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Strategic alignment is the linkage between the goals of the business and the goals of each of the key contributors. The tighter the linkage and the better the alignment, the likelihood of flawless corporate execution becomes stronger. Strategic alignment has several advantages once implemented properly and practiced.

Successful Organizational Leadership: Effective Execution through Strategic Alignment

Successful Organizational Leadership: Effective Execution through Strategic AlignmentIt is an all-too-familiar scenario. Corporation X misses badly on its commitments several quarters in a row and the stock plummets. As a result, the Board loses confidence, the CEO resigns, and a new CEO is appointed who immediately announces a sweeping restructure of the corporation. In the past few years, papers have been inundated with such reports. Even at corporations where top-level executives show signs of vision and have articulated what seems to be a sound business strategy on paper, results fall short of expectations. We have all been there at one point or another in our careers. The leadership team spends long hours agreeing on a 3- or 5-year strategy to improve the performance of the business. Management teams work equally hard to come up with supportive annual budgets. Both teams populate long PowerPoint presentations and well-built, exhaustive spreadsheet files. Yet not much happens in terms of actual deliverables! Ambitious year-end targets are missed. Improvement curves keep being shifted to the right, until the scenario at the beginning of this article is realized. Now the process for restructure of the corporation begins. Questions immediately arise as to why these events occur so often and include: What has gone wrong and why? Are the goals too aggressive? Are the visions and/or strategies inadequate? Are middle managers unable to execute? If the answer is yes to all these questions, then why is it so? All are good questions, and many have been extensively addressed with proposals on how to find corresponding solutions. Based on my experience, however, a key element that needs to be addressed is the importance of strategic alignment. What is strategic alignment? Strategic alignment can be described as the linkage between the goals of the business, which quantify the progress of the implementation of the strategy towards the vision, and the goals of each of the key contributors. Key contributors include groups, divisions, business units, departments, or individual employees who have an interest in the continuation of a successful corporation. Strategic alignment, put simply, is everyone rowing in the same direction. The tighter the linkage and the better the alignment, the likelihood of flawless corporate execution becomes stronger. Strategic alignment has several advantages once implemented properly and practiced. Benefits include:1. Allowing an efficient use of usually scarce resources, 2. Resulting in increased speed of execution, as a corollary, 3. Promoting team efforts towards common goals, and 4. Escalating employees motivation, giving them a keener sense of contribution to the results of their individual groups and of the corporation as a whole. These are good results that many corporations would benefit from, but very few corporations are able to realize them. Since many corporations and their leadership teams attempt to gain strategic alignment, the question becomes what barriers must be overcome. How can strategic alignment be implemented effectively and what are the key success factors? The first component of a successful strategic alignment is the extensive communication necessary within the organization to understand the elements of the vision and of the key strategic directions needed. Relentless repetition by the leadership and management teams at every opportunity, including sales meetings, company meetings, and operational business reviews allow each employee to understand vividly how he/she can contribute to the overall progress. More often than not, however, these vital communication opportunities are restricted to boring presentations of high-level tables filled with data that are difficult for employees to associate with their day-to-day jobs. The second component of a successful strategic alignment is absolutely essential to link the results of each employees job to the progress of the entire corporation strategy and to do it clearly and simply. This is best accomplished by using simple measures of key performances (KBMs= key business metrics, or KPMs= key performance metrics), which can be connected to the employees annual performance review. One excellent example of effective strategic alignment is practiced at Thermo Electron Corporation, a leader in the field of analytical instrumentation, headquartered in Waltham, MA. Thermo Electron uses a cascading set of goals that quantitatively measure the progress of the strategic implementation. This waterfall effect or goal tree starts at the very top of the corporation and cascades down to all levels of the organization from Corporation to Divisions; from Divisions to Business Units; from Business Units to Departments, and from Departments to Employees. When it reaches the employee, the objectives are incorporated into her/his annual performance targets and these objectives directly support the key goals from the highest levels of the organization. This ensures both focus and alignment as the employee daily delivers on their objectives. Objectives are rolled back up the waterfall or goal tree in periodic reviews of goals at all levels in the organization. Implementing strategic alignment is not rocket science. It requires, however, strong commitment from the top leadership and focus on relentless communication at every opportunity using simple management principles of focus, clarity and reinforcement. In the end, effective execution of strategic alignment is a leaders top priority and ensures that goals are met and success achieved.

