The Organizational Strategist

June 8, 2011

Celebrate Success to Build Momentum


 I have been on many projects individually and as a part of a team where I felt I did great work and the results had a very strong, positive impact. Unfortunately, some of those projects led immediately into another project without honoring the work done, which helps in understanding and learning from the experience.  It also allows for “taking a breather” to regain faculties and energy. It is even more draining leaving a difficult or intense project and launching immediately into another.   I’ve seen very efficient and effective teams change their working dynamic and devolve into a challenging work environment.

On other occasions, an acknowledged break or departure from business as usual takes place after a major milestone to step back from the next step in line.  Activities like lessons learned, honoring commitments made and realized, acknowledging achievements and taking a break to relax are done to celebrate the great strides made and success of the project.  After such activities, I have seen low morale transform into high hopes and positive outlooks, a renewal of effort and commitments, performance improvement decisions for individuals and teamwork, and increased energy going into the next project. 

No one and no team can sustain high output and performance indefinitely.  Similar to how everyone needs to sleep, despite what some might say, everyone needs an occasional break.  It does not take much and simply having a team dinner, commemorative meeting or other special occasion can go a long ways to renewal.

When you have the occasion to celebrate success, make the time to look into the following areas:

  • Acknowledge strengths and accomplishments of your team and colleagues: This feedback reinforces continuity, performance, confidence, and morale.  Strengths based change is very powerful, energizing, and renewing in itself.  If there are people that have natural strengths that help out the team, go to the extra effort to praise them and enable those strengths to be drawn upon.
  • Learn from experience and past results: Understand what went well and what has not gone well.  Knowing these areas and making plans to extend the good parts and mitigate the bad parts leads to increased likelihood of success in the future.  Too often we are learning on the job through trial and error or by having to make snap judgments on how best to proceed.  Taking time to reflect, understand what happened, and understand how the strengths and/or accomplishments can be expanded, reused, or heightened in the future can be a very impactful and fruitful activity.
  • Build team and individual confidence, reliance, and overall effectiveness:  A well-functioning team is more than just the sum of its individual contributions together.  First a discussion on the accomplishments and achievements made by individuals should be done.  After that, the team should examine where and how those work products can be leveraged or built upon at the team level.  That leads to making the skills, strengths, and cooperation of a team complementary and generative.  The end results are that the work products make a lead ahead in their impact.

As an individual contributor, team member, manager, and/or leader take the time to celebrate the successes that you and others on your team have created.  You may be surprised to see how that can help you, your team and your organization in the future.

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January 20, 2010

Achieving Alignment & Balance through Strategic Planning


-Introduction-

It’s the time of year again for New Year’s resolutions, performance management, expectation setting, and business goal setting. In their own way, those pursuits are setting up and aligning strategy. Such aspirations will range from bottom line monetary improvements, to marketplace innovations, to work/life balance, to personal happiness and well being.

Some of my own goals include the following:

  • Cultivate meaningful, positive relationships in my Seattle network by meeting 2+ people a week
  • Create 3+ articles per month for this blog and grow the readership (suggestions welcome!)
  • Overcome the challenging economic circumstances and find my way to a whole new professional adventure this year

A new year brings new possibilities and new dreams to everyone who sets their mind to doing so. It is very important to grasp onto these opportunities while they are knocking at your door. Be sure to keep in mind that opportunities can be entirely new or part of an ongoing series of pursuits.

-Maintain the Investment Balance of Sustaining versus Emerging-

When researching and plotting out the organizational alignment of resources and capabilities to win in the market, i.e. setting your organizational strategy, understand that there needs to be a balance. That balance should take place among your initiatives to sustain momentum and trying something entirely new. The proper balance will vary based upon your or your organizational needs. However, either extreme of the spectrum (focusing solely on emerging investments with no existing investment maintenance or sustaining existing investments and not investing in future potential) can lead to disaster.

Here are some scenarios:

  • The rapid scale creation and market of hard disks is a good example. The pace of creation and disruptive inventions was so great that every company creating new disks had to invest heavily in constantly improving or replacing their disk offerings. Many disk creating companies died off because they could not keep up with the pace of technological change and breakthrough. Disk drives were constantly being replaced. I remember zip disks, laser disks, optical drives, and other technologies that sounded very promising, but were replaced by CD ROMs, DVDs, and others as time went by.
  • Another example that comes to mind is the competition of American made automobiles against the foreign imports, especially Asian cars. This is a much more drawn out one as it took more years to gradually take effect. Regardless, we’ve seen Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, and others gradually phase out or decrease sales of Ford, Dodge, and others because of their better prices, longevity, warranties, and so on. American auto makers tried to mimic their production system, which helped but ultimately only delayed the phasing out because of the continuing improvement and innovation that Toyota and others employed. Here the American car companies did not invest enough in new technologies to overcome the operational excellence and innovation of the international competition.
  • For company examples of the past decade, check out this interesting blog post from the Harvard Business Review.

You need a pipeline of things to come; to keep fresh, stay agile, and keep competing with other organizations. So that thought should always be present when doing strategic planning and goal setting. However, don’t neglect the good things you already have going. Like strength based change, it’s good to continually cultivate your strengths to make the most of them. There is a plethora of good information on finding the right kind of balance needed. For example, Clayton Christensen has written some excellent books on this kind of subject. The Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution are examples of such books. Generally speaking, I’ve found that the faster an industry changes, the more investment needs to be made for innovating. This may sound rather simple, but it can be really hard to let go of or trim the budget of the products/services that have become the seasoned “cash cows” of an organization in order to pave the way to the future. Always be thinking about the long term sustainability of yourself and organization (people, planet, and profit) and how the ever changing market environment needs and how your organization can be adaptable.

-Conclusion-

I am personally inspired by stories of courage and action. In fact, I made that a focus of my MBA class graduation speech. Similar to that messaging, know that it takes courage to make the big gains, try new things, and embark on new adventures. Taking risks does not always pay off. Yet, it may be an even bigger risk to the long term sustainability of an organization to take no risks at all. I encourage everyone to take the time to find the right balance of pursuing innovation, continual improvement in operations, and market fit. I look forward to hearing your stories of inspiration, courage and action.

Links:

Harvard Business Review blog: http://blogs.hbr.org/anthony/2010/01/disruptors_of_the_decade_the_r.html

My graduation speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJa45jC7PL0

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