Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Does it matter that we are not for profit?

Very often in business organizations we have dysfunctional departments and even employees. Recently, I was asked by a membe of the Board of a non-profit organization to help them as several of the team were displaying a non-commital attitude and at times were disruptive and rude.

The Manager in the organization is near retirement and in brief discussions with staff, I found that the few, who were with the organization for many years, we happy with the status quo. They were allowed to come and go as they pleased and general policies and procedures did not seem to apply to them. Others who have been there for a shorter period of time are generally disgruntled about the manner in which the organization is run. Their relationship with the manager is strained. Most would indicate that problems existed but were hesitant to explain what these were. Staff have complained of a hostile work environment and general physical working conditions. None of these have been brought to the attention of any member of the Board. New staff could not articulate the vision of the organization or what current objectives were. None of the staff have been given a performance evaluation in three years.

The manager appears to backtrack on commitments and allows only some persons latitude in the daily operation of the organization. As a result the Board of Directors are not seeing where targets and objectives are being met, in fact they are about to lose significant funding due to the Manager's refusal to compromise with a benefactor on project details. The Board is now at risk of being sued for breaches. This will impact any future requests for aid from international agencies and cost the reputation of the orgnaization.

Currently the organization has two assistant managers, neither of whom have any substantive duties in the daily operations. Support staff must get authorization from the manager for almost every activity they perform.

If you were the consultant, what diagnostic tools would you use to determine the issues and what would be your recommendation for this board member?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do we really want to change?

We learn about change, we talk about change, yet we remain the same and continue to do the same things. "How come?" We know, we insist, it cannot be business as usual....but we do nothing. According to John Kotter (1995) the first step is to create a sense of urgency.

When something is important to us, we seek change. When our unions fight for principle, we reject the notion if it does not impact us personally. Our education system needs an overhaul, so too does the physical infrastructure of the country. Every year we suffer from drought during the dry season and fail to clean drains and properly prepare during hurricane season. People still insist on constructing concrete structures in flood prone areas, and as citizens we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by politicians on both sides.

The more times change the more they seem to remain the same. Columnist Dr Barbara Gloudon sums up latest events for us So how do we create this urgency in a company or country that loves talk and little action?

Consider Jamaica as an organization calling you the OD consultant for help. How would you make your diagnosis and what would be your recommendations for change?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Foreign Mind - Always better?

My friend Jim Collins (Good to Great, 2001) conducted research into what eventually narrowed down to 11 companies to see what made them move from good to great organizations. Mind you, these are homegrown US companies, but what intrigued me was that 10 out of 11 of the companies had CEOs who came from inside the organization. It stands to reason therefore that if we pay attention to Steven Covey (1988) and begin with the end in mind, we would change the face of many of our organizations locally. In fact, the research by Collins (2001), the good to great companies did not have to worry about the needed change in the organization since they employed the right people.

Organization fit is not something we seem to focus on in organizations locally. We seem quite taken with charisma and therefore will always seek to retain leaders who are ‘Larger-than-life’ riding in on the proverbial ‘white charger’ to save the day. Employing the right people in the beginning is not a priority for many organizations in Jamaica. An informal survey conducted with three MBA cohorts at a local university found that the majority of participants were more concerned with earning potential than positively influencing their organizations. Why do we have these persons in our organizations in the first place? Is it then any wonder that so many of our organizations are stagnant and economic development is grinding at an exceeding slow pace?

When organizations need to make fundamental change, do we always need to look outside for leadership? If we have selected the right people, and developed them, why go outside? The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica versus Grace Kennedy? Why is quality leadership not available when needed? Yes, I know, new ideas and all that. In times of crisis, we look to someone with answers, strength and that map of the future. It can be said that the ‘home grown’ managers are too concerned with climbing the ladder and celebrating their ‘arrival’ that they do not want to confront the harsh realities and act accordingly. We do not encourage a culture of discipline (just take a drive on any of our main thoroughfares or look at the constant phone use in class!) Disciplined people do not need a bureaucracy. Change requires having unwavering faith, discipline and being able to confront reality. Our homegrown leaders do not have these adaptive qualities and since we do not employ based on organization-people fit and adaptive capacity, we continue to be "Third World and Third Rate". We will always default to the outside, we still maintain that ‘if it is from foreign it is better’.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Change is the only constant

Life is dynamic. Simple. Times change, people change, we change, the organization changes. However, people simply do not like change. It is human nature to resist change and Jamaicans just do not like change. We see it in our institutions, public and private. When we ask our employees to think outside of the box, the response is minimal; employees stay with a company for years because they fear leaving the security of tenure, even though the organization may be bad. Especially if there is a risk associated with the change, we resist. Employees only demonstrate any desire to change their behaviours when they are dissatisfied. The result then, is typically separation with the organization. Despite this, some employees stay and it becomes challenging for the organization to facilitate those behaviour changes to help propel the organization and remain competitive.

Competition requires that organizations must change the way they do business and how they treat with customers. Changing employee behaviours from one of indifference towards customers to seeing the customer as essential to the business, has proved difficult in so many cases. One well known organization, known for its poor service, changed strategy by outsourcing it's customer contact department only to demonstrate no change in service. Despite the high turnover in front line staff there are some food establishments for example, that we have come to expect poor service from. Changing employee behaviour takes work because we do not want to change. Employees are happy with the status quo and they do not believe that the change is of benefit to them. Hence the "...come fi drink milk not count cow" syndrome.