Posts Tagged culture

328 — Promotions and Transfers

Use this process to pick the best candidate, satisfy everyone involved, and develop the culture. This is a variation of the process described in 327.

Imagine that you are filling a vacant position by making either a lateral transfer or a promotion. You have advertised the vacancy throughout your organization, and have eight internal candidates. How can you choose the best candidate in the best way? Try this well tested process. It:

•  Guarantees a good decision, i.e. a highly qualified candidate.
•  Gives all the applicants feedback on their strengths and weaknesses.
•  Clarifies to everybody what is required to do the job.
•  Leaves all the applicants satisfied with the process, whether or not they were selected.
•  Develops the company culture, by demonstrating good values.
•  Ensures the person selected will be supported, i.e. it builds success into the position.

Begin by Announcing The Selection Process

Tell the candidates that you want them to be involved in the selection process. Schedule a meeting with the eight candidates and the people who would traditionally make the selection, e.g. the Superintendents, Department Manager, and HR manager. At the start of the meeting, describe the selection process, e.g. “We will ask you to develop the selection criteria for the job. Then we will ask you to secretly rank yourselves, and any of the other candidates that you know well, against your criteria. Then we will look at the results and decide what the next step should be.”

Agree On The Selection Criteria

First ask the candidates. Using a flip chart or whiteboard, go around the group and ask the candidates to brainstorm selection criteria, “What should be considered when judging applicants for the position. What qualities should the successful candidate have?” Allow one criteria from each person. Write down just what the person says. Number each item and do not allow discussion. Go around and around the group, until everyone is finished. (You will probably have between ten and twenty items.)

Now ask the managers, “Are there any criteria you would like to add? Any significantly different criteria that aren’t on the chart?” If they have any, add them to the list.

Ask the applicants to group similar items. Do this by starting with the first item and saying, “Are there any other items similar to this one?” Mark similar items with a color, symbol, or letter. Go to the next unmarked item and repeat the process. This step will generate discussion, and build a common understanding of the criteria. The list will now be reduced to between five and twelve criteria. Ask the group to give a descriptive word, or name, for each group of criteria. This will probably mean highlighting one or two words that are already in each criteria group.

Rank Order The Criteria

Now ask the applicants to rank order the grouped criteria. You might begin this by writing the new grouped criteria “titles” on a fresh sheet. “Which of these is the most important?” Allow discussion. It will help build consensus. Rewrite the criteria in the new rank order.

“Now we you have the criteria rank ordered let’s give each a percentage that will total 100%. What percentage, goes to the first? . . . . . and the second?” The total should be 100%. Again, allow discussion. You want consensus.
Now ask the managers, “Any comments on this list? Does it look OK to you? Can you go along with this as the basis for the selection?”

Prepare a Criteria/Candidates Matrix

Take a piece of notepaper. Write the ranked criteria in a wide column down the left side. Draw a horizontal line across the page separating each criterion. Draw narrow vertical columns to the right of the criteria, one for each candidate. Put candidates initials at the top of each narrow column. Write “Criteria” at the top of the wide criteria column. You now have a grid, or matrix, with criteria as rows, and candidates as columns. If any of the criteria have factual or answers, e.g.”EE Degree”, or “Years on the job.” ask each candidate to say what is the correct answer or number for their name. Now make a copy of this page for everyone in the room.

Rank Order The Candidates

Hand a copy to everyone in the room and say, “For the people you know well, rank order them, 1 high through 8 lowest, by how you see them on each of the criteria. Take your time. We will tally the results. This is a secret ranking. Your individual rankings will not be discussed. The tally will not necessarily be a decision. After we tally the results, we will all decide the next step.”

Make a separate tally for the applicants, and for the “management” group. Because people may not know everyone well enough to have ranked them on every item, you will have to decide how to fairly tally the results. This may take several minutes.

Take the two scores and draw each on the easel pad so everyone can see. Say, “Look at the results and see what you make of them. Take your time.” . . . “When you are ready I would like to hear from each of the applicants and after that, from each manager. Then we will have a general discussion.”

