Become a Quality Organisation

CATEGORY: Organisational Success

Written by: Alan Rodway

There are many components to becoming a quality organisation.  This article covers some of them.

What’s the Purpose of the organisation?  Why does the organisation fundamentally exist?  An insurance company exists to cover the risks of the community; the police force to provide safety to the community; a sporting team to achieve personal development, enjoyment and success on the field; a bank to provide purchasing capability to the community; a charity to provide for the less privileged in society; a hospital to provide health-care to those who are ill or injured ; a logistics company to deliver goods to the community; etc.  The fundamental purpose of any organisation needs to be clear and kept front of mind for appropriate behaviours to be engaged; otherwise people can feel ‘it’s just a job’.  The fundamental purpose has got to be a motivator for those involved.  Related to this, organisations need to deal with the ‘Why’ before they deal with the ‘How’ (one of Simon Madden’s biggest teachings).  “Why are we doing this?” before “How are we going to do this?”  This creates the buy-in necessary for successful enactment.  And from David Parkin  “Why Are You Here?” takes this further … David is big on the need for this to be truthfully and regularly answered by everyone involved (David is an outstanding and lifelong researcher, analyst, author and teacher of human / organisational behaviour).

David Parkin also writes about “the importance of creating and living a collective vision”.  It’s so important to note all of the words in that phrase.  And this concept relates to any organisation .. business, sport, charity, security, entertainment.

One of the most challenging but important aspects for organisations to create is the alignment of individual, team and organisational values.  Too often, only lip service is paid to values rather than the truthful ‘living’ of those values.  Its takes a courageous and skillful group of people (at the top) to address what the values are in reality compared to what they are desired to be, and then to act if they are out of alignment.  “Open, honest, respectful communication” is clearly a significant component of establishing aligned values within an organisation but they can just be ‘buzz words’, rather than receiving behavioural attention.  If the values of individuals, teams and the organisation are not aligned, you have mission impossible.  Exactly the same commentary applies to the alignment of individual, team and organisational goals … without this, fundamental problems will occur.  So, do some work on these alignments.

Having the “right” group of people is paramount to having a quality organisation.  All the systems, processes and physical resources in the world will never create a quality organisation without the right people.  It’s much easier to create the ‘non people’ side of things … those can be set up and programmed as desired … people can’t …. people have brains, emotions and attitudes.  The X factor in most organisations is still their people and this remains one of the biggest challenge organisations face.  Jude talks above about ‘strong leadership from top down’.  I completely agree with ‘top down’.  I have experienced more situations than I care to remember where organisations fail to create what they’re after because the ‘top’ lets the bottom down.  Without strong leadership at the top, it’s rarely going to ‘work’.  Sure, ‘bottom up’ can work, but as an exception.

And, to have the ‘right’ people it becomes necessary to exit the ‘wrong’ people.  The wrong people are those (i) who cannot be trained up, (ii) who have the wrong behaviours (some prefer the word attitude) and aren’t willing or able to change them, or (iii) who live unaligned values with the organisation or its teams.  If the right decision is to change people out of the organisation then that should occur, with integrity and in a timely fashion … deferring this causes a disease internally (and one that is ‘noticed’, disappointingly, by other personnel).  It’s an awful saying but it’s true on the behavioural side … “one bad apple can spoil the barrel” .. and it takes courage and integrity to deal with those situations.  It’s a nonsense to set low staff turnover objectives; that presupposes the right people are there in the first place.  The objective has got to be ‘source, keep and develop the right people” .. whatever that means for staff turnover.

Another biggie is Communication … open, honest, respectful.  Think about the three components:  (i) Open:  people being prepared to communicate what they feel and think; (ii) Honest:  it’s the person’s truth; (iii) Respectful:  the phrasing is respectful and the commentary is focused on behaviour not the personality.  Is there an organisation that doesn’t declare communication to be an important component of their ‘culture’?  But how many organisations actually live out effective communication?  Getting better at this gives an uplift in almost every area of performance.  The fact that effective communication is difficult to measure makes it difficult to manage, but that difficulty cannot lead to it being disregarded.

