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How to Go From Traditional to High Performance

Traditional Organizations break the laws of physics. What goes up does not always come down and nature doesn’t always abhor a vacuum. How many times have you sent information up a silo and never seen it again? A great idea surfaces somewhere else with a different name and title on it.

Where laws of physics are concerned, in traditional organizations a vacuum can exist nicely for years, but rather than drawing information in it can actually push ideas away!

Does any of this sound familiar? Other laws of physics are potentially being broken at your organization and one thing is for sure, it is taking up energy that is not being directed towards a common purpose. This traditional organization thinking can be changed but it takes time and often drastic measures to get people at all levels to understand the steps that need to be taken to get to achieving high performance.

It starts with analyzing the current state of affairs. Do the people making the decisions even realize that their organization is not performing at a high performance level? Are they aware that they have both physical structures and policies that promote “silos”? Do they have any idea of how information and resources travel through their organization and whether it is efficient and effective?

These are tough questions. If the people charged with making the strategic organizational decisions cannot answer the questions, I suggest that they are likely in some state of chaos.

If your organization is in a state of chaos, it is impossible to move to a state of high performance without first promoting stability. Having a clearly articulated and well-understood vision is a great start in moving your organization towards high performance. With a vision in place, you can start testing activities to see if they are moving you towards the vision or away from it, knowing that no activity is neutral.

It has been said that it is hard to read the prescription from inside the bottle, so getting someone from the outside to guide the course of reviewing internal processes can be extremely helpful. Taking the time to actually draw on paper the travel patterns of information and physical objects within your organization can quickly identify both efficient and inefficient practices.

Ideally, those who depend on information from others in order to complete their work within the organization should have ready access to one another. This means tearing down some traditional barriers. One of the biggest hurdles can be the feedback systems that exist between traditionally top down lines of authority. This will require specific training and ongoing support to work effectively. By giving everyone permission to make suggestions on how systems can be improved to increase efficiency and decrease wastage, everyone’s contributions will be much more worthwhile.

Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten the old adage, “form follows function”. Too much energy is spent building businesses within businesses, each a little self contained unit happily working away, isolated from the efforts of others and not really paying attention to whether what they do is creating value or is even necessary. Protectionism reigns supreme with the goal often being survival of the unit vs. maximizing output for the larger organization.

Using a simple example of a factory that creates Christmas wreaths, one can see the inefficiency of having the branch cutters, bough benders, ribbon tiers, decorators, packagers, quality controller, marketers and deliverers all working independent of each other. When the final product gets to the customer is there any reason to believe their will be any consistency of quality in the product?

So many things can go wrong in this traditional structure. All you need to add to the mix is a supervisor that takes full responsibility to transfer information from one area to another without encouraging them to speak or see each other directly. This hoarding of information and encouraging groups to stay within their areas is a recipe for mediocrity. To further add to the confusion the supervisor only needs to promote people from one area to the other but not allow time for proper training and you are on the short course for disaster or chaos.

By putting the customer in the middle of the process and allowing the various departments to interact and give feedback to the process immediately you can ensure quality is maintained on a continuous basis. For this to work, each area has to own the vision as opposed to their smaller vision. They have to see the end product as the customer sees it and own the overall process. The belief has to be that the feedback is meant to be positive and constructive and for the good of all. With these conditions in place and appropriate technical and leadership development the possibilities are set for high performance.

So, is this possible for organizations other than those making Christmas wreaths? I believe it is. It starts by taking a look at how efficient and effective you are now and what your potential is. If you have not been reaching your goals then there is a reason and it must be addressed or you will never move forward.

High performance organizations are possible to attain if you are willing to put in the work to assess your current organization and be prepared to change structure and thinking. As Zig Ziglar says, “If you do the things you ought to do when you ought to do them, then you will be able to do the things you want to do when you want to do them”. If you want to move to high performance the time to start is right now!

Darel Baker, B.P.E. , C.F.P, Keldar Leadership Solutions www.keldarleadership.com

Ten Tips for the Mindful Consumer

As we go about our professional and personal lives, we often find ourselves doing things at the last moment (travel plans, shopping, etc.) Panic often sets in when purchasing things at the last moment.

As you go about your day, it is important to remember to be a mindful consumer. When rushed, you may be tempted to forget your manners and become short tempered if you are not served as efficiently or politely as you would like. Take a deep breath, stop and think, and be respectful of the person serving you. With patience and consideration, you may be able to turn someone’s day around by passing on your positive attitude and smile.

Consider these tips:

Greet the server with respect. Keep in tune and in control of your feelings and those of others.

Should you have an issue that needs addressing, calmly and politely state your case and open the dialogue. Make sure you are talking to the right person....e.g. manager, owner. You want to speak with the person who has the power to settle your concerns.

Always remember time is a very important commodity...to you and to the business you are dealing with.

Once you have let the server know your needs, be prepared to listen and hear what is being said. It may be something as simple as the clerk explaining a return policy. If you do not listen or hear the terms, it may just come back to haunt you in the future.

How many times do you assume things and often times it is just not so? Never be afraid to ask questions - that is how we learn. I often say that I am “president of the dummy’s club.” This has afforded me the opportunity to learn much while tapping into a little humour.

