The market environment within which all businesses operate changes constantly. Each business organization must be prepared to change as well, either reactively or (preferably) proactively. When all organizational resources are aligned with strategy the organization is better prepared to utilize resources efficiently and effectively to adapt to changing circumstances. This is particularly true with social resources (people). If people are not fully aligned with strategic direction an organization has a tendency to become unfocused; struggling with conflicting priorities and mismanaging resources. Effectively establishing that strategic direction, however, requires more than the completion of a written plan document, no matter how well thought out that document may be. Effective strategic alignment requires the careful blending of well–defined organizational goals with operational procedures and personal skills to achieve efficient and effective work flow. Before creating a strategic direction it is most important that leadership has a clearly defined and well communicated vision for the future of the business. The formalization of an effective business strategy begins with visionary executive leadership. Visionary leaders are not prophetic; they simply understand the importance of exercising forethought, which they know to require all of the following: a willingness to carefully and objectively consider the business environment as it exists today the anticipation of the continually evolving needs of their customers, and those of their customers’ customers consideration of the needs and aspirations of all parties having an interest in the future well-being of the organization a thorough understanding of necessary internal organizational competencies, and how those competencies relate to the demands of the marketplace an ability to visualize internal organizational change as a process of ongoing, managed innovation
Our planet is one large system composed of thousands of smaller systems. Though tiny, our everyday activities combine to affect the global system in a big way, and the global system, in turn, affects each of us significantly. Similarly, in any business organization there are many components that must be recognized as contributing to organizational sustainability, and therefore must be effectively managed to align towards a common goal.
The Earth’s climate is a perfect example of one such global system. From agriculture, to work, to housing, to lifestyle – climate affects all aspects of human life. We are now trying to understand how changes introduced into our environment over many years (some so small as to be hardly noticeable) are impacting our climate, and correspondingly, our personal sustainability.
In business, leaders frequently establish “special project” teams to deal with change. Likewise, concerning our global system, many projects are underway to help us understand what factors contribute to a long term change in climate conditions. Understanding how and why the environment we live in is changing is important to both “micro” business projects and “macro” climate projects. Success however, is defined as the ability to pro actively (and practically) manage change to the advantage of the organization (system).
For example, as of 2016, there are several working models, startups, and plans to actually remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans. However, given the interrelationship of the many components of the global environmental system, the impact of executing any of these plans on the entire system (think organization) must be understood before any plan can be considered viable.
The first obstacle to pro actively managing global climate change is the “how” of actually removing carbon and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans. Several methods have been proposed: Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, biochar (a charcoal used as a soil amendment), enhanced weathering, direct air capture, C02 scrubbing chemistry, and others. Research programs, global initiatives, and startups are already addressing the practical implementation and feasibility of these methods, with careful attention to the implications to the whole system of any remedial actions.
Not unlike any organization dealing with change in their business environment, when addressing climate change, global leadership must first create a strategy that ensures all options are carefully defined, alternatives weighed, costs and benefits quantified and solutions proposed. Then resources must be aligned to support the adopted solutions (strategy).
Without a clear vision of how to proceed, a method to do so, and an understanding of the cost benefit relationship of actions taken most good plans are likely to fail. For example, any method of greenhouse gas removal will probably be costly in the developmental phase, and have ongoing costs past implementation. Without a clearly communicated global strategy that helps all interested parties understand the cost offsetting benefits of managed change, greenhouse gas removal projects are unlikely to gain any traction.
As previously mentioned, when taking strategic action, all parties involved must understand the strategy and ramifications of implementation. Imagine leadership funding a long-term, costly activity without a clear understanding of the potential costs or benefits. Funding could be cut at a crucial point and potential benefits lost. Essential to any project of scale therefore, is the diligent utilization of metrics. For example, with greenhouse gas removal, what type and how much of each gas does each proposed solution remove? How much does each proposed solution cost to operate? How many different proposals should be acted upon ? These types of questions will require have many points of data to be collected, stored, and analyzed in real time.
