Three Ways to Use Agile Principles in Your Learning ProgramAgile, as you might get from its name, is all about speed and flexibility. Here are a few ways to use Agile principles in learning programs.
Agile principles can improve your training.
Agile is not just a software development methodology, but a mindset. One that can transform any kind of work, including learning program development.
What is Agile? Well, what it’s not is “waterfall”—the traditional development approach rooted in the industrial economy. Waterfall projects plan everything at once, then move on to design everything at once, then develop, and so on. Some of the benefits of a waterfall approach are consistency and accuracy—the team has a set of standards and it takes great pains to maintain them, across the initiative. That’s good, but it can take a very long time. And, by the time the end user sees anything useful, they have lost months (or years!) of benefit, and the landscape has probably changed.
Agile, as you might get from its name, is all about speed and flexibility. It reserves the right to be smarter today than yesterday. It’s about failing fast, adjusting course, and trying again. It’s about getting better and better, while effecting real-world change.
Here are a few ways to use Agile principles in learning programs.
Size. Here we’re talking about size of scope, size of teams, and size of the “batches” of work. Often, our teams are responsible for an entire curriculum. Subject matter and technical experts are available to the entire team. Once an instructional designer completes design of one module, they move on to the next one. When design is done, they start developing courses. The entire curriculum reaches each milestone together.
Instead, try micro. Build a team of one instructional designer, one SME, and one technical expert. Focus them on one course, to deliver one tight set of learning objectives to one set of learners. And then let them run; Agile teams call it a sprint. They should design, develop, pilot, and launch the training as fast as they can.
Worried your courses will be “all over the place?” First of all, they might, and that’s ok. Second, all consistency is not lost. As you gather feedback on course drafts and tests, craft a prototype module. This will be your gold standard – all great, client-vetted and universal design ideas go here.
Agile will deliver skills to your learners, fast. And the team will learn a lot; they aggregate lessons learned so all can benefit in the next sprint.
Focus. Learning team members often serve many masters: learning executives, business function leaders, technical team leads, project sponsors… Each entity wants oversight, to ensure consistent quality, style, format, and learner experience. Reviews ripple through the curriculum as it’s being designed and developed, requiring revisions and new standards. Subject matter experts might have to swallow changes that have nothing to do with their learners, but serve the program as a whole or please a particular executive.
Agile is all about the customer, and no one else. One of its lessons is “Be willing to disappoint.” That is, disappoint anyone but the customer. Using an Agile mindset, the learner is king. The SME represents the learner on the micro-team for the course. So if the SME believes a piece of content, a delivery method, or a particular style works for the learners of the course, you use it.
To sharpen your focus, create a “learner persona.”
Work with your SME to build a profile of the learner for this course. The learner’s responsibilities, location, technical acumen, etc. help you choose the right stories, metaphors, interactions, and delivery modalities.
And Agile would say let the learner tweak your product. So if you get quickly to a pilot test and then a launch of your course, let learners into the process. Ask them how to make it better; go beyond the “smile sheet” and let them be designers for a day. Then build their best ideas into the next version of your course and share it with the other teams, so they can benefit as they sprint.
Mindset. Does this all sound messy? It is. That’s why everyone involved must understand and adopt the Agile mindset if this is going to work.
It’s easy to frame Agile in a positive light. Chaos breeds creativity. Get comfortable with uncertainty. It’s an opportunity, not an obstacle.
But we have to accept that it’s a big change. Agile requires people to give up traditional control, watch as things fail and get better, tolerate inconsistency, and be part of a process that feels chaotic at times. How can you get everyone on board with Agile?
Here’s where we bring out our change management tools. Once you have the main decision-makers on board with this shift, make it familiar, controlled, and successful.
- Our brains see anything new as dangerous. To dampen fear, make this change feel familiar. Compare the new approach to other innovations that brought great things to your organization. Don’t dwell on the old learning development approach; frame the new Agile learning approach as another big success story—whatever success story resonates with them. That makes this change feel familiar and safe.
- People crave predictability and control. So give them something solid to grab on to. Roll out the shift to Agile using a timeline, and let them know what’s happening as you hit each milestone. And give people choices whenever possible. For example, you might ask for volunteers to try the Agile approach first. Any “early adopters” in your group will make the next steps feel doable for the rest.
