Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Overcoming Inertia - Your People

-->While there are five major facets of change in any organization, the one that really is the hinge upon which turns the execution of any change is people.  As a friend I know said many years ago: a ship without a crew is just a hunk of steel.  So it is with any organization.  At the practical, day-to-day level people aren’t your most important asset, they are your ONLY asset. 

And that translates into some simple rules about People:

Hiring – whether you are changing the organization or not, you – the boss - should be in charge of hiring: you should personally approve standards for the various positions, you should approve all key hires, and you establish the rule that for those people who work directly for you, you personally hire them – that applies throughout the organization: everyone hires their immediate subordinates.  If you promote someone to general manager of a site, from that day on he is responsible for hiring all the people who report directly to him.  Not only does that ensure that he will get the people he wants, it also allows you – as the general manager’s boss – know exactly who is responsible for hiring ‘the new superstar’ in sales or engineering or whatever the case might be, you will also know which of your general managers is not good at picking people.

Moving and Firing – In every organization people will need to be changed.  Any time you are making a major change in an organization, and arguably many minor changes, there is a need to shake up the personnel.  This can true even in the most basic scenario for the simple reason that all people get into habits of work as much as habits of behavior.  If you want people to do different things, or do the same thing differently, but you don’t change anything around them, you are making it that much more difficult for them to change.

Some people may need to be let go, some will need training or education, nearly everyone will need to move.  In one of the most brilliant examples of getting everyone involved – and aware of real change Robert Townsend told the story that he once led the change of a large business in which he announced a series of dramatic changes on a Friday afternoon and then told everyone to assemble in the parking lot on Monday morning.  On Monday morning he then sent everyone into the building but everyone’s office and desk had been moved; not only was the structure of the company – the ‘line and block’ diagram different, many had different jobs, and everyone was working at a different place in the building.  The message was clear: everything is changing.  And that change made people a bit uneasy, forcing them to pay attention to their new tasks.

Training and Education – Do you know why Navy SEALs are so capable?  Because they practice some really simple rules: they take the best people available, they set incredibly high standards, and then they train to them – endlessly.  As much as is possible, every organization should do the same: set high standards, and then provide the tools and training so that the people in the organization can achieve those standards.  As a general rule no organization provides enough training.  Obviously, training and education can be very expensive.  But whenever possible it greatly benefits any organization to train its people.  And in particular, if you are changing the organization and the tasks that each individual has been assigned, some training is warranted so that people can be comfortable with, and proficient at, their new role.

Performance evaluation – Finally, you need to take performance evaluation out of the hands of everyone other than you and your managers.  Keep all your people informed, but start adjusting your performance evaluation system so that it actually works for you.  This will take time and is by no means an easy thing to accomplish.  But the goal should be to identify what people are doing well, where they can improve and how to do so, where lie there particular strengths and weaknesses, and where the organization is not supporting them.  Remember, the purpose of the performance evaluation should be NOT to punish people but to figure out how to improve someone’s performance and to improve the overall organization.  There may well be a few people who simply don’t fit with the organization, and the performance evaluation system should also be able to identify them.  But the key is that you – the boss, and your management team need to spend real time honing the evaluation system so that it becomes something that helps you, helps the organization as a whole, and helps your people.


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