Friday, 10 August 2007

Newsletter Issue 135, August 2007



Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 135, August 2007
Hi guys,
How do you drive change in your organisation? Check out Keeping Employees Committed to Change.
Telling Your Brand Story Well could make the difference between mediocre brand performance and excellence. 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Keeping Employees Committed to Change

Earlier this year, the American Management Association ran an article on keeping employees committed to the change process. They have kindly allowed me to repeat that article verbatim (including American spelling!) here for you.
Companies large and small spend millions of dollars each year in order to make change initiatives a success. And yet the results are frequently dismal—changes fail to achieve their objectives, and leaders are left wondering what went wrong. Managers blame change-phobic employees, and employees say leaders didn't manage the change effectively. If you're responsible for driving change, you most likely find all the finger-pointing frustrating and, frankly, counterproductive. If only you could pinpoint where the failure originates, perhaps you could head it off at the pass.
Here's some good news. A survey conducted by OnPoint Consulting shows the real source of the problem, and it's not getting employees' support for the change effort—it's keeping their support and commitment at high levels.
"Most managers know they have to clarify the purpose of the change, develop a transition plan, and get employees committed to the change effort right up front," says Richard Lepsinger, president of OnPoint Consulting and co-author (along with Dr. Gary Yukl) of Flexible Leadership: Creating Value by Balancing Multiple Challenges and Choices (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2004).
Lepsinger continues, "Many of them appear to do a pretty good job at first. But in the first month after the big kick-off, a trend among both top performing and less successful companies reveals itself: employee commitment and support for the change begins to trail off. I call that point the ‘commitment dip.’ It's where employees' support for, clarity about, and commitment to change falls off, sometimes dramatically."
OnPoint’s research found that there is a difference: top performing companies detect this dip and quickly take action to get back on track. Less successful companies take longer to reverse the trend—and even if they are able to do so, many times their recovery does not stick. In fact, if an organization does not take corrective action to get the change initiative back on track in the first one to three months, there is little likelihood that it will achieve its objectives or realize its full potential.
Based on its research, OnPoint provides guidelines for what a leader can do to avoid the commitment dip and implement successful changes:
  1. Be forthright about the change and its impact. Many leaders are hesitant to discuss a change with employees. Sometimes it's a misguided attempt to "protect" them. Sometimes it's because they feel they won't be able to answer all the questions. In either case, not discussing a change with employees is a mistake. In fact, 64% of OnPoint survey respondents said that open and honest communication from leaders, even when they don't have all the answers, would make change easier. The overall message appears to be that people want leaders to be accessible and to engage in what Lepsinger calls "change talk." What is change involves asking questions like “What do you see as the pros and cons of the change?” “What is your perspective of the importance of the change?” and “Do you feel confident that you can successfully make the change to keep the lines of communication open with employees? "Change talk gives leaders an opportunity to engage in discussions that might otherwise be difficult to initiate or sustain," says Lepsinger. "It's a good way to evaluate people's level of change-readiness and to clarify key issues. We've also found that this dialogue will help move your people to the next level of readiness."
  2. Model behaviors that support the change. In other words, "walk the talk!" Make sure management does not revert to "old" behaviors. If employees perceive that there are two sets of rules and behaviors—one for them and one for senior leaders—the change will lose credibility and be regarded as less important. "It is not enough to just say the right thing or even enthusiastically communicate the benefits and the business case for the change," says Lepsinger. "Employees want to see those words backed up with behavior. That is how they judge how effectively someone is leading and managing a change. In order to be successful, everyone involved in the change should be 'walking the talk.'"