- Winning feels good. So engineer success into the transition. Call out and celebrate your first Agile course achievements. And remember to reward the new mindset—we embrace failing fast, right? So, when you find problems in the first pilots or conducts, congratulate those teams for their boldness, courage, and valuable lessons learned.
Remember: Familiar, Controlled, Successful
Agile is a big change, with big benefits. Our software brethren have gone there, but why should they have all the fun? Learning teams who use Agile principles can deliver big benefits, fast.
Six Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Change ConsultantSome firms dazzle you with strategy and slick slides then head for the door. Don't let them leave you hanging -- ask these questions before you hire a change consultant.
Don’t Let Your Consultants Leave You Hanging
We call them “deck and dash” firms—consultants who dazzle you with strategy, conceptual models, and slick slides…then wish you luck and head for the door. Now what?
Maybe that’s what you want, but at least be prepared. Make sure that they leave you in a place where you can get the benefits of your investment.
Before signing the contract, here are the questions you should ask:
- What will the business outcomes be? How will your work translate to benefits for us, specifically? It’s important to hear stories about their other clients, but the focus should be on your business. How does the work connect to your strategies and integrate with other initiatives in your organization?
- What has your team learned from similar implementations? Implementation informs strategy and design. Even if you are paying them to build deliverables and then hand them off to you to implement, you need consultants who regularly roll up their sleeves and help their clients launch. Consultants learn and sharpen from that experience.
- To what degree will you involve the business leaders impacted by this change? How? Many consultants like to touch base a few times to gather information, then go away and create — leading to a grand reveal of the solution. That’s fun and dramatic, to be sure, but it’s wrong. You need consultants who work with key members of your business, to ensure the solution is right for you, create momentum, and help the business plan for launch.
- What will the deliverables look like? Will they include implementation plans, timelines, and estimates? Ask to see samples from similar projects. Imagine being left with that deliverable. Could you use it? Would your business know how to get the benefits you expect?
- What does your last day look like? How will you transition your work to us? What you’re looking for here is their involvement in implementing the solution and your readiness to take it forward.
- What if we have questions after you finish the engagement? You need consultants who are invested in your success. If your people are sincerely confused or unprepared to use the deliverables the consultants built, then their work isn’t done. Make sure they commit to an ongoing advisory relationship to support what they delivered for you.
Paying for ideas, plans, and strategies might be right for your business. Just make sure you have a clear picture of your life after the consultants are gone.
Here’s how Emerson addresses the six questions:
- We helped a major university’s IT department focus on the outcomes they needed. Click here to read more.
- We helped a large U.S. government agency launch their HR strategy. Click here to read more.
- We worked with the largest hospital system in Missouri on a custom approach. Click here to read more.
- We built solid implementation plans for one of the best-known retail brands in the world. Click here to read more.
- We fully transitioned our work and expertise to a large pharmaceutical company. Click here to read more.
- We continued to support a business technology corporation with ongoing advice. Click here to read more.
Maintain Your Organization’s Work Style During Big ChangeTransformation is stressful enough. Don’t make things harder by losing what works. Focus on these three areas to stay true to your organization’s work style.
Work style is how things get done. It’s the day-to-day manifestation of your organization’s culture — the unspoken way we work and deliver projects. It’s framed by purpose and guided by values.
During times of intense change, it’s important to be aware of your organization’s work style, and to honor it. Transformation projects are stressful enough to knock even the strongest of us off-course. The best way to help your organization is to stay true to what works for you.
There are three key areas of focus.
Communication. How much communication does your organization need? What kinds of communication work for you? The channels might be formal, informal or a combination. Every organization is different. For example, if your teams are highly focused on running an operation, or they are spread out geographically, you might need dedicated, in-person events like town halls to reach them. Who are credible messengers to spread the word, — managers or respected peers? It’s critical to know what it takes to get employees to focus their attention.
Consensus Requirements. Does your organization run on consensus? The answer drives the speed of decision-making. Whose opinion matters? If all the key people need to buy in, build in time to gain that consensus. Identify which stakeholders have to bless each decision, follow a process, and make sure the teams know their voices have been heard. Depending on the topic, you might need less consensus. Take advantage of that – push work to the lowest-level teams that can make the decision.
