Change Management Consulting

CONTACT US TODAY 530.321.5309

Business Strategy and Implementation

08 28 2013

How to Coach & Manage People Through Change

Business Strategy and Implementation, Corporate Therapy, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change

August 2013


This is where you are, but… THIS is where you WANT to be…
People attend meetings, but they clearly aren’t working together nor are they working toward the same goals.Some people are overly cautious and quiet while others are playing a silent game of tug-o-war. Problems, both spoken and unspoken, are discussed and effectively dealt with so that the team may focus on the tasks at hand. Additional evidence of improved communication can be seen by alleviating tension, as well as stressing joint camaraderie and vision. There are measurable reductions in the change timelines and expenses.
We have a clear vision of what our end results should look like, but we don’t have a step by step process on how to get there. We don’t have a process to get our people to buy into our vision. Leaders, managers, and employees possess the skills necessary to navigate the ten stages of change which will help them be more creative and productive sooner. When people become aligned around and supportive of a common vision, their ability to embrace change increases.
This change process is creating challenges between management and employees that I’ve never encountered before. Leadership knows what employees need based on what they say and on which stage in the change process they are in. Leaders will know how to motivate or assist employees through all ten stages of the change process. Alternate solutions to management/employee challenges are found with effective techniques and clear results. Individual, group and organization performance will be measurably improved.
Leadership is making haphazard, uncalculated short-term decisions in order to ‘put out the fires.’ Reactive rather than proactive problem solving is not the approach we want to use, but leadership does not yet have the skills or knowledge to effectively implement any other approach. Management/leadership has a definite grasp of what behaviors to look for and what to say in various situations to elicit desired results. Communication and effectiveness are improved between management and staff. Bottom line objectives are met or exceeded.


Leadership Skills Necessary to Support Change

Over and over people bemoan, “Things are changing faster than ever.” Changes in what we do, how we do it, and who we do it with can leave employees out of breath and overwhelmed. Because employees often feel caught in the middle of all of these changes, leadership needs to know what employees are experiencing and what to do to assist them. All will benefit when guided respectfully through the predictable reactions to the various stages of change. The reactions may include conditions such as debilitating stress, poor morale, attitudes of non-commitment, and reactionary impulses, just to name a few.

The ineffective “olden days” when top leadership mandated, “Jump!”, and all employees responded with, “How high?” are gone. Companies nowadays have to change their focus quickly to excel through these more complex times. From the mass production models of the industrial revolution to today’s technology-based, high-speed information systems to the rapid-fire future issues of our global economy that are just around the corner, it behooves all of us to find a systematic way to grow ourselves and our people. The secret is to take the time to realign, rebuild, and recharge our departments and divisions, as well as to empower and revitalize those seemingly tired, angry employees to go forward, step up, and successfully meet the challenges that come with any change. Experiencing any major change process, like a merger, for example, is similar to experiencing a surgery. Like with surgery, every decision that is made before, during, or closely after the experience will likely do one of two things: move you closer to your vision (in the case of a merger, your vision would likely be to increase your market share as a result of the merger) or spiral your condition downward quickly. Spiraling downward quickly after a merger because you let things get out of hand could rapidly cost your company precious time, money, customers, and staff resources. You especially want to make wise, careful choices at these times.

Let me show you today how you can increase your market share by implementing these three crucial elements:

  1. Leading, managing, and coaching employees through the ten stages of change; understanding the behaviors that individuals and groups go through during a major change process and the management techniques necessary for meeting your objectives.
  2. Leading and managing people through feedback.
  3. Creating buy-in; giving your people a voice so they will develop the intrinsic ownership of the vision which will be necessary for a successful merger.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 1:36 PM

08 28 2013

5 Stages to Empowering Your People and Successfully Implementing Change

Business Management Consulting, Business Strategy and Implementation, Communication Issues, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change, Mergers: How to Manage Organizational Change

August 2013


Stop for a moment and ask yourself: What significant changes are you and your team facing this season – perhaps a company or department merger, leader or employee development, or a new marketing approach? You probably have all the means – the site, the people, resources, even the blueprints for change – but do you have the ways? Do your people have the skills, knowledge, and experience to avoid lost time, lost tempers, and lost revenue? Can you grow your people and grow your organization, while also experiencing major change?

