Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Knowledge Brief: More than Just a Succession Tool

October 29th, 2014


Knowledge Brief: More than
Just a Succession Tool

Alignment solution: The knowledge brief is a mechanism by which to transfer information about jobs, offer key insights that are otherwise unavailable, and provide important side benefits to the organization.

A critical element of a succession process is capturing and sharing institutional knowledge. Developing mechanisms to do that is especially urgent today, as vital information walks out the door when employees leave the organization. Without a way to transfer this knowledge in a timely manner, those who step into their jobs often find themselves reinventing the proverbial wheel.

A knowledge brief is a concise (2-3 page) document that describes an individual’s personal experience with his/her job and offers suggestions about how to prepare for success. It is one of a myriad of ways to capture and transfer knowledge. Depending on how you gather the information, this mechanism can have numerous positive side effects as well, such as identifying “knowledge enablers” that accelerate successful learning, enhancing your career planning process, providing realistic job previews for recruiters and internal candidates, and educating your employees about jobs throughout the organization.

Several years ago I developed a knowledge transfer process for a client as part of its succession process. The knowledge briefs have three sections: information about the job (e.g., key learning points, purpose, impact on the mission), the incumbent’s experience in the job (e.g., most valued aspect, biggest surprise, hardest thing to learn, best advice to successor), and how to prepare for success in the job.

Although I conducted the interviews and wrote the reports, you can increase the value of the knowledge brief process tremendously by training employees, retirees, and/or interns to perform the interviews and write the documents. Interviewers have an opportunity to connect personally with individuals throughout the organization, become educated about what it does, and develop valuable communication, interviewing, and writing skills. The process also benefits the interviewees, who are required to think about what makes their jobs meaningful to them, what people and things have enabled their success, and how they can ensure a smooth transition when they move on. The personal insights provided by the briefs help employees understand how various jobs contribute to the organization’s success.

Here’s how you can establish an effective knowledge brief process:

  1. Identify an executive-level champion for the process who will ensure its success.
  2. Identify the jobs to address and the individuals to be interviewed.
  3. Develop the interview questions and the knowledge brief template.
  4. Identify the interviewers: employees, retirees, interns.
  5. Train the interviewers in interviewing skills, how to record information accurately and completely, and writing skills. TRAINING IS KEY TO SUCCESS. 
  6. Set up a simple tracking system.
  7. Conduct the interviews.
  8. Write up the briefs.
  9. Verify the information with the interviewees.
  10. Make the briefs readily available to all employees and others as appropriate (e.g., recruiters).

In today’s dynamic, learning-driven environment, your organization’s success depends in part on the extent to which you have an effective knowledge transfer process in place. Knowledge briefs can contribute to that end by educating your employees as well as fueling interest in key jobs throughout your organization.

If you would like to see a sample knowledge brief, please contact me.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How to Remove or Mitigate Predictable Obstacles to Organizational Effectiveness

October 15th, 2014


How to Remove or Mitigate Predictable Obstacles to Organizational Effectiveness

Alignment solution: Leaders and business owners can significantly increase the likelihood of achieving their goals when they remove or mitigate predictable obstacles to their administrative plans and initiatives, particularly those on the strategic level.

During my early years at FedEx (1979-1990), I sometimes felt like I was working in the era of the U.S. wild West. There were very few corporate policies and procedures, and employees had a lot of latitude to get our jobs done. Even those of us in staff positions were focused on operations, and we were committed to achieving our “Absolutely, positively overnight” mission. The company’s growth rates were off the charts, and I couldn’t wait to go to work every day.

However, with the company’s success came greater organizational complexity that required attention to administrative issues. Written policies and procedures appeared, and though they chafed at those of us used to the freedom of achieving success our way, the company’s future depended on paying attention to administrative issues as well as operational ones. The wild West era was over.

Organizations go through a predictable growth cycle. Those that succeed are the ones that are able to make the transition from start-up to a more mature business. A critical success factor is the willingness and ability to devise ways to function effectively and efficiently. This requires a shift in focus from operations alone to administrative issues as well. Aligning people, programs, processes, and systems throughout the organization requires taking a strategic perspective. Developing and implementing the mechanisms to support the company’s continued growth, such as an organizational strategy and a succession process, become key.

