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In the topic 'Organization Improvement'


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Training and Development: Top Ten Lessons Learned

I was recently invited to be a guest on a podcast concerning training techniques. That got me reflecting on decades of my journey in this field. Waayyy back in the early days of my career, I was a young door-to-door sales rep and then sales manager with Culligan Water Conditioning. I took Dale Carnegie sales, […]

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Only Learning Leaders Can Transform the Extreme Rate of Transformation Failures

As Yogi Berra would say, “It was Deja vu all over again.” Five years earlier, we’d conducted introductory service/quality improvement workshops for senior management and head office staff of a large company. Culture and feedback surveys gathered input before and during these follow-up workshops. The company clearly had problems with low engagement, faltering customer service, […]

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Untangling the Accountability, Systems, and Process Management Knot

Accountability is a mess in many organizations. Often good performers are put into bad processes within systems that subvert rather than support them. “The 85/15 Rule” emerged from decades of root cause analysis of service/quality breakdowns. This showed that roughly 85% of the time the failure is caused by the system, processes, structure, or practices […]

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Why Most Change Programs and Improvement Initiatives Fail

  I’ve just completed a two-day retreat with a fast-growing leadership team. They scored themselves at the lowest levels we’ve seen on our Team Dynamics Survey. Rarely do we see a leadership team as dysfunctional as this one. Their unique products and growing revenues were papering over many huge cracks and barely holding them together. […]

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Realigning Systems to Serve and Support High Performance

  One of the root causes of our accountability mess is looking for who, not what went wrong. This leads to a search for the guilty as the cause of breakdowns in customer service, quality, communication, teamwork, and the like. It becomes a hunt to fix the blame more than fixing the problem. But those […]

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Are These Systems Serving or Subverting Organization Results?

As I wrote about the accountability mess, a good person in a bad system or process sets that them up for failure — and blame. “The 85/15 Rule” emerged from decades of root cause analysis of service/quality breakdowns. About 85% of the time the fault is caused by the system, processes, structure, or practices of […]

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What Accounts for the Accountability Mess?

  Accountability is highly subjective. Its meaning depends on whether we’re at the giving or receiving end. Many of us have been lashed with the accountability whip wielded by a blundering manager playing “gotcha games.” Often, accountability is a search for who to punish. The Blame Game and finger-pointing turns problem-solving and performance issues into […]

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Leading Question: Are You a Barrier Buster?

  I was interviewing a leadership team member to prepare for an offsite planning retreat. I asked about the biggest challenges facing their team. She wearily said it was their unfocused frantic pace of activity.  “We have lots of projects, goals, and priorities. We’re constantly making lists and setting action plans. But we seldom see […]

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Overloaded, Overwhelmed, and Too Busy to Learn

  Part Three of a Series on The Tempting Ten Wallow Words (Click to read Parts One and Two)   Does this sound familiar… “Nowadays, people don’t ask you how you are, they say, ‘Are you busy?’ meaning, ‘Are you well?’ If someone actually does ask you how you are, the most cheerful answer, of […]

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How to Ensure Screen Time isn’t Scream Time

  A growing number of articles and studies feature debates, research, and advice on returning to the office, working from home, and many hybrids. City cores across North American report office occupancy rates far below pre-pandemic levels. Studies such as those featured in Time magazine show empty office tower escalators with the headline Return-to-Office Full […]

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True Failure is Failing to Learn from Failure

In a small pub in the highlands of Scotland, a group of fishermen gathered one afternoon to swap tales over a round of ale. One of them stretched his arms apart to show the big one that got away. At that very point, a server walked past carrying a tray of full ale glasses. The […]

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Ways to Boost Innovation and Accelerate Organizational Learning

Like the weather, many leaders talk about agility and innovation, but few managers do much about it. Unlike the weather, there’s a great deal managers can do about building agile and innovative cultures. Innovation and organization learning often falls into the same trap as strategic planning, economic forecasting, and change management. There is no orderly […]

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Fostering a Culture of Innovation and Organizational Learning

  Are your own people your biggest barrier to higher innovation and agility? That’s what research from Great Place to Work found in a study of 792 companies totaling about 500,000 employees. In their study, Innovation by All, Great Place to Work concluded organizations with high-trust cultures involve and engage many more employees than most organizations […]

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How to Use Intelligent Failure and Controlled Chaos to Strengthen Agility Ability

  In his article on “Crafting Strategy,” McGill University professor and management author, Henry Mintzberg, provides a good example of innovation and organizational learning in high-performing, agile organizations: “Out in the field, a salesman visits a customer. The product isn’t quite right, and together they work out some modifications. The salesman returns to his company […]

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Higher Hiring: Are You Trying to Teach Frogs to Fly?

Once upon a time, a manager had a frog named Fred working on his team. After returning from a strategic planning retreat, he passionately exclaimed to Fred, “We’re going to open an air courier division! I’m going to teach you to fly!” Fred responded, “I can’t fly. I am a frog, not a bird.” Disappointed […]

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Generating Keen Energy That Electrifies a Powerful Culture

Managers often hire consultants to help them solve major organizational problems. The consultant will interview key leaders and staff, run focus groups, and gather input from a variety of sources. Many ideas are sifted through, and the most relevant one presented to management along with the consultant’s recommended action plan. What’s too often a sad […]

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A Culture Compass Charting Your Pathway to Peak Performance

For most of my career, I’ve been a “monomaniac on a mission” about integrating change and development efforts within a systemic culture development process. Way too much money and time has been wasted with isolated programs that don’t provide broader context, support, and follow-through. Decades of our experience and countless research studies show the power […]

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At the Crossroads: Piecemeal Programs or Culture Change?

Leaders wanting to focus their organization on boosting service/quality performance stand at a critical crossroad, choosing which road will take them to that higher ground. Their two main routes are piecemeal programs to “fix the frontline” or a long-term cultural change process. As they look down both roads, first appearances can be deceiving. The piecemeal […]

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Rethink the Link: Strengthening the Customer Service Chain

How reasonable is it to hold a shipping dock worker responsible for the quality of the products in the boxes he or she is shipping? How reasonable is it for managers to hold the final deliverer responsible for the quality of the products or services he or she is delivering? The person on the front […]

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The Times and the Paradigms are a-Changin’

It’s been 60 years since Bob Dylan wrote his iconic song, The Times They Are a-Changin’, heralding the massive societal shifts about to rock the 1960s. We could apply these lines to today’s organizations: Your old road is rapidly agin’ Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand For the […]

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