Technology Rollouts & Performance

Good technology rollouts really count. Many people I have worked with over the past few years often face the tough experience of having to make decisions around new technology that will fundamentally affect business results. In the past 18 months, I have noticed many clients have been pushed into situations where things must be upgraded urgently (due often to a merger).

Often this technology is something like a new platform, a best-of-class project management system or a set of core capabilities the business has never had. At times, these needs arise from a system that was put into the business 20 years ago and since then the IT team have been building bolt-on solutions. Eventually it reaches the point where there are so many workarounds for the users that everyone just considers the system a massive handbrake. Organisational change has to occur, as the focus for increased performance is greater than ever.

A good example of this kind of new technology is Oracle’s Seibel CRM product. AFG Group, one of Australia’s largest brokers, used this product with great success. They use it to source products, lodge applications, generate leads & manage clients, all from a single point of entry. Check out the video below – at 3 mins 9 secs, it shows how they are now using this technology to manage their teams and other overseas business development activities. This project has enabled AFG to stay ahead of the game in an extremely tough market.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.

What often actually happens though is this:

  • The project goes way over time and budget and the change management process fails
  • Only specific users get the new technology right and they were the high performers anyway
  • The strategic planning done prior to implementation was nowhere near robust enough & so major gaps appear with the implementation & rollout to users
  • The final product offers only 60% of the capability promised and the system workarounds continue

If these were the only blocks faced after implementation, funnily enough the situation would actually not be too much worse. The problem is that this is only the start. What then seems to happen is that while the implementation occurs, sales and/or service levels drop significantly and sales managers start to get punished for their lack of results.

Many users get disillusioned and they start to either leave or look seriously for jobs in competing businesses in the same vertical. This causes increases in staff turnover and a need to then recruit more people at a time when training and reducing the time to competency for new team members is not the highest priority. Finishing the implementation and knowing the systems core capabilities actually collect “all” of the data accurately and can be used to get results is the priority.

So what’€™s the answer? Consider the following:

  • Who is on the rollout project team and why are they there?
  • Who is missing that should be there? E.g. possible managers of users who know what functions have to keep on going not matter what
  • Have you looked at who your absolute best talent is and how they can add value to the project?
  • What kind of mini pilots have you or are you intending to run prior to getting serious about the rollout?
  • If you have gathered groups of high performers to do the testing, have you then ensured these people are trained in knowledge-transfer and work-place training techniques to get your population back to its core results capability ASAP? How is this behaviour change actually going to occur on the ground?
  • What kind of knowledge-capture processes do you have around the more “€œtacit”€ or informal smarts the high performers have? How do these apply in the “€œNew”€ technology platform or world? How are these to be transferred? How is your talent management process taking this into account?

Making sure you have covered off the above at the very least will enable you to keep leveraging your best people to transfer their results across populations. Sometimes you may need to bring in technology providers you have never thought of prior to the project. In fact, this might not become apparent in any of the project design phases and might only be discovered during implementation.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.

What often actually happens though is this:

  • The project goes way over time and budget and the change management process fails
  • Only specific users get the new technology right and they were the high performers anyway
  • The strategic planning done prior to implementation was nowhere near robust enough & so major gaps appear with the implementation & rollout to users
  • The final product offers only 60% of the capability promised and the system workarounds continue

If these were the only blocks faced after implementation, funnily enough the situation would actually not be too much worse. The problem is that this is only the start. What then seems to happen is that while the implementation occurs, team performance levels drop significantly and project managers start to get punished for their lack of results.

Many users get disillusioned and they start to either leave or look seriously for jobs in competing businesses in the same vertical. This causes increases in staff turnover and a need to then recruit more people at a time when training and reducing the time to competency for new team members is not the highest priority. Finishing the implementation and knowing the systems core capabilities in order to actually collect “all” of the data accurately often is the priority.

So what’€™s the answer? Consider the following:

  • Who is on the rollout project team and why are they there?
  • Who is missing that should be there? E.g. possible managers of users who know what functions have to keep on going not matter what
  • Have you looked at who your absolute best talent is and how they can add value to the project?
  • What kind of mini pilots have you or are you intending to run prior to getting serious about the rollout?
  • If you have gathered groups of high performers to do the testing, have you then ensured these people are trained in knowledge-transfer and work-place training techniques to get your population back to its core results capability ASAP? How is this behaviour change actually going to occur on the ground?
  • What kind of knowledge-capture processes do you have around the more “€œtacit”€ or informal smarts the high performers have? How do these apply in the “New”€ technology platform or world? How are these to be transferred? How is your talent management process taking this into account?

