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The 4 Part Harmony of Organizational Competency

Vicente Mina / AFP / February 8, 2015  Team SCA, left, and Dongfeng Race Team, right, leave port in  Sanya, China at the start of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race www.thenational.ae

Vicente Mina / AFP / February 8, 2015
Team SCA, left, and Dongfeng Race Team, right, leave port in
Sanya, China at the start of Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race
www.thenational.ae


By Janet Hayes

One imperative for organizations in successfully executing their strategies is to ensure that they have the necessary competencies to carry them out. Concepts like the core competence of the corporation and hedgehogs imply that identifying and strengthening competencies are necessary in order for companies to distinguish themselves from competition. Once an organization determines which competencies are critical, though, how does the leadership team build or strengthen them?

Individual Skills vs. Organizational Competency

Many organizations treat organizational competencies as though they were simply a sum of the skills of the people in their organizations. While individual skills are critical, however, relying strictly on them to embody critical competencies is not enough because:

1. The organization may not have enough of the right skills to distinguish itself.

2. Individuals come and go, but to continue to thrive over time, the organization needs to maintain its competency without regard to changes in personnel. In fact, if your company’s competency relies strictly on individual skills, then competitors can take over your competency simply by hiring away your company’s best people.

3. Individual skills alone do not encapsulate everything the company needs to do well in order to compete. For example, even the most highly skilled individuals working in an uncoordinated way will not fare well in the eyes of the customer or gain efficiencies for the company.

Definition of Organizational Competency

Harmonic Systems Consulting defines “organizational competency” as the harmonious blending of four basic components of organizational identity. This competency identity includes individual skills, but only as one of the four necessary components. Harmonic Systems Consulting’s view of the four components required for organizational competency is depicted in the picture below:
Organzational Competence
These components must be orchestrated to work together in daily harmony for the long term benefit of the company’s customers and associates.
The Four Keys of Organizational Competency

Following are descriptions of the four keys that comprise organizational competency. To illustrate the concept, we will use an example of a Project Management competency.

skillsAs mentioned above, individual skills are critical to an organization. However, to be part of an organizational competency, the company needs multiple individuals with the necessary skills. Most competencies require a subset of individuals with a very high level of skills and many more individuals with a lower level of skill.

Skills and training programs must be directed toward developing the appropriate level of skills necessary for the desired competency, but that does not imply that a high level of skill is always required. A custom furniture shop may require their craftsmen to have high skill levels because each piece is unique and processes are dynamic. McDonald’s, however, cannot expect a high level of skill from every employee in their restaurants, so they rely more on highly defined processes.

For an organizational competency in Project Management, a company would need one or more highly trained and experienced project managers and a broader, company-wide, group of individuals to be trained on project management techniques.

resourcesA second critical component to organizational competency is having resources that support the competency. These resources might include tools, software, methodologies, checklists, templates, etc.

For Project Management, resources might include templates for charters and meeting agendas and minutes, project management and project portfolio management software, a new product development methodology, a method for decision-making, forms for tracking issues, risks and changes and project budget tracking tools.

resources (Case Conflict)In order for the company’s customers to benefit from the competency, the skills and resources must work together in a coordinated way. That coordination comes via the third key, processes. Processes might include manufacturing steps, research and development scientific methods, application development, order entry, customer service, etc.

For Project Management, a process might start with creation of a charter and a budget, then assignment of personnel to the project, followed by development of a plan, etc. There should also be a process for prioritizing projects and deciding which ones need to be started or stopped.

Shared KnowledgeThe final key to organizational competency, shared knowledge, is the one that is most often neglected. Knowledge held by individuals must be shared in order for the competency to be institutionalized within the organization. Sharing knowledge is crucial to maintaining the competency as individuals get promoted, transferred or leave the organization and to continuously improve. Knowledge may be shared through formal or informal means, but must be accessible to everyone who needs it. It might be shared via an intellectual capital database, a wiki or in a file drawer that everyone knows about. It could also be shared by mentoring or birds-of-a-feather meetings to share learnings.
For Project Management, shared knowledge might include a repository of previous project plans, a collection of post-project completion reports that capture learnings and a project office where less-experienced project managers can go for mentoring by highly skilled experts.

