Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Planning to Change? Simply BEGIN

Thinking about making a change of some sort...perhaps a personal change? Or maybe an organizational change?

The secret is...to simply BEGIN.

Break it down - Many say that "change is hard." It is. But change is also huge. Or at least it seems so before you start. Change often seems overwhelming. That's why we often fail even before we get going.

So the B in BEGIN stands for "Break it down." Chop it into chunks. Lay out the steps in the roadmap that will get you to the goal.

Energize yourself and others - Another reason we often fail at change is inertia. "An object at rest will remain so unless acted upon." So the E in BEGIN is Energy! You've got to energize yourself and others.

What can help you energize? Perhaps a sense of urgency. Perhaps a sense of competition nipping at your heels.

What about your vision? What is the change about? Why are you making the change? What will the result of the change be? 

Get going - Southwest Airlines' founder Herb Kelleher was once asked what the strategy was. He answered:  "We have a strategic plan. It's called doing things."

Kelleher's wisdom says Get Going. Do stuff that matters.

Empower everyone to take action. That's what Tony Robbins means by "massive" action.

Invite and Involve others - Get everyone fired up by inviting them into the conversation, asking them for their share of the wisdom, and enlisting them in the various chunks of the change that need to get done.

Never stop - Change is never ending. Don't fall into the illusion that it's over. Once you have reached one milestone or one goal, the question always is, "What is Next?" The N in BEGIN can also mean Now, as in "What can you do Now?"

Here are some added words of wisdom:

To begin, begin. - Wordsworth
Begin with the end in mind - Covey
Every new beginning, starts with an ending. - Bridges
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. - Disney

Terrence Seamon helps his clients to "get going" on changes they desire to make. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Does This Make Any Sense to You?

A frazzled cowboy once said,
"I'm so busy, I don't know if I found a rope or lost my horse."
Clearly that dazed and confused cowboy is trying to make sense out his situation.
How often, in your life, can you relate to that?
Organizational psychologist Karl Weick wrote some very interesting stuff about human behavior and organization. In one piece, he wrote about a team of smoke-jumpers who were dropped by parachute into a major forest fire. Though highly trained, some things happened that they were unprepared for. As a result, they became disorganized and sadly most of them died.
What happened? Weick wondered if there was a failure of sensemaking.
Sensemaking is the process by which people give meaning to what they are experiencing.
Weick's concept of  "sensemaking" refers to the mental process of interpreting and constructing the reality we find ourselves in. So defined, we are sensemaking pretty much all the time as we go about our daily lives. Most of the time, stuff makes sense to us. Sometimes, we find ourselves in challenging circumstances where we may not understand what is going on so we have to actively try to make sense of what is happening.
In my field of organization development, this is a frequent challenge. Especially when dealing with change in organizations.
Change is disliked by so many of us so much of the time because it throws us a curve and we end up like the cowboy who doesn't know whether he has found a rope or lost his horse.
Change is destabilizing. It rocks the boat.
For example, consider a company in the throes of post-acquisition integration. The buyer has come in "guns blazing," cutting heads in a bloodbath, taking hold of everything and changing a great deal of how the acquired company used to do business.
Imagine being a "survivor" in such a scenario. Faced with a constant stream of new faces, new expectations, new demands, questions, and uncertainty. All the while, still trying to do your job.
Sensemaking becomes acute. It comes into it at every juncture as we attempt to adjust our mental models from the old to the new. The old model worked reliably. Hopefully the new model will jell. It will take time.
The smoke-jumpers got disorganized, at least in part, due to a failure in sensemaking. Some things happened in the incident that did not make sense to the highly trained fire fighters. Because of this, panic and distrust mounted. Their structure and judgement collapsed. And doom fell.
When I was an undergrad at Rutgers, studying Organization Communication & Development, one of my professors, Dave Davidson, had a theory of human nature:
"Never assume that the next guy knows what he is doing...much less why."
This is because we are always making it up as we go along. Sensemaking is the norm.
People spend a great deal of their waking life (and maybe also some of their dreaming life) in sensemaking. That is, endeavoring to put two and two together. Sometimes we get four. Sometimes we don't.
Sensemaking goes on at home, in a marriage, at a store, in a courtroom, in a lab, at a traffic intersection, even in a boardroom. Any place in life where we encounter the challenges, problems, dilemmas, decisions, and confusion of everyday living.
Sometimes, however, we find ourselves in very challenging circumstances --often in changing circumstances-- where we have to actively make sense of what is going on.
A great example of this kind of challenging situation would be a VUCA environment where things are so fluid that it feels volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Like a battle zone. Or a forest fire. Or a company undergoing a restructuring due to merger/acquisition.
The writer E.M. Forster once said, "How can I know what I think until I see what I say?" Though years before Weick came along, this goes to the gist of sensemaking.
To make sense of stuff, we have to develop ways of seeing things more clearly.
One way is to get feedback of some kind. Writers get feedback from the page in front of them. Sometimes we get feedback from others. Sometimes it's just from ourselves, taking time to reflect on what we are going through.
Another way is to use visualization. I have often said that my favorite consulting tools are a flipchart and a set of color markers. With these simple tools, a facilitator can help a team to make sense out of a problem by writing their thinking on the chart and taping it to the wall.
Effective OD practitioners are aware of and attuned to sensemaking. Especially in organizations undergoing change.
Furthermore, the successful OD practitioner herself is a sensemaker. Not in the sense of "having all the answers." But one who recognizes that her clients are trying to make sense of things, and who is ready to help facilitate this sensemaking process.
In today's turbulent business world, sensemaking can mean survival.
Terrence Seamon is a facilitator of sensemaking. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Come to the TABLE for Culture Change

