Misty River Consulting | Enabling Sustainable Improvement | Strategy | Leadership | Engaged People | Facilitation http://www.mistyriver.com You have opportunities; we have business solutions! Thu, 27 Sep 2018 16:57:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 I Want the Ball http://www.mistyriver.com/2018/09/27/i-want-the-ball/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2018/09/27/i-want-the-ball/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 16:57:39 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=337 It was 47 years ago, on a rainy fall Friday evening where I sat on the bench watching my team be frustrated by the other civil war rival from across town.  It was the city’s biggest event of the year – the two high school football teams duking it out every fall before a standingRead more about I Want the Ball[...]

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It was 47 years ago, on a rainy fall Friday evening where I sat on the bench watching my team be frustrated by the other civil war rival from across town.  It was the city’s biggest event of the year – the two high school football teams duking it out every fall before a standing room only crowd.

On that night, we looked and acted like losers.  I was angry that we were being “spanked” by those snobs from across town.  I was angry with our quarterback, Gary, who was yelling at the other players, blaming them for our poor performance, acting like a jerk to everyone on the team including the coaches.  Yea, I was just the second string quarterback, but I always believed I should have been first string in the first place and now I just wanted the ball.  The best thing for our team now was to give me the ball and let me lead.

It was early in the second half and I had had enough, as had some of the fans, as they began to get up and leave the 24 to nothing game.  It was dark, damp, and kinda cold.  Many believed that the outcome was determined; even many on our team I sensed were just waiting for the game to end.  But not me, I wanted the ball.  Assertively, and maybe even foolishly, I walked up to the coach and between plays said “I want the ball.  I want to lead this.  You have nothing to lose and maybe we can gain some self-respect.”  He stared in disbelief that some “Junior” would say such a thing and told me to sit down.  He was frustrated too it appeared.

Score: 24 to 0

It was another 3 and out for our ineffective offense and another score, albeit field goal, for them.  24 to zip – the stench of defeat was beginning to linger in the air.  I insistently stared at the coach and caught his eye.  And almost instinctively he grabbed a ball, tossed it to me and said, “here you go.  You’ve got the ball.  Make it count.”

I didn’t expect this opportunity, but I wanted it.  As I ran out to the huddle I thought of my dad and wished he could be there.  Maybe he’ll hear it on the radio I hoped if he’s not too sick.  It was sad that he would never see me play; his time was near.  I put that aside as I entered the huddle.  The guys were surprised and asked where Gary was.

“Does it matter?”  I looked each one of the guys in the eye and said, “I’m here to remind you that we are here to win.  And I’m committed to being clear about what we are going to do, telling you when you’re doing good, what we need to improve, and simultaneously show you respect as we try our best to pull this out.  Got it?  Wolf 45 Right.  Break,” I said as we broke huddle.  All I remember of the first play is that it hurt.  I was sacked.  I could see Coach smirking on the sideline.  Ted, the left tackle helped me up and apologized.  “Sorry, I didn’t get leverage on him,” he said.

“No problem Ted.  Next time knock the crud out of him for me!”  On the next series of plays, things were different.  Ted did knock the linebacker down – again and again.  And as we went through our progression of plays, everything seemed to slow down and become clearer.  On the last play of the series, I remember running to the right in slow motion, finding a receiver crossing from left to right, and throwing a dart to him.  Tom leaped up, grabbed the ball out of the air, turned, scampered 12 yards, and scored.  The field seemed so clear and the play seemed to last for minutes even though it took seconds to narrow their lead to 17 points.

Score: 24 to 7

As I trotted toward Coach after we scored, I could hear the crowd as did my team mates.  There was a renewed gasping of hope in the air.  And as I ran past Coach on the way back to the bench I again said to him, “I still want the ball.”  He shook his head and I thought I saw him chuckle a bit.

Our defense held – a “three and out” for the scumbags from South Salem.  Maybe they were playing their second string offense now or maybe our confidence and effort was beginning to manifest itself.  For me it meant that we had another chance to score and I had another chance to lead, to be responsible for the helping our team be successful, for building everyone’s confidence up, and being clear about what we were to go do.  We needed to score quickly.  Time was a factor.

I asked Coach before going back in, “Why not short 7 yard passes to the outside flats – that will give us quick yards and we stop the clock?  And, how about every once in a while running a counter draw as we roll right to get a big run up the middle?  I believe if we roll either side with short outs, the linebackers and safeties will begin to cheat to the outside.”

Coach listened and nodded his head.  “Just call your game.  Go no huddle if you want a few times.  You’ve got the ball Kerper,” he said almost smiling.

We huddled, I thanked my guys for working hard, and told them the strategy Coach and I had agreed to.  And then I called the next 3 plays that we would run with no huddle.  Again, everything slowed down even though I believe we were playing crisper and quicker than we had all night.  The tactic was working.  And we scored again in less than 3 minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter on the counter play.

Score: 24 to 14

Everyone knew the plan, everyone did their job, everyone accepted responsibility, and my hardest job was making sure I thanked everyone after we scored again for doing their jobs.  We were within 10 points.

The rest of the game was the “dog fight” of the season.  They had a couple of good drives that we stopped eventually.  Their great punter put us in poor field position twice.  We got within 3 points after a long difficult 85 yard drive that was truly a “test of will” of both teams.  What was cool about that drive was that we executed, we were efficient, we surprised them with our strategy, we outplayed them – we believed in our goal and in ourselves.  We scored our 21st point with just a couple minutes left.

Score 24 to 21

As the game excitingly came to the end; we found ourselves short by 3 points.  We didn’t reach our goal, but I’m proud of what our guys did that night.  We won the second half and came very close to winning it all after having no points at half time.

I took no “personal” credit for what had happened; the team deserves the credit.  I wanted the ball and to lead, not because it would allow me to brag and increase my status among my peers or impress certain girls I fawned.  What was happening was intended to create team success, team pride, and “team esteem”.  My job as quarterback was to ensure everyone remembered the goal, to state the plan, ensure everyone knew their role, and treat them firmly and courteously as we executed each play.  I wanted that job, to lead, to have the ball in my hands to help our team.

The After Game Analysis

Later as I walked to my car alone after the game, Coach came running up and initiated a conversation that was not “coach like.”  He knew about my dad’s terminal illness.  And unlike a coach he asked, “How’s your dad?”

I shrugged my shoulders indicating that I didn’t know and said, “its day to day for him Coach.  I haven’t heard how he’s doing today.  Last night he told me he was hoping to listen to the game on the radio.”

There was a long pause and then Coach asked, “Do you know what your magic was tonight Kerper?”

I nodded with some doubt in my mind if it was the right answer.  “Coach, it was the team’s magic; not mine.  However, it’s weird Coach when I think about it; I believed and I just wanted the ball.  Maybe I was a bit arrogant and overly confident, but I believed I could get our team back into the game.  And I knew I could rally them and create clarity and accountability and make them feel good about what we needed to go do.  And I believe I did that pretty well tonight!”

“Kerper, you did good.  Most guys want the glory.  I didn’t see that in you at all tonight.  All I saw was you reminding people that we are here to win.  You spent more time strategizing on the sidelines with your guys than I’ve seen anybody ever do.  And you praised everyone on offense, and even the defense, for their good work.  I didn’t see you stop working your guys and building them up until the game was over.  Why Kerper?  Where’d that come from?”