Relationships vs. Structure. To what extent does work get done through deep relationships vs. systems and process? If relationships are important, plan for that. Create a framework that fosters relationships. For example, create robust onboarding, recognition methods, and celebration rituals. Relationship-based cultures will resist too much structure if it’s visible. If your teams are more systems-oriented, lean on those processes. But be careful – it’s easy to ignore a well-oiled machine. Make sure you review processes — at least annually — to ensure they help employees to their best work. Identify and close any gaps.
Clarifying your organization’s best working styles helps leadership strike the right balance between empowerment and accountability. And it makes any big transformation so much easier.
So, what’s your style?
From the Trails to the OfficeAfter 25-plus years of consulting and 100 endurance races, I’ve noticed lots of parallels. Here are a few.
9 Lessons Learned From 25 Years of Consulting and 100 Long Distances Races
After 25-plus years of consulting and 100 endurance races of half marathon, marathon and ultra-marathon distances, I’ve noticed lots of parallels. I’ve learned many lessons during my races that apply to my work as a consultant. Here are a few.
Lesson 1: Be thankful you’re able to lace up and go. Not everyone is capable of going for a long run. Some can’t make it due to their age. Some have health problems. If you can lace up and toe the line, you’re lucky.
Try to think that way about work. Sometimes it’s hard to jump out of bed and sprint to work with a smile on your face. But recognize that there are people who would give anything to have your job. Understand that you are blessed. Be thankful for the opportunity and make the most of it.
Lesson 2: You have to show up in order to finish. Lots of people talk about doing marathons and ultra-marathons. Not a lot of people show up on race day. In order to cross the finish line you have to first cross the start line.
It’s just as true in business. It’s critical to “show up” each day. You can’t succeed if you only bring your A Game occasionally. You have to bring it every day, for the duration of the engagement. You have to show up in order to get your project over the finish line.
Lesson 3: Drink before you’re thirsty. One of the keys to finishing long distance runs is hydration. Drink early and often. Your body will appreciate it and you’ll be able to go the distance.
As a consultant, it is important to stay abreast of the latest trends, research, methods, and technologies. Continuous learning is vital to serving your clients or supporting your business. Read. Attend lectures. Participate in professional conferences. Take online courses. Seek certifications. Don’t wait until you need to know something to begin your search—stay on top of the latest information in your field. In other words, “drink before you’re thirsty.
Lesson 4: Never pass an aid station without refueling. Sometimes, on the trail, runners feel like they are falling behind so they bypass an aid station to make up time. Inevitably, this comes back to bite them. In your race prep, you develop a plan. In that plan, you’ve outlined all the things you MUST do in order to be successful. If it is a good plan, stick with it. That includes refueling at the aid stations.
On your project, spend enough time planning the work. Understand where all the “aid stations” are. We often refer to them as milestones. Be smart about how and when you’ll get there. Be prepared to pause, take stock, and celebrate this small victory. Let your team know how well they’ve done to get to this point. Remind them where the next milestone is and what it will take to get there. You and your team will benefit from taking these pauses to refuel.
Lesson 5: On the tough parts, keep your eyes on the trail. When it’s safe, look up and enjoy the view. There are lots of obstacles along the trail. It’s easy to lose your concentration. It’s easy to stumble and fall. You have to maintain your focus to do well.
The same is true at work. Things come up. Obstacles appear. Keep your eyes on the “trail” as you move toward your milestones. Some parts of the project will be trickier than others. Use extreme focus on those parts. But, when you can, look up and take in the big picture. Celebrate how far you’ve come. Try to enjoy the journey.
Lesson 6: When you’re feeling good, encourage other racers. You’ll need for them to return the favor when you’re not. As you run past your fellow racers, offer them a word of encouragement. It’s amazing how your quick gesture helps push them along.
The same holds true with your work colleagues. Look for opportunities to stop and offer them a pat on the back, a kind word, or a listening ear. There will be days when you’ll need for them to return the favor.
Lesson 7: If someone goes down, stop and help them. On the trail, things happen—pulled muscles…twisted ankles…heat exhaustion…cramps…slips, trips, and falls. When you come across someone in trouble, you help them. You get them on their feet or you offer them water or you go for help. You don’t run past them.