As data is collected, the scope of a project like this will likely change. By realigning resources to better fulfill their role in the evolving strategy, leadership on a project of this scope can be more effective in realizing strategic goals , use fewer resources, and keep costs down while continuing to execute innovate.
In part 2 of this blog, we will use a real life example as a hypothetical case study of how managing a project like this on a global scale requires meticulous organization to be effective, and how long term planning, design, and adherence and redesign of processes can lead to improving profitability for an organization willing to undertake such a large project.
Outsourcing IT Functions
As technology becomes more pervasive in the healthcare field, more and more hospitals and networks are outsourcing at least some of their IT functions. According to Healthcare IT News, “Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of health systems with more than 300 beds — and 81 percent of providers with fewer than 300 beds — are shifting their focus to IT outsourcing for development and complex infrastructure services.”
The complexity of complying with new regulations means health systems and clinics are finding it more cost-efficient to contract out functions including EHR and analytics to companies that have the knowledge and full-time staff to both handle their current needs and innovate new solutions. In addition to reducing costs, outsourcing IT can help ensure that your IT professionals have all the necessary and up-to-date expertise to tackle new problems. But you should research your vendor and set realistic budgets and expectations, as failing to do so can lead to cost overruns or capabilities shortfalls.
Electronic Health Records.
EHR was supposed to help doctors focus their attention on patients instead of paperwork, yet poor implementations have often not led to these stated claims. A paper from the Harvard Business review studied this problem and developed a number of recommendations including:
- Clearly define “the why”: emphasize a culture that places physician performance at the forefront.
- Ensure doctors can focus on being doctors: limit physician distractions and move as much of the insurance, billing, and records tasks to administrative teams, where it can be done more efficiently and cost-effectively
- Focus on outcomes instead of services: by tracking healthcare outcomes and incentivizing performance, it reinforces the fundamental reason for healthcare.
Big Data Analytics
Big Data has become somewhat of a buzzword in the IT industry, but expect it to continue dominating headlines as the sheer amount of data created increases as does our ability to analyze and understand it. Apple and IBM have teamed up to create as system in which iPhone users can upload their data to IBM’s Watson Health, a cloud-based analytics service. Big data is helping researchers select the best candidates for pharmaceutical and treatment trials,
and mobile phone data was used to help track and predict the spread of the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Expect also to see companies develop new ways of gathering and collecting data from different sources, which currently hold information in fragmented databases that limit the effectiveness of analytics tools.
Given the amount of personal information available in patient records, healthcare is one of the leading targets for cybercrime. The Anthem breach in February 2015 compromised the data of almost 80 million customers, and in the first half of 2015, the healthcare industry was hit with 187 breaches, accounting for 21 percent of total incidents. Ensuring IT security is more important than ever both in protecting your organization from liability and helping patients feel comfortable trusting you with some of their most intimate information.
HealthIT.gov has a list of tips to help healthcare practices protect their information, the first of which being establishing a security culture. As strong as any IT strategy can be, human error can and does still lead to breaches, so training employees to do their part to prevent such attacks is critical.
Implementing change in a business is often seen as a major hurdle or obstacle. To an extent, all change is essential if it is aligned to the businesses strategy for growth or development in a new market. Regardless, outside forces can create the need for businesses to change. Rather than viewing change as an obstacle, leadership in a company needs to see change as the opportunity that it can be.
Healthcare is an industry that knows this better than others. Because healthcare has been around as long as people have, it has had to change. Healthcare providers are the first to incorporate new technology and education into their practices because the effects can literally save lives. When Alexander Fleming cemented the use of penicillin, he revolutionized medicine. His innovation created the need for change around the world. However, the use of penicillin has created resistant strains of bacteria and with this, the cycle of change of innovation continues.
Healthcare professionals have adapted to changing in their practices very well over time and cannot afford to be resistant. Management in the healthcare industry needs to follow this example as well.
Though the consequences aren’t as dire in the lives of their organization’s patients, the life of their organization can depend on integrating new, disruptive change and innovation. The real business success comes when they recognize these changes as the opportunity they often are.