Making the shift from an operations focus to a broader perspective that encompasses administrative issues may be difficult. I often hear managers complain that they are too busy doing the “real work” to handle administrative matters such as developing the next generation of leaders, or conducting performance appraisals, or even providing constructive feedback. In addition, many cite a myriad of reasons for not attending to the administrative side of their job – which for managers often IS the job. Ranging from lack of time and interest to not knowing what to do, these explanations will not surprise you. Given that these issues are entirely predictable, they need not become obstacles to organizational effectiveness.

Categorized into four groups, here are some of the predictable obstacles to successful implementation of administrative plans and initiatives, along with ideas about how to address them.

Category Predictable Obstacles How to Remove/Mitigate the Obstacles
 
Priorities No resources (money, equipment) Communicate clearly to decision-makers the impact on organizational goals of insufficient resources and/or support
  No time Consider the heavy costs of ineffective and/or inefficient use of resources
  No stakeholder support Educate your stakeholders about what’s in it for them to support administrative initiatives
 
Education No interest Tell stakeholders what’s in it for them; co-create a compelling “big picture”
  Low Priority Present decision-makers with realistic options of the impact on the business when there are insufficient resources
  Not seen as part of mission “Connect the dots” between the mission and initiatives that enable effective, efficient use of resources
     
Know-how Don’t know why Create a clear “big picture” of the mission and consider the impact of insufficient resources and support
  Don’t know what Find an internal or external expert to help
  Don’t know how Have an expert create a detailed, results-oriented implementation plan
     
Accountability No accountability mechanisms Develop measures of progress and achievement; impose consequences for non-performance
  No ownership Invite meaningful stakeholder input into initiatives; identify a champion who is willing and able to see the initiative through to completion
  No sustainability Build the necessary behaviors, steps, actions into organizational culture, norms, and infrastructure

In short, business success requires leaders to embrace the administrative aspects of the work they do, and to remove or mitigate the obstacles to organizational effectiveness and efficiency. The organization’s future is on the line.

For those who may find it difficult to ask others for help with administrative or other issues, take a look at my article 6 Steps to Asking For and Receiving Help.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How to Identify Key Positions in Your Organization

September 17th, 2014


How to Identify Key Positions in Your Organization

Alignment solution: Step one in developing a succession process is identifying the key positions throughout your organization, not just those at the top.

One of the persistent myths about succession planning is that it should address only positions at the executive level. In fact, there are key positions throughout the organization, which I define as those that represent critical jobs, functions, skills, and/or competencies. Think about it: unless your organization is comprised of all volunteers, how many of your employees would come to work every day if they didn’t get paid? Thus payroll is a critical function. Who knew that the payroll clerk is a VIP in your organization?

Identifying the key positions in your organization is like triaging victims after an accident: emergency personnel prioritize their injuries against pre-defined criteria, then treat them in order of most to least critical. Although setting up an organizational triage process takes some time, and usually much soul-searching, the result is that you know exactly how and where to prioritize your efforts and direct your resources – i.e., on the positions that would leave the organization most vulnerable if they are not filled with capable staff.

Here are the three organizational triage categories for identifying key positions. They are defined according to their impact on the organization’s survivability – i.e., its ability to achieve its mission:

Category Impact on the organization’s mission
Critical Cannot fulfill mission if missing
Very important Signficant negative impact if missing
Important Diminished level of performance if missing

For each position, function, skill, and competency, ask and answer TRUTHFULLY the following set of questions. What is the impact on our mission if we:

  • Don’t fill the position?
  • Delay filling the position?
  • Omit some aspects of the position?
  • Reduce the qualifications of the position?

Insist on very specific answers: “we’d go out of business” is not acceptable. Truthful and realistic responses collectively will enable you to prioritize each position. Assess all positions, functions, skills, and competencies using the above process. The assumption is that every position must be at least important to achieving the mission. If you find any that are not, ask yourself why they are there? How can you justify their existence? The result will be a prioritized list of positions throughout the organization. For succession planning purposes, you have a clear picture of your vulnerabilities and where you must focus your efforts and resources.

Just as is the case during an emergency, the first responders’ work is not done when they have made their initial assessments. They must TAKE ACTION based on their findings. Just as they wouldn’t think of leaving victims at the scene of the accident or emergency, so you too must take action to address your organization’s known vulnerabilities.

To read about this organizational triage process in slightly more detail and from a resource allocation process, take a look at my article Guidelines for Allocating Scarce Resources.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Efficiency or Effectiveness: Do Words Really Matter?

August 20th, 2014


Efficiency or Effectiveness:
Do Words Really Matter?

Alignment solution: Precision in terminology really does matter. Using related words interchangeably even though they have different meanings can result in unintended negative consequences for your organization.