Culture’s Role in Organizational Competency

One important factor in developing or strengthening an organizational competency is the company’s culture. If the company culture doesn’t support the development of a competency that is critical for the strategy, it must be addressed or it will put the organization out of alignment (for more about alignment, see our blogs on the Orchestra Model© and Alignovation©) and the competency will not be realized.

For example, a company strategy may determine that better attention to efficiency and quality is necessary, so they may embark upon developing a competency in Lean Six Sigma. If, however, people in the organization are not accustomed to data-based decision-making or disciplined execution, that culture will need to be addressed via change management and clear definition and communication of desired behaviors in order to build the new competency. Demonstrating that the desired competency is built upon existing capabilities and emphasizing the career opportunities that result from the new competency will help to support the change.

Individuals may also see a downside to sharing knowledge if they believe that their skills are what makes them uniquely important. In that case, rewards and compensation focused on sharing knowledge a crucial. Techniques for creating a learning organization should also be considered.

Summary

The word “competency” comes from the Latin word competere, which means “strive together”. Our Harmonic Systems Consulting definition of organizational competency includes the four interlocking components of skills, resources, processes and shared knowledge. This multi-faceted definition guides companies in defining all of the elements they need to develop for their organizational competencies in order to “strive together” harmoniously for distinction in their highly competitive markets. Understanding organizational competency in this comprehensive manner is especially appropriate because competere is also the root word for “competition”.
 Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner Oracle Team USA celebrates after it completed the  biggest comeback in the history of the America's Cup (2013) www.sfexaminer.com


Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Oracle Team USA celebrates after it completed the
biggest comeback in the history of the America’s Cup (2013)
www.sfexaminer.com

HR Strategy H&H Comic

The Critical Role of Human Resources in Strategy 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.

HR Strategy H&H Comic

Leading Change Ala The Music Man By: Darren Hayes and Janet Hayes

http://www.jaredmobarak.com/2010/10/25/the-music-man/

http://www.jaredmobarak.com/2010/10/25/the-music-man/


The world around us is in a constant state of change. While change is an inevitable part of reality, it can come with a multitude of problems, particularly in the business world. A business plan that works perfectly now may be an utter failure a year from now. Therefore, it is imperative that businesses work their way ahead of the change or even be harbingers of the change itself. But how do you do that? To demonstrate the process, refer to Michael Beer’s “Leading Change” and The Music Man.

Change Formula
In “Leading Change,” Michael Beer describes a unique equation that illustrates the necessary components of leading change and how they interrelate with one another:

Amount of Change = (Dissatisfaction X Model X Process) > Cost of Change

Beer explains that change only happens if the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo, combined with a clear model and process for change, are sufficient to overcome the perceived costs of change (e.g., loss of power, loss of competence, etc.).
Now, how does The Music Man fit into this equation, you may ask? Meredith Wilson and Franklin Lacey’s musical Midwestern misadventure demonstrates the whole process quite simply through the antics of “Professor” Harold Hill.
http://www.movieactors.com/actors/robertpreston.htm

http://www.movieactors.com/actors/robertpreston.htm


Dissatisfaction
A con man and traveling salesman, Hill rolls his way into the small town of River City, Iowa with a plan to scam the humble townsfolk. The first part of the plan deals with the first issue outlined in Beer’s equation: Dissatisfaction. In order to get the complacent townsfolk to listen to his proposal, Hill first goes about convincing them that the local pool hall is turning a number of their younger boys into juvenile delinquents. In doing so, he stirs up a sense of dissatisfaction amongst the populace. This first major distinction that he “creates” as part of his sales pitch alerts the people of the town to a potential problem in need of change. A change leader must be a salesman, and as any good salesman knows: where there’s dissatisfaction and need, there’s a sales opportunity.

Model
The next part of Beer’s equation comes into play when Hill proposes his solution to the town’s newly apparent problem. Hill presents them with a grand vision (Model) of a local boys’ band that would be the pride and joy of the town. The town would gain a unique distinction while also dealing with the “problem” of what to do about the local boy delinquents. With the initial dissatisfaction in place, the “solution” that he sells them solves a problem and generates a benefit which comes across as being doubly appealing to the people of the town.

Process
The Process itself is simple: the townsfolk need to give Hill their money so that he can order instruments and uniforms. Hill then promises them that he will be the one to teach the boys.

