Editor’s note: Bill Johnson, a consultant for more than 20 years, offers insight into the challenges facing CEOs in this the second of a three-part series for Local Tech Wire.A great deal of effort aimed at boosting organizational performance has recently keyed in on process improvement and resolution of organizational tensions between interdependent groups. The thinking is that you can increase efficiencies and capacities by streamlining processes, identifying the process owners and resolving conflicts between departments and individuals.
While there exists any number of worthwhile and useful strategies designed to increase organizational performance, we believe that these interventions need to take place within a larger framework. By linking performance to strategy through the alignment of process, protocols, structure, people and resources, your organization can look beyond the symptoms of a problem to cut to the heart of the vital business issues.
Let’s take an example. The conservation division of an electric utility was staffed with people who had vast technical knowledge and values consistent with their work. Typically, in organizations where organizational and personal values are similar, we find high productivity, high levels of morale, low conflict and low turnover. However, in this department, within two years, turnover was within double digits (12 percent), morale was in decline and productivity was beginning to suffer.
We discovered that while the organization’s strategy, vision, mission, goals, objectives and values were all clear, the reward system was misaligned with the structure. People worked in teams and yet rewards and recognition were offered to individuals. Furthermore, the same people were being recognized again and again.
Had we attempted to resolve the morale issue without recognizing that the organization’s structure failed to align with its recognition systems, we would not have helped or may even have hurt the organization’s ability to regain its level of high performance.
Fundamentally, for an organization to achieve and sustain high performance the following elements, at a minimum, need to be in place:
A clear strategy: Your strategy, which is an outgrowth of your vision, mission, and values, provides your people with vital information about where and how to focus efforts. We know from research and our own experience that focus is one of the essential elements in creating and sustaining high performance organizations. Focus is a hallmark of effective teams, innovation efforts and change.
Aligned goals and objectives: When people clearly understand how their work supports the strategy, they can avoid the common syndrome of feeling that work is meaningless or commandeered.
Aligned structure: How can you best organize the company (matrixes, functional, group dispersed etc.) to devote more capability to fulfilling your strategy? Is this structure the most effective one given your strategy? If the right structure is in place to support the strategy, you will experience fewer conflicts and greater productivity.
Business and work process alignment: Do your processes support your strategies? As evidenced by the earlier example, your systems and processes can either support your strategy or miss the boat and cause serious morale and productivity issues.
Human systems: Are your people clear about their roles and how they fit within the organization? If people are clear about organizational strategy, goals and objectives and understand the values that are important to the organization, then they will spend less of their capacity trying to get answers to these questions (or worse yet stop asking questions) and be able to devote more of their time to performing.
Bottom line, the next time a person, department or unit isn’t performing to expectations, by all means address the issue. But in doing so, look for signs that the connections between vision, mission, values, strategy, goals/objective, business processes and human systems are not in alignment. Otherwise, you may find you need to solve the same problems over and over again.
Part Three: The next article in this series goes beyond the question of what leaders should be thinking about to examine how they should be thinking. The article describes the benefits of systems thinking.
Parft One: CEO Study: In Days After the Boom, Many Execs Struggle To Deal With New Challenges: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=1183&k=29&l=17
Bill Johnson, an organizational development consultant for over 20 years, heads Leadership & Innovation Associates, a management consulting firm that helps companies flourish in the face of change. For more information, visit www.liassociates.com or call (919) 933-9870.