Is Your Organization Keeping Pace or Just Marking Time?
How do you get ahead on organizing? Dennis M McCartin will show you not only how to stay up to date with organizing, but how to plan for your future!
We can learn valuable lessons by observing nature and the way it functions. Take migrating geese, for example. During seasonal changes when geese migrate, they offer insight into how our organizations need to work at keeping pace in our time of rapid change.
Migrating geese instinctively cooperate in team participation by flying in "V" formation. This greatly increases flying range due to the updraft created by the birds flying in front of each other. They fly smarter this way.
The migrating geese practice rotating leadership. When the lead gooses tires, another goose assumes the role of leader. This helps keep up pace and speed, and ensures the best from the cooperative effort.
The geese behind the leader encourage each other by honking. If a goose gets sick or is wounded, a fellow goose will fall out of formation and stay with the ill goose until it is healthy again or dies. The supporting goose will then return to the original formation or seeks another. We see in this instinctive commitment and participation.
There should be little argument about the fact we are into a major migration in the way we organize, manage and work. We know we are into a major, major change not unlike the industrial revolution, only this time it is due to the emergence of digital technology and is going on a global basis. So the question arises: "is my organization keeping pace with all the changes we face, or is it just marking time focusing on today's needs only?" Are members being encouraged to make changes necessary to fly smarter and faster to help the organization continue to be successful? Or, is the organization and it members responding to this time of change with paralysis and fear trying to make it through with outlook and skills that were much more appropriate for the time we are growing out of?
There are ten key considerations to assess in the organization to see whether the organization's migration is keeping pace. These are outlined below for reference and application. There may be other areas to consider, as well. Readers are invited to expand the list that follows, as well as to prioritize the ten key considerations for actions that need to be taken one's own organization.
-The organization needs to be driven by a vision/direction that guides all the players throughout the enterprise. Far too many organizations still seem be dwelling solely on the narrow view of today's orders, necessities and outputs, with little push from the core values and direction that will sustain the organization in the long run. If this continues to happen, the organization and its members set themselves up to be broadsided by the fog in the night we are traveling though. The question: is our direction clear to everyone and is it driven by as set of core organizational values that guide work and decisions and position us to be successful in the future?
-Today's working institution (profit, non-profit, product or service providing) needs to be living in real time. It needs to be strategizing in real time, be capable of functioning in real time, be capable of making decisions in real time, be capable of mid-course corrections in real time, and, of course, responding to the market in real time. Gone are the days of incremental plans and action based on an extension of what was yesterday to what is today. The question: Is our organization capable of turning on a dime from conception to after delivery of whatever it is we do, and are our people willing and capable and supportive of that?
-Today's successful organization will structure itself, manage itself and define its work based on customer need and expectation. It is the marketplace that determines this, not the internal experts. Survival will not come from what is designed by engineers, but only from what is designed with input that reflects customer need and expectation. When the organization serves a global market, it needs to know what the customers in different parts of the world need and expect. The question: Are we driven by our customer input and our ability to meet and even exceed customer needs and expectations?
-The enterprise focuses on its important processes. Today's organization is process focused, not task focused. Players must not only be concerned about the work they do in their functional silos, but about how that ties together across the organization, as well. The organization needs to be concerned not only with present process improvement, but process innovation as well, to keep the organization on the cutting edge and steps ahead of the competition. How can we do what we do faster, cheaper, with better quality output, with less effort and materials, more effective implementation of technology, etc? The question: How driven is the organization by major process focus, those processes that provide the moments of truth and breakpoints in our success as tied to customer need and expectation?
-Has the organization begun to put much more emphasis on quality and added value and much less emphasis on quotas. In addition, does the organization measure everybody's success by these quality and value adding standards, rather than continuing to preach quality and paying for time or output made rather than for quality output that adds to the bottom line. Members help each other in this matter by understanding who internal customers are in the quality realm, and how to set them up to be successful. The question: Have we fully adapted the quality culture as compared to the quantity culture, and that includes instituting support systems ( e.g. pay for value-adding performance) that orient us to be successful in the quality culture?