The Group Agrees On The Final Action

Perhaps one or two candidates are obvious leaders, or something else appears. Wherever the group seems to be headed, encourage them to discuss where to go with the results. There may be an obvious decision, they may wish to pass the results to managers to decide, or something else may emerge. You are seeking a consensus from everyone on an appropriate next step. This is somewhat like step four of the Four Step Decision Process.

Do a “Plus/Delta” on the meeting. Thank everyone for participating.

Getting the Customer Involved

If the customer for your team’s work is another person or another department you can ask their opinion on selection criteria. For example, in manufacturing the customer for Maintenance is Operations. At one Texas chemical plant the maintenance manager decided to ask the operators for their opinion on what was important in a maintenance supervisor. To the maintenance manager’s surprise the operators did not rank technical maintenance skills highly at all. What the operators valued was a person who could quickly bring together the right people to solve the problem. When the maintenance manager used this new criterion it caused the selection and promotion of the first female mechanic to supervisor. She was a great success in what until then had been an all male supervisor group.

cc 328 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.

Posted in: Company Culture Leadership -- Specific Tools

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332 — A Plant Turnaround, The Manager’s Story

By engaging employees, a manager improves productivity and avoids closing the plant. This is his story in his words.

“I was a Plant Manager at the California Plant of a multi-plant Fortune 50 company. There I worked with Meridian Group for a number of years, and with their help, became a student of the cultural approach to leadership. During all my years at the California plant, this operation was the number one or number two performer in a thirteen plant nationwide production system. My job was to get quality products on the dock, and I did that through people.”

“I was recognized for my management accomplishments with a promotion to Vice President of the company’s flagship plant in the Midwest. In my five years there, I applied the lessons I learned in California, to take this plant from the highest cost producer to among the company’s lowest cost producers.”

“While much of this was done through capital improvements, the attention to the plant culture allowed these improvements to come on stream with a minimum of plant disruption. I kept this question in front of my mind. ‘How do you get the hearts and minds and interest of the people?’

Getting Everyone On-Board

“At the first management meeting at the mid-western operation, the managers were ready to give me the production numbers. But I asked ‘How many people were laid off this week, and on what shifts?’ I also asked about accidents. Second I said ‘I want a measure of the quality of production. Then last I’ll want the numbers.’ The response was silence from my managers.”

“I said ‘Here is the direction, how can we get there?’ I got the message out in weekly meetings, and annual meetings. I repeatedly explained the overall goal, and opened the plans to the people affected. This really threw them off base. They were used to management keeping things close. I kept asking [myself and managers], ‘How can we ensure that the people will trust management?’”

“We had weekly meetings with supervisors. These were “No-Agenda” meetings. The topic was relationships. The Plant Manager was there week after week.”

“First I explained the numbers, and if we don’t go from here to there, all our jobs will go, and the plant will shut down. ‘Do you agree with my figures? My choice is to do it or shut it down.’ I put all the numbers out for everyone to see and understand.”

“We had many different unions on the production floor. Because of the increased production, it meant layoffs in one area but more work in another. I committed to no long-term layoffs. That meant a lot of retraining.”

Operating Results

“Over five years we shrank the workforce from 2,500 people to 1,700 people, all by attrition and retirements. On the way we had 1 million man-hours without a lost-time accident. And we did all this while keeping people on-board.”

“I had a coherent master plan — reduce cost by one million dollars a month. We aimed at sixty million over five years. We easily achieved that. The actual savings were almost double our goal over the five years.”

 “I used lessons I learned at a smaller plant, to change the largest plant in the system.”

cc 332 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.

Posted in: Company Culture Leadership — Examples

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416 — Managing “Resistance” to Change

Resistance is a symptom of something else. Unless you get to the cause you will spend endless time trying to manage the “resistance” symptom.

Change is Natural

Change is natural in this world. Evolution itself is a response to change. We naturally respond to a changed situation — if it is cold you put on a sweater, if you are short of cash you don’t eat at a fancy restaurant. Sometimes managers, stockholders, suppliers, or customers look at a company or at a person and think, “They are so stuck in their ways, so rigid.” Sometimes managers think, “Why don’t employees show more enthusiasm for the changes?”

