Cultural Awareness Often Overlooked

Cultural awareness is often overlookedCultural awareness is often overlooked despite the drive toward building a multi-racial workforce. The focus on culture often does not address ethnicity. More and more both organizational culture and ethnic culture are intertwined as companies hire more multicultural staff to better serve their communities. What happens too frequently is that little thought is given to how well employees of different ethnic backgrounds will assimilate into the largely Anglo, male dominated US organizational culture, or how well the existing predominantly Anglo staff will accept and/or work with these multicultural team members. How many companies provide cross-cultural training for their staffs rather than simply expecting the individuals to sink or swim on their own?

In the planning community, there’s a great deal of discussion about culture – but it refers to the organizational climate, the way employees are expected to behave in pursuing the organizational objectives.

Perhaps the Anglo/American approach to pursuing these objectives doesn’t mesh with the ethnic culture of some of the staff. It may be a subtle refusal to act a certain way, to ask questions in a meeting, or to share opinions. Performance may lag because the individual doesn’t have enough information to do the work or thinks there’s a better way, but his or her culture dictates that it isn’t appropriate to question a superior. Rather than assume the individual is disinterested or incapable of performing the tasks assigned to them, the manager should take time to meet one-on-one and ask questions. This will help get to the root of the issue at hand.

Some people are able to overcome their personal cultural attitudes and adapt to the culture of the predominant group. Over time, their very ethnicity becomes less an issue as they develop a persona that transcends all ethnic groups. They become role models for the rest of us. Examples include:

Oprah Winfrey, while a role model for African Americans is also a role model for all women.
U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress, is a role model for Hispanic women proving they, too, can achieve greatness.
Cheech Marin and Sara Ramirez, while representing the Latino community, also break the boundaries of their ethnicity on screen and in television.
Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera have successfully broken across cultural boundaries.

And leadership in US government is becoming increasingly multicultural. Condoleezza Rice, as Secretary of State to the George W. Bush presidency, was the highest ranking African American woman in US government. And most recently, we have had an African American president and first lady in the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama, in particular, is a role model for not only African American women but for young women in general.

More and more television programs feature multi-racial families, as well as multi-racial casts. This has helped to bring cultural awareness into American households. From Latinos to African Americans to Asians, we are seeing them interact with one another both on the job and off. Over time this begins to color viewer attitudes towards ethnic differences, both in positive and  negative ways.

Does anyone remember the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton? Remember how controversial that movie was showing an interracial couple (Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton)? Now we don’t even blink at the concept. We see Asian/Anglo couples (Hawaii 50) Latino/African American relationships (Rosewood), and other interracial combinations on television and it just seems normal. Even television ads reflect this cultural awareness, not only in the actors but also in the language and dress used.

Despite these examples, some still find it difficult to adjust. Instead of building bridges across ethnic lines, they alienate not only the Anglo community but also their own culture. They flaunt their Latino or  Black or Middle Eastern culture, with an attitude and language that are off-putting, using their ethnicity as an excuse for bad behavior, rudeness, and inappropriate social graces. What’s worse, they aren’t coached about how their behavior affects their co-workers. It is detrimental to not only themselves and their career mobility, but to the cultural group they represent. Their behavior reflects poorly on their ability to become part of the team in which they work because they alienate their team members.

A lack of cultural awareness or consideration on the part of leadership, and inertia to address a real internal as well as external employee problem, can destroy the very goal the company is trying to accomplish. As we frequently hear, “culture eats strategy for lunch,” and in this case it’s ethnic culture affecting employee attitudes and behavior.

Here is an 8-step process for developing a rich, multicultural workforce that works together as a team instead of in factions working against one another:

Step 1   Smart Start Planning. First, determine the future vision of what the workforce should be. This starts at the executive leadership level and includes key stakeholders throughout the organization who can influence the success or failure of the “people management plan”. This will result in an inspirational statement describing where the organization wishes to be positioned to maximize its people as a competitive advantage. This also includes a description of the respective roles of senior management, line management, employees, and the Human Resources function in contributing to organizational success.

