Thursday, July 06, 2006

Defining corporate culture

23 June 2006

Corporate culture can be a key source of competitive advantage - but how do you define it?

According to Paul Sanchez, global director, organization research and effectiveness at Mercer Human Resource Consulting, corporate culture can be defined as the sum total of how an organization accomplishes all that it has to do to fulfill its purpose or mission. This definition covers an organization’s operational procedures as well as the standards, behavioral norms and deep-rooted values that underpin them.

Culture as "enduring personality"
“All the overt and subtle patterns of behavior in organizations weave themselves together to create an unmistakable personality and identity,” explains Sanchez. “This enduring personality or abiding culture is a deeply embedded cause of an organization’s capacity not only to cope in challenging times, but also to thrive and prosper. In other words, an organization’s culture is key to its success or failure.”

Five windows on culture
Sanchez identifies five constructs that offer insights into the heart of an organization to form the basis of a cultural audit focused on developing an understanding of the workings of an organization. “These characteristics can be observed from the outside and assessed by those on the inside as ways in which employees behave and respond,” he explains. They are:

1. Achievement – the collective and individual drive to produce results.

2. Environment – whether an organization has a process- or outcome-driven approach to accomplishing work.

3. Perspective – whether it is traditional or innovative.

4. Power – whether it is shared or retained.

5. Risk – whether it is avoided or encouraged.

“This model resulted from collective thinking based on actual experience and the theory of organizational dynamics,” explains Sanchez. “Because these are working constructs, they give the organization a lever with which to shape its culture.”

Sanchez uses the five constructs as the basis of a diagnostic instrument that includes organization-wide surveys and workshops comprising groups of senior management, middle management and employees “The responses provide a snapshot of the organization’s culture,” he explains.

Further reading from Melcrum:
This is an extract from the Melcrum report, Driving a high-performance corporate culture


Blogged on 12:38 AM by Upay



Is wholesale culture change really required?

23 June 2006

South Africa-based consultancy The AA Group say the very idea of “managing corporate culture” leads organizations to plan changes that are far more wide-ranging than is actually necessary.

Most organizations only need to modify their existing culture rather than change it totally. Change is far more likely to be successful if it builds on the existing culture and values.

Five alternatives to wholesale change
The AA Group suggests five ways to consider shaping organizational culture as an alternative to wholesale change:

  • Clarifying – Revisiting existing cultural values and providing reassurance of their continued importance to the organization.
  • Emphasizing – Prioritizing certain key values within the organization in reaction to the external environment.
  • Redefining – Bringing in new practices that support an existing value.
  • Building – Giving weight and meaning to an existing value that hasn’t yet been fully internalized by the organization.
  • Creating – Creating new values or replacing existing values that are no longer relevant.

Set realistic time scales
Think carefully about the timescale you set for achieving your objectives. James O’Toole, author of Vanguard Management: Redesigning the Corporate Future, says companies attempt culture change in one of two ways: through revolution or evolution. Attempts at revolution are most certain to fail. An organization’s culture is formed over many years of company history through people’s shared experiences and its future culture will be formed in the same way.

If you’re being asked to help deliver change to short time scales (i.e. less than a year), either the objectives being set are unrealistic or you’re back in the arena of more simple, short-term behavior change rather than a major culture change.

Further reading from Melcrum:
This is an extract from the Melcrum report, Driving a high-performance corporate culture


Blogged on 12:37 AM by Upay



Succession Planning, an Acquired Skill

New York-based drug manufacturer Pfizer has had systematic succession planning in place for at least well over a decade, but that doesn’t preclude it from having to deal with new challenges to the process. The latest hurdle it’s had to meet is integrating newly acquired employees into its succession plan, says vice president, global talent development Chris Altizer.

"Because the organization is in pretty much continual flux after going through two major acquisitions, the whole concept of knowing your talent becomes a fundamentally different exercise," he points out. Namely, it means the company needed to revise how it thinks about possible successors. Instead of thinking about a neat list of replacements for particular jobs, it had to learn to be more adaptable. "Being more flexible in terms of [asking ourselves about] not just a specific job, but what is a role, and how similar are these roles in terms of scope and scale and then the criteria required below that," Altizer says.

Tracking talent for possible succession is not easy since 50 to 60 percent of the 156-year-old company is composed of employees that joined in just the last six years following the acquisition of former competitors Warner-Lambert in 2000 and Pharmacia in 2003. What used to be certain in terms of the composition of in-house talent is no longer such a sure thing. "In '98 or '99, the senior leaders of this organization could sit around a table and they generally knew the talent, so the robustness of assessment and documentation probably not so much," says Altizer of the need, or lack thereof, back then for highly structured succession planning. One way the company is adapting is by putting together common criteria for senior positions. "You get a company of our size, you have so many jobs that are similar at senior levels," he notes. "You have to get down to the roles, and the folks who are qualified to perform in that role. So, even if the job changes somewhat, our assessments and predictions of their ability to be effective don’t change that much."