During a conference I attended last week, I was reminded again that using words imprecisely can have dire consequences. As part of their presentation on cost efficiency, two speakers stressed the need to balance two related yet different concepts that often are used interchangeably: efficiency and effectiveness. Although both are critical to an organization’s ability to survive and thrive, their respective desired outcomes often are in conflict.

The speakers defined “efficiency” as doing things right – i.e., using resources the best way possible. They suggested examining the ratio of outputs to inputs would help assess the degree of an organization’s efficiency. “Effectiveness,” on the other hand, means doing the right things – i.e., achieving the desired outcomes. The reality is that few, if any, organizations have unlimited resources. As a result, there must be a balance between the sometimes contradictory concepts of effectiveness (the WHAT) and efficiency (the HOW).

The problem arises when people use these two terms interchangeably. To the extent that decision-makers focus solely or primarily on cost efficiency when allocating resources, for example, they cause the organization’s effectiveness to suffer.

Let’s use public safety as an example of how using “efficiency” and “effectiveness” interchangeably may play out. Most people want to live and work in communities that are safe, healthy, and economically viable. Since the recent recession caused local governments to slash their budgets, including the funding for public safety agencies, the focus has been almost exclusively on efficiency – i.e., how much can we cut from the budget? Although most organizations generally can find ways to become more efficient, beyond a certain point there are no resources to cut without degrading service effectiveness. This result may manifest as slower response times when people call 911. Services previously available, such as community policing, gang enforcement, and fire prevention education, also may disappear. Failing to distinguish between these two terms has added to the significant decrease in the level of public safety in many communities across the U.S. and other countries.

Is that outcome okay? The answer is up to the residents of the affected communities. However, for them to make informed decisions about what they are willing to trade off, they must understand the implications of an imbalance between efficiency and effectiveness. That is, if we cut back on resources, what will be the impact on public safety? On the other hand, if we focus on effectiveness to the exclusion of efficiency, are we being realistic?

The bottom line: for the health and well-being of your organization, distinguish clearly between the concepts of efficiency and effectiveness. Focus first on the end result you want to provide your customers and stakeholders (the WHAT), then address the ways you might achieve that outcome most efficiently (the HOW). Maintaining a balance between the two concepts will serve your organization and its stakeholders well.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: What Major League Baseball Can Teach Organizations about Succession Planning

August 6th, 2014


What Major League Baseball Can Teach
Organizations about Succession Planning

Alignment solution: Major League Baseball’s farm club system offers important lessons for organizations about what makes it an effective succession process.

Organizations of all sizes in the public, private, and non-profit sectors can achieve their goals and missions more quickly and easily when they implement an effective succession planning process. So why is it that too few of them choose to do so?

My definition of succession planning is an on-going, long-term process to systematically develop talent so there is a readily available, qualified pool of candidates to fill critical positions throughout the organization as they become vacant.

Whatever the reason for its absence – e.g., perceived lack of time or resources, lack of knowledge about how to develop a plan, failure to implement a plan, mistaken belief that small organizations don’t need such a process – a solid succession process is not a high priority for many leaders and business owners despite the real benefits that would accrue to their stakeholders and to themselves.

Major League Baseball’s (MLB) farm club system is, in effect, a succession process. Teams hire promising athletes, train them, provide opportunities for honing their skills, and if/when they are ready, move them up to the major leagues. Here are ten reasons this system works well for MLB:

  1. There is a process – i.e., teams implement their staffing plans.
  2. Teams search for good talent, candidates whose skills fit their immediate and future needs.
  3. Teams train their players and give them lots of opportunities to practice their skills.
  4. Players get specific, timely feedback about their performance.
  5. If a team mistakenly calls a player up to the majors before he’s ready, causing the athlete to struggle or fail, he’s sent back quickly for more training and/or experience.
  6. Players on the major league roster may be sent back down to the farm team for remediation.
  7. Teams staff their positions with the best person for the job, even when it means a long-time player, or one who is solid but not quite as good, gets moved out or down.
  8. Teams hold players and coaches accountable for meeting stated performance criteria.
  9. Coaches make staffing decisions based on what’s best for the team, not for individual players.
  10. Teams let players go when it becomes evident they cannot or will not meet the job requirements.

How many of the above elements exist in your organization? Where can you make improvements?

To learn more about important elements of succession planning, take a look at my article Succession Planning Myths and Realities.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Are Your Surveys a Waste of Time?