To successfully navigate and implement a merger or any major change effort, you will need to move your people into, through, and beyond the status quo. This means getting and keeping their buy-in and follow-through based on real trust and shared values. Can you help yourself while also helping them? Yes, it is possible, if you don’t mind putting yourself in what may become a highly political or vulnerable position. Mergers, for instance, induce some significant growing pains. They often lead to the loss of key staff and resources, as well as precious time and money. You may well be able to do it yourself, but keep this fact in mind: Do-it-yourself-ers are one of the main reasons 80% of all mergers fail, and fail miserably, at that. Is this what you want for your people (and your own sanity)?

You have some options. Remember the old adage, knowledge is power? Well, in this case this saying still rings true. Becoming knowledgeable about change can make the difference. The building blocks of change are: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance. Knowing these five distinct stages of change and how to guide your staff through these stages will build a safety net around your staff and make them more productive sooner. Knowing the stages of change will make a real difference when you are seeking to keep rather than lose key people, maintain calm rather than suffer chaos, and know success rather than endure failure.

Helping your people anticipate and become comfortable with each next step, each natural and normal stage in a change process, will build their capacity as individuals and successful team players. This knowledge will have positive long-term, as well as short-term results.

Regardless of which stage a person is in, to get maximum results, it is essential to do the right thing at the right time within that stage. As leaders, we must have the foresight to recognize that each stage is equally important. Skipping or rushing through a stage would be misguided, because it would likely backfire and only slow down the process of productive change. Therefore, it is wise to learn how to slow down and take the time that is needed. In order to get it done faster, you must start slowly.

Five Basic Stages of Change: For a more comprehensive list on change go to:

Pre-contemplation. In this initial stage, individuals may be outwardly unaware of their problems or be in denial. Either way, they definitely do not want to appear broken or damaged. As a general rule, “Pre-contemplators” often wish other people would change, as in: “How can I get my superior to quit bothering me about my poor people skills? That’s just who I am.” or “Things will change during the next quarter when I get through this especially tough assignment.”

Contemplation. Contemplators are aware that they face problems and are seriously thinking about grappling with these problems sometime within the next six months.

Preparation. Individuals and organizations at this stage intend to take action within the next month. These individuals have taken personal responsibility for causing or contributing the need for change. In addition, these individuals have set a personalized measurable goal – a change that is under one’s own control, rather than dependent on someone else’s behavior.

Action. In this stage, individuals and organizations are taking concrete steps to change their behavior, experiences, or environment, in order to overcome their problems. Because action often brings up feelings of guilt, failure, coercion, and yearning to resume old familiar behaviors, individuals and organizations typically need a lot of support during this period. A sobering statistic: at any given time, only 10-15 percent of individuals or organizations in the process of change are engaged in the action stage.

Maintenance. During this stage, individuals and organizations work to consolidate their gains and prevent relapse. It is important that individuals and organizations remember that all merger experiences are different. Assuming a one-size-fits-all approach will not work! Instead, assess the group as individuals, to determine their stage of change. Go slowly. Anticipate backsliding. While the term “stages of change” suggests that change marches forward in a step-by-step, linear fashion, it actually occurs in a spiral pattern, meaning change comes in both forward and backward movement. This is normal and to be expected. Good leaders should educate their staff and clients about the inevitable spiraling nature of change to help counteract doubt, shame, and frustration about regressing to earlier stages.


All major change efforts have the probability of providing great opportunities for financial, organizational, and interpersonal growth. Designing the plan for change is the easy part. Implementing the plan effectively and gaining buy-in from all participants is where most leaders fall short. Take the time to assess your people as individuals, as well as in their teams. Know what to look for in advance. Understand the five stages of change and improve your odds of being successful.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 12:10 PM

08 23 2013

How to Set Goals & Achieve Them

Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Corporate Therapy, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Staff Development for Profit

August 2013

Business Strategy and Implementation, Improvement, Leadership Development/ Executive Coaching, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change, Work Place Articles

Many people struggle with achieving goals, not because they aren’t serious, but because they don’t know how and don’t have a map to follow.

Whether learning to lead people, run a department or ski having a proven formula or system to follow will improve your success rate tremendously. Setting goals is commendable but how does one actually implement the process, avoid the obstacles and naysayers, and follow-through to success?

For those of you who want to do this but are fearful, congratulations. If you weren’t ready to take it seriously, then you wouldn’t be feeling fearful or anxious. Take a step toward that fear and you will conquer it.

Remember to have fun as you stretch yourself. The process isn’t always easy. Here are ten steps that will provide you with a higher probability of achieving your goals.

