The Challenge of Organizational Change
Change management consultants have long sought to remove barriers to organizational change.  With change a constant for most companies, flexible and agile organizations that can adapt to new challenges and new constraints will succeed in the long term.  Until the most common roadblocks to change are fully understood, change will continue to be a struggle for most organizations.

The Value of Removing Obstacles to Organizational Change
It is certainly in an organization’s best interests to smooth the path of change.  Employees who do not encounter barriers during change report being:

  • Three times more likely to be productively engaged in their work
  • Four times more likely to be loyal to their company
  • Half as likely to leave

What Change Research Says About Barriers to Organizational Change
Why are so many companies and employees stymied by change in the workplace? In most studies, researchers observe three major barriers to effecting change based on three different employee beliefs.

  1. Lack of Power
    One common barrier to organizational change is the concept that, because of a lack of support, autonomy, time or resources, employees are not given the power to behave a certain way. In some organizations the lack of power presents itself as a victim mentality; in other companies leaders are not truly aligned with the espoused changes.

    Regardless of the root cause, the more that employees feel actively involved in and empowered to make changes in a way that makes sense, the better your chances for lasting change.

  2. Lack of Ability
    Another barrier to organizational change is the belief that people affected by change are unable to act a certain way because they lack the knowledge or skills to “do it the new way.” If employees are willing to change but lack the specific skills or knowledge, you need to provide more support and more direction.

    When people are not confident in their abilities to change, focus on providing targeted training, practice, coaching, and feedback.

  3. Lack of Desire
    A third common barrier to change are employees who, even though they possess the competence to change, are unwilling to engage in a certain behavior because they have too little motivation or incentive to do so.

    When employees are not fully committed to change, leaders should focus on understanding how to best reward and recognize the desired behaviors. In general, you want to reward and provide positive feedback for the behaviors and performance that you want and have negative feedback and consequences for undesired behaviors and performance.

    To be effective, rewards and consequences for change must be perceived as meaningful, timely, fair, proportionate, consistent, expected, and aligned with the changes you seek.

The Bottom Line
If your change initiative is struggling, invest the time to identify your change roadblocks and actively involve those most affected by the changes to design a practical plan to turn the tide.  Then consistently monitor progress, communicate results, and hold people accountable to the new way.  Change is rarely easy, but it can be done.

To learn about how to remove barriers to organizational change, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

What Matters Most – Does Your Culture Prioritize Profits over Values?
When push comes to shove and you or your business is struggling, which operating principle wins out – profits or values?  Business leaders spend a great deal of time crafting corporate values for leaders to model and employees to follow such as integrity, accountability, teamwork, diversity, excellence, etc.  But how many companies live their espoused values on a consistent basis?

A Case in Point – Espoused Corporate Values|
Here’s an exemplary list of corporate values from a company website:

  • We act with integrity and communicate honestly and openly
  • We are passionate about meeting our customers’ needs and delivering for our shareholders
  • We are accountable for all of our own actions: these include safety, protecting the environment, and supporting our communities
  • We work together as a team and are committed to excellence and innovation
  • We respect each other and celebrate our diversity

There’s even an added comment: “Never knowingly violate laws, regulations, policies, or standards, even if you think doing so would lower costs, increase earnings, or delight a customer.” Sounds grand.

Can you guess what organization has chosen these values for their employees?  PG&E.  The public utility recently being blamed for multiple deaths and countless wildfires in California.

The Reality – Actual Corporate Values
We now read that documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal reveal that PG&E has long known that parts of its nearly 19,000 mile system had “reached the end of their useful lives.”  It seems company leaders knew that many of their high-voltage powerlines could fail and potentially spark fires.  We now know the devastation and tragedy their neglect can cause – over 1,500 California fires in the past 6 years — including the deadliest ever. PG&E’s critics accuse the company of shirking safety precautions to funnel money toward investor dividends.

Mike Florio, who was a California utilities commissioner from 2011 to 2016, told The New York Times. “There was very much a focus on the bottom line over everything.”  A 2017 report to state regulators highlighted PG&E’s tendency to act only after a major disaster.

If company executives had truly “lived” their values around protecting the environment, acting with integrity, and communicating honestly, the potential fire danger would have been acknowledged long ago, necessary upgrades would have been accomplished, destructive wildfires might have been avoided, and PG&E would not be facing bankruptcy and dissolution.

Who’s to Blame?
We point the finger at the overall PG&E corporate culture that appears to have clearly prioritized profits over espoused values.

