Tag Archives: CSCSC

On the same page, are we? (Survey Insights Part 3)

This article appears in the August 2013 newsletter for the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council (supplychaincanada.org).

You will see in an earlier newsletter article a survey to capture some firsthand insights on how organizations tend to align actions and intent. The three broad areas that we explored were:

  1. To what degree do people in the organization pursue the same objective(s)
  2. To what extent do people share the same measures/metrics to gauge their performance
  3. How does collaboration work in the organization

Below, we share some of the insights and will continue to release findings on this website. Our underlying thinking is that performance-driven collaboration has a great chance of happening naturally when the parties (1) share a view of what they want to achieve and (2) agree upon the indicators of whether or not they are making progress.

It is pretty simple, but as Warren Buffett claims of investing, “it is simple, not easy.” In other news, the recipe for losing weight is simple: consume fewer calories, exercise more, or do both. As many can attest, execution is not easy, and can beg a number of deeper questions:

  1. If I don’t have time to exercise, what do I need to change to free up that time? (Looking at connections in the wider system.)
  2. Am I healthy/happy enough, even though I am a bit over weight? (Questioning weight as the best measure.)
  3. Why do I want to be healthy anyway? (Staring into the abyss of life.)

Note: Our consulting approach can help you navigate Questions 1 and 2. For Question 3, we are happy to hear you out, but soul searching is often an individual endeavour.

Here are some of the highlights of our Summer Alignment Survey:

1 – It’s clearer from the top

We asked people to report the degree to which they thought the overall direction was clear to them and others. The clarity rises as you get further up the org chart.

But, you knew that. It is simple.

The not so easy part is how can you acknowledge some ambiguity in the overall direction, but make it clear enough that people can maintain congruent priorities.

Have a look at two different reasonable explanations here .

2 – Authoritative decision making, without clear criteria, breeds conflict

The survey gathered information on how decision-making fits in with collaboration, and the interplay between the level of engagement with the organization and providing clear direction.

Another simple insight emerged: When the perceived leadership style veered toward the top-down approach, people reported having conflicting inter-departmental priorities and succumbing to pressures to protect information.

Again, the challenge here for leadership is to be able to provide compelling rationale for decisions, even in the face of reasoned disagreement. This necessitates clarity on the kind of performance the organization is pursuing and how that performance is being measured.

3 – Here’s one that pertains specifically to supply chain

We asked a question in regard to the extent to which colleagues were on the same page. One third of respondents were evenly split between “I don’t know” and “priorities conflict.” The uncanny symmetry repeats with the remaining two-thirds equally split between “my immediate team concurs” and “we all concur”.

From anecdotal experience, having conversations about performance always involves revealing the connections that individuals believe are most important in achieving success. These beliefs are as much art as science, such as:

  • We need profitability to drive innovation.
  • A focus on employee safety firms up our value to clients, unions and funders.
  • Efficiency means the right product in the right place at the right time.
  • Close relationships ensure long-term success.
  • Cash flow is king.

What you believe starts the story and sets up whether you are in conflict, in cahoots or out-of-touch with colleagues and collaborators. It can be worthwhile to check in on how aligned personal views are with organizational direction.

So…

  • For the one-third that is sure that everyone is aligned: Good for you!
  • For the one-third that is sure at least their group is aligned: Clarifying the fit with other groups and the wider effort will help align actions and reduce friction.
  • For the one-third that is in conflict or unsure: Confirming the conflict can expose a strategic decision that can shape a shared view of performance.

It is as simple as asking, but it is not easy to get good answers from the inside.

Collaboration and other tired words

There is a lifecycle to the words that we use to talk about business performance. Overuse flattens the impact of what were once meaningful contributions to the English language. Some casualties may include “Value Added,” “Synergy,” and “Change Management,” but my favourite on this list is “Collaboration.” Part of the fatigue with “Collaboration” may come from the inherent tension between nurturing relationships and delivering results. So without using that word, how can we get along with each other AND get things done?

Let’s look at the some of the possibilities.

Potential Solution Reasoned Rationale Predictable Problem
Build trust People will develop faith that a colleague is not just being objectionable; they are just doing their job. What if these people are actually messing it up for the rest of us?
Better communication This could build the trust that clears the air. Again, what if the wrong people learn how to be persuasive?
Clear performance measures Use the right measures.Note: If you need to, go watch “Moneyball” (Brad Pitt is great in it!) But does a good 1st quarter necessarily mean a good 2nd one? A good year? Long-term performance?
Better hiring If you have people who “get it,” then it becomes so much easier. But don’t you need new perspectives?
Less competition Some breathing room in the market would let us go back to being nice to each other. Where are you going to find less competition these days?

 

How about this?

Potential Solution Reasoned Rationale Predictable Problem
Better alignment of tangible measures with overall objectives Conflict arises only over how best to accomplish the shared goals and objectives, and we agree on the chosen measures. It is a potentially messy proposition…

It’s not collaboration that is complicated; it’s aligning activity toward purpose. There can be very different perceptions and interpretations of “What are we trying to accomplish?” and “How will we know we are getting there?”

For example, imagine the senior executive who is convinced that success of the organization (or department) hinges on having everyone at their desk from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm with no more than a 60 minute break for lunch. Can you also imagine the motivated (potentially younger) worker who feels they are more productive if they go the gym before work or on an extended lunch hour, but is more than happy to catch up on work in the evenings and on weekends?

The messiness comes from revealing the limitations of some of our core beliefs (for example, does punctuality really indicate productivity?). If you can understand and question some of the relevant logical links, you can start to better align the important elements of performance. Decisions become clearer, and less time and energy are spent on trying to affect change.

We have developed a short diagnostic to gather some insights into how this is currently working for you. Here is an external link to a questionnaire. (This should take 5 or 6 minutes (more if you answer the optional question).)

If you are interested in being kept in our loop, please add your e-mail address at the end. Look for updates at measureofsuccess.ca.

NOTE: This article originally appeared in the June 2013 newsletter of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council (supplychaincanada.org).