Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Opening Pandora’s Box: Prerequisite for Excellence

March 25th, 2015


Opening Pandora’s Box:
Prerequisite for Excellence

Alignment solution: Only those who are courageous enough to face all the facts about their organizations – the good, the bad, the ugly – are able to aspire to excellence.

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Center for Public Excellence’s 2015 Excellence conference in Orlando. It truly was inspiring to be among people who are striving to ensure their fire departments provide the highest quality of service to their communities, and to be the best possible leaders. Here are three of my take-aways from that experience.

  1. The quest for excellence and continuous improvement requires steadfast resolve. It is not for wimps.

    In Greek mythology, Pandora was given a box by the god Zeus, who warned her never to open it. When her curiosity got the best of her and she peeked inside the box, all the evils that had been missing from the world rushed out. Many leaders are afraid to open their Pandora’s box because they are afraid of what they will find. Yet not facing all the facts means you cannot address what’s wrong, or improve what you do well.

  2. Honest self-assessment is the cornerstone of excellence.

    One need only consider the case of the Charleston Fire Department (CFD) to see that no matter how dire the situation, facing the facts can effect transformational change. Captain David Griffin told the story of the nine firefighters who lost their lives on 6/18/07 because the department refused to recognize and address the on-going serious issues that caused this predictable and preventable tragedy. As one of the first firefighters on scene that day, Captain Griffin was so mired in the dysfunctional culture that even the devastating loss of so many of his colleagues and the public opening of the CFD’s Pandora’s box by outside investigators didn’t stop him from leading the resistance to change. Yet over time the department found courageous leaders who enabled their personnel to face their individual and collective deficiencies and effect a huge culture change. Today, as an advocate of change, Captain Griffin reported that the CFD is on track to earn the fire service’s coveted credential for excellence in 2015.

  3. Excellence and continuous improvement are processes, not events.

    One does not “achieve” excellence; it is something that must be earned over and over. As one speaker noted, the status quo supports mediocrity. Because your customers and your employees deserve better than mediocrity, you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. There must be a culture of excellence, a strategy that provides a systematic way to achieve it, and an infrastructure that supports it over time. You elevate performance by hiring smart people and ensuring your leaders are the best of the best, by establishing a robust audit system to help you stay the course, by catching people doing things right and reinforcing those behaviors, and by uncovering the causes of bad behaviors, then taking steps to stop them.

There are many reasons why you may decide against leading your organization through a formal accreditation process. However, there is no reason why you cannot establish a self-assessment process to identify what you must do to provide the level of excellence that your customers and your employees deserve.

What steps will you take today to increase the level of your performance?


To find 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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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How Do You Treat YOUR Internal Customers?

March 11th, 2015


How Do You Treat YOUR Internal Customers?

Alignment solution: Your customers aren’t just those outside your organization; they also include all of your employees and/or volunteers.

Last week the fire chief of a department that has achieved and maintained his industry’s highest certification for performance excellence was talking with me about his agency’s strategy. As we got into a discussion about who his customers are, I shared a story about a work-related epiphany I had in 1989 that re-shaped my definition of customers.

After the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was established in 1987 to promote organizational excellence, FedEx CEO and founder Fred Smith sent all employees a memo stating that we would be the first service company to win the Baldrige Award. We immediately went to work to learn how to evaluate our performance and establish processes for continuous improvement.

At that time, I worked in FedEx’s Cash Management department. Part of our job was to make wire transfers to pay for large ticket items such as aircraft leases, equipment, fuel, and payroll. At the end of every month we would fight with Accounting over the same issue: they wanted us to make the journal entries for the wire transfers, and we believed that making those entries was their job. The relationship between our two departments was frosty at best.

One day during a Baldrige-related training session, the instructor dropped a bombshell: performance excellence requires us to treat our co-workers the same way that we treat our customers – i.e., exceptionally well. In essence, our colleagues are our internal customers.

I clearly remember thinking, “You mean we have to treat those folks in Accounting just like we treat our paying customers? You must be kidding!” No, he wasn’t kidding. And so began the transformation of how employees across the company viewed and interacted with each other. For many of us, this culture change was difficult. However, our collective unwillingness to disappoint our CEO was stronger than our resistance to change. I still believe that’s the only reason we were able to meet the high standards required to win the Baldrige Award, which FedEx did in 1990.