Five Ways to Use a Meeting

Five Ways to Use a Meeting

1) Determine a persons ability to plan. Does the person who called the meeting have a clear goal and a specific plan to achieve it. People who do, recognize the value of preparation and can be trusted with larger projects.2) Measure teamwork. How are the participants working together? Are they making methodical progress toward an agreement, decision, or solution? Are the more skilled participants helping the others? Is the group working toward a result that benefits everyone? People who work as a team contribute more to productivity.3) Demonstrate communication. How well do the participants state their ideas? Do they speak clearly? And do they pay attention when others speak? People who communicate well avoid problems such as misunderstandings and arguments.4) Determine how people think. Are the participants offering ideas that logically follow what the last person said? How innovative, practical, or useful are the ideas? Are people focused on details or major projects? Are they focused on what happened or upon what happens next? Certainly people think differently, and this helps you observe their strengths. 5) Observe ethics. What are the participants proposing? What values are revealed by their suggestions? What type of actions do they admire? What do they support and what do they oppose? How much respect do the participants show for each other? Good ethics keep a business on the right side of good.

MeetingsManagement MeetingsWhy are they a waste of time? The 80/20 rule and 5 steps to success

MeetingsManagement MeetingsWhy are they a waste of time?  The 80/20 rule and 5 steps to success

Copyright 2006 The National Learning InstituteHow often have you sat in a meeting thinking This is such a waste of time. I have so many others things to do. I wish I could be somewhere else Sound familiar? Im sure we all have had these thoughts at one time or another and maybe for some of us, it has been very recent!My experience as a line manager, senior manager and organisational psychologist over the last thirty years, means that I have attended and run many meetings. In my work, one of the most common complaints I get from all levels of the organisation, is that We waste so much time here sitting around talking. Nothing gets done as a result. Why are so many meetings a waste of time?My conclusion is that the vast majority of meetings: Cover information that could be distributed by other means Focus too much on the past what has gone rather than what is to come Do not have a clearly defined purpose with intended outcomesSo, if you have to run meetings, the first decision to make is to decide what type of meeting it is Is this an information sharing meeting or a problem solving meeting?If it is an information sharing meeting, then there are two guides to follow: 1. Can the information be distributed in another way (eg email etc)? In this case there is no need for the meeting, thus saving a lot of time. 2. If the need to share the information must be by way of a meeting, then the focus of the meeting (and time spent) should be 20% past oriented - i.e. reporting on the information (e.g. results) and 80% future oriented i.e. deciding what we are going to do with the information.Using the 80/20 rule for your meetings will ensure that everyone participates and can see some real advantage to having the meeting. By the way, if you are a participant in one of those boring meetings we mentioned earlier, it is possible to have some influence on the meeting process. Keep asking What are we going to do with this information? or, How should we proceed now?. In other words, every time the meeting starts to focus on the past, redirect it to the future.If it is a problem solving meeting, then there are five steps to follow to ensure the meeting is a positive one with some productive outcomes.As with Information sharing meetings, quite often problem solving meetings dont reach their full potential because the meeting dwells too much on the present or past situation, rather than how things ought to be. Using the following five steps will ensure that your meeting stays focused on the future and is productive.1. Ask each participant to prepare for the meeting a few days in advance (one week is ideal, but not always possible) by jotting down some notes in answer to a short meeting question. They need to bring these notes to the meeting.2. The meeting pre-work question must be framed on the assumption that the problem has already been solved ie. it must be expressed at some future time. For example, if a telephone service department were looking for ideas on how they might improve their service, the question might be put: Assume that we have just had a very successful year, and that we have received heaps of feedback which suggested our service given to customers has been first rate over the last twelve months: What things did we do to get such great success? What problems or challenges did we have? How did we solve these problems or meet these challenges?3. At the meeting ask all participants for their ideas and list these on a whiteboard or flipchart paper etc. Note. It is very important to list these ideas so that everyone can see them this helps maintain peoples interest, keeps people focused and is useful for keeping the meeting on track.4. When the meeting has reached consensus on which items are worthwhile and achievable, two further columns are added to each flip chart page. One column is headed By when and the other is headed By whom5. It is important that the workload is shared by all participants. In the first column By when, the group is asked to allocate a time for when this aspect could be achieved. When this is agreed, people are asked to volunteer to undertake responsibility for ensuring particular items are undertaken (not necessarily to do them, but to take responsibility for them), by placing their name in the By whom column. Once this is done, the meeting now has an action plan for solving the problem. This can be written up and distributed to people following the meeting.I have used this process at all levels of organisations and with mixed stakeholder groups with amazing success over the last 20 years. Whether your meeting is an information sharing one or a problem solving one, Im sure that using the guidelines set out in this article will make them more rewarding for everyone. If you would like some free advice on how to construct your problem solving meetings, or to discuss any aspects of meetings, please contact me at www.nationallearning.com.au