One Monetary Incentive
A new change that all health administrators must adapt to are the Clinical Quality Measures. These are electronically-documented measures of the quality of care patients receive. According to the Health IT Committee Report from September 3, 2013, around $16 Billion in incentive dollars for meaningful use of the new policies have been paid out to eligible providers (both hospitals and professionals). Clinical Quality Measures are assessed in a 2 phase process. Providers must demonstrate their compliance with new regulations in the data storage and tracking for the services and the quality of care they provide.
The reluctance to change under these circumstances can be justified by the cost per bed to upgrade to these new procedures, but hospitals from large, metropolitan center – to mid-size and smaller, rural facilities are seeing revenues return to normal within one year and a return on this investment after 2 years. Regardless, if a facility is providing quality care, they may already be meeting many of these new changes.
The following is from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Website (cms.gov) and shows the type of information that is collected in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program:
Clinical quality measures, or CQMs, are tools that help measure and track the quality of health care services provided by eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) within our health care system. These measures use data associated with providers’ ability to deliver high-quality care or relate to long term goals for quality health care. CQMs measure many aspects of patient care including:
efficient use of health care resources
population and public health
adherence to clinical guidelines
Measuring and reporting CQMs helps to ensure that our health care system is delivering effective, safe, efficient, patient-centered, equitable, and timely care.
To participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs and receive an incentive payment, providers are required to submit CQM data from certified EHR technology.
2014 Clinical Quality Measure Options
In August May 2014, CMS released a final rule that grants flexibility to providers who are unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT for an EHR reporting period in 2014 due to delays in 2014 CEHRT availability. The different 2014 CQM submission options are outlined below.
2011 & 2014 CEHRT
Providers scheduled to demonstrate Stage 1 who are using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Editions submit 2013 CQMs or 2014 CQMs, depending on whether they report 2013 Stage 1 or 2014 Stage 1 objectives.
Providers scheduled to demonstrate Stage 2 using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Editions submit 2013 CQMs if they report 2013 Stage 1 objectives, or submit 2014 CQMs if they report 2014 Stage 1 objectives or Stage 2 objectives.
Providers scheduled to demonstrate Stage 1 or Stage 2 in 2014 who have fully implemented 2014 CEHRT use 2014 CQMs.
Visit the 2014 Clinical Quality Measure page to learn more about 2014 CQMs and 2014 reporting options.
Visit the Resources for Previous Years of the EHR Incentive Programs page to learn more about 2013 CQMs and 2013 reporting options.
It is possible that your facility is already compliant with much of these new changes and the only thing left to do is record this information. In fact, providers may have already been doing this – in which case, the issue is using the correct software and methodology to track and store data.
In addition to the monetary incentives of this program, medical staff could also operate more efficiently and provide higher quality care to patients. Change is always necessary in the healthcare field, and it may be difficult, but generations of people living happier, more productive lives are a testament to the powerful effects well-implemented change can have on your organization and the people within it.
Whether you are merging two roughly equally companies, or acquiring a smaller company, you will need to develop a solid strategy for how to integrate the IT departments. Every situation is unique and comes with its own set of challenges, but there are a few keys that every decision maker should be aware of.
1. Evaluate Both Companies’ Current IT Infrastructures
Your CIO or IT Director will need to create a detailed analysis which clearly outlines the people, roles, processes, and equipment for each company. This is the step where your team will want to document what aspects of your infrastructure work well, in addition to what is lacking. For those systems that do work well, you must also determine whether they will be scalable to accommodate the needs of the new larger company. For example, you may have inventory management software that works fine for one warehouse, but if you are expanding to multiple locations with their own supply chains, you might need an entirely new solution which is capable of handling
2. Find and Eliminate Redundancies
Much of the benefits of a merger or acquisition are due to cost efficiencies made possible by reducing staff and creating economies of scale. Based on your evaluation of each companies’ IT systems, you will want to choose the components of each that will scale best for the new company. If each company currently employs 5 technicians and help desk personnel, you may find the new company would be well-served with only 8 total. Similarly, if each company uses a different email system, you will likely need to choose one going forward.