Step 2  Key Success Measures. Identify the high-level quantifiable outcome measures (key people success measures) that will be used to measure employee success in adding value to customers, shareholders, and the community. Include measures that take into account multicultural issues that must be addressed throughout the organization.

Step 3  Best Practices Assessment.  Evaluate the organization against the “Six People Edge Best Practices”, developed by the Haines Centre for Strategic Planning. Based on extensive research and consulting experience, these Six Best Practice areas are:

  • Acquiring the desired workforce
  •  Engaging the workforce
  • Organizing high performance teams
  • Creating a learning organization
  • Facilitating cultural change
  • Collaborating with stakeholders

Step 4  Strategy Development. Develop core “people management strategies” that are aligned to the direct business needs of the organization’s delivery system, and attuned to developing people’s hearts and minds in support of serving the customer. Both the alignment and attunement strategies should relate closely and support the core strategies of the organization’s overall Strategic Plan. They should also articulate the company’s strategies for developing their multicultural talent, helping them adapt to the organization’s corporate culture, and celebrating its multicultural environment.

Step 5  3-Year Planning. This involves development of actions that outline the key activities for the next three years in support of the core strategies. A three-year lay-out of all needed actions and programs is conducted. Then, these activities are focused down to the top three to four priority “must do” actions for the next year. This leads to the development of a one-year operational plan and budget for each major department. Again, these actions should articulate how each department is addressing multicultural aspects to build and support high performing teams.

Step 6  Plan to Implement. A one-year Implementation Plan is developed here, with the steps, processes, and structures required for successful implementation. This includes how the plan will be communicated and how the change process will be managed and coordinated. The key element is regular follow-up by the Executive/Employee/Leadership Development Boards which are established to ensure a successful implementation throughout the organization. Implementation is everyone’s job, not just the HR department.

Step 7  Implementation. This is the point of actual implementation, change management, completion of tasks and priorities, and periods of adjusting actions as needed during the year. It also involves managing the change process, measuring progress against the key people success measures, and celebrating achievements along the way.

Step 8  Annual Review and Update. The plan must be formally reviewed and updated on an annual basis. The key is to review the entire plan and update the annual priorities, taking into account ongoing changes in the business direction, the environment, and stakeholder expectations. Achievements are recognized and celebrated. Strategies are reviewed, and the three-year plan is updated.

They key to developing high performance teams is to include them in the planning and implementation process. Develop a strength in educating the entire workforce about multicultural differences and similarities. Celebrate the uniqueness of the cultures within the organization’s workforce and highlight them regularly. Make a conscious effort to put multicultural teams together to address organization-wide issues. Team them with a coach experienced in handling multicultural teams so issues can be addressed as they arise. This empowers the employees to see how they contribute to the success of the organization while learning about the similarities and differences of their ethnic counterparts.

Too often organizations forget about including specific ways to address, educate and include the multicultural backgrounds of their workforce, focusing instead on organizational design and workflow. Yet these multicultural backgrounds and experiences influence individual behavior within the organization and the way work gets done. Not recognizing and planning for this can result in misunderstandings, miscommunications, and divisive work environments instead of empowered, goal-oriented teamwork.

Shaping the overall organizational culture to sustain a competitive advantage is a key Best Practice leverage point, and is the job of leadership throughout the organization.

Contact us if you have questions about this. We look forward to your comments.

Stages of Change Can Be Challenging

The only constant in life is change. And it’s so true! Every project you take on, regardless of size or scope, creates a change in the status quo. That kicks off several stages of change that result in a series of predictable emotions and behaviors.

We talk a great deal about change in our practice. Sometimes they’re easy changes, ones you look forward to, such as getting a promotion or moving into a new job at another company. But you still go through all the stages of change similar to the Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief – shock/loss, denial, bargaining/acceptance, sadness/depression (the hang-in point), and finally acceptance and even excitement about the new reality.

