When it comes to organisational performance, what many people forget is that you cannot change an organisation.

You cannot change an organisation

You can change, however, the behaviour of people within that organisation. You can give them direction through providing goals of the organisation. You can make them aware and get their buy-in regarding strategies to achieve these goals. And you can make them aware of their strengths, and delegate tasks to them to use their strength to the best results of the organisation. You can find more on that topic in my article on leadership. Of course we need an organisational structure, we do need business processes, procedures and so forth. But it is a bit like creating a strategy to win a football match: if you know the players and their strengths really well, you can create a team structure, and the way the game should run, much more effectively.

Hard deadlines don’t make any sense

To increase your organisational performance, first of all need to know your goals. Sounds simple, but in practice is often not. Lots of desired outcomes can easily get into conflict with each other. Trade-offs need to be madeA lot has been written about goals and will be discussed in the upcoming postings. I just want to raise one point in here: if you emphasise the deadline too much, probably you won’t be able to achieve a lot. The reason is very simple: you can’t predict the future. If you want your organisation to produce an outcome of say 8% EBITDA increase until a certain deadline, how will you deal with it if you can foresee a close miss, say 6%? Skip the strategy? Go back to square one? Certainly not. He should build in some space for learning and improving, for being able to change your strategy and tactics on the go. Make no mistake here: Of course we need deadlines. We need to evaluate at a certain point how far we’ve come and how we can do things better. But we do need to dynamic rather than static planning. The pace of change is too fast nowadays for any other approach.

Hard facts are often a bunch of lies

For measuring organisational performance, lots of approaches have been created, using so-called key performance indicators (KPI). One of the most famous concepts is certainly the balanced scorecard created by Kaplan and Norton. However, we need to be aware that the truth lies often in the so-called soft factors. What I’m talking about here is activities and behaviour within an organisation, that you can’t measure by itself. You would rather need a means of observation to tell whether the activity and behaviours are supporting achievement of key goals more or less effectively. Here is an example: say, I am the new head of Finance, and I have the accounts receivable team reporting to me. At first glance I can see, that my predecessor made some mistakes regarding bookkeeping roles that need to be fixed. Some people are just carrying out accounting the wrong way. Now I need to define how certain transactions need to be treated. This may not only require an already defined end result of the transaction, but also the process and procedure, plus some policies. Now, how can I make sure my staff is accounting the way as outlined? I need to define some scoring system. I can raise questions and provide multiple choice answers. So in this example, simply stating a gap of certain amount of pounds doesn’t explain why this happened in the first place and how we will be able to fix it. Try to drill down to behaviour. This brings much more of insight and results. My old statistics professor once said: there is the occasional error, the more serious allegation, and then there’s the statistics. The so-called hard facts can be stretched, sometimes overstretched if you don’t read into the underlying behaviour.

Deal with the fear first – before you want to make changes

With the ever-growing need for more productivity, many organisations are constantly changing: processes, structures, and above all technology. This often increases fears among employees and sometimes anger. Some wonder whether they can cope with the newly introduced technology. Some fear that organisational changes may make them redundant. Some may be annoyed by the new processes and technical changes that “slow them down” and “make things too complicated” – not seeing the larger picture.This can cost the overall acceptance of e.g. a new ERP or CRM system or seriously block structural change. People sometimes refuse working with the new system and simply keep on using the old one, as is it may be still available. Or they complain with the worker’s council. All this will cost at least thousands, sometimes millions of pounds.The topic here is not the change itself, but human behaviour. Technology suppliers and project teams often simply under estimate the complexity of behavioural change. It is assumed that after an introduction of the changes staff will simply adapt to them. That if there were any issues, employees will raise them and discuss the openly with suppliers and project people. Wrong.It is human nature to protect oneself. Everyone, especially these days, wants to make sure they keep their job. Therefore, nobody wants to seem incompetent, and everybody wants to be seen as a team player, not criticising too much.

If issues with the changes should be reported to one’s superior, this will increase the problem, as any discussions about the changes and no part of the overall picture of oneself in the Superior’s eyes.For many project managers and leaders this comes as a surprise. Even worse: in most cases they only learn quite late in the project about the planned changes being blocked. Many projects steps need to be repeated, often several times.Leaders need to deal with fears and anger among employees, offering options to deal with the change and working with the member of staff to chose an option and put it into practice.

I will elaborate further on this main topic further in the following blog postings of this series. If you are interested, please do feel free to register to our executive education series.

Would you like further information? Do you have questions or suggestions? We look forward to your call, email or letter. You can contact us via the following methods:

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