  3. Get middle managers on board. Conventional wisdom (as well as the advice of many consultants and academics) emphasizes the importance of getting the senior team on board. But one big difference between top companies and less successful ones seems to be the extent to which middle-level managers feel involved in and integral to the change process. OnPoint's research shows that the involvement level of midlevel managers in the top-performing and the less successful organizations is similar at the initiation of change. However, top-performing companies are more effective at maintaining and increasing midlevel manager involvement in the first three months than are the less successful organizations. At the one- to three-month mark, top performing companies experience a sharp increase in participation and engagement of midlevel managers, while the less successful companies remain fairly constant over time, with a slight drop-off at the ten-month mark.
  4. Don't put your plan on automatic pilot. Many companies do a lot of work on the front end to put a plan in place that clearly communicates the objectives and prioritizes them so that employees know what they should be doing when. They assume when they lay out the work to be done all they need to do is switch on the automatic pilot and say, "Go," and employees will stay committed to the plan and carry out the change. Companies that do this will find that they aren't achieving the change objectives they planned for. "Planning, by definition, is working toward an unknown future state. When you're making your plan, you know what you would like to happen and you can predict some of the problems and obstacles that might pop up, but once you're in it, you will discover what you are actually up against and the plan will have to be adjusted," says Lepsinger. "That's why you must treat your plan as a living document—one that you keep coming back to and revising as you learn and discover unanticipated problems and opportunities."
  5. Set realistic objectives and milestones. Regardless of how often you revisit and revise your plan, your change won't be successful if you aren't realistic about what can be accomplished in the time available. Don't set employees up for failure by asking them to bite off more than they can chew in the first critical few months. If they feel overwhelmed or pressed for time in getting certain goals accomplished, they will lose enthusiasm for the effort. Thinking big is great, but not when it endangers your change implementation. As your employees reach realistic goals and milestones, they will become more positive about the change and will see its benefits. "As we've mentioned, our research shows that things will get worse before they get better during the first month," says Lepsinger. "Targeting unattainable goals certainly isn't going to speed up your successes. If anything, it'll frustrate and demoralize employees during those first few critical months, and the time and energy you've spent preparing for the change will have been a waste."
  6. Don't underestimate the resources required. Over-committing existing resources to too many initiatives or underestimating what it takes to accomplish the stated change objectives are primary causes of change initiatives' failing to meet their intended outcomes. Keep in mind that your employees have regular jobs aside from the work they'll do to make the change a success. If you don't provide them with the resources they need to be successful, they either won't be able to commit themselves to making the change successful or they won't be able do their jobs well. "Eighty-two percent of the people at top performing organizations we surveyed said that the availability of adequate resources is a key element in successfully achieving change objectives," says Lepsinger. "Without the proper resources, your employees will quickly become frustrated."
  7. Maintain enthusiasm and excitement among your employees. Think about what's going on during the first month of the change. Senior-level managers are pumping up the troops, traveling from office to office promoting the change and making sure everyone is on board. Circulate banners, buttons, and other promotional materials to ensure that the change is on every employee's mind. To keep employee enthusiasm from waning, continuously celebrate your company's successes and communicate the benefits of the change to your employees so that they stay motivated and continue to perform at a high level. Devise a reward system so that your employees benefit when they successfully meet objectives or reach set milestones. "You have to keep the change in front of your employees at all times—not only during that first month," says Lepsinger. "It's another reason why you can't put your plan on automatic pilot and why leaders need to model behaviors that support the change for the duration of the initiative, not just at the kick-off."
Managing change comes up on almost every list of organizational and leadership success factors. Yet, despite the amount of time and money that has been invested in educating organizations and training leaders in the tools and skills to effectively manage change, the results have been uneven at best. "It is possible to avoid the commitment dip," says Lepsinger. "We believe the information we learned from our study will help leaders keep their employees highly committed and focused on effectively implementing any organization change.”
For more information, go to www.onpointconsultingllc.com.

