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Is Your Organization Effective? (Sadly, probably not)

daftandbarmy

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Is Your Organization Effective?

(Spoiler Alert: There’s a pretty good chance that the answer is ‘no.’)

No one comes to work every day to do a bad job.

For most people to do a great job at work, they need to be immersed in an organization that recognizes and actively manages in three key dimensions of effectiveness: Direction, Process and People. The most effective organizations excel at proactively managing and continuously improving the competencies related to these three dimensions. However, results show that most organizations fail to manage these competencies well, if at all.

Berlineaton, the management consulting firm that I co-founded, recently turned 20. As part of our commitment to recognize 20 years of success and the 20,000 people we have engaged with in those years, we decided to embark upon a project to do two things:
1) Give back to our community
2) Practice what we preach, and continuously improve one of our core management consulting methodologies: Continuous Improvement (CI)

We Gave Back (and People Gave to Us)

To accomplish these goals, Berlineaton team members put one of the core pieces of our founding methodology under the microscope - an already proven CI system that has sustained us and our clients for the past two decades. We emerged with a refreshed approach to organizational effectiveness in general, and to Continuous Improvement in particular. We then set out to test and improve this new methodology by creating a CI Beta Testing workshop where some of our clients and their colleagues could experience the revised CI process.  During the workshop delivery, we could learn and improve while giving back to our community of likeminded and passionate CI champions. We set a target number of workshop sessions (if you are picking up on a theme, you may be able to guess how many...) and began reaching out to organizations.

Between April and November, 2016 we delivered 20 (plus one) CI Beta Testing workshop sessions with a wide range of organizations, and engaged with more than 250 people.  This project represents a donation of over 100 hours of management consulting services to the cause of organizational effectiveness. It speaks to our passion for helping organizations get better at working with each other to continuously improve and to the willingness of 250 people to look at helping their organizations become more effective.

A big thank you to the organizations who have been a big part of Berlineaton’s success over the past 20 years, and to those who invested some of their valuable time for these 21 Beta Testing sessions.

We Practiced What We Preach

In addition to giving back, we also wanted to make some of our core services better. Continuous Improvement is about taking an honest look at your current business situation, developing plans for improvement, and then executing and sustaining those improvements. This CI principle applies to Berlineaton as a company as much as it does to any other organization.

Over the years, we’ve discovered that, although most clients engage with us to solve one key, burning issue, they eventually wind up looking at their whole organization at some point during our project. While re-examining our Continuous Improvement methodology, we realized that it saves time and makes more sense to begin with a bigger picture snapshot of how effective the organization is, then set priorities and move forward with an approach tailored to the needs of the whole organization.

Each CI Beta Testing workshop was comprised of representatives from one organization, often from various functional area. The first task in each workshop was for participants to work together and figure out where they stood using our Organizational Effectiveness Self-Assessment Tool to support this process.

This tool identifies nine competencies listed under each area of Organizational Effectiveness: Direction, Process and People. These competencies are expressed in simple, practical statements, and are designed to represent the basic ‘bread and butter’ things that organizations need to do well to be successful such as:

• Direction: We have an up to date strategic plan with our vision, mission, goals and priorities
• Process: Our processes are efficient and free of red tape
• People: Our roles and responsibilities are clear and appropriate

Inevitably, dynamic, engaging and authentic discussions ensued as participants from different departments discussed the scores that the organization received against the 75% target score. Even more fascinating was the clarity that this tool and facilitated conversation created. Within the same two-hour workshop, many were ready to move forward and identify action steps that addressed their chief  challenges and opportunities.

We Were Stunned by the Results

The results were stunning.

Stunning in a good way because the tool worked great and participants, almost universally, enjoyed the experience. The average satisfaction score across the board was 86%, with most people saying that they enjoyed the opportunity to have an open discussion about business performance with their colleagues. One of our clients liked it so much that he shared the tool with a not-for-profit organization he volunteers with in Colombia. They translated the tool into Spanish, ran their staff through it and apparently loved the experience.

On the other hand, the results were stunning in a ‘not so good’ way because they revealed a vast problem with the effectiveness of most organizations. What we discovered when we tallied the results was that most people rated the effectiveness of their organizations poorly. Only one organization out of 21 (about 5% of the total) was ‘effective’, scoring at 75% or above in all competencies. In 23 out of 27 individual competencies queried on the Organizational Effectiveness Self-Assessment Tool, most people think their organizations are currently performing below target, or stated another way, 85% of competencies are under performing, including:

• The biggest opportunity…Direction scored at 48% Effective and is underperforming by 27%
• The next biggest opportunity…Process scored at 52% Effective and is underperforming by 23%.
• Finally, People scored at 57% Effective and is underperforming by 18%

The Good News

Not all the news is doom and gloom, fortunately. The results show that there are four competencies performing at or above the 75% Effectiveness target. The other piece of good news is that the dimension of People emerged as the highest performing area even though most organizations are operating in their own unique situation. Clearly, there is something ‘going right’ here that merits further investigation. 

