The 3-E’s of the Employee/Employer Relationship: Is your Organization Practicing all Three?

The 3-E’s, early, eminently, and equality, thus forming the fundamental principles of the employee/employer relationship.  Too many times only early is practiced, and the problems emanating result in reduced employee morale, purposeful negative actions, and disruption of the business by both customers and employees acting in a resentful manner.  In order to fully understand the power of combining the 3-E’s, we must first detail, define, and describe.

Early is often considered as akin to new, fresh, and initial; yet, the better application for this topic is in timeliness, punctuality, and promptness.  For example, when a problem occurs, the earlier it is addressed the faster and less damaging the problem becomes to the business as a whole.  Not taking precipitous action leaves the problem festering and infecting eventually leading to organizational cancer (Dandira, 2012), low employee morale, and managerial inertia slowing business processes and increasing the damage.  Hence, prompt, punctual, and timely action to address a situation early enough to affect positively the outcome remains the order of the day and the strongest power business leaders can take with the 3-E’s, but early action is not enough.

Eminent is often considered as akin to celebrity, paramount, and superior; yet a more preferred definition for this topic is often conspicuous and influential.  When an eminent action is taken, the action tends to supersede current policies, procedures, and overlaps or drowns normal work.  Overlaps and superseding are dangerous actions leading to increased costs, lost work, customer complaints, and a general lack of trust in business leadership to properly prior plan and produce positive performances from the business structure.  These thoughts are fed with celebrity-like marketing on new policies, business leaders, and changes, which are not fully understood and appreciated by the employees most affected.  Hence, the need to be frequently engaged, seen being influential in the lives of employees, and known as a person who cares remains the key leadership quality developed by eminent action; yet eminent actions, even if conducted early, are insufficient to properly influence and meet the demands of business.

Equality is often considered as sameness, fairness, and uniformity; yet, all of these definitions fail to capture what equality truly is and the power of equality.  For this topic, consider the following:  equipoise, parity, and concurrence.  Employees are individuals. They might have similar job titles and responsibilities, but the individual approach to the position provides power and separates the individuals and does not collect, compress, and concentrate into carbon copies.  Hence, the same approach of uniform application is not meeting the needs of the employees nor is it meeting the definition of fair.  Thus, the employee needs equality that treats them as individuals concurring in practice, but are individual in approach, and brings parity into treatment as an expression of equipoise.  While early is good and early mixed with eminence is better, but without early, eminent, and equal combined into an action, the employee and the employer suffer in an environment of disaster fed by chaos, corruption, and cancer as detailed by Dandira (2012).

Consistency remains key to employee/manager relationships.  While the principles of 3-E’s are important, all the work of the 3-E’s can be wasted if consistency is not honored and observed by the employees.  Consistency requires flexibility, firmness, and fungibility to meet the demands of creating success in using the 3-E’s appropriately.  The main factor in employee/employer relationships continues to be the individual nature of each employee, not the requirement to make all employees the same carbon copy of another employee or an “ideal” of the desired employee.

Putting these principles into practice requires asking questions, such as “Are employee communications being expressed early, eminently, and equally?”  “Are actions taken by business leaders being perceived as meeting the 3-E’s?”  “Do the trend lines in application indicate consistency or inconsistency?”  While employee perceptions can and often remain hidden, except through properly capturing actionable data in key performance indicators, the answers to these questions and more are evident.  Look at the employees, who show up to work excited, enthused, and enthralled.  Ask them why they possess these qualities.  Then, ask those employees not possessing them and hone in on the differences.  Will employees change from day-to-day; probably, but the answers continue to be important indicators as to whether communication in the organization is occurring.

Sinek (2009) offers that asking why and truly listening to the answers being returned remains the most effective question and action series employers can take from day-to-day as the pulse of the organization.  Gitomer (1998) adds that leaders after asking “why” should ask “what” to empower change and drive motivation.  Consider for a moment, an employee is asked “why” they feel the way they feel, then “what” would that employee like to see changed to aid in feeling differently, and project the employee’s reaction to having been heard.  Project that employee’s reaction if they see the changes they offered implemented into business practice.

Are all employee suggestions implemented; no, this is not feasible and the employees know this when making suggestions.  Yet, when employee suggestions are implemented, this changes the employee dynamic for all employees.  Ask yourself, when was the last time an employee suggestion was implemented and marketed to the other employees?  If the time is longer than 6-months, the program is not consistently being implemented and there is a problem with using the 3-E’s.

Steenhuysen (2009) reported on research discussing the power of praise.  Where praise is offered genuinely, praise has the power to change, and the research supports that the power of genuine praise operates on the same reward sections of the brain as cash. Anecdotal evidence shows many employees appreciate genuine praise, sometimes more than cash.  As a business leader or employer, ask yourself, “When was the last time I caught someone doing good and offered praise?”  If the answer was not yesterday, there is a problem with the 3-E’s, and consistency will be needed to rectify this problem.  Are you setting the goal to not leave the office without offering genuine praise?  Remember, Steenhuysen (2009) is reporting that praise is its own reward.  The research and anecdotal evidence present praise as being as good as cash to the brain.  Hence, praise is its own reward; can objects be added to potentially increase the reward, yes.  But start with praise, honestly provided and employing the 3-E’s.