Making sure you have covered off the above at the very least will enable you to keep leveraging your best people to transfer their results across populations. Sometimes you may need to bring in technology providers you have never thought of prior to the project. In fact, this might not become apparent in any of the project design phases and might only be discovered during implementation.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.


Cultural Diversity in Business?

Recently there has been a large amount of coverage both in Australia and India about the way Indian nationals are being treated.

Several people have been threatened with their lives or have in fact lost their lives in the past weeks. This has been of huge concern for many reasons, not only for the people of India who are becoming a larger and larger part of our community, but also for those involved in Australian politics and for the greater community.

What may concern us in business is that the things that happen in the parks and streets around our cities also affect us in business.

Ask the question: say you have a mix of ethnicities in your business, either on the ground in Australia or in their own countries like Indonesia, China, India, the Middle East or New Zealand.

How do you cater for people from these different ethnicities? What do you do to create open dialogue or cultural understanding? How are you bringing people from different cultures together in order that they all get along and can learn from each other without barriers?

Given that we often struggle even to negotiate simple things with regard to immigration laws, like who should be able to fly or settle, it’s even more important that we treat ethnically diverse staff with respect. When you get it right, you can really enable not only increased performance but also faster and clearer communication.

Take a look at a quick video with some thoughts on diversity and talent in the workplace from people like Tig Gillam, CEO Adecco, and Marilyn Johnson, VP Market Development IBM and other business leaders. Are you doing these things in your workplace?

Consider three things in your business:

  • Work out who your most talented people are.
  • Find out where they are from and why their background has helped them get the results they are currently getting with what they do.
  • Create a process where your people can share their experiences with others in your team. Don’t put them on a pedestal, but give them the ability to share how their background makes a difference.

A 15 MINUTE EXERCISE – YOU MAY JUST BE VERY SURPRISED AT SOME OF THE ANSWERS!

  • Have your teams discuss what it means to come from their own cultures and the effects on results as they see them.

Bring all your people together culturally so they support each other and are willing to have respect for each other’s differences.

It’s no coincidence that people like Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King & Barack Obama, through their ability to bring large groups of people with major differences together, have made such a difference in our world.

What could you do in your organisation’s CULTURAL world and what would it take to boost it?

Harness Knowledge via Technology

As yet, technology in business has hardly been used to harness the knowledge held by talented high-performing individuals. Why not? Well, it’s funny that you should ask. We are now great at storing data – check on any company you like and you’ll find shared hard drives with data trees up to your eyebrows. But in most cases if you ask the users where they access essential information on the best people’s progress and what they have learned in the last week, they’ll seldom tell you – Oh that’s right here.” It just does not seem to happen. This kind of organisational change, although being used in some cases, is still some way off.

What would you need to do in order to be able to do it better?

  1. Firstly, you’d need to have a system where you could design a database of internal smarts, probably categorised by area, and which uses a kind of hierarchy to capture information design.
  2. Then you’d need to define the “Key” areas and who knows the most about them – a talent identification and management process. In other words, you would want to have a series of “Internal Experts”.
  3. You’d need some way of downloading in each area a series of what really matters e.g. in a projects environment, it might be meeting schedules, quality of pre start meetings, project knowledge, resource management, major supplier relationship building etc.
  4. As the database was built upon, almost certainly you would want to have some kind of tags or “Meta tags” where the information in each file has a meaningful link to a user searching for it.
  5. Finally, you’d need to understand how, why and when people would access these smarts.

Have a listen to some of the world leaders discussing problems in the workplace. They talk about the new collaborative technologies and their deployment, and the effect on business processes. How are they affecting our use and definitions of what is public and what is private, our intellectual property? What about the way that language affects how we use these technologies?

Test small first, and test as you design, as part of the organisational change process. Find out what works and do more of that! Most often, the IT people get carried away with technology that no one else cares about or knows how to use, so the money is wasted.

Expert Knowledge Management

The ability to understand and box the key distinctions of your best people in key areas enables you to create results in your business much faster than other organisations in your industry. Whether you have a population of 10, 50, 500 or 15,000, the ability to roadmap what your best people do that differs from what the others do can create a massive competitive advantage.

