Creating Value and large scale change via being Eclectic

The dumbing of OD has led to use of tinned OD solutions, superimposed on complex organizational situations. Management via IT process and the need of managers  to look great as soon as as possible has led to massive use of these tinned solutions. When these tinned solutions fail, the vendor can be blamed and another “vendor” hired.

There is another much better of doing things however, as this post illustrates. I will illustrate a complex project based on a totally eclectic approach.

A large corporation hired me to work on a prolonged crisis between the central HQ-based Technical Presales Team and the various RSTs, i.e., Regional Sales Teams in South East Asia, Japan, China, Europe and the Americas.

There had been turf wars between the HQ-based function and each of RSTs, yet the reasons for the turf wars were different. Ideally it would have made sense to decentralize Technical Presales, but due to the lack of product experts, it was impossible.

A well-known consulting firm had just failed in this very endeavour, leaving behind a bible filled with process flow, roles and responsibilities, and what have you. My mandate was to `create uniformity“ so that everyone `works to processes”. I turned this mandate down, and suggested a more eclectic approach.

My point of contact was a very competent HR manager, very unlike my Gloria character. The HR manager and I agreed that the solution may not be uniform, and the starting point will not be the bible of processes, rather, we will do whatever works, with a very eclectic approach.

Quickly I discovered that there was huge variance in the HQ Technical Presales –RST interface between regions.

·      In some countries, the sales force was equipped only with `connections“ and after clients’ doors were opened, the RST expected that technical pre sales do everything else, including signing the deal and legal work.

·      In other countries, the RST was highly technical and all they wanted from Technical Presales was promotional marketing material!

·      In another set of countries, the Technical Presales Team was seen as “bunch of spies for corporate“ serving as an unneeded gate to prevent selling of customization of the products to local needs. Thus, the RST did everything alone, bypassing Technical Presales; however corporate could not build the customizations that the RSTs sold.

My work did not focus on all RSTs at once. First, I did a show case project with one area (Europe) and the change was very positive. The CEO and senior executives bragged about the `turn-round“ between Europe RST-HQ Technical Presales in several senior forums. Eventually, my project expanded to each RST and a 3 year effort was crowned as a major success.

The solution in each RST looks very different. In some RST`s, we worked on trust and communications, in other RST`s, we worked on mutual expectations. In yet other RST`s, we needed to replace managers with negative political agenda. In the Technical Presales team, there was a 10% increase in headcount and a massive investment in travel and personal effectiveness coaching.

The procurement department in this company had recommended not hiring me. There was no scope of work I was willing to commit to a priori, I could not estimate budget, and my travel expenses were high.

Three months into the second year of the project, the Head of Procurement told me that he heard that `the results are worth the investment, even though you (Allon) did not handle the initial  negotiation “appropriately”. And he has a point.

All thru the project, HR provided me with air cover, promoting the eclectic approach of tinkering, seeing what works and solving the problem.

No workshops or OD pre-packaged modules were used.

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New mindset and tools for middle managers upon the establishment of a union

The mindset of middle managers needs to change upon the establishment of a union. As the union flexes its muscles and establishes its power base, middle management must rethink its role domain and retool. This post related to changes which need to occur in the mindset of middle management.

  • Middle management needs to internalize that managing in a unionized shop is a new ball game. Part of the ball game is that senior management may be broadcasting that “nothing has changed”. Senior management is probably sending out the message: “you keep doing your job and we (whoever that is, probably Legal) will take care of the union”. However, this message is problematic as it illustrates the one of the very reasons why the union was established, eg, arrogance.
  • Over time, most unions become a partner in strategic and operational decision making. The more that management tries to make decisions “above their heads” of the union, the more militant the unions will become. Middle managers need to ensure that they engage their own senior management to avoid being used as an ineffective and damaging way to bypass legitimate union interests.
  • Middle management needs to understand the dynamic of union activity, understand the agendas of the union, build trust and proactively work with the union.  There is no “working around” the union via dealing with the so called “more sane” employees.
  • The employees will always defer to the union, because the union will take better care of them than management. So never bad mouth the union.
  • Partner with the union on a personal level and strategically. Senior managers come and go. The union is “built to last”. So it’s better learn about the new partner-for-life than working to neutralize their power.
  • It takes up to two years for a union leadership to exercise their muscles. But they do get strong and cannot be “managed” by an external legal firm. So learn to respect their interests early on in the game.

