A Vision is Not Enough

A couple of months ago, I visited a mortgage company to re-finance our home.  A real estate friend had recommended the firm for good service.  While talking with the Vice President of this office, he shared his desire to develop a “Vision statement” for his operation as the first step toward growing his business.

I have helped many organizations develop such “visions,” and promised to send material to get him started.  Driving away, I wondered whether he knew what he was getting into.  Or, was he just another executive looking for the simple solution, unaware that creating a vision is not enough. Continue reading

Why Teams Fail (and What’s a Body to Do?)

A prospective client once asked, “Can you come and do teams to us?” Wrong question. Besides the fact that no one can—or should—“do teams to” any organization, the question misses the point: how (and even whether) to design and implement the right kinds of workplace teams to fit an organization.

It doesn’t help that there is a bewildering blizzard of information about teams in the workplace. How can something we consider so apple pie and American—teamwork—be all that difficult? If teamwork is so easy, why do so many at-tempts to bring it into the workplace fail? What are the roots of its failure in so many organizations? Continue reading

Dancing With the Bear: Lessons From Labor-Management Cooperation

The classic analogy fits:  union and management learning to cooperate is a lot like learning to dance with a bear—you don’t quit just because you get tired.  And in most cases—in the US paper industry at least—neither party is quite sure which one’s the bear.

We set out to see what we could learn about the labor-management dance taking place within the U.S. paper industry–an industry that’s seen more than its share of turmoil.  We set out to discover what unions and management have learned from the dance:  How many started dancing together?  Why did they start?  What issues might have interrupted or stopped them?  Has the dance been worth the time and effort invested?  And, of course, have they kept dancing?  We aimed to learn what we could from the real experience of labor and management in the U.S. paper industry. Continue reading

How to Help People Make Mergers Work: 7 Lessons for Leaders

Some say it’s shrewd business strategy.  Others call it “Merger Mania,” American industry’s penchant in the last twenty years for combining companies and gobbling up others.  Under the “Bigger is Better” banner, organizations have rushed with a vengeance to merge with–or acquire–others in the hope of improving prospects for long term survival, boosting profitability and increasing market share. Continue reading

Seven Deadly Sins: How to Make Sure Internal Change Agents Fail

We have watched (and helped) organizations invest time, energy and money training employees to be internal “change agents,” “facilitators,” and “improvement resources,” only to see their efforts wasted on puny results.  Here are Seven Deadly Sins you too can commit to follow suit.  Or, take our suggestions for avoiding them. Continue reading

Avoid the Quality Swamp; Think Backwards From the Future

You can get lost in the quality swamp.  An organization can slosh around forever in the muck of quality improvement programs, tools, processes, steps, guidelines, steering groups, and structures–and never find its way out.

A recent Wall Street Journal article described a growing number of companies which have invested years and millions in open ended quality improvement processes, with no results.  Many never got beyond navel-gazing the possibilities.  In the name of quality, they created bureaucracies instead of improvements.  In these cases, executives lost direction, the organizations lost momentum, customers and suppliers lost faith, and employees just plain got lost in the swamp. Continue reading