Listen to Tom Young (BP’s Global Knowledge Management Team) from Knoco talk about the value of understanding the key smarts of some of your most talented people when they are on their way out of an organisation. If you start this process as a part of your talent management program, the savings can quickly add into the millions of dollars.

NOTE: The sound at the start of this video is slightly poor, but it gets better.

Key Areas

Isolate key areas and then break these down into Heuristics, the hands-on approaches that your best people use to get results. These approaches tend most often not to be in procedures yet, as talented people generally do things for which procedures have not yet been invented. Procedures tend to come much later down the track after everyone else finds out about the strategies and then starts to use them. Eventually someone says, “Hey, we should add this to the procedure manual.”

Heuristics on Key Areas

  • Take those key areas and ask yourself what heuristics were needed in order for this to work with that particular person?
  • What was the outcome required?
  • Where could things fall down?

Stories & History of Key Incidents That Caused Big Results

Look at actual stories or case studies. What happened in those key areas in the past where great things have happened? How was this used to get as good or better results in later instances? Also what was needed in order to get much better results?

By mapping these kinds of things around your highest performers, you build accurate models of what your most talented people do to get results.

Making OD & L&D Programs Work

Over the years you hear again and again that we are bringing in this major consulting firm, this one or this one. Most often millions of dollars are spent with the result being that at times little if any change occurs in team results or on the front line. Why is that?

Consider some of the following reasons and then some things to do to switch it around in order to get results.

Things to be careful of:

  • Bringing in a boxed solution or template not properly tailored from outside can be very risky. What “the best” safety managers, project managers, site teams do can be very different from what you need. Ignoring the “Local Context” seems to cost organisations a fortune over and over.
  • Avoid having a project led by an an area of the business that will not actually be using it or be fully accountable for the results that the project will or won’t get. E.g. HR make the decision with the business unit heads to go ahead with the specific solution, but the people “In” the business unit are only consulted in a token manner.
  • It is counterproductive to roll out “Great” personal change/new communication/new performance techniques to managers of business units without ensuring that they are accountable for then passing this on and/or teaching it to their reports. At times, managers go on courses, conferences, get great MBA learning themselves from other participants or students and there is never any accountability for them bringing this information back into their own business.

Try Instead:

1)   Understanding the metrics that you are trying to change at the front line.

Is it staff turnover? Greater productivity? Better performance management mechanisms? Then for every step of the way, ask the question “Will using this intervention move those metrics?” If not, then it’s probably the wrong one. E.g. teaching managers to better manage their own state of mind might be a great thing if it helps them be more focused, more present, more attentive in meetings and to manage their performance more effectively. But if this is not stated in the “Outcome,” then chances are this is less likely to occur.

2)Gain a true understanding of what is and is not working inside the business.

Don’t just listen to the managers. Go and ask the people at the very lowest level of the business what they think is wrong. At times, senior managers go out to market and buy things to roll out to their people when in fact they are far off the mark.

3)Ensure that people from all levels of the business can contribute to the program.

The more people who have access to interventions, the better the results. One of my clients had people going from very poor performance to very high performance fast once they knew what they weren’t doing right.

Getting results from Organisational Development and Learning and Development Programs is like any systemic change. Consider how  the system currently works and why. What kinds of things are going to help specific metrics? If you can’t link the key pieces of the intervention back to the metrics, then you may have the wrong pieces and/or provider!

In this short video, IBM looks at some change project statitistics and suggests based on research from at least 1500 companies that the toughest areas to change are people’s attitudes, mindsets and “The Culture”.

They recommend a focus into four key areas to make things work:

  1. Real Insights & Actions
  2. Solid Methods
  3. Better Skills
  4. Right Investment – Time/Resources

Good luck!

Identifying & Replicating Talent

The issues of talent management are ones that organisations face every day. How do you go about:

  • Developing it, keeping it?
  • Working out what and who it looks like?
  • Finding where the talent lies?
  • Figuring out if your internal talents are flexible enough to be able to send where and when you like?

A good brief on where we are as regards talent and organisational change in the market was posted by Peter Cheese from Accenture – see below.

High performers are at times also high maintenance; you can’t just string them along because often, if you do, they’ll walk! In the past 10 years, we have seen several times that the high performers in organisations are the least liked by their CEOs, senior managers and sometimes even peers.

