The Case Against Time Tracking

Time Tracking

Despite the fact that it often takes just a couple minutes once a week, time tracking (aka entering weekly timesheets) is an ongoing subject of controversy.

 

PROPONENTS claim that it reveals important data about how much time is being spent on various activities, which helps with:

– making more accurate estimates in the future

– greater focus on high value activities

– billing internal and/or external clients

– satisfying government regulations and other compliance needs

– justifying/demonstrating how much value a team has been providing

– tallying up actual project labor costs

– and more

 

OPPONENTS claim it demoralizes people, distracts them, and ultimately lowers morale and productivity.

 

Who’s correct?

I would argue that it’s the wrong question.


Let’s assume, since there’s a well-documented critical mass of backlash and controversy about the topic, that at least some of what the opponents claim is true.  So, how do we address their valid concerns while still meeting the needs of the proponents?

Let’s revisit the intended benefits of time tracking, but right off the bat, let’s eliminate a couple of them:

  • Billing – If work will be billed, then time tracking is needed for the billable activities.
  • Regulatory – If it’s mandatory for regulatory reasons to track time spent on certain work, then time tracking is needed for any work that falls under those rules.

This leaves:

  • making more accurate estimates in the future
  • greater focus on high value activities
  • justifying/demonstrating how much value a team has been providing
  • tallying up actual project labor costs

There are alternative, “good enough” ways of getting most of this information that do not have the same negative impact on morale as timesheets. Let’s look at a few.

  • Limited time studies – This can garner valuable, and arguably more accurate, information, while focusing on a specific group or scope of work for a limited time period (typically a few weeks to a couple months). This is good for recurring tasks or for specific projects that will be a basis for future similar projects.
  • Periodic Interviews – Meeting with people one-on-one or in small groups about how their time is typically allocated on average. This is ideally done quarterly.
  • Subject Matter Expert Opinion – Asking subject matter experts for estimate advice. But beware, they may provide information pertaining to experts, not necessarily representative of the people doing the work.
  • Percent Complete and Remaining time – Working with staff to assess the percent-complete, and remaining time on tasks, so the current remaining estimate is accurate

This data gives us adequate (and maybe even more realistic) data about the past, and helps us plan the future, by way of:

  • Standard Estimates – A general percentage that an employee spends on non-project or unplanned activity (e.g., baseline support, answering questions, attending town meetings, ongoing operations, etc.)
  • Resource Assignments – Assigning people to project tasks and other planned work items.
  • Forecast updates – Using solicited information to revise project and work forecasts and related task estimates

I often advise companies to start with these latter items before even considering time tracking. These three items give you a current and forward-looking view of who’s doing what. And if the estimates are even reasonably close, it allows you to extrapolate the associated costs, often with no less accuracy than timesheet data.

This is a good time to bring up another point. Time tracking tells us about the past. Resource allocation tells us about the present and future. I don’t know about you, but when I drive, I prefer to look out the front window, not the rear-view mirror, though where I’ve been can certainly help me navigate there better in the future.

Another fact I always like to bring up: Don’t be fooled. Even if you’ve implemented time tracking, your data is likely suspect. By the end of the week, people will populate the data with whatever they think will serve them best, whatever they’re “supposed to be working on,” or whatever they remember working on. So your “best guess” estimate may be more accurate than detailed, reported time submissions, and less invasive.

If you must track time for regulatory or billing purposes, minimize the impact on morale by:

  • Articulating what the data will be used for (one organization distributed a one-page diagram titled “Where does your timesheet information go?”)
  • Only requiring time entry for select activities that are undergoing study, or where needed for billing or regulatory reasons. For this, consider encouraging daily time entry – it’s quicker, easier, and more accurate

Some of you will say that everyone should just stop whining about something that only takes a few minutes.

You’d be missing the point.

For many, time entry is a minor distraction, but it sends a not-so-minor message: that they’re under a microscope. So if you’re going to require it, make sure it’s purposeful, and that the purpose is clearly articulated. And at least consider the alternate, “good enough” methods while you focus on future assignments.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 10

Pig-Singing_mepsAnd here it is…  the tenth and final post in the series on 50 Common Sense Tips for Mastering Organization Change! These tips apply whether you’re implementing a new process, a software rollout, or a transitional culture change.

Points 46-50 below finish up the Engaging phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging.