Case in point, I have worked with a VP of Customer Service Operations who carries with them yellow and purple post-it notes.  The purple are for catching people in the act of good.  From simple actions to amazing calls, they all get recognition on purple post-it notes as a very noticeable action the business leader can take to catch and praise the good.  The yellow post-it notes go to the team leader when training is needed.  Consistent action over the years has developed a spirit of competition to earn and be caught doing an act of good.  The yellow notes are not remembered at bonus time; more serious infractions have a set process to follow, and the less serious yellow post-it notes are simply a means of providing timely feedback employing the spirit of the 3-E’s.  Upon starting this program, almost a full year passed before the employees caught on and the word of this action spread.  Let consistent action be seen, not marketed, and let the word spread by enthused employees.

The best part of the program from an employee perspective is the highest earners of purple post-it notes eventually began earning additional non-cash rewards also presented in a quiet manner.  The rewards ranged from leaving an hour early with pay, longer lunches or breaks with pay, to movie tickets and dinner cards.  These extra steps were implemented when trends reflected some employees were taking extra efforts to be caught thus necessitating a need for other levels of reward to keep the interest of the employees in acting and performing to a higher level.  Never are these employees recognized openly, e.g., at a company meeting, marketed to other employees, e.g., in a company newsletter, and receiving the purple notes is not a competition.

These purple post-it notes are an expression of gratitude from a person in leadership to an employee working hard.  Quiet, consistent, application of the 3-E’s provided a failing business unit new life in employee interactions with each other and the external customers.  The actions taken here should not be rare or the exception in employee/employer relationships, but the standard and personalized to each business and business leader.  What can we learn here to apply to all business units and organizations?

  1. Whatever is done consistent action remains critical.
  2. Simple, quiet, and direct remain key to affecting positive results on a personal level. Be brave!  Be honest!  Be courageous!  Be seen acting as you would see all employees act.  These will provide an impetus for others to emulate actions taken and good will develop.
  3. Know the 3-E’s, whether you are currently an employee or a business leader of hundreds or thousands. The 3-E’s are a two-directional action possessing power for positive results.  Use this power to drive a solution that can be consistently applied.
  4. If what is being tried is not working, do not act abruptly. Quietly adjust until positive actions can be seen and verified through trend lines.  What is being done currently might simply need more time or more quiet publicity to be discussed by the employees.  Make small adjustments and act for the interest of individuals; the whole population will catch on.
  5. A word of caution. Never use this program for self-aggrandizement; this will kill the program faster than a bullet to the 10-ring.  Do not enter into this program and offer non-genuine praise or false and ambiguous words and canned phrases.  Be specific and capture the incidents exactly, ask questions if needed, but be genuine and specific.

 

References

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

Gitomer, J. (1998). Customer satisfaction is worthless – Customer loyalty is priceless. Atlanta, GA: Bard Press.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Steenhuysen, J.  Praise as good as cash to brain: study. (2009, February 26). Reuters. Science. Accessed from: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSN2343219520080424?feedType=RSS&feedName=scienceNews

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

The Call Center Leader Part 5 – Tacit Knowledge Combined with the Power of 4-C’s Produces Competitive Advantage

Tacit Knowledge, as a competitive advantage, remains a highly misunderstood topic in business due primarily to the difficulty in spotting, acknowledging, and then measuring this form of knowledge.  Because managers, who preempt application, see tacit knowledge as a threat, leadership is required to implement its benefits.  Tacit knowledge relies upon people implementing daily processes and procedures.  Tacit knowledge as a competitive advantage requires freedom to improve those processes and procedures of daily work to understand how to improve.  The principles of tacit knowledge are discussed and enhanced by Ambrosini and Bowman (2001) providing excellent discussion material for leaders to contemplate.

In detailing an operational definition of tacit knowledge, Ambrosini and Bowman (2001) designed a definitive definition for tacit knowledge as “context specific, … [generally] acquired on the job or in particular situations.”  Proceeding further, Nonaka (1991) reiterated that tacit knowledge is “… deeply rooted in [both] an individual’s action and commitment [to] a profession, product, market, work group, or team.”  Tacit knowledge contains elements of “practical knowledge” and remains “difficult to describe” unless the knowledge is described as a “process” to perform work.  Taken together, tacit knowledge is a person’s commitment and knowledge gained in experience to understand processes and improve the same.

Let’s use an analogy to drive this point home.  John works for call center A; Mark works for call center B.  The leadership in call center B is very demanding, but rewards those who meet the challenges and provides freedom for front-line personnel to meet customer needs.  Call center A does not demand much from front-line personnel except to perform their jobs as dictated, and managers are in place to ensure the job is done and nothing more.  Both call centers have high employee churn numbers, both call centers are matrix driven, and performance is measured in seconds; both call centers compete with each other for the same customer base.

Because Mark has freedom and call center B is willing to reward, Mark has been focused upon improving daily operations and customer support.  Mark sends several ideas to his manager and onto senior call center leadership.  Several of Mark’s ideas find their way into organizational change and are implemented.

