energizing breakthrough performance

Matrix Management: Leveraging Resistance to Change as an Asset

Author: ; Published: Dec 22, 2011; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: None; One Comment»

While providing training to a group of scientists who are reorganizing into an R&D matrix, I encountered a few who were resistant to matrix management and to the changes that are occurring in the enterprise owing to a variety of factors related to the need to become much more demand-driven and also owing to looming budgetary constraints. One participant was particularly articulate in expressing his reservations about the changes that are occurring. During the session, I encouraged him to share his concerns with the full group so that these could be explored.  I remarked that he seemed somewhat resistant to his new role. I observed that my remark and a possible not-a-team-player characterization made him uncomfortable. I quickly eased the tension heralding that his resistance was a good and necessary thing – a distinct signal that people perceive these changes as real and that change is actually starting to take hold.

 

I said what I meant and I meant what I said. The adoption of matrix management involves people assuming new roles and working these roles in a new configuration of relationships. It’s change…and change has no natural allies. My experience tells me that participants in the matrix organization must be “sold” not only on the benefits of matrix management but, most importantly, they must be able to visualize themselves achieving success as they play their new role, transacting business through relationships with others who are also playing matrix-altered roles. Visualization is powerful. Prior to buying a new automobile, we must be able to visualize ourselves driving that car. Similarly, as we adopt matrix management, people need to be able to visualize themselves achieving success using a different model than the one that has led to success in the past. Mixing metaphors, each player in the matrix organization must be able to visualize themselves driving that new role on a sunny day with the convertible top down.  If they harbor negative fantasies that they will be stuck on the side of the road with a broken-down jalopy in a rainstorm, we’re going to have a heck of a time changing roles, relationships and behavior consistent with the matrix model.

 

In summary, constructive expressions of resistance to organizational change should be welcomed within reason.  These conversations provide golden opportunities to explore the specific difficulties that an employee is having in visualizing herself as being successful in the new matrix-managed order. If there is no resistance whatsoever, you should be concerned unless you’re strolling in the graveyard by yourself. If you are abjectly dismissive of healthy resistance, you miss an opportunity to achieve breakthrough success.  The best approach is to explore useful questions and answer them in an authentic manner to achieve growth and change that benefits everyone.

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Dynamic Mentoring

Author: ; Published: Dec 20, 2011; Category: Mentoring, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

It was my privilege recently to provide program development and mentor/coaching training assistance to the premier federal law enforcement and security agency. This organization is on-boarding new, largely younger employees into its workforce and is committed to achieving the highest productivity possible within the shortest possible time.  For that reason, it required a blend of employee-centered mentoring with organization-centered coaching. The coaching component of the program consisted of an extensive checklist of reading, assignments, and visitations intended to build job-specific competencies. The mentoring component of the program is oriented towards building effectiveness in serving as an expert witness in federal court, public speaking ability, teamwork skills and serving a wide spectrum of other developmental needs presented by the recently hired employee.

 

As I concluded this important assignment, it occurred to me that this agency is engaged in “dynamic mentoring.” What’s dynamic about it? At least a half-dozen dimensions, but here are three:

 

First of all, it is dynamic in the sense that crime today is always changing, particularly crimes involving the abuse of technology and/or financial institutions and instruments. Some crimes are variations on old themes, but others are unprecedented. For that reason, the technical competencies developed through coaching efforts are always in motion just to keep up with the criminals who are becoming increasingly skilled in their R&D (research and development) exploits.

 

Second, the older, more established employees have insights and skills to contribute to the more recently hired. However, the younger employees bring “tricks of the trade” learned through their recent formal education and/or prior jobs. There’s something for everyone in this mentoring equation.

 

The third dynamism is that employee-centered mentoring and organization-centered coaching feed on one another in an interactive, synergistic manner. As the employee grows in understanding and competency, areas for mentoring attention that were once invisible become relevant and find their way onto the mentoring agenda.

 

The program involves structured visits to headquarters and to other agency locations.  Pair-ups of mentors with mentees are decided by senior management based on a variety of considerations. Rotational assignments to provide first-hand experience in, e.g., executing search warrants, etc. build both competence and confidence. 

 

In a world where employee development is given short shrift too often, it is exciting and encouraging to see things being done right!

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Your Choice: Front Windshield or Rear-View Mirror?

Author: ; Published: Dec 9, 2011; Category: Strategic Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

Peter Drucker said it best, “Plans are nothing until they degenerate into work.”   Stated differently, plan the work and work the plan.  Dwight Eisenhower asserted “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Pursuant to these core principles, Strategic Futures performs strategic planning assignments to further creative collaboration among participants who will be active and accountable in actually implementing the plan. As consultants, we probe, provoke and challenge to see new possibilities using opportunity-centered visioning and strategic thinking. Our approach to strategic planning is compatible with Enterprise Risk Management but there are several key distinctions.

 

Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) is a risk-based approach to managing an enterprise, whose ancestry reaches back several decades to include Statistical Process Control (SPC), quality circles, Total Quality Management (TQM), and ISO standards.  ERM adherents, like their TQM brethren before them, often make sweeping, potentially dangerous claims that ERM is your “silver bullet” – it’s all you need to manage successfully. (Manage, perhaps although not necessarily lead). A few decades ago, this school of thought preached similarly that “TQM is all you need.”  During the TQM heyday, Motorola was contemplating deeply its TQM navel; Motorola was educating other companies as to its TQM theology, when the digital revolution passed it by like a speeding train. Whoops! Drinking the kool-aid rather than thinking ahead, Motorola had some serious catching up to do. 

 

Successful organizations align and balance strategy, systems and structure around their mission and customers. ERM is an excellent tool and an essential “system” in the triad of strategy, systems and structure. However, systems alone do not a thriving organization make. Systems are not strategy although they may masquerade as such.

 

It’s no surprise that incessant focus on risk cultivates a deeply risk-averse culture and puts it on steroids, painting creativity and change into a narrow corner. Why is that?  A risk-averse culture requires complete certainty in all things, much the way government bureaucracies operate — slowly and uncompetitively.  Staff get the message that rewards and recognition are based solely on the degree to which risks were mitigated.  They behave accordingly. Creative visioning and bold strategic thinking become heretical in extreme cases. Ask yourself: How would Steve Jobs fare in a zealous ERM culture?  

 

Don’t get me wrong: ERM and related approaches are valuable tools when used as part of a balanced portfolio rather than as a silver bullet.  Risk-based and risk-averse thinking has its place and time, used best when balanced with a creative, opportunity-driven strategic thinking process. Unleash the strategic thinking process first and don’t hobble it unduly. Thereafter, develop and apply your ERM templates interactively to make strategic choices and establish accountable dashboards.

 

Strategic planning and ERM are not mutually exclusive; they should complement one another. You wouldn’t drive without a front windshield, nor without your rear-view mirror. You need both to navigate successfully particularly when traffic is thick, fast, and erratic, as it is in these turbulent times.

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