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Tag: performance improvement (page 2 of 2)

Chicken Pox and Change Management

Chicken Pox Change Management

Recently the Media 1 team went through a performance consulting refresh with Judith Hale, author of the Performance Consultants Fieldbook, and other titles related to performance centered consulting.

During one of our sessions, Judy referenced “learning by disease.” What she was referring to was the sometimes common practice of “exposing” employees to new process in hopes that they would “catch the disease” and learn the new process. This of course reminded me of my childhood when it was not an uncommon practice to expose a child to another child with chicken pox especially if that chicken pox outbreak coincided with a time that there wasn’t school or a family vacation planned. Disclaimer: I remember clearly missing school, so I do not think my mother planned my chicken pox.

This is such a clear metaphor for unmanaged and unmitigated change, not only in learning, but for any process change (and one I fear one we are all guilty of from time to time). However, I’m not so sure that all concerns come from the same place. All too often, we are so concerned that our people don’t catch the disease that we tend to forget that chicken pox – in whatever way it’s contracted – makes the person infected with it pretty miserable.

We should be less concerned about exposure to the disease and more concerned about the effects of it.  The “change by the exposure” method only addresses the environment for change, It doesn’t take into account whether the individual has the skill or capability (except in rare cases, you only can get chicken pox once, and I hear they have vaccines now), and it certainly doesn’t address the way you would want to transmit change (no school or family vacation). And most importantly, why would your employee ever want to catch it (motive)?

Unless our goal is to fail (Ebola anyone?), we need to design and use better models than the world’s worst epidemics. Hopefully this metaphor will help you recognize where this model is being used in your organization, and help you manage change with performance in mind, as opposed to hoping for successful exposure.

RelatedGood Foundations, Good Results: Principles of Performance Improvement.

Key Learning from the Gartner Portal, Content, and Collaboration Summit

Having just returned from the Gartner Summit, I thought a quick recap was in order. Besides I need a break from my measurement series (Part I, Part II, Part III)

Things got started with Gartner VP and Analyst Whit Andrews taking the stage carrying a shovel. My first thoughts were he we go with another speech about breaking new ground, but I should have known better. His comment was “A Gartner guy with a shovel, never a good thing.” But it turns out, it was a prop for talking about Minecraft, an online game both he and his son play on a regular basis. Here’s a YouTube of him previewing the shovel theme. It set the tone to talk about gamification, but the rest of the conference was decidedly higher level and talked about building and maintaining higher orders and evolutions of portals and content management.

Side note: While researching Whit Andrews I found this hilarious text-speech YouTube diatribe.

Day 1: Portals & UXP

All of the sessions I attended were geared more towards the portal end of the spectrum. Within the realm of portals, the major focus areas were User Experience (UX) and mobile. Of course there is a ton subtlety and secondary topics. I won’t cover every session, key sessions, and perspectives here.

My first session was Gene Phifer talking about User Experience Platforms or UXP. Any reader of the Media 1 blog knows this is a huge focus for us right now. The UXP definitely has a place in the corporate landscape and is a critical piece for creating alignment between people, process, and technology. Gene’s original article on UXP is a great overview of the session. For more of Media 1’s vision for how UXP can drive performance, see Chris Willis’s blog post “Social, Mobile, Integrated…UXP and Your Future Workforce.”

“Using Generation 7 Portals to Attract and Engage Customers” with Jim Murphy was up next. While this session was geared somewhat towards customer facing portals, the same principles apply to employee or internally-focused portals. With a lot people I talk to, “portal” has become a bad word. In a lot folks’ experience, portal technology has been purchased, implemented, and subsequently fallen short of expectations. What we have to realize is that portals have evolved and continue to evolve. The biggest shift I see in portals is that they are moving away from being company, department, or role specific and they are getting personal. When you put the individual at the center of the design and you surround that person with filtered and specific options, portals get a lot more compelling—and that’s the root of why Media 1 is bullish on UXP.

Jim Murphy describes the characteristics of Generation 7 portals as featuring:

  • Analytics
  • Portal-less Portals
  • Context aware
  • Portal ubiquity
  • Emerging UXP
  • Widgets dominate
  • Mobile dominates

Jim and Gene teamed up on another session later that afternoon called “Employee Portals: The Revenge of the Intranet” to address the employee-specific side of the portal equation and aptly drew the connection that the employee portal is the heart of the new intranet. The changing ways that we work have driven the corporate intranet from being information portal to knowledge portal, then to process portal, and now to the latest generation of intranet portal that includes social functionality, mash-ups and combined applications, and has a mobile enabled interface. Social is the connective tissue that ties people to process and information—or people, process and technology in the Media 1 vernacular. More than social, the new portal-based intranet (SharePoint portals included) also enables information management and process management driving alignment to corporate goals. Gartner defines the must have characteristics of the next-generation intranet as:


  • Social
  • Business process enabled
  • Analytics and optimization

Near future

  • Mobile
  • Context aware
  • Gamified

Wish list

  • Enable user content contribution
  • “App store” model

Day 2: Gamification & More

Day 2 of the conference started out with Jane McGonigal’s  compelling presentation “Reality is Broken” on the role of game play on our society and consequently how we can use those principles when addressing the needs of our organizations. Jane’s presentation was based on her book is Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. While I’m not always a fan of gamified approaches to development, I must admit to having some changing perspectives based on this presentation. One of the key advantages to gaming is the resiliency gained from repeated trial and error—and sometimes subsequent failure. I think that’s why a lot of people find golf compelling and certainly the incredible volume of Angry Birds play would also seem to reinforce that supposition. Seems to me that many corporate gamified approaches take a “failure is not an option” position and with the absence of failure or the possibility of failure, you miss out on the resiliency benefit and ultimately engagement that the “game” was intended to create. I’m going to do a future blog post on this topic alone. There are some very compelling distinctions between playing, competing, achievement, failure, and losing that deserve to be explored.