Stages of Change Have Predictable Behaviors

Job Promotion Can Be Scary

Think about the change of moving into a new, challenging job. You go through a sense of loss because you lose your colleagues in the department or company you’re leaving. You may experience a little denial, telling yourself it’s time to move on and you won’t miss your colleagues.

You may experience sadness about the memories and friends you left behind. Then you accept the reality of the change – you’re moving on, it’s a little scary because you don’t know what to expect in the new position.

You’ll be meeting new people and having to figure out how to work together. If it’s a new management position, you have the challenge of learning how to delegate and manage others. Then as you think about the challenges ahead, you begin to see the possibilities and start focusing on the new challenges you’re taking on.

And finally, as you adjust to the new position and get to know your team and your colleagues, you begin to feel excitement and passion for taking on the challenges and helping the organization move forward.

Change Happens Differently for Each Person

Depending on your circumstances, you can go through these emotions quickly, in a matter of minutes or hours, or it may take days for you to cycle through the stages of change. If the new position is something you pursued, you’ll likely move through the stages of change quickly. If it’s something that happened to you and not one you actively sought, then the adjustment could take longer – even weeks or months.

Frequently, especially when people aren’t involved in creating the change and instead are just told about it, a few will never adjust. They can move between the states of depression and anger for months or longer (the hang-in point), unless the manager is skilled at either coaching them through the emotions or invites them to find alternative employment.

Sometimes, the people remove themselves to find other employment options more suited to them. Either way, the organization suffers if these individuals are allowed to remain in a state of anger or depression. They can turn a positive environment into a negative one, putting a blanket of confusion, doubt and concern on the change process.

Leaders Need to Be Coaches

As a leader it’s important to recognize where your people are in each of the stages of change and coach them through their emotions. Your goal is to get as many of them to the other side of the emotional roller coaster as soon as possible, and to quickly remove those who just can’t get on board.

If you need help with this process, let us know. We have many resources available to help you coach your team through the stages of change.

Leading by walking around

Leading by walking around is a great management techiniqueThis article about leading by walking around (http://bit.ly/leadbywalking) stimulated recollections about my own experience while working at National Decision Systems. The first three years were the best experience of my career. Why? Because the CEO did exactly as this article suggests. He led by walking around.

He wouldn’t just call people on the phone or send emails. He dropped by their office unannounced and asked thought-provoking questions. Visiting people where they work is an excellent leadership technique to follow and one I made sure to model.

I remember one such visit to my office after turning in my report on the most recent user conference I had run. My first thought was, “Oh, oh. What did I not do right?”

He wanted to know why I thought the conference was successful. How did I measure success? Wow! No one had asked me that before. I had to really think about it. The purpose was to generate new sales, which we did. It was also to get customers more engaged with the products….which we did. So that met two of my measures of success. The 3-day event went smoothly for attendees – that was another measure of my own. Yes, there were hiccups, but only I was aware of them, and I resolved them right away. The customer feedback was also excellent, so that also told me we hit a home run.

Leading by walking around makes an impact

The CEO’s appearance in my office to sit down across from me and ask my input made a real impact on me. I modeled my own leadership that way with my direct reports. Instead of sitting in my office and calling them in, I got up and went to their desks to ask questions and get their input. I did this with people in other departments as well. If I had a question that needed answering, I walked over to their office and asked the question. That action helped me build great working relationships throughout the company and a willingness to help even when it was outside their immediate scope of work. If they knew the answer or how to get it done, they would pitch in.

Leading by walking around helps you build those relationships. You also learn so much because you give others the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise. This type of technique should not be to deliver bad news or only to give praise. If the only time you visit someone’s office is to do either of these, then eventually the staff gets jaded.

Visit your people in their offices to ask thoughtful questions and find out what they know. You might be very surprised and learn a few things yourself!

Millennials Will Change the World

Oh to be young again!