This can occur for many reasons. Some of the common ones are:

  • They are so focused on getting their own results that they don’t care about others
  • They have no need to prove themselves to others and hence do what they like
  • Often they are happy to speak their exact mind and do, sometimes leaving a trail of blood

So what can or should you do to manage your organisation’s talent and how?

  • Work out what you are measuring with. Some organisations use Psychometric Tools to analyse and draw conclusions as to who is the best. Some of these tools actually specify behaviours 1-7 as good and 8-10 as bad. Or “this” works, and “this” does not, hence Joe is better than John.
  • Understand where your workforce is ultimately headed. Have a workforce planning model that works for your business needs. At times, organisations don’t even know where they are headed with regard to recruitment. How many people who are talented are about to leave or have just arrived? There is little knowledge on where the best recruits are going to come from, and hence it’s tough to plan for the future.
  • Make sure you have a formal process of recognising who your best people are and where they lie. Have this process be one that is not one-dimensional, e.g. It should not rest on a high-level manager saying, “Great, that guy is talented.” Decisions should be made scientifically such that it takes several different internal opinions, stakeholder reviews from different divisions, and external client feedback to recognise who is “really talented.” The ability to road map the exact distinctions around why high performers have been so successful should be based on your organisation’s specific context and not necessarily on broad-based “Role Success Maps” that often have gaps in terms of your industry.
  • Have ways of replicating how you are going to find more and more of these people. Consider that often the industries where they may be working may not be the same as your own. How can you behaviourally interview these people in a fail-safe manner? For example, when Microsoft recruits senior managers, they may interview candidates 5 or 6 times, including one-on-ones with 5 different people, and then panel interview them at the end, putting candidates under such immense pressure during the final phase that they know who truly is talented under pressure.

A formal and scientific model of Talent Management in big companies is essential to make sure you keep, recruit, develop and retain not only high-performance individuals, but also high-performance teams. One of my long-term clients is considered an expert because he knows his people inside and out. Long ago, my client recognised the best performers and what they offer, having mapped what they do best and where they can then mentor others. This person’s ability to subsequently replicate these talents, which of course lie in different areas across the team, enabled him to gain significant and continuous improvement.

Time & business results

I have friends you can’t meet for morning tea for 8 weeks because they are booked out. Others, you can consistently book a catch-up with so long as you give them 7 days notice and that’s that, every time. Then there are people who will be available tomorrow at 3pm or Friday at 9am and any further out than that and you can forget it!

TIME – Why is that the case?

Is it true that the person booked up for 8 weeks is more important, successful or has more happening in their lives than those you could get an appointment with tomorrow?

INTERESTINGLY IN OUR EXPERIENCE, NO!

Funnily enough, some of the leaders of the biggest organisations in the country operate very much in the now. If it weren’t for some very smart assistants, things would look very different. How might this information influence you and your team’s ability to get results?

Is everybody different around time? What kinds of people are similar and why? We will deal with only one part of this major body of work that up until now been badly under-researched.

How do I know? Well, all the time I see organisations facing people issues where certain portions of populations are extremely reactive and others are the opposite, far too slow to react. Where do you sit? How about your best people when you are “Managing Your Talent”? Are they reactive or more strategic? What’s needed more in your environment?

“Your interpretation of time is not a right or a wrong one. However, if you are too extreme either way with regard to your specific work context and what’s required, you can really lose out.”

What should you do to ensure your thinking around time fits with your business role? Here are three suggestions to consider with regard to the people in your workplace.

1)In a fast-paced sales or back office production environment, you probably want to be able to move quickly and hence timeframes are almost certain to be shorter.

2)In a strategic planning or IT implementation environment, it might pay to have a medium-term time perspective. However, watch out! Get this to be more a long-term perspective and that $500 million dollar IT rollout can easily blow into costing twice as much.

3)In Strategy & Planning roles in major organisations, the people involved are better to have a really good understanding of time in the long term. But they still need to be able to partner with the people on the floor conducting the rollout.

So what if you’ve got people in completely the wrong place?

What if you have people (even managers) on the floor who think learning a set of specific behaviours will take 3 months when your best manager considers it can easily be learnt in 24 hours? A problem in many IT, HR and L&D departments is that when major rollouts occur, the third parties always talk about giving things some time… until the budget’s blown and the business is locked into making even tougher decisions!