Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ask If It Matters

One of my first involvements with survey work was on the backend, responding to the results.  The organization had conducted an employee survey to measure engagement, and the leaders were given the survey results along with the instruction to develop action plans addressing areas of dissatisfaction.

After reading my reports, I realized that we needed more data. All we had was a score against a blanket statement. For example, “I have the tools I need to do my job.” Tools? That could be anything from paperclips to computer software, an ergonomic keyboard to server connectivity, a Blackberry to training and development programs.

This was the motivation for our subsequent employee meetings – to get to the data behind the question. By the end of those meetings, however, I had also learned an important lesson.

Some areas of dissatisfaction weren’t worth addressing.


Because the issue didn’t matter to them.

The survey asked employees to register their level of satisfaction per each issue, but it didn’t give them a method to voice whether the issue was Important to them or not.

For maximum improvement, we would need to address the areas where dissatisfaction was present AND it mattered.

My teams told me that having the right tools was important and that we'd improve productivity as well as employee engagement by creating action plans to address deficiencies.  However, they weren't feeling any urgency to address another area related to training and development, so we tabled it.

Some surveys measure both satisfaction and importance at the same time, and the resulting data allows for a more accurate picture of where to invest energies.  However, if all you have is the satisfaction data, you can improve engagement simply by engaging employees in dialogue about what matters to them, and then encorporating that into your action plans.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Good Application for the Reorg

Organizations go through restructuring exercises for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which I would propose is to assure corporate boards and stockholders that "action is being taken" and "sweeping changes are underfoot".  The reality, though, is that the majority of reorgs do not improve business performance.

However, having just read reports from two unrelated studies, I'm seeing a connection between a large challenge and a good application for a reorg.

One of the key findings in the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study is that there's a new primary challenge facing these executives:  Complexity"Increasingly interconnected economies, enterprises, societies and governments have given rise to vast new opportunities.  But a surprising number of CEOs have told us they feel ill-prepared for today's more complex environment.  Increased connectivity has also created strong - and too often unknown - interdependencies.  For this reason, the ultimate consequence of any decision has often been poorly understood.  Still, decisions must be made."

In the June 2010 edition of The Harvard Business Review, there is an article by Blenko, Mankins, & Rogers titled The Decision-Driven Organization.  These authors propose that "reorganizations are popular with chief executives, who believe that making big structural changes will lead to better performance...In reality, a company's structure results in better performance only if it improves the organization's ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors." 

The complexities of today's business climate make decisions even more challenging and more impactful than ever before.  Yet the speed and nimbleness with which these decisions need to be made is staggering.  A review of how an organization's structure does/does not support decisions in today's complex conditions sounds like good advice to me.