46. Ride Downhill – Change is hard enough without making it more difficult by trying to fight nature. Make sure the people on your implementation team are working in their area of natural strengths. Some people are better at analyzing, some are better at leading, and some are better at communicating. Help them leverage and build upon the skills they’re already good at. And be sure those impacted by your change won’t have to do something they’re not fit for either, as a result of the change. As Robert Heinlein said, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

47. Build a Wall – No, not a Mexican wall. Build a wall of success. Have a public forum, either online or on a physical wall, to recognize and appreciate any and all successes, no matter how small. Use it to generate excitement and to acknowledge people’s efforts. It can also serve to inspire others to follow suit. When Napoleon established the Legion of Honor medal in France, he said “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” And he was right.

48. Tear Down a Wall – There are other types of walls in organizations that aren’t so inspiring. These metaphoric walls are the barriers that prevent people from collaborating effectively and getting their work done. Find out what they are, whether it’s inadequate collaboration tools, ineffective organizational structure, a poor working space, or policies that serve to disrupt progress. Make it a point to find out the barriers people face as they try to carry out your change. Then remove said barriers.

49. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Course – Sometimes, a plan needs to be altered or even reversed in order to adapt to learnings as they emerge. The most innovative companies know this instinctively and experiment with different techniques for recognizing and adapting to change. They’re not afraid to adjust course if needed. Of course, to minimize excessive change, it’s a good idea to test any new change on a small scale if appropriate. But even after change has been implemented broadly, if the results aren’t what you expected, then don’t hesitate to “adjust the sails.” Don’t be like the proverbial ship’s captain who’s veering off course but is expecting the lighthouse to move.

50. Don’t Stop Now – Speaking of change, let’s not forget what the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: “The only constant is change.” Once your change is implemented, don’t stop there. Assess how it’s working and then chart the next course. Make it bold or make it small, but do something. Life doesn’t stand still. Technology doesn’t stand still. And your competition doesn’t stand still. Good organizations adapt to change. Great organizations create change. Constantly.

Sealing the Deal

Having set the stage with sound strategies and effective communication, you’ve hopefully used some of the 50 tools we’ve covered to do a number of things, including:

  • ? Standardizing selectively, with people’s involvement
  • ? Influencing the influencers, individually where appropriate
  • ? Assembling small teams for more active engagement
  • ? Getting middle management on board
  • ? Using the data to make decisions, even if it’s not perfect
  • ? Avoiding process redundancies by doing a process walk-through
  • ? Employing checklists to minimize errors and reduce approval steps
  • ? Branding your initiative and giving everyone a way to identify with it
  • ? Publically recognizing accomplishments and efforts; and
  • ? Assuring people have adequate training, support, & tools

George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” By taking a structured approach to planning for success, selling the message, and engaging the people, you can avoid this all-too-common problem.

Remember, not all of the tips and tools in this series will apply to everyone or every situation. See what works in your organization and assemble your model accordingly.


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 9

Employees-quote-from-J-W-MarriottAs the Beatles said in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “We’re getting very near the end.” And so, here’s the ninth post in our ten-post series on 50 Common Sense Tips for Mastering Organization Change. Once again, these tips hold true whether you’re implementing a new process, a software rollout, or a transitional culture change.

Points 41-45 below continue the Engaging phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging.

41. Train, Train, Train – There’s a well-known saying, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” (I’ve also seen a variation of this that says, “Try stupidity.”) Training is often overlooked or shortchanged, yet it’s one of the most critical success factors of any endeavor. A lack of training will not only lead to mistakes, it can lead to frustration, negativity, and ultimately, apathy—all of which can spread like wildfire. Give your people the right tools and training to thrive, and you’ll boost your success rate exponentially. Plus, it’s an investment that can pay dividends. In one sector, the printing industry, a study showed that those companies in the top 25th percentile in profitability spent a proportionately higher percentage on training than their less profitable counterparts.

42. Be a Coach, Not an Umpire – Focus on shaping behavior, not grading it. As noted British Professor Philip Grammage said, and as many companies are now realizing, “Nobody ever grew taller by being measured.” Make an effort to find out the barriers people are facing in adopting the change, and find ways to help them address those barriers. But be sure to practice situational leadership. Some people need coaching more than others. Some can be left alone. Your job as a leader is to know the difference. And it can vary based on what they’re being asked to do. Read The Situational Leader, by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, which outlines a model for adapting your management style to each person’s readiness for a given situation.

