Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘implementation

Linking Structure to Action

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Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) - UPS

Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) – UPS

Well-executed plans require organizational structure before they can be successfully implemented, and the great leaders understood this. A properly structured organization builds and drives lines of accountability throughout itself. As the former Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, General Robert Wood [Sears] “ran the company along military lines: directors of hardware and research, for example, corresponded to army chiefs of ordnance or artillery. Channels of authority fell sheer from top to bottom, but autonomy rode down with them.” (1)

James Casey (United Parcel Service) started UPS as an adolescent, so he didn’t possess the military background that Wood had, but he “was an early and thoroughgoing advocate of what was called, in the 1920s, ‘scientific management.’ He believed efficiency produced profit. And he believed that efficiency was achieved by measuring everything – by keeping track of the cost (in time and money) of every step in the process of achieving a result – in this case, the result of successfully delivered packages that met customer expectations. Further, Jim Casey believed that whenever you found a process that improved efficiency, you made it standard practice and you supervised employees to achieve fidelity to that practice.” (2)

Wood and Casey were only a few of the great leaders who linked structure to action. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) and Thomas Watson Sr. (IBM) all built organizations where structure was also solidly linked to action. So did Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy). “Rickover believed in courageous impatience. The power of unshakeable determination was critical for him, as good ideas do not get executed very often. Deciding what to do is the easy part … getting it done is more difficult. Being involved in details shows subordinates that if it’s not important to you … why should it be to them? When details are ignored, projects fail. This is not about doing things yourself; it’s about frequent reports (both oral & written) and from numerous sources (remember, he had 40 direct reports!!)” (3)

Peter Drucker observed, “Managers do not make decisions by opinions nor according to their preferences. They manage through the force of facts and not through the force of personality. ‘Bedside manners,’ I once heard Sloan say in a speech to GM managers, ‘are no substitute for the right diagnosis.’ ” (4)

  1. Doenecke Justus D., General Robert E. Wood: The Evolution of a Conservative (Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society)
  2. Nelson Douglas W. – President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy – speech to the Foundation Impact Research Group Seminar, March 9, 2005
  3. Wacker Watts, Courageous Impatience (www.firstmatter.com)
  4. Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Read a free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

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headinhands

The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization’s overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.

As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee’s actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.

Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively. This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

It is simplistic to think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem. When events appear chaotic, the problem can lie in more than one area and each has to be addressed in turn.

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader. In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

In other instances, the leader may be new and inexperienced and is attempting to accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than evolve, they are pushing change too fast or expecting too much of their employees.

Employee’s Role

When the process seems to be collapsing, the employee’s role must also be examined. In certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases too much is expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed and unable to deal with the circumstances.

A lack of employee involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks. Their lack of input and feedback did not foster the ownership of ideas and participation. Consequently, they perceived too high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly filled with chaos.

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development. Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

Ill-conceived timing and timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware of the impact of certain change implementation dates on the organization. Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm the entire organization.

The Organization’s Role

In certain instances, management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In other circumstances, employees might not trust the motives of the company due to past experiences and existing policies.

Lack of management and financial support of the process undermines employees’ ability to accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support, leaders’ efforts will be severely hampered.

Question the Premises

Leaders must question the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process. They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is still valid in light of their experiences.

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures. With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

Once control has been regained, implementation of the process should proceed more cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is established and that each step is successfully and competently achieved before moving ahead with the next.

Astute leaders should enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool. These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on the idea of change and understand that the benefits more than offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to convince others within their ranks of the same—and make the leader’s job much easier.

The leader should also ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level, they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the process from within their organizational unit.

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Barriers to Integrating Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Managers as Facilitators of Change

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

with 6 comments

manwithproblememployee

The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization’s overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.

As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee’s actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.

Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively.

This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

It is simplistic to think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem. When events appear chaotic, the problem can lie in more than one area and each has to be addressed in turn.

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader.