1. Select a Personal or Professional Goal


  • Health and exercise. Reduce calories by 38 percent per day, hit the gym three times per week. Do 100 miles a week on your bike.
  • Improve organizational gross revenue by 18 percent in the next 12 months.
  • More quality time to spend with my beloved and children

2. Identify the Benefits to You and/or Your Organization for Making This Change

  • Feeling better, more energy, improved appearance
  • Less stress, happier employees, stronger financial company, improved market share, growth of my business or the department I manage
  • A loving and happier home environment for my children, my beloved and me

3. Identify Strategies for Accomplishing Your Goal

Identifying strategies is a three-part process. First, list ideas for possible strategies to achieve your goals. Next, consider the obstacles that might keep you from reaching your goals. Finally, consider ways to overcome such obstacles:

  • I could get up before work and hit the gym, I could go directly after work.
  • Proactively coach my employees and set clear accountabilities with timelines.

4. Obstacles That Might Get in the Way

  • I hate getting up early, this is a hassle, and I’m tired after work.
  • I don’t have time to coach people.
  • I don’t like setting clear and firm accountabilities because I don’t know what to do if they don’t achieve them?

5. Consider Ways to Overcome Such Obstacles

  • I used to work out after work and it actually gave me more energy.
  • I need to re-prioritize my day and make time to coach. We have a great team; if we did this, the gross revenue targets would be very attainable.

6. Adjust Your Surroundings for Successful Goal Attainment

The people and habits you currently have in place can greatly influence your behavior. By creating supportive surroundings, goal attainment can be a successful and satisfying process. Examine your support system. Family, friends, subordinates and superiors can all help or hurt your goal attainment efforts. Help and teach people how to help you attain your goals.

7. Implement Your Strategy and Record Your Progress

Make a game out of it. Wall charts that measure growth are magic at encouraging consistent behavior modification and improvement.

8. Reward Yourself Along the Way

Rewards are key to human motivation and make the process more enjoyable.

9. Visualize Clear Accomplishments

Our brains work very similar to software programs. In fact, the mind doesn’t know the difference between visualization coupled with feelings of succeeding at an event and actually doing it. This is why you often notice professional athletes visualizing a race course or hitting a golf ball. Coaches call this visualization and psychiatrists call  it self-directed Neuroplasticity. The bottom line is it works and there is much empirical evidence to support it. If you consistently visualize (program) in your mind the exact results you want to achieve this will help your brain duplicate it and look for ways to improve.

10. Make Adjustments as You Progress

If you determine that success is not happening like you hoped, review your goals, barriers, and support systems and make adjustments. Persistence is important, but, if your goal process ends up being all work and no fun and you are beginning to dread the change or feel like quitting, it’s time to adjust your approach. Adjustment is a normal part of your evolutionary change process.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 5:02 PM

08 21 2013

Strategic Plan & Project Implementation How to Create Ownership

Business Strategy and Implementation, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

August 2013

Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

This is where you are, but… THIS is where you WANT to be…
  • An “us versus them” culture has been created and will not relent.
  1. People grasp the issues.
  2. Individuals and departments are aligned around a common purpose.
  3. People understand both the difficulties and the opportunities inherent in change.
  4. Goal-oriented, positive atmosphere and attitudes are measurably increased.
  • Communication and conflict resolution are poor and steadily getting worse.
  • Vital information is being withheld or hidden as a means of control.
  1. Capacity for future change increases.
  2. People develop the skills and processes to meet not just the current challenges, but the future challenges, as well.
  • The strategic plan, project plan or merger outline is clear, but implementing it is proving more difficult than expected
  1. Involving stakeholders ensures their input and buy-in early in the process.
  • Production schedules and timelines are being missed.
  1. Enhanced stakeholder involvement translates into diversity of ideas.
  2. Bottom line results are measurably improved.
  3. People articulate personal and departmental buy-in to organizational goals, objectives, and specific timelines.
  • People are nodding in agreement, but silently fighting the changes and direction.
  1. Collaboration with internal and external stakeholders builds cohesive and profitable partnerships.
  • Frustration and stress are increasing.
  1. Improved communication translates to less frustration.

Participative Management

My experience with successful organizations has led me to focus on the dynamic tension between leaders’ ownership of the strategies for change and their key stakeholders’ acceptance and buy-in of the plan. (Key stakeholders here are those who are crucial to the successful implementation of the desired change.) Often, there is a dynamic gap between these two entities that must be bridged successfully if the desired change is to proceed effectively.