July 23rd, 2014


Are Your Surveys a Waste of Time?

Alignment solution: To ensure your surveys are not a waste of time, write questions that provide accurate, actionable data.

Developed correctly, a survey is a very powerful tool for gathering actionable data for a variety of purposes. Based on my experience, however, most surveys are a waste of time and effort for all involved. Why? Because the resulting data are worthless – i.e., incorrect, skewed, and/or not interpretable. In short, they are not actionable. Not recognizing they are working with bad data, however, people take action based on those results. Then they wonder why the initial problem hasn’t been resolved, or why people’s behaviors haven’t changed.

There are easy, no-cost ways to ensure that your surveys result in accurate, actionable data that you can use with confidence to identify effective ways to address the desired topics or issues. As long as you’ve decided to make the effort to conduct a survey, why not write questions that produce usable findings?

Below are three of the most common mistakes I see people making when developing questions for their surveys, as well as solutions for avoiding them. The good news: it doesn’t cost extra to write items correctly rather than incorrectly. So there’s no reason to let these mistakes derail your improvement efforts.

Mistake #1: Requiring a single response to an item that asks multiple questions

Example: “Our staff were knowledgeable and acted professionally.”

Problem: Demonstrating knowledge and acting professionally are two different behaviors. When your question includes multiple behaviors yet requires people to provide one answer, you have no idea to which of the behaviors they are referring. In this example, there are four possible behavioral combinations: knowledgeable and unprofessional, not knowledgeable and professional, knowledgeable and professional, or not knowledgeable and unprofessional. Because you can’t tell to which set of answers people are referring, you cannot identify an appropriate response.

Solution: Write one item per behavior, trait, or result. Although this may make the survey longer, the results will allow you to target your response.

Mistake #2: Asking only global questions

Example: “How satisfied were you with our customer service?”

Problem: Whether the responses are positive or negative, you can’t tell to what aspect(s) of customer service people are responding. As a result, you don’t know what actions must be taken to stop undesirable behaviors or practices or to reinforce desirable ones.

Solution: Ask questions about specific aspects of an issue – e.g., behaviors of customer service providers or the quality of the outcome. 

Mistake #3: Asking questions that require only “yes” or “no” answers

Example: “Are you satisfied with the quality of the service our staff provided?”

Problem: “Yes/no” response options provide very limited information. They indicate only that there may be a problem, and they fail to suggest the degree of seriousness. That is, how strong or weak is each “yes” and “no?” As a result, you have no idea what action to take, or with what degree of urgency.

Solution: Re-frame the question as a statement, and provide multiple response options along a continuum (e.g., strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree). This change allows you to specify the behavior or outcome you want to target, and it indicates the urgency with which you must act.

To read about other no-cost tips that will ensure that your surveys are not a waste of time, take a look at my article 26 Insider Tips to Dramatically Increase the Effectiveness of Your Surveys.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

Click here to Join Our Mailing List!


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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Business Lessons from a 3-alarm Fire

July 9th, 2014

Business Lessons from a 3-alarm Fire

Alignment solution: Your organization’s ability to weather an emergency well depends on the strength of the foundation you have created through your employees.

For millions of people in the U.S., July 1st was memorable because it marked the highly anticipated World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Belgium. Here in Long Beach, CA, thousands of excited fans crowded local streets and businesses well ahead of the 1 p.m. local starting time to party and cheer for their team. For the Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD), however, 1 p.m. on July 1st became memorable for a different reason: it marked the time of the first call alerting them to a fire at a local business. After assessing the magnitude of the situation, the first units on scene called in a second alarm, followed quickly by a third alarm. In addition to the multiple fire engines, trucks, and ambulances dispatched to the fire, the hazardous materials and search and rescue teams also were summoned as flammable materials fueled the blaze and the roof collapsed.

I happened to be at the LBFD dispatch center that day, which gave me a front-row seat to observe those who choreographed the emergency response. I watched in awe as the dispatchers quickly and expertly directed the appropriate apparatus to the scene, responded to radio questions and requests from the field, sent additional equipment, and re-positioned the remaining fire engines to other stations so that all parts of the city would have some coverage during this incident that suddenly demanded most of the available resources. To the public, nothing seemed amiss: both 911 and non-emergency calls continued to be answered promptly. Even the person who called 911 to demand that a fire marshal be sent to a local bar that was so crowded that she couldn’t get in (!) had no clue that the dispatcher simultaneously was handling the immediate demands of a 3-alarm fire.