We define a company’s culture as how things truly get done in their organization. Culture can be measured by understanding the way people think, behave and work.  This includes the known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors – especially in leaders.

Employees look to their leaders to model the culture and set the standards for behavior.  As hardworking and dedicated as so many PG&E employees are, they were betrayed by executives who did not walk the talk and by the actions (or inactions) of employees that prioritized promotions or job security ahead of speaking the truth.  While it appears that the problems started years ago, now the entire organization is literally falling apart.

Even small pockets of misaligned behaviors and decisions can create a large wave of problems down the road.

Does Your Company Culture Prioritize Profits Over Values?
If you are not sure, you would be wise to assess your current workplace culture to see where you stand in terms of organizational health, high performance, and strategic alignment.

The Bottom Line
Be aware how much you as a business leader are responsible for your company’s culture.  If you expect your workers to follow corporate values as stated, you must show them how and make sure there are consequences for not following them.  Can you honestly say you are on the “right” side of the values over profit controversy?

To learn more about how to create a healthy, high performing, and aligned corporate culture, download The 3 Research-Backed Levels of a Healthy, High Performing and Aligned Culture

Misunderstood Corporate Strategies Undermine Success
Misunderstood corporate strategies threaten your success.  A corporate strategy is the plan you create to achieve specific goals.  Without the guidelines of a clear strategy, it is difficult for leaders and employees to collectively seek the right new opportunities, make aligned decisions, and conduct day-to-day business in a way that moves the strategy forward.  Strategic clarity sounds important, doesn’t it?

The Importance of Strategic Clarity
Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performance in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer loyalty, leadership effectiveness, and employee engagement. If you want to perform at your peak, you need your strategy to be clear, believable, and implementable across the organization.  And yet, as business consultants for over thirty years, we are constantly amazed at how few companies have designed a strategy that is coherent and well understood by their key stakeholders.

How Clear Is Your Strategy?
Our research found that employees on average find their company’s strategy to be half as clear as their boss.  Recent research by Timothy Devinney et. al. at Sydney, Australia’s University of Technology asked employees of 20 major Australian corporations with strategies that had been fully and publicly expressed to select their business’ strategy from among six possibilities.  Less than 33 percent identified their own company’s strategy!

Unfortunately, many corporate strategies are either unclear or not getting through to their employees.

The Consequences of a Misunderstood Corporate Strategy
Here are a few of the negative effects of a misunderstood corporate strategy.

  • Lack of Focus
    If the priorities of the business are not clear, how do employees know what direction to take and what decisions to make? Without a true north, lots of time and effort can be wasted in organizational politics and “churn” where little gets efficiently accomplished and there’s minimal movement forward.
  • Lack of Accountability
    A well-crafted strategy clarifies who is responsible for what and how success will be measured. Whether you are an organization with a traditional reporting hierarchy or one that works with a flatter structure, make sure that roles, responsibilities, scope, success metrics, and interdependencies are crystal clear.  Only then can you create an accountable culture and push for higher levels of performance.
  • Lack of Smart Resource Allocation
    Another critical aspect of a well-constructed corporate strategy is defining how resources will be allocated. It sets out which projects and operations will need resources and where the resources (financial, personnel, technology) will come from.  Without a clear plan, resources may be mistakenly used for lower priority projects and put higher priority projects (and their teams) at unnecessary risk.
  • Lack of Knowledge Sharing
    Businesses struggle to grow without a transparent process for sharing information with those who need it. Without a coherent flow of information, critical data may be lost or misdirected.  The result is most often confusion, frustration, and duplication of effort.

The Bottom Line
Can your employees articulate your strategic priorities and the rationale behind them?  Make sure they can in their own words, or you might suffer the negative effects of misunderstood corporate strategies.

To learn more about creating a clear, believable, and implementable corporate strategy, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy

The Employee Engagement Survey Is Over
You did it.  As a leader who believes that employee engagement matters not just as a reflection of employee satisfaction but also for its impact on the bottom line, you conducted an employee engagement survey.  The employee survey results are in.  What now?

Here’s What NOT to Do with Employee Survey Results
There is no better way to decrease employee engagement than to ignore the feedback from your employees.  Employees may not have told leaders what they wanted to hear, but they often tell leaders what they really need to know about how their employees feel about their work and the organization.

  1. Do NOT Dismiss the Findings
    As painful as some of the employee engagement survey results may seem, the feedback is real and needs to be addressed. If you let the survey results lie fallow, you disrespect your workers and destroy their trust in your professed intentions to make things better.