The process I recommend can be used with internal and/or external stakeholders, as well as for regular feedback on many topics from strategic planning to mergers and change management.

In reality there are eight parallel process steps necessary to bridge the gap between those who lead change and those who implement it. Any mis-step or short cut will inevitably lead to breakdowns later in the process and require extensive duplication of work and a slowing of the project. Briefly, I will describe how vitally important real-time meetings held with leadership and key stakeholders prove to be an integral step in this process. For a more in-depth explanation on this process and how we may partner on your implementation project, please contact

The purpose of real-time meetings is twofold:

  1. to share information and provide feedback to the core leadership team in order to troubleshoot and improve the plans, and
  2. to gain understanding, acceptance (i.e., buy-in), and commitment to the overall direction and implementation of the plan.

One important factor to remember is: people support what they help create. Thus, it is crucial to involve key stakeholders early on in the planning and change process. If this crucial step is omitted or briefly touched on, long term organizational outcomes will pay the price. Poor stakeholder motivation or ambivalence later on is an expensive problem to fix. It is much more effective to alter a plan before it is put into place, rather than try to turn back time and re-work a process mid-stream.

Successful leaders plan ahead for their organizations strategic and human change needs. Even though change is inevitable, in order to be efficient and effective, managing successful change takes preparation and planning. Simply put: investing in and creating buy-in and ownership at all levels pays off.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 11:31 AM

08 19 2013

Organization Business Strategic Plan Implementation Skills Assessment

Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Effective Performance Evaluations, Improvement

August 2013

The Reality of Strategic Plan Execution should be clearly apparent. You must measure your teams understanding and ability to execute or you’re simply lying to yourself and others and wasting time and money under the illusion you’re doing strategic planning.

Whether I call it a strategic plan for larger organizations or a plan of attack for smaller mom and pop businesses, the foundational elements are the same. Having a clear plan on where your business is going and how to successfully and consistently achieve goals, so that all of your employees, managers and leadership fully understand their respective duties on how to get there, is paramount. The most pivotal aspect of this entire process rests on the ability of leadership and every employee under them to implement the strategic plan so that actions, statements, and behaviors result in improved conditions at all levels within your organization. When this takes place, your internal and external customers will benefit greatly and your competitors will try to emulate; resulting in your leading and your competitors following.

In my experience, however, working with National and International companies, approximately 95% of them have strategic plans, but only 3 to 7 % implement them consistently and effectively; most of these beautifully made documents start collecting dust after a mere 4-6 weeks after their launch. For example, and this represents the majority, not the minority; I had one President share with me that his organization had just completed a yearlong, mid-six-figure, strategic plan creation project; and it was a work of art housed in a leather bound embossed casing. However, when I asked him what he intended to do with it, he replied with a deer-in-the-headlights expression, “I don’t know.” Many of the problems surrounding implementation don’t stem from lack of trying, but rather from lack of understanding. Company leadership either believes the creation of the plan is enough and implementation will automatically take care of itself, or they confuse general strategic plan knowledge with the processing of the plan. In other situations, I have found they have gathered inaccurate information or no information at all, which they base their strategic plan on. Successful strategic plan implementation requires that your leadership team have skills, knowledge and experience, which creates competency when faced with follow-through.

A plan will not and cannot do anything but suggest a way to go; its a map. It does not promote ACTION. People promote action but usually don’t know what actual steps they need to take next because it requires them to do and be different than who and what they were 5 days before and leadership doesn’t know how to help model new behaviors. There are a lot of steps and stages that must be taken and met for a strageic plan can do you and your organization any good. The first step in this process is to determine if everyone on the leadership team and then within the organization knows about the plan, understands the plan and then knows what steps THEY must take to help implement the plan. This quick and easy assessment will help you determine how well the plan is understood.

Leadership Team Competency

These questions will help you and your team discover if you are ready to implement your strategic plan or if you must slow down and make sure everyone knows what the objectives are and their place in helping the company achieve those objectives. So many times I witness leadership going in one direction only to turn around and watch the rest of the company heading off in an entirely different direction–strange but, unfortunately very true.

Now for the assessment:  For ease of wording I use the term “leaders.” I suggest you mentally use all people of authority in your organization including executives, supervisors, directors, managers, assistant managers and so forth. I suggest you use a 0-5 Lickert Scale, where zero means “none of the leaders” and five means “all the leaders.”

