Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How to Stop the Insanity of Unproductive Conversations

August 24th, 2016



How to Stop the Insanity
of Unproductive Conversations

Alignment solution: There are four simple techniques you can use to change your conversations from unproductive to productive.

Have you ever had the same conversation over and over again because an undesirable behavior or outcome failed to change? Perhaps it’s with an employee who consistently misses deadlines, promises to do better, then continues to be late. Maybe the conversation is with your kids when they don’t do their chores (again). The good news: you can stop this vicious cycle today by making a few simple changes.

One of my presentations last week at an international fire chiefs’ conference was called “Stop the Insanity of Public Safety Conversations: Change the Context.” In it I offered four simple techniques to help change unproductive conversations to productive ones – i.e., those that change an undesirable status quo. Although I can’t guarantee that you always will get the outcome you want, I can say they will get you out of the unproductive rut in which you find yourself. Bonus: the techniques work both inside and outside any kind of workplace.

Technique #1: Ask positive questions
The questions we ask are fateful: they point people in the direction in which they seek answers. If you ask negative questions, people find negative, unproductive responses. Similarly, positive questions will yield positive, productive answers. If you want people to come up with creative solutions, formulate positive questions.

Sample scenario: A project for a major client goes terribly wrong. Which set of questions is more likely to enable your team to devise a productive solution to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

1. You’ve done this kind of project successfully dozens of times. Why’d you mess up this time? Whose fault was this? How did you let this happen? What went wrong?

2. You’ve done this kind of project successfully dozens of times. What does it look like when you execute it perfectly? What do you do right? Who and what enables your success?

Technique #2: Change the question
Unproductive conversations often are the result of asking the wrong questions. Instead of answering such questions, respond by posing your own question that will guide the conversation to a more productive outcome.

Sample scenario: Executives at a retail store known for its exceptional customer service must cut costs. Which question is more likely to result in a thoughtful conversation about how to ensure the store retains its stellar reputation with customers?

3. How much should we cut the training budget this year?

4. What level of customer service do you (executives) want us to provide our customers this year?

Technique #3: Change the context or focus
Just as asking the wrong questions leads to unproductive conversations, so too does providing a context that the other person doesn’t care about, or views as a low priority. Re-frame the discussion by changing the focus or putting it into a context that matters to the other person.

Sample scenario: Despite all their training and discussions of why safety is important, some employees at a manufacturing plant still take shortcuts that jeopardize their safety. Which area of focus is more likely to result in a conversation that changes that behavior?

5. Safety: “Be safe out there!”

6. Courage: “Have the courage to be safe!”
(Thanks to Deputy Chief Mike Froelich, Sylvania Fire-EMS, for this quote)        

Technique #4: Change the level of the conversation
A common definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. The authors of a book called Crucial Confrontations provide a technique to avoid engaging in repetitive discussions when the undesirable behavior persists: change the level of the conversation. Their contention is that there are three increasingly higher levels of conversation: content, commitment, and relationship. When a conversation doesn’t have the desired result, or enable movement toward that outcome, instead of sticking to the first (content) level, escalate it. (Though this suggestion is a variation on technique #3 above, I include it separately because it is a tremendously powerful tool.)

Sample scenario: A department manager consistently misses scheduled meetings with his employees, causing them to make embarrassing mistakes due to the delay in conveying important product information. Which example below is more likely to correct this undesirable behavior?

7. The executive’s conversation with the manager focuses on the pattern of missed meetings. The manager commits to changing the behavior (content). When the behavior doesn’t change, the executive repeats the previous conversation till the cows come home. The behavior still doesn’t change. 

8. The executive’s initial conversation with the manager is about the latter’s pattern of behavior. When the behavior doesn’t change, the second conversation focuses on the manager’s failure to deliver on his commitment. If the behavior still doesn’t change, the third conversation focuses on the harm to the relationship: the executive no longer can trust the manager because he repeatedly failed to keep his commitment.

Note: sometimes having the “content” level of conversation is enough to get the desired behavior; other times it’s necessary to have the “commitment” level of conversation. My experience is that it seldom is necessary to escalate the conversation to the “relationship” level.

Each of the four techniques described above can save you from the insanity of unproductive conversations. Choose the one that’s most relevant to the situation at hand. While it may not get you everything you want, at minimum it will result in a more productive use of your time and better results than you have experienced.


If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of using positive language, take a look at our article The Transformative Power of Appreciative Language. 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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How Healthy is Your Retention Process?

July 20th, 2016



How Healthy is Your Retention Process?