Costs of Change
Michael Beer also points out the importance of perceived Costs of Change. Professor Hill assesses these costs and, with the help of his friend who lives in the town, Marcellus Washburn, identifies influencers in the community who have either informal or formal power. He then either persuades them to become evangelists for him (e.g., the mayor’s wife, the piano teacher), or he distracts or deflects them (e.g., the mayor, the school board). Hill accomplishes this initiative so well that, even when he is unmasked, people in the town stand up for him.

Of course, being a conman, Hill really plans to leave as soon as he’s collected enough of the people’s money. However, despite the fact that Hill intends to walk away as the only one who would actually profit from this scheme, he personally has a price to pay in order to make his scheme work to its best effect. Hill needs to spend time getting to know some of the townsfolk in order to work his way around any skeptics. He ends up establishing very close bonds and connections with them. As a result, he later regrets his actions and stays in the town to make things right by actually following through on his promises. The boys’ band and his connection with the townspeople become more important to Hill than personal profit. He realizes that, in order to fulfill the vision, he himself will also have to change.

Summary
Even though most of this story involves a scam, it also demonstrates perfectly how a business can get ahead of change:
1. Discover and/or create dissatisfaction with the status quo

2. Develop and communicate a practical model that solves the problem or fills the need

3. Convey a process that meets the needs set forth in the proposed model

4. Assess the costs of change and develop strategies to address them, including allowing people to participate in planning for changes and letting them mourn their losses briefly before moving on

As Brien Palmer so aptly put it in his book Making Change Work, “Some change will always happen but not necessarily the change you want. It is far better to plan for and manage change systematically, rather than simply react to events as they occur”.
It’s also worth mentioning that some change costs just can’t be foreseen, so remain flexible and have a safety net.

Finally, as Ghandi, said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As Professor Hill discovered, lasting change only happens when the change leader invests in it himself.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056262/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056262/

4 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement with HR Technology

Employees will increasingly use mobile phones and tablets to access HR software. (Photo by mikecogh/Flickr)

Employees will increasingly use mobile phones and tablets to access HR software. (Photo by mikecogh/Flickr)

Employee engagement is the new name of the game in the ever-changing world of HR Management Systems. Traditionally, HR software was used predominantly by HR staff, and occasionally other managers, with non-HR employees only using it for basic tasks such as time reporting or benefits management. As the technology has advanced, however, the possibility now exists for every employee to both utilize the resources HR has to offer and provide valuable data to maximize personal and organizational effectiveness. If your HR software solution isn’t engaging employees fully, your business may be missing out.

1. Mobile as the New Platform

One of the biggest trends in technology in general is the move from desktop and laptop to mobile. According to CNN Money (http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/28/technology/mobile/mobile-apps-internet/) as of February 2014, Americans spent more time accessing the internet through mobile devices than through PCs. This trend is only expected to continue, and the way employees will interact with HR is no different.

One of the major complaints about HR software is that interfaces are often clunky and unintuitive. This is a big reason employee engagement is not as high as it could be. Vendors are realizing this, and are devoting more energy toward developing easy-to-use mobile apps for employees to interact with HR. What previously took a dozen or so clicks (and often the need of a manual) in a desktop application can now be done with a few intuitive taps on a mobile app. This lowers the time and effort employees spend with the interface, and increases their eagerness to engage. This, in turn, leads to more valuable feedback for them and more meaningful data for HR.

2. Continuous Evaluation and Feedback
Employees and managers used to conduct performance evaluations on an annual basis. While this model worked well for reflecting on the year’s accomplishments and shortcomings, it had several flaws. First, it could take up to a year for a manager to properly notify the employee of a performance problem and help the employee find a solution. Additionally, employees and managers were less likely to clearly remember projects that had happened several months prior. This contributed to many employees dreading the evaluation discussion, so, what could have been a very useful tool for them and the organization became an obstacle to improvement.

Many HR systems vendors now offer easy-to-use platforms for employees and managers to evaluate more frequently, such as at the end of projects, monthly, or quarterly. This allows poor performers to be given the tools to succeed sooner, and also outstanding talent to be identified so they can be placed in more effective roles.

3. Learning Management Systems

This leads into the next new and exciting system–dynamic Learning Management Systems (LMS). Newer software and cloud solutions have the ability to integrate data from employee evaluations and personality tests to cater learning experiences to each employee. Analytics capabilities can tailor specific tools and training to both the learning style and specific role requirements of individual employees. This reduces wasted time and energy of employees either being trained for something they don’t need or being taught in a manner which is not suited to them.

