I recently had the pleasure of talking to the members of the Mobile, AL chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Prior to my presentation, during the networking opportunity, I walked the room stopping at each table and asking whether they were ready to go back to work and empower change in their organization. At one of the tables I stopped at, I received the response “sure as long as I don’t have to resign.”
We can’t remove the organizational inefficiencies unless we empower the organization to change the corporate culture. Many of our peers hold the firm belief that if we change the culture we are automatically going to reduce headcount. Like many others before me I would highly suggest that, unless your organization is in the process of filing the paperwork to go Chapter 7 and close your doors this change we are discussing is NEVER about the reduction in headcount.
What if your customer is making life miserable by telling you that their demands are not being met? The first idea that comes to mind is that someone does not know how to do their job, so let’s get rid of them. The problem is that the root cause of the obstacle is more than likely not the individual but the process involved. All too often our processes have built-in elements that are the direct cause of the problem. In order to correct this environment, we need to empower your organizational elements to make the changes to meet the customer demands.
The corporate journey we call process improvement is rooted in the awareness that we have placed in our processes added steps that no one has agreed to pay for. Consider this scenario from one of my 2-day seminars. A participant tells me that in the course of hiring an individual the job description is reviewed and approved three times. On the face of it, this is not a problem. In fact it could be a good thing to ensure that we are all on the same page through the hiring process. What the participant was trying to tell me was that the job requisition was reviewed and approved by the same person three times.
The process improvement journey consists of three stages that work interdependent of each other. We begin by seeing the problem. The customer, whether internal or external, tells the organization that we are not meeting their expectations. We can envision how the unhappy customer feels about the problem. As stated previously, we see the problem as a process issue not a human capital issue. After recognizing the problem, the second stage is that having recognized the problem, we need to feel the impact of the problem on all the stakeholders in the process. What is the direct impact of us not meeting the customer demand both in the immediate and the future time views? The third stage is that of creating the new normal.
It is the new normal that I want to concentrate on in this blog post.
The new normal or the new corporate culture requires that we look at all the aspects of the organization. We must understand that the human capital asset’s role extends beyond an expense item; we must understand that they are a vital part of the organization. The continuous process improvement journey will free up some staff but not move them out the door. Rather, since we may no longer are dealing with silos, freed-up staff can be retrained and moved to other parts of the company where there is a need for additional human capital assets. This reallocation of resources can lead to small changes in the process delivery model, which will enhance innovation within the organization.
The manager’s role also changes in this new normal. They shift to a coaching model, in which their responsibility is to help his/her human capital assets gain the necessary expertise to fulfill their work space or they coach them to gracefully exit the organization.
When we say “gracefully leave the organization” we do not mean to reduce headcount or to offer early retirement to an employee. Rather we mean that in the coaching process, the FTE makes it clear that they can’t function in this new environment and so the suggestion is made that they might want to look at opportunities outside of the organization. The new normal or culture model only works when everyone is on board with the changes. When everyone in the organization sees the problems, feels the problems and changes the way we do things, this will create the new normal.
So, to my peer in that audience in Mobile, it is not suggested that you resign your position. It is not suggested that by empowering you to bring organizational change to your organization that you have to exit the organization. However, it is suggested that in order to empower organizational change you need to look at the organization with a new set of glasses. You need to look at the organizational culture from a view of total employee engagement. It is from that perspective that you will empower the organization.
Kevin Duggan of the Institute for Operational Excellence tells us that operational excellence is clear when each and every employee can see the flow of value to the customer and fix that flow before it breaks down. This is the new normal. Indeed it is an example of a new organizational culture designed not to push human capital assets out the door, but rather for the organization to climb to a new plateau based on continually looking for ways to empower a new horizon based on the change management techniques that is demanded by the new normal.