Archives For global alignment

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 4.37.49 PMFor Every Action, There Is A Reaction: People, Process, Policy…

Sir Isaac Newton, my fellow alumni at University of Cambridge (admittedly, a few years ahead of me!)…

If only he knew the extent of application to his theories  – business operations in this instance. More about Newton’s Third Law shortly…

As we look forward, it is helpful to also look back and gain perspective. Today’s business operations are even more complex than two years ago… yet they are typically more aligned and proactive than they were five years ago. We are making progress, but there are still critical challenges to address.  Organizations are still not working at maximum capacity… experience tells me we can do better.

Typically, even though organizations may be consolidating for cost management and scalability purposes, the walls of the individual functions, channels and regions have become even thicker. As a direct result, it is harder for you, as a leader, to build end-to-end value chain functionality in ever-changing, complex organizations. It has become increasingly difficult to gain consensus and approval – both on specific, focused initiatives, as well as broader organizational change.

This is not a technology, process or policy problem – it is a people problem:

People make purchasing decisions…

People change processes…

People establish policies…

People change procedures…

People make budget decisions…

People decide to build and maintain organizational silos…

Although we tend to observe and react to events (or the fires they cause), it is critically important to really look at and assess the root cause of your problems. Go ahead, rip that band-aid off and look at what is really causing the infection –

Your “Core System” May Be Flawed

Recently I was speaking with a client in the SCM space. He was trying to understand why he could not consistently get the  business results he was looking for and wanted to discuss how he could drive change to achieve his objectives. What did we find upon examination?

Just as Newton predicted (yeah, that guy again) – For Every Action There Is A Reaction.

Organizations are designed as “systems” – a set of interrelated and interdependent elements and subsystems to form a cohesive whole. Bottom line: Many organizations are not designed for effective interaction and optimization – the “System” is often broken. Units within the system are not designed to function as single systems unto themselves.  Organizations are made up of many moving parts. If one part of the system is altered in any way, chances are it will affect other aspects of the business.   It is critical to organizational success that each business partner across the organization recognizes and optimizes as a part of the bigger whole. Instead of deploying processes, policies and technologies to leverage various forms of improvement across the wider organization, business units often do not consider the “ripple effect” that will occur when independent changes are made.

In addition, frequently there is a tendency to attempt to lay new tools and technologies on top of old policies and procedures that worked for a specific business purpose in the past – without the support of the people and other units that are affected. The reality is that time and effort must be invested to understand why old practices are failing, how any changes will impact the existing business and who it will affect outside of the immediate environment of the implementation.

Making the poor assumption that a new process or technology will fix the problem instead of understanding that no policy, process or technology change can be successful without recognizing the people component… and the system as a whole, is fruitless. As a result, my client was not realizing the potential value of interconnected organizational change.  Ultimately, we partnered to create a plan around “systems thinking” that incorporated not just his division, but the organization as a whole. He was able to leverage his new knowledge of “the system” to work across functions, channels and regions to get the very best from the system as a whole. As a result, he is now seeing strong, consistent results on a global basis… and the business is growing quarter on quarter.

Interacting With The System As A Whole Provides A Distinct Advantage.

My client is not unique in his challenge – the lack of a systems approach is pervasive in most organizations – just as sub-optimal business results are. Many leaders implement policies, procedures or technologies without ever looking at them in terms of the effects on the “system” and its people… and then wonder why they have not gotten the results they anticipated. Millions of dollars are wasted each year on failed projects for this very reason.

The reality is that today the average company has variant policies, procedures and technologies across the different functions and channels that preclude them from realizing exceptional results. Leaders typically focus only on their area of responsibility. Critically important, to be sure. However, the challenge in this approach is that your organization may have channels or functions that operate well in and of themselves, but they don’t integrate well together. Consequently, the organization suffers as a whole.

Progressive Leaders Are Recognizing How Important Aligning The Various Parts Of The Organization, And The Interrelations Of Those Parts, Is To Their Success.