I spent the afternoon of Day 2 exploring sessions on UI/UX, people-centered strategy, Yammer and Mobile. Not that these sessions weren’t valuable or intriguing, but I have to assume you have something else planned for your day other than reading my blog.

I finished up the conference with a case a study from GlaxoSmithKline where they talked about their cloud-based employee portal solution, which happened to be a SharePoint 2007 site. While many of their experiences and concerns aligned with my other clients’ SharePoint installations, the fact that the SharePoint farm existed in cloud space created very few if any new concerns. Instead, it appeared to show considerable value to GlaxoSmithKline along the lines of the value proposition of other cloud services.

The final keynote of the conference was from Seth Godin. It was engaging and inspirational to say the least. While many of the examples used where on how to create compelling messaging, or “purple cows” as he calls them, it’s not much of a stretch to see how that relates to how we market performance improvement to our own organizations. It’s more than position; it’s the stories we tell.

In summary, the conference served as an excellent confirmation that I’m talking about the right things with my clients and in the right priorities. It also has taught me that I have a different perspective to bring to gamification and a new understanding of what it takes to make these games compelling. And finally, not that I needed any more convincing, we need to find ways of engaging employees on mobile platforms in meaningful ways. Our obstacles are just that, but mobility is critical to the new work environment.

Mapping Engagement Models to the Development / Talent Life Cycle

My last blog post talked about engagement and maintaining engagement throughout the talent life cycle. In this entry, I want to focus on learning framework models that target engagement at key points in the talent life cycle.

The idea is that if you match a learning framework to the needs of the learner at a specific point in their development, you greatly increase the likelihood of engagement with the learning experience. This is more than learner preference or style; it is about tailoring presentation or context to performance factors.

Consider this: when employees first start with your organization or change roles, it can be easier to engage them, but harder to get real performance. They are excited, typically self-motivated, but may lack the skills that make up the competencies needed to perform. To effectively develop these employees, a high degree of direction is needed.

As the employee begins to acquire knowledge and skill and some level of job competency, it’s easier for disillusionment to set in. Skill has increased but engagement may drop. With the honeymoon phase over, they just aren’t as naturally excited as they used to be. The employee still needs direction, but also has an increased need for support behavior to continue to be engaged. A great way to accomplish this at this point in the development cycle is to use coaching or mentoring, and perhaps a stretch assignment to break up the routine.

When employees start to achieve mastery of knowledge, they need less direction but continue to need higher support behavior, and engagement can vary. Only when both knowledge and engagement align at a high level do you get optimum performance. When engagement is high and competency is achieved, that employee needs less directive and supportive development efforts. Best practices and sharing amongst peers can have a dramatic effect on your business when people get to this point.

So how does this map into frameworks for delivering engagement?

Curriculums and frameworks to address low competency are highly directive or task-based like the models we have developed and use for Onboarding. The objective here is to present a logical progression of digestible knowledge over time—the right knowledge at the right time, immediately applicable on-the-job.

As job competency is achieved, it’s critical to add social and coaching elements more like what is found in a comprehensive cohort curriculum. Cohorts to support moderate levels of competency should contain directive assignments and coaching and/or mentoring components. These should be your “highest touch” training curriculums.

As more competencies are achieved, less task-based direction is needed. Cohorts focused on audiences with higher function can be more about applied exercises and less about knowledge-based learning, but until competencies are achieved, employees will continue to need a high touch from mentors or coaches.

People who have achieved a high level of competency are either at the top of their role or the top of your organization and will tolerate very little in terms of task-based formal learning activities or coaching, but will engage with and learn from each other. This is where Communities of Practice can really work and be self-sustaining. Best practices and sharing about practical applications of knowledge can be acted upon to drive the organization to new heights.

While this is a general guideline to the engagement approach for different levels of your organization, you also have to realize that this cycle repeats itself constantly for employees as they move through your talent management cycle. For example, let’s take a look at a new manager who has been with your organization for two years. At the enterprise or curriculum level, we expect them to be best served by a cohort or task-based cohort model. From a functional or content level they have high engagement, they are going to need more direction in the beginning, and their needs are going to be more in line with a task-based system.

It’s also important to note that engagement is hardest to achieve in the middle of a development cycle where commitment levels are variable. If onboarding fails to engage when an employee starts, engagement will be extremely difficult to re-establish as they develop. It’s here that you run the greatest risk of costly turnover and talent drain.

While developing competency is critical to the performance of your company, achieving engagement is just as critical to growth, innovation, and your ability to attract and maintain a high level of talent. Targeted delivery frameworks give context and level-appropriate structure to curriculums to help you achieve both, which we all know is vital to the long-term success of our companies.

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