4 things We Learned from 21 Workshops

Berlineaton’s main goals for this project were to learn, try some new techniques, get feedback and continuously improve. Here are four things we learned from 21 workshops:

1. Although simple, the approach worked well
Sometimes the simplest approaches can get the best results. We were taking a bit of a gamble that a group of people standing around a few paper wall charts with felt pens and sticky notes could come up with some profound observations and compelling actions in a couple hours. But they did and, as a wonderful bonus, they enjoyed the experience almost universally. This led us to our second learning:

2. Organizational Effectiveness is a Hot Topic
We were amazed at the passion, depth and authenticity of the discussions that took place during this experience. Everyone is keenly interested in this topic. Many participants have never had an opportunity to share ideas with others in a forum like this. Most highly valued the experience to the extent that it led to our third learning:

3. Given the right conditions, it is relatively easy to generate high levels of Engagement
Engagement is a real challenge in many organizations these days to the extent that high levels of turnover and low levels of staff satisfaction are almost endemic. With these groups, all they needed to generate high levels of engagement was permission by their bosses to speak openly and honestly about critical business issues, and a set of simple assessment tools administered by an objective, credible third party (i.e., us). And this leads us to our fourth learning:

4. Follow through is critical
Each workshop wrapped up with a summary of actions and next steps connected to executing the organizational effectiveness improvements that participants had recommended to themselves. On following up, we discovered that some groups had taken the ball and run with it almost effortlessly. Others did not.

Change is hard, and it’s even harder for those organizations that are struggling in many other aspects of their business. The solution lies in the realm of leadership, of course, and in committing to the longer term goal of building the capacity of the organization to bridge the execution gap, and lead itself on the continuous improvement journey.

https://www.berlineaton.com/blog/is-your-organization-effective-sadly-probably-not

http://www.cmc-canada.ca/blogs/richard-eaton/2016/12/13/is-your-organization-effective-sadly-probably-not

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-organization-effective-sadly-probably-richard-eaton?trk=pulse_spock-articles



 

a_majoor

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In general terms, Canadians seem to be caught up in "Process", and the more elaborate the "process" is, the more "effective" and successful it is deemed. While the Armed Forces is our up close and personal model, I'm sure you can point to bureaucratic process horror stories at every level of government and in most corporations as well.
 

mariomike

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daftandbarmy said:
With these groups, all they needed to generate high levels of engagement was permission by their bosses to speak openly and honestly about critical business issues, and a set of simple assessment tools administered by an objective, credible third party (i.e., us).

About the only thing my boss seemed interested in was looking cool in his aviator sunglasses, while we broke our backs.  :)

 

daftandbarmy

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mariomike said:
About the only thing my boss seemed interested in was looking cool in his aviator sunglasses, while we broke our backs.  :)

There is a reason that fragging became a 'thing'. :)
 

ModlrMike

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Thucydides said:
In general terms, Canadians seem to be caught up in "Process", and the more elaborate the "process" is, the more "effective" and successful it is deemed. While the Armed Forces is our up close and personal model, I'm sure you can point to bureaucratic process horror stories at every level of government and in most corporations as well.

Most of you know that I work in Public Service, the Ministry of Health specifically. If you want to see slaves to process, look no further than the public service. I have a very simple test for validating a health related process or policy. Does the policy or process improve things for the patient, or does it improve things for us? You would be astonished at how many times the answer is us, where it should be the patient. I'll accept that certain processes need to benefit the staff first (safety, regulation, contracts etc), but we're wasting an enormous amount of time and money on doing things the hard way.

One example from today... a patient needed a home care referral so that he could get some light cleaning and laundry. Home care NEEDS the patient assessed by PT and OT before they will consider providing services. I know he doesn't need PT/OT because I examined him, but now I have to hold him in ER overnight so some process that doesn't need to happen can take place. Not only will he take up a bed for 16 hours, we'll incur a fixed infrastructure cost of about $2000 in the interim. To add insult to injury, the home care coordinator only works straight 8 hour days on site; no weekends or holidays. It's not like patients need services outside of "normal" hours or anything.