  1. Your leaders understand the strategic plan and are able to successfully set department goals in support of the strategy?
  2. Your leaders lead meetings in which strategic issues are discussed in relation to operations?
  3. Your leaders, if asked, could provide a priority list of issues directly related to strategy implementation for which they are responsible?
  4. Your leaders set their subordinates’ goals and objectives according to the strategic goals that relate to their operations?
  5. Your leaders evaluate, reward, and promote their people with strategic goals in mind?


How did you and your Leadership team do? 

If you Scored…


High: 4′s and 5′s You are probably doing well despite economic or industry conditions.
Midrange: 2′s and 3′s You are doing OK, but now you know who/what needs improvement.
Low: 0′s and 1′s You and your leadership team would be wise to take your noses off the grind stone and put some time and energy into your destination and how you intend to get there.


Working Hard vs Working Smart

Working hard is needed, but working smart is required and nothing is more important to business success than working toward a specific destination and making sure you and your team have the fundamental skills, knowledge and competency to create and implement a useful strategic plan. For additional information on any or all of this material, please contact so we can schedule an appointment for you and i to speak about how to improve you and your company.


Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 3:38 PM

08 17 2013

How to Successfully Merge Department or Company Cultures

Business Hardships, Business Management Consulting, Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Corporate Therapy, Culture Diversity, Mergers: How to Manage & Coach People Through Change, Mergers: How to Manage Organizational Change, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

Aug 2013

For a project to end successfully, it must begin successfully and this statement could not be more true and the stakes higher then when it comes to any kind of merger or restructure. Long before the CEO’s are finished signing the final documents, the employees of each department or company have already started the process. In essence, the merger has already begun to take shape and for better or worse, sides are being drawn. Therefore, before engaging in any kind of merger or restructure, try to get a good sense of the cultures involved. Train yourself in being culturally sensitive by visiting other organizations and figuring out how their “cultural assumptions” differ from yours.

If you are the facilitator or are in any way responsible for the success of a department or company merger, acquisition, or joint venture, try to visit the other department or organization and experience, as much as you can, how things are done there. Create dialogue groups across any cultural boundary that becomes apparent to you. Do not expect normal communication, goodwill and experience to produce mutual understanding. Both cultural units need to learn to be reflective and to get in touch with their own and each other’s cultural assumptions; this can only be successfully accomplished with the dialogue format.

If you are trying to gain mutual understanding between two or more cultures, you must create a dialogue form of conversation. This is best achieved by an outside and objective facilitator who can choreograph the conversation as well as ensure the focus and flow remains consistent with the original objectives. Below is a general outline of what should take place for an initial meeting.

  1.  Select ten to twenty people who represent the two cultures equally.
  2. Seat everyone in a circle, or as near as possible. Don’t use tables as these will create boundaries and distance the people and impede honest dialogue.
  3.  Lay out the purpose of the dialogue meeting: For example, “to get a sense of the similarities and differences in our cultures and from this learn to listen more reflectively to ourselves and each other.”
  4. Start the conversation by having the members in turn check-in by introducing who they are and what goals they have for the meeting.
  5. After everyone has checked in, the facilitator should launch a very general question, such as, what is it like to be in this company, what is known about this merger? what would indicate success for our departments or organizations as we move collectively through this merger?” Everyone in the circle should, in turn, answer the question from his or her company and perspective and with the ground rule that there be no interruptions or questions until everyone has given an answer.
  6. The facilitator should be observing the group dynamics and encourage an open conversation on what everyone has just heard without the constraints of proceeding in order or having to withhold questions and comments.
  7. If the topic runs dry or the group loses energy, the facilitator should introduce another question. Such as, “how are decisions made in this organization” (in my experience, body language, people communicating through eye contact etc will tell a lot about who may want to speak up but be unwilling or unable to due to ‘unspoken cultural demands.’ Comment about confidentiality or the undercurrent the group may be feeling. Key point—discuss the alligator in the corner. There will always be one and everyone knows it is there. Therefore, as the facilitator you must help them acknowledge the OBVIOUS). Again have everyone in turn give an answer before general conversation begins. This will encourage input from everyone and will detract from the more vocal members commanding the group dynamics.
  8. Let the differences emerge naturally; don’t make general statements, because the purpose at this stage is to uncover mutual understanding, not necessarily clear description.
  9. After a couple of hours, ask the group to pole itself by asking each person in turn to share one or two insights about his or her own culture or the other one; Another question that may encourage productive dialogue is; “what is one idea, concept, insight, or statement you received during this meeting that made our time together valuable for you?” I will always have a non participant writing all of these notes on flip chart paper taped to the walls. This way people can think and speak freely and a detailed description is available to be distributed later or for follow-up meetings.
  10. The answers gleaned from these last set of questions will in turn spark new insight for both the members and the facilitator. These should be kept and used as follow-up information.

