Diagnostic assessments deliver productive thought and discussion of all-important issues, by leaders and their teams. The relevant taboos are raised and discussed productively. All issues raised are facilitated through resolution.
I have led and supervised assessments of corporations, partnerships, organizations, teams, projects, operations, decisions, problems, and events. The following issues are often addressed:
- Leadership’s exercise of power.
- Market dynamics, strategy, organizational structure, and operational capabilities.
- Opportunity and risk assessment.
- Executive and management practices and procedures.
- Performance of relevant operations -- marketing, sales, manufacturing, product development, R&D, finance, HR.
- Communication, cooperation, and coordination, within and between teams and functions.
- The organization’s cultural constraints.
- Discrepancies between the walk and talk of leaders, leadership teams, and organizations.
- Competing demands, double binds, dilemmas and paradoxes that may inhibit behavior and performance.
- Disagreements and misunderstandings that must be resolved and corrected.
- Anticipation of trouble ahead.
- Relevant taboo issues.
We study documents, observe meetings, and interview individuals privately and confidentially. Then follows discussion. Written documents are designed that support clients' thinking, reflection, and discussion.
Organizational improvements begin with improvements in communication and leadership. The range of discussable issues must be broadened to include all that must be managed better. Interpersonal action is the median of organized activity. Improved interpersonal action produces performance improvements.
Mastering new skills, and aligning walk and talk, improves interpersonal action. Mastery is a function of practice, coaching and reflection.
Walk always differs from talk. This is true for almost all individuals, groups and organizations. Talk is almost always better than walk. Aligning walk with talk improves, and often leverages, interpersonal action, personal gratification, and morale.
Communication is the lifeblood of organized activity, just as chemical communication is the basis of every organism. Without it, neither organizations nor organisms survive.
Human beings produce the same communication errors everywhere. Every organization studied has produced these errors:
- Vague and ambiguous communication produces multiple interpretations, all equally valid. This scatters the work done, resulting in unexpected gaps and overlaps. Too often, the cost of correction is not in the budget.
- Individuals and groups systematically discount, distort, and ignore information. Too often, this is the information necessary to fix an important problem, or make a significant breakthrough.
- Some issues -- important ones -- are never discussed in the appropriate channels and forums. Issues that are not discussed are not manageable. Most fixes and improvements involve taboo issues. When error proves resistant to correction, the information necessary to correct is often taboo. The treachery, fear and excitement of discussing relevant taboos can be hair-raising, exhilarating, and a big relief.
I help leaders improve their thinking, exercise of power, communication, and interpersonal actions. Improvement comes with mastery of fundamental skills, which are developed with practice, coaching and review. Over months, mastery comes while clients work on their top priority improvements.
-Summarizing accurately what others have said.
- Inquiring broadly and deeply.
- Separating fact from opinion.
- Verifying facts and opinions.
- Holding multiple, conflicting perspectives in the minds eye, simultaneously.
- Leading without co-opting.
- Acting compassionately.
- Managing morale.
Improving Teams and Leaders
Every leader and leadership team that mastered these skills corrected a host of errors. Communications improvements corresponded with improved cooperation, coordination, morale, and performance.
Every time a leader failed to improve, the organization failed to improve.
Once the skills are practiced consistently, a leader, and team, can change the organization's cultural norms -- the norms that bar discussion of sensitive issues, that stipulate what issues to address privately, and what to do with performance concerns. Broadening the scope of discussable issues builds on the improved communication achieved with the new skills.
As the old restrictive norms are violated, consistently to good effect and without negative consequences for the violators, they change.
Functional improvements are achieved by coupling customized decision-making and problem solving tools, and customized management practices and procedures, with improvements in communication and leadership.
The development of customized tools and processes is inclusive, collaborative, and efficient. Improvements have been achieved in all of the following areas:
Executive and Management Practices and Procedures
An organization comprises unspoken rules and values. These rules and values are the best ally in detecting and correcting errors and the best predictor of success in doing so.
Rules and values determine how most individuals in the organization act, which issues are discussed and how, and which issues are avoided. They determine what frameworks and points of view are acceptable and which are rejected. They determine how people manage conflicts, competing interests, and disagreements. Every culture enforces rules and values that prohibit discussion and action essential to improvements, or correction of decline.
Embedded in every cultural rule and value is a set of predictions about the bad things that will happen if the rule or value is violated. Explaining why he left his most important concerns unvoiced, the board director said, "I can't say that. It would be rude. It suggests that I question the integrity and the competence of some people in the room. If I said that I am likely to lose my seat on the compensation committee and probably not be nominated for my next term."
Changing the unspoken rules is achieved by repetitive use of new rules and values that give the lie to the predictions of the old ones. What is feared doesn't happen; instead, progress and improvement occur. Only those old rules that harm performance or morale are changed.
The culture's change is complete when the new rules and values are implemented with neither coaching nor forethought.
To understand culture and observe its impact on performance, my colleagues and I look at the following domains and ask the following kinds of questions:
In what ways, and to what extent, do the interests of individuals, groups, and organizational interests harmonize? Conflict? How do these entities manage the harmony and the conflict? What problems are solved? What problems are surfaced and ripened?
Who takes responsibility for what? Who avoids responsibility for what? How do leaders, leadership teams, boards, partners, and organizations deal with their own errors and the errors of others? What issues are being avoided? Who colludes in avoidance, and how is collusion achieved? What is the assessed risk, and to whom, of discussion?
How do leaders, teams, and organizations respond to suffering and injustice caused by the action of the leader, the leadership team, and organization action? Where is compassion expressed? Where is it missing?
The purpose of a brief intervention is to assure adequate performance of a discrete event -- a problem or conflict to be resolved; a performance to be reviewed; a decision to be made; a problem to be solved; a leader or organization to be assessed; the design of strategy, structure, an operation, or procedures; the formation, or break up, of a partnership; and the communal grieving for endings and other losses.
A brief intervention condenses the application of the other services to raise performance temporarily. Unlike the other services offered, a brief intervention transfers no new permanent capability to the client organization.
Copyright© 2012 Don Rossmoore.