Clarity Management Consulting

Posts Tagged ‘organizations’


Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Many organizations are interested in improving collaboration across business units and functional groups, as well as with external partners. To do this requires a culture that is effective and entrepreneurial in nature. Clarity has defined a model for effecting this kind of cultural change. This model consists of five areas that require attention: Training, Networking Technology and Events, Tools and Templates, Policy, and Metrics. These areas are described below.


Area Description

Employees will benefit from participating in training programs that reinforce critical success factors and provide for skills development in collaboration.
Networking Technology and Events

Existing technology offers a number of tools that are designed to enable the communication and knowledge sharing/transfer that are critical to successful collaboration. There are also industry best practices such as internal networking events that foster collaboration as well.
Tools and Templates These may consist of process maps, articles, assessment tools, leadership aids, templates, and/or other tools that can be used in developing a collaborative approach to a given project or program.

Management policies such as performance appraisals, intellectual property guidelines, and organizational boundaries affect the way teams work together within an organization and with other companies. Some policies will need to be modified, added, or deleted to enable greater collaboration.

Organizations that have been successful in developing a collaborative culture cite the fact that they incorporate measures in their performance appraisals to ensure collaborative behavior.

Want to Transform Your Organization? Look at the Work.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

A friend of mine recently initiated a transformation in his physical health. One day he learned that his cholesterol was dangerously high. He realized he had a choice to make. He could take incremental steps and hope for a prolonged period of improvement, or he could make radical changes and improve his condition very quickly. He took charge of the situation. He changed his eating and exercise habits so dramatically that his cholesterol level dropped by 20 points in less than a month.

This story is analogous to the challenges that corporations face daily across the global marketplace. Some have stepped up to the plate and made the radical changes needed to become financially healthy and maintain their viability in the market place. They decided that they wanted to live and not die.

Historically, individual budgetary concerns and department performance have weighed too heavily on work processes in many corporations. This behavior helps organizations optimize at a functional group level, but sub-optimization is the result for the overall entity. If a company is to avoid the iceberg of corporate mortality, then everybody had better start moving the ship – and they better be moving in the same direction. Serving customers and succeeding as an enterprise must drive decisions and, consequently, work flows.

Does your organization reflect the sub-optimization reality? Don’t feel badly – you’re in good company. Where should you start so you can experience your own transformation?  Glad you asked. Keep these two things in mind:

1. Prioritize Carefully

Project portfolio management and prioritization are imperative. No organization can do everything that comes across the radar screen. Your team needs to be allowed to focus on the “critical few” items in order to accomplish its strategic goals. The list of the critical few should be populated with projects that address customer-driven products and services, quality, safety, and compliance. This list should also be limited in scope. Furthermore, items on the list should be important enough to be fully resourced.

2. Eliminate or Reduce Non-Value Added Work

Non-value added work can consume a disproportionate amount of time each day. Tasks that fall into this category typically are driven by departmental requirements, not by the needs of your customers. Figure out how much time your organization spends on activities that serve your customers versus those that only serve the bureaucracy. Empower your organization, and charge them with eliminating or at least reducing the latter.

Comments on Management Styles

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Changes in Management Styles

Management styles have evolved to meet the challenges of a tumultuous business climate.  The global environment has been in flux for well over five years.  The financial meltdown of the last three years exacerbated this.  The managers who have been effective during this period are those who were either adaptable already, or who learned to adapt as things changed more rapidly.  In turn, they helped their teams become flexible as well.

The Role of A Manager

Managers must realize that they play multiple roles.  Managers are part of the team and as such, they have to know when to play a collaborative role.  They also serve as coaches when needed.  On the other hand, they must communicate the overall strategic direction, as well as defining boundaries and required outcomes.  Teams are rendered ineffective when a manager is not proficient in juggling these roles or does not recognize what is needed in a given situation.

How to Identify the Impact of Your Management Style

You need to find out how you are affecting your team members, and the only way to do that is to ask.  360-degree feedback is indispensable.  The approach can vary.  I recommend that managers do things to cultivate relationships with direct reports so that healthy communication becomes the norm.  This will help ensure that feedback comes naturally rather than just being part of a formal discussion.

Ways to Change Your Management Style

Build a level of trust with a few key direct reports who can serve as sounding boards.  These people will benefit the most from any improvements in your behavior.  Conversely, they will suffer the most if you do not change.  Why not get their input on how to change?  A simple approach would be to ask a team member to observe various behaviors and report the observations, with some thoughts on how to be more effective.  This will provide some critical and, perhaps, surprising insights.

J&J Recall: A Lapse In Vigilance In a Process-driven Culture

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Johnson & Johnson consumers complained about berry-flavored Pepcid being mingled with mint-flavored tablets. These complaints should have been the early warning system that would have uncovered failures and trends in managing/controlling the manufacturing process.

This means that process discipline broke down in at least two areas that haven’t been the focal point of our attention:

(1) The method for handling complaints failed. If handled properly, customer complaints could have served as a gold mine for data on where things were going wrong.

(2) The manufacturing system failed. Processes were either broken, not followed, or not maintained.

In both cases, processes are the key. J&J will need to reevaluate its culture to understand how it evolved to the point of allowing vigilance in process management to fall off. This is reminiscent of the theme that surfaced in the Toyota recalls.

A key lesson from the Toyota and J&J stories is this: companies have to manage the basics. Neglecting them is not an option. The cultural attributes that enabled success must be maintained and nurtured. Both of these companies have a reputation for keeping an eye on their processes. They know that processes do not manage themselves. It will take a lot of digging to find the root of the underlying cultural shift that created these issues.