In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

In other instances, the leader may be new and inexperienced and is attempting to accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than evolve, they are pushing change too fast or expecting too much of their employees.

Employee’s Role

When the process seems to be collapsing, the employee’s role must also be examined. In certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases too much is expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed and unable to deal with the circumstances.

A lack of employee involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks. Their lack of input and feedback did not foster the ownership of ideas and participation. Consequently, they perceived too high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly filled with chaos.

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development.

Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

Ill-conceived timing and timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware of the impact of certain change implementation dates on the organization. Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm the entire organization.

The Organization’s Role

In certain instances, management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In other circumstances, employees might not trust the motives of the company due to past experiences and existing policies.

Lack of management and financial support of the process undermines employees’ ability to accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support, leaders’ efforts will be severely hampered.

Question the Premises

Leaders must question the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process. They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is still valid in light of their experiences.

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures.

With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

Once control has been regained, implementation of the process should proceed more cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is established and that each step is successfully and competently achieved before moving ahead with the next.

Astute leaders should enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool. These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on the idea of change and understand that the benefits more than offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to convince others within their ranks of the same—and make the leader’s job much easier.

The leader should also ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level, they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the process from within their organizational unit.

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

What’s Involved in the ‘Teaming Process’

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The methodologies used for problem-solving and decision-making can be complex. When initiating team projects, both leaders and teams can get bogged down in complicated problem solving, decision-making and process-improvement models. Rather than utilize methodologies that are difficult to understand and implement, leaders should provide their teams with a simplified model to accomplish a specific assignment.

It is important for teams to have a universal model with a consistent and simple template to monitor task progress and chart the development and implementation of actions and strategies. This type of model will help teams benchmark progress, enhance performance and discover an identity.

It is important for leaders to understand that problem-solving models typically include 7 or 8 stages, and decision-making models typically have 6-12 stages. Most teams struggle with the complicated procedures of these models, and many neglect or omit stages at the first available opportunity. Team effectiveness and productivity will consequently increase when leaders implement a simplified model and process.

Related: Strategies and Solutions for Solving Team Problems

Consequently, leaders should be cognizant of the five essential team process stages discussed below.

Recognition

The recognition stage encompasses the team’s impressions when facing a new situation. This stage is critical to the success or failure of the team process. Here, before making an initial response, teams are challenged with identifying the circumstances surrounding a problem or task. Nothing useful is gained until the team becomes fully aware of and clearly defines these circumstances.

The first step is to identify and define the task or purpose at hand, taking into account existing biases, assumptions and constraints. Also, teams must establish their objectives and the regulations for the process, and then pinpoint the most ideal outcome.

Understanding

The primary purpose of this stage is to check the validity and accuracy of the issues identified in the recognition stage. Next, the team must determine which data should be collected to help clarify the details of the task. Finally, they must prepare an analysis detailing how the team will carry out its project.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Decision Making

The decision making stage is a rational linear process comprised of discrete events. These events should be relatively simple and easy to achieve. The assumption here is that as long as each stage is carried out correctly, the end result will be an effective decision.

Decision makers in a team environment should recognize the danger inherent in any recommendations yielded by a process that is governed by subjective criteria. The process they must follow to be successful requires mapping the decision system supporting the entire decision making process: inputs need to be verified along with information that is useful and contextual to the problem.

The decision making process allows teams to finalize their options after clarifying and agreeing to the desired results. The final step in this stage requires the team to apply all of the methodologies and systems that it has decided upon to identify the best potential option.

Implementation

Completing the decision making stage frees the team to act. The implementation stage often begins with excitement and concludes with hard work.

This stage makes plans work by putting them into practice. The process begins with setting up and preparing all of the possible support, resources, people and logistics required. Teams must then develop a strategy for piloting the plan according to its goals and objectives. Immediately after implementation the team continues to think systematically by identifying limiting forces that need to be reduced and by avoiding short-term fixes, negative synergies, adhocism, sabotage and any power blocks that may hinder the project’s success. The last step in this stage is to monitor the progress of the plan against actual results.