When I watch Ted Talk videos by Millennials who are smart, confident and know what direction they want to take with their lives, I wish I were 30 years younger to share in that future. WOW! I mean, really, WOW!

Stacey Ferreira - Millennials are ScrewedThese young people like Stacey Ferreira have it together. They aren’t stupid or lazy. They have different expectations based on the world they’re exposed to. These Millennials have a different outlook on work/life balance. They want to be productive. Millennials want to have an impact on changing what doesn’t work. They aren’t afraid to share their opinions and ideas with top executives. If you don’t like what they have to say, so be it. If you do, use it. These 2 billion Millennials are out to change the world.

That’s so different from when I was starting my career. Those were the days of learning corporate gamesmanship. Remember the book, “Games Mother Never Taught You”? It’s about all the terminology women need to know and the game-playing that goes on in traditional corporate workplaces run predominantly by men. That was about understanding the football and baseball strategies and terms and applying them to what was happening in the work place. If you wanted to get ahead, you learned to play those games. And I got so tired of it. What a waste of time!

Millennials have a totally different outlook. It’s not about who plays the game best, it’s about doing it together to improve the product or strategy or workplace or world. These are collaborators, working together in open offices, not turf warriors protecting their kingdoms. I would love to play in that world instead of the one I grew up in.

But the future is about the younger generation. We adults who have been there and done it differently, need to stand aside and support them, nurture their creative spirits, and help where we can.

What an amazing generation this is!

The Art of Possibility: Rule Number 6

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “Kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again 20 minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and a n apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so god damn seriously.’” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”

           “There aren’t any.”   

~ from The Sixth Practice in The Art of Possibility

 

I’m re-reading The Art of Possibility by Dr. Rosamund Stone Zander and Boston Philharmonic Conductor Benjamin Zander. The chapter, Leading from Any Chair, discusses the “silent conductor” in all of us – the importance of leading from wherever you are in life or work. We don’t need to be managers, CEOs, and senior executives in order to lead. Everyone can be a leader, regardless of age or position. We lead by helping others do their best. If we know how to perform a task, we demonstrate and explain the process to another person trying to learn it. We don’t wait for “the boss” to tell everyone how it’s done. We don’t hold back from showing someone else because we want to be better than him or her. We help them learn so we can all do our best. In this manner, we are all leading as “silent conductors” from any seat.

The art of being a “silent conductor” is to listen and watch for passion and commitment from others. In The Art of Possibility, Zander suggests the leader look in the eyes of those individuals and invite them to share. Speak to their passion. Ask yourself, “who am I being that they are not shining?” That gives you, as the leader, the opportunity to be a “silent conductor”, to ask for feedback, and pass the leadership baton.

Even children can be leadersIn The Art of Possibility, the chapter on Rule Number 6 is about humor and lightening up. Often we take ourselves too seriously. As leaders we frequently try so hard to prove our worth, to succeed against all odds, to be better than everyone else, we forget that the goal is “together we all win”, not “I win, and therefore you lose.”

Our “Calculating Self”, as Zander calls it, wants to survive in a world of scarcity. It’s the voice that tells us take actions that get us noticed, to be strong, to be right, to win at all costs. It’s the voice that drives us on, always striving for something just out of reach. We’re never satisfied.

It takes many forms: the parent who acknowledges his child’s B+ and says, “That’s good, but with a little more work, you could have gotten an A.” Or the boss who tells his people, “I expect your work to be perfect; regardless of what it takes to achieve that.” Or the educator who tells her students, “Follow the outline exactly without deviation.”

Rule Number 6 reminds us to “lighten up” and stop taking ourselves so seriously. There are many paths to success and we each have different approaches. Rarely is there only one “Right Way”. So when you find yourself falling into the trap of the “Calculating Self”, stop and ask yourself:

What would have to change for me to be completely fulfilled?”
“What new possibilities might emerge if I were to change my thinking?”