Alignment solution: A healthy retention process enables an organization to retain good performers long-term and to release poor performers in a timely manner.

I define “healthy retention” as an organization’s ability to retain good performers long-term and to release poor performers as soon as the lack of fit becomes evident and cannot be remedied effectively. A healthy retention process begins before the preparation of job- and organization- based recruitment materials, and it continues throughout each person’s career.

While leaders often do a very good job of addressing some – or perhaps many – elements of the retention process, their misalignment with the goal of healthy retention is an obstacle to a successful process. In the images below, the big arrows represent the direction of a healthy retention process; the small arrows represent very good programs, practices, processes, and systems that comprise a healthy retention process. As you can see, even really good elements of a process cannot succeed when they are at odds with each other. A healthy retention process requires the alignment of all its elements.

Retention Process Graphic

There are three major controllable reasons for unhealthy retention processes. Leaders:

  1. fail to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy retention.
  2. take a very narrow view of what elements comprise a healthy retention process.
  3. view and treat retention as a task instead of as a systematic, on-going process.

Below are suggested remedies for increasing the health of your retention process.

Problem #1: failure to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy retention
Some organizations equate low turnover with good management. Too often, however, it represents unhealthy retention – i.e., poor or mediocre performers remain on the job because managers don’t hold them accountable.

Remedy: clearly define what “healthy retention” means for your organization. Assess your current status. Identify the gaps between where you are and where you’d like to be. Take action to address those gaps. 

Problem #2: take a very narrow view of what elements comprise a healthy retention process
An old story tells how six blind men decided to learn what an elephant looks like by touching one. However, because each man felt a different part of the animal, they all came away with very different experiences. The man who touched its side concluded an elephant is like a wall; the one who felt the trunk likened it to a snake; the one who felt his knee argued it was like a tree; the one who patted the ear compared the elephant to a fan; the one who touched the tail believed an elephant is like a rope; and the man who felt its tusk was convinced an elephant is like a spear. Though all of them reported their experiences accurately, their failure to view the elephant as a whole prevented them from obtaining the result they wanted: an accurate picture of the animal. Similarly, omitting important elements of a healthy retention process will doom your process to failure – or at least to waste and ineffectiveness.

Remedy: take an expansive view of retention. Recognize that healthy retention begins with purposeful preparation, includes recruitment, selection, orientation, and probationary period, and continues with employees’ workplace experiences throughout their careers. Develop your healthy retention process accordingly.

Problem #3: view and treat retention as a task instead of as a systematic, on-going process
Just as the blind men’s focus on separate “pieces” of the elephant prevented them from seeing the entire creature, so treating retention as a task (or series of tasks) is dysfunctional because people cannot put them in the proper context. Misalignment among the elements hinders the organization’s ability to achieve its strategic goals because it doesn’t have the right people in the right jobs.

Remedy: identify all the elements of a healthy retention process. Connect the dots among them so they complement each other and accelerate progress toward achieving organizational goals instead of obstructing or duplicating one another.

Turnover is extremely expensive for organizations, requiring extensive direct and indirect costs as well as disrupting operations and reducing productivity. Would you rather cut corners in your retention process and pay the resultant high price, or would you prefer to invest in developing and retaining a high performance workforce that gets better over time as its positive reputation attracts the best candidates?

 


Are you curious about the extent to which your organization’s retention process is healthy? Take a look at our Healthy Retention Self-assessment. 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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How to Increase the Likelihood of a Good Person-Job-Organization Fit

June 29th, 2016



How to Increase the Likelihood of a
Good Person-Job-Organization Fit

Alignment solution: To increase the likelihood of a good person-job-organization fit, provide candidates with a realistic job preview.

One often unrecognized fact about hiring and promotional processes is that a job interview is a two-way evaluation. That is, the candidates as well as the employer have the opportunity to assess the goodness-of-fit between themselves, the job, and the organization. In order for both sides to make informed decisions, however, the employer must provide all relevant information, both positive and negative. To do otherwise would be a disservice to all stakeholders as well as to the organization.

If asked why they decline to mention the down sides to a given job, most employers say they don’t want to scare off good candidates.

I’ve got news for them: they’re going to lose new hires who discover their expectations will not be met. On the other hand, new hires who are poor fits are likely to stay, causing negative repercussions throughout the organization. Acknowledging the lack of fit earlier in the selection process rather than later will save you money and time, as well as avoid the costs associated with reduced productivity and employee morale, and unhappy customers.