Related: Execution: Six Action Steps

Completion

The completion stage is where teams develop assessments and follow-ups, and authority for the project is transferred to the process owners, allowing the team to move on to other projects, problems and concerns.

Adapted from: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 11, 2012 at 11:03 am

Linking Structure to Action

with 3 comments

Jim Casey (l) and Claude Ryan (r) – UPS

Well-executed plans require organizational structure before they can be successfully implemented, and the great leaders understood this. A properly structured organization builds and drives lines of accountability throughout itself. As the former Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, General Robert Wood [Sears] “ran the company along military lines: directors of hardware and research, for example, corresponded to army chiefs of ordnance or artillery. Channels of authority fell sheer from top to bottom, but autonomy rode down with them.” (1)

James Casey (United Parcel Service) started UPS as an adolescent, so he didn’t possess the military background that Wood had, but he “was an early and thoroughgoing advocate of what was called, in the 1920s, ‘scientific management.’ He believed efficiency produced profit. And he believed that efficiency was achieved by measuring everything – by keeping track of the cost (in time and money) of every step in the process of achieving a result – in this case, the result of successfully delivered packages that met customer expectations. Further, Jim Casey believed that whenever you found a process that improved efficiency, you made it standard practice and you supervised employees to achieve fidelity to that practice.” (2)

Wood and Casey were only a few of the great leaders who linked structure to action. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) and Thomas Watson Sr. (IBM) all built organizations where structure was also solidly linked to action. So did Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy). “Rickover believed in courageous impatience. The power of unshakeable determination was critical for him, as good ideas do not get executed very often. Deciding what to do is the easy part … getting it done is more difficult. Being involved in details shows subordinates that if it’s not important to you … why should it be to them? When details are ignored, projects fail. This is not about doing things yourself; it’s about frequent reports (both oral & written) and from numerous sources (remember, he had 40 direct reports!!)” (3)

Peter Drucker observed, “Managers do not make decisions by opinions nor according to their preferences. They manage through the force of facts and not through the force of personality. ‘Bedside manners,’ I once heard Sloan say in a speech to GM managers, ‘are no substitute for the right diagnosis.’ ” (4)

(1) Doenecke Justus D., General Robert E. Wood: The Evolution of a Conservative (Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society)
(2) Nelson Douglas W. – President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy – speech to the Foundation Impact Research Group Seminar, March 9, 2005
(3) Wacker Watts, Courageous Impatience (www.firstmatter.com)
(4) Drucker Peter, The Best Book on Management Ever (Fortune Magazine, April 23, 1990)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It(Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 29.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about how the great American leaders linked organizational structure to action through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.
________________________________________________________________________
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

with 4 comments

The process of organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors have the ability to impact the organization’s overall ability to successfully evolve. Improper development, management and monitoring can result in the change process spinning out of control and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.

As individuals are making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer controlling the employee’s actions, but guiding and directing them through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process into chaos.

Most organizational changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent application of leadership ideas and concepts and development of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and continually moves forward over time.

Leaders who find themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of control must not be swept away by the tide of events and circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain detached and view what is happening objectively. This can be challenging because they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.

Identify Causes

It is simplistic to think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem. When events appear chaotic, the problem can lie in more than one area and each has to be addressed in turn.

Leader’s Role

While real introspection is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons directly stemming from the leader. In certain instances the leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change, and consequently leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.

In other instances, the leader may be new and inexperienced and is attempting to accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than evolve, they are pushing change too fast or expecting too much of their employees.

Employee’s Role

When the process seems to be collapsing, the employee’s role must also be examined. In certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases too much is expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed and unable to deal with the circumstances.

A lack of employee involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks. Their lack of input and feedback did not foster the ownership of ideas and participation. Consequently, they perceived too high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly filled with chaos.

