Thursday, June 26, 2014

The 5 Levers of Change (Part 4) Reward & Recognition
By mark on Jun 25, 2014 03:13 pm

“What is honored in a country is cultivated there.” 

How do you honor the people in your organization? A couple of years ago, I was making a focused effort to improve in this arena. I knew intuitively different people place different value on various types of recognition. However, to truly honor people, I needed to know specifically what was of value to them individually.
My next step was to set a meeting with all the staff members in my department, temporary and part-time employees too. I asked each of them just one question? What was the best recognition they had ever received? The result – I confirmed my hunch regarding the diversity of approaches to effective recognition. Here’s some of what they told me…
Public recognition – Some people love to be recognized in front of other people. You may be one of those individuals. Unless other people can hear the kind words and see the appreciation, it doesn’t count. When you work with these people, be on the lookout for the appropriate forum to showcase the behaviors you’re trying to reinforce.
Private recognition – I don’t know the percentages, but I do know a significant portion of the population will not feel honored if you single them out publically. I’ve worked with many people who feel public recognition is more punishment than praise. If you miss assess this, your good intentions could actually dissuade the behaviors you’re trying to cultivate.
A hand-written note – This simple, seemingly outdated means of communications is still one of the most powerful, and universally appreciated forms of recognition. Throughout my career, I’ve been amazed at the reception I get from writing short notes of appreciation. I don’t write enough of these!P.S. An email is not the same as a personal note.
A plaque or trophy – Some people want the tangible evidence of their accomplishment. These do not have to be elaborate or expensive… they can even be homemade. A few years ago we were trying to inculcate our core values and we made awards for people who went above and beyond in modeling these behaviors.
Cash – I would assume everyone on your team appreciates a paycheck. However, for some of them, to be recognized with cash (or a gift card) is the ultimate. You may be surprised how little money is needed to make a big impact. If you can’t get this through on your expense report, you may want to do it out of your own pocket. A Starbucks card or two may produce exponential returns.
Time off – I hope you’ve been struck by the diversity of methods for recognizing and rewarding people. The list could go on and on, but I don’t want you to miss this one. Many people will feel honored and appreciated if you say, “You did an outstanding  job completing that project on time and on budget! Why don’t you take tomorrow off?”
If you want to drive change in your organization, recognize the behavior you want to see repeated; and recognize it in ways that speak to people individually.
Writing this post has been a good reminder for me. I need to schedule some meetings and ask just one question…
How about you?

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The 5 Levers of Change (Part 3) Resources
By mark on Jun 16, 2014 06:00 am
This post may seem like a blinding flash of the obvious – if you want to drive change, you must resource change. There isn’t a leader in the world who would disagree with this statement. However, many leaders fail to act on this fundamental principle. To desire change without resources is a fragile hope.
Woman and Money
This is not to say change can’t happen without resources; it is just a long, slow process; one which often ends in disappointment. The gravitational pull of the status quo is strong. This series is about levers of change. As I wrote previously, a lever is a multiplier. Resources are one of those multipliers. Often, the inertia of today can only be overcome with the force of resources.
As you consider the change you are trying to create, don’t think too narrowly about resources. They come in several forms.
Leadership – Leaders create change. This is the first resource I suggest you allocate when attempting to drive change. I’m amazed at how often this is overlooked. Who will lead the change? Sometimes, there is no change because there is no assigned leadership accountability. Name the leader who is responsible for the change. And, depending on the magnitude of what you’re trying to accomplish, he or she may need to be relieved of other duties. To expect a leader to add a major change initiative to his or her already full load is smoke and mirrors, it is not allocating leadership resources.
People – If you’ve allocated leadership, that’s a great start. However, does the leader have the people to do the work? This is a common mistake. For whatever reason, perhaps it’s our unbridled optimism as leaders, we under-staff major change efforts. When we do the plan flounders. Change doesn’t happen on its own. People create the change. If you don’t allocate people, you’re probably not going to get change you desire in a timely fashion.
Time – I referenced this above when talking about leadership. To allocate people, is not the same as freeing up space – time and focus, for people to drive the change effort. One common response is, “We don’t have the time to invest.” If that’s the case, you may not have the time to change. Not only does change require leadership and people, it requires time on task.
Dollars – Of course, money matters. It may be the ultimate lubricant of change. If you have dollars, you can outsource much of what you need to have done. Cash also allows the people you’ve assigned to do their work in the most efficient way possible. I have seen organizations allocate leadership, people and time without the money. This creates more frustration than change. People can invest themselves since payroll is a sunk cost; but if they need to create training, or conduct research or travel, or hire consultants, or build prototypes or benchmark competitors, or countless other activities, dollars will be required.
So, with the generally accepted principle, change requires resources, what are the implications for us as leaders? We need to choose our change initiatives carefully; resource them; enjoy success – then tackle the next one. To embark on un-resourced change mandates is poor leadership practice.

