The seven tips to apply when dealing with difficult stakeholders:
It’s a bit different dealing with difficulty when it’s coming from a place of authority rather than dealing with team members who are difficult that are under your command. But it all comes down to mindful understanding and careful communications, which is how you lead a team and even those in authority over you.
Ever been part of a workplace team that didn’t reach its goals? You’re not alone. Estimates are that 60 percent of teams fail, and that team members are often left with lingering negative feelings as a result.
Yet teams persist, simply because in many cases there’s no alternative. Tackling business problems or doing large-scale strategic planning requires a broad set of skills, and no one employee has this. Thus, companies form groups of experts from different professional areas to examine, analyze and provide a solution to whatever issue they’re tasked to address.
It’s not that teamwork is inherently flawed, or that employees don’t like working in groups. In fact, in a survey by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), 70 percent of senior-level professionals said they enjoy being part of a team, and nearly all – 91 percent – agreed that teams are essential to organizational success. The challenge is to structure and lead teams correctly so that they can get the job done. Here are seven ways to do this:
A team can only be as good as its leader. That’s because a team manager bears overall responsibility for most of the items on this list. This person needs to have both strong project management and interpersonal acumen, and be comfortable tasking work, following up and dealing with conflicts on the team. A team leader must also be able to leverage relationships outside the team to ensure that it gets the needed resources to succeed.
That being said, each team member also needs to feel accountable for the team’s overall performance (more in number 4).
Many teams fail because they don’t have support out of the gate from company leaders. But this can be crucial because teams often need to tap into resources to do their work, and it’s higher-ups who approve such expenses. These could be, for example, a budget for team training, materials, or funds for outsourced administrative support.
Another responsibility of leaders is to ensure that not too many teams are running at the same time. The CCL study points out that a full 95 percent of professionals currently serve on more than one team. Individual team members mustn’t be stretched so thin that they cannot fully focus on their team tasks. Such overload can easily lead to failed teams.
The best teams are ones in which each member brings a different, necessary skill set to the table. Before putting a team together, a company should carefully examine what roles are needed for it to complete its mission. Then, a designated team leader should review the resume, level and background of each person under consideration to put together the right mix.
It’s equally important that each team understands his or her specific role and what is expected as a result. There will often be overlaps in team member skills, and role clarification will help clear up confusion here.
Think getting work done should be a team’s number one focus? Consider this: many teams fail not because the members don’t have the expertise to do the job but because they never learn to work effectively together. Relationship-building should be the top priority of a team, at least in its early days. Group members need to get to know each other and be comfortable communicating with one another in order to be productive partners. This is especially true if team members are at differing levels of seniority, in which case lower-level staff might not otherwise have the confidence to weigh in at meetings.
When conflicts arise – and they will -- teams will work through the problems better if they’ve learned to trust each other from the outset. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a strong teams feels collectively accountable for its success, like a sports team that wins only when its players pull together.
It’s a team leader’s job to facilitate team-building exercises during the first meetings. Throughout the duration of the team, too, teams need periodically to take a break from focusing on tasks to have some fun.
Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Teams should have that, too. Defining a goal and scope of work along with a timeline for deliverables from the outset will go a long way to making a team successful. Company priorities change, of course, so flexibility in these areas is sometimes necessary. But, as a rule, if a team’s purpose is not agreed upon and communicated to all stakeholders (team members and the greater organization) from the beginning, trouble will follow.
With so much work to do and so many voices in the room, team meetings often run too long and waste time. At some point, meetings become less productive as attention spans wane. Starting each meeting with a narrow statement of achievement helps keep it focused and briefer. Moreover, it gives the team the sense that they’re making concrete progress, however small, which keeps morale high. It’s better to meet more often for shorter periods of time than to try to cover a larger agenda less often.
If the timeline is established clearly, it should be easy to monitor if the team is on track to meet its goals or if the schedule needs to be adjusted. And it’s important to do this regularly lest work veer off course. Teams will likely fail when they don’t stick to their plan of action, because it shows they’ve lost their sense of purpose or are mired in conflict, or both.
Teams aren’t going away any time soon, and why should they? A well-structured team with a good dynamic can produce excellent results for an organization. It’s all about putting the right people together and giving them the tools to get the work done.
The word Kaizen in an operation means different to different people. Some define it as lower operating cost or reduced inventory while others describe it in terms of increased efficiency or better quality or being on time & in full. But the ultimate goal remains same i.e. being operationally fit.
However the biggest fear is the misunderstanding of the word Kaizen. Kaizen has been misunderstood as pSMALL CHANGES always. In fact, kaizen means everyone involved in making improvements everyday and everywhere. While the majority of changes may be small, the greatest impact may be kaizens that are led by senior management as transformational projects, or by cross-functional teams as kaizen workshops. The best way to apply kaizen is to gain top management’s commitment first and then involve them in setting up a goal. Once this is done, employees starts focusing on that goal, making changes in their areas, etc. and then again setting up a new goal. At the same time it is very important to set daily work management practices in order to ensure that the improvements done are sustained else there is always a fear of sliding back.