 Clarification About What Culture Is

Culture is the shared tactic assumptions of a group that it has learned in coping with external tasks and dealing with internal relationships. Although culture manifests itself in overt behavior, rituals, artifacts, climate, and espoused value, its essence is the shared tactic assumptions. As a responsible leader, you must be aware of these assumptions and manage them, or they will manage you.

Unless your organization is a brand new conglomerate of people from other organizations, it has formed a culture that influences all of your thinking and behavior. If your organization is a new mix, without prior shared experience, then all members bring their prior culture experience to the new situation and seek to impose it on that situation.  The quickest way to create a new culture in such a situation is to give the people a compelling, common task so that together they can build a new set of assumptions.

The strength and depth of an organization’s culture reflects (1) the strength and clarity of the founder or the organization, (2) the amount and intensity of shared experiences that organization members have had together, and (3) the degree of success the organization has had.

Culture is, therefore, the product of social learning. Ways of thinking and behavior that are shared and that work become elements of culture.

You cannot, therefore, “create” a new culture. You can demand or stimulate a new way of working and thinking; you can monitor it to make sure that it is done; but members of the organization do not internalize it and make it part of the new culture unless, over time, it actually works better.

A given organization’s culture is right so long as the organization succeeds in its primary task. If the organization begins to fail, this implies that elements of the culture have become dysfunctional and must change. But the criterion of the right culture is the pragmatic one of what enables the organization to succeed in its primary task.

As the external and internal conditions of an organization change, so does the functionality, or rightness, of a given culture assumptions change. Culture evolves with the fluid circumstances of the organization.

The essential elements of culture are invisible. They are taken for granted and have dropped out of awareness. But they can be brought back into awareness. Failure to understand culture and take it seriously can have disastrous consequences for an organization.

Superficial understanding of culture can be as dangerous as no understanding at all. Theory and concepts gained from Edgar Schein.

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 3:56 PM

08 17 2013

Successful Strategic Plan Implementation: How to go from Planning to Action

Business Management Consulting, Business Strategy and Implementation, Business Success, Project Implementation: How to Create Ownership

Aug 2013


Strategic plans don’t go from plan to action on their own as most people think–or rather, hope. A strategic plan is a simple document or road map. People must be learn new behaviors and take actions not previously committed to implement a successful strategic plan. Much like people must take roads not previously traveled to arrive at a new destination.

In the same way that the strategic plan has discrete features (core values, vision, mission, action plans, accountabilities, etc.) a plan’s implementation has distinct and necessary features.

Communicating Conscious or unconscious, every organization is in a state of constant change. Programs and departments are constantly defending themselves, trying to gain market share, seeking to improve internal and external customer service practices, utilizing its dynamic and diverse people, refining its processes or striving to otherwise grow its strengths. In the implementation phase of strategic planning, the organization will be facing any number of changes and challenges; however, because we will have a common destination and common purpose as well as clearly defined checkpoints along the way, we will be better suited to talk to each other about our needs and successes.

People do better with change and challenges if they have a sense of what’s coming and what they need to do to prepare. (help them take the proverbial blind folds off and show them the beauty of the destination you have in  mind). When leaders engage in intentional, positive and proactive communication practices, their people will have a much greater sense of security and commitment. In essence, tell them in clearly defined language about the destination and then remind them how much you need their input and commitment while on this journey together.

Getting Buy-In Getting buy-in or commitment means just that: getting people to invest themselves into this idea, process, program or procedure. Luckily, most people will agree to buy-in when they can see how their individual investment will deliver a sound return. Simply put; how will this directly and positively impact them, their department, their family and well-being of the company they rely on for their economic survival? So when leaders empower their people with the ways and means to influence their work, those people will more readily buy-in to better plans. Empowered employees will support and nurture a plan and its implementation whereas powerless employees will just stand by and watch as if the plan and implementation do not apply to them. To get buy- in, leaders will need to provide visible, tangible and meaningful rewards and recognition for positive actions that lead to successful outcomes. If leaders have chosen and grown the right people (and created rewards and penalties that motivate their people accordingly) then the people themselves will seek out the opportunities to buy-in on the implementation of each variable of the  strategic plan.

