culture™ or go deeper with us on a 24-36 month journey. All our platforms deliver results baked into the fabric of your organization with stronger relationships. LEARN MORE…
The Power of How
Once you define, understand and are unified with your purpose for WHY change now, the HOW is you next best step. ‘How’ implies possibility. ‘How’ moves your forward to seek solutions. Most self-aggrandizing culture experts tell you to figure out ‘what’ next and some of them are wildly popular, yet we’re brought in to clean up their mess because their solution, NOT YOURS, wasn’t sustainable – big difference! There are more extremely empowering questions we use in implementing our Change Circles™ approach. If you want to learn more about our process and the results you can attain while strengthening relationsihps across your organization, I invite you to join our 2-day Culture Change Advance workshop. LEARN MORE…
What Cupboards Did
Cupboards needed to agree upon their true ranking of their priorities: What would you do
– would you swap efficiency for innovation?
– would you give up efficiency and a 4% growth rate to achieve innovation?
– would you do something completely different?
They chose and committed to attracting and elevating the talent they had. Next, they created an environment that removed virtually all barriers and obstacles (turf wars) that impeded collaboration. They realized they could gain efficiency by listening, understanding and asking the right questions of one another to foster a collaborative environment, build better relationships, amend those that were ruined and then focus their spyglass by answering these questions to move the organization forward. I bet you didn’t see any of those options…so ask the damn question!
How can we manage our costs while we focus on a specific few innovations now? How do we created an environment where employees can freely speak their mind while enhancing productivity – eliminating endless debate?
How do we develop new products while we’re busy achieving a 4% growth rate?
Our line of questioning stimulates creative and collaborative thought (two of the four cultural archetypes under consideration) while helping organizations find competitive and disciplined solutions (the other two reminaing cultural archetypes). Knowing you can’t eat the cake you bake and sell it too, what becomes possible to achieve given your current limitations and unique situation?
If the point hasn’t hit home quite yet, perhaps this is clearer for you – from our ASK, we uncover windows of opportunity to cultivate results you must have and along the way, your culture is identified, promoted to flourish with velocity to take on the next initiative to a new window of opportunity. Or, you can take an easy out and read about it, ask questions of your team and discuss ‘what is our best next step’ from my latest book – Influencing Culture: Accelerating Change with Influence and Impact.