3. Consider Outsourcing Some Functions
Particularly if technology is not a major focus of your company, a merger or acquisition might be the right time to rethink whether certain functions of your IT department might be better served by a third party. For instance, up until this point, you’ve operated out of one location, and have had all your computers networked on a local intranet. Now that you are expanding to several smaller locations across a region, it might make sense to contract that function out to a company which can handle it securely and efficiently rather than bringing on the talent needed to do it in-house.
4. Retain Unique Technologies
Especially when acquiring a smaller company, you will likely keep most of the IT infrastructure of your larger company. But part of the reason you are acquiring the smaller one is because they have done well in what they do. If they have a specific technology or process that your company lacks, you will want to integrate this into your new company. If you are acquiring an oil and gas well servicing company, they might have a great system for tracking equipment in real-time in the field. By retaining this technology and integrating it into your own infrastructure, you will make your whole organization more efficient.
You might also consider using the capabilities of the company you acquire to insource some functions which you had previously contracted through a third party. If your company purchases web hosting and application development as a service, but your target company hosts and develops in-house, you can integrate this competency into your own IT department and eliminate the need for the the third-party service.
5. Implement Your Strategy Quickly
A strategy is only as good as it’s implementation, and a strategy that is only half-implemented or executed over the course of years will not only cost time and money, but will prevent your new IT department from accepting its new culture and identity. To this end, you will want to put one person in charge of the integration, who will have complete authority to make technical decision, but also complete responsibility to ensure deadlines are met and that all systems are operational during the transition period. This person should have the flexibility to deal the inevitable difficulties that arise, being able to implement temporary workarounds while developing long-term solutions.
While working with clients, those of us at Harmonic Systems Consulting (HSC) frequently hear HR professionals express concern over their inability to get leadership to “buy in” on HR sponsored ideas. When hearing this, we respond by asking the HR professional to think a bit differently about their approach. Instead of trying to promote a Human Resource Department idea, we recommend that the HR professional think in terms of crafting and presenting a proposal clearly supporting a component of organizational strategy.
Promoting new ideas, regardless of where (or who) they come from is difficult for most of us. We may be supremely competent in our area of expertise, but, when attempting to convince others of the value of a new idea, particularly when that new idea may be perceived as personally threatening by others, we struggle to overcome obstacles our daily responsibilities have not adequately prepared us for. To be effective in such cases we need to learn and apply new skills; skills related to both the “technical” side and “social” side of business.
HSC partners recommend HR professionals concentrate on four skill sets to improve their ability to promote their ideas. These are defined as:
3. Alliance Building
Skill #1 – Craftsmanship: Artfully design the idea to align with the strategic direction defined by leadership. The closer your idea matches organizational strategy, the more likely the value will be apparent to leadership, and the better it will fare against other ideas competing for resources.
Strategic initiatives may be quite technical in nature, focusing on specialized areas of expertise and/or mechanical processes. Many of these initiatives, however, will involve areas of the business directly related to the HR professional’s role and responsibilities, for example:
-The hiring, development and retention of people possessing competencies complementary to organizational strategy
-The development of compensation plans designed to improve organizational and personal engagement
-The design of both a physical and social organizational structure to facilitate process efficiency, the coordination of activity and harmonious cooperation between individuals
-The development of communication tools to monitor and convey progress towards achieving strategic goals
The point is to avoid pushing an idea
—instead, let it be pulled by a strategic business objective. “Pushing” an idea usually doesn’t work.
You will want to use the “pull” method by attaching your idea to an organizational goal already established. If your idea does not match very well with an organizational goal, there is little reason to promote it.
Skill #2 – Valuation: Orchestrate the effort to “dollar-ize” your proposal. The commonly accepted business standard for evaluating an idea is its economic benefit. If you can quantify a benefit in dollars, (even if that benefit is simply an estimate) you are more likely to strengthen your case.
Estimating the benefit of a new idea in terms of dollars is difficult. It requires a clear understanding of current circumstances, judgments, probability analysis (sometimes guesses) and financial tools.