Objectively examine the desired v current reality, on key aspects of the organisation.  Ask these two questions regularly:  “What’s our desired reality?  What’s our current reality?”  Answer them honestly and then collectively map the steps to achieve the desired reality if it doesn’t currently exist.

What you say about your organisation (including in your marketing and recruitment) should match what happens inside.  If internal people perceive differences between the two, serious damage will result .. because it’s false, hypocritical and misleading.  So tell the truth and if you don’t like the truth, change the reality.

“People support what they help create”.  This is the most powerful and quickest way to create the ‘buy in’ we seek to create sound organisations.  Top down instructions are, of course, necessary, at times, but if people feel that they have helped create something related to those instructions they will buy in to them.

Organisations that are modern, cutting edge, developing, changing or growing, are more likely to be successful.  Who wants to be part of something that’s old (as distinct from valued traditions), falling behind, poor technologically, lacking ideas, tired, drab, etc.  People, especially younger generations, are more attracted to modern, bright, vibrant, evolving organisations.  But, a word of caution on growth rates … they must be sustainable, and they must allow for the continuous alignment of values and goals between individuals, teams and the organisation (as mentioned earlier).

Organisations that have solid processes AND follow them are not only way more likely to be successful but also far easier to work for than organisations that lack processes or don’t follow them.  People will drop off in their commitment if they see a lack of processes or others not following them.  Where processes exist and are consistently followed, it’s far easier to be part of that, and it allows more time to spend of new ways, ideas and progression (rather than being bogged down in fixing things that should or should not have happened).  And, remember, you don’t have a process until the following are all in place:  What’s to happen, When it’s to happen, Who’s responsible, Where it’s to happen, Automatically triggered, Agreed consequences for it not being followed, All in Writing.

Success is a process of continuous improvement.  No one off conference, guest speaker or meeting will ever create success.  The old saying ‘success is a journey, not a destination’ is true.  So, to create and maintain a quality organisation, the steps have to be mapped out, implemented, tracked and adapted (four parts) … ongoing.  An athlete doesn’t train once prior to an event … organisations can’t have one off sessions to create quality (but they do it all the time).  Engage a process!

Engendering pride is important .. not arrogance, pride.  If people are not proud of what the organisation is, stands for, does and their colleagues, it’s impossible to create quality.  And pride comes from what we DO, and how our behaviours are perceived within and outside of the organisation.  It must, again, start at the top.  Behaviours must have integrity, as well as being effective in creating success for the organisation.  How proud are your people to be part of your organisation? Do they genuinely speak about your organisation to their friends and network, with pride?

Personality profiling is important in creating quality.  This might seem a ‘strange’ one, but it’s not.  The better people understand themselves, as well as others, the better the communication will be internally.  Whether it’s Myers Briggs, Disc, Instinctive Drive or one of the other myriad of other psychometric tests, it’s important for (key) personnel to be on the same page of communication, so that the issues are discussed, people’s drivers are linked in, etc.  Take the time to undertake these exercises but be sure to engage proper expertise in the interpretation and follow-up.

One approach a lot of organisations take to improve performance is to create competition, internally and externally.  It’s good to create competition (between individuals and teams) providing it’s positive and doesn’t become counter productive where people start to downgrade the overall teamwork itself, or where ego’s take over.  And in generating competition with other organisations (the reality of the situation, of course), that also needs to be managed so that it produces positive behavioural responses within, rather than negative pre occupation.  And, we can’t control the behaviours of competitors, so to preoccupy ourselves with them can be negative.  Competition is healthy, providing it enhances our own behaviours.

Quality organisations deal with mistakes objectively and positively.  They don’t punish people for making them; they analyse the mistakes, figure out how not to repeat them and take whatever positive action is necessary.  Further, we can’t expect initiative without some of those initiatives not working … they are not mistakes.

It’s important for an organisation to have a ‘farmyard’ of potential talent to bring in, rather than having to advertise or use Recruitment Agencies (only).  That farmyard comes from our own networks and referrals from within, but the latter will only happen if existing people love being there, so that’s a point in itself … the easiest way to source high quality people is to run an organisation that people love being part of already, so look at your own backyard first.