But none of us experience ourselves as rigid, as resisting change. We always experience ourselves as responding appropriately to our situation. Others may not understand just what our experience is, but we do. We are each intimately connected to our world in our own unique way. If people or organizations do not respond to change you can assume they do not experience the need to change, i.e. their environment has not changed — from their point of view — from their experience.

Resistance is a Straw Man

The idea that people resist change is a straw man, a red-herring. Resisting change is not an issue, because nobody resists. Talking about people, departments, or companies as if they resist change is a way to avoid understanding the true situation — that the person or group is not properly connected to the (changing) company environment, so does not experience the need to change.

Example

For over two years the management of a 300 employee chemical plant had been trying to get operators to pay more attention to costs, maintenance, overtime, wasteful processes, etc. But employees seemed to not care. Early in Meridian Group’s work with this company we had pointed out to the managers that while they prepared detailed statements of costs, profit margins, etc. that these were shared only within management ranks, not with operators. Managers said that sharing this with (union) employees was “Just not done.”

A new operations manager was brought in from outside and we mentioned the obvious contradiction to him. He immediately asked the accounting department to begin sharing numbers with the operators on a weekly basis at the regular morning meetings. The operators were thrilled to have this financial area of the company opened to them. The day when the numbers were discussed was the most well attended of the morning meetings.

Soon supervisors and managers reported that operators were becoming more conscious of costs, sometimes going overboard. E.g. one now-cost-sensitive supervisor canceled installing a concrete slab in a highly trafficked area under an elevated production unit because he felt it was too much money. As he explained, “I wouldn’t do that at home.” It took the Plant Manager to convince him that in the plant’s budget this was a tiny item and the benefit was worth it.

This plant now reported constantly dropping monthly costs as employees felt a new level of understanding, responsibility and control. Engaging employees around cost control was just one piece of a broad culture change effort that eventually made this plant a model for the other plants in the company.

cc 416 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.

Posted in: Topics and Issues — People

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125 — When Competition Is Destructive

 

Internal competition often works against a good culture, against open communication, against success. No senior manager deliberately wants to close down communications, but competition in a leadership team can stifle openness throughout the company.

Most executives are unaware of the effect of their driving competitiveness. For example, you have probably experienced the well-meaning suggestions from an executive, that quickly turn to a shower of unwanted directives; or seen executives criticize another department, that unintentionally stifles cross-functional cooperation.

Aggression Above, Defense Below

Aggressive competitive behavior at the top of any organization sets the stage for aggressive, protective and defensive behavior below — such as mistrust and rigid, rule bound, and “siloed” communication. While these cultural patterns are understandable they are bad for morale, productivity, customer service and corporate success.

In the public sector, the politically appointed or elected officials compete for their share of public opinion, often criticizing each other openly. This is true in all levels of government, and in state and federal agencies. As long as organizations have combat at the top, they’ll have dysfunctional patterns below.

In every organization managers and supervisors try to protect their people from the often destructive environment they see above them. This is easier to do if your offices are physically removed from corporate headquarters. If you are in the same building it may be impossible.

One Solution — Put It On The Table For Discussion

Sometimes a good discussion about competition and communications among the members of the executive team is enough to begin changing this cultural pattern. The discussion can be fairly straightforward. One opener might be, “I’d like to hear from each of you about a situation you were in recently where communications really worked well. After that I’d like us to discuss what qualities made these situations work so well. Then I’d like to see what we can do, as the leadership group, to demonstrate more of these qualities throughout our organization. Who’d like to begin?”

Example — How One Leadership Team Changed from Combat to Cooperation

This company has 5,000 employees. I met monthly with the senior leaders to discuss building a more productive company culture. At one of these morning meetings, a manager complained that several divisions were not working well together in the field.

I had often reminded the group, “Nothing occurs in a vacuum. What you do as leaders sets the stage. People follow your example. What happens elsewhere is partly because of your actions here. And in any case, to be practical, what you do as leaders is what you can most easily change.”