 

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You may want to build a contingency plan in case Employee Engagement fails

From academic journals to blogs and Twitter, employee engagement is a hot topic.

Practical as well as fuzzy ideas and tool kits are available to get your workforce engaged; in short, the full Monty is at your disposal.

My suggestion both to management as well as to fellow consultants is to hedge your bets and make a backup plan about what happens if employees will no longer engage, as appears to be the case in several cases.

There are many reasons why employees are not as engaged as in the past:

  • employees know they will be “shot at dawn” at the drop of a dime to make the numbers look good;
  • engagement is often manipulated by management and HR to get more for less,
  • work processes totally dominated by technology subjugate employees to mindlessly “servicing the software”.
  • the virtual work place is not all that engaging; relationships are superficial as well as highly annoying and the work place has become a political cesspool.

Furthermore, it is clear in many instances that engagement which leads to loyalty may not be all that desirable to management, because management needs to pay more. So yes, the perception of engagement is “engage until you cost too much”.

So since people are not stupid when it comes to the skin on their ass, I believe employee engagement may become a thing of the past.

As engagement becomes passé, there needs to be a whole new set of assumptions about how to manage.

Two examples will suffice. I have a client who runs a wedding hall. 15% of his waiters can quit during work because they gets a Whats-app about a party, or some other happening! So there are more buffets and less waiters. And I also have a client has had to structure work so that churn will impact the firm less, following the introduction of a cost saving yet “dumbing” software.

The words we use are often words on management and OD are often from a managerial perch. (History is written by the victor)  However, from a non managerial point of view, is engagement the right word to describe what management is looking for? Perhaps, in some cases; in other cases management wants self sacrifice at low cost without a mutual commitment. Sounds like a “pleasant hallucination” to me.

I believe that we are migrating to a model of employee as subcontractor. I see that all around me in terms of attitude and mindset, albeit not yet in structure. In such a reality, focusing on outdated Pravda-like campaigns to raise employee engage is not the brightest idea around.

Follow me @AllonShevat

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Organizational Development in Special Situations. #3 “Support Centre” for Organizational Life

Posted on March 8, 2014

This is the third of 3 posts to illustrate that OD is not passé.

While others have cannibalized some of what OD used to do, and organizations do not value people as much as before thus weakening OD’s value proposition, there are special situations where the added value of OD is outstanding.

The first situation I described was  New Product Introduction. The second  post related  to use of OD to relay intent in cases where cultural obstacles prevent dialogue.

This post will examine in brief OD practitioners greatest added value: as a “support centre” helping people think and act in organizational life.

The essence of this support is working with managers on their understanding of their cognitive/emotional organizational assumptions, serve as a reality check for  perceptions of organizational  meaning and context, “think through”  alternatives of action,examine the management of risk/opportunities and work on issues stemming from organizational politics.

Here are some of the reasons why many Organization Development practitioners do not provide  this service.

  • OD practitioners have not all been trained to do so.
  • The misplaced focus of OD practitioners  on OD products has detracted from the ability to focus on less structured  support for  “thinking”.
  • It is very hard (impossible) to market  this service.
  • Providing this type support does not create scalable revenue. Senior OD people cannot delegate this type of work to new college graduates and clip a coupon. It simply cannot be done. So this type of work means that the senior OD practitioner need to continue to consult, not manage.
  • The results of this type of work cannot be measured, thus creating a battle between the OD consultant with the organization’s procurement  department and the Gloria’s of the world.

Nevertheless I believe that is where the value of OD is.

On a personal note, when I look at the types of people I work with well, they are/have been highly intelligent people who seek out “someone smart” with whom to talk. I have never worked well with someone who wants a product. For the life of me, I do not even know what an OD product is, although I see all the “brush salespeople” peddling them all over the place.

To conclude this series….is OD passé? In Hebrew we use a double negative: לא ולא which means absolutely not (no and no). While the use of OD is less universal than it was, OD is highly applicable in special situations with the right clients.

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