Although such emergencies are rare, when they do occur, first responders must be on top of their games in order to prevent a catastrophe or mitigate its effects. Even with single alarm fires, the damage can be alleviated IF both dispatchers and firefighters are properly trained and have the appropriate resources. Whatever your organization’s equivalent of a 3- (or 2- or 1-) alarm fire, here are six observations about how you might apply the lessons demonstrated by this incident:

  1. The successful resolution of an emergency situation depends entirely on the knowledge and skills of the people involved. Are your employees properly trained to handle an emergency?
  1. Having enough people can make the difference between success and failure. Have cutbacks in personnel left your organization vulnerable?
  1. There is no substitute for having the right people in the right jobs. Do you have a sound succession process that ensures you have qualified employees in key positions throughout the organization?
  1. Institutional knowledge is irreplaceable. Do you have a process in place that ensures valuable knowledge is passed on to other employees?
  1. An emergency highlights the difference between employees who are committed and those who are not. Are your employees dedicated to providing professional, seamless customer service regardless of the larger emergency at hand?
  1. Exceptional communication skills enable more effective, timely, and accurate responses. To what extent would your employees’ communication skills help or hinder in an emergency?

Hopefully your organization doesn’t experience many emergencies. When it does, your employees’ abilities to respond effectively will test the strength of its foundation. Being able to address the above points positively will go a long way toward making sure you can recover quickly.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

Click here to Join Our Mailing List! 

 

 

 

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

 

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: 8 Tips for a Successful Consolidation Process

June 25th, 2014


8 Tips for a Successful Consolidation Process

Alignment solution: Leaders can effect successful mergers and consolidations by applying time-tested lessons from a merger expert.

Fire Chief David Sparling of the Fire Department or North Huron brings a unique perspective to his job. As a long-time owner of a company that has been recognized twice as one of the 50 best small and medium employers to work for in Canada, he has applied his business acumen successfully to enhance his department’s effectiveness in serving the community.

One of Chief Sparling’s areas of expertise is increasing the efficiency of organizations that have been joined through amalgamation. As an executive, he frequently acquired other businesses and merged them with his own. Over the years, his company grew to become one of the largest propane retailers in Canada, and one of the 25 largest in North America.

This business expertise came in handy when Chief Sparling was named fire chief of a newly amalgamated fire department. The Fire Department of North Huron was the result of the merger of two departments that, between them, had been owned by five different municipalities. As operations became unwieldy and inefficient, merger was the logical yet controversial solution. Despite serious resistance from both community members and firefighters, the department weathered the transition successfully.

Chief Sparling relied heavily on his business experience to effect a successful merger. He offers eight time-tested suggestions for those facing consolidation situations:

  1. Take care of your people. If they trust that you have their best interests at heart, they will appreciate what you are doing even if they don’t fully agree with it.
  2. Paint a clear picture for the short-, medium-, and long-term. Once the picture is painted, it’s okay to go back and add some color.
  3. Create a clear “play to win” message – i.e., this change is for real, we’re not playing around. Use a variety of media to communicate that message widely and consistently.
  4. Tell it like it is – i.e., be honest and open about what you can and cannot do. Do not avoid or sugarcoat information that people may not want to hear.
  5. Listen carefully to your stakeholders. While you need not agree with or do everything they ask, look for the “gems” of information. If everyone is saying something is a bad idea, take another look at it.
  6. Pick good employees. Use a neutral, bona fide selection process. If the leadership team has poor skills, the organization cannot succeed.
  7. Don’t be afraid to terminate those who are weak. They can undermine the entire organization.
  8. Do not promise savings in the first year of a merger. Generally you must spend more initially to make changes, get people on the same page, and generate some short-term wins. Stakeholders must understand that savings begin 2.5-3 years into the process.

As with any change effort, consolidation takes time: it is a process, not an event. By treating your merger or consolidation as a process that includes best practices such as those above, you can increase the likelihood that your consolidation efforts will be successful.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

Click here to Join Our Mailing List!


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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Lessons in Inclusion from Special Olympics Athletes

June 11th, 2014

Lessons in Inclusion from Special Olympics Athletes

Alignment solution: Practicing inclusion and acceptance in a diverse world may not require the same kind of bravery as that summoned by public safety professionals whose job is to run toward danger, yet it is equally challenging to many.