“Coach, isn’t that what leaders do?  Isn’t that what being quarterback is?  Isn’t…uh…….”  I stopped and looked down and I could feel tears.  “Really coach, I’m not sure why.  Maybe because if you have the ball, you have some influence, some impact over what happens………and I don’t have that at home……at the moment.”  Coach fell silent, put his arm on my shoulder, and we walked silently to our cars.

I just wanted the ball.

 

Leaders are needed across the world and we are prepared to assist develop a new set of leaders for the challenges we all face.  Call Misty River Consulting for assistance.  We can help.

Donald A. Kerper is the President and Senior Consultant of Misty River Consulting.  He is an Industrial Organizational Psychology practitioner based out of Stratford, WI serving clients across the United States.

@MRCkerper

 

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Did You? No, I Thought You Did! http://www.mistyriver.com/2018/09/06/did-you-no-i-thought-you-did/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2018/09/06/did-you-no-i-thought-you-did/#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 17:40:22 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=327 During a recent board meeting, the question was informally asked about why we seem to have such a hard time getting things done.  It was actually Rosanna who posed the question, “Right now, everything we do is a needs based project and we seem to just hope that somebody will step up and take theRead more about Did You? No, I Thought You Did![...]

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During a recent board meeting, the question was informally asked about why we seem to have such a hard time getting things done.  It was actually Rosanna who posed the question, “Right now, everything we do is a needs based project and we seem to just hope that somebody will step up and take the lead on these things.  Is that what the board wants to continue doing?”

Even after several months, no clear answer to Rosanna’s question had emerged.  It seems that what is happening is a “self-organizing” kind of phenomenon; set a direction, create an empowering environment, and watch as others around us begin to “step up” to make things happen.

Of course, there are benefits to self-organizing groups that include:

  • It allows us to see who naturally or intrinsically is a self-starter.
  • It can also allow us to see who tends to emerge as a task leader in an informal setting.
  • A sense of ownership develops among those who do step up and make it happen.
  • It can allow for a natural adaptation to the new current situation’s opportunities/challenges without a formal evaluation and decision making process.
  • It tends to prevent micro managing.

Self-organization also has its downside: those who do not step up around the priorities tend to watch from the “sidelines” because they don’t feel a need to jump in.  Since there are already people doing that work they feel their participation is not needed.  What do they do instead?  It depends.  But often what they do is not aligned with the organization’s priorities or isn’t even on the organization’s priority strategy or project list.

Diffusion of Responsibility

This tendency for people to stand aside because they perceive or assume that others have stepped up to work on the priorities is often evidence that “diffusion of responsibility” has occurred.  DoR, diffusion of responsibility, is normal.  It occurs when some need is present that will take one or two people’s time to resolve in some fashion.  As the number of people increases who see the need, people assume that someone else has already or will shortly step up to the issue and help get it resolved.  The assumption’s probability of being wrong increases as the size of the group that perceives the need increases.

Recently, the aforementioned board formally reviewed their progress on the nine priority projects that it had identified six months earlier.  What it found dismayed the group.  Only three of the nine priority projects had people who had stepped up to work on them.  Some members thought that this was an indicator about how much each board member cared or an indicator of each person’s commitment.  The problem with that conclusion is that self-organizing methods used on multiple projects lends itself to people making erroneous attributions about who is responsible for what and what their level of concern for the issue is.  As the number of projects increases and the complexity of each increase, DoR is more likely to occur.

It’s Normal

Fortunately, what we know is that this DoR phenomenon is not an indictment of people.  It does not signify that people are intrinsically lazy, uncaring, or uncommitted.  It just says that the more people involved, the less any one of us feel responsible for any given need we all collectively perceive.  And often we will move on, confident someone is taking care of it, and do something else.

To support this view, the board found that there were several projects that were being worked on that the board as a group had not considered, prioritized, or sanctioned.  Why?  It appears that people who consider themselves to be caring and responsible will identify what they think are priorities and initiate action to deal with these items, especially if they perceive that they are not needed for what another individual or group is already working on.  We could conclude that people do care.  We could conclude that people do want to feel they are responsible people.  And if they assume that others are working on priorities and that they are not needed, they will work on their ideas of what’s important.

You know, this diffusion of responsibility thing isn’t limited to board rooms.  Many stories are told of how people walk around a person stricken and laying helpless on a crowded sidewalk.  And for those who do stop, they try to comfort the person assuming that 911 has been called.  And of course, the person continues to languish and sometimes dies because somebody assumed that somebody else had dialed 911.

This DoR is not limited to crowded city sidewalks or dark alleyways.  It can happen within families regarding household chores, management teams where strategy goes unexecuted, ad hoc project or task forces that fail, baseball teams when the fielders assume the other guy has got it, football defensive backs who assume the other guy has got a receiver covered, at church when the donation plate is being passed, etc.  This is just how people are.  We make assumptions that somebody else has got it covered especially as the group size increases.

Tactics To Counter Diffusion of Responsibility

So what can we do about this?  The bottom line is to ensure that the erroneous assumption that somebody else “is on this” does not occur.  If you see someone on the sidewalk, assertively assist that person.  If you need someone to call 911 while helping that individual, look another person in the eye and ask them to call 911.  Make them commit to it.  This prevents that erroneous assumption that somebody is taking care of the 911 call from taking hold.

If you’re on a management team and want to ensure the success of a project, make sure that there is a leader per project who knows and accepts the responsibility for the project.  If you have to, look them in the eye and ask a person to formally to take on that responsibility.  Get their commitment.  It prevents this insidious assumption again from corrupting movement forward on their projects or strategy.

And if the project lead wants to create a self-organizing situation, that person can create a team that self organizes around the project’s objective.  And they can document their self-organizing work with a project charter and a time anchored action plan that communicates their projected path to project achievement that makes clear their roles and responsibilities and prevents the diffusion of responsibility from occurring.

Diffusion of responsibility will always occur.  It’s is a normal human attribution error that occurs as the group seeing the issue grows in size.  In addition, people want the freedom to do things their way and we should let them.  And as we do these two things, deliberately create a sense of responsibility by including in that “freedom” a formal commitment to their assigned responsibility and, if appropriate, a commitment to document their approach with a project charter and action plan so you know that formal acceptance of their role and their responsibility has occurred.

Assuming that somebody will take total responsibility and ownership for a situation even when there are lots of others around will come back to haunt you later.

 

When you notice that things are not getting done within your organization because people are assuming others are working on it, call Misty River Consulting.  We can help.

Donald A. Kerper is the President and Senior Consultant of Misty River Consulting.  He is an Industrial Organizational Psychology practitioner based out of Stratford, WI serving clients across the United States.

@MRCkerper

 

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Awkward, Passive, and Intense http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/09/20/awkward-passive-intense/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/09/20/awkward-passive-intense/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:06:48 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=212 Surprised, I awkwardly turned, thinking that I had heard someone at my office door.  But upon inspection, no one was there; just the unrelenting roar of the factory.  Over the months that I had worked at my job, the roar and vibration of the factory had become invisible to me and what brought me consciousRead more about Awkward, Passive, and Intense[...]

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Elliott Erwitt – Hand in Doorway

Surprised, I awkwardly turned, thinking that I had heard someone at my office door.  But upon inspection, no one was there; just the unrelenting roar of the factory.  Over the months that I had worked at my job, the roar and vibration of the factory had become invisible to me and what brought me conscious of it again were the times when I would hear or feel things that were different than the norm.  And what I had just heard from my desk was something different than the norm.