43. Forget the Golden Rule – In First Break All the Rules, authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman suggest that one of the first rules to break is the “golden rule,” which is: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Instead, they suggest treating others the way THEY want to be treated. Learn people’s preferences for communication and guidance. Be flexible enough to adapt to different needs. This can differ by region, functional area, or other demographics. It can even differ by each individual. It’s not only a matter of empathy; it will help you frame your communication to multiple parties in a way they’ll best absorb.

44. Watch for Jell-O – It’s been said that middle management is the “Jell-O layer” of an organization. Messages tend get stuck on the way up and on the way down. Don’t let your valuable initiative get stuck in Jell-O. Be sure your middle management is on board and acting in line with your desired culture. How will you know? In general, employee surveys, training, organizational diagnostic tools, policies, and general observation can help assure that your managers are on board and messages are being communicated both ways.

Bonus tip! Ricardo Semler wrote a book called Maverick, which details how he turned his company Semco into one of the most unusual, most profitable, and fastest growing companies around. As their culture is such a vital part of their success, Semco surveys employees every six months on how well their supervisors are living up to it.

45. Re-recruit Good People – Retention of top employees will be vital to your change efforts. Again, middle management is key. People generally choose to stay or leave a job based on their relationship with their supervisor. Meet with your top employees and make a special effort to address their concerns and make them feel an important part of the effort. Sports teams treat their star performers well. It should be no different in business.

 


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 8

This post continues our series on 50 Common Sense Tips for Mastering Organization Change. These tips hold true whether you’re implementing a new process, a software rollout, or a transitional culture change.

Points 36-40 below continue the Engaging phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging.

Pull Dont Push36. Remember the Spaghetti Principle – General George S. Patton likened leadership to trying to move a piece of cooked spaghetti through a small hole. You need to pull it; you can’t push it. “A piece of spaghetti or a military unit,” he said, “can only be led from the front end.” This means you need to lead by example, relying on the new method as soon as possible. People observe management’s actions, not its words. If you’re implementing software, then ensure management uses the output to make its decisions. If management isn’t using it, the people will think it’s unimportant and will likewise ignore it.

37. Just Do It – Don’t wait for perfection. Even if the system, process, or data isn’t perfect yet, begin using it as soon as possible. The best way to move to a new method is total immersion (which is why foreign language schools use this approach). As the Spanish conqueror Cortés told his men when they arrived in Mexico, “burn the ships.” Only then will everyone be committed to the new way. Of course, be sure the new way is at least effective enough for use (80% is a good rule of thumb), but neither should you let perfect be the enemy of good, to paraphrase Voltaire. Let “good enough” be your mantra, or you may find yourself losing traction quicker than you think.

38. Make a List – Never underestimate the power of checklists. Not only can they reduce the need for time-consuming approval steps, they can reinforce the basics, improve handoffs, and put accountability in the hands of the people executing your processes. Most importantly, they can greatly improve process quality. Airlines have been using checklists for years, and now hospitals are realizing their power as well. For example, in just 18 months’ time, a single five-step checklist implemented by Dr. Peter Pronovost at Johns Hopkins Hospital had saved 1500 lives and nearly $200 million in costs. And in a World Health Organization (WHO) pilot program of eight hospitals, simple checklists resulted in reducing major complications, deaths, and infections by nearly half.

39. Standardize Selectively – People tend to look at change as something that’s been inflicted upon them. If they’re required to do things differently or follow a standard process, they can feel like their freedom is being revoked or their wings have been clipped. It can also make them feel less creative. Because of this, resist the temptation to standardize everything at once. Instead, pick one or two areas that everyone agrees need to be standardized or improved. Involve people as much possible. Then, after the change has been implemented and embraced, you can move on to the next most important area. Combined with voluntary checklists, it’s a great way to introduce improvements that people can buy into.

trash can40. Learn to Love the Trash Can – Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest Samurai swordsman of all time, wrote a book called The Book of Five Rings, an ancient tome on strategy, tactics and philosophy that’s still revered today for its insights, and for Musashi’s “nine principles.” One of those principles is “Do nothing Useless.” This principle became the basis for the lean manufacturing movement as well, which originated at Toyota. Toyota listed “seven wastes” to be eliminated in manufacturing. Likewise, there are wastes in implementation processes as well, including excessive approval steps, redundant actions, ineffective handoffs, unnecessary forms, gathered information that goes unused, and so on. When examining your processes, find out what steps, forms, data fields, or reports can be eliminated. Be relentless about waste, and question everything. Encourage your people to do the same.

