In gratitude, the editors then offer us a choice of one article reprint at no cost.
Although I am a longtime subscriber to HBR and have read the January/February 2011 issue, I selected one in it co-authored by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback so that I could share it with FFBS members, as I now do.
Hill and Lineback also co-authored Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader published by Harvard Business Review Press (2011).
Please click here to read and/or download the article.
Please click here to read my interview of Linda Hill.
Here are the options: Things can stay the same. Or, things can be different.
If they are different, here are the options: They can be different – and worse. (this can be bad, or it can be good). They can be different – and just different (this might be good; it could be bad). Or things can be different – better. (this is almost always good).
I would like to make the case that they can all be good.
If things are different – and worse – then you can say, “we gave it a shot, and it didn’t work; so, let’s go back to what we were doing, and good for us for giving it a try.”
If things are different– and just different – this can be good because it gets people into the habit of experiencing “different.” And since we live in a very fast-paced era of change, the more we get accustomed to the experience of different, the more we “practice” different, the better we are at handling more that is different. And, rest assured, more different, rather than less different, will be the norm.
If things are different—and better — this is almost always good. Better is good!
Are you seeing different in your work, in your life? I hope your different is different – and better.
And, what can you do different – and better?
Start — now. It is always a good time to do different – and better.
|different – worse||can be good, can be bad|
|different – and just different||more likely to be good than bad|
|different – and better||most likely to be better|
Here is an article written by George Bradt for the “Talent Management Perspectives” series featured online by Talent Management magazine (March 2011). To check out all the website’s resources and sign up for a free subscription to TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazine, please click here.
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Your company is celebrating a great new hire – someone whose skills, experience and reputation precede him.
Now what? No one had fully expected him to say yes. No one was exactly sure what his responsibilities should be.
Now it’s time to figure that out. But now is way too late.
It’s not just about landing the best candidate. Part of hiring and onboarding employees is strategic planning. Attention must be paid to onboarding new employees so that they can deliver results that move the organization forward in line with its purpose and priorities.
To that end, here are some guidelines for talent leaders to bear in mind:
Start by stopping. Onboarding begins with business objectives. Start by getting managers to stop and figure out what they want to accomplish and how they expect their future new employees to deliver or contribute to target results.
Think business strategy. The company risks leaving a lot on the table if the people doing the hiring treat it as a transactional event as opposed to a strategic opportunity.
Here are three common phrases hiring managers should never accept without following up:
• “Just fill the position.” Hang on. Will the positions as defined deliver the results the managers need? If not, this is a great time to push them to re-craft the jobs to further their business strategies.
• “Find me the best candidate.” The best at what, precisely? Do they need the best skill set, or will the individual’s inherent behaviors and motivators be more important to delivery of business results than skills and experience?
Push senior leadership hard to complete their thinking before implementing anything, even a broad search initiative.
• “I know what I need…” They may know what they need, but do they know what their stakeholders and their new employees’ stakeholders need? Without stakeholder alignment, they will never make the right hire because their new employees — no matter how great they are — will be burdened with incompatible expectations.
Onboarding is a strategic exercise in that it’s about building capabilities and capacity for the future. Thus no one can begin to recruit anyone until they understand how the new recruit’s role is going to help deliver results.
Clarify purpose and priorities. Begin with the organization’s general purpose and main priorities. That’s the big picture destination. Next, drill down to the specific destination for this onboarding. When managers onboard new employees, they are implementing strategies to achieve business objectives and should therefore treat new employee onboarding as they would any other investment. Define the business objective: Did they hire to replace, change the culture or add capabilities? What is their expected return on investment? How will they measure their return?
Check onboarding track record. Look back at any given manager’s onboarding track record to make sure he or she retains the tactics that proved successful in the past and work to enhance areas that need improvement.
Make sure everyone follows through. Push managers to lay out their messages so everyone understands purpose, priorities, responsibilities, required strengths and organizational values.
Managers oftentimes communicate with candidates more than they expect to during recruiting, interviewing and every subsequent step of onboarding. Intentional and inadvertent actions and inactions leave candidates or new hires with strong impressions, which is why it’s important for everyone to be on the same page – from before.
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After his education at Harvard and Wharton, George Bradt progressed through sales, marketing and general management roles around the world at Fortune 500 companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and then J.D. Power and Associates as chief executive of its Power Information Network spin off. Today, he is managing director of PrimeGenesis, a consultancy focused on transition acceleration and executive onboarding. He is the author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results as well as the co-author of Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Brad Power for the Harvard Business Review blog (March 7, 2011). To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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When they set out to turn around processes that have become woefully inefficient or ineffective, most companies choose one of four process improvement “religions”: Lean, Six Sigma, Business Reengineering or Business Process Management (BPM).
After hearing about its success at another organization, many companies choose just one. For example, several companies embarked on Six Sigma programs after their CEO heard about GE’s success with the approach, and many other companies have adopted Lean because of Toyota’s success.
It’s like adopting a diet or exercise program that a friend has used and lost 50 pounds.
But some companies realize they need to go beyond making episodic improvements. They try to institutionalize process improvement — that is, put in place the right mechanisms in their management systems so that their business processes don’t become grossly unproductive in the future. That is, they try to build continuous improvement into their DNA. It’s like the difference between going on crash diets every two years and fundamentally changing one’s eating and exercise habits.