Here are eleven actions you can take to provide candidates for hire and/or promotion with a realistic job preview:

Before the interview:

  1. In the job posting and recruitment materials, be very clear about the negative as well as the positive aspects of the job and the organization.
  2. Encourage candidates to speak with employees or incumbents.
  3. When feasible, offer job shadow opportunities.
  4. Formulate interview questions that assess the alignment between candidates’ personal values and the organization’s values.

During the interview:

  1. Provide candidates with information about available career paths and realistic time frames for promotion.
  2. Ask candidates about their job expectations. When there are unrealistic perceptions, re-set them by explaining why they are improbable or unlikely.
  3. Ask job candidates why they want to work for your organization. If there are misconceptions, correct them on the spot.
  4. Provide interviewers with a list of job and organization positives and negatives to communicate clearly to each candidate.

After the interview:

  1. Review the interviewers’ notes carefully, noting any potential red flags that could indicate a candidate might not be a good fit – e.g., unacceptable behaviors, personal values that are at odds with those of the organization.
  2. Call candidates’ references. If any red flags were raised during the interview, ask questions to elicit information about whether they are well-founded.
  3. Speak with candidates before an offer is made to assess the accuracy of their understanding of the job and the organization. Correct any misperceptions.

While no one likes to lose otherwise good job candidates, hiring or promoting someone who is a poor fit for the job and/or the organization does a disservice to everyone. Who would you rather have serving your customers: people who went into the job with realistic expectations or those who are disillusioned because their expectations were not met?


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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Timing is Everything

June 1st, 2016


Timing is Everything

Alignment solution: Leaders who lack the necessary expertise for achieving a key outcome serve their customers well and set a good example when they call an expert right away instead of trying to do it themselves.

Years ago I was hired by a large fire and rescue agency to salvage a critical project that was well outside its members’ areas of expertise. With a mess on its hands despite weeks of frantic efforts to handle the issue internally, and with a deadline fast approaching, the agency finally called an expert. Asked why it took so long to seek the help they knew they needed, a fire captain replied, “When faced with any problem, we always do something. Even when we don’t know what we’re doing, we still do something because we’re the fire department and people expect us to handle whatever comes up.”

If you’ve ever attended a public safety educational event, you know that first responders tell people to call 911 in an emergency. “Even if you’re not sure whether the situation truly requires a fire, EMS, or law enforcement response,” they advise, “call us anyway. We’re the experts; let us decide.” Given those clear and simple instructions, why do some people insist on trying to handle an emergency themselves before calling 911?

Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar: although you are well trained in your field, you’ve been asked to achieve a goal or provide a deliverable outside that area of expertise, and for which you have had no training or preparation. Perhaps you must develop a department strategy, or create a new process or system, or resolve a difficult workplace situation. Even though you don’t know where to begin, you opt to give it your best shot rather than ask for help. After all, how hard could it be? (Note: for your own good, don’t ever pose this query as a rhetorical question.) Although these situations seldom involve danger to life or property, delaying a request for assistance is likely to result in significant costs and/or a failure to deliver a key outcome.    

Next time you find yourself in a situation in which you’re required to do something that’s beyond your area of expertise, ask yourself this question: “Is there anyone else in the world who knows how to do [the task at hand]?” In the rare case in which the answer is “No,” then take it on yourself. However, when the answer is “Yes,” call an internal or external expert. And when calculating your return on investment, don’t forget to include the peace of mind that comes from knowing that a key outcome will be achieved successfully and on time. Because even though you are not the fire department, people expect you to know what to do.


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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How Are You Building Your Legacy?

May 11th, 2016


How Are You Building Your Legacy?

Alignment solution: Not everyone can change the world as profoundly as a Mother Teresa or a Steve Jobs. Regardless of where our talents lie, however, we all are capable of leaving a positive legacy.

Some legacies arise from a game-changing invention or innovation, or a life-saving discovery, or an inspiring life of service. Most, however, are built on everyday actions, decisions, and choices that leave the world a better place. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

My brother Peter describes himself on his Facebook page as “a man of few talents, many moods, light-hearted, deadly serious, kind to animals.” Those words don’t begin to hint at the legacy that he is creating. During the last ten years, for example, he was the neighborhood “Grampy,” spending hours talking with, teaching, and mentoring kids who learned they could trust him to help them navigate the choppy waters of childhood and the teenage years. I can only imagine the impact his attention and encouragement will have as they grow up.

Here are twenty suggestions for building a positive legacy by leaving the world a better place than you found it. These techniques work both in and outside of the workplace.