I once learned, from consultant Kenny Moore, that the meaning of the word company is from Latin:  com (with) + pane (bread). 
He wrote: "At its core, company is about meaning, purpose and mutual support. Many of today’s businesses had their origins around like-minded individuals coming together to support and nurture each other in starting a labor of love."
That gave me one of those "Whoa!" moments. How many companies have an awareness of this? How many have lost this sense of company...and lost their way as a result?
So people who work together in a company can be thought of as people breaking bread together, sharing a common meal.
Pretty strange thought, eh? Maybe even striking?
Moore points out a connection to employee engagement: "It is when people feel a sense of belonging and purpose that they more willingly contribute not only their hands but also their heads and hearts to bring about business success."
What are the implications for leaders?
Moore suggests that long-term organizational success is "less about the bottom line and more about establishing a sense of shared community and passion for the effort."
Imagine then basing the culture of your company on this notion. Imagine that going to work is like coming to the table:
Trust - Everything depends on relationships. And everyone values reliability and dependability, doing what they said they would do consistently. Integrity gives rise to trust.
Accountability - Everyone thinks and acts like an owner. Everyone can be counted on to do their part and more.
Belonging - The company feels like a shared community. Everyone matters. Everyone looks out for the others around them. Mutual support is strong.
Learning - Everyone wants to improve themselves. Every opportunity to learn is seized upon, especially after-action reviews.
Engagement - Commitment runs deep. Participation is high. Everyone has their head in the game and their eye on the prize. 
A pipe dream?
Or a design template for your better culture?
Terrence Seamon helps his clients to strengthen their cultures. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Your Culture Is the Key to Your Success

Experts in mergers and acquisitions see this all the time:  Culture makes all the difference. Get the culture right, they say, and you have the key to success.
But what is it exactly that they are pointing to when they say "culture?"
Simply put, culture is the way we do things around here.
Some experts in corporate culture dislike that simplistic definition, but it works for me. Sometimes simple is the best.
There is nothing quite so practical as a good theory.
So let's look at the "way we do things around here." It could be your biggest blind spot. Do you even know?
And what things make the difference?
In looking at your corporate culture, some of the things that make the most difference include...
How do we treat each other?  Do we treat one another with kindness and respect? Do we look out for one another? Do we intentionally try to bring out the best in each other? Are we always looking for better ways to unleash people so they can use their talents? Are we recognizing and celebrating our people? Are we developing our people? Do we cooperate and collaborate for the good of the whole? Do we push ourselves to continually improve to be the best?
How do we treat our customers?  Do we do everything with the customer in mind? Do we remember that the old saying "customers make paydays possible" is literally true? Do we believe that we only exist to serve the customer? Do we listen to our customers? Do we strive to make it easy to business with us? Do we take their complaints to heart and make real improvements based on the experiences of customers?
How do we treat our place?  Are we good stewards of the resources we have? Resources include financial resources to be sure. Additionally everything from the office or lab or shop that we work in, to the impact our presence has on the surrounding community and environment. Do we operate safely? Are we mindful of our place and the impact we are having? Are we a good corporate neighbor?
In asking such questions, your exploration of your culture will surface many things that lie beneath the surface. 
My Canadian OD colleague Jan Yuill shared this motto with me some years ago and I think it provides a good starting point for looking at your corporate culture:
"Take care of yourself, take care of each other, take care of this place."
Terrence Seamon helps his clients strengthen their culture. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Friday, August 05, 2016