The world is full of differences; its diversity is what makes life rich and vibrant. Yet too often that diversity results in discord and strife instead of celebrations of our individual and collective talents. Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization, changes the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through year-round sports training and competitions. Many Special Olympics athletes have mild to severe physical as well as intellectual disabilities. Their oath states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

If you ever have attended a Special Olympics competition, you know the focus is not on winning. Although many of the athletes do want to win, their true reward comes from being accepted for who they are and for celebrating what they CAN do. It doesn’t matter how well they do; what counts is that they are brave enough to put forth their best effort. In so doing, they inspire those who witness their joy in testing themselves.

At last weekend’s 2014 Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games Invitational, I was particularly awe-struck by one young gymnast. Though wheelchair-bound, she competed in the balance beam and the floor dance events. Although she cannot stand and has limited movement in both arms and legs, she found ways to work around those constraints. A whole gym full of people cheered her on, inspired by her bravery and the huge smile on her face. Athletes who forgot their routines, or dropped their equipment, or fell off equipment didn’t let those hiccups faze them. They remained true to their promise to “be brave in the attempt.” No matter where they fall on the ability spectrum, the efforts of Special Olympics athletes are celebrated and supported without reservation. Their joy comes from the freedom to be accepted unconditionally for who they are and from being part of something bigger than themselves.

Here are ten life lessons that Special Olympics athletes can teach us about being inclusive and accepting of others:

  1. Have the courage to be yourself. Allow others to be themselves as well.
  2. It doesn’t matter whether you “win;”what counts is having the courage to use the talent you’ve been given.
  3. Perfection is not the goal. It is enough to do your very best.
  4. Look for reasons to support others. Cheer them on – loudly.
  5. Encourage people to test their limits. Rather than tell them they can’t do something, help them to find a way around obstacles.
  6. Be delighted with your efforts. Share your joy.
  7. “Small” victories often are huge. Celebrate all accomplishments.
  8. The effects of the talent unleashed by creating an environment of inclusiveness and acceptance are inspiring and contagious. The world is better off as a result.
  9. The joy is in the journey. Invite others along for the ride.
  10. It only takes a few minutes to celebrate another person.

Are you brave enough to embrace those who seem different than you? Could your work environment be more inclusive and accepting? If so, try some of the above tips. You might just find yourself inspired by the results.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

Click here to Join Our Mailing List!


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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Results through Implementation

May 28th, 2014

 

Results through Implementation

Alignment solution: The best-laid plans are doomed to failure if they are not implemented.

What is your track record for implementing your organization’s policies, procedures, programs, and initiatives? If you wrote down a list right now of all the plans developed on your watch, what percent of them could you honestly say have been transformed into actions that resulted in sustainable, meaningful results? For example, is your strategic plan driving your organization toward its goals, or is it gathering dust on a shelf? How about your succession plan? Do you have a pool of qualified candidates ready to step into key positions when vacancies arise, or do you promote the nearest warm body and hope for the best?

A critical success factor for leaders is the management of plan implementation – i.e., turning words into actions to achieve desired outcomes. The best-laid plans are worthless if they are not executed. This seems like an obvious point. Yet too often leaders fail to ensure that things get done. Last week, for example, articles in a number of media outlets took President Obama to task for his inability to move from campaign rhetoric to action to results on initiatives that he identified as high priorities for his administration. Politics aside, the facts to date indicate a dearth of follow-through on promises like providing timely care for U.S. veterans.

How can you avoid such a failure of leadership? Start with these three steps:

  1. Realize that plans have two essential parts: development and implementation. It is unlikely that a poorly developed plan can be effective in achieving its desired outcome. It is impossible for even a great plan to succeed if no action is taken to achieve it.
  2. Insist that an implementation plan accompany every plan, policy, procedure, program, and initiative. Such a plan is much more detailed than an action plan, which typically is a simple to-do list. The difference between the two can be compared to getting a request to bake a cake without any further information (the action plan), and being handed a recipe for the cake you’re asked to bake (the implementation plan).
  3. Become a master of delegation by accurately identifying the most productive ways for you to spend your time. Here’s an effective tool that can help you achieve such mastery. Ask yourself, “Am I the only person in the world who can do [X]?” If the truthful answer is “Yes,” then do it. More often than not, however, the answer is “No.” In that case, delegate the task. Everyone will be better off: you spend time addressing the things only you can do, and others handle what they do best. Morale is enhanced, productivity increases, and the organization maximizes its performance.

By paying attention to both the development and the implementation of plans, ensuring that their words are translated into actions that result in sustainable outcomes, and delegating necessary tasks effectively, you are highly likely to achieve the desired end.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


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