In business, people go down as well. It is often obvious when someone is struggling. You can see that they’re not going to make a deadline or won’t deliver the best deliverable. Help them. Can you act as a sounding board? Stay after work to lend a hand? Give up your lunch hour to listen to your colleague practice a presentation? Figure out a way to help. Your colleagues will appreciate it and the team will benefit.
Lesson 8: Run when you can. Walk when you have to. Just get to the finish line. Finishing is what matters—not how fast. Many runners get stuck focusing on their time. They want to go fast. They want to set a personal record. And some push so hard they end up dropping from the race (because of injury, exhaustion, mental fatigue, etc.). Sometimes it’s better to slow down. Slowing down can help a runner get to the finish line.
In business, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Go slow to go fast.” This is the same concept. Sometimes there is benefit to taking a step back—revisiting the work plan and focusing attention in another area for a moment in order to ensure you get to the finish line. Keep your overall goal in mind. What is it you’re trying to accomplish? What problem are you trying to solve? I’ll bet it has nothing to do with how fast you finish. So, slow down. Get it right. Deliver a great solution. If your company or client tries to push you to finish faster, remind them why you’re there. Remind them of the benefits of success and the cost of failure. Let them know you want to get it right. Tell them, “sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.” Changing those behaviors, implementing that new technology, or whatever your project has been tasked with will eventually help your client go faster.
Just keep running.
Lesson 9: An endurance run isn’t the most difficult thing you’ll ever experience. When you feel like quitting, keep that in mind. Don’t get me wrong, some runs are very difficult. Running 31 miles through the mountains, in the rain, can be a challenge. Climbing thousands of feet in the heat, or running hills over and over again along a 26.2 mile course can be debilitating. You’ll want to quit. When these thoughts enter your mind, remember, this isn’t as hard as life gets. There are many things harder than running in the mountains. I won’t list them here; I’m sure you know what they are. I’m sure you’ve experienced some of them. When you think about those trials, you realize you have it pretty easy to be spending the day in the mountains, breathing good air, getting some exercise, and enjoying the companionship of like-minded people.
We all have tough days at work. Tough months… Tough clients… Think back to all those “tough” experiences. You survived them all. Keep plugging away. Recognize those bad days aren’t so bad; you can handle them. Just keep running.
Endurance running and consulting: same thing, different wardrobe. Who knew?
Virtual OnboardingWhat we know about brain science can give your new employees a great transition to your team.
Make it familiar, controlled, and successful.
The pandemic has forced many businesses into a work-from-home model. Well-known companies like Google and Facebook won’t have workers return to their offices until at least January 2021.
But hiring does not stop. How do you onboard employees virtually? How do you get them engaged and performing through a screen?
Most of us are acquainted with the mechanics of virtual onboarding. There’s already been a lot written about the basics:
- Welcome the new hire with something tangible like a plant, gift basket, or company-branded gear.
- Keep each virtual onboarding session short and interactive.
- Use strong presenters.
- Expand the elapsed time for onboarding from one or two days to as many as 30 days.
- Issue surveys to gauge engagement and solicit feedback for improvement.
But we think good virtual onboarding has to go deeper. When you’re onboarding employees, you’re asking them to change their behaviors—do this, in this way, to this standard. You are also hoping to reinforce their positive feelings about the organization, so they feel welcome and they are part of something great.
Science tells us that if we want behavior change to work, we should make it feel familiar, controlled, and successful.
Our brains see new things as dangerous, so change – like a new job – can create feelings of resistance. But familiarity, as mentioned in other posts, feels “safe.” You can activate those feelings of safety in your onboarding program.
Determine what makes most new employees feel great about the employer—for example, the culture, the brand, the physical environment, the great people, and the proper supports and resources. Highlight those familiar “feel good” elements in your welcome video and guest speakers. The more you remind them of what they already know and like, the better.
Use video tools that are familiar to most participants. We all know Zoom. Many of us will not be familiar with GoToMeeting or TeamViewer. Make the login to the virtual onboarding easy. First impressions matter.
Include live speakers or filmed testimonials from people who look and sound more like your new employees. If your new hires are in their 20’s and mainly Black or Brown, they won’t connect as well to, let’s say, middle-aged White men.
