It’s no secret that infrastructure in the United States is in disrepair. One recent study found about 60,000 U.S. bridges are structurally deficient, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It seems like everywhere we look, things are falling down around us.
These issues will only become more pressing as populations grow. According to UNICEF, about 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. That urban growth means our need for dependable, efficient infrastructure is also on the rise.
The Government Accountability Office recently reported that the pilot program for the DATA Act, passed in 2014 to increase savings and transparency in federal spending, is still not up and running.
The pilot program had not yet specified a methodology or data to be collected, and its outcomes are unlikely to be scalable. To avoid missteps like these, federal agencies need a change management strategy that involves gathering evidence, meticulously outlining goals, and testing iteratively.
From startups to the federal government, no organization is immune to the unpredictable. We’re only halfway through 2016, and the U.S. Department of Defense is already tackling a range of complex challenges: battling the Islamic State group, combating domestic terrorism, and ensuring that key initiatives receive sufficient funding. And the impending presidential administration change will bring new priorities, regardless of who wins the White House.
Without a crystal ball, the department must develop solid strategic plans to achieve its goals this year and beyond. These techniques are based on military ideas, and you can apply them to your business, too.
Black swan events are inherently unpredictable — and they’re all around us. From responding to cyberattacks, military conflicts and natural disasters to handling issues in environmental sustainability and third offset strategy, federal leaders need a new response strategy predicated on vulnerability and a willingness to explore.
Historical data cannot foresee these new and emerging threats. Major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil were never a part of our history, but 9/11 still happened. Other threats are unavoidable. In nuclear power, for instance, one industry expert describes unforeseen events as “inevitable.”
To counter these risks, federal leaders need to open their thinking to the unknown. They need to adopt black swan modeling.
When leading a company through a big change, sometimes it’s best to put yourself first.
The WIIFM approach — “What’s In It For Me?” — is part of our natural psychology to ensure our basic needs (like belonging, safety, and self-worth) are met.
One of the easiest ways to create chaos in your workplace is to announce a major change. Change is often necessary, but if it’s enacted poorly or too broadly, it can cause the well-worn structure of a business to break down almost completely. Read More…
Many organizations know when they are in need of change. Things that once worked don’t seem work any longer across the organization. Small issues in one area or function or department now seem systemic. Behaviors and attitudes about work, and with work, are changing. Austerity, ambiguity and productivity issues may be permeating.
Organizations recognize when there is a need for change, even if they don’t fully understand what needs changing or where to start in order to address these issues. Often, leaders address performance or engagement opportunities at the surface level, when in reality these may be indicators of a much deeper problem that can only be identified by addressing the organization’s strategy, culture and leadership.
In these cases, leaders must address all of these facets of the organization rather than focusing on a single issue. And while there is no universal resolution for every organization, I’ve found that addressing these performance issues effectively always begins with the following 3 steps.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Problem
So you know you need change. Check.
Then, as any good leader would do, you immediately jump to what you believe should be step 2: solve the problem. You start attempting to change everything all at once. But, while you’re testing new changes, overwhelming your staff with new roles and responsibilities and asking a litany of perhaps unplanned, random, unconnected and overlapping questions, you may be watching your ‘systemic’ issues persist or even get worse.
You ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?”
Where you go is really a question of where you start. It’s important to realize that step 2 is not to solve the problem, because you haven’t yet addressed the cause of the problem. Step 2 is about truly assessing the problems, the situation and the current reality of what is going on in your organization.
Step 2: Assessment
Before you can begin to find effective solutions, you must first accurately and reliably assess the problem you’re trying to solve. Assessment of key variables, regardless of where you company is in size or maturity, is key. This is often a difficult concept for us ardent, type-a leaders who want to see results and see them now.
Patience, we will get you there. But first, let’s assess the situation correctly and thoroughly before we spend resources on solutions that may not be the root-cause of your issues.
There are a few consistent key areas of assessment any organization should start from when embarking on a journey of organizational change. Taking the time to accurately assess the reality of your organization’s issues will help you better identify the root cause and allow you to understand how to best prioritize your approach to the change at hand.
The key assessment areas fall within four key areas:
The first two assessment areas help you understand the reality of your ROI (return on investment) or value:
- Mission (direction, purpose and blueprint) “Do we know where we are going as an organization?”
- Consistency (systems, structure & processes) “Do our systems create leverage?”
The second two assessment areas help you understand innovation and customer satisfaction:
- Adaptability (pattern, trends, market) “Are we listening to the market / our customers?”
- Involvement (commitment, ownership, responsibility) “Are our people aligned and engaged?”
Once the assessment in these four areas is completed, you now have an understanding of your current operating environment. Now you can begin to prioritize the problems you’ve uncovered, and how you need to address them.
Step 3: Solution Strategies
The most critical solution strategies you put in place will likely require some level of initial action in one or more of the areas of strategy, leadership, and/or culture change. These three areas encompass the triad of successful organizational change attributes.
As I mentioned before, you cannot try to solve everything all at once without overwhelming your team. In order to prioritize these three change navigation attributes, then, you want to choose one of these three as your area of focus:
- A Strategy focus starts the change journey by first understanding your direction, purpose and blueprint and how these impact organizational success.
- A Leadership focus starts the change journey by first understanding who you are as leaders in your organization. Consider how you show up collectively as a team and individually as an executive and how this impacts organizational success.