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The 5 Levers of Change (Part 2) Measurement
By mark on Jun 02, 2014 06:00 am

I remember a leadership challenge I faced years ago. We had a goal to be ranked #1 by our customers in 25 markets around the country. We had been pursuing this for several years and we knew we were close. When we received our scorecard, we had met our goal in 23 of the 25 markets. The two markets in which we were lagging were my accountability.
What would you have done? We changed our behavior – we invested more resources in the markets in question. We doubled our efforts. The next time we checked, we were #1 in all 25 markets. Nothing impacts performance quite like measurement.
Measurement is a fascinating, multi-faceted topic. While attending Harvard’s Advanced Management Program, we discussed scores of cases; many elaborate and complicated. However, for me, one of the most profound was a case regarding measurement.
You’re probably heard it said countless times: What gets measured gets done. Our case confirmed that belief. But that wasn’t the point. The entire case was designed to warn us about the potential dangers of measurement. Unintended consequences are real and should be accounted for when you design your measures.
How do you use measurement wisely to drive change while avoiding unwanted behaviors? Here are a few ideas…
Measure what matters – Insignificant measures create bureaucracy and noise. Key measures drive focus and action.
Identify multiple measures – If selected carefully, these can work together to create and maintain appropriate tension between competing priorities.
Anticipate unintended consequences – Think about these in advance. Take proactive steps to mitigate the risks as much as possible.
Pinpoint the behaviors that drive outcomes – Be specific. As much as possible, track the behaviors that will lead to the desired change.
Measure frequently. A frequent measure will drive change better than an infrequent one. In my example, we were really flying blind. The measure we were chasing was an annual survey. More frequent measures are more helpful.
Assign accountability – Measurement’s power increases significantly when someone is accountable for the outcome. If no one had been accountable for the two markets I mentioned earlier, there would have been little urgency or ownership to resolve the issue.
If you want to change behavior, increase your chances of success by incorporating meaningful measurement. It’s one of your greatest allies in the battle against the status quo.
Here’s a related post if you’re interested – 8 Reasons to Set Goals.

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The 5 Levers of Change (Part 1) Communications
By mark on May 21, 2014 06:00 am
I’ve written several posts over the last few years about change. Based on the enormity of the task we face as leaders, I probably have not written enough on this important topic. So, I’ve decided to devote five posts to the primary levers of change.
I love the idea of a lever as it relates to change. As you may remember from physics, a lever creates mechanical advantage. Translated, a lever allows you to move or lift a significantly greater load than you could without it. After discovering the lever and its power, Archimedes said:
“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth.”
The following levers will help you move your organization with much greater ease.
  • Communications
  • Measurement
  • Resource Allocation
  • Rewards and Recognition
  • Performance Management
Today, let’s take a deeper look at how change can be facilitated by Communications.
If you communicate well, people…
See the vision clearly – Rarely will people willingly move into the uncertainly of the future unless a leader paints a vivid picture of a preferred tomorrow. This is the essence of vision. There’s also a correlation between our ability to cast a compelling vision and the likelihood we’ll have the privilege of taking people there.
Become dissatisfied with the status quo – Change is hard. If people are satisfied with today, they’ll have little motivation to change. Don’t be surprised if people choose today over the uncertainty of tomorrow – until they are no longer satisfied with today.
Understand the specific behaviors needed to make the vision a reality – Change won’t happen unless people make different decisions and take different actions. If we are uncertain in our charge, people may be uncertain in their action. What do you want people to do? Tell them.
Won’t miss opportunities to celebrate – Accomplishments, even small ones, can breath life into an organization. Sharing the success stories along the way is time and energy well invested.
Understand the inevitable setbacks on the journey – Leaders provide context and perspective. Leaders understand that failure is not final. Your people need this. Left to make sense of setbacks on their own, they’ll probably assume the worst-case scenario.
Remember the vision – I know this may be hard for you to believe, but people actually do forget the vision. You can’t… it’s your baby! But for the normal person, the vision is one more bit of trivia in an over-committed life. Our ability to creatively and consistently communicate the vision will facilitate change.
At the heart of the issue, change is about trying to get an organization to embrace new ways of thinking and acting so you can move into a preferred future. Communication may be the most important lever at your disposal to make change a reality.
What’s your communications plan?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ask About Your Organization
Here are some notes and quotes from The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization by Peter F. Drucker and others.  It’s one of the books on my 2014 reading list.  First of all, here are the five questions from the book.
  • Question 1:  What is Our Mission?
  • Question 2:  Who is Our Customer?
  • Question 3:  What Does the Customer Value?
  • Question 4:  What are Our Results?
  • Question 5:  What is Our Plan?
Here are some other notable quotes from the book.
  • Planning is not an event.  It is the continuous process of strengthening what works and abandoning what does not.
  • Trust requires dissent come into the open.
  • Never subordinate the mission to get money.  If there are opportunities that threaten the integrity of the organization, you must say no.  Otherwise, you sell your soul.
  • Your mission provides guidance on what to do, but equally about what not to do.
  • Just because something is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity is not reason enough to act.  If a great opportunity does not fit your mission, then the answer must be no.
  • “Nobody can guarantee your job.  Only customers can guarantee your job.”  - Jack Welch to GE employees
  • Profit might not be the only measuring stick, but without it, there is no long term business.
  • Need alone is not justification enough.
  • If results are our goal, they must also be our test.
  • The work of non profits is not how hard we try or how clever we may be or even how much we care.  What is remembered is how we have been able to improve lives.
  • Building around mission and long-term goals is the only way to integrate shorter-term interests.
  • “Pray for miracles but work for results.” – St. Augustine.
  • Ask this question:  “If we were not committed to this today, would we go into it?”  If they answer is “no,” then get out fast.
  • A plan must begin with the mission and end with action steps and a budget.
  • A plan is an action agenda aimed at reaching the goal.
This was a short and simple book to read with some good insights for leaders.  Grab it here and check out the other books on my 2014 reading list.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