Inspiring Interdependence Leaders who know their people will be able to spread personal and institutional passion as well as inspire higher levels of thinking and professionalism. Through this process of inspiring others, leaders will help their people implement a strategic plan each step of the way. Through knowing what intrinsically motivates their people, leaders will be able to guide people to recognize and share in the value of micro and macro accountabilities (those day-to-day measures along with the long-term results.) It is through this interdependence of accountabilities that employees themselves will sustain individual and departmental optimism and direction for the long haul required for a successful implementation.

Giving and Receiving Meaningful Feedback Defined also as a “feedback loop,” this feature allows leadership and line staff to inform practice in timely and meaningful ways. As each person and department moves through the day-to-day realities toward micro and macro goals and objectives this feedback loop continuously looks at human behaviors and qualitative measures that inform positive change toward specific goals and objectives. Because timeliness matters, leaders and managers need to implement changes in real time based on feedback. Equally as important, leaders and managers need to communicate those changes back to their people to show how employee feedback has successfully informed positive adjustments. Feedback loops should be internal: top-down, bottom-up and lateral, as well as external: outside (customer driven).

Leaders Acting as Exemplary Role Models What employees see, employees will do. In every sense, for internal as well as external communications and actions, perception is reality. Without fail, people will believe what they see over what they read or hear. Leaders who model high standards of conduct especially in times of difficulty, such as when an organization is facing challenges or changes in the status-quo, are leaders who will have people who are committed to integrity and character. Leaders who create a culture that rewards and supports good judgment at all levels will have more success implementing their strategic plans. (On the flip side, leaders or managers are not acting as strategic role models if they “pass the buck” or otherwise model less than professional behaviors or values including supporting silo-type responses to challenges like, “That’s not my problem. Our department is doing fine. ” Or other “CYA-cover your assets” attitudes.) Exemplary role models are those leaders, managers and individuals whose actions and statements are consistently focused on the successful implementation of the organizational strategic plan.

Offering and Supporting Strategic Professional Development Perhaps most important to the successful implementation of any strategic plan is an organization’s commitment to regular and specific individual and organizational development. This piece is huge because it is in its people that an organization will find its success. Growing people strategically will allow an organization to exceed its goals. Leaders need to ask themselves how much time and money the organization spends to maintain equipment and buildings?

How much is spent on copy paper, utilities and even sick leave? Are you spending more on maintaining your building and equipment or your people? If you are, then you need to seriously look at your most precious asset–your people! Invest in them consistently but wisely. (I don’t care how it is framed or sold; bowling, trust-fall mats, rope-climbing and other frivolous outings are entertainment, not sustainable and enriching team development). If the goal is to take the organization to the next level, a carefully planned and implemented professional development program and budget should be one of the organization’s highest priorities and successful implementation of a strategic plan requires good people who are skilled, knowledgeable and willing to grow.

So, where does your organization want to be one year from now? What behaviors, actions, beliefs, statements, systems, procedures and people would make up your organization in 12-24 months? The answer to that question is your vision. Now, thinking backward incrementally toward the present day, at each step and time along the way, what behaviors, skills, actions, etc., need to be in place at that stage?

These are your benchmark goals. As you backtrack to the present you will see that there are many steps along the way that require additional and highly-specific objectives. In order to succeed, your people need to be made aware of these big picture mile-stones as well as many details. Perhaps you can imagine it as if you are giving your people a road map with key stops highlighted along the way. Make it possible for each person to see how their part supports the whole journey. If you want to arrive at your destination on time and in good condition, your strategic plan will need to include quality assurances (you want to have a safe and sane trip), systems and procedures that take into consideration of variables known (vehicle choice, drivers’ skills, etc.) and unknown (weather and road conditions). Then, it’s time to hit the road and start your journey. This is the implementation; the process of actually moving your organization and your people across time and space to new destinations. If the strategic plan is the “what and why,” then the implementation is the “who, how and when.”

Kelly Graves, CEO
The Corporate Therapist
Cell: 1.530.321.5309
Toll-Free: 1.800.704.3785
Office: 1.530.321.5309
Internal Business Solutions, Inc.™

Add Comment

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Posted by at 3:12 PM