As one of those leaders, you need to ensure your focus is on matters of ongoing organization and feedback. You need to diagnose problems, not by examining just your piece of the organization, but by recognizing the larger patterns of interactions between the parts of the integrated whole:

  • Focus on the outcomes you want from the organization in terms of the customer and your overall business results
  • Work backwards from your ultimate goal to determine what you need from the system to succeed
  • Understand that you are not an island and in order to be successful, you need to consider and integrate all the moving parts

While most of us like to consider our business as unique and different, the reality is that the more congruency you build into your organizational systems, the more you increase efficiency, visibility, innovation and knowledge management… and the more potential you have to maximize your business results. Think SLA’s, MOU’s, Partnerships – and systems.

Understand, at the end of the day, every action you take creates a reaction somewhere else in the system – people, process and policy. The bottom line of systems thinking is leverage – seeing where actions and changes can lead to significant, meaningful improvements – BUT understand those same actions and changes will have impacts on other structures and people throughout the system. Your overall success depends on the quality and quantity of the interactions within the system’s components.

While there may be functional or cultural differences across the spectrum, the more you can partner to translate and align, the more likely you are to succeed on a grand scale. Work hard to understand your counterparts and build consistent policies, procedures and technologies together. Each and every disparate instance adds to the challenge of building effective solutions that support holistic planning and deployment.

What do you have to gain in addition to the obvious? How about:

  • An Innovation Incubator
  • Connectivity That Breeds Efficiency
  • Cross-functional/Vertical Leverage
  • Improved Business Results Across The Board
  • Competitive Advantage Fueled By Solving Customer Issues Efficiently & Effectively

How Can You Contribute To Creating An Effective “System”?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how systems thinking can help you to exceed your potential. Need A Trusted Advisor to help you become the very best leader you can be while maximizing your organizational results? Contact me at SheriLMackey@gmail.com.

Last week we discussed working across boundaries and implementing a systems approach. This week, I am continuing the theme with an expansion of what it means to work across boundaries and some suggestions to help you do so successfully.

Working across boundaries means many things to many people… It can mean:

… working across organizational lines

… working across supervisory or leadership levels

… working across functions

… working across corporate entities (partners, resellers, etc.)

…working across customer lines

… working across physical confines

… working across cultural differences

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As a leader in a global environment, it is essential for you to set the example and create communities where people unite around a common purpose and values.  Working collaboratively to accomplish a shared vision that makes a powerful and positive impact on the global business is absolutely vital to your success!

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Can true collaboration occur in cross-cultural and virtual environments? Absolutely, IF you, as a leader, are intentional about building collaborative environments, modeling collaborative leadership practices, and creating opportunities to bring people together for both organizational and personal benefit.

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The truth is, you have a choice to make. We are all experiencing an extensive lag that will impact each and every one of our careers and will result in very serious consequences to every one of us – this is nothing new.  You are increasingly expected to do far more, with far less, in a much shorter amount of time. The question becomes, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to equip yourself to successfully keep up and accomplish the Herculean tasks that are expected of you?

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The answer – You are going to develop yourself! Leadership Development is not just a catch phrase anymore – It is a necessity if you are to be a productive, effective agent of innovation and growth… if you are to survive and prosper in this ever-changing, autobahn we call the global marketplace. As such, it is time you took it very seriously and, as a leader, moved your own development to the forefront of your priorities. Continue Reading…

While a vision develops a picture of where the team is going and creates a shared sense of going somewhere specific together, your team charter will help you to more effectively collaborate across boundaries and borders, set expectations, design performance management systems and provide a mechanism for evaluating your virtual teams. However, the charter is not the end of the process. The charter is the launch point for creating useful dialogue that will ultimately facilitate the team creating it’s mission statement – the coming together of the virtual team’s vision and charter.

