Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dealing with Organizational Changes

According to a 2013 Towers Watson survey, 25% of employers sustain advantages from organizational changes over the long term. The notion of change can be quite alarming for many.  However, change is inevitable for organizations, given the environment we’ve experienced over the last decade. In this issue of Astronology, we discuss organizational change…and ways to do it successfully.

Change is inevitable, considering in the last 10 years we’ve had to deal with

  • The economic downturn and slow recovery
  • An increasing demand for employees with technical skills
  • Overall process changes with advancing technology and globalization

Some organizations, in order to stay afloat, have had to deal with mergers, technical skills upgrades for employees dedicated to outdated methodologies & technologies, and changes in lead staff due to early retirements & layoffs.  With only 25% of employees seeing an advantage in these sometimes necessary and generally large adjustments, it’s important to understand what the major factors are in making organization-wide changes and having participant buy in for successful results.  To facilitate success, managing change can be broken into two factors: planning and following up with execution.


Although it sounds easy, planning is anything but. Planning involves more than just identifying areas that need change. It also involves recognizing the areas of concern, and addressing & managing worker enthusiasm, or “buy in” to change.

In order to have workers buy in to change, they must be motivated to want to change. This is mainly done by alleviating the natural anxiety that comes with facing an unknown future. This is where education and training become important. When workers are aware of what to expect and how to handle it, anxiety is lessened. When workers feel involved in making changes, whether by input in the design of change or having a dignified role in its execution, control is given which can lessen anxiety. Anxiety can also be lowered by making clear to workers what the organization’s mission is in conjunction with the new changes. Including team building moments leading up to the change can give a sense of security and comradery. Giving evidence that workers will have the opportunity to build their own careers from these changes is also a great incentive. Clear communication on these points is of high value.


During the execution of change activities, availability of support is crucial. Employees must know that they have the resources available to carry on their responsibilities during and after the change. It is also imperative that leaders are available to give support, clear communication, and even commendation during the adjustment. Human Resources expert Susan Healthfield expresses, in an article for the human resources page on about.com, “Spend extra time and energy working with your front line supervisory staff and line managers to ensure that they understand, can communicate about, and support the changes. Their action and communication are critical in molding the opinion of your workforce.” She makes mention of a previous client that had to deal with changes in work teams. The client had expressed that they wished they had handled differently mid-level managers who resisted change. The client had given these particular managers 18 months to buy in to the change.  It was observed that this kindness undermined the change for some time.
Inc.com’s online article, “Managing Organizational Change” lists these key steps when making organizational changes:

  • Understand the current state of the organization.
  • Identify problems the organization faces.
  • Assign a level of importance to each one.
  • Assess the kinds of changes needed to solve the problems.
  • Competently envision and lay out the desired future state of the organization.
  • Carve the ideal situation for the organization after the change is implemented.
  • Convey this vision clearly to everyone involved in the change effort.
  • Design a means of transition to the new state. An important part of the transition should be maintaining some sort of stability.  Some things—such as the organization’s overall mission or key staff—should remain constant in the midst of turmoil to help reduce people's anxiety.
  • Implement the change in an orderly manner.
  • Manage the transition effectively. It might be helpful to draw up a plan, allocate resources, and appoint a key person to take charge of the change process.
  • The organization’s leaders should try to generate enthusiasm for the change, by sharing their goals & vision, and acting as role models. In some cases, it may be useful to try for small victories first in order to pave the way for later successes

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Difference Between a Great Manager and an “Okay” Manager

According to a report from gallup.com, “managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement…”.  With a March 2015 survey discovering that only 32.9% of employees are engaged at work, clearly management has a dramatic impact on employee engagement and work productivity. In this issue of Astronology, we look into the characteristics needed to define great management versus mediocre management.

As discussed in our first Astronology article of 2015, there are various areas that managers can target to improve employee engagement. Those highlighted areas were the following:
·       Goal Setting
·       Communication
·       Promotion of Work / Life Balance

       Targeting these areas can be the start of attacking a bigger issue for managers…manager engagement. An April 2015 Gallup report stated that although 54% of managers with high talent are engaged at work, just 35% of all U.S. managers are engaged in their work and workplaces. 51% of U.S. managers are not engaged…and 14% are actively disengaged.

Ultimately, the difference between a great manager and an “okay” manager is leadership quality. The April Gallup report discovers that the talent of being a great manager is found in one out of 10 people, while another two in 10 possess a basic talent for management. With training and coaching, these abilities can be heightened. The talents Gallup observed in great managers are the following:
·       Ability to motivate every employee to take action via engagement
·       Assertiveness in driving outcomes and overcoming adversity & resistance
·       Create a culture of accountability
·       Build working relationships that create trust, open communication, and full transparency
·       Make decisions based on productivity…not office politics

Many other articles support these observations. John Kotter, Konosuke Matsushita professor of Leadership at Harvard University expressed, “Management is a set of processes that keep an organization functioning. They make it work today – they make it hit this quarter’s numbers. The processes are about planning, budgeting, staffing, clarifying jobs, measuring performance, and problem-solving when results did not go to plan.” All of these are processes are necessary in order to get an organization functioning.  However, the qualities to lead, to be a great manager, involve “aligning people to the vision, that means buy-in and communication, motivation and inspiration.” An inc.com article listed the following similar nine qualities that define great leadership:

·       Awareness
·       Decisiveness
·       Empathy
·       Accountability
·       Confidence
·       Optimism
·       Honesty
·       Focus
·       Inspiration

Similar qualities were mentioned in a Houston Chronicle online article. If one in 10 people possess these qualities, there is a strong possibility right now in work groups and in various sections in organizations that great managers, great leaders, are literally waiting to be cultivated. Have you recently identified these qualities in your managers? Do you see potential in certain workers? How does your organization cultivate leaders? Write to Astronology with your thoughts!

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