John has a personal desire to see call center A succeed and develops ideas to improve customer support while decreasing organizational inertia.  John’s manager sees these ideas, discovers the ideas are good, and decides to take them as their own.  John is pressured to leave call center A over the next 8-10 months; by this time, the ideas are practically worthless and cannot be implemented due to shifts in business conditions.

Tacit knowledge was at play in both scenarios.  Call center B employed tacit knowledge to compete.  Call center A employed tacit knowledge to thwart and denigrate.  Herein also lies the leadership challenge and the need to understand and implement the principles of combining competition, collaboration, compromise, and cooperation, also referred to as the “Principle of 4-C’s” (4-C’s).  Thomas (1992) extols the virtues of combining competition, collaboration, cooperation, and compromise as a tool to achieve success in conflict resolution, organizational improvement, and people development.

The continued application of all four principles, cooperation, collaboration, compromise, and competition, provides fertile ground for resolving problems and advancing organizational objectives.  These 4-C’s must work together with no single principle more important than the other.  Like the four-legged stool my grandmother used to reach high cupboards, the stability of the stool depended upon all four legs to ensure strength and flexibility to work exactly.  Compromise and competition do not work without collaboration and cooperation.  They are all interconnected, and the business leader, wanting to lead well, would remember this relationship.

Collaboration is strengthened by cooperation, compromise, and competition.  Competition must end in collaboration, cooperation, and compromise; in fact, competition will breed collaboration and cooperation to reach a compromise, before those being competed against provide collaboration, cooperation, and compromise, and remain attached and honored as successful means to reach the desired win-win agreement.  The fires of competition are crucial to purifying those collaborating, compromising, and cooperating into a single honed unit that can more effectively work together.  Cooperation can do nothing without the shared responsibilities of collaboration and compromise; when competition is added, the cooperation is strengthened.  Compromise without cooperation or collaboration is ineffective, and competition is an added value to ensuring stronger compromise.  None of these can stand alone without elements of the others to support, edify, and multiply; along with the stated relationship comes the knowledge that if the agreement is not win-win the agreement is a straight lose scenario.

The inherent discussion above is condensed from Thomas (1992), who advocated this combined approach to organizational design as a masterstroke to getting people working together.  The same basic philosophy can be seen in the writings of Goldratt and Cox (2004), Lencioni (2002), Lundin, Paul, and Christensen (2000), Boynton and Fischer (2005), and Boylan (1995), among many others.  Notably, these principles have been understood throughout time.  Jucius (1963), in speaking of the broader issues in personnel management, understood the combined power of collaboration, cooperation, compromise, and competition and wrote extensively about how to use these effectively in the organization.  Cruickshank and Davis (1958) understood these principles to be a combined and more effective tool than separate strategies of the same general direction and strove to ensure business leaders understood the practical application and inherent need for the organization to adhere to these principles as a combined effort of all organizational members.  McNichols (1963) endeavored to keep these items combined in the minds of executives; thus, empowering them to discover solutions employing all the strengths in the consolidated collective use of competition, collaboration, compromise, and competition.  The empowerment felt combining these tools elevates the individual focus into a collected focus, and the solutions for an organization are improved dynamically.

Examples of the combined efforts of collaboration, competition, compromise, and cooperation are found in the writings and research of Collins (2001 & 2006), Collins and Hansen 2011), and Collins and Porras (1994).  These books contain many organizational examples of companies employing the combined strategy as outlined and collectively harnessing the power in cooperation, compromise, collaboration, and competition to make the long-lasting change from “Good to Great” organizations.  Collins (2001) discusses Walgreen’s transformation and employs the combined power into the new highly successful Walgreen’s store model.  Mitchell (2003) discusses the same principles as CEO of Mitchells/Richards Clothing Stores.  By embracing the combined power contained, this CEO has kept the family business growing.  Both organizations, Walgreen’s and Mitchells/Richards, embraced the energy of collaboration properly supported by compromise and collaboration and invested in internal and external competition to drive the needed organizational changes.  What Collins proves is that the collective power is not particular and rare, but available to all who choose to combine not separate, collect not disburse, connect and retain not divide, partition, and mutate.  Leadership demands higher practical performance than management (Robinson, 1999; Punia, 2004; and Mintzberg, 1980).

The ability to rise higher must include all the attributes, strengths, and collective power found in collaboration, competition, cooperation, and most especially compromise.  Having standards does not mean compromising personal or organizational standards for collaboration.  Having standards is the discovery of common ground in collaborating for a common goal, enhanced in the fires of competition.

How does a leader begin to take tacit knowledge and combine it with the power of cooperation, competition, collaboration, and compromise, to achieve positive results; the answers are quite simple.