How many of you lead organizations in which your definition of “customer” incorporates your employees and/or volunteers as well as your external customers? Are you sure THEY know they are included?

Why is an inclusive meaning of “customer” so important? The way people think about each other informs the way they behave. Workers and/or volunteers who mistreat each other create a dysfunctional environment. Because unhappy employees cannot possibly provide high levels of service, your bottom line – and likely your organization’s reputation – will suffer.

An organization that strives for excellence must foster and maintain a culture in which it treats all its internal customers as well as it treats its external customers. If asked, would your employees and/or volunteers agree that they feel they are treated like your external customers? Ask them. If they do, good for you! If not, you’ve got some work ahead of you.


To find 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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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: 3 Fire Ground Disciplines that Can Enable Business Success

February 25th, 2015


3 Fire Ground Disciplines that
Can Enable Business Success

Alignment solution: Three disciplines that keep firefighters safe – trust, focus, and situational awareness – also are enablers of business success.

Last Saturday the Long Beach (CA) Fire Department held a graduation ceremony for its newest recruit class. Before they received their badges and were sworn in as firefighters, the recruits engaged in a number of drills to display to their families and other attendees what they had learned during twenty weeks of intense training. As I watched them participate in those demonstrations, I could see parallels between their newly learned disciplines and success in the workplace. Here is how three of the disciplines that help keep firefighters safe on the fire ground also can drive business success.

Trust

Trust is the foundation of safety for fire and rescue personnel. They must be willing and able to develop and place their trust in themselves, their co-workers, their training, and their leaders. Because they often work with public safety professionals they don’t know, they must trust that those individuals bring the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to keep themselves and their team members safe. Every day, firefighters experience situations that require them to put their lives in others’ hands. Without being able to trust that they will be safe, they cannot do their jobs effectively.

Workplaces with high levels of trust enable people to solve problems creatively, leverage opportunities, take appropriate risks, and forge ahead even when they don’t know what’s around the bend. When the trust is mutual, people feel confident that their leaders and co-workers will do whatever is necessary to support them. Such organizations can maximize their success.

Focus

For firefighters, being fully present in the moment can mean the difference between life and death – theirs as well as others’. Whether extricating someone from a mangled vehicle, providing medical care, or cutting a hole in the roof of a structure that is burning below their feet, firefighters must have the discipline to focus 100% on the task at hand.

Without focus in the workplace, leaders and employees become distracted. They may fail to observe important information or signals, make inaccurate decisions, and/or be unable to evaluate information correctly or in a timely manner. Especially in high stress/high stakes situations, individuals must be 100% present if they are to be successful. Those who are able to let go of everything other than what’s in front of them when necessary are those who can operate most effectively.

Situational awareness

From day one, fire and rescue recruits are taught to be alert to every aspect of their environment, and to anticipate what elements might be, or become, problematic. They must know at every moment where they are, what the mission is, and what role(s) they play in achieving it safely.

In the workplace, being aware of the environment means not only being attentive to problems and challenges that exist, but anticipating those that may arise. It also signifies seeking the opportunities that may present themselves. People must be able to process and interpret information in the proper context. For the organization to be successful, leaders and employees must have a clear understanding of what the company stands for, where it’s going, and how they will help it achieve its goals.

Even if your business doesn’t deal with life and death matters, you can enhance its success greatly by developing and practicing the disciplines of trust, focus, and situational awareness in your workplace. 


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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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: What Business Can Learn from Disaster Response Teams

February 11th, 2015


What Business Can Learn from
Disaster Response Teams

Alignment solution: If your goal is to serve your customers as effectively, efficiently, and quickly as possible, consider what disaster response teams can teach you.

Today’s complex, fast-paced world requires leaders and employees to be agile, resilient, resourceful, and effective. Often working in highly competitive markets, organizations aspire to serve their customers as effectively, efficiently, and quickly as possible. As a member of the Long Beach (CA) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and as a Disaster Action Team leader for the Los Angeles Region of the American Red Cross, I’ve had the opportunity to help people immediately after disaster befalls them by working with team members in sometimes very chaotic circumstances. In the process, I’ve developed valuable skills and insights that are transferrable to the workplace. To help you optimize your organization’s performance, I’d like to share twelve of those lessons with you.

  1. When faced with any situation, conduct a “size-up” prior to jumping in.
    Your customers are best served when you take a minute to step back, assess the
    situation, and create an initial plan before taking action.