People are intelligent; they can read how you are feeling just by your posture and tone of voice, whether you are upset, happy or indifferent. This can be a valuable observation when dealing with people.

As humans we are not perfect, so don’t expect others to be. Often there is an explanation why things are not as they should be.

By being confrontational or rude you will set the tone for a defensive reaction from the server and yourself. More will be accomplished if you make your point calmly, clearly and concisely.

Other people do not want to hear your business. They have business of their own to conduct.

It’s always nice to conclude a transaction on a positive note. People enjoy positive experiences.

Both professionally and personally these tips are useful any time!

Joan Kulmala is an image coach and is president of Totally-U Image Communications in Thunder Bay, Ont. She can be reached at askjoan@totally-u.com.

Avoid Common Training Pitfalls

Despite clear evidence of the huge returns that training provides, many organizations do far too little of it. Even within the training business, many companies are so wrapped up in operational pressures of maintaining today's cash flow that they neglect improvement efforts that build tomorrow's wealth.

Jim Clemmer
Management Expert
High performing organizations consistently invest from 3 to 5% of their payroll expenses in training. Many lesser performing companies fall well below that (1.5% of payroll should be the bare minimum level).

Here are some pitfalls to avoid in organizational skill development.

  • A key contributor to ineffective training is weak evaluation. "Happy sheets" (rating of the training program, instructor, facilities, lunch, etc.) don't tell us if the training was any good. Instead, organizations should measure behaviour change and impact on service and quality levels, process performance, leadership ratings by those being served, innovation, productivity, costs, or progress in reaching improvement goals.

  • Match the development method to the objective. No amount of travelling on the wrong road will bring us to the right destination, no matter how many other misdirected travellers are also headed toward oblivion. For example, knowledge-based or theoretical approaches are the wrong road to developing practical skills and behaviour change.

  • A powerful and underused method for organization skill development is to train senior managers as trainers and have them deliver many of the skill development sessions. Whenever this is done, there are few attendance problems at training sessions. Participants don't show up asking "how serious is management about these new approaches?" This approach also puts senior managers on the spot to practise what they've been preaching. Teaching is also a potent learning experience for the teacher that leads to a deeper understanding and mastery of the skills being developed in others.

  • One way to flush training dollars down the drain is by failing to link training with strategic imperatives and organizational focus and context (vision, values, and purpose). What happens in the classroom and what happens back on the job are worlds apart. Trainees learn which hoops to jump through, pledge alliance to the current improvement fad, give their enthusiastic "commitment" to building "the new culture," get their diploma, and then go back to work.

  • Don't train just because it's a good thing to do. Skills are a means, not an end. Lasting skills aren't built in a vacuum. They're developed on the basis of clearly understood needs (performance gaps) and application to pressing threats or opportunities.

  • Don't "sheep dip" people through training programs that give them skills they might eventually need. Use Just-in-Time training to provide the skills team leaders and members need at the time they're going to use them. For example, teach people how to lead or participate in process improvement teams just before they're going to form or lead one.

  • Don't deal with skill deficiencies through changes to organization structure or reengineering processes. Both of these are vital to improved performance. But you likely need to dig deeper. If a team or individual has performance problems, it may be because they don't know how to make the needed improvements.

  • When most organizations that are attempting to expand their use of teams are asked what they would have done differently, the response is often more training of team leaders. Too many team leaders are asked to deal with complex and difficult team issues with little preparation for a vastly different role. As a result, meetings frequently become wasteful and ineffective. Healthy team diversity and differences degenerates into destructive conflict. These struggling teams often lose their momentum. Reaching agreement and taking action becomes difficult. Many poorly led teams also remain narrowly focused and miss the big picture. And these teams generally fail to look ahead and anticipate change.

    Jim Clemmer is an author and keynote speaker, workshop/retreat leader, and management team developer. He is based in Kitchener, Ont. and can be reached at jim.clemmer@clemmer.net.

    It’s Your Move, by Marge Watters

    I attended the Spring IPM Conference in Toronto and learned of Marge Watters’ book “It’s Your Move”. The topic interested me so much that I went to Chapters the next day to pick up a copy. The cover states “A personal and practical guide to career transition and job search for Canadian Managers, Professionals and Executives”. This was what I was looking for. Typically, books on conducting job searches are general and sometimes geared towards students. Marge Watters has bridged that gap with this book. It assisted me in making my own career transition, and also helped my husband when he lost his job. This book served as a practical guide to navigating through the emotions one experiences during these difficult times.

    The chapters are well laid out and help the reader establish a career strategy by utilizing worksheets. Self-assessments assist the reader with determining their vision of the ideal employment opportunity by reflecting on past work experiences. With this step-by-step guide, any professional will have what they need to find their next opportunity. By no means is this book for only those looking for a new job. Ms. Watters stresses the importance of career management in our current business economy where an employee cannot expect to stay with the same company for their entire career. This is an all-Canadian guide that shows you how to get the job you really want in today’s competitive marketplace.

    Marge Watters is the co-founder of Knebel Watters & Associates, one of Canada’s premier career transition and job search management firms. This is the second edition of “It’s Your Move” and it is available at major book stores and their online counterparts.

    Diana Robichaud, RPR, is Administrative Assistant/Projects Manager for York Regional Police.

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