The actions you take when “dollarizing” your idea will almost certainly be subject to challenge. An unfriendly audience can undercut your efforts from the start by challenging your approach. The key to success is a clearly defined set of assumptions and a generally accepted approach to quantification. When attempting to assign a dollar value, therefore, don’t try to keep your idea a secret; get help from a financial professional in your organization. Financial people have experience doing this sort of modeling, and generally have earned a reputation for caution and prudence. When you deliver a proposal that includes a cost-benefit analysis supported by Finance, you will have gained credibility, and probably an ally.
Skill #3 – Alliance Building: Build a harmonious team to evaluate the merits of your idea before presenting it to leadership. Many times an HR professional will feel too strongly about an idea being prompted to be truly objective. Organizational resistance or skepticism may be taken personally, damaging both the HR professional’s sense of self-esteem and the idea’s chance for acceptance.
If your idea has merit, other people will be able to see it. If others can’t see it, maybe your idea is not fully consistent with organizational strategy and should be revised or abandoned. Assuming you have a compelling idea that others can accept, perhaps with some tweaking, use their help. Decisions are usually made in organizations by an evolving informal consensus, coupled with the assent of the senior leadership. It is important for the HR professional to understand how this works and what can do to increase the odds of your idea being accepted:
First, become project manager of your idea and its acceptance. Accept personal responsibility for all of the planning, promotion, education, communication, politicking and other activities required for an idea to gain acceptance in an organization.
Second, make alliances with key managers and peers:
-Ask for help. Approach them by articulating how your proposal will help them personally. Ask for help in planning to get appropriate approvals. Who needs to consent to this? How can we approach them? If we need to give a formal presentation, who should we invite? What are their needs and concerns?
-Seek a management sponsor, someone who will agree to provide resources to open doors to other managers once your idea is sufficiently developed.
With your allies, build or strengthen the business case and the financial return on investment.
Skill #4 – Presentation: Stage a performance to present the idea as an execution step towards realizing the goals defined in the organizational strategy. A successful presentation of your idea in the form of a proposal to leadership will be similar to a stage performance in many ways. You will need a carefully composed script, probably edited many times by you and your alliance partners. You will have rehearsed your presentation thoroughly, anticipating and preparing for the critics’ response. You will clearly develop the character of your proposal as financially supporting organizational strategy. Finally, as you deliver your performance, you will see heads in the audience starting to nod in a positive fashion.
Generally speaking, the effort to “push” a new idea through an organization all too often ends in failure because of the natural human resistance to forced change. It is almost always better to have a new idea pulled through the organizational approval process by attaching it to a component of defined organizational strategy.
In order to successfully promote new ideas to leadership, HR professionals sometimes need to develop skills different from, but complimentary to, their core personal competencies; skills related to both the “technical” and “social” sides of business. As defined by HSC, these skills include the crafting of the idea into a message supporting organizational strategy; proficiency in defining the financial value of the idea; the capability to build an alliance to critique, support and translate the idea into a proposal and the ability to deliver the proposal to leadership in a thorough and convincing manner.
The development of such a skill set is an act worth clapping for.
This Blog is based upon observations originally recorded by Brien Palmer, a founding partner in Harmonic Systems Consulting.
Many long-time concertgoers may have seen the word “Concertmaster” in print, or heard it used at a concert. To those of us who haven’t, the word commands respect; the concertmaster provides an essential service to an orchestra.
Typically, the concertmaster is the first-chair violin. He or she can be easily spotted within an orchestra because they will be holding a violin and sitting in the first chair. The concertmaster will also stand up to give the tuning pitch at the start of each piece, and sometimes between movements.
The role of concertmaster is very important within a musical ensemble. They are the assistant to the music director/conductor and often conduct performances themselves. They lead sectional rehearsals within the violin section (the largest number of musicians). They assist in selection of repertoire and help plan the schedule for the season. Additionally, they give private concerts, are often the featured violin soloist when a guest isn’t performing, and are the public face of the ensemble (beside the director). They frequently engage in community outreach with performances in schools and public venues and often give lectures and educational seminars to musicians and non-musicians alike.
While a music director is well trained as a performance musician (usually in strings or keyboard) themselves, they also possess a wide range of musical skills. They also conduct the ensemble. For this reason, the director can be called a generalist – they do many things well. A concertmaster is more of a specialist – they are very good at what they do and their specific role within a performance ensemble. The concertmaster is a performer first and foremost and must balance their orchestral collaborative responsibilities with their personal performance responsibilities.