“There it is again,” I said to myself and again I turned quickly to the door.  But this time I said, “Is someone out there?”  With that question I saw some fingers grab the door and begin to pull it open.  And then the figure of a person, Joe, moved slowly into view.

“Come on in, Joe.  Sit down, make yourself at home,” I said to him.

He awkwardly entered and moved through the doorway, finding his way shyly to a position just in front of my desk where I noted that there was a quiver in his hand.  He declined to sit and said, “Mr. Kerper…uh, well…”

“Don”, I said to him.

“OK, Mr…I mean Don, well, I just wanted to let you know ‘bout this pipe down stairs that has a couple of cracks and fractures – you know what I mean?  It probably needs to be looked at and maybe you should think about replacing it sometime…well, you know…uh, only if you want to…Not trying to cause trouble, just if you want to.”

As I asked him a series of clarification questions to get the location and such, he was visibly positioning himself to turn and leave.  He was uncomfortable; I could see his shaking accelerate and beads of sweat form and begin their downward trek on his forehead.  When I finally thanked him for telling me, he immediately turned and hurried out of my office, three or four times faster than when he came in.

I sat back and just reflected on what had happened.  Over the year or two that I had been working at this plant, Joe had never come to my office and over the months hadn’t said more than a couple of words to me.  I just assumed he wasn’t the conversationalist type.  He was a great worker, just quiet.

But something was different this time about Joe.  Yea, he was quiet, kind of passive, and quite awkward in my office for sure.  But what caught my eye was the quiver in his voice and hands as he explained the problem and why it “should be replaced sometime”.  Why was he shaking?  Why were beads of perspiration rolling down his face?  Why was he so uncomfortable about a couple cracks in a pipe?  And then I figured it out; “…sometime” didn’t mean anytime; he was trying to tell me that it needed replaced now.

He couldn’t say it verbally in an assertive fashion probably because of my “big title”, but his body language was clear upon reflection.  Having realized his “passive intensity”, I immediately went down to check the pipe.  It was bad.  I had the system shut down immediately.  And we kept the system down until it was fixed.  Why?  Failure of the pipe would have exposed many people to a hazard and would have put the plant down for at least a 2 days.

I found Joe later and thanked him.  He probably prevented a lot of people from being hurt and he prevented a major downtime event from occurring.  I’m just thankful that it occurred to me that he was communicating something important no matter how awkwardly or passively the message was delivered.

I believe there are a lot of “Joes” out there.  They have a message, but just don’t have the clear, assertive voice that often needs to be heard by many managers and leaders who don’t listen well.  And as a result these managers and leaders often make disastrous decisions because they didn’t take the time to discern what the other was trying to communicate in their own unique and often ineffective fashion.

Consider the many meetings we have and the diverse set of “Joes” that might be in these meetings.  Whether they are strategic planning meetings, budget variance analysis meetings, project post audit meetings, staff meetings, or other important discussions, there are most likely people like my friend Joe in the room.  Consider how they are afraid to say what they need to say, who will not say anything contentious, who when they know they need to speak come across awkwardly, passively, or wimpy.  And consider the risk of not hearing or understanding the true intent, seriousness, and intensity of what they may be trying to communicate.

Yea, I know, you belief you have the personality that wouldn’t constrain anyone from speaking.  And yes, you may be right.  What you forgot is that it is not about your personality; it’s about other things like your title, your celebrity status, or the power they perceive that you have over them that constrains assertiveness and simultaneously hides your personality.

If you lead, if you manage, if you have a big title, if you tend to be in a hurry, entertain this suggestion.  Slow down and be civil and courteous.  Listen with your ears, listen with your eyes, and respond by paraphrasing what was said to show understanding.  Speak last after you have experienced extended times of silence and only respond with your opinion after you are sure that you understand your people first.

Create this environment so that people have the time to form their thoughts, time to organize how to communicate their thoughts, and have taken enough time to build the courage to boldly say what is on their minds.  Look for that “passive intensity”.  You will be surprised by how much more you will know about your organization’s situation and by how much more effective your decision making becomes.

Misty River Consulting will assist you develop the leadership capacity for improved performance.  Call or email us:

  • 715-687-8818
  • misty@mistyriver.net
  • @MRCkerper

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Leveraging the Value of Your Information System http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/06/20/leveraging-the-value-of-your-information-system/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/06/20/leveraging-the-value-of-your-information-system/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:09:21 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=201 In the realm of information technology there is nothing quite like an information system startup. The new system is installed; we hit the “on” switch; and voilà… “Here it is,” we say out loud, pounding our chests with a high degree of enthusiastic pride. “We’ve just changed our world.” However, maybe we should have beenRead more about Leveraging the Value of Your Information System[...]

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In the realm of information technology there is nothing quite like an information system startup. The new system is installed; we hit the “on” switch; and voilà… “Here it is,” we say out loud, pounding our chests with a high degree of enthusiastic pride. “We’ve just changed our world.”

However, maybe we should have been a little more low key. Things are not quite right are they? We have found problems. We ultimately spend more time debugging, redesigning, and rewriting the code for the system. Unfortunately, it is usually a frustrating first year. But fortunately for us, over time the new system’s performance does improve incrementally.

Let’s jump forward a year from when we hit the “on” switch. The system is in and works relatively well. Reports are generated. Costs are…”what, costs are higher?” “We just spent a large sum of money last year that is supposed to give us reduced costs. Where are the savings? What do you mean there is no payback?” Oops, you have now discovered one of life’s many truths.

Whether verbal, paper based, electronic, real time or not – information in and by itself does not improve process let alone organizational performance. There is no payback from information technology. In fact, information technology has traditionally been shown to increase costs due to depreciation and due to increases in data entry and system trouble shooting labor hours.

So why invest in information technology? What is in it for me? The answer is simple; the information that comes from our information technologies enables us to see and evaluate our “current as is”. But the payback comes when management creates a good improvement plan and acts to implement the plan. The two are inseparable if good results are required.

I Can See

Think of it like this. You’re on a bus traveling from New York to LA. You awaken from you nap you note that you cannot see what is happening outside the bus because your window blind is closed. But when you open your shade, you can now see what is happening through the window and you see that your bus is about to be hit by a car running a “Stop” sign. But, you are not in a position to create a plan or act to prevent the accident. You can see it happening but you can’t do anything to change the outcome.

Information technology allows us to see opportunities or problems that we could not see before or could not find the time or energy to seek. Without the technology we must dig for, search out, and spend inordinate amounts of time trying to see what’s happening within our processes and our organizations. A good information system “raises the shades” that have prevented us from seeing what’s on the other side of the window. But, “seeing” improves nothing.

Wow, That’s Messed Up

What “seeing” does is that it allows us to evaluate our current situation. Using information technology, we can determine what is working consistently from one time period to another. We can discover what parts of our system are highly volatile. We can benchmark performance of key performance indicators and use that to “flag” large deviations from the norm. We can have the system show how historically one metric may impact a second metric. And as we evaluate our situation, management can more rationally identify what opportunities exist, how big the opportunities are, and how they rank against each other.

So Many Opportunities – What’s the Plan?

Again, we still have no payback from the information system investment. We can see our situation, we can evaluate our situation, but we have not experienced a benefit yet from that system. The benefit of the system comes from management’s decision making, planning, and plan implementation that focus on capturing the opportunities made visible by the information system. The technology increases the quality of our decision making as we create our improvement plan. The quality of our decisions wrought by the new information system improve the accuracy of what we target for improvement, improve how we allocate resources to the target opportunities, and improve our predictions on how fast we can expect a payback. The improvement plan, whether strategic, tactical, or operational, positions us to act effectively and efficiently on organizational matters that count.