The COST of Employee Engagement

Even though many organizations continue to demonstrate clearly that they regard their people as disposable, I still buy into the saying that "people are an organization's most important asset." Why? Look at the research emerging over the past decades around the Employee Engagement Equation:
The more engaged your workforce, the more productive and profitable your company.
What many had believed for so long is now evidence based. Trouble is, do business leaders know it? Do they get it?
The challenge before HR and OD practitioners is to do a good job of convincing our clients in the C-suites that investments in people will grow the business.
Start by asking, What are the reasons why CEOs don't seem to care about employee engagement?
One of the blockages that some CEOs have is that "they are funny that way." Meaning, they are wired to focus on things like profit, loss, and stock price.
The human stuff does not compute for these CEOs. It's not that they are bad. It's how they are made. The way to "get through to" these CEOs is to speak to them via their interests.
So how do you "speak their language" and get through to them? Here are four suggestions:
C = Customer: Can you connect the dots between employee engagement and customer engagement? Since "customers make paydays possible," articulating the connection will make a strong impact.
O = Opportunity: Can you identify the opportunity that employee engagement presents to the organization? Certain opportunities, such as innovative new ideas or cost-saving ideas, arise from engaged employees and are not to be missed.
S = Strategy: Can you link employee engagement to the strategy of the business? The strategy of any business captures How we are going to get to and achieve our goals. People are key to the How. People get you to the goals.
T = Timing: Can you convey the urgency? Clearly connecting employee engagement to winning in a competitive space is one way to get the leader's attention.
One employee engagement expert who works with CEOs is Dr. Judith Bardwick. In her incomparable style, Judy makes the point very clearly:
"The facts are very powerful: when employees are very enthusiastic and involved, the organization succeeds in terms of financial outcomes. When people are committed, they are proud of their organization and when they are engaged, they see their work as contributing to the organization’s mission, which they strongly believe is important."
So, HR and OD leaders, now that the COST is clear, will you step up and make the case for employee engagement?
"If not now, when?"
Terrence Seamon teaches his clients about the power of employee engagement. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Leaders, You Teach in Everything You Do

So much is written about leadership! Qualities of leaders. Traits of leaders. It's all interesting, to be sure. But, at the end of the day, you may be thinking: If you want to be a leader, what should you do?

Here is an important principle of leadership for starters:

Everything you do teaches.

This leadership principle says, Teaching is more than just words. Your actions speak just as loudly. If you want to "lead by your example," then watch what you do.

In view of this principle, an effective leader is highly mindful of his or her own behavior, actions, and choices.

Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a manager, everything you do, everything you say, has the potential for leaving an impression on a child, on a student, on an employee. These impressions will influence what people do as a result.

If a manager wants improved communication, he needs to communicate effectively.

If a manager wants improved engagement, she needs to be engaged in her work.

Whatever you do (or don't do) speaks volumes . . . and teaches.

So here are three things that leaders do...that you can start doing today.

Ask for input - Leaders know that power is not in position. Rather, power is in posture. And the most powerful posture is humility. An open and receptive posture that invites and welcomes many voices and perspectives. "What are your thoughts?" is a positive power play with real potential. So, leaders actively seek the ideas of their team members. "What do you guys think we should do?" is not a sign of weakness on the part of the leader. Quite the contrary. It's brilliance. Leaders ask for help. Leaders listen. And, in so doing, they engage and empower others.