 


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 7

influenceSo far, we’ve covered 30 of 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change. Whether you’re implementing a new process, software rollout, or transitional culture change, these tools will round out your change toolbox.

Points 31-35 below continue the Engaging phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging.

31. Influence the Influencers – In any organization, there are those who set the norms; the everyday behaviors that define the culture. Rarely is this senior leadership. In his book The Big Picture: Education is Everyone’s Business, education reformer Dennis Littky shows how he achieved dramatic change in his hugely successful network of schools. He noted that, in any school, it’s not the teachers who set the culture, nor is it the principle. It’s the senior students. And so, he engaged the senior students in bringing about the culture change he wanted. It worked like a charm. Who sets the norms in your organization? Is it middle management? Certain influential employees? Whoever it is, try to solicit their help in driving the new culture. You may be surprised by the results.

32. Brand it! – Why do sports teams wear uniforms? Why do doctors wear scrubs? Why do corporations have logos? Why do associations have membership cards? Besides the more practical reasons, a key element of all of these is identity. Each of these is meant to instill pride. If appropriate, consider branding your initiative with a catchy name, and giving people a sense of identity with it through t-shirts, mugs, pens, or other items that can make them feel “part of the club.” If desired, even a result or cause can be branded, rather than the project itself (e.g. using a “90” to signify a milestone goal for 90 days, etc.).

a-spoonful-of-sugar33. Make it Fun – Mary Poppins was right. A spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down. No matter how challenging, why not make your initiative fun, with rewards, contests, celebrations, and other activities that get people excited and looking at things in a positive light. Be careful about doing too many things after hours though, as some people just want to get home to their families. Also, beware of making the assumption that adding some fun activities to an otherwise negative environment will be perceived as positive. On the contrary, it can be perceived as putting lipstick on a pig. But when fun is supported by an overall positive climate, magical things can happen.

34. Aim for Small Teams – Research has shown that small teams tend to be more focused and accountable than individuals or large teams. Consider creating sub-teams to undertake certain aspects of your initiative. How small? Two is not enough diversity. Four can lead to taking sides. Three may be adequate for limited efforts. Most experts agree that five to nine is the ideal number for larger efforts, and that large teams should be broken into smaller teams of this size. Some suggest that an odd number of people will avoid ties during decisions, while others prefer an even number to allow for partnering within the team.

35. Be Well-Rounded – Teams need to employ a variety of personas to be effective as a whole. In The Ten Faces of Innovation, Tom Kelley, of the award-winning design firm IDEO, suggests considering ten personas that span three primary areas: learning, organizing, and building. These personas, which range from caregiver to director to experimenter, can assure that multiple perspectives are considered. At the very least, your team should have people who are goal and results focused and those who are people and relationship focused. A lack of either should indicate a problem.

 


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 6

things-do-not-changeHope everyone had a happy New Years! I spent New Years day in New York City, and I’d venture to guess that it was probably just about as crowded as New Years Eve. Still, a fun place to be on the holidays.

Now that it’s a new year and everyone’s focused on bringing about change, it’s only fitting that I continue this sixth installment in series of ten posts on 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change, be it a new process, software rollout, or transitional culture change.

Points 26-29, continue the Selling phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging. Point 30 begins the Engaging Phase.

26. Be Transparent – Be forthcoming about who is helped by the change and why. Some changes bring organizational efficiencies, and not necessarily individual efficiencies. People will generally be only thinking of the change’s impact to their own role unless they’re adequately informed of the overall benefits of the change. Get resistance and concerns out in the open, and address them publicly. The more you acknowledge concerns and address the ones you can, the more comfortable people will become with them. Silence breeds resistance. So do superficial or deceptive messages.

27. Be a Servant – Two things that bring people together are a common enemy and a common cause. Why not bring your people together in the interest of beating a competitor, or helping the end customer? If done with integrity and credibility, stressing the benefits of focusing on a third party (whether helping or outrunning them) can convey a need for sacrifice and get people working on the same side. Just be sure it’s sincere and accurate. People can tell if they’re being manipulated.

28. Ask for Help – Whoever the beneficiary of the change is, when communicating the desired new approach, try framing it as a call for help rather than a mandate. People by nature want to help others, and typically respond more favorably to requests for help than demands for action. If possible, try to stress each group’s specific role in making the new state successful. This is especially vital for international colleagues that may or may not appreciate the need for the change.