If you consistently hear people say “It’s not my problem” … you probably don’t have a quality organisation.  The organisation’s outcomes should be ‘owned’ by everyone, so everyone should take responsibility for things outside of what their own job roles stipulate.  (Sometimes, job descriptions, kpi’s, kra’s and organisational charts get in the road of teamwork … and that’s another story).

Businesses that truly have a customer focus are more likely to create quality within.  That’s where part of the pride comes from .. pride in what we provide to our customers.  So, internal focus, whilst necessary, must be accompanied by an equal customer focus.  Designing processes and aspects of the organisation that suit internal needs wont work if they don’t suit the customer as well.  An example of this is automated telephone answering .. “Hit 1 for Customer Service.  Hit 2 if your issue is… Please say your name clearly … etc.”  Customers love that .. Not!  Some businesses are now advertising ‘a real person’ to talk with, to get an advantage.  Design your organisation’s processes to fit the needs and desires of the customer, as well as your internal people and needs.

Quality organisations test their reality, against what customers think, what their own people think, what other organisations think and what the community thinks.  Perception is reality, so these gauges are important.  And this testing should be carried out regularly, objectively and professionally, with all feedback going to the relevant people internally.  Further, negative feedback should not personalised nor ignored; it should be acted upon if the organisation genuinely believes a situation needs to be remedied.  So, educate people to always ask this question “What’s the reality of this?”

“Getting the most out of your people” is an old saying but sometimes it’s treated too narrowly.  It shouldn’t just be about their ‘performance’ in their role.  Many / most people have skills or knowledge that doesn’t bear direct relationship to the role they are in but could be highly valuable to the organisation if it were uncovered and utilised.  We’ve got to think outside the square on this one to find these gems.  An administrator who is amazing with social media, a young sales person who is highly skilled in some forms of I.T., a customer service person who has an amazing network, a marketing person who has been outstanding in charity work outside the business, a finance person who has exceptional knowledge in another area … you name it.  If this seems unimportant, think again … getting the ‘most out of your people’ can go way beyond their own roles, and organisations that tap into people’s broad talents are way better situated than those who don’t.  It’s such a pity that some people can work a lifetime in an organisation that never uncovers what they are outstanding at, outside their job.

Too many organisations pay lip service to helping the community or charities.  Sadly, sometimes they even do it for marketing purposes, rather than community mindedness. This is not to suggest that every organisation should engage charitable or community effort, but at least be genuine if you do.  It just so happens that organisations that do so, benefit commercially anyway because of the respect they inevitably receive for their efforts.  And some people are more inclined to want to align themselves with organisations that put genuine resources back into the community, particularly in this day and age, where the community is being ‘tested’ on so many fronts.

Here is an obvious statement … quality organisations have quality ‘Boards’ (of management).  Even if your organisation is not large enough to have a formal Board, it effectively has one anyway … it just happens to be the group who sit at the top making most of the important decisions.  A quality Board will inevitably create a quality organisation.  Have a look around and you’ll see it everywhere.  Organisations that lack quality will often lack that quality in their Board … and organisations that have been positively turned around have so often done so by changing their Board.  So, who is on your Board (formally or informally) and be sure they are of the quality (values and behaviours) you want your organisation to be.

Several other points can be reiterated from other articles, to create a quality organisation:

  1. Quality organisations have quality leaders.  And these people have key attributes … They ‘Do’, inspire, learn, respect, demonstrate courage, take responsibility for their mistakes, take risks, challenge others, regard failure as feedback, handle rejection objectively, listen, empower, ask questions and are highly self aware.  See “Leadership Defined”.
  2. People need only to be in senior / key positions for long enough … three to five years and no more.  The freshness, learning rates, ability to change others, objectivity and inspiration starts to wane beyond that.  See “How Long is Too Long”.
  3. Selecting the right people into an organisation is a most critical component.  See “How To Select The Right People”.
  4. Trust .. if people don’t trust they compete against each other (for survival).  Trust is earned, grown and can be destroyed quickly.
  5. People perform better when they are empowered, meaning they have to feel it, live it and enjoy it.  There are three rules for people to become empowered:  (i)  No problems without thinking through possible solutions; (ii)  No questions without thinking through possible answers; (iii) No “Can I Have’s” without considering the effects on other personnel (and speaking with them when they can be negatively affected).

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