Using a football analogy, the team has seen what the defense is doing, it has evaluated the situation and found some opportunities for scoring, it has planned its next move, and now the team is lined up on the scrimmage line waiting for the play to start. But no change in score will occur until the team acts.

Let’s Get Busy

Like all aspects of life, seeing opportunities and having a plan does not turn opportunities into reality. The real payback for the information system comes from implementing the plan; it comes from acting. The highest priority items must have the organization’s attention, action steps have to be occurring, enabling resources need to be in place and used, and accountability for results established. And just like in football, we score when the right play is called given the situation and everyone executes their role in the plan effectively once the ball is “hiked”.

Good use of basic project management techniques by the management team improves our ability to execute. It can ensure that good results occur in a timely fashion as the plan is implemented. And management can use the information system to now see how effective and efficient our efforts are as we act to take advantage of our opportunities. The system can tell us whether we are making progress, having no impact, or creating more problems than we had before. Management then can evaluate their actions and adjust them appropriately to hopefully begin achieving the results they desire. As in football, if we are not scoring, we need to do something different.

As you can see, information technology is like a pair of glasses. They allow one to see. But seeing doesn’t create results. When management creates and implements a plan that allows discovered opportunities to become bankable results, payback of the system will occur – not before. The results come from developing a plan that engages your organization and its people in actions that turn opportunity into “points”.

Misty River Consulting will assist you leverage your information system for improved performance.  Call or email us:

  • 715-687-8818
  • misty@mistyriver.net
  • @MRCkerper

 

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The Usual Suspects http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/04/24/the-usual-suspects/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/04/24/the-usual-suspects/#respond Mon, 24 Apr 2017 21:49:16 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=189   CL/TalkLeft.com The other night when out with a group of acquaintances, namely my wife and her friends, we were all having a really great time until… The “until” is when some asks me what I do. I hate that question. “I’m an industrial organizational psychologist,” I say. “You’re a psychologist”, they respond astoundingly. “Yes”,Read more about The Usual Suspects[...]

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CL/TalkLeft.com

The other night when out with a group of acquaintances, namely my wife and her friends, we were all having a really great time until… The “until” is when some asks me what I do. I hate that question. “I’m an industrial organizational psychologist,” I say. “You’re a psychologist”, they respond astoundingly. “Yes”, is all I can muster.

It’s like a bomb went off; everybody stops. Everybody’s body language changes to something more formal and rigid. The conversations become more guarded and subdued. And people ask questions instead of letting me hide behind my normal modus operandi of questioning them. It’s all normal. It’s always the same. And, I loathe it when it happens.

The Organizational Doctor

After a while everyone calms down a bit after they realize that I’m not a “head shrink” and that I work on organizational behavior improvement. You know, boring things like selection processes, expectation setting and deployment, measurement, performance management, change management and all those other things that are just a lot less threatening than assuming that I’m watching them for signs of neurosis or a psychotic dysfunction of some type.

Inevitably, they paint me as an organizational doctor, one who diagnoses, prescribes, and manages a treatment plan. And often I let that definition stand to avoid the long discourse on process consultation, experiential learning and discover, and change management. And toward the end of transformation back to a more normal conversation comes the ever present assumption, “I’ll bet what you do is really is interesting. Like, I’ll bet that every organization is unique in what the problem is”, they will say.

The Usual Suspects

To that assumed position I usually respond by saying that every organization is unique in many ways just as a human is unique in many ways. And, just as important is that humans share much in common with each other just as organization’s do. Even given all the differences you find from one organization to another, the cause of the organization’s problem or dysfunction is the combination of one of the four usual suspects:
• Lack of clear expectations
• Lack of resources
• Lack of competency
• And finally, lack of accountability

Lack of Clear Expectation

One of my wife’s friends jumped right in with an example, “Yea, you are right. My best friend several years ago got this new job in a factory and her supervisor told her what her job was, her coworkers had a different version of what her job was, and her boss’ boss had a third version. My friend tried and tried, and tried to make everybody happy but everyone was mad at her all the time. She was miserable and one day, she’d had enough. She got right up from her chair, packed up her stuff, and left right after her supervisor came over and asked her in a disparaging fashion why she was working on what she was working on. That was right after her boss’ boss just told her to work on that very project she was now being criticized for.”

I just shook my head and acknowledged her story. It seems this is the norm. Lack of clear expectations and its negative impact resonates with a lot of people and most people have a story or two to share about it. It is first of the usual suspects of poor organizational performance.

Lack of Resources

After her story I jumped right in with a story of my own about my son. One Saturday morning I asked my young teenage son to mow the lawn while I went to the grocery store. He was barely up (even though it was 10 am) and not motivated at all it appeared. When I asked him a second time, he grunted, “yea, I’ll get to it”. With that, off I went to buy groceries.

As I came around the corner on my way back home, I hoped I’d see the lawn mowed, and of course it wasn’t. I began to feel that rage that comes when your kid doesn’t do what they committed to do. I ran into the house and slammed the first batch of groceries down on the counter and commented that it sure would have been nice if he had mowed the lawn for me. He just laid on the couch watching Scooby Doo as I bolted out for the next batch of groceries. Again, I came back into the house and slammed the groceries down and continued to grumble and complain about his laziness and my frustration with him.

And as I began to put the groceries away and continued to gripe, he got up off the couch, came over to me, and said, “listen” with his nose maybe a foot from my nose. Oh, he’s asking for it I said to myself. But suddenly he says, “Dad, there is no gas for the lawn mower”. With that, I backed away, looked down, and thought about it for a while and said to my thirteen year old boy, “Sorry son. I didn’t know. I was out of line. I’m sorry.”

“It’s OK Dad”, he said as wandered back to the couch to finish up watching the Scooby mystery. Lack of resources can and often is a real cause of dysfunction especially if you assume the resources are on hand for people to live up to what is expected.

Lack of Competency

Lack of clear expectations and resources are two of the usual suspects for poor organization performance. The third usual suspect is lack of competency. If somebody doesn’t know how to do the job, the job just will not be done right. If your training program for new employees is anything like the new job programs I’ve been through, many don’t come out of those programs trained – they come out the other side of those things battered and bruised.

Lyle had been assigned to train me to operate this machine center area that covered about 1 acre of space and was technically pretty complex. But he really disliked young twenty year olds like me and he had no deep desire to be a trainer. But, he did like the fifty cents more per hour that he would make by training me. His first bit of orientation was something like this, “kid, sit over there on that stool, watch, and don’t ask questions. Got it? Good!”

Well I sat there for a half an hour and then started following him around. He didn’t like that and he told me so. And I told him that I was not going to fail on this job because of him and that I was going learn this thing with or without his help. And so it went for the next 30 days as I learned the job pretty much on my own.

It was the typical way of training there. Management would assign someone to train you. The trainer would say OK for the extra money but wouldn’t train you primarily because they didn’t know how to train anybody on anything. So you had to learn on your own. Training was really observation, trial, error, and pain. You watch. You try. You make a mistake. You get yelled. Watch, try, error, and feel the pain – the traditional American way of training new people.

And here’s the kicker, this training is usually provided by a coworker who was trained exactly like he or she is training you – watch, try, error, and pain. No training curriculum, no training checklist, no training materials, no nothing except extra money per hour for the trainer.