  1. Allow and encourage idea submission. As a small business consultant, I am continually amazed at how many ideas are already in the minds of current employees to improve the organization.  Open lines of communication in the organizational hierarchy for ideas to percolate.  Train the employees to use these lines of communication.  I cannot count how many times I have heard frustrated employees say, “I do not know who to submit my ideas to.”
  2. Train people to think and improve. Quality control is not just for the quality group to monitor.  Quality assurance is a minute-by-minute process every employee should be engaged upon to help the company improve.  Train this principle from day one with new employees and revisit this idea at least quarterly and every time idea submission drops.
  3. Competition is for external forces, but the 4-C’s principle is for everyone internally. Why have customer service teams competing against each other creating division and chaos inside the company?  While sometimes healthy, many times petty in-house competition does nothing but destroy, denigrate, and deride already stressed and harried people.  Stop tearing the company down in the front-line; cease the petty competitions between teams.
  4. Rewards and awards must contain value to the individual or they are meaningless. I worked with an employee who had an award from a previous employer on his desk.  The award was a horse’s rear-end in bronze, and the employee was exceedingly proud of having been part of the team that won that particular award.  The employee had not worked for that company in 20-years, but remains proud of that award and the reward that came along with it.  I was also part of a call center that handed out awards that went into the trashcan before the end of the award ceremony.  Rewards and awards must be valuable to the recipient.  To make this happen, choose to build people by showing the award and reward.  Why is the Stanley Cup in the NHL so coveted? Individual teams and players are inscribed permanently as a reminder of greatness; more importantly, everyone in the NHL sees the cup.  This is a pattern that can be and should be replicated in the call center; just do not let the competition become chaotically competitive or meaningless and petty.  Remember, many teams in the NHL have never won the Stanley Cup.
  5. Tacit knowledge has value. Cherish this knowledge as the genetic power of the company to thrive.  Ask questions, listen to the answers, and remember the person providing input.  Too often the person providing input is not recognized, and this failure to recognize contributions does tremendous harm to morale, dampening desire to contribute, and removing further access to potentially amazing results.

Finally,

5.5 Let the tacit knowledge and award/reward systems live.  Tacit knowledge has a life cycle as sure as every product, service, work process, and daily procedure.  Allow change to live, allow knowledge to live, and allow the freedom to change to meet new needs.  This is probably the most important point in this list of actions leaders can take to employ tacit knowledge as a competitive strategy.  Recognize the life cycle of ideas and stop being afraid of employee freedom and change.

References

Ambrosini, V., & Bowman, C. (2001). Tacit knowledge: Some suggestions for operationalization. Journal of Management Studies, 38(6), doi: 0022-2380

Boler, J. (1968). Agency. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 29(2), 165-181.

Boylan, B. (1995). Get Everyone in Your Boat Rowing in the Same Direction. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble.

Boynton, A., & Fisher, B. (2005). Virtuoso teams: Lessons from teams that changed their worlds. FT Press

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Collins, J. (2006). Good to great and the social sectors: A monograph to accompany Good to great. London: Random House Business.

Collins, J., & Hansen, M. (2011). Great by choice: Uncertainty, chaos, and luck: Why some thrive despite them all. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Collins, J., & Porras, J. (1994). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies. New York: Collins Business Essentials – A Collins Business Book: An Imprint of Harper Collins.

Cruickshank, H., & Davis, K. (1958). Cases in management (2nd ed.). Homewood, Ill.: R.D. Irwin.

Goldratt, E. M., & Cox, J. (2004). The goal: A process of ongoing improvement. (Third Revised ed.). Great Barrington, Massachusetts: North River Press.

Hickman, G. (2010). Leading organizations: Perspectives for a new era (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Jucius, M. (1963). Personnel management (5th ed.). Homewood, Ill.: R.D. Irwin.

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons.

Lundin, S. C., Paul, H., & Christensen, J. (1996). Fish! A remarkable way to boost morale and improve results. New York, New York: Hyperion.

McNichols, T. (1963). Policy making and executive action; cases on business policy (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mintzberg, H. (1980). Structure in 5’s: A synthesis of the research on organization design. Management Science (Pre-1986), 26(3), 322. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/205849936?accountid=458

Mitchell, J. (2003). Hug your customers: The proven way to personalize sales and achieve astounding results. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Punia, B. K. (2004). Employee empowerment and retention strategies in diverse corporate culture: A prognostic study. Vision: The Journal of Business Perspective, 8(81), 81-91. doi: 10.1177/097226290400800107

Robinson, G. (1999). Leadership vs management. The British Journal of Administrative Management, 20-21. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224620071?accountid=458

Thomas, K. W. (1992). Conflict and conflict management: Reflections and update. Journal Of Organizational Behavior, 13(3), 265-274.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

 

Organizational Diversity: Is Your Business Diversity Commitment Only Skin Deep?

I absolutely agree diversification of people improves organizations, communities, and society. I agree that including many minds makes a better professional and personal environment, organizations can become more flexible in thought and action, and ultimately better members in a society are trained and built. Increasing diversity, improving inclusion, and inspiring multiculturalism all wrap around the same three principles, trust, agency, and freedom. Inherent to agency is the ability to choose, the freedom to choose, and the responsibility for the consequences of the choice validated or judged by societies, even when choosing wrong according to one person or another. People must be able to choose wrong and suffer the consequences demanded by society without government insistence to build diversification programs that possess intrinsic value to a business.