    By discounting or ignoring employee suggestions, employees can rightly feel that their opinions don’t count and that company leaders don’t care about them – the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.

  2. Do NOT Assume Your Initial Interpretation of Data Is Correct
    Your interpretation of some low scores may not be accurate. For example, if the question on having the resources needed to do the job was rated low, you shouldn’t assume employees meant that they didn’t have the right computers.  Perhaps they simply meant that they didn’t have sufficient parking.

    How do you find out?  Ask teams what the word “resources” means to them and how additional resources would help them to succeed.

  3. Do NOT Dictate Solutions from The Top
    The entire workforce needs to be involved in the action-planning process to improve employee engagement. This is not a time for leaders to dictate solutions. This is the time for leaders to actively involve employees in focus groups to design what it will take to make things better.

    Sure, you probably need to create some boundaries about “what is” and “what is not” open for change, but you should explicitly empower employees to own the improvements that they seek within an agreed-upon framework.

  4. Do NOT Punish Employees for Low Ratings
    Remember the fundamental purpose of an engagement survey. It is to find out what matters most to employees in terms of their discretionary effort, intent to stay, and advocacy for you and your company to improve employee engagement, retention and performance.  There will always be some comparatively low marks.  That is not the fault of your employees.

    Be honored that you received candid feedback.  Negative feedback should lead you to areas that can not only increase engagement and performance but also decrease unwanted turnover.  Suck it up and be grateful for the opportunity to make things better. Do not take it personally.

The Bottom Line
Employee engagement surveys are invaluable tools to take charge of how employees feel about their work and harness their help in improving their work environment.  Handle the findings right and all will be winners.

To learn more about how to better engage and retain employees, download Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

New Managers are Struggling
Do you know the role and responsibility of a new manager at your company? Senior executives and non-executive managers are unhappy with the performance of their companies’ frontline managers.  According to CEB research, a whopping 60% of new managers under perform during their first two years, and not surprisingly, 85% of new managers still receive no formal training prior to switching into the role of manager.

The Role and Responsibility of a New Manager in 5 Stages
In order to be effective in today’s complex organization, new managers must be able to lead, plan, organize, and control so that they meet the needs of their many, and often misaligned, stakeholders.  Think of a manager’s role as comprised of the 5 stages highlighted in our new manager training:

  1. Planning
    Defining a clear strategic direction and a common course of action. This includes new manager skills related to forecasting, developing objectives and strategies, tasking, scheduling, budgeting, and developing policies, procedures and processes.  Without clear and agreed-upon goals, it is difficult to set your team up for success.
  2. Organizing
    Once your goals are clear, it is time to define clear roles, responsibilities, scope, and interdependencies for everyone on your team. This includes new manager skills related to effectively defining, grouping, assigning, and integrating work so that people can perform it in a way that makes sense for the team’s current skills and desires.
  3. Staffing
    Once goals and roles are clear, effective new managers can attract, develop, engage, and retain the top talent required to best execute their plans in a way that makes sense for your unique strategy and culture. In high growth companies, managers often spend more than 50 percent of their time recruiting, interviewing and onboarding new team members.
  4. Directing
    Effective new managers are decisive. They know how to influence people to take effective action through the new manager skills of influencing, motivating, decision-making, problem-solving, communicating, and politicking.
  5. Controlling
    Effective new supervisors hold their teams accountable. They know how to assess and regulate work-in-progress, develop standards, and measure performance.

The Challenge for New Managers Today
The challenge for new managers is not only to master the five stages of their role but to expand their thinking so they are agile and flexible enough to meet the inevitably changing demands of the future.

To succeed in their new role with today’s workforce, new managers have a responsibility to approach their role more as an instructor than a traditional boss, one who empowers rather than demands.

That means that successful new managers must also be able to:

  • Foster and provide opportunities for learning rather than simply the accumulation of knowledge
  • Encourage employees to think for themselves rather than to rely on the way it’s always been done
  • Create an environment where new ideas and approaches are welcomed and carefully considered
  • Open their minds to what is possible rather than what is predictable
  • Find better ways to learn and grow
  • Keep their eyes on customer needs, competitor challenges, and marketplace trends

The Bottom Line
The job of a manager is evolving from an employer boss to an entrepreneur – someone who seeks to grow the team and is open to continuous improvement ideas.  Are your new managers up to the challenge?

To learn more about the role and responsibility of a new manager, download 7 Immediate Management Actions to Create Alignment with Goals

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