  2. Prepare in advance through training and drills.
    Putting new knowledge into practice through simulations and role playing gives employees added confidence when they are faced with “real” situations.

  3. Know and respect your own limits and those of others.
    When the right people are in the right roles, customers experience exceptional service.

  4. Develop the flexibility to work with whatever and whoever are available.
    Cultivating the agility to do a good job with the resources at hand provides a
    tremendous advantage when supplies are scarce.

  5. No matter the level of chaos, take a minute to connect with others.
    Sometimes a reassuring look, smile, or word is all a team member or customer needs to understand that help truly is at hand.

  6. Remain calm in the midst of chaos.
    People take their cue from their leaders: if you’re agitated, so are they.

  7. You create a “force multiplier” when you work smoothly as a team.
    Effective teamwork provides the synergy needed to serve customers well.

  8. The Incident Command System (ICS) provides a structure that can flex up or down as circumstances warrant. 
    Creating a structure that includes clear roles and responsibilities AND that is flexible enough to expand or contract as needed provides a tremendous competitive advantage.

  9. Provide supervised on-the-job training.
    “Learning by doing” can be the best teaching method if there is adequate supervision.

  10. Engaging in “after-action” debriefings enables continuous improvement.
    Taking the time to identify and discuss what went well and what you could do better next time will boost morale and result in increasingly better customer service.

  11. Call for reinforcements when necessary.
    Think of what’s best for the customer: if you are not the right person for the job at
    hand, find the person who is, and step aside.

  12. Self-care and personal safety must be your top priorities.
    If you don’t put your own safety and well-being first, you easily can become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

In summary, being able to serve your customers effectively, efficiently, and quickly requires skills that emergency response teams use daily. If you are interested in acquiring those skills while also helping your family and your community, consider exploring volunteer opportunities with your local CERT organization (typically run through the fire department) and/or your local American Red Cross chapter.


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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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: To Lighten Your Load, Lead by Example

January 28th, 2015


To Lighten Your Load, Lead by Example

Alignment solution: Every time you refuse an offer of assistance, you lose an opportunity not just to lighten your load, but also to lead by example.  

How often do you refuse help from well-meaning, caring, and/or concerned individuals? The would-be helpers may be your peers, subordinates, friends, family members, or even strangers. They may offer to complete a report or task for you, pick up lunch because you’re busy, or do something that would make your life just a little easier. Whatever the offer, however, you respond, “It’s okay, I’ve got this” or “I’ll be fine.”

Regardless of the reason for your refusal, consider this point: every time you rebuff an offer of assistance, you lose an opportunity not just to lighten your own load, but also to lead by example. Why? People take their cues from their leaders. Years ago I worked at a bank in Memphis, TN. One year in July the air conditioning broke down, and the heat and oppressive humidity outside soon permeated the inside of the building. Because replacement parts would take several days to arrive, the bank president sent a memo to all staff saying that men could dispense with wearing jackets and ties during that time. Yet despite the sweltering conditions, no one ever saw him without his jacket and tie. As you might guess, every male employee followed his lead. Despite what the president had said, people paid more attention to his actions than to his words.

If you refuse to accept others’ offers of assistance, you are sending the message that it’s not okay for other people to do it either. Even when you tell them that it’s okay for them to receive help, unless they see you doing it, they won’t follow. You lose the opportunity to make your life a little easier, you deny the other person the chance to feel good about helping you, and you lose credibility as a leader because you’re not walking the proverbial talk. Perhaps you can live with denying yourself a little easier path in life; can you really afford to create or maintain an environment in which the lesson learned is that no one is permitted to receive help?

The next time someone offers to do something for you, take a minute to ask yourself this question: “Am I the only person in the world who can do [this task]?” Unless the answer is “no,” or there is another compelling reason why you absolutely must do the task yourself, graciously accept the offer of assistance. You will free up your time to do something else, possibly provide a growth opportunity for others, and definitely give the gift of allowing that person to feel good about him/herself. Importantly, you also will be setting the example for others to follow.


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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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: What’s Your Choice?

January 14th, 2015


What’s Your Choice?

Alignment solution: No matter what type of adversity you face, large or small, you always get to choose how you experience it.