These tailored learning systems are all the more necessary in today’s world where the amount of available training resources can be overwhelming. Along with more traditional materials, technology has created new ways of training employees. Many major universities now offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in many general business and industry-specific topics. Easy video content creation means your employees can learn from sites such as YouTube, but also within your organization, with employees creating valuable content for coworkers or collaborating to build knowledge bases.

4. Compliance and Workflow Efficiency Software

Depending upon what industry your company is in, you will likely have to maintain compliance with company policies and a number of regulations from a number of government agencies, such as EPA, OSHA, FDA, and many others. Each of these agencies have their own standards, and may require certain documents and records to be created and submitted. Various processes exist to comply with many of these regulations, but recently, some technology companies have begun offering single-interface Compliance Management Software Solutions to increase efficiency and ensure that all regulatory guidelines are met. These solutions support compliance through training, recording, reporting, document control, and auditing, as well as providing the ability to track process ownership and drill down for detailed information.

Similarly, Workflow Efficiency Software Solutions now exist to track and schedule many routine tasks that your business must regularly complete. As an HR professional, these solutions can help track your employees’ productivity, and help identify inefficiencies in your business’s ongoing processes. This software can be especially helpful creating inter-departmental communication, which is often where key processes break down. Real-time reporting can help discover and address risks before they become larger issues which can cost your business time and money.

Bottom Line

These are just a few of the ways technology is helping employees engage with everything HR has to offer. In order for an organization to be able to effectively implement its strategy, HR has to understand the employees’ strengths and weaknesses so training be designed to develop their full potential. Part of this comes from choosing an HR software solution that works for your organization, but HR professionals must also get employees to use it. By implementing some of these systems, employee interactions with HR can be smooth and straightforward, benefiting both individual employees and the entire organization.

Ask a Musician: What is a “Concertmaster”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/antoniocastagna/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/antoniocastagna/

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.

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/


https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/

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!

The Critical Role of Human Resources in Strategy

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.

HR holds the key to a good performance!

HR holds the key to a good performance!

Communicating like Mister Rogers

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.

http://www.fredrogers.org/frc/store/product/lifes-journeys-according-mister-rogers

http://www.fredrogers.org/frc/store/product/lifes-journeys-according-mister-rogers

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.
Alignment is the neighborly thing to do!

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.

Keith Williamson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/

Keith Williamson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/

Playing together not only sounds better, it feels better too.

Ask a Musician: Workplace Culture

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bowbrick/

Photo by: Steve Bowbrick

As any musician will tell you, there is no shortage of bad jokes about any type of instrumentalist, ensemble, genre of music, style period, performance venue, or view toward music. In fact, one could say that the only unifying aspect of musician-based comedy is that we are all subject to criticism about whatever culture we belong to in our musical lives.

So that I may be a good sport:
Q: Why are a organist’s fingers like lightning?
A: Because they rarely strike the same place twice.

As bad as some of these jokes are, it’s important to note that all of the ones about brass players are true.

OK, really – I’m done! As fun as it is to make fun of every other type of musician that I’m not, the unfortunate fact is that as a musician, I am often required to work with these people (last one!). Naturally, some combinations of instrumentalists/vocalists work better together – (although the latter aren’t really musicians – really now, I’m done).

For example, string players are well used to working well as chamber musicians or as part of an orchestra. Brass players are also well respected and useful members of orchestras or brass ensembles (that wasn’t a joke) and pianists can easily fit into any ensemble that needs them or work well – some would say better – as a solo instrument.

The business world has a lot to learn from the musical world regarding workplace culture. Truly, musicians can and have been working together in creative and novel ways for hundreds of years with very little conflict. The primary reason for this, in my personal opinion, is a strong focus on the same goal: the best possible musical product.

When the goals of everyone in an organization are aligned to the same end, a new culture of success will take hold and can help to dictate the behavior and rules of its members. Though success may be the same goal for everyone, this alone will fix nothing. A violinist who is experienced in playing with orchestras may still play with many orchestras over their lifetime and each one has its own, unique culture. Musical ensembles are dynamic and change constantly, so a well-trained musician knows how to fit in and adapt to any ensemble.