Having seen organizations that pride themselves on being culturally diverse and skin-tone accepting, the management more often than not tend to be very exclusive of new thinking, new ideas, and loyal opposition. I have experience with several organizations that claim inclusion, and practice exclusion at every opportunity while preaching, marketing, and advertising their diversity. Thus, the question remains, “Is your business diversity commitment only skin deep?” An example of “skin-deep diversity” is on display when reading Bruno’s (2008) article on bias covering The Chicago Tribune. Labor unions pride themselves on marketing their inclusivity and diversity; The Chicago Tribune also prides itself on being multicultural, but both organizations represent the worst kind of exclusion while promoting in word a spirit of inclusion. This is witnessed and exemplified by Bruno (2008); the claims made towards The Chicago Tribune and many Labor Unions remains justified and applicable as learning opportunities.

The first question regarding deeper diversity a company should ask is, “Why the reliance upon legal requirements to force multiculturalism and diversity if diversity and multiculturalism are so good for the organization (Greenberg, 2004)?” People, all people, regardless of age despise being told what to do; but advocating the removal of laws specifically designed to force judicial and legislative fiat in diversifying an organization encourages rejection, scorn, and disparagement towards the advocate. The two sides of the same coin are the legal demand to diversify while being told it will make your organization stronger and a refusal to diversify beyond skin pigmentation and personal lifestyle choices. A sealed and closed mind is more damaging than an undiversified organization; surface level commitment to diversity embodies a sealed and closed mind.

Legal or governmental fiat of forcing people to work together is most detrimental to the morale, confidence, and disposition of the workforce; yet, governing bodies all insist upon using force to achieve that which logic and free markets can regulate but have not been tried. Nowhere, in any country, where free market principles attempted to change the hearts and minds of companies to embrace diversity. The power of judicial action and legislated demands forced diversity as “… yet another program to add to hiring agendas for businesses forced upon business decisions.” While I believe and support the power of organizational conflict as a means to improving engagement, I also realize that good organizations must be honest and forthright in addressing concerns and eliminating conflict among stakeholders, including employees. Like rampant undirected change, conflict, has the power to overpower and destroy because of a lack of self-control. The same is true for rampant diversification programs that scratch the surface, e.g., pay lip service to diversity but never actually diversify minds and thinking.

The second question a company seeking deeper diversity should ask is, “Why are governments and judges not good at diversifying businesses?” Boler (1968) provides wise counsel on the application of individual and personal agency and the power of agency in organizational design and leadership. When people choose to embrace diversification as a personal commitment, instead of being forced to embrace diversity required by a judge or legislator, the personal investment and individual interest increases the likelihood that the change in thinking will be more than surface deep. By being more than surface deep, a diversified workforce can then unleash the powerful effects of diversification as promoted by Greenberg (2004).

Agency alone is not enough; trust becomes the next greatest factor an organization can embrace (Stawiski, Deal, and Ruderman, 2010; & Tan and Liddle, 2011). Trusting first in the self to act ethically and for reasons beyond the individual desires and personal values, Bjorn (2011) provides guidance on building the moral courage as a foundation to trust by trusting in the persons dealt with on a regular basis to do their job to the best of their ability (Bjorn, 2011). To reciprocate trust within the organization, empower people to build relationships built upon trust and drive that trust relationship into time. Finally, trust the competition to compete fairly, including honorable action, to build a better future. Agency and trust go hand in hand in this endeavor, and through agency and trust, the freedom to act does not have to be litigated, legislated, or lost for the forced acceptance of obscure principles or to honor legislated diversity programs.

Freedom to choose embodies the accountability and responsibility to act, building upon the moral fiber of the individual to be seen and doing that which society claims is “right and proper.” People, all people, regardless of culture and country, want to be seen by their peers and fellow professionals as acting appropriately. The shift from barbarism to civilized society means force is not needed to ensure compliance, and the individual being left to act will naturally act in a manner that will be recognized by free market principles and rewarded. Hence, government fiat and judicial action were not only erroneous but continue to impede diversity programs. Unleashing the power of diversity releases the individual and the organization from acting out of fear and acting for honor and respect from society; through trust, the power of agency and freedom to choose determine a prevalent and cohesive workplace environment.

Taking the prescribed action does presume people are honest and free of prejudice or are willing to release themselves of fear and prejudice out of a desire to be seen as honorable. Although that is an ideal presumption, reality proves it can be problematic from top-down mandates in organizations. Assuming the ideal, the principle of hiring only those, who are qualified by education, experience, character, and ability to work with others at any level, settles the issue whatever diversity the applicant represents. It will automatically happen from top down. Respect shown for others should be included, however, and respect must be earned from top-down with leaders engaging in exemplifying the desire to diversify thinking through action, not simply words printed on a diversity mandate.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

References

Bjorn, K. (2011, March 03). Moral courage: Building ethical strength in the workplace. Character First: The Magazine, Retrieved from http://cfthemagazine.com/2011-03/moral-courage-building-ethical-strength-in-the-workplace/

Greenberg, J. (2004). Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges and Solutions. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/diversity-in-the-workplace-benefits-challenges-solutions.asp