-The organization has maximized the use of information technology enablers. There are no parts of the organization where information technology tools are not being applied. The organization does things like replace paper reporting where possible, set monitoring devices in our processes to collect information about status in an on-going way, de-layer processes, approval levels, sign offs, and wait states that slow our ability to be fleet afoot. There are also plans to do more of this enabling as resources become available and tools come on the market that can be applied. The question: Has the organization maximized the ability of information technology to help achieve as much of a real time reality as possible, given the resources and the tools available?
-The organization has reconfigured its structure around the value of teams at the unit level, cross functionally and by actively seeking partnerships, alliances and linkages with any outside source that can help with success. In this regard the organization values everyone in the feeding chain contributing input into the equation, and this supports potential success in the other key areas of real time, customer, process and quality. Fear to network with anyone who may be of assistance in meeting customer need and expectation is gone, and no organizational member needs to be concerned with checking the pecking order first. The question: Has the organization migrated to the level of "team" as being the basic building block of organizational life, or is there still more concern with individual output and performance, and who reports to whom?
-Management in the organization has completed the transition from being preoccupied with control to now being preoccupied with developing people, processes and value adding performance.
Supervisors and managers understand the difference between doing things right and doing the right thing, and that in the latter case leadership is an important new ingredient, at all levels of the organization. Moreover, the supervisor and manager in the organization is as comfortable in a leadership role with direct reports, as he or she in a leadership role with those over whom there is no position power and where different kinds of power bases and influence skills are easily employed in the transaction. The question: Has the organization reengineered the way it manages so that management personnel see their success much more dependent on personal leadership skills, with emphasis on developing and complementing people, as compared to controlling people through position power?
-The member of the organization ( and that includes everyone top to bottom, or across the panorama sideways, depending on how your organizational view is) understands that he or she is personally responsible to be involved in decision making, particularly in light of the outcome of customer impact. The consciousness about customers has become pervasive so that there is no hesitance in action in situations where corrective action is necessary to add value to customers or to not allow a quality breakdown that will affect customers. The organizational member no longer waits for orders nor feels he or she must be guided from on high. The vision of the organization is clear to everyone and the member interprets what that means at his or her point of work. The question: Are the members of the organization much more self-directional and self-responsible, driven by a clear understanding of how the mission and vision of the organization guides their work in meeting customer needs and expectations?
-The organization has embarked on a learning mission that it sees as never ending. The hard fact of the matter is that no one was prepared in school or though past experience for what we are going through in the worldwide business revolution today. It is just not acceptable or sufficient to muddle through. There are clear personal skill development goals and the organization is supporting the learning mission in order to ensure its people have the kinds of skills necessary to play in the important arenas of team work, process innovation and improvement, creative value-adding, effective application of information technology tools, and the other key factors discussed above. The question: Does the organization have clear development plans in place to help the members work faster by being smarter and using the new tools available, and are those plans supported by substantial resources to make sure they reach action?
Now review the key considerations. Look at the areas your organization is strong in and the areas it is weak in. Those responsible for leadership and development in organizations are challenged to evaluate the efforts presently going on in the organization to see if it is keeping pace or merely marking time. It is all the more imperative that a good part of the leadership challenge will be to influence the major players in the organization about the urgency of the situation, and not to allow members to feel a false complacency. Success in this does not relate to the latest quarterly earnings. Whatever was good or bad during this quarter will not matter in a few short quarters up the road.
Remember one more important point. The migration we are talking about cannot be done with a bold stroke. Rather, it is a long journey that involves everyone in the flock. It certainly would be much easier if we could push one button and we were all over to the other side. That is just not possible. But with plenty of leadership involving as many members as possible, and lots of honking for encouragement of each other, the journey can be made successfully. You must either rapidly prepare for what's up ahead or understand you will be left behind by the competition and those customers who every day are demanding better. Knitting at the ten key areas described above gives you a directional map. May you have fair weather on your journey!
For more ideas on how leaders can support the organization's human assets please consult the e-book "Human Side Success in the 21st Century Organization" available at our website.
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