Seek wisdom before taking action - Leaders take action based on what they believe is wise, that is, the right course for the right reasons. Where do they find this wisdom? While leaders often have good ideas, even the smartest know that they don't have all the ideas. There may be even better ideas out there among their constituents. The leader that seeks the wisdom of the people in the system is indeed a wise one.

Learn and change - Leaders are agents of change. And all change starts with the man or woman in the mirror. The Self. In the face of today's complex workplace challenges, the wise leader would take a long and honest look in the mirror. And resolve to make the necessary changes in himself.

Terrence Seamon helps managers become leaders. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's Not About You

Good ideas come from the margins.
I think I first encountered the concept of marginality in Organization Development a long time ago (early 70's) in discussions about collusion.

In 1988, in a strong critique of the state of OD, Margulies and Raia commented that OD consultants are "in bed with" their clients. They wrote:

"It is our belief that OD practitioners have become an integral part of this collusion. Many practitioners have succumbed to management pressure for the quick fix, the emphasis on the bottom line, and the cure-all mentality; they have failed to maintain "marginality" in their roles as consultants and helpers to management- they are for all intents and purposes "in bed" with their client-systems; and more important perhaps, they seem to have lost sight of the core values of the field..."

From what I have learned, marginality is a choice that we make. A relational stance toward our clients. A way to provide clients with outsider perspective, professional distance, neutrality, and honesty.

The marginality of a change agent gives the best vantage point for assessing the system and determining the changes that will bring about the needed improvement. Such marginality is an intentional space that the consultant chooses to operate from. He or she can be deep inside of the organization yet maintain marginality.

Marginality helps to keep the relationship professional.

And, if blogger Paul Graham is right about the powers in the marginal...

for example, Graham points out that new ideas often come from the margins and that outsider status brings different opportunities than those available to insiders

...there could be a whole new vista on marginality for OD practitioners.

Is it time for OD to reclaim the powers of marginality?
I think so.
A starting point is how we view ourselves. For example...
"It's not about You."
Rather, it is about the Client.

You, the consultant (or facilitator or coach), are not center stage. You are the neutral servant. Your job is to be of some help. The spotlight belongs to the Client.
The Client owns the goal. The Client is accountable for the outcome.

Your job is to work yourself out of a job...but to leave the Client and her System better off than they were at the start of the engagement.
Where are you on the topic of marginality?
Terrence Seamon has been cultivating marginality for decades. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Do I Contradict Myself?

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

This excerpt, from the poem Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, opens up a vast thought for me about potential, about possibility.

For instance, we are taught that contradiction is bad. "Don't contradict me, young man." Or "You are contradicting yourself."
So what?

What if both positions are possible? What if both positions are right?
What if ambiguity is a path to wisdom?

I'm coming to the thought that we contain so much more than we know. It's a thought that runs counter to our socialization. We are taught to think of ourselves as units. We break things down, diagram things, and put things into boxes.
We are taught binary thinking.  On or Off. Black or White. In or Out.
We tend to think in terms of limits, in terms of scarcity.

What if we actually had no limit, no edges, no top, no bottom, no sides?

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” - Bruce Lee

Terrence Seamon helps his clients expand their thinking to move toward their goals. Follow Terry at twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Angel in the Marble

What do you see? Not right in front of you. But what do you see in terms of possibilities?
"I imagined the angel in the marble and I carved it until I set him free" -  Michaelangelo
There is a power within all of us that goes unnoticed and underutilized by most of us, much to our detriment.
I'm speaking of the Imagination.
We all have imagination. It comes with the package, so to speak. As children, we are incredibly imaginative, concocting stories, weaving fantastic voyages, pretending and play-acting like wee little Shakespeares!
What becomes of our imagination as we grow up?
Some hold on to it. Poets, artists, composers, dreamers.
Consider the quote above, attributed to the great artist Michaelangelo. That he could look at a raw hunk of marble, and "see" the potential for an angel within it, is testimony to the faculty we possess called imagination.
Imagination is a power we all possess. It's our ability to see what is not there, but could be.
It is the well-spring of all creativity and innovation. It is the source of all things new.
Terrence Seamon writes from his imagination. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What's Stopping You?