Identifying Waste and Standing out as a Project Manager

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I recently saw some interesting questions on LinkedIn. I captured two of these questions in today’s blog post.

Question 1: “How does management create an environment where people are inspired and motivated to identify waste and continuously make process improvements?”

In my view, leaders have to demonstrate that they are willing to make process improvement and waste reduction principles operational. This is done in several ways. Here are two examples: (1) Organizations have to be structured and measured in such a way that allows waste to be uncovered and dealt with. This means breaking down walls or silos as they are called in some companies. (2) The CEO must lead by example and reward the right behavior. In addition, they must make sure their staffs do likewise.

Item (2) could and should mean changing the way variable compensation is handled. I am of the opinion that everyone should have a portion of her or his compensation driven by quality in the field and customer satisfaction. Both of these metrics benefit from an organization’s ability to eliminate waste and improve processes. Good marks in these areas drive sales, especially repeat purchases. When companies perform poorly in these areas, they are really failing to serve the customer, which means they are not living up to their mission.

Question 2: What do you do to “stand out” as a project manager?

I think of this from the standpoint of the customer’s need. When I hire a consultant to do some marketing or editing tasks, I do it to relieve some of my pain, namely, the pain of time constraints. I choose service providers because I know that I am going to be better off with them than without them. I also believe that I will be delighted with the end result, particularly the quality of the service or product.

Why should I assume that my clients would feel any differently?

The client believes they are going to be better off by having me on the team. My work should help them get out of pain into relief, then into being satisfied with my work, then into being delighted with the end result.

The key driver in this is that customers hire me to relieve their pain. From a project management standpoint, this means demonstrating that (1) I am progressing, (2) things are under control, and (3) they are going to achieve their goals. That’s why I’m there.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #5: Collaboration, confidence, and persuasion (7/16/2010)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #5: Collaboration, confidence, and persuasion (7/16/2010)

There are plenty of situations in which Hogan must convince his team of the feasibility of a given assignment. His method is to demonstrate confidence in the crew’s ability to pull off even the most challenging tasks. He prefers persuasion, not coercion.

This is particularly interesting, given the fact that Hogan is the senior officer in a time of war and could easily order the men to carry out his plans. His approach clears the way for him to get buy-in on a solution without beating his team into submission. In addition, he assumes the lead role in a given task when the level of risk calls for it.

This collaborative method is usually the more attractive and more sustainable means of mobilizing an organization, because the members become intrinsically motivated. Rather than being compelled by the rank of the person in charge, they are inspired by the mission and the significance of their role in achieving it.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #4: Confident yet transparent (7/16/2010)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #4: Confident yet transparent (7/16/2010)

Confidence is a hallmark of Hogan’s leadership.  He believes his team can pull off anything even when no one else does.  He is neither cocky nor arrogant, however, and is able to identify the risks involved.

Sometimes Hogan’s confidence is tempered by cautious optimism, especially when the only choice is to take a high-risk course of action that seemingly has no chance of succeeding.  He is completely transparent in these situations and does not hesitate to share his concerns or misgivings. This is when he is at his best. He is able to lead in the midst of his own fears, which bolsters the commitment and confidence of those around him.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #3: Leaders take the blame, but they give the credit (7/14/2010)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

As a reminder, this week’s blog posts cover the nuggets of leadership wisdom mined from the sixties hit TV show Hogan’s Heroes. Here’s what we’re looking at today. Enjoy!

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #3: Leaders take the blame, but they give the credit (7/14/2010)

It is interesting to note that Hogan takes the blame for failures, and he rarely takes credit for the successes. He gives credit to the team for every win, and gives significant praise to the lead on the assignment.

Hogan is also quick to acknowledge his mistakes and take responsibility when things don’t work out.  There are instances where he agonizes, but only briefly.  He never dwells on defeat.  Typically, the team discusses what went wrong, another scheme emerges from the ashes of failure, and they move forward with the new plan. Key point: move forward!

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #2: Strengths are valued (7/13/2010)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #2:  Strengths are valued

In every situation, bar none, Hogan utilized the aptitudes and strengths of each team member. No one’s talent went to waste. He knew how to make use of even the most mundane skills that other leaders might have overlooked.

Examples include Newkirk’s exceptional larceny talents (such as forgery and safe cracking), Le Beau’s culinary gift, Carter’s munitions genius, and Kinchloe’s technical prowess.  Shared skills were also used as the circumstances dictated.  For example, when the team needed an impersonation of an enemy officer, the team could call on Kinchloe, Carter, or Newkirk, depending on whether the scheme required an audio or visual impersonation.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #1: Wacky ideas are welcome (7/12/2010)

Monday, July 12th, 2010

As promised, this week’s posts look at several key leadership lessons from one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Hogan’s Heroes.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #1: Wacky ideas are welcome

As a leader, Hogan recognizes the potential in the ideas of each team member, no matter how far out in left field they might seem.

This is classic brainstorming in which no idea is rejected out of hand.  Instead, each idea is listed, and eventually, the team’s creativity kicks in and the merits of an idea come to light.  A portion of an idea may be adopted, or multiple ideas may be combined to come up with an innovative solution.

Hogan demonstrates this leadership attribute almost flawlessly as he finds ideas in seemingly innocuous remarks. One great illustration of this is in the 1968 episode “War Takes a Holiday” (, in which the Heroes create the illusion of a truce in order to free several underground leaders.