All of us at Plus Delta Consulting have been reflecting on what we will do as we enter the New Year to improve performance in our organization – and with our client organizations. 2009 was a rocky year for many, and I for one am very glad to put it behind me. With that said, I’d be remiss if I simply said, “Thank God it’s over!” without doing any planning for 2010.
As we enter the New Year then, we’d like to recommend 5 simple steps for you to drastically improve performance in your organization. What steps have you taken or do you plan to take as you begin the New Year to produce better results? Please take a moment to comment below and share your own actions and ideas with us and all of our readers. Until then, here’s our list!
1. Plan your future from the future:
If anything was possible for you and your organization in one year from now (or even 10), how would you have the future be? Suspend reality for just a moment, and don’t worry about being practical or even reasonable. Focus on defining your ideal future based on your most important values and longer-term business objectives. And don’t frame this as “fixing” something that already exists or working within your current constraints.
This is purely a process of creation. By the way, you need to enlist the support of your team and explicitly ask those around you what contribution they would like to make to the organization and the world around them – again given no constraints – to develop a shared vision for this ideal future. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you work together as a team to achieve this future from the future!
2. Conduct a “Quick Pulse” assessment of your organization:
Good health and wellness is critical to the success of any organization. If you want to produce better results, you need to determine what’s working well across your organization today as well as what opportunities exist to improve performance moving forward. This doesn’t have to take a long time. Just talk to some of your key managers and staff and ask them what they think. You can also administer an online survey to gather information quickly from a wider audience. Together, this process of listening to your people will help you understand their individual perspectives about organizational performance and quickly gauge what your organization needs to do differently in 2010. If you tie this information back to your company’s strategic objectives, you will have all the ingredients you need to create a recipe for success this year.
3. Talk to your people and become a mentor to them:
Do you have a forum in place today to tell your employees what they do well and what they aren’t doing so well just yet? Are you giving your direct reports the feedback they need to succeed? Feedback is a gift. At Plus Delta, we say “Feedback, Feed-forward”. If you don’t take the time to talk to your people, they won’t know what to continue doing nor will they know what to stop doing.
One simple activity is to conduct a quick goal-setting meeting with your employees in which you clarify what to Start, Stop and Continue doing in 2010 to be more effective. Match this against your more formal (or informal) performance review process, and you’ll be able to see where things are in alignment versus where they are not.
But remember, the process doesn’t stop here… Your employees need you to provide ongoing feedback and coaching throughout the year to stay on track. Being a mentor is not a one-time event, and creating sustainable results doesn’t happen after one sit-down together. Continue providing feedback to and mentoring your people on a regular and ongoing basis to produce long-lasting positive results.
4. Take a step back to examine how you’re managing performance from a company point of view
When we work with clients to help them improve performance management in their company, often their focus is on the question of “how do we raise the bar?” or “how do we have those ‘difficult’ conversations with poor performers?” or “how do we do a better job of defining and measuring goals, objectives, and key performance indicators?”. But when we actually get into a conversation with them about what’s working and what’s not working, it turns out that their real issues are more related to managing organizational performance. What we begin to hear are things like, “we have too many competing priorities” or “our project priorities continually shift, so we can’t help our employees prioritize what’s important from one week to the next” or “what are priorities for our group are not priorities for the other groups we work with.”
These are symptoms that the management processes for managing organizational performance are either not in place or not working effectively. By management processes, I mean the mechanisms (i.e., meetings, forums, etc.) for the management team to meet to: a) establish a “project portfolio management plan” of critical projects over the next 90, 180 days and beyond; b) regularly revisit that plan in light of constantly shifting priorities, marketplace dynamics, competitor plans, customer demands, etc. c) to re-prioritize projects, redistribute resources, and refine objectives and milestones; and d) re-communicate the outcomes of those meetings to employees so that their work activities are consistently prioritized, coordinated, and integrated. While it may take some effort (and time) to establish and carry out these management processes, the overall savings of time and money on the organization through improved coordination of effort will bring a significant return on investment.
5. Evaluate your organizational strategy for using social and collaborative media:
It is essential for you – and your organization – to leverage new media for increased collaboration, networking, knowledge sharing, and improved productivity. Whether it’s updating your LinkedIn profile, starting a new blog on a question or idea you have, or leveraging Facebook to promote your company brand, these tools can keep you connected with everyone around you.
Prior to launching a social media campaign, joining the relevant social networks, and becoming more interactive in the realm of new media, you have to determine your longer-term strategy, establish goals, and create a plan. Why are you doing this? Is it to keep your friends and family informed about what you are doing? Would you like to draw customers to your company? Are you looking to improve collaboration among members of a virtual team? There is tremendous pressure to jump right into this game with both feet, but this arena has its own set of norms and rules and there are long-term implications for deciding to use these new media channels.
Interactivity with one’s key customers and/or encouraging internal collaborative efforts in your organization can be both rewarding and highly effective in all types of companies and communities. Understanding and establishing a set of common practices and policies on how you and your employees should use these tools is critical to the success of any such efforts though, so think first. If necessary, consult an expert to guide you before getting started.