Repeat certain onboarding activities throughout the program; for example, use weekly check-ins with their boss and a peer coach. Over time, these events will start to feel familiar.
Humans love to feel in control. Giving new hires the feeling of control reduces anxiety and frees their brains for learning and executive functioning. You can do this by building in structure, predictability, and choice.
Develop an onboarding timeline and share it repeatedly when meeting with the new hires. For example, if a group of new hires connects every week, show them the timeline with a “you are here” marker.
Provide new hires with the right tools: laptop, easy connectivity, digital onboarding tools, and job aids. How about a new hire portal or MS Team Site to house all this information? Include FAQs and key contact information they can have at their fingertips.
Give them some choices up front: Surface or MacAir? Flextime vs. standard business hours?
Build some flexibility into their onboarding tasks so they can exert some personal control over their schedules and not feel like their new employer is programming every minute of the day.
Winning releases dopamine, the brain’s feel-good chemical. And sharing success promotes oxytocin, the connection hormone. You can build success into your onboarding program.
Small and simple successes might be things like signing up for health benefits or getting their parking pass activated. Highlight each successful step. Consider gamification to track these successes, with a nominal reward or recognition at the end.
Handling some of their new job activities, with support of their new manager and peers, will also make them feel successful. Keep things small and simple in the beginning, so you are sure they will complete them correctly. (Failing at one of these tasks will produce the opposite effect!) Have managers give new employees coaching and feedback along the way. You could even build completion and sign-off into your gamification approach.
New hires feel more successful when they feel they are becoming part of the team. Interpersonal and social successes count too! Can’t gather at the local sports bar? How about a virtual happy hour or beer bash? Schedule some virtual team lunches or coffee breaks—the company could pay to have the meal or coffee delivered to the new hire.
The last word…
Create your company’s onboarding experience to promote feelings of familiarity. New hires will feel they’re more in control of their transition when you include choice, structure, and predictability. And they’ll feel more successful if you provoke the feel-good chemicals in their brains through small wins, feedback and rewards, and orchestrated virtual events that make them feel like they belong. It’s a different world right now, but people are still the same. What we know about brain science can give your new employees a great transition to your team.
Tough Times Need a Tough TeamFaced with unprecedented challenges, your leadership team needs to get aligned and then sound aligned.
Imagine this: your senior managers are hosting virtual meetings. In each one of them, someone asks a question. “What are we doing in response to the pandemic?”
- Manager 1: “We are doing everything we can to keep all of us safe.”
- Manager 2: “I know we all hate these Zoom meetings, but we will be back in the office as soon as possible.”
- Manager 3: “You were sent an email on June 14, outlining our response to the pandemic. I suggest you read that.”
- Manager 4: “What are you concerned about? Let’s talk about what I can do to help.”
Which is the right answer? All of them, and none of them.
None of the answers is wrong. But they are all wrong because they are so different.
People have a fundamental need to feel safe in order to function. Control and predictability create feelings of safety. Four different vague or evasive answers create just the opposite. The costs of this kind of uncertainty: resistance, lost productivity, and an organization even less focused on its business goals.
Faced with unprecedented challenges, your leadership team needs to get aligned and then sound aligned. That’s a tight team.
We have tightened up many executive teams. We don’t tell them what their goals and message should be; we facilitate. Here is the essence of our process:
- Gather your team and ask them four questions.
- What’s the challenge we’re faced with?
- What’s the solution to the challenge?
- What’s the approach we’ll take to execute the solution?
- What’s the result we want?
- For each question, brainstorm a one-word hint: start broad, then narrow down to the top two to three words, and then down to the final one.
- Once the four words are selected, generate facts and examples to use when you deliver the message. Each of the four words needs its own supporting details. Now you have a message frame.
- Bring it all together in a 30-second story – the four words, buttressed by facts or examples.
- Practice telling the story. As you practice, customize it for who you are and whomever you’re addressing. That is, use different examples for a Marketing employee vs. an IT employee. Each executive’s story will be slightly different, based on their communication style, area of expertise, position, and audience.
- Practice it a few more times, imagining different scenarios.
- Use the message frame as the foundation of all communications on this subject.
Let’s try our scenario again. Four Zoom meetings. Four employees with questions. Four responses from leaders.
“What are we doing in response to the pandemic?”