Overcoming Defensiveness in Employee Performance Evaluation Discussions

Overcoming Defensiveness in Employee Performance Evaluation Discussions

There sits Sally on the other side of the desk during her performance evaluation. Shes scowling. Her arms are folded tightly across her chest. Her lower lip is turned out in a way that communicates both rejection and contempt. Shes flipped the performance evaluation she just read upside down on your desk as though it were some loathsome bug. She slowly shakes her head back and forth in a model of negativity. Looking you straight in the eye, she says, Do you call this a performance evaluation?George is exactly the opposite. His employee performance evaluation, like the one you wrote about Sally, also told the truth about the fact that the quality of his work in the past twelve months wasnt all that you expected and that immediate improvement is required. But George isnt arguing; he isnt negative in the slightest. In fact, hes bafflingly positive about the negative review. He says that he agrees with everything youve said and tells you that you dont have to give him any details or examples. Youre right, he says. He understands. Hes so contrite and remorseful, you almost feel apologetic about having written such a negative but honest evaluation. He promises to turn over a new leaf immediately and asks if theres anything else you need as he gets up and starts walking out the door.These are two entirely different responses to a negative "employee performance" evaluation. But both reactions can be described with the same word defensive.Defensive reactions come in two forms: fight or flight. Fight responses what Sally displayed show up as angry rejections of what the appraiser has said or written. The individual may deny the accuracy of the appraisers information or blame others for problems and shortcomings. Non-verbal indicators of fight reactions are usually clear: the person may pound the desk or point his finger. She may raise her voice or fold her arms defiantly across her chest. He may glare and refuse to engage in a normal business-like conversation.Flight reactions what you saw in George are entirely different. Here the individuals voice becomes quieter, not louder. He looks away, turns away. He speaks softly and agrees easily in order to change the subject. While the individual displaying a fight reaction may discount having any responsibility for the problems identified, the individual manifesting a flight reaction may take far more responsibility for a problem than the truth of the matter actually warrants.Fight and flight reactions are hard-wired, genetically-based, normal human defense mechanisms for dealing with threatening situations. If your stone-age ancestor stumbled upon a testy mastodon, his alternatives were flight, fight, or get trampled. Defensive reactions served a survival purpose but they are out of place in the contemporary office. Heres how to deal with them.Fight reactions during an employee performance evaluation are best handled by allowing the individual time to vent. Encouraging the full expression of opinion is actually a wise approach, since many of these storms will blow themselves out if theyre allowed to.Active listening is critical in dealing with fight reactions. Ask the individual for examples. Listen to what she has to say.Heres a key point: In dealing with a fight reaction, your behavior should be the opposite of the individuals. As her emotional temperature gets hotter, yours should get cooler. As the employee starts to speak more rapidly, you should allow more pauses in what you say. If the individuals volume increases, you should lower your voice.Flight reactions are more subtle. The individual seeks metaphorically to flee the threatening situation. The easiest way is simply to agree with whatever is being said, change the subject, and move on. The challenge to appraisers in an employee performance evaluation when flight reactions arise is to continue to focus on the performance deficiency until there is complete understanding.Too often, though, the appraiser feels just as awkward and nervous about confronting George with the fact that his performance was less than acceptable as George is in getting the bad news. The result is that the appraiser doesnt drill down to the hard realities and allows the immediate defensive acceptance to bring the discussion to a premature end.For example, as soon as hes presented with the truthful evaluation, George says, Yes. Youre right. I really did do a bad job this year. And I appreciate your bringing it to my attention. And you can count on me to do better in the future. I promise, I really will. We tend to be so relieved about not having to go through an unpleasant confrontation that we may accept Georges hastily offered, doubtfully sincere assurances and move on. But if we accept his statement as presented, its unlikely that there will be any real understanding or genuine commitment to change. Thats why during the employee performance evaluation the effective manager says something like, Thanks, George. Im glad we both look at it the same way. But lets actually go through analyzing what happened this year. If we do that, then you can make some plans that will really make a difference in the upcoming twelve months.Fight and flight reactions arent the most common reactions to employee performance evaluations. Since most people perform well, accept honest feedback, and possess a high degree of maturity, the likely response to a performance appraisal is understanding and acceptance even to those parts that arent totally flattering. If we realize that defensive reactions are part of the essential human condition, and have the patience to continue a business-like discussion of the performance evaluation in spite of any initial defensive reactions, were likely to break through the defensiveness and end up with a productive conversation.