The Plan’s Role

Consideration must be given to whether the plan underlying the process itself may be flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by both the leader and employee’s participation (or lack thereof) in its development. Motivation, beliefs, resistance and lack of skills and/or experience can give rise to a poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with either leadership’s or employees’ role in the process will impact the overall plan.

Timing and Timetable

Ill-conceived timing and timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware of the impact of certain change implementation dates on the organization. Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm the entire organization.

The Organization’s Role

In certain instances, management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In other circumstances, employees might not trust the motives of the company due to past experiences and existing policies.

Lack of management and financial support of the process undermines employees’ ability to accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support, leaders’ efforts will be severely hampered.

Question the Premises

Leaders must question the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process. They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is still valid in light of their experiences.

Determine Solution

Once the causes have been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures. With this base of knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same problems will recur.

Implement Plan

Once control has been regained, implementation of the process should proceed more cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is established and that each step is successfully and competently achieved before moving ahead with the next.

Astute leaders should enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool. These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on the idea of change and understand that the benefits more than offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to convince others within their ranks of the same—and make the leader’s job much easier.

The leader should also ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level, they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the process from within their organizational unit.

Excerpt: Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about overcoming the challenges facing you as a leader, refer to Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Four Stages of Effective Decision Making

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In order to thoroughly identify, assess and select a “best choice” alternative from among a variety of potential solutions, it is essential to understand how to utilize the various stages of decision making in a manner that accommodates creative insight and thought.

Decision-making is most powerful when combined with logical, intuitive and creative mental processing. The stages used at specific points in the decision making and problem solving processes are well suited to group settings but are equally applicable to individual situations.

Tunnel vision is the biggest obstacle to problem identification during the decision making process. Tunnel vision often leads to artificial restrictions on the search for alternatives because it leads to a problem being defined too narrowly.

In order to prevent tunnel vision and maintain focus on the main problem, four decision-making stages and their individual steps should be followed in the specific order outlined below. Careful execution of these stages will help generate the best solution for an existing problem.

The Contribution Stage

The goal of the contribution stage is to gain a better understanding of the existing problem and the specific circumstances surrounding it.

Before doing anything, the decision making group must identify the problem and state it clearly and concisely. The idea at this point is to understand and maintain a focus on the decision-making or problem solving process and its purpose.

The identification of a problem consists of not only describing it accurately, precisely and in detail but also addressing the possible gaps that exist between current perceptions of the situation and desired outcomes.

The following are four typical gaps that indicate a decision has to be made soon:

  • Something needs to be adjusted or corrected because a current method, procedure, action or practice is insufficient to produce the desired results.
  • Something needs to be prevented because of a possible threat or negative influence.
  • Something is appealing, engaging or interesting and needs to be acknowledged, received or accepted.
  • Something needs to be provided because an element seems to be missing, ignored or unidentified.

Step One: Brainstorming

To initiate effective brainstorming, group members should either individually or collectively write down possible solutions to the problem at hand with all alternatives objectively considered. It is important to brainstorm extensively in order to expand and build upon the ideas generated.

Once the brainstorming session has run its course, the group can begin classifying, categorizing, and prioritizing issues surrounding the problem. The goal is to create a hierarchy of issues and factors based on how essential each is to achieving a particular solution.

Step Two: Criteria

During this step, the group develops the criteria to evaluate possible alternatives for resolving the problem or situation. It is important to categorize criteria as either “essential” for a successful solution or simply “desired.”

When the criteria are being developed, the group should establish boundaries, acceptable alternatives and important values or feelings that need to be considered, as well as certain results that should be avoided.

Once ideas are generated, the criteria need to again be objectively considered. Important criteria should be categorized, with the group making a preliminary selection to be used throughout the process. It should be noted that these criteria will probably need to be modified as other important facts and information come to light.

Step Three: Fact Gathering

This step focuses on gathering information and facts that are relevant to making a decision. It is a critical component in clarifying the aforementioned perceived gaps.