Stawiski, S., Deal, J., & Ruderman, M. (2010, April 1). Building trust in the workplace: A key to retaining women. QuickView Leadership Series – Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

Tan, J., & Liddle, T. (2011, March 31). Board diversity the key to rebuilding trust and improving governance: Women Corporate Directors. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.kpmg.com/sg/en/pressroom/pages/pr20110331.aspx

 

Organizational Culture: A Leadership Opportunity and Responsibility

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been employed by both organizations mentioned. Both employment situations have ended, and I currently have no further business with either organization. I do continue to develop relationships inside these organizations and have great hope for both businesses to further succeed. It is hoped that the commentary here promotes and helps, as nothing said here should be taken as derogatory. The comments come from research of more than a decade in both organizations, long discussions with employees, vendors, stakeholders, and other customers of both organizations. If either organization would like to comment, their full and unedited commentary will be posted in following discussions.

Creating a culture follows a basic set of principles, namely the example of the leaders, including their words and actions, followed by repetition and the passage of time (Tribus, n.d.). Tribus (n.d.) specifically places the core and creation of organizational culture in the example of the leaders regardless of whether the leader is a leader or a manager by action and word. Hence, the example of the leaders and managers remains more potent to organizational culture than any other single item. As an example of this, Quicken Loans has “ISM’s” which the entire organization is expected to live creating the culture of the business. These Quicken Loans “ISM’s” are exemplified first by the leaders, supervisors, directors, managers, to front-line and new hires from the first interaction with Quicken Loans.

We need clarity here: a leader is never a manager and a manager never leads. While a leader might have duties similar in nature to a manager, the point of focus in the leader is to build others, while the manager’s focus will be to protect and defend their own patch of ego. A leader welcomes inputs, allows freedom, and generates followers. A manager throttles all organizational communication, refuses to accept responsibility or accountability, and destroys any who might be perceived as a threat. An overabundance and overreliance upon managers has been the major cause of problems in business for 40+ years. The dearth of leaders and leadership remains a core organizational cancer for many businesses, to the detriment of all societies, associations, and environments.

To create a culture specific to adaptability, several additional key components are required, namely, written instructions, freedom, and two-directional communication in the hierarchy (Aboelmaged, 2012; Bethencourt, 2012; Deci and Ryan, 2000; and Kuczmarski, 1996 & 2003). Again, the example of Quicken Loans “ISM’s” remains important and applicable. Quicken Loans has an “ISM’s” book available for free to any visitor and any office. This printed material forms a contract with the vendors, customers, visitors, etc., who desire a copy to judge the organization on each of the “ISM’s” printed. The same information is part of the Quicken Loans website. ISM’s remain subject to change to improve the entire organization. Ability to change is a key quality required for all organizations and cultures.

Alvesson and Willmott (2002) add another component to this discussion. As the organizational culture takes hold of an individual employee, the employee begins to embody the culture, for good or ill, in their daily interactions both personally and professionally. This hold develops into an identity adding another level of control from the organization over the employee binding them to the organization. The identity control becomes a two-edged sword, as the employee will form loyal opposition that can be misinterpreted to be intransigence, and the loss of that employee causes other employees to question their identity and the organizational culture. Or the opposite, the cultural hold is one that breeds desire to not only onboard the culture but personally invest in the organizational culture, and the employee experiences a positive feedback loop building trust in the organization.

Two examples, two separate cultures, two distinct differences in employee attitudes and behaviors are as follows. University of Phoenix has a problem with organizational culture being mentioned from the first day of training, such as employees discussing “how things used to be” and “desiring a return to previous cultures and leaders.” This attitude forms its own culture, creating distrust, and invalidating organizational change. Other attitudes and managerial expressions reinforce this negativity to the detriment of all employees, customers, vendors, and stakeholders. Regardless of the printed statements to the contrary, changes have not become embodied in the organization and the example is telling.

The second example is Quicken Loans. Talking with previous employees reveals a favorable rating of the organization. Talking with current employees on any level reveals a personal favorite “ISM” that speaks to them as a motivating influence for improving daily. The same holds true for decision-makers; many of the vendors and most of the longer-term customers all share a similar “ISM” experience. Example makes the difference!

Quicken Loans and University of Phoenix are creating a culture attuned to the kind of organization they desire, what the organizational leaders communicate, how leaders are seen exemplifying the organizational culture, and building that culture one employee at a time until that employee then begins to sponsor other employees into the organization’s culture. For good or ill, the same process of example propels the organization towards growth and development or trouble and market share loss. The organizational leader must set clear goals, define the vision, and obtain employee buy-in prior to enacting change, then exemplify that vision after the change (Deci and Ryan, 1980, 1985, & 2000). To change an organizational culture, this process must be followed.

Key to this process is Tribus’ (n.d.) [p. 3-4] “Learning Society” vs. “Knowing Society.” The distinction is crucial and the organizational culture must be learned and the process for continually learning honed and promoted to protect the culture from variables both internal and external. A “Learning Society” adapts, builds, grows, and is continually flexing in change akin to a finely crafted sword. A “Knowing Society” is overrun with bureaucracy and managers, fails to grow, cannot flex in change, and remains brittle under a polished exterior, which consequently stresses that exterior causing problems to erupt in a multitude of different areas taxing already tight resources and impacting future ability to adapt to change.