“It took me two years to find a small group,” a young lady at my church once told me. She stuck it out a long time until she finally got plugged into our church.

But how many dozens of others came and left because they couldn’t meet people, build relationships, and experience community? I realized in that conversation – which took place during my candidating weekend for the position in which I now serve – that one my first goals would be to build a system for plugging people into our small groups ministry.

But how?

What we didn’t do

I didn’t want to reinvent the proverbial wheel, so I started researching how other churches did assimilated people into small groups. Lots of churches hold an event where anyone who is interested in a group can come and find a group that works for them.

There are two problems I’ve found with this approach. The first is that it is a big undertaking administratively, and there is no guarantee many people will come. The second is that it doesn’t scale – you only get people into groups if you keep doing the event regularly.

So we opted to go in a different direction. The decision we made enabled us to grow from about 400 people attending small groups to about 525 in the first eight months of implementing our system. If you do the math, the addition of 125 people constitutes a little over 31% growth. It also pushed our small group attendance from about 40% of our Sunday morning attendance to over 50% (our goal is to hit 80% eventually).

So what did we do to make this leap in small group attendance?

(Warning: prepare yourself to be massively underwhelmed.)

The simple action that led to our growth

The brilliant move we made to grow our small group ministry was printing sign-up sheets.

Previously, the only way you could connect to a small group was if you knew someone at the church who could point you to one, or by browsing small groups on our website and contacting them – both difficult hurdles for newcomers. In other words, it was almost entirely up to the individual to plug themselves into a group.

Now we have a system where we do it for them. Our sign-up sheets have check boxes where you indicate the type of group you’re interested in, where you could travel to meet with a group, and whether you are interested in starting a group of your own (which has helped us launch a few new small groups).

Okay, so maybe this is an obvious way to streamline getting people plugged into small groups. But we didn’t have any way for people to sign up! Not having a simple, easy way for people to get into a group was costing our church many, many community opportunities, as the quick growth results indicate.

Where do we have these forms?
  • At our main entrance.
  • At our secondary entrance, where the receptionist desk is.
  • At our information table.
  • At our newcomers’ lunches.
  • In our membership application.
  • And, soon to come, on our new visitor connection cards.
  • On our website.

That seems too easy…is there a catch? Yeah, three of them.

In retrospect, we had three things going for us already that made the simple addition of a sign-up sheet such a game changer.

Catch #1: Many of our groups were open to accepting new people. One of the problems I have heard from several people in our church is that although they knew people they would like to be in a small group with, those small groups were “closed” to new folks looking for a group. However, once we had someone’s info – including what kind of group they were looking for – we could connect them with “open” groups that fit their profile, but that they didn’t know existed.

Catch #2: We had a lot of “open” groups that had space for new people. Many of our “open” groups were newer, and had only 6-8 people attending. They were eager to welcome new people into their group. Many of these groups now have 10-12 people.

Catch #3: We had someone to play matchmaker behind the scenes. We have an administrative assistant who connects small group leaders with people who turn in sign-up sheets. He does a lot of emailing back and forth between the people looking and the leaders so that people can get plugged into a group. Our goal is for someone to be able to visit a group within two weeks of turning in a sign-up sheet – a massive improvement over two-years.

Where we are going from here

Although this growth is great, it’s not sustainable. Eventually all the groups we have will grow too large to accommodate new people. I realize now I need to focus more attention on starting new groups – whether by recruiting new leaders to start new groups, or by encouraging current groups to send capable people from their group to plant a new group.

I have a feeling that is going to take a little more than a sign-up sheet.

(Image credit)