Tag Archives: effectiveness

Effective Visions

For those senior executives seeking to develop a new vision for their firms, I offer these key attributes of an effective vision. The effective vision should:

  • Be differentiated. Is the vision substantially unique when compared to competitors and substitutes? Does the vision avoid the “motherhood and apple pie” trap?
  • Instigate change. Is the new vision aligned with a change strategy? Are we trying to “fix” something that could not be addressed with the prior vision?
  • Be inspirational. Does the vision attract people? People include clients, client prospects, employees, recruiting candidates, and people in the general community.
  • Be motivational. Does the vision cause people to enthusiastically jump out of bed each morning to help realize the vision?
  • Be enduring. Does the vision reach far into the future? How enduring is the vision? Will it catch a mega-trend in the firm’s chosen markets? The duration of an effective vision should be measured in decades, not single digit years.
  • Be out of reach. Is the vision impossible to attain? If it is, then the vision is something employees will always strive to achieve. The vision will last beyond the lives of each generation of the firm.
  • Be measurable. How do we know we are making progress? Is there something tangible that is not subject to interpretation?
  • Be aligned with a human resource strategy. Will the vision cause employees to behave the way we want? Will the vision attract and retain the people we want? Do we expect the vision to drive out the people we don’t want? Is it okay for people to opt out and leave the firm?
  • Be proudly shared. Is the vision one which can be whole-heartedly share inside and outside the firm? How will clients, recruiting prospects, competitors, and the population at large react to our vision? Does the vision align with the firm’s brand promise?
  • Be easy to articulate. Can people consistently communicate the vision without stumbling or fumbling?

Some examples of what I consider to be effective vision statements, which admittedly do change over long periods of time, include:

  • Coca-Cola: A Coca-Cola within reach of everyone in the world.
  • Apple Computer: A computer on every desktop.
  • Honda: Three Honda motors in every household.

For more about effective visions, please feel free to contact me at rowland.chen@gmail.com

The Collaborative Improvement Environment

The responsibility of every employee, from the front-line to the executive suite, is business performance improvement. But barriers exist to realizing positive bottom-line impact, operational efficiency, organizational effectiveness, and a continual flow of improvements built on the knowledge of a firm’s employees.

According to a McKinsey & Company study, amazingly 70% to 75% of companies do not have an improvement process defined and implemented on a broad basis. Senior executives seeking performance improvement face formidable tasks such as:

  • Rallying and enabling all employees to seek improvements everyday
  • Defining and implementing a truly sustainable improvement process, sustainable for 10 years or more
  • Shifting an organization’s culture to one of collaboration and improvement
  • Leading the 4 generations which comprise the typical workforce within an enterprise, each with its own preferred style of communication and comfort with current technologies
  • Leveraging constant improvements to gain defensible competitive advantage for a firm.

Improvement Trends

Over the past several decades, stretching back to the mid-20th century, several trends exist in how businesses improve.

  • Many improvement methods have been attempted through the years with varying results
  • Each improvement method has a finite lifecycle of impact to an organization’s performance gains (see my previous blog on “Patterns of Improvement”
  • Sustainable, continuous improvement has been a promise that is seldom realized
  • True sustainability has been hampered by numerous root causes.

Root Causes of Decaying Impact

Root causes of impact decay I have observed over the years include:

  • Improvement is a special program within a firm and is not treated as part of employees’ day-to-day jobs
  • No structural incentives exist to motivate improvement behaviors
  • Outside experts, such as academics, gurus, and consultants, drive improvement programs creating the risk of high levels of organizational resistance
  • At most, only 1% to 2% of an organization’s workforce is asked by senior leadership to participate in improvement efforts, e.g. 300 to 600 people in a 30,000 person company
  • Distribution of deep improvement know-how and tools is limited to a central team or a select few specialized resources, e.g., Six Sigma Black Belts, the Quality Department, or the Office of Reengineering
  • Organizations run out of energy and endurance beyond a 3 to 5 year period
  • Special improvement programs lose focused, visible leadership from senior executives after 12 to 18 months or leadership of the firm changes and along with that comes a new executive agenda
  • New improvement methods hit the market every 4 to 6 years creating systemic discontinuities caused by implementation ramp-up times of 6 months to 2 years.

The Collaborative Improvement Opportunity

To manage through the long trough of the global recession and the protracted recovery, senior executives must improve how their business improves. Root causes of the decaying impact of improvement processes must be attacked through a focused effort to create a high performance collaboration environment.