Is it the situation or the people you are with? Is it an expectation you have that others can’t live up to? What change will bring about peace of mind to you and to others? Perhaps it’s merely to interject a little humor into the situation.

Laughter is a powerful tool for dispelling tension and opening up possibilities; such as . Zander’s comment to the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra when they were practicing Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. The students were tired and tense, having just taken standardized tests, and were missing notes and key entrances in the music. He said, “Take it straight through the second movement, and NO MISTAKES. If you make a mistake…..a five-hundred pound cow will fall on your head.”

And that’s what The Art of Possibility is all about….seeing possibilities where none seem to exist. You can find the book on page 4 of our Strategy Book Store.

Why we have too few women leaders

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite. Women Leaders systematically underestimate their own abilities.

She focuses on three things women must do in order to stay in the workforce and make it to the C-suite.

  1. Sit at the table
  2. Make your partner a real partner
  3. Don’t leave before you leave

WD-40 Tribal Culture Creates Lasting Change

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International   January 28, 2014

Takeaways: How WD-40 created a tribal culture that focuses on SMART goals, living the company values, and sharing knowledge and expertise.

Book Review
Helping People Win at Work
by GaRry Ridge and Ken Blanchard,
2009 Polvera Publishing and Garry Ridge

Buy-Helping People Win at WorkThis book is a partnership between Blanchard and Ridge about leadership and management. It looks at business as a partnership between managers and staff to ensure everyone in the organization is doing their best to strive, learn, and be the best they can, all while living and acting the company’s core values. How a company gets there is the story Ridge tells of the processes he implemented at WD-40 around the philosophy of “Don’t Mark My Paper; Help Me Get an A”. The book is divided into four parts.

In Part One, Ridge describes the fundamentals of the performance review system he implemented at WD-40, which is organized around Planning and Execution and Review and Learning. Planning involves setting SMART goals and executing them according to company values. SMART stands for Specific, Motivational, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable.

In Part Two, Ridge describes the culture changes that had to occur before the performance review system could be revamped. A big part of that was to ask his people to view themselves as members of a Tribe rather than a Team. Tribal members share their knowledge and folklore with younger, newer members. That’s an important value at WD-40.

In Part Three, Ridge shares his viewpoints on leadership and motivating people and how those developed. In this area he describes his expectations of others and what they can expect of him. Servant leadership is a big part of his personal value system.

In Part Four, Blanchard shares the 12 “Simple Truths” he and his colleagues have learned over the years that are crucial to helping people succeed at their work. These include day-to-day coaching, reprimanding with candor, building trust, and accentuating the positive rather than the negative in both coaching and performance reviews.

The book is filled with great nuggets of wisdom and includes samples of the WD-40 Goal Review Form and how it is used. The company’s success is a testament to how well this system works. Headquartered in San Diego, they employ just under 400 people, market their products in 188 countries, and recorded sales of $368.5 million in fiscal year 2013. WD-40 projects to generate $383 million to $398 million for fiscal year 2014. Learn more about their values and culture here.
Buy the book.

10 Tips for Successful Virtual Meetings

Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   June 2013

Meetings are a necessary part of business whether we like it or not. More and more frequently people are meeting via the computer with counterparts who may be spread across the globe. This requires key skills to ensure these are successful virtual meetings. Some are standing meetings that occur every Monday or Friday. Others are ad hoc meetings, scheduled around a specific topic or project.

If you’re a project leader, you may find these tips helpful for holding successful virtual meetings. Many also apply to face-to-face meetings.