"The first step toward getting somewhere is deciding you are not going to stay where you are."
After thirty years of living at one address, we are moving. As you might imagine, you accumulate a lot of stuff in thirty years.The  house is filled with boxes, holding dishes, photo albums, books, holiday ornaments, and much more, all awaiting the moving men.
So far, it has been a quite a journey. We have made more trips to Good Will than I can count!
Thanks to craigslist and freecycle, we have given away furniture, toys, books, chimes, and all sorts of home goods.
Thanks to family and friends we have stashed artwork in cellars and Christmas decorations in basements. We have entrusted precious family heirlooms, like the Cop Bear, to one of my brothers.
As we have burrowed into our own personal archaeological dig, we have unearthed treasures of our past, such as my father's box of personal effects including a talisman from Italy that he brought home from the war.
As exciting as the prospect of moving to a new place is, this has also been an incredibly stressful time.
Many is the time during these past few months that we have felt exhausted by the daily tasks of sorting, bagging, boxing, and disposing of the stuff of thirty years. There were times when we asked ourselves, Why? Why are we doing this? Why don't we just pull the plug and go back to the way things were?
The more stuff, the harder the move.
This process seems to me to be a good metaphor for personal growth and change.
It can be hard to start. It can be hard to push on and push through. You may feel like you've made a mistake. You may be tempted to throw in the towel.
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
I'm learning some lessons as a result of our decision to move.
Deciding to move is deciding to change.
Terrence Seamon coaches his clients through change. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Monday, July 11, 2016

There is NO substitute for experience

I've noticed that organizational change practitioners really really really want to learn!
That's good. Because managing organizational change is NOT for amateurs.
"When it comes to managing organizational change,  there is no substitute for experiential learning." - Dr. E.J. Sarma
There is much to know about organizational change. There are theories (e.g. Kurt Lewin's force field analysis) and models (e.g. John Kotter's eight steps). There is research (e.g. Argyris) and best practices (e.g. Prosci).
But as good as they are, that is all in the head.
I have said in the past that the most important credential for anyone practicing in this arena is that they MUST have direct and personal experience of organizational change.
Otherwise how could they possibly know what people are going through?
Having gone through a major change in an organization (e.g. a merger, an acquisition, a downsizing), the practitioner will know it in her gut and in her heart.
With such a personalized and internalized knowing, the truly experienced organizational change and development practitioner will be ready and able to guide others through the skerries of change.
Terrence Seamon is a seasoned organizational change and development practitioner. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and on facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Way to Build a Better Company

On LinkedIn, consultant Jeffrey Deckman wrote:
"The only way to build a better company is to invest in building a more capable workforce." 
To which I said, Amen!  A company is its people.
Deckman's statement leads to a question:  In today's companies, what are the key capabilities needed in the workforce?
One of those key capabilities, in my view, is leadership. Leadership is not about level or title. It's about the capability an organization needs to mobilize energy in the desired direction toward success.
Breaking this capability down into components, here are some of the most vital aspects of leadership.
Character - Many thinkers, from Plato to Stephen Covey, have tried to distill the qualities of a leader. The key qualities, in my mind, are those that are most related to demonstrating leadership in an organization. Qualities like focus, being proactive, vision, commitment, respect, and caring. There are many more, I am sure. Character is vital to leadership because it points to what is inside the person that "shines" out of them in their interactions with others.
Communication - If you are not communicating, you are not leading. It's as simple as that. Communication is the oxygen in an organization. Leaders maintain a lively exchange of information and ideas with others around them in the organization. The communication is open, free flowing, and direct. Leaders are approachable.
Conflict & Creativity - Any time people come together in an organization there will be clashes. Conflict therefore is natural and emerges from our differences. Leaders recognize this and develop ways to handle disagreements in a healthy way. Leaders also develop creative approaches to resolving issues and problems so that the team gets stronger and smarter through the process. 
Collaboration - Leaders facilitate teamwork by bringing people together around common goals. When collaboration and cooperation are established, leaders can unleash the power of diversity and synergy in the organization, where "great minds" can apply their energy to vexing problems and achieve breakthroughs.
Coaching & Change - Leaders build the capabilities of others. That's what coaching means. Strengthening others so they can perform at their best. And during times of organizational change, when people are stressed, this coaching capability is greatly needed to help people navigate the uncertain waters of change.
Culture - Leaders impact the culture of the organization because the culture is a reflection of the choices ("how we do things here") they make each and every day. Mindful of this dynamic, leaders can "lead by example" and take good care of the culture being created for the company.
The way to build a better company?  Build the leadership capability of the workforce.
Terrence Seamon builds leadership and team capability. Follow him on twitter @tseamon, and facebook Facilitation Solutions.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Culture Change by Design