Quality is more important than quantity when gathering information. Too much information can confuse and complicate the decision making process.

Brainstorming can again be used at this point. Facts should be classified and categorized so as to clarify the connection between various elements of information. The goal is to establish patterns and relationships among the facts.

All considered information must be analyzed in terms of the group’s problem statement and evaluation criteria; any non-pertinent facts should be eliminated. Relevant information and associated patterns should be prioritized by applicability to the problem at hand, and additional facts collected later if necessary.

The Procedural Stage

The group must actively develop, evaluate, and select alternatives and solutions to solve the identified problem.

Step One: Development

It is important to create alternatives over the entire range of acceptable options outlined in the contribution stage. At this stage the process needs to be free, open, and unconcerned with feasibility. This activity should ensure that nonstandard and creative alternatives are generated. Once again, the brainstorming technique can be used effectively, allowing participants to quickly record and share results without partiality and to use the input to develop additional alternatives.

A number of brainstorming methods such as “challenging assumptions,” the “random word technique,” and “taking another’s perspective” can be used to generate more creative alternatives. Alternatives that appear unworthy of further consideration need to be eliminated.

It is possible to categorize or classify alternatives and consider them as a group, but care should be taken not to create categories that are too complex, unmanageable or cumbersome. If the group shows dissatisfaction with the quantity or quality of alternatives under consideration, a break may be beneficial in order to renew the group and inject more objectivity and fresh insight into the process.

Step Two: Evaluate

A list of specific advantages, disadvantages, and interesting aspects for each alternative should be shared, discussed and recorded. After eliminating alternatives that are clearly outside the bounds and parameters of the stated criteria, these advantages and disadvantages should be considered in more detail.

An analysis of existing relationships among alternatives should also be completed, which can be done by asking, “Is an advantage of one a disadvantage for another?” At this point, serious consideration should be given to the relative importance of advantages and disadvantages.

Only those alternatives that the majority of the group considers to be relevant and correct should be given further consideration.

Step Three: Developing a Solution

For relatively simple problems, one alternative may clearly be the “best choice” solution. However, in more complex situations, combining several alternatives may be more effective. A distinct advantage of this process is that—if previous steps have been completed thoroughly and with attention to detail—selecting a solution becomes far less complicated.

Before completing this stage it is important to diagnose possible problems with the selected solution and determine the implications of these potential problems. This means asking the question, “What could go wrong and why?” When developing a solution, it is important to discuss the worst-case scenario that could come about if the solution is implemented.

The Implementation Stage

During this stage, a plan with which to put the selected solution into action is created. The plan must be highly detailed to allow for successful implementation.

Methods of evaluation must also be considered and developed. When developing a plan, the major phases of implementation are considered first, with steps necessary for each phase outlined. It is often helpful to construct a timeline and diagram the most important steps in the implementation process. “Backward planning” and task analysis techniques can be useful during this stage.

The plan should be implemented as carefully and completely as possible, with minor modifications often needed.

The Reflection Stage

The final decision making stage—reflection—is comprised of three steps.

Step One: Assess Implementation

Once initially undertaken, this step should be ongoing.
The group needs to decide how to determine “completeness of implementation” prior to evaluating the implemented solution’s effectiveness.

The fact that this step is often ignored or omitted is one of the main reasons decision making and problem solving processes fail: it often never becomes apparent that the selected solution is simply not being effectively implemented.

Step Two: Evaluate Solution’s Effectiveness

It is particularly important to evaluate outcomes in light of the problem statement generated at the beginning of the process. Affective, cognitive and behavioral results should also be considered, especially if they have been identified as important criteria. The solution should be judged according to its overall efficiency and impact on the people involved.

Step Three: Modification

When necessary, the solution should be modified according to suggestions generated during the previous step, as evaluation often brings additional problems to light that will need to be considered and addressed by the group. Issues identified that focus on implementation efficiency and effectiveness should be targeted.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 18.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about effective decision making techniques, refer to Intelligent Decision Making: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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