With this information a non-musical person should be able to spot the concertmaster within an orchestra, but how do you spot the concertmaster(s) in your organization? I would recommend looking at Human Resources. Your HR department manages workplace culture within your organization. They orchestrate interdepartmental projects and projects within departments (sectional rehearsals: small rehearsals of only one type of instrument).
While doing this, they ensure that everyone stays true to the score (strategy). However, a true concertmaster actually helps write the score itself. This is true in music and business. A musical concertmaster will make any change necessary to the score to adapt it to their ensemble’s particular culture. The concertmaster decides which bowing the string section will use (such as which strokes are made up and down). This is why an orchestra looks uniform when playing and how they have such a powerful sound. They are all aligned because the concertmaster takes on the responsibility of adapting the score to the orchestral skill set.
In a business setting, your organization cannot function without a music director/conductor, but I would argue that it also cannot function without a concertmaster. If you are a concertmaster, you know the score inside and out! Now, write it and make your organization sing.
As a final note: since the writing of this blog, Noah Bendix Balgley, the concertmaster for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been chosen as the new first concertmaster for the Berlin Philharmonic! As a Pittsburgher, I’m sad to see him go, but this is one of the most prestigious positions in the world and I couldn’t be happier for Maestro Balgley. Everyone at Harmonic Systems Consulting would like to congratulate him on this wonderful opportunity and wish him well wherever he goes!
By: Janet Hayes and Darren Hayes
A common problem faced by many companies today is the lack of involvement of Human Resources in formulating new strategies for a company in the process of transforming itself. HR departments may not get much respect if they are viewed as “feelers” who function only as administrators, so they may not be asked to the table when the company’s executive team is developing a new strategic direction.
The fact is that everything in a business is done through people. In order to get your employee base properly acclimated to any new strategic changes, HR’s involvement is an absolute necessity. People at all levels in the organization need motivation and some degree of counsel in order to adjust properly and quickly to critical changes.
To achieve the best results, companies should consider the following when developing or updating strategies:
1. The company’s leader (CEO or President) should ensure that the head of Human Resources is engaged in the strategy development process. In particular, the executive strategy team should look to the HR head to provide input on how the new strategy affects culture, compensation, structure and competencies and how the strategy should be communicated to the organization. The executive team should be counseled to value HR’s “feeler” perspective since employees’ reaction to the strategic change must be considered when planning implementation.
2. The HR representative must demonstrate the ability to think strategically and ensure that he or she is properly informed about the business in order to be involved in executive strategy meetings. If the HR representative has the means and ability to contribute, then his or her presence will be welcomed.
Consider this issue in relation to the Orchestra Model©: if the Conductors (executive team) decide to have a change in the score (strategy) it is necessary for the HR representatives (concertmasters) to not only pass out the score to the musicians (employee base) but to also be able to explain how each part is played. Being able to adjust who plays what parts and with what instruments lies more on the end of the HR reps who would be more familiar with individual employees and their strengths and weaknesses. In short: harmony can only be achieved if everyone plays their parts AND plays them together, and HR is critical to ensure a great performance.
In Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood the “neighbors” enjoyed listening to one of television’s great communicators. The relaxed appearance and soothing voice of the host, Fred Rogers, was comforting. Watching was pleasant and learning came naturally. That relaxed stage atmosphere however, did not extend beyond the stage. Behind the stage Mr. Rogers was driven by purpose. He became involved in television because of his dissatisfaction with how it was being used to communicate with his intended audience, children. Mr. Rogers’ strategy was to use television as a tool to educate, encourage, and enlighten children in a fashion they could comfortably comprehend. He realized that if the message was communicated effectively, the audience would be more likely to embrace it. There may be a lesson here for those of us in business.
In any organization it is the responsibility of the leader to define strategy. That strategy may be labeled “vision”, or “goal”, or simply called “the plan”. Once the strategy is defined, the leader must communicate it to others in a fashion that is both easily understood and commonly embraced. Here’s where the wisdom of Mister Rogers comes in; that communication is difficult.