If everything goes right, the best this cycle will yield is a climb up the staircase of continuous improvement step by step.
During this journey of Kaizen or improvement following 10 Kaizen rules should be kept in mind in order to grow your business:
Rule # 1: Discard conventional, fixed ideas
Rule # 2: Think of how to do it, not why it cannot be done
Rule # 3: Do not make excuses, start by questioning current practices.
Rule # 4: Do not seek perfection. Do it right away, even if only for 50% or target
Rule # 5: Correct it right away, if you make a mistake.
Rule # 6: Do not spend money for KAIZEN, use your wisdom.
Rule # 7: Wisdom is brought out when faced with hardship.
Rule # 8: Ask WHY five times and seek out root causes.
Rule # 9: Seek the wisdom of ten people rather than the knowledge of one.
Rule # 10: KAIZEN ideas are infinite
So many middle managers seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders as they assess the reasons behind unhappiness in the worksites they manage. I’m often asked how I assess these situations to prepare for Kaizen or continuous improvement.
My first point is pretty basic… do we even know what the Kaizen aim of “engaged employees” means, beyond the clichés?
When I work with people, I usually pose some questions and guide them to find their own answers. We explore the following, focusing on each question carefully:
Whether or not this conversation feels fruitful, sometimes I suggest we look at a small life boat that has been vetted by managers and executives around the world. Known as the Q12 survey conducted by Gallup, this simple survey measures the strength of employee engagement in any organization. Over 80,000 interviews and focus groups were conducted to confirm the effectiveness of these 12 questions as an indication of complete satisfaction and engagement of the workplace, when they are all met.
I like it because it’s simple and to the point. We can use it to dig deeper into areas of strength or weakness. The bad news is that organizations are often failing with just the first two questions. The good news is it’s easy to clarify and improve upon both of them. The great news? Once you tackle the first two questions, you’ve already gone a long way to creating a meaningful job for every person in the building.
I’d add a final question (which has to do with the number one reason people are satisfied in their job or not): Do you have a good relationship with your supervisor?
Once you have this specific input, you can work together with your team to make a Kaizen Strategy that shows the "Bullseye target" you’re aiming for, whether it is one improved process or a bigger system-wide initiative designed by the larger enterprise. After answering these questions, without such a heavy load of ambiguity now off their shoulders, middle managers have a much better chance of creating a work site truly filled with satisfied, engaged employees who know they are doing meaningful work.
As a process-oholic, process geek, process person, or whatever process aficionado term you identify with, your job is to sell process to your organization. But to do so, you will have to avoid a common process-person pitfall. Don’t try to sell it from the process ivory tower!
A great example is how to answer something like, “What is BPM?”
Unfortunately, this answer sounds a bit like Charlie Brown’s teacher to non-process people. Wah-wah-wah-wwwwahhhh.
After a few years of thinking about it, I have boiled “What is BPM?” down to five words: Process, People, Context, Actions, and Outcomes. In example, TIBCO ActiveMatrix® BPM coordinates process, people, context, and actions for better business outcomes. Ok, there is a little more to it than that.
Process may seem like an obvious choice for business process management, but there is one thing to keep in mind. Not all processes are created equal.
There are many process styles. Some are suited for standardizing processes; some are more geared towards innovation or handling unpredictable business situations. Be sure you are using the right ones in the right places, and the right ones when digitalizing your processes.
It is very easy to forget that productive people are just as important as effective processes. There are just as many ways to improve and optimize how one is using their operating resources, as there are ways to improve one’s operational efficiency. Even if you have gone through several rounds of process improvement, a predictive operations dashboard can offer entirely new optimizations.
The full business context must be available to make the new complexity of the digital business consumable. So, what is the “full business context?” There are many types of context, and each situation will require a mixture of them.
Process, people, and context come together for decisions, which determine the right course of actions. Intelligent technologies will automatically take some of these actions, and some will rely on human insight. The new challenge is to surface the right actions being presented out of the sea of potential possibilities the digital business brings.
At the heart of every process should be the desired business outcome. If it’s not, well it’s time that you have begun. You can start out with just the basic three, and work your way up to some of the more fancy-schmancy outcomes.
When you are ready to expand into the fancy-schmancy area, a great resource to check out is Gartner’s Business Value Model. They provide information around several common outcomes (see table above) and provide guidance on what to measure to gauge your success in that area.
Figure 1. The six phases of BPM maturity.Source: Gartner.
Figure 2. BPM Maturity FrameworkSource: Gartner and Babson College Process Management Research Center (2006)