This time I asked, “What are you doing that contributes to this lack of cooperation? For example, in the last six months have any of you criticized another person in this room or in another department or division?” Immediately a manger shot back with, “You mean since breakfast this morning don’t you?” Another manager chimed in, “You mean since the coffee break!”

Once the laughter died down, I hardly needed to say it — but did anyway. “So here you set an example by criticizing other people and divisions and then wonder why they don’t feel like cooperating.” This was one of those rare moments of insight for the group.

What They Changed

At the next meeting they told stories of how they had almost entirely stopped criticizing. Instead they were working together on cooperative solutions that could be easily noticed by others. For example, they decided to travel as pairs on site visits to exemplify cross department cooperation. They prohibited negative comments from their own managers, instead, helping them face and resolve issues.

The managers said that people noticed the change and liked it. The problem of lack of cooperation had significantly disappeared. All this in four weeks! Impressive.

cc 125 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.

Posted in: About Company Culture — Structure

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421 — Aligning Your People

magnet and iron filingsCulture is like a magnetic field aligning everything in it. If people are not aligned all you need do is change the magnetic field, i.e. the company’s culture, and they’ll all be aligned. That may sound overly simple, but it’s true. It’s the doing that’s difficult.

Culture and Leadership

Keep in mind that managing culture is a leadership issue. It cannot be delegated. If people are not aligned it means that when they look up and see the leadership team, or when they receive communications or information from the leadership team, they hear and see different things. Another way of saying that is, if employees all saw and heard the same thing, they would be aligned. That is the very nature of culture.

It is futile to delegate this problem of alignment to a “training” team or to an outside expert. Looking at the problem as, “WE need to align THEM” is looking in the wrong direction. Sadly many leadership teams deny that they are misaligned. They project misalignment onto the broader organization — though deep inside, each person on the leadership team probably knows that this is an issue in their own team.

It’s accurate and honest to look at misalignment as information about the culture, i.e. information to the leadership team that it should work on better communicating alignment. How can it do that?

Start with the Leadership Team

Assume that the leadership team is not aligned. If it were, so would everyone else. This doesn’t mean the leadership team needs to beat itself over the head. But it does mean that the team members need to have some heart-to-heart discussions about their own relationships and communications, where they are going, what values they believe in, and how they will show alignment by example to the organization. Discussions like this are difficult. They may need a third-party facilitator; or else one or two people could dominate the conversation; or the discussion might stay at a superficial level and not get to people’s true feelings and thoughts.

Take Your Time

This lack of alignment problem didn’t develop overnight and it won’t be corrected in one session. Even with outside help, it takes time for the leadership team to get comfortable discussing such sensitive areas. People need time to think over the discussions, get in touch with their feelings, look in the mirror, prepare to be more open — and hence more vulnerable — in a room possibly packed with alpha males. I know from experience that the first of these meetings may bring snarling, fangs bared, and hair raised on the back of neck’s. It helps when the facilitator knows what to do when attacked. Why is the facilitator attacked? Because the members cannot directly tackle the chief, the top dog. They deflect their aggression (and fears) to the newcomer. After this happens a few times you learn to look around the group and quietly ask, “Any other comments?”

Leadership, power, authority, competition and control are some of the most contentious and difficult areas for anyone or any leadership team to discuss — but they are often the most important. Don’t imagine that this means some kind of group psychotherapy or bare-the-soul discussions. It might mean simply asking, “How can we show greater alignment? What could we do to show we are all on the same page?” Often doing more things together, showing cooperation, will begin moving along the path to success.

Fortunately, as the leadership team becomes more comfortable discussing and showing its own alignment the managers at the next level see that a new wind is blowing, that the management team is becoming a true team, more cohesive, open, and less internally competitive. It is in the nature of people and of culture that this next level of managers will themselves start to think, feel, and act with greater alignment. And so it will flow down and across the organization.

Problem Solved

If the management team perseveres in exploring and experimenting with how it can show greater alignment to the organization, the problem, first defined as “People are not aligned!” will evaporate. Guaranteed!

cc 421 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.

Posted in: Topics and Issues — People

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