Maximizing Your Organization: It Starts At The Top

There exists a plethora of programs designed to bring out the best in one’s organization. Outside consultants armed with a PowerPoint presentations and rented hotel banquet rooms are popping up everywhere. Each of them espouses to know the secrets to...


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There exists a plethora of programs designed to bring out the best in one’s organization. Outside consultants armed with a PowerPoint presentations and rented hotel banquet rooms are popping up everywhere. Each of them espouses to know the secrets to giving your organization the edge over your competition. Most of these programs have spun off from a core group of industry leaders.

I attribute this phenomenon to the obvious void that exists in all organizations, both public and private. The principles they preach are fundamentally sound; however, just like the glut of diets, self-help books and fitness videos on the market, the principle will be commensurately effective as the application of the program.

Team Building

Team building is a concept that is gaining greater recognition in maximizing an organization, and rightfully so. D. Wayne Calloway, then-CEO of PepsiCo, was quoted in a January 1989 Fortune magazine as saying, “We have a great team spirit. Our people want to be the Marines. They want to be the finest. We hire eagles and teach them to fly in formation.”

When employees feel as though they are working for a five-star organization, they will begin to act like it. The team-building concept has at its foundation the belief that if employees are made to feel a part of a bigger whole, and that their contributions are needed and appreciated, then the entire organization will rise to a higher level. From a personal perspective, what I like about the team-building concept is there are no prima donnas or superstars. The fireground is an excellent example of this concept – it’s a place where every member makes a vital contribution to the success of the operation.

Brian O’Reilly reports of a program in an October 1994 Fortune called “360 Feedback.” The idea is to have all of one’s peers and subordinates evaluate people in upper management without fear of reprisal, but for the exclusive purpose of improving. This process removes egos and barriers, and causes great reflection on the part of the manager who thought he or she was doing so well. Research showed that two-thirds of the managers produced self-assessments that were much higher than the co-workers and subordinates concluded. The smart managers admit to the findings and often apologize.

Such ego stripping increases the motivation of the employees and the respect for the newly contrite manager. A good dose of humility is imperative if a team is going to be effective. That’s the beauty of a team. No single person can do it all. Each individual member has an integral part, and the team is more effective when they are working together.

Managing Change

Another function needed to maximize an organization is the management of change. Many change-management programs are available. While the terminology used differs slightly, the key ingredients and sequences of steps are essentially the same.

Without exception, change-management models include an “analysis” or “needs assessment” that must be addressed. This first step will determine the impact the change will have on the organization and seek to identify obstacles that could hinder the change. This first step will often include base-line statistical data that will be used as a benchmark to be measured against, in the final phase of the program.

The second step will logically include a version of the planning process. This step will include a close examination of the forces that are working both “for” and “against” the change. These may be internal or external forces, and may include individuals or groups such as labor unions or political powers. Other forces might be budget constraints or windfalls.

This second step will also include the establishment of the vision. What will the organization be like after the change is complete? This is a very important element because everyone needs to “buy into” the vision. Department heads and politicians can change rapidly. If the vision belongs exclusively to one of these two powers, then the vision is vulnerable as well. All groups affected by the change need to be onboard.

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