Telling Your Brand Story Well

If you are in business, chances are that you have developed a brand. That may have involved having artwork done for one or more aspect of your business, which may nor may not be consistent.
At some stage you will have spent some time consolidating and aligning all your business marketing collateral (and if not, give me a call!) to ensure that you are getting the best returns from your branding investment.
However, most of you have not thought about your “brand story". Dan Stiff, president of Leadership Performance Development Inc at www.lpdinc.com says that when brand stories are told well, your brand becomes "a powerful tool that can be used by sales to boost your company’s performance and profits. As a manager, you need to get comfortable with the success stories of your brand in the marketplace and make those stories part of your company’s selling arsenal. By articulating your brand story, you will convey your company’s unique advantages, engage the customer, and differentiate your products and services from those of competitors".
You can put together your brand story by working through the following points:
  1. Brand History: This is who you are. Record how your brand came to be, how it has grown, your vision, your mission & and your values. If you haven't worked through these before, either get some training through www.bdc.net.nz or give me a call to help you
  2. Brand Survey: This is who your customers think you are - and who they think your product or service is. Find out the key compelling and emotional words and ideas that represent your brand by simply asking your customers a few questions:
    • Why do you buy from us?
    • What does our product / service do for you that is unique? If our company went away tomorrow, what would be missing in the marketplace?
    • What is your impression of our brand? How does it improve your lifestyle?
    • If you have brand loyalty to us, describe why. If you have brand loyalty to a competitor, describe why.
    • What are we distinctively known for in the marketplace?
  3. Brand Story: Using the key words and ideas you have gathered from the survey and brand history, forge your brand story. Run it past your staff and some key customers
  4. Brand Ambassadors: Train your staff in telling your story, as they are the critical success factor to telling a rich, history-filled brand story using language with meaning for the customer
To once again quote Dan Stiff, this process "will knit you and your customers together as people with similar experiences and similar heritage. If your customers know your brand’s story they will understand how your company thinks, who you are, and why it makes sense to do business with you."
This clarification of who you are to the customer can make the difference between mediocre brand performance and excellence.
Have fun!


Image Resizing with Vista

Windows used to come with a nifty image resizer built into it, where you could resize an image when you were emailing etc; 99% of the time you didn't use it, but as soon as it wasn't there, you suddenly missed the capability.
Windows Vista doesn't have that capability, and scuttlebutt is that they are only going to reintroduce it to the high-end software sales as a 'PowerToy'.
However, Window's Secrets Newsletter at http://windowssecrets.com/ has galloped to the rescue once again. They recommend using the VSO Image Resizer, which you can download as freeware and install on your system at http://www.vso-software.fr/products/image_resizer/.
Then all you have to do is to highlight your image (or images), right-click, select 'VSO Image Resizer' from the pop up menu. VSO has lots of options on format, size, dimensions and so forth; all very clear and easy to follow. To resize:
  1. Select your desired pixel resolution (or you can use one of their predefined profiles; or create your own profile if you are going to do this often)
  2. Choose your required format (you can convert to JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG, TIF etc)
  3. Tick "Copy EXIF information" (that's your camera's image data, as per EXIF.org)
  4. Add a watermark if you're feeling proprietary
  5. Specify a method for naming the newly formed file
  6. Designate a destination
  7. Click OK.
Easy peasy. Who needs Vistas PowerToys now?!

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you:
  • EXIF, Exchangeable Image File Format. A standard for storing interchange information in image files, especially those using JPEG compression
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
In this newsletter, we look at some nifty uses of numbers in shortcuts:
  • PowerPoint "Go to slide <number>"   <Number> & Enter
  • Outlook "View anywhere from 2 through 9 days at a time; works when using general keys for moving around in day/week/month view"  Alt & <Number>
  • Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint & Word "Select a Help topic from the list the Assistant displays"   Alt & <Number> (1 Is The Leftmost Button, 2 Is The Next, And So On)

Hot Linx
If you want to learn any more about EXIF image data, go to http://www.exif.org/ and read all about it
To check out the extent of man's exploration of the solar system and the galaxy, go to Nasa's Jet Propulsion Lab site at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/
For all the latest and greatest in music news, you can't go past the daily updates of all relating to music at http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/. It is even used by music journalists.
An interesting article about a University of Arizona study into gender differences in daily words spoken at http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article2033570.ece

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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