Feel that? It’s peace of mind.
Scaling Your Workforce in Tough TimesIf you need to scale quickly, we have some ideas for you to consider.
We all know the bad news. The US economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—by far the most sudden and largest decline since the government began tracking the data in 1939. The unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April, its highest level since the BLS started recording the monthly rate in 1948. The last time American joblessness was that severe was the Great Depression.
But it’s not all bad news. Certain businesses associated with logistics and supply of critical goods are actually hiring…like crazy. Instacart is hiring 300,000 contract workers. Amazon is bringing on 175,000 new workers for its fulfillment centers and delivery network. We see additions of 50,000 each for CVS Health, Dollar General, and Walmart. Lowe’s is hiring 30,000 employees. FedEx is hiring. Ace Hardware is hiring.
A company like Amazon is used to scaling up for seasonal hiring but many businesses are not. Hiring thousands so quickly taxes the organization’s entire talent management system.
At Emerson, we think of talent management holistically; it supports the organization’s culture and helps achieve desired business outcomes.
When you need to scale quickly, here are some ideas to consider:
Standard career fairs and job postings won’t work right now. What are the best ways to acquire talent? How can you quickly identify the best when supply exceeds demand due to high unemployment?
- Tap into communities like church groups, food banks, university campus online boards.
- Work with other companies that have laid off or furloughed workers.
- Apply AI technology to filter best applicants.
- While it may be tempting, don’t hire the first warm bodies. Maintain your recruiting rigor with a focus on the critical skills for the job as well as cultural fit. In some markets and industries, it’s a buyer’s market, so leverage it and don’t settle.
Measured, multi-week onboarding doesn’t cut it when hiring thousands at one time. How can you streamline the process?
Use a “speed dating” model. Allow groups of applicants for similar jobs to familiarize themselves with the end-to-end process in a few hours by moving quickly through the main steps or stations. Then, assign a given cohort to specific coaches for more detailed on-the-job training.
- Show short videos rather than live demos or blend videos with live learning. Note that videos don’t have to be professionally done to convey key points. Think TikTok, not Ken Burns. Use a tripod and your iPhone.
- Update your critical job aids. Simplify them to highlight the common, critical, and catastrophic–the “must-knows and dos” for the job. Think about how employees will use the job aids. Should they be laminated or posted? Should they only be online? Ensure they are multi-lingual if needed.
- Make it easy to spot coaches or team leads through clothing, like a colored cap or vest or a large badge. Post visible “Ask Me” signs on the tops of the coaches’ workspaces.
- Appoint a buddy to each new hire for a quick-and-dirty mentoring program.
Engagement and Retention
Turnover is costly. For workers earning $30,000 or less, the typical cost of turnover is 16% of annual salary, or $4,800. For workers earning less than $50,000 annually, average cost of replacement is 20% of annual salary, or $10,000. Five to ten thoursand for each entry level job? Multiply that by a thousand and you can see how turnover can hurt.
Unemployment is high so getting a replacement worker is easy, right? No! Every turnover requires replacement costs like recruiting, physical or drug testing, background verification, and training.
Putting a little effort into retaining those you hire will save you a lot of money.
- Make your work environment positive, comfortable, and safe!
- Focus on respect for employees. Provide supervisors with tangible examples of what “showing respect” looks like.
- Offer appreciation with unexpected small perks like periodic snacks–maybe a weekly delivery of fresh fruit or some other food your employees would enjoy.
- Recognize employees during staff meetings. Make it more personal; for example, ask leaders to send handwritten notes to employees’ homes.
Development and Performance Management
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: hire now and worry about development later. But it’s never too early to think about how you’re going to evaluate, develop, and retain that new hire. You’ve just placed someone in an entry level job; what are the criteria to determine she’s ready to be a supervisor a month from now? How can you use development to avoid turnover?
- For job positions with the biggest hiring need, develop some simple evaluation criteria. Anticipate and document how you’ll close performance gaps and how you’ll promote those who are excelling across the board.
- Hiring is harder than firing, so be thoughtful about termination. For the harder-to-fill positions, how deep are the employee’s deficits? What is the return on investment for developing that person instead? How much effort can you afford to spend in developing a poor or mediocre performer?
By the way, be on constant lookout for new hires you want to retain and/or cross-train after your demand surge subsides.