Lack of Accountability

Finally, we were getting to the last of the usual suspects. At this point one of my wife’s friends kicked in her story from when she was a quality auditor for a corporation making cheese. She explained to us that within a cheese factory, it is important to wear personal protection equipment such as eye glasses, gloves, long sleeves, ear protection, etc. to protect yourself against personal injury even if the probability of an injurious event is low. And in a food manufacturing plant, it is also important to ensure policies that keep the food safe are followed and disciplined to consistently.

“One day, while walking through a cheese plant”, she said, “I saw coffee cans sitting near many people that they used to spit chewing tobacco and gum into. This was a big time policy violation and I was shocked that supervisors would tolerate this. And as I continued to wander through the plant and make my way to the plant manager’s office, I was like in shock.”

She explained that when she finally got to the plant manager’s office she told him about how she came across several coffee cans that people used for chewing tobacco. “He looked up from his desk and shook his head in a frustrated fashion,“ she said.

“Your right, I’ve seen them too. I just don’t know what to do about it.”

I looked at him and maybe had a look of surprise on my face. He continued, “I mean, what can I do when the supervisors are doing it too?” At that point I must have looked completely befuddled and sat down in a chair across from him.

“Mike”, I said, “First, supervisors and employees all must follow the same policies. Second, and most importantly, people will behave in the fashion that you tolerate. If you tolerate chewing tobacco, they will do it. If you show no tolerance by suspending them or firing them, the behavior will stop. What shows up is ultimately a function of what you tolerate, Mike!”

“Mike, here’s how it works. Set the expectations. Give them the required resources. Teach them how to do what you expect. And then, hold them accountable regardless of whether they are hourly people, supervisors, managers, or whoever.”

The Sum of the Usual Suspects

It was an interesting night with my wife and her friends. And it was really neat how the “usual suspects” of dysfunctional organizational behavior show up for many of us in our own unique situations. Whether they are with individuals we have in our lives, in the offices or factories we are part of, or in whatever kind of corporate entity we may work for, the usual suspects show up. Yes organizations are unique and yet they are similar in so many ways. I don’t have the data on me at the moment, but I can say this; after over two decades in this business I can tell you organizational dysfunction almost always, about eighty five percent of the time, comes down to “the usual suspects”.

When you find yourself looking for someone to assist you identify and eliminate the “usual suspects” call Misty River Consulting.

Donald A. Kerper is the President and Senior Consultant of Misty River Consulting. He is an Industrial Organizational Psychology practitioner based out of Stratford, WI serving clients across the United States.

@MRCkerper

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Another Useless Meeting… http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/02/08/another-useless-meeting/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2017/02/08/another-useless-meeting/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2017 16:59:38 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=179 Illustration by Andrew Joyner (Bloomberg) Have you ever just felt that you were in a situation that just wasn’t going to turn out right? I remember that moment, as an Oregon teenager, before our speeding car went over this cliff on a steep mountain road we were on and remember saying to myself, “oh oh”.Read more about Another Useless Meeting…[...]

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Illustration by Andrew Joyner (Bloomberg)

Have you ever just felt that you were in a situation that just wasn’t going to turn out right? I remember that moment, as an Oregon teenager, before our speeding car went over this cliff on a steep mountain road we were on and remember saying to myself, “oh oh”. We crashed – it was bad, but remarkably, we were OK. Recently I had a similar experience; I was asked to sit through a meeting, observe, and provide some feedback about my thoughts of what took place. I said OK as long as I didn’t have to do anything but watch.

The fifteen person meeting was due to start at 3:00 pm on a Friday afternoon. As the stragglers wandered into the meeting room and the resulting fifteen minute delay in the meeting start occurred, I was starting to get that same gnawing feeling I had on the mountain road. I was anxious and anticipating the worse. “Why are these people late? Don’t they know the rest of us have just been wasting our time waiting? Why is this being tolerated?”

Over the Cliff Again

At the half way point in the meeting, I was about to go nuts and I remembered again that instance of time just before we went over the cliff. I just wanted out of the car and in this case out of the meeting. I had had enough of people watching and poking at their cell phones, enough of the leader trying to lead without informing any of us of the meeting objective or agenda. I had had enough of the negotiation occurring about what we should do today. I was done, I couldn’t sit there and watch this and watch people just be totally frustrated in their quiet passive fashion. It was like watching sheep follow the shepherd over the cliff.

So, I excused myself from the meeting and motioned for the ranking manager to follow me. During our conversation outside the meeting room door I said to her, “This is driving me crazy. I don’t think I can sit any longer without hijacking this meeting.” She said, “Go ahead. I was hoping you might do that.” I looked at her with questioning eyes and she said, “Look, I know you don’t want to do that, but consider helping us today…please?”

Helping or Hijacking

After I had come back into the room, I innocently started to joke around a little, asked some clarification questions, and tried to establish some rapport with the group. I refrained from commenting on or contributing substance or content to the discussion. My comments were intended to be perceived as innocent lines of inquiry that would help me understand what was happening and what the issues were. I was playing dumb.

But, inside I knew what I was doing – I was providing leadership to a group that didn’t have real leadership. I was asking questions that provided clarity about what their project’s objective was. I was creating understanding about the need that was being addressed by this group. I was probing for the what their plan was to reach their goal. And, I was creating a conversation about why we are here today and what we needed to leave this meeting with?

The group needed and was seeking this kind of clarity and their leader was not providing it. So, my questions brought out from the group the things that they were quietly hoping for and anticipating that they would hear but were not hearing.

I felt guilty. Even if nobody else knew, I knew I was facilitating. I was leading. Was I manipulating the group for my sake? I hoped I wasn’t. I believed that everybody wanted that clarity. My only solace was this – I had stayed out of the content. I was leading the process by asking the questions; I was facilitating. Without it, the group would have floundered and they too would have labeled this meeting as another useless hour of time.

The Cost

Later, after the meeting, the responsible manager and I had a conversation in which she shared how impressed she was in how I had invisibly facilitated the last half of the meeting without personally getting into the content of the project itself. It was nice to hear that. She also shared her frustration about how meetings in general are managed at her company. Typically, meetings have no objective, they have no agenda, the leader acts passively, people arrive late and leave early, cell phones are on, computers are open, and people are “multi-tasking”.

She went on to say that over the last month she had kept a log of her meeting attendance. Her data revealed that for the last four weeks, meetings per week were requiring on average 20 hours. The average number of people in the room for these meetings was 11 people. Ninety percent of the meetings started late, waiting on average for two people. Meetings typically ran late by 16 minutes. For her, that meant that she was late for adjacent meetings 40% of the time. Ninety percent of the meetings ended with the leaders suggesting that another meeting was needed.

This person’s salary was $120,000 plus benefits per year. Her hourly rate equivalent was about $78.00 including the 35% benefits loading rate. So, that meant that she was being compensated $1,560 per week, $6,760 per month, $81,120 per year, to sit in meetings that began late, that ran long, that had no objective or agenda, that accomplished nothing, and that led to the scheduling of another meeting.

The Need

In addition, she said that given the average meeting size of 11 people, she and the other 11 associates were, in total, getting paid just under a million dollars a year to sit in these useless meetings. She went on to say that there were probably at least 100 people at the corporate office who were experiencing meetings just like her.

