energizing breakthrough performance

Matrix Management Fumbles, Fizzles and Foibles

Author: ; Published: Jun 9, 2011; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: , , , , , , , , ; No Comments»

Cross-functional teams pass the baton of work-in-progress back and forth across functions with regularity. Hopefully, they do it with synergy and in a way that avoids fumbles and fizzles that require rework. In addition, such avoidance of rework and achieving the benefits of synergy should be enjoyed at the working level. Such are the principles of horizontal alignment in a matrix organization.

I won’t attempt to identify all of the techniques that you can use to achieve these results in this space. However, there is one critical technique which is surprisingly underused. Where have major fumbles and fizzles occurred in the past? What hand-offs have resulted in dissatisfaction between or among functions? Which fumbles and fizzles have delayed delivery of a product or service? Which interfaces have detracted from the attainment of team goals and objectives?

Bring your team together and take a little trip down “Memory Lane,” answering the questions posed above. Do a post-mortem on things that have gone wrong in the past and then develop a “watch list” for use by management and staff alike to ensure that they go right in the future. Create an inventory for surveillance and control. Simple? Obvious? Perhaps. However, you might be astonished by the number of organizations that don’t avail themselves of this simple technique for making their matrix teams work more smoothly; your organization may be among their number.

Try it. You’ll like it.

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Mentoring and Coaching in the Same Breath

Author: ; Published: Jun 8, 2011; Category: Mentoring; Tags: , , , ; No Comments»

We increasingly receive inquiries concerning our “mentoring and coaching” training. When such an inquiry is received, our first task is to clarify whether we are talking about “mentoring,” “coaching,” or both. Increasingly, clients are interested in both.

The terms mentoring and coaching are used by many as if they are interchangeable. Strictly speaking, they are not interchangeable. They are similar but different. Mentoring focuses primarily on the development of the individual, with secondary benefits for the organization. Coaching focuses primarily on the needs of the organization to ensure that an employee can perform tasks at an acceptable level of competency, with secondary benefits for the individual. As a matter of proper style and approach, mentors ask a lot of questions which require the mentee to think and learn. At the risk of over-generalization, coaches tend to be more prescriptive and directive in their approach than mentors.

That said, our mentoring training emphasizes that coaching is frequently an essential part of mentoring. What’s more, clients increasingly want a mix of mentoring and coaching so that the organization both ensures skills transfer and development between the mentor and the mentee as well as nurturing career futuring and robust employee self-development.

Figuring out the relative level of emphasis is essential to ensuring successful “Mentoring,” “Coaching,” or “Mentoring & Coaching” efforts in your organization. Clarify your terms, specify your goals, and you can design and launch a program that gets the most people on board with what you are seeking to do and how you are going about doing it. If concepts and intentions remain vague, you run the risk of ending up with a program that nobody likes

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Transcultural Strategic Planning

Author: ; Published: Jun 8, 2011; Category: Strategic Planning; Tags: , ; No Comments»

I just returned from a gratifying strategic planning assignment overseas engaging participants drawn from three continents. I have some reflections that I hope will be useful to those who are involved with global strategic planning which draws input from participants from around the world. Many have said it and it will come as no surprise to most, but those of us who view the world through the lens of the urban U.S. and Western Europe often make cavalier, yet implicit assumptions about the thinking patterns of folks from places like Africa, Asia or elsewhere. I believe that the tacit, root-cause assumption is this: Everyone is speaking English and they are speaking it so well, and therefore it follows that they pretty much use the same thinking patterns that I do! Indeed, having facilitated strategic planning for Native Americans in the American Southwest, I can attest to significant cultural differences on the North American continent itself. Many of us proceed apace as if all people see things through the same lens as we do. Slow down. Curves ahead.

A key skill needed by participants in a strategic planning process is the ability to visualize and then verbalize an outcome end-state as a goal. Such a goal statement answers a question such as, “how will things be different three years from now?” What we seek in strategic planning is a freeze-frame still photo of an outcome from which we can do reverse engineering to identify the objectives and strategies that will be needed to take us from where we are now to where we want to be. Sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it? I thought so too until one of my African participants, an extremely capable young executive who is fluent in several languages said, “Spelling out goals this way is one of the hardest things that I have ever done.”

Why was visualizing an end-state outcome so difficult? There are a variety of reasons, depending on the culture that shaped participant thinking. For example, Native Americans’ notion of time often differs from the straight-ahead linear model that is implanted in many of our beady brains. In other cultures, the idea of “freezing” an outcome at a particular point in time is especially foreign; in these instances, a “process video” or moving picture is as close as some participants can get to defining a future desired state. In other cases, the whole skill-set of mental “time travel” – taking us from how things are now to how they need to be — which underlies strategic thinking is especially foreign and difficult.

The bottom line is that the strategic planning facilitator needs to pay close attention to the fundamental perspectives and skills that are needed for effective plan development. Don’t assume that your cultural viewpoint is shared by everyone in the room. Take the extra time to ensure that everyone has the power tools and skills needed to visualize the future and describe it. As you do so, you will get as much or more than you give by way of cultural insights and new ways of looking at things. I can guarantee that it will be more than worth your while.

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