  1. Embrace this mindset: “I make the world a better place every day through my beliefs, words, and actions.”
  2. Identify and use your talents every day.
  3. Help others identify their talents and show them how they can use them daily.
  4. Provide opportunities for people to shine.
  5. Set yourself and others up for success.
  6. Help people feel part of something bigger than themselves by articulating a clear “big picture” that describes the person’s or the organization’s vision.
  7. Inspire people by helping them see how they contribute to that “big picture.”
  8. Focus and build on individual and collective strengths and successes.
  9. Create and sustain a positive, appreciative environment.
  10. Learn what motivates each individual and use that information to move them to action.
  11. Give the gift of active listening to each person.
  12. Mentor others, formally or informally.
  13. Use your talents to help improve your community.
  14. Spend quality time with whoever you’re with by being fully present.
  15. Learn about others by being curious about who they are.
  16. Share your life experiences generously with others.
  17. Expand others’ horizons by opening their eyes to the possibilities of their talents.
  18. Tell others specifically how they matter in the world.
  19. Look for the good that people do.
  20. Challenge people to reach their full potential: refuse to accept mediocrity in yourself or others.

What will be your legacy? What will you do today to make the world a better place than it was when you arrived?


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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: For Successful Strategy Implementation, Follow a Recipe

April 8th, 2016

 

For Successful Strategy Implementation,
Follow a Recipe

Alignment solution: You dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving the goals in your strategic plan if you develop an implementation plan vs. an action plan.

As my senior year in college wound down, it occurred to me that I ought to get serious about learning how to cook. Although I like a lot of different kinds of food, once a meal required more than putting something between two slices of bread or following the instructions on a box or can that went beyond “Add water and stir,” my lack of interest in the culinary arts had left me dependent on the kindness of others. While I understood WHAT I wanted (good, inexpensive home cooked meals), I was clueless about HOW to achieve that outcome. Fortunately during a trip to the campus bookstore, a promising title caught my eye: The Campus Survival Cookbook. Opening the book to a random recipe, the first step told me immediately that the authors had me in mind when they wrote it: “Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Close the door.”

How often have you been given responsibility for achieving an outcome and not had a clue about how to pull it off? Trial and error is one way of learning. However, the costs of taking this approach often outweigh its benefits. Yet the “hit or miss” option often is the default method when it comes to creating a strategic plan. Here’s a common scenario: leaders write a strategic plan and tell their subordinates to make it happen. Some even may write an action plan to accompany the strategy. Yet somehow the goals never are achieved.

“Strategies fail in their implementation” is true. The world’s best written strategic plan is a failure if it winds up in a drawer or on a shelf (or merely published on the web site). It does nothing to help move the organization forward or serve its customers better. To dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving the goals in their strategic plans, I advise my clients to write an implementation plan vs. an action plan. Here are three major differences between these two approaches:

Action Plan Implementation Plan
1. Like a “to do” list, it tells people what to do, but not how to do it or what the expected outcome is 1. Like a recipe, it tells people what to do, how to do it, and what the desired outcome is
2. Because it’s vague, the amount of guess work required wastes resources 2. Because it’s precise, guess work is minimized and resources are optimized
3. It focuses on activities that may or may not lead to the desired outcome 3. It focuses on the desired results

Although taking the “recipe” approach is key to a successful strategy implementation, it does present some challenges. Due to the required level of detail, for example, creating it is very labor intensive. In addition, few people have the necessary expertise to do a good job. Yet there are tools available to help mitigate these challenges and successfully implement your strategy. What’s it worth to you and your customers to enable your organization to provide the best possible service or products effectively and efficiently? What’s the cost of NOT doing so?

If you’d like to see an example of an implementation plan, go to my web site and request an example of what a template for implementing part of a mentor program looks like. (Scroll down to Fire-Rescue International 2014 conference, handout #2.)


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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Workplace Socialization Insights from a Local Animal Shelter

March 23rd, 2016


Workplace Socialization Insights
from a Local Animal Shelter

Alignment solution: How you socialize new employees and team members helps set the stage for their subsequent success.

Recently I adopted a nine-month old cat from a local animal shelter. He’d had a rough start in life, which made him very distrustful of people and fearful of new surroundings. As I was getting ready to take him home, one of the dedicated shelter volunteers offered this advice: “Everything will be new to him. He doesn’t know you, or where things are, or who he can trust. He doesn’t know yet that he shouldn’t chew on electrical cords. Be very patient with him. Let him settle in at his own pace. Create a safe space for him as he gets to know his new surroundings and family. Soon the things that are new now will become as ordinary to him as they are to you.”