  1. Use video. If possible, engage webcams. This makes it possible for people to see one another and feel like they’re in the same room. Skype premium limits video calls to 10 people at once and all must have a Skype account.  Google Hangouts lets you have up to 15 people on a video conference at once. GoToMeeting allows up to 6 to video conference at once. Another option is ooVoo.com which allows you to have up to 9 video participants at once, but the free version comes with ads. Choosing the paid version eliminates this.
  2. Know why you’re meeting. Having outcomes or a purpose for the meeting ensures that everyone understands why they need to attend or even IF they need to attend. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to hold a meeting just because you always meet on Mondays. If there’s no purpose or reason to meet, cancel the meeting.
  3. Have a written agenda. Even though you’re meeting virtually and using webcams, it’s still important to have a written agenda and share screens. That way you can stay on track and/or get back on track if someone takes the conversation off topic.
  4. Put the expected outcomes at the top of the agenda. State the purpose of the meeting at the outset, and make sure everyone understands what that purpose is. You can always refer back to these outcomes if the conversation evolves into something else. And circle back around before you end the meeting to ensure that everyone agrees the outcomes were met.
  5. Set a specific time limit and stick to it. Everyone will appreciate your sticking to the timeline, and even ending the meeting early. The more frequently you do this, the greater likelihood you have of getting people to show up. They know what to expect and that you will keep the conversation moving. They will also be more willing to stay longer at times when it’s necessary because it’s not the norm.
  6. Take notes or have someone else take notes. As the meeting organizer, you can choose to take notes while sharing your screen or ask someone else to do so. Letting people see the note taking helps keep them engaged and lets them correct any misunderstandings in the moment. If you assign note-taking to someone whose screen is not being shared, allow time before ending the meeting to review those notes and make any necessary corrections.
  7. Schedule the next meeting before you end this one. Since you have everyone online already, chances are they have their calendars handy. Get agreement on the next meeting, if one is necessary, and then send out the meeting announcement shortly after this meeting ends. That prevents it from getting lost in their email box during the course of the week. Send out reminders with a link to the online meeting at least once more before the next meeting.
  8. Agree on who needs to attend. It may not be necessary for everyone on the team to attend every meeting. Depending on the agenda topic, it may only be necessary for IT folks to be present at one meeting, and marketing or operations folks at another.  If you do hold meetings with various team members and not the whole team, then schedule periodic meetings with the entire team and have the various team members report on their areas of expertise. This brings everyone up to speed on the whole project rather than just their portion of it, and ensures everyone is still working towards the same outcomes.
  9. Identify action items and accountabilities. Clearly list the actions that will be taken between meetings, along with the individuals responsible and dates by when they will accomplish them. This helps to move projects along, and gain commitment from team members.
  10. Follow up. As the team or project leader, you need to follow up with your team through emails and phone conversations to ensure they have the tools they need to complete the actions they’ve been assigned. This is an opportunity for you to also answer any specific questions they may not have asked during the meeting, or to assist with any roadblocks they may have encountered in executing their tasks.

BONUS TIP: Thank everyone for their participation. This one is so often overlooked. When people step up and volunteer to take on specific tasks, thank them for doing so. This helps to build team spirit and make people feel that their time and expertise is valued. Don’t go overboard, and be genuine about it.

Meetings are only successful if the outcomes are accomplished. Holding good meetings, keeping everyone informed, sticking to agendas, and following up with individuals between meetings are important task for the project leader.

Leadership and Systems Thinking – Tips, Tricks and Traps

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International 2-20-2-13

Takeaways:  Leadership and systems thinking go hand in hand. Start by seeing the larger picture and creating a common vision and common goals before taking action. Be disciplined about keeping things simple rather than making them complicated. Help your stakeholders understand the outcomes for themselves as well as the business.

Leadership and Systems Thinking go hand in hand. This may not be the first place you have heard about this but think about it. Leaders are invariably charged with seeing the whole picture – which must naturally be a systemic exercise – and then executing or causing action on a tactical or analytic level. Seeing the whole picture, while not that simple, can be simplified into recognizing the various systems that are nested within the over-reaching system the leader is dealing with.

Tips, Tricks and Traps

Let’s explore some tips, tricks and traps around this business of Leadership and Systems Thinking.