Early communication with employees from the newly acquired company also helps. When the Pharmacia acquisition occurred, Pfizer took a direct approach with its new additions. "The statement from the very beginning was, 'This is an acquisition by Pfizer; it is not a merger of equals, and there is a place for people who want to be here,' " Altizer says. Sending a message to new talent that they can be successful if they are willing to work on their new parent company’s terms did the trick. "When we look at several of the very successful senior leaders we have today, several of them are from Pharmacia," he notes.

The first step toward integrating new employees into your talent management program following an acquisition is obtaining information from your new subsidiary on the employees it has identified as "high potential," Altizer says. "We would look at their assessments of their high potential talent, and we would ascribe a degree of credibility to those." In a strategy Pfizer referred to as "high touch," he explains, it spoke with Pharmacia’s most senior leaders about high potentials, and then made a point of reaching out to those employees. "The whole point was to let them know they were valued," he says, "and while whatever position they were in may or may not be the position they would be in [at Pfizer], if there was a place for them to be, we were going to work to make it happen."

See Training's July issue for more on succession planning.

source: Inside Learning - Training Magazine

Blogged on 12:07 AM by Upay



Wednesday, July 05, 2006


TDF e-Net recently spoke with Lou Russell, president and CEO of Russell Martin & Associates and the author of IT Leadership Alchemy (Prentice Hall, 2002) and Leadership Training (ASTD, 2003), about some of the most effective ways to lead staff, project teams, and even oneself through burnout.

Here's what she had to say:

TDF E-NET: What creates stress and burnout in teams?

Russell: One reason people get overwhelmed, stressed and burned out -- especially in today’s business environment -- is that they have too much to do. And when that happens, it makes them feel inadequate because they are constantly facing the fact that they're "not good enough."

In addition, team projects are so different nowadays. Look at trainers, for example. Five to 10 years ago, we used to schedule a two-day project-management class by putting it on the calendar once a month for 12 months. Every time, the class would have the same format and supplies –- and that, alone, was a full-time job.

That world is so gone.

Today, trainers are balancing so many things. We are delivering performance improvement in addition to learning. Our world and our jobs have become infinitely more complex. To do anything, we have to get a whole bunch of people together -- leadership, stakeholders, learners, managers, SMEs, etc. -- and work with everyone effectively. At any given time, we may be juggling everything from a training component and an e-learning component to facilitation, assessments, posttests and pretests. And there is huge pressure to deliver ROI (and rightly so).

What typically happens is that people who are new to the industry just write everything they need to do on a "to-do" list that has 5,000 tasks on it and they never get through a single day feeling like they are making any progress because, for every 10 tasks they cross off on any given day, they add 20 more to the list.

TDF E-NET: What are some ways that training professionals can help teams to minimize stress and burnout?


  • Prioritize and delegate. A big part of managing stress is having the ability to manage what is important to you; understanding, realistically, how long things take to get done; and delegating. So, help team members to focus on the project as a whole rather than on the individual tasks associated with the project and help them to put everything together so that their focus is on the project and the next thing that absolutely needs to be done. In other words, team members need to prioritize instead of trying to manage 5,000 different things at a time. They'll not only work better by doing so, they'll also feel better about delegating work to other people instead of trying to take care of everything themselves.

  • Acknowledge the elephant in the room. One of the most important things you can do when dealing with team stress and burnout is to acknowledge the fact that they exist. If a team member is burned out, he wants someone to say, 'Wow. You are really going through a rough time right now.'

    Problem is, everyone is going through a rough time right now and everyone is waiting for someone to say the same thing to her. Thus, we end up in situations where no one on a team is acknowledging the stress of others or empathizing with them. And if the whole team is mad and stressed out and feels that no one appreciates them, you're going to have burnout.

    To solve this problem, trainers can go into the team environment and almost do corporate therapy. Just spending an hour listening to the team and acknowledging what team members are going through can be very powerful.

  • Create a team to-do list. As the trainer, go in, sit down with each team member one-on-one and create a spreadsheet that lists everything that needs to be done. Based on that list, ask, "Realistically, how much do you need to do? How much can you delegate?"

    Once everyone has created a spreadsheet, merge the individual spreadsheets of the entire team together and display the completed document for all to see so that every team member understands what his or her colleagues are up against. That way, people will be much more likely to ask for help from -- and give help to -- other team members when it's needed.

    You can also put the to-do list to use by leveraging it as a conversation-starter with team members’ bosses and managers when asking for resources that the team might need.
Russell will present the "Learning Leadership Certificate Program" as part of Training magazine's Training Live and Online series of online certificate programs. The program shows participants the most "effective ways to lead while allowing the people one leads to master their own skills and continue to grow." The next start date for Russell's six-week online certificate program is September 8, 2006. Visit the above URL to learn more or to register.

Blogged on 11:54 PM by Upay