This advice is just as sound for people as it is for pets. When you have new employees – whether they’re starting their first job or have years of experience – they are entering unfamiliar terrain. They are anxious to learn the ropes and fit in so they can contribute. It’s the leader’s job to socialize these folks to the workplace – i.e., teach them how things are done here. The more supportive you and other employees are, the faster the new people will be able to integrate themselves into the team and be productive. Here are four ways to help accelerate the socialization process and make it as smooth as possible:

  1. Remember that all or many aspects of the new assignment (e.g., location, equipment, people, traditions, norms) are unfamiliar. Try to see the situation from the new person’s perspective, and fill in the blanks pro-actively.
  1. To the extent possible, let new employees set their own pace in settling in. Make it clear that there is no such thing as a “stupid” question. Make yourself available for consultation. Provide constructive feedback. Most people will do just fine. Those who inadvertently step on toes by acting prematurely, or those who seem slow in finding their way, can be guided to a more effective path quickly.
  1. Don’t change who you (or your team) are. Do let the new folks know how your team operates, what your performance expectations are, how you both will know when they meet or exceed them, and what resources are available to enable their individual and collective success. Welcome their suggestions, and let them know you are open to ideas for improvement.
  1. Recognize in advance that there are likely to be some rough patches during the socialization process. Remain patient and encouraging as you all work through them. Don’t give up prematurely when you run into a particularly sticky or stubborn problem. Remember that each person was hired for a particular reason, and do your best to help everyone weather the storm in good shape.

The way that you bring people into a new organization or team sets the stage for their subsequent success or failure. The socialization process plays a huge role in employees’ decisions about whether and how long to stay with the organization. By taking the newcomers’ perspectives, communicating reasonable expectations and providing the support needed to meet or exceed them, and being prepared for possible stormy weather, you can accelerate the socialization process and greatly influence their experience on the new job. You’ve already invested in these individuals. Why not protect that investment by setting them up for success?


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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How to Gain Buy-in Despite Resistance

February 24th, 2016


How to Gain Buy-in Despite Resistance

Alignment solution: Following a proven process that takes a positive approach enables you to win over resistant stakeholders no matter the issue at hand.

Human beings seem hard-wired to resist change, even when we believe the promised outcome will be positive. In the late 1980s, for example, when CEO Fred Smith declared that FedEx would become the first service company to win the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige Excellence Award, I didn’t hear of a single employee who was anything but enthusiastic about this goal. That is, until we found out that it required US to change how we worked. Suddenly the status quo looked a lot more attractive to us.

Like other organizations, public safety agencies are subject to stakeholders’ resistance to change. However, Fire Chief Kingman Schuldt has developed a process that has enabled the Greater Naples Fire and Rescue District to overcome successfully the objections by a variety of stakeholders to a number of initiatives. As a result, the agency has been successful in consolidating multiple independent fire districts as well as developing and implementing an organizational strategy, an employee performance system, and a customer satisfaction survey program. Here are the steps in that process:

  1. Recognize that winning buy-in is a process, not a task or activity.
  2. Take a positive approach.
  3. Have a plan to address negativity.
  4. Identify all relevant internal and external stakeholders.
  5. Tell stakeholders up front what’s in it for THEM to support the change.
  6. Create a procedurally fair process that enables widespread participation.
  7. Identify, research, and vet potential solutions.
  8. Delegate as much responsibility as possible to relevant internal and external stakeholders.
  9. Communicate, communicate, communicate – directly, openly, frequently, and honestly.
  10. Provide positive constructive feedback.
  11. Co-create a big picture of the desired outcome and use it as a touchstone.
  12. Address the political aspects of the issue.
  13. Invest in outside experts when necessary.

By following the above process, over time, your organization can establish a culture that takes a positive approach to all issues, not just those at the strategic level. Such a culture can result in increased employee morale, greater productivity, and delighted customers. Why not make that investment in your organization?


If you’d like details about the above process and some examples of how it works, take a look at my article Using a Positive Approach to Gain Buy-in from Resistant Stakeholders. 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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Tips for Creating Meaningful Measures

February 10th, 2016


Tips for Creating Meaningful Measures

Alignment solution: Whether used in a strategy, an annual report, or a performance management process, meaningful measures make your life easier.

