“The only really important thing leaders do is to create and manage the culture of their organization. If you don’t manage your culture, it will manage you and you may not even be aware of how much of it is happening.” – Edgar Henry Schein
This article is the second in a series of 4 articles aimed at leaders who are not entirely satisfied with the performance of their organization and who wish to significantly transform the way their operations function and increase their organizational agility.
Where do we start?
Whether or not you have started your transformation project, the first step in the process is to complete a diagnosis of your current context in order to identify opportunities for improvement and potential pitfalls.
Although you may imagine understanding how your teams function, our experience shows that many elements of their department’s operations are not made visible to managers.
For fear of negative consequences on their professional evaluation or their job, the majority of employees do not communicate all problems to their managers. The intervention of an external consultant combined with a confidential diagnostic process reveals weaknesses in operations and hidden problems. Managers are often surprised to see the real state of their teams and processes.
What is a diagnosis?
The first step before initiating an organizational transformation is to complete a diagnosis of the existing situation in order to determine the gap between the current situation and the objectives you have set.
Through individual and group interviews and the observation of the functioning of your business unit, the diagnosis makes your teams’ strengths and areas for improvement visible.
Depending on the size of your organization, the diagnosis can be completed in a few days. In addition to making the opportunities for improvement visible, it will make your organization’s culture visible, which will allow you to estimate the level of resistance to your transformation project and adapt the strategy accordingly.
We first evaluate the functioning of the organization (organizational structure, business processes, management style, competencies and behaviours, etc.) through various means (individual interviews, surveys, observations of meetings, readings, etc.) in order to obtain the most accurate picture possible.
Following this step, a comparison between the current state and the results desired by the company allows the development of a concrete action plan. A series of specific recommendations are presented.
In collaboration with the client, the activities to be carried out are then prioritized according to their positive impact on the organization. Measurement elements are established to evaluate progress.
With external support or independently, the client then implements the recommendations and measures the positive impact of the changes.
What elements are made visible by a diagnosis?
After individually (and confidentially) interviewing hundreds of employees from dozens of organizations and analyzing the results of thousands of completed questionnaires, some common themes are shared by employees. While each organization has specific findings, many of the organizations share similar findings.
- Employees generally try their best and are able to identify dysfunctions in their teams and work processes. However, they are often stuck by archaic and bureaucratic processes and lack of training or coaching to help them develop new skills. Employees’ willingness to change is often present, but coaching to change is generally deficient.
- Employees are often cynical about proposed changes because they have experienced several unsuccessful attempts at change. They are skeptical and anticipate the adoption of new work methods as “the flavour of the day”. In interviews, interviewees often express concern that leaders are really listening to their perspectives.
- Organizations generally have the necessary skills and motivated individuals internally. While leaders tend to hire consultants to transform their organizations, employees perceive these actions as a lack of trust and may reduce their level of engagement. As a result, the company loses the motivation and knowledge of employees who are interested in making a difference.
Examples of themes addressed during the diagnosis
- Is the vision and purpose of the company clear, motivating and shared by all?
- Has the company’s management established and communicated a strategic plan?
What are the behaviors that the company’s culture supports and promotes? Which ones are ignored or forgotten?
- Do the teams have clearly defined and communicated objectives?
Have the processes been adapted to the company’s evolution? Which ones need to be reviewed and improved?
- Does each employee have a clear understanding of what they need to do (and what they don’t need to do) to help the business succeed?
- Do employees and managers have the skills they need to succeed?
- Has the company given itself the objective means to evaluate its performance level and make the necessary adjustments in real time?
- Is the management method adapted to the reality and challenges of the company?
- Are the reasons behind the transformation project clear and communicated? And understood by all?
- Are the activities related to the transformation clearly defined and assigned?
- Is there a communication and change management plan in place?
- What training will be available? Who will be trained?
- Are the expected new behaviors communicated?
- Does everyone have the same understanding of the transformation?
The importance of an initial diagnosis to establish a transformation strategy
The initiator of the transformation often has an inaccurate assessment of the actual progress of its transformation. Most of the time, the initiator overestimates the real level of progress due to the lack of specific indicators. I notice that leaders rely on their perception of things, without really evaluating precisely the gap between what they are trying to achieve and the real situation on the ground. Leaders use arbitrary measures that do not indicate the level of success of their transformation.
When we complete a diagnosis of the current state, the reaction of leaders is twofold. First, they say they are surprised to see such a large gap between their wishes and reality, and after a few seconds of reflection, they admit that this is not really surprising, that they wanted the transformation to be more advanced, but that they could see that it was not as advanced as they had wished.
What can I learn from the diagnosis?
In addition to making your organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement visible, the diagnostic helps you understand your organizational culture. By making your company’s culture visible, the diagnostic helps identify whether the transformation you wish to implement is aligned with your organizational culture.
As an example, the following table (taken from the diagnosis of a real customer) shows that the current corporate culture [ABC] was not aligned with the agile culture desired by the manager who initiated a transformation towards the adoption of agility.
Another beneficial element of a diagnosis is to make visible the “unsaid” of the employees. During confidential one-on-one interviews, employees openly share their concerns and the dysfunctional elements of their job. The diagnosis thus makes it possible to synthesize the elements frequently mentioned by the employees in order to establish a strategy to effectively resolve these problematic elements.
As an example, the following images were taken from the diagnosis of a real customer.
Beginning a transformation without first completing a diagnosis generally increases project delays and risk factors. The diagnosis therefore allows you to anticipate problem areas, obtain a more accurate picture of the current situation and establish a transformation strategy that is adapted to the reality of your organization. To learn more and implement an Agile strategy now with our consultant, contact us or visit our page here.
The next article in this series deals with the development of the transformation strategy.