- A Culture focus starts by first understanding the underlying organizational behaviors, values and assumptions that exist and how these impacts organizational success.
You should start with at least one of these change navigation attributes, but wherever you start, you will realistically tap into all three at some point on your journey to high performance and organizational improvement.
Strategy, culture and leadership all go hand in hand. Your organization will only find sustainable success at the intersection of all three.
The United States Military culture, regardless of branch (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard), is attributed with values and behaviors of LDRSHIP: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Patriotism. As I outlined in a previous article about our veterans, these are great values to epitomize and work towards in your own corporate culture.
What I have learned more recently is that employees in many organizations may think these values don’t currently reside there, or that they are far removed from the behaviors of the staff in general, may be surprised when they take a closer look. These organizations already epitomize, in their own way, these values of respect, belonging, loyalty, service and duty.
Here’s the experience that brought this realization to light:
Recently, in the same week, I visited both a client site of one New York City organization, and a US Navy client. Two very distinct and diverse organizations; city government and federal/defense.
As I was leaving the New York City client site, we all knew that the infamous “Fleet Week” was arriving here in New York, so we took a drive down to Fort Hamilton on the water to watch the USS New York arrive in all its glory. As it passed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the management and uniformed staff of Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority made it clear that they were proud of not only this magnificent Naval Ship (forged from the steel of the twin towers of 911), but of the equally as magnificent structure that Naval ship was sailing under, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that they each manage, protect and maintain.
To quote, “A beautiful image… a naval ship on the backdrop of the Verrazano.”
Though half a century apart, both of these government assets were built with the blood, sweat and tears of Americans. Both structures represent, in their own way, cultures of pride, of strength, and service to country. The bridge keeps the economy of New York City moving and the Naval Ship keeps the citizens and infrastructure of our United States economy safe from harm. Two distinct missions, with two similar and transcending cultural compasses, representing withstanding and honorable service to the people they serve.
Sometimes the culture you desire—that you think doesn’t exist—is already there under the surface. It just needs to be tapped into.
I encourage employees, employers, owners, executives to think about what you each define as a honorable and respected culture and then try to emulate that in your actions, decisions and behaviors within your own organization. You may be surprised at how close your current organization is to that seemingly far off culture and values you have been seeking.
We all need perspective like this at times to see past the fog.
May we all think of the majestic naval ship sailing under our own ‘bridge’ this Memorial Day and attempt to help our teams, our departments and our organizations do more to instill the culture we all desire.
As JFK once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.
Many thanks in memory to those who have served for our freedom.
2015: A new year. A fresh start. The perfect time to review this past year, set new goals, and determine where you want your company to head this year. It’s time to take control of what this New Year will bring by aligning your company culture and organizational strategy.
I have previously explored how your business has its own culture, which infiltrates every aspect from leadership decision-making down to daily processes. And, when partnered with strategy, this culture propels businesses to high performance.
Understanding, and more importantly, developing that culture allows you to build and achieve your strategic objectives. A well defined, established corporate culture will provide the framework for your organizational development and strategic planning. Allow this culture to guide your planning process.
Though there is no single, perfect, cookie cutter method to ensure that your culture and organizational strategy align, there are some critical pieces that should be considered.
How to Ensure That Your Strategy and Culture Align
1. Take a look at who we are as leaders.
An organization’s long term success relies heavily on leadership, its ability to embody/implement your company culture and to lead the company toward its strategic goals. Key leadership, those that set the tone for the strategy and culture of the organization, must understand their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders along with those of the entire leadership team. Without this insight, the implementation of organizational strategy will be stifled, starting at the top, from the beginning. Assessing your leadership is an important step in developing and realizing your strategic plan while creating an atmosphere where people want to work, succeed, and stay.
2. Gain a realistic view of your organization.
Just as we need to assess the leadership of an organization, leadership must assess the organizational maturity as well as the process maturity of a company. Evaluating where your organization stands and understanding its current state offers perspective of its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. It provides a view of what your company can realistically handle and allows you to build your plan around that knowledge.
3. Plan where you are headed and how you will get there.
Developing your strategy will guide your company in reaching its ultimate goals and objectives. Take the time to develop organizational priorities, themes, and accountability as well as a process to manage those priorities.
4. What if?
Once you have some your strategies developed, test them out. Create a series of “What If?” scenarios to get a feel for how well your strategic plans are suited to real life situations. Are your plans realistic? Or are they lofty goals which do not truly guide your business? Risk management and scenario methodologies can help you create a more concrete, reliable plan to lead your organization toward your goals. Use this information to re-work and tweak your strategic plan, then test again.
5. Manage and sustain your progress!
It’s great to pull all these pieces of the puzzle together, but you need to plan how you will keep them all afloat. More importantly, you must then follow through. Keep tabs on how you are managing performance, communications, personnel, resources and all the moving parts that make your company tick. Assess, plan, re-assess, plan again… Once you have the taken those first steps in getting your company headed in the right direction, you won’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you do a self-check. You can compare where you are to your baseline and goals to see how you measure up.
Your strategy and culture are yours to develop. Create the company you want through a clearly defined culture and a solid strategy for getting there. If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at our services, and talk to us about how Strategy and Culture go hand in hand.