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved

References

Aboelmaged, M. (2012). Harvesting organizational knowledge and innovation practices: An empirical examination of their effects on operations strategy. Business Process Management Journal, 18(5), 712-734.

Alvesson M, & Willmott H. (2002, July) Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal Of Management Studies 39(5): 619-644. Available from: Business Source Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 27, 2014.

Bethencourt, L. A. (2012). Employee engagement and self-determination theory. (Order No. 3552273, Northern Illinois University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 121. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1294580434?accountid=458. (prod.academic_MSTAR_1294580434).

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1980). The empirical exploration of intrinsic motivational processes. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 13, pp. 39–80). New York: Academic Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.

Kuczmarski, T. (1996). What is innovation? The art of welcoming risk. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 13(5), 7-11.

Kuczmarski, T. (2003). What is innovation? And why aren’t companies doing more of it? What Is Innovation? And Why Aren’t Companies Doing More of It?” 20(6), 536-541.

Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf

VITarSS – Follow Up On Communicating

Program Note: On my blog, I follow a strict rule, “Praise in Public, reprimand in private.” Thus, the organization in this example remains unidentified. While I believe in the public shaming of individuals to promote improved societal actions, reprimanding in public remains very unprofessional in my opinion. The organization mentioned knows about this blog and is provided the opportunity to review this post before posting. If a response ever comes forth, I will post, after sufficient scrubbing, the business response.

Disclaimer: I am heavily invested in the discussed organization and a full separation from this organization is not possible for personal and professional reasons. Thus, when discussing organizational concerns, organizational change, and organizational dilemmas, these problems are significant and personal to my future professionally. The continuing struggles of this organization are difficult to observe and many lessons on managers acting like leaders are being poignantly taught to other businesses.

It has been a sad experience to receive additional communications from a company I used to do a lot of business with, sad, because the organization refuses to provide even a modicum of customer service in all the communications received. With an eye to following up on how to use VITarSS to promote customer loyalty building experiences, the following provides a clear example. From the last emailed communication received from the organization comes the following that while technically and legally accurate lacks customer attention and does not employ VITarSS more specifically. The company recently adopted the program “Service of Excellence,” and this email, along with all the communication from this organization, lacks excellence along with short changing service. The email response was received after nine-days from the original submission requesting further assistance. No phone calls, no personal response, simply a rushed and hurried email message quoted directly:

“Thank you for taking the time to outline your concerns.  We are in receipt of your email.

We are reviewing this matter and conducting research into your file to address any new concerns that have not previously been addressed by our office.

We understand the urgency of this matter and will follow up with you expeditiously [sic].”

Notice the inflection upon “new” concerns. This suggests that previous concerns are not valid and only “new” concerns are important enough to generate a response. Instead of taking all the communications, all the concerns, and wrapping them together into an actionable item, only “new” concerns receive organizational attention. This is an intentional organizational action that automatically discounts previous concerns raised, dismisses the organization-wide problems detailed in previous communications, and narrows the focus of the intended future organizational response into a negligible sized portion. Think “water off a duck’s back” when considering the company response plans to discount the customer’s concerns. By breaking down the report of problems, the problems are easier to dispel and slides off into areas of non-importance, like water sliding off a duck’s back.

Failure to communicate remains a culture in this organization from internal customer relationships to external customer relationships. Communicating properly hinders operations and abilities, stifles creativity, thwarts organizational change, and destroys morale for both the customer and the front-line workers. Employees on the front-line do not seem to have much problems communicating with their equals, but from front line worker to front-line supervisor, communication trouble ensues. Front-line supervisor to director, more communication troubles become apparent, and fissures between these parties are obvious enough that external customers are aware of the problems. When communications go up the hierarchy, communication breaks down dramatically. Downward communications always delivered via email, conference call, and marketing schemes, with employee adherence, compliance, and understanding measured in statistics. The voice of internal customers is lost, intentionally glazed over, and drowned into silence controlled by layers of managers seeking to hold onto power.

VITarSS communications are primarily valuable to the audience, imaginatively communicate ideas, and target a specified audience, providing specifics and significance to the intended audience. Below is what the same passage quoted above, would look like with VITarSS:

Thank you for taking the time to outline your concerns. These concerns are important to us as a company and me personally, and we appreciate every opportunity to correct deficiencies.

We are reviewing this matter and conducting research into your customer file. Our customer response will address your specific concerns, and I will report to you promptly with the research results, along with a suggested plan of action to move forward.

I understand the urgency of this matter and it is my pleasure to follow up with you in a timely manner.

The difference is clear. By maintaining a customer first focus, the customer can then expect a proper response from the organization. Employing VITarSS promotes customer first communications, aids in communicating action, and delivers the power of communication in a two-directional manner. Significance of the customer’s concerns becomes important to the organization, and the entire response declares intent to act. Where in the first communication did any of this occur? The reason for failure continues to be simple; failure to communicate is creating organizational cancer leading to organizational suicide.