Exceptional leaders understand that paying attention to the “personal” traits of people in an organization is the key to ongoing business success. Mr. Rogers understood that when it comes to “personal” we are all different. In the book Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers he is quoted as saying, “We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are”. Communication, training, guidance, understanding and recognition on a personal level are all essential workplace components in order to ensure the successful alignment of organizational resources (people) with strategy.
When resources are correctly aligned with strategy, organizations become more proactive and effective. People will embrace the strategy and accept the change needed to accomplish it when they understand the need.
Once again Mr. Rogers shows us the way. In the same book referenced above, Mr. Rogers explained his view that, “How our words are understood doesn’t depend just on how we express our ideas. It also depends on how someone receives what we’re saying. I think the most important part of communicating is the listening we do beforehand. When we can truly respect what someone brings to what we’re offering, it makes the communication all the more powerful.” When leaders create an organizational culture that cultivates tolerance, is open to explanation, appreciates the importance of listening, and promotes mutual respect they “set the stage” for success. People respond positively and introduce more creativity into their jobs, paving the way for the realization of strategic goals.
Effective communication leads to collaboration, the key to success in any organization. When everyone in an organization shares a common understanding of the organizational direction, a culture of mutual support develops. When that happens the organizational energy level increases dramatically, as does the ability to create the future envisioned by leadership. Quoting again from Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers, “Anyone who has been able to sustain good work has had at least one person-and often many-who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.” An organization simply cannot be effective without the willing collaboration and combined support of each person; and each person is made more effective by the purposeful support of the entire organization.
Playing together not only sounds better, it feels better too.
There are at least nine different ways to make sure everybody’s favorite activity, Strategic Planning, fails. Those nine, sure-fire methods are:
1st: Keep whatever you are planning a secret. The competitive environment requires that we keep our strategic thinking under wraps. We don’t want anything important to get out. Besides, what would the rest of the organization do with the plan if they had it? They don’t really need to know the big picture.
2nd: Conduct strategy planning with managers only. Take a group of top management personnel off to a nice site for a couple of days. After all, they are paid to think. If you involve other people you may have to contend with input you cannot predict or control.
3rd: Be polite & don’t rock the boat. Since you were invited to the planning meeting you must be important (see above). Now just keep quiet (plain common sense). If you keep your thoughts to yourself, you will not be associated with a failure. Besides, you don’t want to upset anyone.
4th: Advocate doing everything. This approach is very effective. Everybody agrees there are a lot of things to do, and it makes sense that we’d be better off if they all got done. So, put as many “strategies” as you can think of on a list, prioritize them, agree to do everything and go home. Everybody feels great; nobody really finishes anything, and life goes on.
5th: Let the plan implement itself. Talk about a “no-brainer”. Everybody feels pretty good after the planning sessions, even if they are a bit tired. Nobody is going to object if we don’t fill in all the implementation details. Let the responsible people take care of implementation themselves, later on.
6th: Don’t measure anything. Another “no-brainer”. Some companies spell out their strategies all the way down to milestones, deliverables, resources, etc. Avoid this at all costs. Use these arguments to avoid wasteful effort:
“You can’t measure what we do.” or; “Our business is different”.
7th: Do not revise the plan for any reason during the year. A lot of effort goes into strategy planning. Don’t revise your thinking just because business isn’t working out like you originally thought. How many times do you want to go through this anyway?
8th: Start over next year from scratch. When next year comes around enjoy the off-site meetings and start all over. Forget about last year.
9th: Don’t take time to plan at all. This is probably the easiest approach. After all, who has time for planning? Everybody claims they are already working as hard as they can. Should they stop working just to talk?
Some or all of the “nine ways” displayed above may be funny, may relate to somebody else’s business, or may seem all too familiar at your business. What is certain is that the wrong approach, or no approach, to strategic planning is an excellent way to reinforce “business as usual”. If however, you prefer improvement to status quo, don’t let any of the above different ways “…to make sure strategic planning fails” gain acceptance in your business.
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