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The Alignment Factor – Addressing Change As a ‘People Challenge’
You work for an organization that is spending millions of dollars on a very significant new process that will change how you work and who you work with, and require you to think about your work in a completely new way. The success of the company depends on you and your colleagues!
Feeling very confident about now? It didn’t seem like that. Every day in organizations around the world, these types of challenges are placed on the people who work in the organization. Of course, this is rarely expressed clearly. Too often, an organization simply announces an initiative, whether it’s a new technology, a new process or a new way of thinking… as if the initiative itself represented the sum total of change.
This rarely happens. Change is always about people. As terrifying as our “Go Get ‘Em Tiger” example may be, it at least represents a level of clarity that is missing in organizations.
A piece of the people
Dramatic case studies are not hard to find. Take ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) as an example. For the uninitiated, ERP is a comprehensive – and complex – technology initiative that promises system-wide efficiency by sharing common data across every part of the organization. Star struck, many companies grabbed ERP like Incan Jones lifted a gold statue from an Incan temple.
The results have been almost as encouraging. (Remember that giant rolling boulder?) For example, Hershey’s ERP start-up problems in 1999 cost the company $150 million. That same year, FoxMeyer Corp’s bungled ERP installation cost them a $1 billion lawsuit … and ended in bankruptcy for the company. Waste Management abandons its initiative and costs $150 million.
The lesson here is not to avoid this ERP business. or total quality, culture merger, Six Sigma, CRM, shared service model, supply chain, or any other comprehensive change initiative. Many companies have transformed themselves with these powerful initiatives. No, the lesson here is much deeper. And simple. Here’s how a Nestle executive summarizes what that company learned in a May 2002 interview with CIO magazine: “Any major software implementation isn’t really about the software. It’s about change management … When you go to SAP (a typical ERP software), you . You’re changing the way people work … you’re challenging their principles, their beliefs and the way they’ve worked for many, many years.” People must buy into the importance of the initiative.
In other words, just because you’ve installed the software and finished the training, it doesn’t mean you’re done. You’re just getting warmed up. To produce powerful results, you need to plug the ‘person variable’ into the equation, which change and communication company Paradigm Learning puts it this way: The equation is the variation on the theme.
This edition comes from the transformational leader of consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark. Michael Fisher uses an equation to describe why his massive supply-chain initiative was so successful. Kimberly-Clark realized early in the process that changing an entire organization—or even part of one—is a complex equation.
Much has been said and written about the first element of the above formula, the quality of change initiatives. Although fiendishly difficult, this variable has the virtue of being obvious: install the technique wrong and it won’t work, end of discussion. Many consultants and much of the change management literature focus on this critical first variable. But it’s the second area, people alignment, that is often overlooked. And it is here that powerful benefits can be found. For change to occur and achieve real results in organizations, there must be alignment of organizational culture—norms for behavior, operating principles, shared understanding of “how things work here”—and mental models, often hidden. Beliefs, conclusions, assumptions and ways of thinking that drive how individual people perceive the world.
The Great Transfer: Vision, Knowledge, Responsibility
Cultures. Mental models. Paradigms. It would be nice if you could change them by printing a slogan on a coffee cup, but the experience of countless organizational change agents continues to support that this is not the case. People are strongly resistant to changing the ways they perceive and interact with their world, especially if that change is imposed on them. Those organizations that have succeeded in leading the horse to water and getting it to drink suggest that broad and willing enrollment is positive.
Making the case for people:
Not quite. Training refers to what you ‘do’ to employees. The goal here is that more elusive activity, which is learning. As theorist David Kolb illustrates, learning occurs when people choose to embrace a new concept, practice its use in their own context, reflect on their experience, and ultimately extend its use more broadly.
You can’t do this with a PowerPoint presentation. Author Michael Robin points out in his powerful article, Learning by Doing: Organizations Discover That Hands-On Experience Produces the Most Valuable Learning (Knowledge Management Magazine, March 2000).
In this, Michael says, “In today’s knowledge-intensive global economy, performance is difficult to predict and standardized behavior cannot breed success. Businesses need to innovate rapidly, meet new challenges and seek opportunities to create value. In this new environment, traditional training methods Many are lacking in key areas … relevance … time … and cost.”
The article states, “One of the clearest effects on organizational productivity from experiential learning can be seen in higher levels of retention, which ultimately results in greater transfer of knowledge into informed work.
While the retention rate for traditional learning from lectures or reading is typically only three to five percent, retention rates with experiential learning have been known to reach 80-90 percent.”
Technology and Alignment in Marathon Oil
Let’s return to the world of SAP for a case study. The organization is Marathon Oil Company, a Houston-based energy company that launched its ‘Project Renaissance’ initiative in 2000 to implement SAP for more than 2,400 employees worldwide. In addition to a powerful technology component, Marathon from the outset treated Renaissance as a people challenge, and planned for the transfer of vision, knowledge and responsibility. And they used the power of experiential learning to do it. Partnering with Tampa-based change and communications experts Paradigm Learning,
Renaissance developed a communication tool called the “Discovery Map®”. An eye-popping 4-foot by 6-foot illustration filled with data, images, and metaphors related to the Renaissance initiative, the Discovery Map depicted three components globally to change initiatives: the current reality of marathons (including their challenges), their vision (or expression. Where wants to go), and a means of traversing the map from ‘here’ to ‘there’ (in this case, the SAP technology represents the bridge).
In a structured learning activity, organization members interacted with the dynamic content of the Discovery Map, connecting its metaphors to their own experiences. The end of this story is remarkable: employees recognized and embraced the value of challenging SAP technology. It came under a renaissance budget, bolstered by extensive organizational support. And after just 13 months of work (an industry record), they were up and running. In their reflections, the organization’s top leaders cited this “commitment,” not technology or software, as the cornerstone of their success. Marathon got it right: it’s about alignment. It’s about people.
Corn producers align their workforce
Imagine a scenario where the entire senior leadership team of an organization is focused on a goal. Now imagine that most of the workforce doesn’t understand the goal. Not only do they not understand it, they don’t even know the meaning of the words in the written statement of purpose. This was the situation facing the global leader in corn products, food ingredients and industrial starch. What is learner-driven, not coach-driven What team-based learning treats as a cycle, building on each insight Allowing time for reflection and internalization Embracing mistakes as learning tools Provides the big picture and nurtures new mental models
Discovery learning means:
In an effort to strengthen its bottom line while expanding its product portfolio, “the mantra of the entire senior team became, ‘We’ve got to improve working capital, we’ve got to improve working capital,'” explains David Spurk, director of management and organization. Development. “But during the meeting, an employee raised his hand and asked, ‘What exactly is working capital?’ At that point, I knew we had some work ahead of us.” Corn production leaders quickly realized they needed to focus on alignment. They had to make sure everyone was on the same page if the revitalization process was going to be successful. Understanding the notion that it was critical to success, and even more so, that every employee could influence it, were mission-critical challenges.
To do so, Corn Products chose a unique method… a board game, again based on discovery learning techniques. Paradigm Learning offers Zodiak®: The Game of Business Finance and Strategy as a way to build understanding, knowledge, and most importantly, commitment to what to do to reach corn production goals. The Zodiak game puts Corn Products employees in the role of business owner for a day and lets them ‘run’ the organization through three simulated years of operation.
While playing the game, participants learned how to read and construct income statements and balance sheets, how to analyze numbers, and how to interpret the impact of their decisions on key financial measures such as working capital. As they immersed themselves in the game, calling their own shots, they became more fluent in the language of business and faced the critical financial impact that individuals can have on a company’s success. Is it working? Are employees aligned around what is important to corn products? This is the opinion of the leaders of the company. “Our people need to know where this company wants to go and what we need to do to get there,” said Samuel Scott, president and CEO of Corn Products. “We all depend on each other, and this experience is something that clearly shows every employee how true that is.”
Organizational change and the temple of doom
You’re in an Incan temple, reaching for that golden statue of organizational change. careful There are traps here. Ask yourself:
What is the result you want to achieve? How do you execute change flawlessly…and with excellence? Finally (and this is the important part): see how you align the people in your organization and the rewards are yours.
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