Category: Change Management

How to be a Boss without being Bossy – Part 1

We are all leaders in one respect or another.  In business, we lead firms, divisions, and projects.  In our professional growth and personal branding, we speak at conferences, write white papers and post blogs.  In our personal lives, we are moms and dads, we serve on boards, and we lead community groups.

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Finally an explanation of Transformation that I can relate to

Recently a client told us that their organization spends an excessive amount of time ‘navel gazing’ in absolute fascination of their own internal structures, processes and, let’s face it, silos. This fascination can’t help but influence the type of information that they create in order to conduct their business and share information with their external world.

When asked what they should be doing differently, they replied that they need to stop ‘navel gazing’, and start providing the information that clients and/or those external to the organization are looking for.

Finally, an explanation of transformation that I can relate to.

Assuming this to be true, isn’t it time the whole of the Government of Canada started thinking and acting like the one big team that they really are? They are one team tasked with providing information and services to Canadians. The average Canadian isn’t very interested in how the service is delivered, so long as the service meets their needs.

The optimist in me hears the distant sound of silo walls coming crashing down, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Remember that we generally don’t play well together and that many organizations are actively resisting any suggestion that may result in their silo walls being lowered, let alone removed entirely.

The realist in me only has to attend departmental meetings currently being held to increase collaboration and build partnerships. Without fail these meetings turn into an opportunity for functional managers to resist all proposed changes and further cement the mortar on their own silo walls.  The actions and outcomes don’t even remotely resemble the original intent of the meeting.  So much for us all acting like one big team!

What this tells me is that people don’t really consider themselves to be one big team.  It further tells me that TBS could be doing a better job at building awareness and sponsorship for the GC transformation.  Information does not travel on its own, it must be carried forth by human beings in order to be heard.

What it also tells me is that we are not effectively translating the messages coming from TBS into our own operational or service reality.  We hear the messages, yet continue to conduct business as usual (i.e. navel gazing) and will do so until a large force acts upon us and sends us into another direction. The laws of physics are at play here.  The major problem with this approach is the large impact that it has on staff, emotionally, physically, and professionally.

Here’s my wish list for a better transformation world:

1. That TBS would create a powerful sponsorship / leadership coalition, comprised of representatives from all departments, and arm them with the information and authority to guide and enable the transformation. This powerful coalition could help us all to feel and act more like one big team.

2. That departmental leaders would embrace consolidation and centralization, and seek more information from TBS, SSC, etc to guide their departmental strategic planning efforts, even (and especially!) if it challenges their current mandate. This strategic alignment would save time and effort on misaligned priorities, and deliver internal efficiencies in short order.

3. That departmental leaders would embrace collaboration and innovation, and start partnering with one another in a more meaningful way to find new and creative solutions, even (and especially!) if they come from outside of their silo walls. This collective ownership of true collaboration would spread throughout departments and deliver solutions that actually exceed expectations.

4. That departmental leaders would embrace effective communication, and start driving messages down to their functional management teams for translation and alignment with ongoing activities. This shared management responsibility for transformation would save time and effort on project delays, and also deliver internal efficiencies.

5. That departmental leaders would embrace change management, with their actions instead of just their words, and start weighing the human factor in their decision-making. This compassion and engagement of staff would increase morale, improve productivity and build teams ready and able to deliver on the transformation objectives.

We all know this is not business as usual, so the faster we all stop behaving in the ways of the past, and start building the bridges for tomorrow, the more successful the Government of Canada’s transformation will be for all of us.

Three Key Ingredients for Achieving Horizontal Collaboration

The key to effective horizontal collaboration may only be found by first looking vertical. For years I have tried to see things differently, and focus less on the vertical reporting structures (that were all the rage in the private sector) because clients have simply been asking more about horizontal collaboration.  But can you have strong horizontal collaboration without first having strong vertical alignment?  The answer is no, particularly if you are driven to have more factual, evidence-based information.

1. Vertical Alignment

Vertical alignment is the state of having all levels in an organization focused on the same priorities. It is achieved through the ongoing review and validation of detailed information across Staff, Team Leads, Chief/Managers, and Directors. Once validated, this information is then ready for sharing with senior management and horizontal partners.

People are frustrated about their inability to get the facts rights (and the right facts), resulting in the cry from all leaders in government to deliver more factual, evidence-based information.  A noble cry for sure, but how does one go about getting more of this type of information?  The answer lies in dashboards.

2. Dashboard Reporting

At the centre of my new (and old at the same time) discovery lies the dashboard report.  Lots of government departments are embracing the idea of a dashboard, and if created and implemented well, it serves as the impetus for strengthening your vertical alignment.

It can focus all individuals within a functional work team on the same priorities.  This same exercise can be repeated in all functional work teams across an organization.  When the buzz around certain priorities gets loud enough (goes viral), momentum can’t help but kick in. How does one go about creating buzz?  The answer lies in communication frameworks.

3. Communication Framework

A well designed dashboard report is definitely important.  It then must be anchored within a communication framework to ensure the right information is being reviewed by the right people at the right time (on an ongoing and consistent basis). Only then can it move mountains.  This is not pie in the sky thinking, I’ve seen this happen many times in my thirteen years implementing them in the private sector.

 The quest for meaningful horizontal collaboration lies in first achieving and implementing three things:  vertical alignment, dashboard reporting, and communication frameworks.  This is the straightest path available for gathering the factual, evidence-based information required for sharing effective information with senior management and horizontal partners.

The news is good here. The path is straight. The path is well trodden. For those who choose the path, success is right around the corner. 


Footnotes on Communication Frameworks:

How do they work?

Just think of the letter V – it starts at the top, dips down to the bottom, and then comes back up.  A Communication Framework works through the chain of command in the same V shape.  Strategic priorities are defined by Senior Management and they are then translated down through the chain of command.  And in return, operational performance results based on those priorities are reported back up again.  Everyone along the way is providing the right people the right information at the right time.

Why is it called a Communication Framework?

The process of leveraging the chain of command (described above) serves to validate information. Armed with the right facts, people will communicate more effectively and more timely information. Over time, people will develop better communication habits enabling them to more consistently meet their organization’s communication needs.