Homeostasis and Organizational Evolution

Posted by Scott Gregory on Wed, Dec 30, 2015

Living organisms are characterized by a drive for homeostasis, or consistency. For example, most of us prefer consistency in our lifestyles, the types of people we hang out with, and in the foods we eat. Although we often like to think of ourselves as adventurous and free-spirited, research shows that we actually make choices that promote the status quo rather than change. The same is true with organizations.

If you are an internal or external consultant, how many times have you heard someone in an organization say, “We need to be more innovative,” or “We are too soft on under-performers?” These phrases are the most-often uttered when you ask someone about an organization’s biggest challenge. However, these “problems” tend to endure for years and seem almost impossible to change. Why? Because organizations, like individuals, trend toward sameness rather than change. How, then, can an organization change the organizational culture from, for example, more cautious and rule-compliant to more innovative and risk-taking?

The first step is understanding/admitting that organizational change needs to occur. In the case of changing organizational culture, step two is hiring people with a different profile—more risk-taking than cautious or more innovative than compliant, for example. However, it is important that organizations make incremental, rather than radical changes in the people they hire in order for changes to be accepted and effective.

Understanding the typical leadership profile that exists today is step one toward making meaningful change—leaders’ values drive culture. Thinking carefully about the leadership profile that might begin to pull the organization in a new direction is step two. Take a step too far in that new direction, and the organization will practice organ rejection—the new leader will be unsuccessful. Remain too cautious about shaking up the status quo, and you are unlikely to effect change because the organization will rebel against the new leader. Deliberate, thoughtful, and incremental change in the hiring profile can bring about change that stretches the organization, but doesn’t trigger organ rejection. Measuring personality characteristics and values of leaders accurately, both to gain an understanding the current leadership signature of the organization and an understanding of the kinds of leaders that may be needed for the future is critical for moving the needle on organizational culture.

Topics: organizational culture, organizational development

How to Get From Point A to Point B - The Essentials of Good Execution

Posted by Info Hogan on Wed, Mar 14, 2012

Companies invest billions of dollars every year in pursuit of the next big idea. But what separates successful companies from competitors is execution – the ability to move from idea to implementation. Aaron Tracy, Hogan COO, discusses execution below.

What is execution?
Put simply, execution is the ability to get stuff done – the link between ideas and results. The best plans in the world are worthless if you can’t pull them off.

What are some important considerations for setting goals?
•    Start with a vision and a mission – goals are how you get there.
•    Goals must support realization of the vision and mission, this seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of people get off track when they’re setting goals.
•    Engage your employees – engaged employees believe in the vision and mission as long as the goals make sense in terms of your company’s culture and values.
•    Goals should be realistic and achievable, and there should be some reward for getting them done.
•    Strategic plans need to reflect the real world (realities of the marketplace, competition and economy) and link to operational plans.
•    Pay attention to feasibility – is your goal realistic in the context of the organization's capabilities?

How do you create buy-in and excitement?
•    Select the right people, put them in the right job, and empower them to execute.
•    Foster an environment of engagement – keep employees apprised of your mission and vision, your goals, and how progress is coming along.
•    Preach the beauty and benefit of the end result.
•    Understand the importance of culture – if your company is committed to doing things the way they’ve always been done, execution is going to be difficult. 

Who do you put in charge?
There are a few questions you should ask when you’re choosing a leader:
•    Do they understand and support the vision?
•    Do they have integrity?
•    Do they have good judgment?
•    Do they have the competence required? Some people are more capable of getting things down than others – they should be the ones in position of authority.

How do you keep people on task?
•    Empower them to analyze, plan, and execute the goal so they own the delivery schedule – as opposed to barking down unrealistic timelines.
•    Understand the team’s values and reward their success throughout the process.
•    Establish clear lines of accountability.

How do you motivate project leaders and employees?
Any standard motivational tool will have short-lived, if any, effect if the team is not bought into the vision and mission and engaged in the project. Motivation is all about engagement, which is all about leadership.

What are typical roadblocks?
•    Dumb goals
•    Bad leadership
•    Flavor of the day influence in setting goals
•    Personal agendas interfering with organizational agendas
•    Accepting poor work or behavior

Do you reward failure? Is there good failure and bad failure?
Successful execution is the result of planning, preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. I’m not sure you reward failure, but you have to be willing to take risks and, therefore, have a tolerance for failure. If you don’t learn anything from failing, then failure is a bigger problem.

Topics: leadership, employee engagement, organizational culture

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