Impact on Culture
Every employee contributes to the culture, including the new hires. When you’re hiring thousands of people at one time, they have the potential to impact the existing culture. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but no company wants to change their company culture unwittingly.
- Set the stage by showing a video on the company culture, purpose, vision, and values during onboarding.
- Enlist high-profile company leaders to visit facilities and personally welcome some of your new hires. A high touch “hello and welcome” is more meaningful than a big, impersonal all-hands. The new hires who speak to the leader(s) will tell other new hires of the gesture and that’ll strengthen engagement and loyalty.
- If the new hires are located together, physical reminders like posters and company gear such as caps or tee-shirts can reinforce the company culture.
- Invest more time with the coaches, team leaders/supervisors, to ensure they role-model the culture. They are the closest to new hires and their impact is huge.
- Identify a few key behaviors that are imperative to maintaining your culture/values and bake those into performance evaluations. Then act quickly to address those who are counter-cultural.
It’s daunting to hire thousands in a matter of months. Hiring the right people in the right numbers will answer your business demands and yield the outcomes you want, including revenue, profitability, and brand reputation. Invest a little to do it right.
Scale fast but scale smart.
Are you uncomfortable? Good. The work is just startingYou want to be on the right side of this sea-change and tap into the culture of tomorrow. But to do this right, you will have to unlearn some of the behaviors that got you this far.
Getting the Inclusive Culture You Need
No organization remains untouched by these times. The pandemic, the sweeping protests for justice, and 2020’s political tipping point affect every person, every community, and every business. We must respond or be responsible.
You want to lead your organization through this and emerge stronger. You want to be on the right side of this sea-change and tap into the culture of tomorrow. Being one of the thrivers will mean you can attract the talent and customers you need in the future. So you’ll apply all your leadership talents to this challenge, just like all the other challenges you’ve faced.
Wrong. Here’s the first hard truth: To do this right, you will have to UNLEARN some of the behaviors that got you this far.
Act. Don’t wait until you have the perfect plan. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do employees. They will fill in an empty space. If you say and do nothing, or wait too long to plan a response, they will assume you agree with the status quo or don’t care. And by the way, saying, “We are going to do something – stay tuned” is doing something. Just don’t do NOTHING.
Listen. Don’t say your organization celebrates diversity. Ask, “Does our organization celebrate diversity?” Don’t say you are putting health and safety first. Ask, “Are we putting health and safety first?” You might have departments and task forces and employee surveys on this stuff. So what — assume you have a problem and find out what it is.
And this is critical: Make it safe for employees to answer the questions and ask their own. If they think there will be consequences for making their bosses uncomfortable, you will hear nothing, learn nothing, and accomplish nothing. So say it, straight up: “No one will be fired or demoted for speaking up.” Also, give people several channels of communication – live and face-to-face, by anonymous forum, by survey, and via small groups or task forces. Capture what you’re hearing, synthesize it, and then distribute it for feedback. Say, “This is what we’re hearing. Are we getting it right?” Then listen again. It’s a cycle, not a task to be checked off.
Tap into the positives of a grass-roots change.
Wanting to be heard is innate. Forming community is natural. Think about protests and social movements – people march to be seen and heard, and they work on causes to create change together and feel like a part of something big. Simply put, these things activate feel-good chemicals in our brains. Do this for your business, and your employees will feel good about your culture. You will create unity around your organization, your brand, and your mission.
Disrupt. Changing culture is like changing the course of a river. You have to really want it, because it takes dynamite. It’s messy and confusing while it’s happening.
But the ugliness of the disruption is good – it’s a signal to all that you mean business. This is not just about memos and posters and procedures – they’ve seen all of that. This has to look like nothing they’ve seen before. It’s Opposite Day. How do you usually talk to everyone? What words do you use? Where do you meet? How does it feel? Don’t do any of that. Say or do things they don’t expect to set the right tone.
Then use that dynamite. When you hear what’s wrong, go after it. That looks different for every problem and every organization. Use your sounding board to guide you.
Facilitate. As you figure out significant actions to take, let people step up and lead, based on their skills and passions. And then follow; ask what you can do to advise, clear a path, and make things happen. And then lead by example. Show employees you are taking concrete and personal steps toward the culture you are defining together.