The vision, charter and mission are critical for all teams, however when leading virtual teams they become vital to your success. Because you work with teams that do not work in a shared physical environment with cues acquired through daily interactions, it is critical that your charter provide explicit guidance on overall expectations.

The formation of a charter is the most effective when developed by the team, creating a joint focus and buy-in to the overall contents of the charter.  Work diligently with your virtual teams to develop each area of the charter. Similar to how the vision provides a desired destination in living color for your virtual teams, the charter will provide a clear road map to guide them toward that final destination. In addition, by working through the components of the charter together, the team will be focused on their joint objectives and common path. It provides a significant opportunity for you, as their leader, to help your dispersed teams come to a common purpose, ensuring everyone has a shared understanding of where they are going and how they will get there as a team.

The formation of the charter creates a graphic, detailed picture of the vision – clarifying roles, boundaries and communications processes.  The most important aspects of the charter are:

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Both the ancient Romans and Greeks called all foreigners “Barbarians”. The North Africans call their mountain people “Berbers”, Arabic for Barbar. The Europeans, until the late 19th century, called everything in North Africa “Barbaria”. The word “barbarian” refers to the uncultured, or those with unrefined communication skills – both explicit and implicit. The way we express ourselves is predetermined by our differing cultures (even if we often do speak the same language). How we communicate ultimately determines how we are viewed as global leaders. Damaging miscommunications can (and do) happen frequently when working across cultures, but they can be avoided if we apply some cultural intelligence to our diverse interactions – in particular, understanding the differences between high and low context communications and leveraging both for personal and organizational gain.

High Context cultures communicate meaning not only with words, but with voice, tone, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, speech patterns, and the use of silence. Words play a relatively small part in the overall meaning of the communication, and the context conveys the bulk of the information. People in high-context cultures, such as Asia and South America, tend to take time getting to know one another, providing for an understanding of the broader context of a conversation. This results in knowledge of what to expect, what signals to look for, and how to interpret subtle signs or expressions – fewer words need to be said.

Low Context cultures are expecting explicit communications. People want detailed background information before making a decision, however they are generally unaware of subtle nonverbal signals going on around them. Documents and contracts are not taken seriously unless written or signed – details must be provided. For example, in the United States and Germany (both low-context cultures), contracts with numerous explicit clauses are a normal way to conduct business and the written word is taken quite literally. In low-context cultures, expect detailed documentation – thorough job descriptions, detailed accounting, and lengthy business planning documents. The devil is in the detail.

When communications become challenging, it can be tempting to access your “barbarian-reflex”, especially when messaging becomes unclear. But, as you can imagine, it is completely ineffective to view your colleagues, staff, or even clients as “foreign” or “unrefined” simply because they do not communicate as you do. If you are motivated to communicate effectively on a global, multi-cultural level, you will need to invest in building trust – the more you come to know someone, the less you tend to look upon him or her as a “barbarian”.

If your purpose is to ensure your colleagues and staff reliably implement to your specifications across the globe, the strategy you choose will vary depending on the cultural orientations you are working across. In those high-context cultures, your strategy will need to be relationship and trust based and may not be explicit – more soft-skills based and time intensive.  In low-context cultures the purpose of communication is to transfer information and your strategy will need to be explicit, efficient, and detailed in order to ensure the correct implementation. A sound strategic approach that is rooted in cultural orientation will be imperative to your overall success in the global organization.

As a global leader, everything you do conveys a message. Leveraging high-context and low-context cultures means relying on both implicit and explicit communication – carefully ensuring that what you say (low-context) is always mirrored by what you do (high-context). When there is alignment, you automatically build trust across all cultures  and your strategic approach becomes less diverse by nature – your message becomes stronger, and you can more readily achieve your global organizational goals, exceeding everyone’s expectations.

Please feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website atwww.LuminosityGlobal.com. Be sure and check in next Thursday as we begin a series on Leadership Lessons From Around The World!