We have been referred to as "business doctors" - we make unhealthy businesses fit for purpose!
As with illnesses, people can wrongly self-diagnose because of confusing symptoms. Over the years we have realised that understanding the root causes of the problem is imperative to a successful diagnosis and cure.
Here are some examples...
Executive Team Development - This case covers the UK Headquarters of a multi-national company.
Business objective : To get the existing members of the leadership team and the new members of the leadership team to work together as a cohesive unit.
Perceived issues : The MD felt that the existing team didn't want to change from a position of comfort and stagnation. He also thought that cliques had formed between the new execs and the existing management team. This was leading to divisions within the team, which if allowed to continue could seriously compromise the business.
Issues uncovered : The existing leadership team felt that they knew how things worked within the current culture. However, new members of the leadership team felt that the culture needed to change in order to make the company fit for future growth and development.
Action taken : Step one was to help each member of the team to appreciate and value the other members as individuals; to find out what they were like as people and understand what experience and skills they brought to the organisation.
Step two was to work with the team to define their purpose, values and goals.
Step three was to organise an informal event to allow the team to interact in a relaxed setting and reflect on their collective journey.
Outcomes : A year later the execs were still working much more cohesively as a team. The result was that they communicated more openly and honestly with each other. The outcome was they shared their collective goals and vision consistently throughout the organisation.
Yours is not to reason why...
Managers Struggling to Lead their Teams Effectively - This case covers the UK office of a multi-national company.
Business objective : To help managers gain the skills and confidence needed to lead their teams effectively.
Perceived issues : Managers felt that some team members were being deliberately difficult, underperforming and choosing not to follow standard operating procedures.
Issues uncovered : Team members felt that managers were not treating them like adults and were asking them to follow pointless procedures. Managers were only telling people what to do, not the reasons why they needed to be doing it.
Action taken : Step One included carrying out 180 degree feedback on leadership style together with group sessions facilitating frank and open feedback between managers and team members to help each side understand the other's perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
Step two was to help the teams to understand and value each-other's key skills and differences and to put together practical procedures that both parties bought into.
Additionally, managers were supported with one-to-one coaching sessions to help them manage challenging situations, hold honest conversations and build their confidence.
Outcomes : A few months later the company's senior management emailed us to say they had observed a significant improvement in the way in which the team was operating and being managed and that this had stood the test of time. Managers also commented that they felt more able to deal with difficulties as they arose and that conflict within the department had decreased considerably.
Staff Not Skilled to Perform Their Roles - This case covers a small UK company operating in a niche market.
Business objective : To have a fully functioning team, with each member making a meaningful contribution to the business.
Perceived issues : Staff unable to do the job they have been employed to do. Owner manager too busy to spend time coaching the workforce. Staff concerned that the owner manager was unhappy with their performance and that they may lose their jobs.
Issues uncovered : Owner manager and staff not communicating openly about expected performance and where performance fell short.
Action taken : Step One was for us to work with the small management team to identify Key Result Areas for each role and the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to perform each role successfully.
Step two involved coaching the owner manager to deliver honest and constructive feedback to staff members about expected performance and where his expectations were not being met.
Step three was to work with each of the staff members and their managers to put together development plans to fill the skills, knowledge and behavioural gaps. These were re-visited quarterly.
Finally, we worked with the owner manager and the management team to devise strategies for supporting staff development that involved the owner-manager delegating responsibilities to the small management team. We provided coaching to the management team to help them gain the confidence and tools they needed to lead their teams; which also lessened some of the demands on the owner-manager.
Outcomes : The managers reported that they found the coaching sessions very useful and that as a result they were more able to communicate confidently and openly with staff. The owner-manager requested that the coaching continue on an on-going basis. The owner-manager found the development plans and facilitated conversations to be very useful and implemented quarterly one-to-one development meetings with all key members of staff and new starters, facilitated by Dovetail.
Underworked & Overpaid?
Staff Not Committed to Performing Their Roles - This case covers a small consultancy that had recruited a lot of staff quickly due to company growth.
Business objective : To have all staff performing to the best of their ability and committed to the future success of the company.
Perceived issues : Staff were all experienced and could easily perform the roles they had been recruited to do. However, they seemed to not want to perform and were often not contactable during working hours.
Issues uncovered : Staff were aware that the business was very successful and perceived that it would continue to be successful even with minimum effort. There was a lack of commitment to the organisation. The founders had not communicated clear expectations, incentives for performing well or consequences for underperforming.
Action taken : Step one was to encourage the founders to hold a motivational staff meeting, explaining how each and every staff member was important to the future success of the company. During the meeting clear organisational objectives were communicated as were expectations of staff performance.
Step two involved working with the company to formulate a list of competencies against which staff performance would be objectively measured going forward.
Outcomes : The competencies were used to recruit new members of staff, set clear expectations of performance and conduct appraisals. Initial feedback has been positive.