29. Watch Your Language – When it comes to culture change, language matters. Replace negative language and labels with constructive questions and terminology. Instead of “That won’t work,” try “How can we solve such-and-such issue?” Instead of “They’re just being difficult,” try asking “How can we best address their concerns?” It’s a matter of framing the challenge in a constructive way to turn naysayers into problem-solvers. Also, to illustrate your points, try to avoid abstract concepts or beliefs and instead focus on concrete examples. People have a hard time interpreting abstract concepts like integrity, trust, and passion. I recommend reading my friend and colleague Judith E. Glaser’s book, Conversational Intelligence, for much more in this area.

 
Engaging the People

By now, you’ve chosen your strategies and communicated the message in a variety of ways, including:

• Articulating the “why”
• Saying something simple, concrete, & different
• Being transparent about the needs & benefits
• Soliciting a call for help
• Telling emotional stories
• Presenting annotated charts that show causality; and
• Employing a variety of multi-media channels

But despite the most thoughtful strategies and clear, compelling communication, ultimately it is the ability to understand and lead people that will make or break your change initiative. And the best way to do that is to actively engage them.

Some of the suggestions in this section are people-focused, and some are operational. But all of them are designed to drive engagement.

Beginning with point #30 below, all the remaining tips in this series are in this crucial area.

 
hemingway-on-trust30. Don’t Dictate, Co-Create – Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.” Likewise, the best way to get people more engaged is to engage them. Instead of seeking compliance, seek engagement. Find ways to involve people in the design of your change, and they’ll be more likely to follow it later. Peter Scholtes, quality management guru and author of The Team Handbook, endorsed this approach, often saying that people are more apt to observe standards they’ve helped create. If you can involve customers, all the better.

 


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 5

purple-cow1This is the fifth in series of ten posts on 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change.

These particular points, 21-25, continue the Selling phase in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging. Indeed, selling the message effectively is a key part of any change endeavor, be it a new process, software rollout, or transitional culture change.

So, let’s look at five more tips!

21. Say Something Different – Marketing expert Seth Godin wrote a book called Purple Cow. The idea is that by jolting people awake with an unexpected message or product that stands out (much like a purple cow would), people will be drawn to take notice. Try to find something unique or different to say that people haven’t heard over and over. You may actually find them listening.

22. Say it Often – Communicating a message once may or may not reach people. But if they begin to see the message reinforced in different ways, through frequent tips, internal media, and success stories, it will gradually begin to sink into their psyche. And if they begin to see tangible results from the change, that will reinforce it even more. Repetition over time induces change much like water can eventually wear down a rock.

23. Back it Up – People want to know your message is credible. Try to offer facts, figures, and proven examples that will make what you’re saying indisputable. Practice what Stanford professors and authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton call evidence-based management, making decisions based on sound evidence. But beware. As Benjamin Disraeli once said, “There are three types of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Make sure your “evidence” is applicable to your organization’s situation.

24. Tell a Story – Anyone who has ever moved the masses did so with stories, either real or fictitious. Business organizations are finally beginning to understand that, and storytelling classes are a hot commodity in leadership circles. Whether it’s a sad story of failure, a motivational story of triumph, or a series of little stories from your organization or elsewhere (whether good or bad) to help express a desired behavior, stories can move people much more than rules or instructions. Use stories to spread excitement and drive new behaviors.

Bonus tip! In their popular book Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath combine a number of these tips, suggesting that the best way to make a message stick is to make it a simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional story (which conveniently spells out SUCCESs).

25. Paint a Picture – Some people are visual—especially executives, who rarely have time to digest a complex message or read through reams of documentation. Find a way to convey your message in visual terms, through graphics, diagrams, charts, or pictures. But, as information presentation guru Edward Tufte often cautions, don’t simplify the message to the point where the meaning you’re trying to convey is weakened or muddy. And don’t make it so fancy or complex that nobody can see the forest through the trees. Effective visuals, he points out in his workshops, show clear causality, have annotations to explain key points, show quantitative data (if applicable), and avoid useless or non-informative clutter. Most of all, they must answer the right question—and lead people to the right answer.

 


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 4

"What we have here is a failure to communicate." - Cool Hand Luke

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” – Cool Hand Luke

This is the fourth in series of ten posts on 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change.