The person most accountable for this is the leader (conductor in an orchestra) of the group. He or she must clearly state the goals, how to prepare, the method of operation, and define a workplace culture of respect and understanding.

Mergers and acquisitions are a lot like combining two large ensembles each having their own conductor. Let’s say that a city’s philharmonic orchestra and choir are combining for Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”. This work requires an expanded orchestra, percussion, and choir. Naturally, the choir doesn’t usually rehearse with the orchestra and many new members are added from other ensembles.

In this case, the issue of leadership and adapting to new authority is very clear: the orchestra has a conductor and the choir has their own. Of course, there will be only one person conducting. Both ensembles and their associated management will negotiate – before rehearsal even begins – who will be conducting. Before any musical business can even begin, all planning and negotiations must be completed to all party’s satisfaction. This of course requires such considerations as: ability, prior working histories, and whether or not the idea is a good one to begin with.

Once the planning is completed, all musicians involved must fall into line behind the new leadership. This is impossible without clear direction – which itself is only possible with proper planning.

As part of this direction, the new director must address the needs and views of all members involved. “Carmina Burana” uses percussion very heavily. This group of musicians is used to being overly qualified for whatever the standard symphonic needs may be; however, in the Orff production, they are used very heavily and can easily become strained with the new workload. The new director must be well aware, and prepared, to deal with the new and unusual needs of the percussion section.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/vxla/

Photo by: VXLA

Naturally, the stakes are very high for this kind of integration. One bad performance can spell the end of an ensemble. Therefore, the leadership must be prepared to communicate and listen effectively to the needs and concerns of all members involved.

In business (as in “Carmina Burana”) leadership will change: “old” leaders may no longer lead and “new” leaders will take their place. Effective executives will realize this and prepare for change before any change – specific actions – are required. Musicians know this, and the business world can learn from the musical culture of constant change. Unfortunately, woodwinds don’t know how to adapt to changing key and never will (now I’m really done)!

As always, check out what can happen when you know how to align merging musical forces:

Ask a Musician: Workflow

Ask a Musician: Workflow

By: Cody Soska

 

Conductor_Baltazar Hertel

 

Frederik Magle: by Morten Skovgaard

Welcome to the “Ask a Musician” section of the Harmonic Systems Consulting blog, where I explore a component of business operations to better understand its value by relating it to a familiar musical concept. Our first topic: Workflow!

Workflow is “An orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information.” (Business Process Management [BPM] Center of Excellence).

It is appropriate that the BPM article mentions orchestration when defining workflow, because that’s what all organizations are comprised of: the orchestration of people, resources, time and capital. Likewise, with a musical performance of, say, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis – one of the greatest masterpieces in musical history – a synthesis of the time and effort of a number of performers must align perfectly to accomplish the goal of a successful and moving performance.

Conductor _fountain

Without the alignment of time, resources and effort towards a clearly defined goal, the taking of a product or service (or, in this case, a finished musical performance) from its planning and development stage to its final note of completion, will fail. From piece selection to preparation; from first rehearsal to dress rehearsal; and from performance to performance, all of the effort in a business organization or orchestra must be harmonically balanced to achieve true Workflow Efficiency.

Part of this effort that is imperative to a successful musical performance is managing and measuring processes. For example: If the music director of a symphony finds that predetermined benchmarks in the score are not being rehearsed by a set deadline, the symphony will not be ready in time for its first performance. If the instrumentalists are not tuned by the time the conductor is ready to begin rehearsal, time is lost. The music director, performers and librarians must carefully track their department’s individual tasks and ensure that process goals are met in a timely manner. If these goals aren’t met, time, money, and resources will be wasted – or, worse, the performance will fail.

In business this concept is no different. Without true Workflow Efficiency, and organization’s process benchmarks will not be met. Over time this can lead to lost revenue, lower ROI, and losing clients. Every client is your most important client, and they deserve the performance of a lifetime! Carefully measure, plan, and manage your processes to ensure that none of your resources aren’t spent achieving your organization’s vision and giving your client the best experience possible.

While you consider this, try listening to an example of what Workflow Efficiency can do for your business: Philippe Herreweghe conducting Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

9 Expertly Tested Ways to Fail at Strategic Planning

Slide4

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.

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kvh/

Photo by: Kyle Van Horn

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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