  1. One combined tip and trap that comes to mind is to define the system for which you are solving an issue.  Say you want to launch an initiative around professional dress in your business. The first tip is to be sure to define the over-reaching system you are addressing. Does it encompass and affect everyone in the organization and/or does it extend outside the organization? In other words, be clear that the intended outcomes are defined both within and outside the organization. The first trapis to not dig deeply enough to answer such a question. Who is affected by the initiative – just your employees? Does this have desired outcomes with your customer AND with your suppliers? 
  2. The second tip is to ensure you are measuring the desired effects of the initiative on the business. Do you have some metrics you can put in place to measure SOFT results, such as how employees, customers and suppliers respond to the initiative? One trick is to make sure you measure both positive and negative reactions to the initiative even before it is launched, in an open and candid fashion. Yes, this takes more time and work, but the flip side is the trap. The trapis that if you don’t gauge reactions to this type of initiative, you may face the law of unintended consequences. This is where one or more groups of stakeholders literally and figuratively stop your initiative. Any investment in time and money you have made at that point may in fact have been wasted. 
  3. A third tip is to have the discipline to use no more than one sheet of paper to articulate what the initiative is all about. This will help make it easier for your stakeholders to read, understand, refer to and follow the initiative’s processes. Using bullets is a good tip to accomplish this. The trick lies in working hard at making it all fit onto one sheet of paper. The trap is to presume your stakeholders will simply follow an edict. Don’t forget the always present WIIFM factor (what’ s in it for me?). Your stakeholders will more eagerly embrace your initiative if you help them understand the outcomes for themselves and for the business.7 Habits of Highly Effective People

As usual, Systems Thinking as a discipline relies on structures and processes to be used effectively. Understanding this precept is key to using Systems Thinking in Leadership activities.  If you “begin with the end in mind,” as stated in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, your leadership effectiveness will be greatly enhanced.

If you would like to know more about building your leadership skills or Systems Thinking please contact me or visit our website.

What is Strategic Management?

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International 2-20-2013

Takeaways: Strategic management encompasses planning, culture change, operational flexibility, stakeholder involvement, and periodic future environmental scans. Planning and change are two key roles of every leader.

Strategic Management encompasses several areas in managing and leading an organization. Planning certainly is part of the process. Without a well developed strategic plan to act as a road map of where you’re headed, you’re just shooting in the dark hoping one of the shots will hit the mark. And the plan must start with a future vision, mission and values. These will provide a compass for identifying the future direction of the organization, the organizational culture you want to create, and an understanding by Antique Compass - a key to strategic managementyour employees, stakeholders and customers of what you do and why you’re in business.

So you’ve created a 3-year or 5-year strategic plan. Are you done until the time rolls around to dust it off and update it three years from now? Hardly! The plan is a living document. Every year you update the plan and add another year. That way you are continuously working on your strategic plan while you work on the day-to-day activities that need to get done to move the business forward.

Your 2010- 2013 plan you create this year becomes your 2011-2014 next year and so on. Then you have every division and department in the organization create 1-year business plans that support the 3-year strategic plan. We call this the Parallel Involvement Process, for which there are many tools. Each division’s goals and objectives are the same ones identified in the strategic plan, but the actions and initiatives they are accountable for will be different from department to department. That way you ensure that each department and everyone within the department is doing their part to ensure the strategic plan is implemented.

But strategic management doesn’t stop there. It also includes attention to your people. After all, it’s the people in the organization who make it work. Involving them in the planning and implementation is critical to ensuring you have buy-in and stay-in for your planning process. Each person’s performance review should be tied directly to how he or she contributes to achieving the objectives and values identified in the strategic plan. This also helps you create the kind of culture you want in the organization.

Ultimately, strategic management is about change…creating and leading organization-wide change. This needs to be accomplished in a successful manner so everyone understands how they contribute to implementing the change. As a leader, two of your key responsibilities are planning and change. Understanding how to lead and manage the change process, and what structures and processes to put in place to ensure a successful implementation, are all part of strategic management.