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Latest "Into the Light" Posts

How Much Money Do You Really Want To Make?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Companies estimate their earnings potential through assumptions about equipment capacity and cost. Those assumptions are grounded in the past - past experience with successful change and baggage from prior assignments that color what they believe is possible to achieve. If people could step outside their old paradigms and be open to understanding the drivers behind poor performance, the bars they set for determining potential would be different. The more people are willing to change their perspectives, the more potential can be captured. As more potential is captured, profits are higher. The bottom line is "how much money do you really want to make?" Are you willing to change enough to make it? Making this choice can even impact stock price. Since change is a choice, what would your shareholders expect you to do?

Time as an Ingredient for Improving Performance and Culture

Monday, January 28th, 2013

We buy new equipment to impact performance positively over the long term (i.e., over the life of the equipment). From the day of start-up, we expect results to be better, knowing that there could be some rough spots during ramp-up to full production, which can take months. Only the passage of time will confirm that the equipment met expected targets.

A culture shift can happen in a moment when people are together. One thing said by a person in authority can act as a catalyst to lift a barrier between departments and create the possibility that things really can be different. The actions over time that follow create the culture change IF they are consistent - otherwise nothing moves.

Just like additional tons and lower costs are the benefits of new equipment, trust between layers and departments and credibility of the management team are the benefits of culture change. Time delivers tons and trust. How different would things be if management teams understood this principle? How much faster could you optimize performance?

Leading Change – Do the “words on your shirts” match what’s “in your hearts”?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

A friend was asked to provide feedback to management about a process that had been implemented where he works. He was struggling with the exact words to write and he had not decided whether to sign his name (optional). This particular process had been poorly implemented, so poorly implemented that it had divided segments of the workforce, torn apart well-functioning teams, and was intentionally biased towards some employees. He felt passionate about what had happened and the discord that could have been avoided with a different approach.

He asked my opinion about what he had written so far. As we talked through the most important things he wanted to share, he remembered part of the mission statement that was printed on the company shirts. Key words included teamwork and integrity. He decided to write "the words on our shirts do not match what is in your hearts" and he decided to sign his name. WOW!

This statement is SO PROFOUND and sums up a root cause of cultural problems in many companies. Actions reflect what you really care about, regardless of what you tell others you care about. If you supervise people, do your actions match the words on your company's hats, shirts, mission statement, etc.? If the answer is "no" or "not always", I can guarantee that there is conflict and mistrust within your department, division and/or organization. Please share your thoughts about this issue.

IS BUILDING A BUSINESS TEAM LIKE SPORTS? SHOULD IT BE?

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

When you think about sports, it is easy to list several characteristics of a team. Players have strengths in their areas of expertise. Teams have a potential to accomplish what individuals cannot - potential to score, potential to defend, potential to gain support. The coach and owners have a plan to develop a strong team. Each team has plays - strategies for winning, working together, combining strengths, overcoming a disadvantage, and coming from behind. Teams go to practice so they can make mistakes when it doesn’t count, monitor their progress, and demonstrate knowledge and confidence. Lastly, we come to the dreaded "p" word - politics. New team members are expected to be honest and trustworthy, not political. Politics cannot exist in a strong team. It causes corruption and conflict within and erodes trust between team members and trust between the team and the coach.

Compare these characteristics to a business team - executives, middle management or line supervision. Players (team members) have strengths in their areas of expertise. They have the potential to accomplish what individuals cannot - potential to score (create results), potential to defend, potential to gain support. That is where common elements stop. Business team have plays (budgets, long-term plans, etc.) for winning but may not work together, combine strengths, or know how to overcome a disadvantage. They seldom practice anything, so many mistakes are made when it does count. When it comes to politics, team members may be expected to "play" to the detriment of other team members. Would a team like this be able to win in sports? Probably not, because they don't have the mindset of a team, only the titles.

About Hope and Change… Not the Kind We Hear About in Politics

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The “unspoken” expectations of an organization’s hope for change are key to success with change, even though they are not documented in the scope of a change initiative. When an outsider (like me) shows up to lead and facilitate change, these expectations:

a. Extend into lower levels of management and the workforce and are as real as the people who owned them.

b. Are greater if morale is low.

c. Involve hope for the lifting of spirits, speaking freely about problems, trusting people that have been “untrustable” for too long, working with people who believe your problems are just as important as their problems, and experiencing the joy of working with others that strive for their best every single day.

d. Are critical factors in success with process improvement and culture change. If ignored, they cause improvements to be unsustainable or at least compromised.

e. Reflect management team effectiveness.