Never stop. Don’t declare victory and disband the change team. Assume there is always more to do. Make the effort permanent. Keep listening and learning. Forever. You can celebrate, but celebrate progress, as defined by employees and experts. Celebrate growth, and then keep growing.
So here are your new leadership behaviors, for a new culture:
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The People Side of Supply Chain Risk ManagementTo guide your organization through a big change you need to understand who is impacted and how.
Phil Knight, the legendary founder of Nike, said “supply and demand is always the root problem in business.” Weak demand for a product is a bitter pill for any company to swallow. Inability to meet demand based on supply challenges is maddening.
Coronavirus has highlighted just how fragile our supply chain has become. In some cases, the chain is very complex. Even seemingly basic products like disinfectants, not to mention higher-end products like automobiles, can have many links in the chain of component ingredients or parts. Other times, there are too few links. For example, grocery stores may not able to meet the consumer demand for meat because there are relatively few animal processing plants. Production disruption at only a handful of major plants can leave meat displays nearly empty.
A global pandemic is a black swan event, but large-scale supply disruptions are becoming more common due to events like natural disasters, changing economic policies, and geopolitical disruption. Managing risk differently is a must. Tactics include:
- Identifying alternative sources of origins of component materials
- Diversifying suppliers
- Moving to nearshore or even onshore suppliers.
New solutions often mean new processes and digital technologies, and they always require people to perform differently. Change management – the people-centered solution – is crucial.
The Case for Change Management
Coronavirus is a trigger event for supply chain transformation and transformation is complex. Digital technologies like analytics and artificial intelligence are part of the solution. New processes are part of the solution. Employee behavior change is part of the solution.
In the face of a big, complex change, employees might be confused and fearful – they might disengage or actively resist the new way of working. But you need that behavioral system to work just as well as your processes and technology. Managing this change is crucial.
Messages must be clear and concise in times of complex change. We help clients boil down their message to four words – one to describe the problem, the solution, the approach, and the result. Together, the four words anchor the message. Leaders and other advocates need only remember these four words to ensure a consistent message. To make each communication compelling, add supporting details that are relevant to the audience.
To guide the organization through a change you need to understand who is impacted and how. Any change management novice knows how to identify stakeholders. We typically define them by team or department and design custom communications, training, and performance support for each group. But this type of analysis is incomplete. Teams and individuals should be categorized based on their disposition to change. Some stakeholders emerge as early adopters, who are pre-disposed to embracing new concepts. They make the change safe for the next segment of adopters: the early majority. The early majority makes the change feel like “this is how we’ve always done business” to yet another segment of the population: the late majority. Identifying, enlisting, and deploying the right people creates a bandwagon effect, until you have the momentum you need to engage the entire organization.
Behaviors, Habits, and Culture
Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s true. Results are marginal if your supply chain strategy doesn’t fit your culture.
How do we know whether a strategy aligns with culture? The sum of organizational habits form a culture. Habits are regularly repeated behaviors. We have to identify the behaviors that enable the desired business outcomes, and then decide whether those behaviors do or could align with the dominant culture. New behaviors can become part of the culture if they turn into habits.
Assess where you are today vs. where you need to be.
- Identify the behaviors that drive the to-be state.
- Consider what triggers or prompts each behavior.
- Make sure there is a positive consequence to reinforce the behavior.
- Ensure that employees have the ability to execute the behavior.
- Develop a plan to practice the behaviors and start creating habits.
We’ve heard the phrase “What gets measured gets rewarded, and what gets rewarded gets done.” Consider this when engineering behavior change. Are employees rewarded for managing risk? Probably not — at least not yet. Cost control or cost reduction has typically been king in the decades-long quest for efficiency. But performance ratings or bonuses tied to cost savings may not reinforce risk management behavior. It’s pretty basic: leaders must ensure that KPIs and employee reward structures match the business outcomes they want.
The global pandemic and other natural disasters may be changing the business landscape for good. However, the age-old problem of supply and demand remains. Business leaders have no choice but to change their supply chain strategy to be more nimble, more planful, and avoid risk. Mastering the change to people’s performance may be the difference between good and great outcomes.
- Fogg, B.J. Tiny Habits,
- Rogers, Everett. Diffusion of Innovations