“So, the reason I asked you to observe that meeting the other day wasn’t just because we need help on that project,” she said to me. “We also have this huge latent loss of compensation that comes from ineffectively engaging people at work. Lack of good meeting planning and management is part of that lack of effective engagement. And, I believe, that alone is wasting several million dollars of our salary and benefits expenditures at corporate alone. Can you help us?” she asked.

The Benefit

Over the next year I assisted them with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their meetings by training them and developing their ability to use good meeting management tools and facilitation skills. Data collected later by my client showed:
• 50% reduction in total meeting time and much improved outcomes.
• Half million dollars in compensation not wasted in useless meetings that is now available for actually doing some work.
• Project objectives being met more effectively and efficiently that each had their own ROI.

The return on investment – invaluable!

 

Donald A. Kerper is an Industrial Organizational Psychology practitioner based out of Stratford, WI serving clients across the United States.

@MRCkerper

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Know Your Value http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/09/08/know-your-value/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/09/08/know-your-value/#respond Thu, 08 Sep 2016 16:51:51 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=132 Recently I was meeting with a friend who is helping me assess and improve the value proposition and supporting marketing and sales strategy of Misty River Consulting.  During our conversation it occurred to me that one of my struggles has been about not knowing and promoting my worth, of not stating clearly what value I haveRead more about Know Your Value[...]

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invisible-man-bench

Recently I was meeting with a friend who is helping me assess and improve the value proposition and supporting marketing and sales strategy of Misty River Consulting.  During our conversation it occurred to me that one of my struggles has been about not knowing and promoting my worth, of not stating clearly what value I have contributed and can contribute in the future.  If I wasn’t clear in my mind about my value, it is more than likely invisible to my clients and perspective clients as well.

So, I turned to my friend, who works for a media company, and asked, “Do you know your worth?”  “Do you know what value you provide?”  It was off topic; she looked at me like I was nuts and then thoughtfully noted that she didn’t know precisely.  The questions led to a larger discussion about how she felt while at work.  For her, the degree of respect and acknowledgement of her contribution fell far short of what she thought was appropriate.  And she noted that this was causing her to become frustrated, angry, and even at times unsure about her competence and value.

I was totally there; I understood as many small business people and employees do what it is like when the recognition is not there.  When the demand for your services is not there and when you do not perceive that you are valued, the impact of this on a person’s psyche can be profound.  It makes you wonder about your worth.  It makes you question whether you provide value of any kind to anyone.  And those feelings underpin a gradual erosion in your confidence, assertiveness, and eventually your attractiveness to those around you who potentially may find you and your services valuable.

Before our meeting ended, we did estimate the value that she brings to her company.  Since her arrival she has not only single handedly stopped the gross revenue loss trend, she has increased revenues radically.  The impact she has made, the value she has contributed, has created a 25 fold pretax profit return on investment from her salary.  That is a 2500 % pretax profit return on investment.

She didn’t know this.  She was shocked.  I asked her, is this accurate?  Is this overstated?  She in somewhat of a shy way said that yes, this was accurate and maybe on the low side.  “Does your boss, the owner, know this?” I asked.  She said that he should know it.  I asked again whether she thought that her boss knew this.  And with a twinkle in her eye she said that he probably didn’t.

The “twinkle” was eye opening, because their lives the “gold” of both marketing and individual empowerment.  Boldly going to this assertive place within you that normally we don’t tread is critical.  It is truly empowering when we do go there and proclaim, “I am valuable!  And this is what value I have contributed!  And here’s the data that provides the evidence of my contribution’s value!”  Hearing yourself say it assertively and having the evidence to back it up when questioned about it makes you powerful, it makes you attractive, and it makes you marketable.

Her assignment this week is twofold.  First, it is to fine tune the numbers and develop a set of talking points that will prepare her to boldly and assertively present to those around her an awareness of the value she provides and the worth of who she is when the time is right.  Second, is to use her talking points assertively and with courtesy when the time is right to the benefit of her and her company.

As for me and my marketing strategy, I guarantee a 100% return on investment in the first year and I have evidence that the change initiatives that I’m part of have returned at minimum a 500% return on investment.  “Maybe” Misty River Consulting needs to boldly and assertively know and proclaim its worth too.

 

Donald A. Kerper is an Industrial Organizational Psychology practitioner based out of Stratford, WI serving clients across the United States.

 

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Organizational Diagnosis – The Entry Phase http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/08/24/organizational-diagnosis-entry-phase/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/08/24/organizational-diagnosis-entry-phase/#respond Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:56:46 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=127 We have discussed in our last few blogs the reasons why an organizational diagnosis is performed and looked at a few examples of each diagnosis’ purpose. But, let’s cut to the chase on why a diagnosis is needed in the realm of I/O Psychology; the real reason for doing an organizational diagnosis is really simpleRead more about Organizational Diagnosis – The Entry Phase[...]

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acct investigation

We have discussed in our last few blogs the reasons why an organizational diagnosis is performed and looked at a few examples of each diagnosis’ purpose.

But, let’s cut to the chase on why a diagnosis is needed in the realm of I/O Psychology; the real reason for doing an organizational diagnosis is really simple – you must have a diagnosis before you treat a patient for a condition. To provide care for someone without a diagnosis is considered malpractice in the world of medicine. I believe that is true for those who practice Industrial / Organizational Psychology as well. To assist an organization, to bring about change of some type, without diagnosing the current situation is just plain irresponsible. Believe me, there are a lot of “quacks” out there who are hired to facilitate organizational change who skip the diagnosis and end up creating even more problems within the organization. Enough said, don’t you think?

So, given its importance, given the different purposes for doing one, how do you do it? What’s involved and what does the actual activity look like. Let’s explore the basic phases of an organizational diagnosis.

What Organizational Diagnosis Does Not Include

Before we address what an Organizational Diagnosis method includes, let’s explore what an organization diagnosis does not include. A diagnosis is only an identification of the current situation and the reasons why the current situation exists. Reputable I/O Psychologists will not offer a treatment plan with their organization diagnosis report. Why? This is to prevent the practitioner from biasing their analysis to fit into a ready-made solution already developed by the practitioner. Be forewarned, there are people out there who use their own “biased” organizational diagnosis to sell their ready-made solution. Although treatment plans can often look very similar from one client to another, each needs to be driven by the unique situation and personalities of the organization. Each must be tailor made for the client.

I understand that a potential “treatment” plan may be inferred by the results of the diagnosis or even asked about by the client, and why wouldn’t a client wonder what the next steps are. But remember, it is not part of the organizational diagnosis process. The treatment plan is independent of the diagnosis and not part of the organizational diagnosis itself and should only be discussed after a thorough understanding of the current situation has been established and after the client has requested advice or counsel on what the next steps should be. That is the ethical protocol for our profession in my humble opinion.

The Stages of Organizational Diagnosis

Given this, what should an organizational diagnosis include? What are the steps? An organizational diagnosis initiative usually has four basic stages that include:
• Entry
• Data collection and analysis
• Reporting or feeding back of the findings to the client
• Closure

Each of these four stages is important and each of these stages potentially has many action steps depending on the complexity of the situation and the scope of the assessment. In the remainder of this blog, we will focus on the first phase – Entry.

Entry

The first major step in performing an organization diagnosis is “Entry”. At first glance, it may seem like no big deal – set up a meeting with the client, define objectives and methods, tell them what data you want, define roles and responsibilities, set up the schedule, and make it happen. Unfortunately, the very fact that you are now in the organization and have set up a plan for doing the organization diagnosis in many ways changes the organization’s current state in and by itself. And how the entry is performed can change in a manner that is completely unintended from what the contractual intention actually is.