 

mariomike

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daftandbarmy said:
There is a reason that fragging became a 'thing'. :)

HQ would just send another, and another, ...  :)

We liked ours. Maybe because he didn't come around very often.
Sometimes, just a phone call, "Get out there and mop them up for me."

Tones go off. Doors go up. Wheels rolling in 60 seconds. Rinse and repeat.

Live your life, do your job, as simple as that.
 

Colin Parkinson

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The changes to our Act were supposed to cut workload (and staff) by 40%. Except the new processes add about 60% to the workload. So there is no actual gain. The only reason we have any breathing room is the downturn in the economy slowing resource projects. A certain amount of process is necessary, but when you ladle on process after process and then then strangle any initiative by massive amounts of policy, you are not going to win. I find my senior managers have no concept about to cost of their frontline staff time. A average delay of 15 minutes a day caused by network problems costs roughly $47,000 when divide by wage/software licenses in my department. The cost of a pie chart that is glanced at in a briefing can be staggering when you start looking at the time required to collect and correlate that data. A briefing note to Minister likely costs between $2-5,000.00, but they don't get it.     
 

dapaterson

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I once did a back of the envelope calculation on the results of a single, "simple" question on the Army Reserve from the Army HQ.  Assuming the question required one hour for a unit to generate a response: It's an hour at each Div HQ going down (four hours); an hour at each Bde HQ going down (ten hours); an hour at each unit (120 hours); an hour at each Bde HQ (going up); and an hour at each Div HQ going up (four hours).  Total time: 148 hours; rounding up a bit, that's the equivalent of four week of full-time work.

So every "simple" question sent down the chain of command to the Army Reserve represents a month of full-time work.  Multiply that by the number of so-called simple questions, and the institutional workload is significant.

In my experience, the military tends to discount the value of time; whether lengthy pointless staff checks or saving $50 on the cost of flights by forcing an individual to spend an extra 8 hours travelling, the value and opportunity cost of time tends to be ignored.
 

Chispa

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daftandbarmy said:
There is a reason that fragging became a 'thing'. :)


True; fragging mostly surfaced during Nam, a humane method of killing or seriously injuring a NCO, officer when he goes off the rails, endangering, abusing the lives under his command. If I remember correctly; read cases in which pte., vs pte., etc., hated each others guts, or what ever.

Still happens today in certain work environments, the CCQ, Commission de la Construction du Québec, for the past 3 decades there are an alarming amount of questionable deaths and injuries. Not counting the Mob: MONTREAL — Quebec’s public inquiry is getting a glimpse into how the Italian Mafia used its muscle to maintain control of the construction industry in Montreal. With death threats and intimidation, the Mob would seek to squeeze out companies when they competed for work against members of the city’s construction cartel. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/montreal-mob-boss-used-death-threats-to-control-construction-industry-inquiry-hears

It’s all about a non aggressive work environment, which includes bosses and staff, all working, and contributing without friction. 


All my work requires a 110% effort especial when fiddling with large natural gas projects, etc.


C.U.
 

Colin Parkinson

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My younger than me manager is really great and is naturally good at managing people, smart and willing to do new stuff. But it is really, really an uphill battle. I see the toll on him and glad I did not get the position as it's not worth the extra 9 bucks a day. Being a frontline manager is like being a "shit umbrella" to shield your staff from most of the stupid shit that flows down from above. Managing in government is knowing when to avoid dealing with someone else crisis. Often by delaying or putting off a response the idea dies a natural death, as the authors chase the next shiny penny/crisis. The big reason for burn out in this level is that you can see the problem, name it, identify it and pass solutions up the line, but it just falls into a black hole or a "Against policy" response. 
 

daftandbarmy

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Colin P said:
My younger than me manager is really great and is naturally good at managing people, smart and willing to do new stuff. But it is really, really an uphill battle. I see the toll on him and glad I did not get the position as it's not worth the extra 9 bucks a day. Being a frontline manager is like being a "crap umbrella" to shield your staff from most of the stupid crap that flows down from above. Managing in government is knowing when to avoid dealing with someone else crisis. Often by delaying or putting off a response the idea dies a natural death, as the authors chase the next shiny penny/crisis. The big reason for burn out in this level is that you can see the problem, name it, identify it and pass solutions up the line, but it just falls into a black hole or a "Against policy" response.

It's pretty much the same in the private sector, but you can be treated more poorly in many cases than government employees. Dilbert, for example, does not seem to work in a government office :)
 
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