A Christmas note from a college friend revealed that her husband had undergone some serious health issues during the first half of 2014 that dramatically curtailed their active lifestyle. Nonetheless, she reported that they are taking to heart an adage they heard during a trip to Scotland: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

That saying reinforces the fact that although we seldom have control over life’s adversities, we always have control over how we experience them. We can choose to be the victim, or we can opt for a healthy alternative.

During my academic career I taught a required MBA-level human resources (HR) course. Every semester found me in front of about seventy students, nearly all of whom worked full time. Since most viewed learning about HR as a waste of their time, I devised a framework that I shared with the students on the first day of class. I said, “Although you don’t have a choice about whether to take this class, you can choose how you experience it. The fact is that whether you are an employee or a manager, or you want to become an employee or manager, the information you learn in this class will help you personally and professionally. So you can spend the next fifteen weeks being miserable, or you can use the time to discover how HR knowledge can make your life better, easier, and/or more satisfying. What’s it going to be?”

While there were a few students who opted to wait out the storm, most saw the benefit of learning to dance in the rain. Later, many of those students admitted they had acquired great value from the course.

The “dance in the rain” advice is equally effective for dealing with life-threatening forms of adversity, as my friend discovered. Perhaps the most dramatic and well-known example is that of Dr. Victor Frankl, whose classic book Man’s Search for Meaning reveals that he survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War II because he refused to see himself as a victim. By choosing instead to experience himself as retaining full control of his mind and spirit, he was able to live though his horrific situation.

So what’s your choice? Will 2015 be a year of procrastination, of waiting for the “right” time or the achievement of an arbitrary goal (e.g., a promotion, weight loss)? Or will it be a time of growth, discovery, and joy because realizing that you won’t melt in the rain puts you back in charge of how you choose to live your life given the hand you’ve been dealt? Why not make 2015 the year you dance in the rain more often? You might even find that you enjoy it!


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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© 2015 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Transform Your Relationships: Give the Gift of Undivided Attention

December 31st, 2014


Transform Your Relationships:
Give the Gift of Undivided Attention

Alignment solution: You can transform your relationships and change people’s lives by giving them the gift of your undivided attention.

Think back over the last two weeks. How many times did you experience someone as listening to you in a way that let you know he/she really, truly heard you – not just your words, but the feeling and meaning behind them? Whenever I pose this question to a room full of university students or workshop participants, the majority of people consistently report 0 -2 instances of feeling heard. Yet human beings have a need to feel acknowledged and valued. Regardless of our rank, position, or status in life, we all want to know that somehow we matter.

Dr. Howard Tuckman had a rare gift that went far beyond his stellar academic credentials: giving people his undivided attention. I discovered that gift many years ago during a Christmas party hosted by the Economics department at the University of Memphis, where he was a newly arrived distinguished professor and I was a part-time lecturer. As we engaged in conversation amid dozens of festive party-goers, I experienced a new and heady sensation: that I was the most important person in the room to him, and he couldn’t wait to hear what I had to say.

I have no recollection of what we talked about, or how long the conversation lasted. No doubt it was only a few minutes. Yet during that brief interaction he transformed my world through the message conveyed by his undivided attention: that I am a highly valued person whose presence matters in this world.

Fast forward several decades to today’s world, where people pride themselves on multitasking, where social media and other forms of technology have largely replaced personal contact, and where there never seem to be enough hours in the day. Imagine the positive impact you can have on your staff, your customers, and your family and friends by taking just a few minutes to call a figurative time out. It doesn’t matter what you say; what matters is that you stop everything to focus on the person in front of you. Perhaps it’s a colleague or employee faced with a challenging project, or a customer who feels unappreciated, or a teenager suffering the angst of growing up. Imagine the difference you would make in their lives if you took a few moments to let them know you hear them.

Giving one’s undivided attention is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stop whatever you’re doing.
  2. Whether you’re standing or sitting, position yourself so that you’re facing the other person.
  3. Make eye contact as appropriate (remembering that in some cultures, making eye contact is considered disrespectful).
  4. Act as though there are only the two of you in the entire world by remaining focused on the other person. Do not look around to see who else is there or what else is going on.
  5. Engage in active listening – e.g., nod your head, ask relevant prompting or follow-up questions, paraphrase what was said, lean slightly forward.
  6. Use body language and behaviors to convey the message that you’ve got all the time in the world for this person – e.g., refrain from looking at your watch or checking your phone, relax your body to indicate you’re not going anywhere until the conversation is over.
  7. Discern the meaning behind the words by noticing the person’s body language and tone of voice.
  8. Remember: you’re not there to solve a problem. You’re there to acknowledge the person’s value by listening deeply and respectfully.