But moving from episodic process improvements to having the wherewithal to improve processes continually is a tall order because of five key challenges I highlighted in a previous post: competing demands for attention, competing mindsets and behaviors, strategic irrelevance, traditional management processes, and the pain of disruption.
If an organization tries to institutionalize process improvement based on the tenets of just one process religion, it will run into trouble because no single religion has all the approaches for sustaining organizational attention to improvement. Lean has the most complete set of approaches for continuous improvement among the four religions. But a company that embeds Lean thinking into its DNA may occasionally need the hard financial results that Six Sigma can produce. In addition, Lean converts have a predisposition against adopting large, centralized IT solutions, which may cause them to ignore useful approaches from the BPM religion.
The result: Organizations need to consider every possible approach, not just those offered by one religion. To stay with the diet and exercise analogy, being aware of multiple diet programs will help you pull out common themes and arrive at a tailored program that works best for you.
Consider this example. Many companies adopted Six Sigma in the late 1990s. They trained experts in improvement projects (“Black Belts“) who then drove initiatives that achieved large financial results. In some of these companies, senior managers were dubious about the claims. They suspected there was some backsliding or double counting because the results were almost too good to be true. Many of those organizations then embraced Lean for different set of tools for improvement projects, tools that helped them connect project results to key strategic measures. They also stressed organizational learning (meaning, capturing the methods of Lean so that other parts of the organizations could adopt them). Adding another religion helped these companies embed continuous improvement into their DNA.
If organizations want to keep their processes up to date continually, they need to be able to use many approaches to embedding improvement in their management systems. Let’s review the distinguishing features of what each religion has to say about sustaining improvement.
1. Six Sigma zealots say “Belts,” lots of training, and performance measures are what matter.
Motorola pioneered the Six Sigma statistical tools, but it was GE that built the training programs and the hierarchy of accreditations or “Belts” (Green, Black, Master Black) with which it is so strongly associated. People who have earned these belts drive projects with clear financial targets set at the top organization, with progress monitored by the CFO. Six Sigma zealots argue that if you train enough people, you get a cultural transformation. You instill process improvement into the corporate DNA.
2. Business Reengineering’s high priest said core process owners, process maturity, and performance measures are what count.
Reengineering focuses on radical changes in core, end-to-end processes. In addition to laying out an approach for making one-time improvements, Reengineering’s high priest (the late Michael Hammer) had advice for organizations wanting to sustain improvement. He implored their leaders to create and track end-to-end process performance and establish an organization — including process owners and councils — to support the processes. He also advised them to continually assess their processes against a model of process maturity — PEMM for short — which he unveiled in an HBR article.
3. Lean “senseis” (teachers) say strategy deployment, executives as coaches, and front-line problem-solving sustain improvement.
Followers of Lean, which is based on the Toyota manufacturing approach that made it the leader in automobile quality (the Toyota Production System), believe top executives need to break down strategic objectives into implications for process improvements to get everyone moving in the same direction. For example, to improve customer satisfaction, an insurance company decided to focus on reducing the number of service requests over 30 days old from 40% to below 5%, which translated into activities in 30 departments. All organizational levels must identify and solve problems, but senior managers must tell front-line workers why efficiency is critical at all times, and then help them remove waste and improve service to customers.
4. BPM missionaries say processes and process knowledge embedded in software, an enterprise architecture, and a central process management organization sustain improvement.
Most missionaries of the BPM religion come from a heritage in information technology. They believe companies can sustain process improvements if their people use a company-wide software system (such as an ERP application), which has standard processes embedded in the software. They also advise companies to use business process management software to map and document process flows and how work should be executed and to monitor performance. They also believe in building a BPM “Book of Knowledge” (a codification of process improvement “best practices”) and a BPM “Center of Excellence” (a central organization where process experts reside and develop guidelines and procedures for documenting and analyzing business processes).
A few companies that lead in sustained process improvement have drawn from the best of each religion to embed continuous improvement in their organization.
Shell Oil’s downstream (refining and retail) businesses have rolled out a global implementation of enterprise software SAP with standard global processes (as the missionaries of BPM would preach). The company has trained its people to be Shell Sigma Belts (following the precepts of Six Sigma), and appointed process owners and established an elaborate process governance structure (as Hammer would have recommended). What’s more, the company helped develop Hammer’s PEMM concept and is now training Lean managers.
Chemical company Air Products has adopted nearly every approach for sustaining improvement from all four religions. Sloan Valve appointed core process owners several years ago following the Reengineering playbook. The manufacturer has since introduced quality techniques (“kaizen” events), as well as Lean strategy deployment methods and tools.
There is no reason that organizations wishing to sustain process improvement should not draw on all these ideas, becoming “Unitarian Universalists” and bringing together the best of each religion.
Request: What approaches have you seen companies adopt that have kept their attention on process improvement? Have any of these companies combined the approaches of different process religions?
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Brad Power is a consultant and researcher in process innovation. His current research is on sustaining attention to process management — making improvement and adaptation a habit (even fun?). He is currently conducting research with the Lean Enterprise Institute.