Choosing A Timetabling Software

Recently, I was asked for information about timetabling software. I don't feel I can recommend a particular product as each school will have different requirements, but I thought it would be worth discussing some of the issues involved in choosing software appropriate to your needs.I think the first consideration is ease of use for those who need to operate the system. The onscreen information should be user-friendly with clear instructions. You also need something that is easy to correct. If you select the wrong action, is it easy to stop and amend it? If several people will be using it, are there safeguards to lock key decisions that you do want to have changed?Think very carefully about what will serve your needs. You may want a global package that handles multiple administrative procedures or you may want a stand alone time-tabler. Discuss the criteria with the people in your school who will actually have to use it. It will be pointless buying a product that they find unhelpful or too complicated.Check with your potential supplier as to which schools actually use their product and get some feedback from users. Ask users about any problems they have and about the quality of the aftercare service.Ensure that your supplier will not insist on your buying more features than you actually need. A reputable supplier should be able to come to your school, listen to your needs, make an assessment and then suggest a product that is adapted to your situation. A small school with 100 students is unlikely to need the same package as major college catering to thousands. Also, find out what provisions they make for updating the package with new features.Try out free software from the Internet first so that you get an idea of the features you will find useful. Buying the right software is likely to be a major investment, so it's worth choosing it with care.

Fun Team Building Activities

The number of fun team building activities you can utilize to improve productivity at work are limited only by the imagination. From more simple and traditional games and sport-related activities, to more elaborate adventures drawing inspiration from popular reality tv shows, there are many ways to have fun while learning to work together as a team.Creative and critical thinking, trust-building, problem solving, conflict resolution, and more are involved in many of these activities that give you and your team a chance to get to know and appreciate one another better as people outside of your typical environment, and help strengthen and revitalize work relationships. Some popular ideas include scavenger hunts, music and rhythm exercises, and other physical activities or games that require people to interact, work together, and have fun. Even a team cooking activity can provide a valuable "team building" experience. Many approaches to team building incorporate humor as an essential component to helping people lighten up, relax, and explore their potential as a group working together. Some of the essentials to building an effective team include:-helping each individual feel like a valuable member of the team with a unique purpose to fulfill that contributes to a common goal. -encouraging open, non-threatening communication-overcoming any barriers to group cohesiveness-providing safe ways to manage conflict-facilitating group interaction Whether you have a new group of people who need to quickly get to know one another in order to form effective working relationships; renew an atmosphere of enthusiasm in a work environment that has grown stale or unproductive; or tackle some difficult issues such as the need for restructuring, or work on interpersonal conflict, there are many fun and helpful activities that can help accomplish these goals. Depending on the size of your organization, the seriousness of the issues you need to address, and your current leadership capabilities, you may want to bring in a professional consultant, or order products you can implement on your own. Try browsing some of the latest ideas in fun team building activities online to get inspired and start considering the best approach for your team. Although the right solution will depend on the particulars of your situation, most team building activities are designed to suit a wide variety of groups, and can generally be adjusted to accommodate your needs. Enjoy getting your group together for some enjoyable time outside of the office, and bring new vitality and cohesiveness to your organization. This investment in your people will have innumerable rewards in improving job satisfaction, reducing employee turnover and the associated expenses, and creating a better work environment for everyone. Why not take advantage of some proven strategies to creating a more effective team, and have a little fun while youre at it?

Summary

Strategic alignment is the linkage between the goals of the business and the goals of each of the key contributors. The tighter the linkage and the better the alignment, the likelihood of flawless corporate execution becomes stronger. Strategic alignment has several advantages once implemented properly and practiced.