Points 16 and 17 conclude the section on Planning, in the three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging. The Selling phase follows, beginning with point 18.

16. Assemble Your Champions – Recruit the visionaries and aficionados that will serve as your champions throughout the implementation process. These can be business representatives with a keen interest in the outcome, or it can be team members who are passionate about the initiative. The champions are the ones who will make sure the job gets done right. Don’t be afraid of heroes either. Some organizations try to avoid a situation where just a few people are doing the bulk of the work. Yet, throughout history, most major accomplishments were driven by a single catalyst or a small group of people. Be sure to nurture and retain those people.

17. Choose Your Leaders Wisely – When faced with a large endeavor and few good leaders, resist the temptation to take your star performers and make them leaders. Often it does nothing other than rob your organization of good performers and provide poor leaders. A good performer does not a leader make, as owners of sports teams have learned when selecting coaches. In fact, with few exceptions, many of history’s greatest coaches were nothing more than mediocre players. But they studied the game and knew how to move, engage, and inspire people. Change leadership is a unique skill that requires the ability to empathize, sell, delegate, influence, present, facilitate, negotiate, coach, and solve problems. In many cases, a core leadership team is needed to cover all these skills.

 

Selling the Message

So, now you’ve reviewed and chosen your success strategies and have a good understanding of:

  • The “why”
  • The goal
  • The singular focus or rallying cry
  • Key priorities
  • Stakeholders’ needs
  • The current and desired user experience
  • Local and regional nuances, concerns, and input; and
  • Who your leaders and champions are

With a good platform from which to start, you’re ready to communicate your message clearly and effectively, in a way that will inspire passion—or at least understanding. In the film, Cool Hand Luke, actor Strother Martin voiced the now-famous line, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Here are some tools and tips for ensuring that doesn’t happen to you.

18. What’s the Problem? Focus on why, not how. People need to understand the problem they’re being asked to help solve through their participation and/or cooperation. To assure you’re selling the true problem, keep asking yourself “why” until you get to the root of the problem (the Japanese lean manufacturing movement calls this “The Five Whys”). Once people understand the why, they’ll more easily embrace the how.

If you can find a way to make them care deeply, all the better. Poet and author Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Granted, it’s hard to do that with something like timesheets (Trust me, nothing you can say will make people long to submit their time). But even with that, finding a way to demonstrate where and how the data will be used will make the pill easier to swallow, as will creating a vision of a less overworked world for the user.
simplicity-hoffman

19. Keep it Simple – The artist Hans Hoffman once said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Don’t bombard people with long emails that incorporate multiple messages or instructions. Don’t roll out a series of ten metrics for people to strive to meet. And don’t have a long list of goals that the initiative is supposed accomplish.

Focus on one key message with two or three supporting points that augment the main theme. Then, in another communication, another message can be addressed. In Selling the Invisible, service marketing expert Harry Beckwith tells us it’s imperative to say one thing—and one thing only. “Saying many things,” he says, “usually communicates nothing.”

20. Consider the Alternative – General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, frequently used to tell his commanders: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” Along those lines, it’s often effective to convey an alternate reality to people, depicting what life would be like if the change is not implemented. Consider both the short-term and long term impacts. People like to have choices. In order to see value in something, they like to know the value in comparison to something else.

 


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Mastering Organizational Change - 50 Common Sense Tips - Part 3

 

Engaged People

This is the third in series of ten posts on 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change.

Starting with point 11, this batch is part of the Planning phase in a three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging.

11. Think Small – Sometimes, minor things can get people excited about your initiative or make a statement about your culture. Try to think of small, easy things that will generate a buzz. At its theme parks, Disney encourages its employees (called “cast members”) to aim for little wows at every customer touch point—those small things that aren’t “needed” or “asked for,” but are inexpensive to deliver and serve to generate excitement (e.g. housekeepers shaping guests’ towels in the form of Disney characters, random cast members asking guests where they’re from, and so on). What small practices can your team employ to reinforce your desired culture or make people look twice?

12. Build a Compass – At Southwest Airlines, all employees know the overarching priority is to be the low cost airline. At Zappos, the employee culture comes first, then the customer, and then efficiency. At all Disney theme parks, they’ve instituted prioritized service standards (four, to be precise, in descending sequence: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency—each one can be trumped by the ones above it). In all these cases, employees have a small set of priorities that serve as a compass when making decisions and taking daily actions. This also serves to avoid micromanagement. Try to think of just a few guiding priorities to unify your people toward a common cause and guide their daily activities.