By “meaningful measures” I mean indicators that demonstrate performance and/or outcomes clearly to the target audience. For example, in a strategy, measures reveal to stakeholders the progress toward, and achievement of, organizational goals. In an annual report, they demonstrate the value you provide your customers. In a performance management process, metrics enable you to assess employees’ efforts.

Unfortunately, “metrics” or “measure” is a word that can intimidate even the most accomplished leaders. Although measures are an indispensable leadership tool, the reality is that developing meaningful indicators can be challenging. Here are nine suggestions to help make that process easier for you.

  1. Focus on measuring RESULTS that are meaningful to your target audience (vs. activities).
  2. To determine what results your stakeholders find meaningful, ask and answer two questions from your audience’s perspectives. (Note: when you have more than one type of stakeholder, be sure to address each one’s interests.)
    1. So what?
    2. What’s in it for ME?
  3. Include measures of progress as well as of achievement, especially for long-term goals.
  4. To identify relevant measures, ask yourself these questions: “How will stakeholders know when we have achieved this goal or objective? How will they know when we have made progress toward achieving it?”
  5. Use measures that are as objective as possible, such as quantitative data or comparisons to existing performance standards.
  6. Use qualitative measures that assess more subjective outcomes that stakeholders value. For example, use relevant examples of behaviors or outcomes (e.g., “…as demonstrated by…”) to describe a change.
  7. Be very, very specific. For example:
    1. Use action verbs that specify WHAT is to be done or what will change. (“Know” and “understand” are not action verbs.)
    2. Identify a specific person WHO is responsible for achievement of the goal or objective, and has the authority to do it. Though he/she may delegate it to someone else, he/she retains ultimate accountability.
    3. Specify WHEN the outcome or progress is expected (e.g., “by 3/15/16” vs. “in March 2016”), or time frame (e.g., “Within 90 calendar days of the Board’s approval of resources”).
  8. Include one action verb per measure. For example, “Develop and implement a
    supervisory skills class” requires two objectives and two measures because it contains two actions.
  9. Put the measures in contexts that the audience can understand and appreciate. For example, percentages, ratios, and multi-period or “before and after” comparisons allow people to interpret and evaluate results effectively.

If you’d like more information about how to create meaningful measures, take a look at my article Solutions to the 5 Most Common Measurement Mistakes. 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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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Do You Want to Espouse Excellence or Settle for Mediocrity?

January 27th, 2016


Do You Want to Espouse Excellence
or Settle for Mediocrity?

Alignment solution: Organizations that aspire to excellence yet fail to set themselves up for success are letting their customers and their employees down.

The mission or vision statements of many organizations make a commitment to service and/or product excellence. Ensuring excellence requires leaders to set their organizations and employees up for success rather than for mediocrity. Yet often the infrastructure required to meet this level of commitment is missing or woefully inadequate.

One way to achieve excellence is to develop and implement a viable succession process that ensures a pool of qualified individuals who are ready, able, and willing to fill critical vacancies throughout the organization. The alternatives tend to be either no process or a replacement approach that’s inconsistent, costly, and often mis-matches people and jobs, to the detriment of both customers and employees.

A viable succession process sets up individuals and agencies for success by providing a systematic framework within which people are able to get the training and development needed for them to be fully successful in their current and future jobs. It focuses on critical jobs and skills throughout the organization, not just at the top. It enables organizations to deliver on their promise of excellence.

Here’s why implementing a viable succession process enables excellence rather than mediocrity:

  • When the right people are in the right jobs, positive outcomes result – e.g., employee morale and productivity are high, customers are delighted, and profitability increases.
  • The establishment of a process to share and maintain an institutional memory ensures valuable information and expertise are preserved.
  • Providing a process for promotion from within is a powerful tool for attracting and retaining the best performers.
  • Organizations that rely heavily on customer relationships can provide the consistency their customers demand.
  • By continuously monitoring employees’ competencies against customers’ or technology’s needs, leaders are able to adapt more quickly to change.
  • Employees are set up to succeed because they are prepared for the jobs they are called upon to perform.
  • Espousing and delivering excellence increases customers’ and employees’ trust.

Leaders who truly aspire to excellence would be well served to develop and implement a viable succession process throughout their organizations. An effective succession process is scalable to the situation and the available resources, so there’s no excuse for failing to establish one. Leaders who are unwilling to do so need to move aside in favor of those willing to make good on their organizaton’s commitment to excellence.


If you’d like some ideas about how to educate yourself and others about the critical need for establishing a viable succession process in your organization, take a look at my articles How to Make a Compelling Case for Implementing a Succession Process and 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.


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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.