In the realm of physics, quantum mechanics has some interesting parallels with the diagnosis initiative. In this field of physics, some say that the act of measurement of a system actually changes the system being measured. This occurs because the measurement process itself becomes involved with the system and thus has influence or creates a force that in some way affects the system being measured. Thus, the system changes because we measured it.

This is also true for organizational diagnosis psychologists. As they go into the organization, they can impact the system in a significant fashion unless steps are taking to prevent or minimize this “involvement” phenomenon. For example, the practitioner might want to meet the client away from the organization’s premises, keep his or her initial contacts with the client limited to only a few individuals, prevent any announcement or informal conversation of an impending new organization initiative from occurring, etc. All of this is done to keep the practitioner invisible and incapable of unknowingly creating incorrect assumptions or expectations about what may or may not occur in the future. These suppositions and resulting “grass root” conversations can and do lead to small but significant organizational changes that in no way were actually intended.

Example

Recently I was asked to sit in on a meeting to “just observe” while I was visiting an old client’s premises. No big deal I thought to myself; that shouldn’t create any expectations or false hopes for change. Boy was I wrong. My reputation had preceded me and my presence actually created a set of expectations among the group members that were not intended. The group began to assume that I was going to become an integral part of their endeavor. All of this was based on their knowledge of my practice, my past history with their organization, their respect for my work, and the assumption that my presence was driven by their project alone. When they found that I was not going to be part of the initiative, they reacted to it. There was disappointment, rumors that management wasn’t supporting them, a lull in the energy of the group, and of course a short term slowdown in their project’s output. One simple “entry” flub can and often does have a significant impact.

Entry Activity

The activity that occurs during “Entry” needs to be invisible, non-overt, and quiet. And it needs to create clarity about what the objective of the diagnosis is:
• To determine how and why the organization is dysfunctional;
• To prevent dysfunction from occurring;
• Or to prepare for a planned change initiative

It needs to create a document that lists the organization to be studied; it is the whole organization or just a subset of it. The document would also list the objective of the diagnosis. It would also list the method and tasks that will be used to achieve the objective. It will also identify what data gathering is needed for the selected topical areas in question and what data gathering methods will be used such as interviews, surveys, etc. In addition the document needs to define the roles and responsibilities of those managing and contributing to the diagnosis initiative, and what the timeline for all this activity is.

Conclusion

Entry is the first phase in doing an Organizational Diagnosis. Entry is designed to create meaningful conversations with the client that allow the client to explore the objectives, methods, topic area targets, roles and responsibilities, timelines, etc. for the work that the client is considering. It is a time in the relationship between the client and the consultant where is should be safe, unobserved, confidential; where rapport can build and plans can be made. It is a time when the contractual framework for the potential initiative begins to come together through an iterative process of discussion, listening, learning, and adjusting. And while this occurs, it is invisible to the rest of the organization to prevent unintended change.

The end result of this entry activity is a document that details what the “action steps” are for the organizational diagnosis – what, who, when, and how are identified.

Your Takeaway

If I could convince you of one thing to remember as a result of this blog, it would be this: Poor entry tactics can create false expectations and initiate unintended organizational change without you doing a thing. And when people find that their expectations are not going to be met, it can have a significant negative impact that sometimes is very difficult to overcome. So during “Entry”, quietly and invisibly create a plan that works for you, make your plan detailed, and when you have thought it through and decided that moving forward is appropriate, do so in a quiet methodical fashion. Less fanfare is always better.

In our next blog, we will explore what topical areas an organizational diagnosis will more than likely explore.

So stay with me.

Remember, the tool is coming.

Misty River Consulting is here to assist you identify the root causes that create your current situation and assist you develop a plan for improved performance. Call or email us:
• 715-687-8818
• misty@mistyriver.net

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Organizational Diagnosis – A Tool in the I/O Psychologist’s Toolbox – Part Three http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/08/12/organizational-diagnosis-tool-io-psychologists-toolbox-part-three/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/08/12/organizational-diagnosis-tool-io-psychologists-toolbox-part-three/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 15:30:02 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=122 Last week we explored the second reason a client may want to have an organizational diagnosis performed within their organization. As you may recall, Organizational Diagnosis is a methodology used by an I/O Psychology Practitioner to enter into the organization, collect data about the organization, and feedback information to the management team that creates anRead more about Organizational Diagnosis – A Tool in the I/O Psychologist’s Toolbox – Part Three[...]

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Prescribed-burn-in-Klamath-National-Forest-CA-by-E-Knapp

Last week we explored the second reason a client may want to have an organizational diagnosis performed within their organization. As you may recall, Organizational Diagnosis is a methodology used by an I/O Psychology Practitioner to enter into the organization, collect data about the organization, and feedback information to the management team that creates an understanding of the organization’s system and whether a change initiative might be in order. It is one of the many tools in the I/O Psychologist’s toolbox and it is foundational to many of the other tools the professional uses especially in regard to change management.

We also explored the second of the three reasons for performing an organizational diagnosis:
• To determine how and why the organization is dysfunctional
To prevent dysfunction from occurring
• To prepare for a planned change initiative.

We concluded last week’s blog by exploring an example of how the tool was used with a client to proactively prevent future changes in the organizational design from becoming new causes of dysfunction.

Prepares For a Planned Change Initiative

The third reason a client may want to perform an organizational diagnosis is preparatory in nature – preparing for a planned change in some aspect of the organization. For the organizational leadership to lead and manage change, the current “as is” situation must be defined, the future state must be envisioned, and an action plan that moves the organization from its current state to the future state must be created and implemented.

Organizational Diagnosis can contribute to the creation of an effective action plan by ensuring that the current situation and its drivers are thoroughly understood so that the change plan includes activity that can break through the constraints to reaching the future state.

Here is an example; a client was about to undertake a change management initiative with an objective to integrate a continuous improvement management system into their way of doing things. To prepare for this change effort, the client asked me to perform a diagnosis to determine what things might be a potential constraint to the successful integration of the system.

During the feedback session, I shared with the client that the single biggest risk to the success of the initiative was the lack of competency and assertiveness among the front line supervisor personnel. As long as they were weak, it would be difficult to overcome the negative impact that their weak supervisory skills would have on employees and thus it would be difficult to engage employees in the continuous improvement initiative. The client asked, “What are our options for eliminating this constraint?” That led to a conversation and ultimately the development of a plan that would improve the competency and assertiveness of the supervisory team so that they would no longer constrain the larger change effort.

This is a great example of a proactive use of the organizational diagnosis tool. It’s not reactionary, it’s not preventative; instead it is proactively focused on reducing the risk of failure associated with the strategic organizational change initiative they intend to follow through with.

The Three Reasons for an Organizational Diagnosis

As we have worked through this topic of “The Reasons for Organization Diagnosis” we have found three reasons and have explored examples of each. Again the three reasons include:
• To determine how and why the organization is dysfunctional
• To prevent dysfunction from occurring
• To prepare for a planned change initiative.

Your Takeaway

Being proactive in reducing the risk of a change initiative or project of some sort is important.  One of the things that I learned after moving to northern Wisconsin from Oregon is that it gets really cold in Wisconsin. The ground freezes up to 5 to 6 feet deep during some winters. I found out that as the ground un-thaws, the ground moves and heaves in upward, downward, and sideways directions. And if you build a deck and have not built it with a deep foundation – something below the winter freeze line, your deck will move up and down and sideways. Being proactive in finding what you can do to reduce the risk of failure in regard to something you will build or change is important. It can save you from tearing out what you did, prevent aggravation and embarrassment, and finally save dollars and time.