While VITarSS does help improve communication and can change the communication culture, VITarSS does not and cannot be the Band-Aid fixing deep organizational communication cancers. VITarSS simply begins to help change the culture, aids in improving the thoughts of individuals where communicating is concerned, and provides a standardized measuring device to bring all employees to the same standard in organizational communication. Dandira (2012) makes clear, poor communication is the root cause of organizational cancer. By failing to communicate, refusing to honor the agreement between external customer and the organization, open honest dialogue, and respect the customer, the organizational cancer has spread and metastasized into a massive and urgent problem that only the surgery and chemotherapy of solid leadership can fix. The failure to communicate with the external customer displays the organizational cancer and portrays information that the organization would rather not have seen by the external customers, vendors, investors, etc. Unlike most cancer situations, this cancer was self-inflicted.

Ten days from the original communication, the response received was nothing short of ambiguous, placed the organization into a favorable position, and denied all concerns raised by the customer. In total, 19-days were spent on an issue of organizational incompetence where the organization, through the customer service arm, failed to act, failed to communicate, and failed to even address the customer concerns.

By focusing upon several small items in the three-page original letter, the organization is justifying their actions while discounting the source, e.g. the customer making the claims of organizational impropriety. Please note there is no accusation of illegal or illicit actions. The actions taken by the company are technically within the law, but are not customer focused, do not satisfy customer service relationships, and allows the problems to be discounted instead of addressed and fixed. Again, organizational cancer grew instead of being faced squarely and a fix launched.

When organizational communication problems mix with managerial micro-networks, organizational change opportunities diminish significantly. Through micro-networking, managers gain power inside the organization and become the problem detailed as organizational cancer. Trouble in organizational communication identifies where organizational problems lie and provides leadership the opportunity to work on organizational change. A failure of leadership adds power to the micro networks established by these managers, who see change as a threat to their personal power base. Thus, true organizational change that entails correcting adverse culture and environmental problems stagnate. The leaders become frustrated and leave the organization. All these symptoms represent pieces of the root cause failure in organizational communications.

Grammar remains important in every communication between a customer and an organization. Proper formatting, knowledge between when to send a business letter or a business memo, and the differences in communication formats aid to combine to communicate more effectively. The original communication as a rushed and hurried email message and is not grammatically correct intensifies the organizational communication problem and the external customer frustration. Worse, the poor grammar sets the professional tone of the organization as one that will not address the customer’s concerns.

Grammar is a force multiplier in written communication, just as tone of voice is a communication multiplier in verbal communication, and clothing is a communication force multiplier in non-verbal visual communication. Proper grammar provides the opportunity to focus upon the written words without automatically discounting the sender.

Recently an email received from an associate was missing all punctuation, spelling was non-existent, and the email was mostly gibberish written from a smart phone. Natural human instinct is to delete the email or send a crushing reply. Hence, the continued importance in written communication of the sender’s grammar, time investment in editing, and the proper use of language, format, and style to communicate well. All of which VITarSS has the power to improve in all types and forms of communication.

Reference

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

 

If you want to change the organization: Change the structure.

Did Tidd and Bessant (2009) miss the forest for the trees when considering the actual building of an “innovative organization;” yes, very much so. Dandira (2012) makes a compelling argument for dysfunctional organization being a cancer with all the life threatening imagery and dramatic baggage. How an organization culturally defines a leader, understands a manager, and differentiates between these two terms lays the basis for the organization to flourish and grow or get sick and die. So many business professionals confuse the term leader and manager that in some circles the terms are almost synonymous. The problem with the confusion of these terms is that of frustration. Dandira (2012) speaks eloquently about the cause and effect of frustrated employees. Exploring this further, let us discuss specific organizations with organizational cancer, stemming directly to an overexposure to frustration.

In Northern Ohio, an organization that has existed for almost 100 years as a plastic extrusion facility is all but going under from sheer inertia. They have a valuable product, incredible technology, core human experience, great engineers, and stupendous amounts of cheap labor and union labor in the labor pool to draw upon. This is a family-run business where the owner is hostile to competition. They only hire managers, never leaders; hence, employee frustration on the scale described by Dandira (2012) occurs by the minute. Since the labor pool is so large, no organizational decision maker will confront the owner and change the culture, even though they recognize the company’s failures. The consequences of inaction are sinking a profitable mid-sized business and the owner will never know until it is too late to change the course, even if they wanted to change. While not the only organization experiencing this problem, this is an excellent case model for describing the problem. Tribus (n.d.) quotes Juran’s rule, adapted here for clear understanding, when an organization experiences a problem, 85% of the time the problems solution lies in changing the processes, only 15% of the time will changing the people solve the problem. Miles and Snow (1978) make crystal clear an important fact related to Tribus (n.d.) and Juran’s rule, to empower change in a culture, first the organization must change the organizational structure.

References

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

Miles, R. & Snow, C. (1978) Organizational Strategy, Structure, and Process. New York: McGraw-Hill

Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf

Tidd, J., & Bessant, J. R. (2009). Managing innovation: integrating technological, market and organizational change (4th ed.). Chichester, England: John Wiley.

 

© 2014 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved