Case Study 1
Presenting problems: Poor employee punctuality, low product/service reliability, poor collaboration peppered with sarcasm and gossip
Behind the scenes: A multi-function organization is highly polarized: what we'll call the "originators" don't talk to the "transferors" don't talk to the "processors" don't talk to the "deliverers." People are withholding information. Employees are forced to speculate what other functions are capable of doing and even willing to do. Disinformation spreads. Job frustration is high. Distrust and us/them views are widespread. Result: predictably low performance. Many opportunities for improving performance are simply overlooked or lost.
Solution recommended: Sarju Consulting suggested facilitated discussions in which each function explicitly identified assumptions held regarding the other functions, e.g., what the other functions believe about their roles, etc. An example assumption: "I can't trust the leader of that function because not long ago he didn't do what I felt he was obligated to do; he also said one thing and did another," etc.
Implementation of the solution: David Sarju, working with management, led the organization through the steps to achieve clarity, communicate courageously, and build team capacity: David's work first helped all members of each function to confront and embrace reality:
- Understand the organization: Group discussions created and confirmed an accurate model of the organization:
- Activities of the different functions
- Appropriate metrics: cost, resources, service population.
- Mission: the enterprise's desired outcomes (and how your function/group fits into its environment)
- Identify peoples' needs:
- People learned that some people need safety while others need acknowledgement.
- Team members discovered that when people are not communicating, employees operate out of their personal fears (what they don't want), not their hopes (what they want); people avoid taking risks.
- Each group confirmed what its specific customers need were ("never lose sight of why we're here").
- Reaffirm the organizational vision:
- Employees arrived at personal conviction on these questions: What is the service vision? What will your organization do for customers to create unmatched delight? What will create long-term competitive differentiation for your enterprise?
The next step: facilitating courageous communications between functions. David helped groups to reopen communications by changing the perceived risk/reward tradeoff around taking difficult conversations. People learned to see that having difficult conversations is a win-win scenario vs. a risky lose-lose proposition. The organization became courageous as they learned that difficult discussions a) positively impact relationships, b) directly advance the enterprise with new strategies or new insights.
David's final step: build skills. The organization made changes to skills and processes (e.g., how we escalate late-order concerns without becoming antagonistic), leading to better outcomes.
Case Study 2
Presenting problems: Increasing turnover. Issues blow-up with apparently no warning resulting in investigations into the ethics of high-level employees who are viewed as strong performers.
Behind the scene: The organization avoids conflict like the plague, preventing identification of opportunities for process improvement, preventing change. People are afraid of conflict. Conflict is seen as purely negative - none of the positive attributes of conflict are recognized and therefore not exploited. The culture held that that: 1) Disagreement was disrespectful, and 2)
- Explore leaders' assumptions regarding conflict.
- Learn to distinguish between productive and unproductive conflict.
- Develop skills to practice productive conflict.
- Identify critical buried issues that needed to be discussed.
- Connect personal visions to the organizational vision and understand how each contributor's personal vision supports the organization's vision.