Archives for People

Developing Brand Ambassadors

Many of us have heard the idea that “everybody sells”. In today’s competitive environment this notion is more polished and is more apt to be expressed as the development of brand ambassadors. While there is a formal definition that revolves around proactive use of a celebrity to help market products and services, there is also a significant awareness and movement to make everybody within a company more of a brand ambassador.

Performance-minded companies are recognizing that employees are the big obvious source of brand ambassadors, and are implementing programs to nurture them.  And of course this leads to consideration for the relevant characteristics of the people that are hired into the company. A most simple and direct way of analyzing peoples’ aptitude for becoming brand ambassadors is to assess them in terms of motivation, relationships, and work style.  These personal characteristics can indicate whether the candidates appreciate the idea and whether they would support it. This is important to cultivate because in turn, brand ambassadors help provide a company path to optimization, customer engagement, and employee engagement.

Motivation is the desire or driving force to do things. Is there alignment between the values of the individual and those of the company? Is there a strong enough response or stance to suggest that the person will have the will to do things that support the stakeholders? From motivation there should be a discernible link to pride.

Relationships are derived from social actions and social behaviors that give meaning. These actions/behaviors are directed toward the society or social structure your business represents. Does the person get off on the right foot with people and suggest an ability to maintain meaningful dialogue? From relationships there should be a discernible link to lasting impressions.

Work style is determined by what a person can do, what he/she prefers to do, and how it gets done. Is the person overtly collaborative, or does she/he work better alone? How might the person handle tradeoffs of quality and time? From work style there should be a discernible link to perfectionism.

BPM Status and Learnings

Business process management (BPM) has not yet matured enough to be promoting best-practices or featuring large clear success stories. Still, BPM holds huge promise. It shows no signs of going away and process pundits are giving it increasingly serious consideration.  In general, the status is hopeful or that it might be starting to stabilize and mature. Companies with significant process challenges should stay closely tuned.

BPM has a lingering identity issue. Most business performance topics fall predominantly into one of the elements of the people-process-technology frame of reference, but BPM is all over. BPM has process in its name, but more than most topics, it resists clean classification.  Maybe that’s the nature of BPM as a relatively new topic, and this contributes to the identity issue because it sometimes tends to look like all things to all people.

Learnings:

  1. BPM does not absolve a business from needing to have a solid process discipline. The fundamental questions of process ownership and challenges of crossing organizational boundaries become more visible and still have to be addressed. Without enlightened leadership, BPM (or really any change initiative) might not even start, or the results will be constrained. This is tied to the concerns for BPM’s cultural fit, and how an adoption program should be approached. Certainly there are many implications behind process ownership, but the more telling or insightful question might be who owns the BPM adoption program.
  2. BPM requires extraordinarily robust communications to manage all the process content.  Here implied is one of the reasons business people don’t really want to manage capture of the processes. But neither can it be left solely to IT following the BPMN software-definition language. (BPMN is rigorous but too technical for most). Communications is a prime example of where business-IT fusion is needed to get down to the reality of work flow between desks and machines, handling exceptions, and gaining team understanding and agreement.  Delivering on communications is necessary and good, but beware the tendency some have shown to think of BPM as “just a documentation tool”.
  3. BPM needs to be interrelated with businesses’ core improvement/change initiatives.  In the end, just as it is with fundamental process discipline, it comes down to quality-oriented fundamentals and practices to address variability and handle never ending change. Here it is suggested to promote pro-activity and flexibility with eyes open because BPM will not be neutral with regard to lean, six sigma/DFSS, agile software development practices, the business model at large, the basic quest for innovation, promotion of desired cultural characteristics, performance metrics, other reference models, etc.
  4. BPM requires dedication of skilled people that can represent and facilitate the business and strategy.  While everybody needs to know how they support and tie to the strategy, this takes on important deeper dimension for those who are core to BPM.  Certainly these are people that can be instrumental and leading and entrusted with regard to points 1, 2 and 3 above, while simultaneously having  solid appreciation for the IT implications.

A holistic view of BPM suggests it should be a clear reliable path for keeping strategy aligned with the design and support structure of the business. However, BPM now needs to get beyond the old impasse, where C-level executives aren’t seeing the level and surety of results to invest, while results aren’t being achieved because the investment isn’t there.  To achieve the potential, there will need to be better ownership of BPM by the people running the business.  And this probably won’t happen without acknowledgement that things haven’t worked or need to work substantially better.

While there is some uber logic to the ordering of these learnings/observations/opinions, it seems most practical to start with assuring the right people.  In other words, points 1, 2, and 3 will require a core set of people to get meaningfully started. If you are committed and starting or if you simply want to do the diligence, you can hardly go wrong by retaining the right BPM-skilled/aware people since they will always be a tremendous resource.

Training for Performance Excellence in Today’s Competitive Environment

TAKEAWAY:  Organizations need knowledgeable and skilled employees in order to improve performance. Training always plays a big part. Now in-sourcing and the departure of baby-boomers means there needs to be more training, and it needs to be effective. So it’s vital to have the right people and the right approach.

Being passionate, in terms of doing what you like, is a very strong force.  If you love what you are trying to do, you are more likely to invest. For example, I love to play guitar and even if I never get any ovations, I will always play and get satisfaction from giving it my best effort. In fact, passion is at the top of a list of things required to be excellent at anything.

If you have the right people (those that are passionate about their work) they are psychologically aligned to participate in training, with a better chance of getting the desired results from it. This psychological (or dispositional) alignment has a positive impact on acknowledged barriers to training. This key of having the right passionate people is largely determined through the hiring process, where it is acknowledged that one of the three prime interview questions is, “will you love the job?”

Through the recent economic doldrums there has been attention on the notion of “doing more with less” – mostly cost cutting while pushing people to keep business alive.  Now, there is a continuing exodus of baby boomers from the workforce. Simultaneously, there are strategic shifts to in-source more of the workload responsibilities. This combination of in-sourcing and  loss of knowledge is confronting business with a new challenge. This could be regarded as one of those nice-to-have challenges for people looking for work – and it’s to everyone’s benefit if the people looking for work actually have passion for the work. And of course the usual profitable growth expectations are there as well. Training plays a big role in this dynamic situation. Knowledge transfer is needed so people can assume existing jobs that are being vacated and so people can handle additional new change-driven responsibilities.

Studies show training programs are not transferring knowledge to learners and that “training needs to be demonstrably effective” (Cheng, 2008).  For training to make the needed contribution, it of course has to be the right relevant content delivered in the right effective modern medium. More fundamentally, the important training productivity factor is the training approach or principle followed. Researchers and training thought leaders are pointing to “transfer of training” or “training for transfer” as a best current approach. This approach defines training success as the  ability of learners to demonstrate what has been learned in the work setting. This concept sounds simple but requires a lot of insightful diligence to be realized. Best practices and refinements associated with train-for-transfer are emerging and merit consideration.

Reference

  • Cheng, E., & Hampson, I. (2008). Transfer and training: A review and new insights. International Journal of Management Reviews, 10(4), 327-341.

The Rising Challenge of Making the Right Decisions

Like a person, a business is an organism that requires many decisions be constantly made, small ones and large ones.  In aggregate, they determine the functioning of the business. There are many decision dynamics to consider – for example, looking at how decisions are made and assessing their consequences. A situation can render a seemingly small decision critical. Or a proclamation from above can alienate and confuse the people expected to support it. Of course some decisions are more easily made in the proverbial vacuum. And how often is it  that someone with a business need or opportunity is unable to make the decision and is unable to see the path to influence it and get it properly made? Decisions are fundamental to performance, governance, risk management, and control.

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