The Next Blog

We have talked in our last three blogs about the different ways that the organizational diagnosis tool can be used. What we have not explored is the process or methodology of this tool. So, let’s talk about that a bit in our next blog.

After we have explored this topic of organizational diagnosis, an organization health survey will be provided to you so that you can do a basic diagnosis on your own organization.

So stay with me. The tool is coming.

The post Organizational Diagnosis – A Tool in the I/O Psychologist’s Toolbox – Part Three appeared first on Misty River Consulting | Enabling Sustainable Improvement | Strategy | Leadership | Engaged People | Facilitation.

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Organizational Diagnosis – A Tool in the I/O Psychologist’s Toolbox – Part Two http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/08/04/organizational-diagnosis-tool-io-psychologists-toolbox-part-two/ http://www.mistyriver.com/2016/08/04/organizational-diagnosis-tool-io-psychologists-toolbox-part-two/#respond Thu, 04 Aug 2016 15:34:52 +0000 http://www.mistyriver.com/?p=113 Last week we introduced the Organizational Diagnosis methodology to you and the first reason a client may want to have one performed within their organization. As you may recall, Organizational Diagnosis is a methodology used by an I/O Psychology Practitioner to enter into the organization, collect data about the organization, and feedback information to theRead more about Organizational Diagnosis – A Tool in the I/O Psychologist’s Toolbox – Part Two[...]

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Planting Trees 4

Last week we introduced the Organizational Diagnosis methodology to you and the first reason a client may want to have one performed within their organization. As you may recall, Organizational Diagnosis is a methodology used by an I/O Psychology Practitioner to enter into the organization, collect data about the organization, and feedback information to the management team that creates an understanding of the organization’s system and whether a change initiative might be in order It is one of the many tools in the I/O Psychologist’s toolbox and it is foundational to many of the other tools the professional uses especially in regard to change management.

We also explored the first of the three reasons for performing an organizational diagnosis:
• To determine how and why the organization is dysfunctional
• To prevent dysfunction from occurring
• To prepare for a planned change initiative.

We concluded last week’s blog by exploring an example from my practice of how the tool was used with a client whose organization was quite dysfunctional.

Prevents Dysfunction or Poor Organizational Health

This week we will be continuing our discussion and will begin by talking about the second reason a client may want to perform an organizational diagnosis. The second reason is to be preventative – to prevent dysfunction from showing up in the first place. The organizational diagnosis is like an annual medical checkup – the doctor goes through a list of indicators or measures and checks to see if those items are within “good” limits or not. This is to ensure that no leading or precursor indications of the root causes of organizational dysfunction exist. And, if there is some indication that some of those potentially “bad” drivers might be lurking behind a door in a darkened room, the I/O Psychologist can bring them into the light for the management team to eliminate.

Finding the Right Balance

An example of this preventative approach can be found in one of my clients. This client has a long history in senior care living facilities. The client had decided to offer a new line of living facilities that group the assisted living residences in communities – room entries were all adjoining a community space that included a fireplace, a library, card playing space, and the walls were lined with art of all types. Exiting from this community space was a long wide walkway that connected to other community spaces and global spaces including a movie theatre, pub, salon, church, and billiard room. All of this was intended to promote each individual in finding their unique balance of interaction with others in the local and global communities.

In contrast, think about the long hallways found in nursing homes or assisted living centers where doorways to a resident’s room are spaced evenly along that hallway. The architecture promotes isolation and seclusion – not association or relationship with a community.

In addition, staff job tasks and schedules were designed to find a balance between doing the tasks of their job and providing extraordinary customer service and resident “touches”. “Touches” refers to those interactions between staff and a resident that are courteous, edifying, and enjoyable for the resident and staff person.

Of course as the task demands increase in density, the opportunity for and quality of “touches” diminishes. This makes the staff function less satisfactory from both the employee and resident’s perspectives. Related to this is data that indicates that the more this ratio of job demands and residence touches is out of alignment, the more at risk is the mental health of the employee.

Numerous studies have shown how psycho-social risks and well-being at work have affected both the physical and mental health of workers in the medical field, and the DARES’ results indicate that occupations involving care and health sectors are particularly affected by two specific dimensions: job demands (frequent schedule changes, working at night or on Sundays and during holidays) and emotional demands (regular assistance and support to people suffering from physical and / or mental disorders and limited autonomy). (See Christine Jeoffrion, Jean-Philippe Hamard, Sophie Barre, Abdel Halim Boudoukha, “ Diagnostic organisationnel et prévention des risques psychosociaux dans un établissement d’accueil pour personnes âgées : l’intérêt d’une méthodologie mixte et participative ”, Le travail humain 4/2014 (Vol. 77) , p. 373-399.)

So how do you know if the design and layout of the communities in this facility are enabling healthy social interaction for each individual in a fashion that is unique and right for them? How do you determine whether the design of staff work is right for getting the essential responsibilities done and simultaneously making those “touch” moments special for both staff and residents.

Preventative Reason for Organizational Diagnosis

One way of doing this is to use a diagnostic approach to understanding these assisted living facilities. In this case, we had the luxury of having two facilities for performing this diagnosis and could enter these organizations, create a given condition, collect data on that condition about those psycho-social, job design, and environmental conditions on residents and staff, and determine what the impact of these two situations were on “sense of community” and “quality of touches”.

And so we did. I cannot share those results with you that I shared with my client for confidential reasons. But I can say the effort to understand these issues was well worth the effort and resulted in preventing changes in future building designs and job designs that would constrain social interaction, sense of community, and satisfaction with the “touches” between staff and residents. It was proactive – helping to reduce the probability that future dysfunction would show up in the organization.

The above example is representative of the second reason client’s contract an organizational diagnosis. The client wants to prevent problems from occurring. As we consider making a change to an organizational design, knowing what things not to change is important to ensure that one does not accidentally introduce drivers of dysfunction into the system. The focus is on understanding the organization’s current state and most importantly why it is in that state – a healthy state in this case. This is important so that the “why”, the root causes of the current healthy state, are not changed.

Your Takeaway

What do I want you to learn and apply from this article? Don’t sit idly when your organization is healthy and performing well. You must stay in shape, you must be preventative in how you take care of yourself, and you must act if one of the leading indicators of a potential dysfunction begins to show up. There is no such thing as maintaining.  Studies in operational management all say the same thing – maintenance is a reaction to a loss. Being preventative in operational management and in life means to always improve so that loss never occurs. Leaders work to prevent loss. Leaders work to prevent loss by continually improving.

The Next Blog – The Third Reason

In our next Blog, we will review our prior articles on organizational diagnosis and the third of the three reasons for performing an Organizational Diagnosis (to be proactive):
• To determine how and why the organization is dysfunctional
• To prevent dysfunction from occurring
• To proactively prepare for a planned change initiative.

After we have explored the topic of organizational diagnosis, an organization health survey will be provided to you so that you can do a basic diagnosis on your own organization.

So stay with me. The tool is coming.

The post Organizational Diagnosis – A Tool in the I/O Psychologist’s Toolbox – Part Two appeared first on Misty River Consulting | Enabling Sustainable Improvement | Strategy | Leadership | Engaged People | Facilitation.

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