13. Throw a Process Party – An end-to-end implementation process has many role players, each with their own focus and interests. This can lead to redundant or overlapping processes and other inefficiencies. To assure a lean, efficient process, it’s well worth the time to gather representatives of each party in a room and map out the overall process on the wall. Often, it’s an eye-opener, and great improvements can be made. Consider including customers and suppliers as well, at least toward the end, as it can help boost everyone’s understanding of the end-to-end process requirements.

14. Be Inclusive – Forward-thinking organizations find ways to include the voices of all their employees, even those whose role might seem unrelated to the task at hand. Some organizations have daily or weekly brainstorming sessions on different topics, rotating attendees from throughout the company from all levels.

This not only helps people feel they’re being heard and makes them feel a part of something; it also serves to bring in new ideas from fresh perspectives. Plus it raises their performance to peak levels because of the psychological impacts of being paid attention to. This is known as the Hawthorne Effect, based on experiments at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works that demonstrated that positive involvement, recognition, and a sense of belonging were central to worker productivity.

15. Think Glocal – Glocalization is a concept that encourages consideration of local and regional nuances while still remaining aligned with global themes and drivers. Experts now suggest going one step further—to delegate development of local or regional themes and practices that speak to that geographic or functional culture, yet support the overall global initiative and allow for global communication. The idea is to leverage the domain experts as much as possible instead of making assumptions that may not be accurate for that region. Sharing of good ideas across regions is vital as well. Once again, as the saying goes, “A rising tide raises all ships.”


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Mastering Organizational Change – 50 Common Sense Tips – Part 2

istock_000004034846mediumThis is the second in series of ten posts on 50 common sense tips on mastering organizational change.

Starting with point 6, this batch is part of the Planning phase in a three-step process I refer to as Planning, Selling, and Engaging.

6. Be an Anthropologist – If you are about to implement a new process or software application, why not observe the people who will be using the new method and see how they operate in the current environment? See firsthand what they’re dealing with, and get a better sense of how they’d operate with the new method. The Japanese have been doing this for years with great success (e.g. Toyota’s Genchi Genbutsu approach, which means “go and see you yourself,” or Honda’s Sangen Shugi, which means “three actuals,” referring to the actual place, situation, and data). Don’t forget making a point to understand the needs and norms of other geographic regions and cultures as well.

7. Broaden your View – No system or process operates in a vacuum. Take the time to widen your lens, looking at all the variables that influence success or create barriers. Assess the impacts on individuals, departments, and the overall organization. Make tradeoffs if needed. Likewise, examine how all the related operational components support your desired culture or method, including processes, services, technology, policies, and so on.

8. Be an Explorer – Be a connoisseur of the possible. Don’t just look for “pain points,” look for opportunities. Often, technology brings opportunities that people never would have thought to state as a need. Henry Ford said, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” It’s good to assess what a customer wants, and even better to assess what they need. But don’t overlook what’s possible, even beyond their wants and needs, especially if it can create a better way of doing something. This can also serve to generate excitement about your initiative, if done for pragmatic purposes.

9. Be a Community Builder – A long-standing axiom across many religions and secular communities is belonging, believing, behaving. The key point is that belonging must come first. Then it becomes easier to work on shared beliefs and drive expected behaviors. The three are connected, and any one area will suffer without strength in the other two areas.

Bonus tip! Many business organizations are now forming “Communities of Practice” or CoPs—a term coined by cognitive scientists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, though the concept is ages old. A CoP is a group of committed practitioners with a shared passion for a topic or skill who learn collectively how to do it better as they interact regularly. Many organizations create multiple communities around different topics. It’s an excellent way to get people actively engaged, increase ideas, and advance good practices.

10. Scout for Landmines – Change is rarely neutral. Problems will inevitably occur. Just like a military leader scouts for landmines or enemy troops, anticipate resistance and develop strategies to address it in advance. Develop a stakeholder roadmap to give a sense of where the resistance lies. Look at both the impact to each group and the influence they carry to develop a strategy for each segment. Focus first on understanding the needs of the high impact, high influence stakeholders. These stakeholder areas may warrant a face-to-face campaign or even one-on-one sessions. For certain high-influence individuals, you may need to assess their specific needs, concerns, and requirements as well.


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