The barriers that steal hope almost always come from management, which means that management must be involved in taking the barriers down. Without a change in management involvement and intentional management actions to address these expectations, it is never possible to bring the kind of change needed or hoped for

What’s Driving the CEO Musical Chair Trend?

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Have you noticed the high level of activity in switching out CEOs and other executive team and board members? It's happening in large and small manufacturing and service companies. This morning I reviewed one business publication and saw at least 20 announcements about new executives that were expected to bring a higher level of performance than their predecessors. I wonder if the people coming in are aware of the barriers that prevented the last guy (or gal) from achieving the desired of performance?

If the real barriers to excellence were understood, wouldn't the prior leaders have addressed and overcome them? It seems a logical question to ask because they had everything to gain by doing so. Executives are replaced when their barriers to improvement aren't understood. With a higher level of awareness of management's barriers to change comes higher performance and greater job security for executives responsible for delivering it.

Another way to increase earnings…what would your shareholders expect you to do?

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Shareholders measure success through share price, debt ratios and other financial measures. For this reason and others, management teams make decisions that attempt to maximize financial performance - buying equipment, investing in systems, right-sizing the workforce, etc.

What about the subjective decisions that management makes? These decisions involve interactions with people - attending meetings, solving problems, encouraging feedback, protecting power, etc. These decisions seem somewhat disconnected from dollars, so little thought may be given about their impact to earnings. We sometimes accept these decisions as part of "the culture" - proactive if they are good and reactive if they bad.

WHAT IF... the connection between subjective decisions and the bottom line was clarified?
WHAT IF... the subjective choices made by management directly contributed to the bottom line?

Well, the connection CAN BE clarified and these choices DO affect the bottom line! The next time you are faced with a subjective management decision, what would your shareholders expect you to do?

Ever thought about designing a “CULTURE ENGINE”?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

What if... it was possible to view corporate cultures in a whole new way? What if... the ways people interact at work could be re-framed as an engine capable of generating profit? Both are possible. Designing a "Culture Engine" is something every company could be doing. Unfortunately, executives see their people as more of a cost or liability than an asset that could supplement the bottom line. The First Step in this work: A shift in perspective is required before construction on a "Culture Engine" can begin.

The Real Cost of Hidden Problems

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Many problems are identified, valued and placed on project reports for future work. Solutions may require capital and/or process improvement work.

What about the problems that never make it to the project report but are frequently talked about behind closed doors? No meetings are held to solve these problems, but people spend a lot of time wrestling with the conflict, confusion and losses that stem from them. Management and sometimes the workforce are aware of them and are watching and waiting for a solution.

You deal with some of these hidden problems on a daily basis. You may even work overtime and lose sleep because of them. Have you ever asked yourself why your hidden problems aren't addressed? Most of the time the answer will involve a management choice. When management makes a choice to NOT solve a problem, they are also making the choice to continue accepting the associated loss. Accepting a loss as part of the way you do business is due to 1) a lack of awareness about the loss OR 2) believing that the status quo has a higher value than the loss. This is where politics enters the scene. Any comments?

The greatest value is lost behind closed doors.

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

How many times have you been in someone's office and they have asked you to close the door? The words you hear next describe how someone in management failed to follow-through on a promise or an expectation. Maybe they verbally supported a new policy in a staff meeting, but refused to implement it when the time came, or maybe they stayed in their office instead of going to a meeting where only they could solve a problem that impacted their department.

Choices like this are made by millions of people in management every single day. Management views these choices as part of their management privilege AND seldom associates a cost or loss to them. It's just something they get to do as a member of the management team.

WHAT IF a value was attached to the choices only discussed behind closed doors? I am certain it would far exceed what we might expect. Want to accelerate change at lightning speed? Consider holding management accountable for value lost due to their subjective choices. What happens next will beam you into the "final frontier" of change!

Any comments or stories to share?


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