Many are thinking about changing their organization's culture to make it more innovative, more customer focused, even more healthy. All good goals, in my view.

But can you really change the culture? Experts on corporate culture have differing views.

Where does culture come from?  The culture of an organization is the way it is due to the history of the company, stretching back into the past. Culture is a reflection of the founders and past leaders, decisions that were made in the face of early obstacles, and practices that became "the way we do things here." 

The way a culture is now is because of the way things have been done. 

To change the culture therefore requires changing the deep structures that underpin the present behaviors. This is a significant undertaking. There is no quick fix. No fast transformation.

I am reminded of a culture change project from 2011 that made headlines in the media.  Back in 2011, Lowell McAdam, the newly named CEO of Verizon Communications, announced: "We will definitely try to bring that entrepreneurial culture from the wireless side into the wireline side." Why? McAdam had come over to Verizon after a highly successful run as the head of Verizon Wireless. He said that Verizon must adopt a more "entrepreneurial culture" in its shrinking land-line business.

That was truly a Big Scale Culture Change Project: How to bring the entrepreneurial culture from the wireless business into the wireline side of Verizon Communications, to counter its shrinking business prospects.

How did he plan to pull this off? Reading further in the news articles, some of McAdam's ideas for changing the culture included...

Spreading the Credo: Like many other companies, Verizon Wireless has a set of values. They call it their Credo (as does Johnson and Johnson). The word Customer is mentioned over and over. And most interesting is the final section about Bigness:

"Bureaucracy is an enemy. We fight every day to stay small and keep bureaucracy out. We are more agile than companies a fraction of our size, because we act fast and take risks every day. We see crisis and change as opportunities, not threats. We run to a crisis, not away. Change energizes us. We work hard, take action and get things done. Our actions produce measurable results."

Impressive words. But the proof is on the front-line.

Working with the Unions: A phone company like Verizon deploys thousands of front-line workers each and every day. The culture change initiative must touch the hearts of these people or it won't take hold.

Developing New Products and Services: With new competitors nibbling away at the old phone business, Verizon must think differently and innovate. The way to think differently is get different people thinking together.

If McAdam had asked me what else he should consider, I'd have offered the following...

Lead the Change: This is now a top priority for all the leaders of the organization. Who are the leaders? Potentially, anyone. Leaders can come from anywhere in an organization. Expand your thinking about leadership and develop leaders at all levels. Leaders are the catalyst for change.

Share the Vision:  What is the change? What do we desire to become? What is possible? What will it take to get there? What will it be like when we have reached the New Beginning? Can we let go of the Old Way?

Clarify the Challenge: Make it abundantly clear that the stakes are high and that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Jack Welch once said it very well: Change before you have to.

Communicate!   Effective communication is open, two-way, and direct. To build trust during times of significant change, communication must be constant.

Engage the Entire Organization: Make it very clear that everyone has a part to play in moving the culture and transforming the way Verizon does business. Invite everyone to contribute. Make it "safe to say" whatever is on their mind. Listen and learn. Implement as much as possible.

Change the Conversations: Get different people involved. Change the conversation by changing who is around the table. Capitalize on diversity.

Engage the Customer: Invite the customer to the table. Seek their input. Listen, learn, and improve.

Changing the culture of an organization is a massive undertaking. But it is possible.

The members of the organization have to take a good hard look in the mirror and ask themselves "Can we change?" 