I'm an Expat - Get me out of here!
Expatriate Staff Leaving Organisation Shortly After Joining - This case covers a large company based in Africa.
Business objective : To retain recruited expatriate staff.
Perceived issues : Despite being paid 40% more salary than they could expect to receive in their home country, staff were so shocked by the living conditions in the country they were recruited to work in they soon left and returned home. This caused great expense and compromised the business success of the company in Africa.
Issues uncovered : On arriving in the African country, newly recruited staff were shocked by the day-to-day challenges of living in a country where basic needs were very difficult to meet. Much of the area was recovering from war and the local situation was often volatile. Food to sustain a healthy, balanced diet was difficult to come by and basic supplies were very expensive and often required a long wait. Basic work equipment was often not available and was difficult to come by.
Action taken : Step one involved one of our experts visiting the site to take photographs, interview key staff, visit the working and living facilities and gain an understanding of the challenges and benefits of the living and working situation.
Step two was to put together a comprehensive introduction guide and presentation which would be delivered to perspective employees to help them understand what they could expect and help them to make an informed decision about whether they could live and work under the unusual conditions.
Outcomes : The company stated that they were very pleased with the information that had been put together and that there had been a decrease in staff turnover.
Finding Prize Catches in a Small Pool
Creating a Team for Future Success - This case covers a small company with ambitions to grow and ultimately sell the business.
Business objective : To create a team that would enable the company to grow successfully and build the business.
Perceived issues : Good staff were difficult to find and hold on to. Good people may prefer to work for large organisations.
Issues uncovered : There were only a limited number of people with the relevant qualifications and experience working in the geographical area. These people tended to stay with their current employers so were difficult to attract to new roles. Therefore it would be necessary to recruit trainees and develop them in-house. In order to free up the MD's time so that he could concentrate on developing and implementing successful business strategies, it would be necessary to recruit a small number of managers to manage the growing team.
Action taken : Step one was to put together a competitive and attractive remuneration package to help attract good people.
Step two was to hold team meetings with the existing team to discover what they most liked about working for the company and what they felt the company could offer to others. Recruitment strategies were implemented to recruit managers, experienced staff and trainees.
Step three was to put together comprehensive development plans for each staff member; which were tailored to their individual roles and abilities.
Outcomes : Because it was difficult to find managers with the exact experience desired by the company, managers were recruited that had transferable skills. These people were then developed to meet the company's needs. It was essential that all new recruits were enthusiastic about working for the company and could see the benefits of being a member of a small and committed team. The first apprentice has completed his first year at work and colleagues report that he has demonstrated commitment throughout the training process and is a great asset to the team. New team members have integrated well with existing team members and all are working towards the company's long-term plans.
Igniting Stars from Supernovas
Upskilling the Workforce - This case involves a small team in a multi-national company.
Business objective : A small team of "star performers" had been identified. The key objective was to upskill the rest of the team to work at the same level as the star performers.
Perceived issues : The company needed the entire team to be working as well as the star performers in order to effectively meet customer demands.
Issues uncovered : The non star performers were asking what the star performers were doing that they were not doing. The two groups were puzzled as to how their performances differed.
Action taken : A variety of stakeholders were asked to provide feedback on the star performers and the rest of the team. Skills, knowledge & behaviours of the star performers group were compared with those of the rest of the team and development gaps were identified and communicated. Group development plans were implemented, which included group training courses and coaching from the star performers.
Outcomes : There has been a measureable improvement in the performance of the whole team. Star performers reported that they enjoyed the opportunity to help develop others. Stakeholders will be surveyed again for feedback. The next step will be to put together development plans for the star performers.
Staff Compliance - This case covers the European Staff of a global clinical research organisation.
Business objective : To get the operational staff to use the company’s Standard Operating Procedures correctly so that the organisation was fulfilling regulatory requirements and complying with Good Clinical Practice.
Perceived issues : Management felt that people did not know how to use the SOPs and that the solution was to conduct comprehensive SOP training for everyone.
Issues uncovered : The team responsible for training and development felt that this was a ‘scattergun approach’ and would have been extremely time consuming, expensive and not guaranteed to work.
Action taken : Step one was to find out what was preventing the operational staff from using the SOPs correctly. A small focus group was set up made up of a cross section of operational staff from different departments and covering various staff levels.
Step two was to work with the focus group to identify the 4-5 key reasons why staff were not using the SOPs as they should.
Step three was to report to management what these reasons were and to propose a course of corrective and preventive measures to ensure that improvement in SOP compliance was permanent.
Outcomes : The corrective and preventive measures were implemented which included making the SOPs easily accessible to the staff, issuing alerts when SOPs were amended or new ones were released, some SOPs were re-written to make them more user-friendly and establishing a more structured link between the quality assurance and the training functions so that SOP training could be targeted.
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