I believe a window of opportunity exists for an enterprise to leap forward beyond its competitors by requiring and enabling employees to adopt improvement behaviors executed on a routine basis. Also, a window of opportunity exists for an enterprise’s senior leadership team to create a lasting improvement legacy for the organization.

What’s Next?

A thriving enterprise requires continual performance improvement in order to thrive. Truly sustainable improvement methods have been elusive over the past several decades. The impact of improvement programs decays as a result of a myriad of root causes, which must be addressed with a hybrid of traditional and modern techniques. Senior executives must role model improvement behaviors to drive a cultural shift in their organizations towards collaboration and the search for business improvement everyday and in every way.

Patterns of Improvement

Introduction

Here is a quick survey to gain an understanding of your experiences and points of view on the topic of improvement methodologies over the past few decades. There are nine questions. All readers will benefit from your knowledge if you post your answers and remarks as a comment to this blog. Thank you ahead of time for your contribution to the knowledge base.

Context

I have worked on dozens of business performance improvement efforts with the management of some of the world’s leading firms. During that work I helped implement several improvement methods including quality circles, total quality management, natural work teams, work elimination, business reengineering, business transformation, six sigma, lean, and lean six sigma. Needless to say, there was a wide range of results.

This brief survey draws out your own experiences and learning from improvement initiatives with the intent of developing ways to improve improvement methods themselves. And responding to the survey helps build the collective knowledge of like-minded people.

Please take the time to participate and help other improvement practitioners.

Patterns of Improvement

Below you will see four patterns (plus a blank) which depict profiles of the effectiveness of improvement methods plotted against what I call the “intervention lifecycle”. Each pattern reflects a firm’s experience with any improvement method. Note that a maximum efficacy is reached in each pattern of improvement with varying speeds. The difference among the patterns is what happens after the maximum is reached.

  • Pattern A represents a true continuous and sustainable improvement method.
  • Pattern B shows a big bang upfront followed by a rapid falling off of results.
  • Pattern C depicts a slow decline of efficacy after reaching the maximum.
  • Pattern D waxes and wanes in a sawtooth profile after reaching maximum efficacy.
  • Pattern E is any other pattern you have experienced.

Questions

  1. Which patterns most closely resemble your experiences at companies with which you have worked either within the companies or as a consultant?
  2. What were those companies?
  3. Is there another pattern you have experienced that is not depicted?
  4. Why did you select the particular patterns you picked?
  5. What caused those patterns to emerge?
  6. What worked well?
  7. What do you think might have been done to improve the improvement methods being implemented at the time?
  8. What, if anything, had been done to ensure true sustainability (as in pattern A)?
  9. Any other comments you would like to add?

Thank you again for your participation.

The 5 I’s of Change

Much has been written about major change and transformation efforts in organizations. But what roles within organizations are actually critical to successfully achieve transformational goals?  The simplistic answer is “change agents”.

But in order to provide a more tangible definition of change agents, here is a taxonomy for the various types of knowledge workers that can be applied when considering the formation of transformation teams.  This taxonomy goes beyond examples of profession and vague, global descriptions of knowledge activities.  The classification of knowledge worker types takes a process view – what knowledge workers do.  Five classifications of knowledge worker comprise the taxonomy: (1) initiators, (2) innovators, (3) integrators, (4) implementers, and (5) instigators.

5 I's PictureAll five roles must be filled by an organization undergoing major transformation and change. A balance must be struck dependent on which stage in a transformation lifecycle the organization moves. Importance must be placed on the “personality profile” of a transformation effort and all its contributors.

Initiators create knowledge through “original thinking” and trigger step-change breakthroughs in new paradigms and new business models for the transformed business.

Innovators modify, refine, and build upon ideas to generate new knowledge that go beyond the initiator’s work.

Integrators aggregate, consolidate, synthesize, and broker existing knowledge to develop holistic, systems views.  These holistic views provide new perspectives and insights.

Implementers apply, utilize, and execute the “know how” within an intrinsic knowledge base.  Implementers unleash the tangible, extrinsic value inherent in knowledge – value that is unreleased until applications are realized.

Instigators challenge ideas, old and new, throughout the knowledge process.  They drive out-of-the-box thinking as well as ground new ideas, innovation, integration, and implementation in the harsh realities of feasibility and viable economic returns.  Instigators say “Yea” and say “Nay.”

So what?  Determine the team personality required for each stage of the business transformation lifecycle.  “Profile” potential members based on individual personalities as demonstrated by past behaviors.  Develop and manage a fine balance of personalities through the change process.  Introduce new members/personalities as required.  Visibly recognize and reward specific team members for playing varying roles.