By following these steps, you can be the person who gives a priceless gift to others. Your cost: a few minutes of your time and attention. Your rewards: more respectful, trusting, and collaborative relationships, and the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a tremendous difference in the world.

I leave you with this challenge: give the gift of your undivided attention at least once a day throughout the coming year. See for yourself how it changes your life and those of others.

Best wishes for a happy, safe, productive, and healthy 2015!


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: Why Successful People Operate Outside their Comfort Zones

December 17th, 2014


Why Successful People Operate
Outside their Comfort Zones

Alignment solution: One way that people learn and grow is to challenge themselves by testing and stretching their perceived boundaries. Those who regularly operate outside their comfort zones gain valuable perspectives that are likely to lead to personal and professional success.

Think back to the first time you did something that put you way outside your comfort zone. Perhaps you gave a speech in front of a large audience, or were promoted to a position that required you to supervise your former peers, or became a parent. At some point you probably felt very uncomfortable. Yet that experience made you a wiser, more capable person.

The fact is that we learn and grow by testing our perceived boundaries and continually pushing them outward. Forging into the unknown is a scary proposition for most people that definitely forces us outside our comfort zones – though some might find this situation exhilarating as well. Last year I accepted an invitation to see what it’s like to be hoisted 107 feet into the air in a small bucket at the end of a ladder on a fire truck. Even though this opportunity put me way outside my comfort zone (I have a serious problem with heights and did NOT find the experience exhilarating), I took advantage of it because I wanted to learn what these firefighters, my clients, do as part of their everyday job.

A number of years ago one of my colleagues said, “I’m learning to become comfortable in my discomfort.” Knowing that his business couldn’t grow if he continued doing only those things he was comfortable with, he chose to embrace discomfort as a constant companion.  The lesson: putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations helps us gain valuable perspectives and experiences that result in personal and professional growth.

Here are some questions for you to assess your state of continuous learning and growth:

  1. What percentage of your time do you operate outside your comfort zone?
  2. Does your answer indicate that you are continuing to learn and grow?
  3. If yes, how will you sustain it? If no, what will you do differently to get back on the continuous learning and growth track?
  4. What does your answer to #1 indicate about the example you are setting to others?
  5. What percentage of their time would your employees say they operate outside their comfort zones?   
  6. Do their answers indicate that there is room to improve their focus on continuous learning and growth?
  7. If yes, what will you do about it?

People who embrace living in a near-constant state of discomfort are those who are most likely to be personally and professionally successful. How has your discomfort level helped YOUR business or life? How will you ensure that it continues to do so well into the future?


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: How to Optimize Business Results

December 3rd, 2014


How to Optimize Business Results

Alignment solution: To optimize business results, focus on helping your employees become fully successful.

No matter what business you’re in, people are the key to your success. Even organizations that are heavily automated or technology-driven rely on human beings to create the ideas and to run and maintain the equipment and technology that generate the revenue. Because employees’ abilities to achieve their designated goals determine the extent of the organization’s profitability and sustainability, it makes good sense to set your people up for success.

To help employees become fully successful, I suggest to my clients that they create an employee-centered workplace®, an environment in which every person, process, system, policy, and program is focused on enabling people to thrive. Such a setting makes good business sense: when workers have management’s full support to use their talents, you end up with delighted customers, engaged employees, and a successful business.

How do you create an employee-centered workplace®? Begin by focusing on four areas:

  1. Supervisors: provide them the support they need to enable employees’ success.
  1. Organizational culture: ensure the organization is employee-focused, not employer- or even customer-centered. When Fred Smith started FedEx, his philosophy of People-Service-Profit demonstrated his belief that if you take care of your people first, they will provide the service that enables the profits. The success of his company reflects his wisdom.
  1. Organizational processes: make sure employees have the infrastructure that enables them to do their work easily rather than sets up obstacles to success.
  1. Rewards and recognition: establish a total rewards program that compensates employees fairly for their contributions to the organization’s success.

To learn more about creating an employee-centered workplace®, take a look at my article, “The Employee-centered Workplace®: The Key to Optimizing Business Results.” Or take a brief self-assessment that will indicate how employee-friendly your workplace is.


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: 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.


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