To change the culture of an organization, you have got to engage everyone. Everyone must be included. Somehow everyone has to have their say...and be heard.

With commitment, communication, coaching, customer-focus, and confidence, it can start tomorrow.

Terrence Seamon is fascinated by culture and culture change. Follow him on twitter @tseamon. Learn more about him on facebook at Facilitation Solutions.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Crazy Good

Recently in conversation with a manager at a client company, I asked about the big changes going on, including the acquisition of another company.

She said,"It's good. Crazy good."

What's good is the growth that they will experience with this acquisition.

What's "crazy" is the overwhelming amount of change they are trying to absorb.

Her choice of words, "crazy," was an apt term. If you're not careful, huge levels of organizational change can have negative side effects.

I seized the moment to tell her about VUCA, that is, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and uncertainty.

She nodded after each concept and said at the end, "Yep. That's what we are going through."

What does it take to stay resilient in such a hi-change environment? Here are four things to think about.

  • In highly volatile situations, people will feel endangered and scared. This type of change means stress. And stress can lead to illness.  Whatever you can do to reassure people and create islands of stability may help lessen the fear that often accompanies such change.
  • In uncertain environments, predictability drops, and surprises rise. In such a climate, planning, organizing, and adaptability take on a critical importance for managers and their teams.
  • In high complexity environments, confusion and chaos become the norm. Many of the problems that teams face will have no obvious "low hanging fruit" solutions that they can quickly implement. Instead, managers and their teams need to learn new ways to think critically and creatively to solve the dilemmas they face.
  • In the midst of ambiguity, where there may be multiple meanings of events, a team needs the mental ability to maintain their "line of sight" toward their objective. Having a clear and compelling sense of purpose ('Where can I do the most good for the business right now?') helps to laser focus on the most pressing priorities. 

Operating in a "good crazy" environment of change is not easy. People may feel like things are "out of control." By recognizing it for what it is, leaders can bring the energy and thinking needed to help their teams weather the storming.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on June 29,  2016. Looking for more ideas on how to manage change? Terry Seamon is an Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Culture: By Default or By Design?

Every organization has a culture. But not every organization designs their culture.

How does Culture get to be what it is? From my research and experience, I'd say that culture can be by default (it just is) or culture can be by design (it is what we want it to be). 

A favorite example of a culture by design is that of Southwest Airlines, one that has been well researched over the years and written about extensively. Their story clearly depicts the influence of the early leaders, choices they made, obstacles they faced, and the first successes they had, all of which laid the foundation for what came later. 

For a small glimpse of the Southwest culture, here is a video of former CEO and founder Herb Kelleher and one of the flight attendants.

Clearly culture means a great deal to Southwest Airlines.

It reminds me of a company I worked for in the 1990's. Our CEO 'Bob' used to talk to Wall Street audiences about the "secret weapon" that we possessed, namely our culture. Like Kelleher's point about the competitive advantage that culture provides, Bob used to say that "Our people, and how we work together in teams to serve our customers, these are the secrets to our success."

Thinking about that company, I once wrote about the "secret recipe" that it developed and followed:

R = Results Focus: Everyone in the Company, from the CEO to the front-line, is focused on delivering results each and every day. That's why they come to work.

E = Engaged Employees: Engaged employees are "fans of the brand." They believe in the Company and they are willing to do whatever it takes to deliver high quality results to your customers.

C = Customer Focus: Your Customer is at the center of everything you do. They are The Reason you are in business. As Peter Drucker once said "The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer."

I = Innovative: Your culture is change-ready and always on the lookout for bright ideas that can keep you ahead of your competition. "Good enough" is not.

P = Purposeful: You are driven by your Mission, your Vision of the future, and your Values that you hold dear.

E = Engaged Employees: You are obsessed with talent. Talented people and teams are the key to growing the business. Where do you get engaged employees? You hire them.

Did you notice that Employee Engagement showed up twice in the secret sauce? That's because it is THE KEY ingredient. Your people are your most important asset.

Shake that ingredient in twice.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on June 26, 2016. Looking for more ideas on how culture can be designed to help your business succeed? Terry Seamon is an Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.