Answers on LinkedIn

Here are some of Founding Principal David Lee's recent answers to questions posed by LinkedIn users.  David is rated an "expert" in the Organizational Development category.  His answers give additional insight into his philosophy and approach to addressing your needs and opportunities.

How do we get past the 'groupthink' in our own workplaces?

My favorite definition of "groupthink" is the definition I saw years ago in a psychology text: "The mode of thinking that occurs when the desire for harmony in a decision making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives." Like all team and organizational issues, by definition it involves people, which means there are a great number of possible causes. Relationships are complex.

So, here are some things I look at:

  • Are the groups formed for the right reason?
  • Is every team given a specific objective, and if the task is more complex, a clear charter?
  • Does the company culture encourage true dialogue, not just discussion?
  • Are team leaders trained in how to lead teams, including facilitating conflict?
  • Are your best leaders leading your most important teams?
  • Are the right people put on teams, selected for skill/knowledge AND good team skills?
  • Are teams formed with diversity in mind: personalities, experiences, backgrounds, training, organizations represented, roles, etc.?
  • Are teams rewarded as a whole, for meeting the objectives, or does the leader get most of the credit?
  • If the team plays a role in a process, say product development, do the team members understand it AND believe the process works?

For each of these questions (and others), the solution is slightly different. Pick the most obvious issue and work on it first. Better yet, bring in someone without a stake in the groupthink, either outside the organization or outside the company, to lead you toward more effective teams, organizations, and company.

What is Organization Design Planning?

If you look at the "big picture" planning process, we first create or revisit (regularly) the strategic plan, setting the top level goals and strategies. From this comes a multitude of planning efforts -- financial, technological, process/procedural, etc. These second tier plans translate strategic goals into specific company-wide direction and action plans. Once second tier goals/objectives are agreed upon and the planning started, what I call "foundational" plans are revisited or created. This is where organizational design planning fits.

While this could be considered a lowly third tier, it is most definitely not. It is truly foundational. Our experience is that a big mistake companies (and, regrettably, many consultants) make is to design the company organizational structure and the operations of specific organizations to DRIVE the second tier plans, not support them. We believe the organizational plan must integrate financial, technological, process, and related directions, and create an organizational structure that will support them. This is often the difference between effective achievement of the strategic plan and mediocre results.

The other critical aspect of organizational design is to design around roles and culture, not organizations and strategies. A good organizational design can be easily modified as conditions change; it should not require "reorganization" every time, nor should most changes be significant/dramatic and require "cultural change" initiatives. If organizational design planning is done right the first time, it's very resilient going forward.

If an individual, company or country becomes aware of a “pain/danger” that they would like to eliminate or an opportunity they would you like to capture what stands in the way of taking action to change the status quo?
Underlying many of the answers is a more foundational one, in my view: Perspective. As individuals, we have beliefs and experiences that constitute our filters and lenses, that, combined with what we sense about the world, forms our reality, our perspective. This drives our inertia, our comfort zone, how we view processes and leaders, manifests our fears, controls our aversion (or acceptance) of risk, leads to lack of will power and subconscious blocking, and ultimately determines whether we change or not. Organized groups of people, as in companies and countries, combine the Perspectives of their leaders and members, and other elements like history, culture, and governance, into a Group Perspective.

Teach people to manage their Perspective and you teach them how to be agents of change. [Learn more about our Perspectives philosophy.]

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How to analyze company's skills gap?

From your question’s wording, I assume your focus is on the gap between the company's mission and strategic plan and the actual skills available within the employee pool. Excellent concern; more companies should be thinking that way. This is different from looking at how each employee is doing in his or her job description. That’s useful for employee assessment, but not strategic thinking. For example, you might have product engineers with significant engineering skills, but be moving toward higher functioning teams and, thus, have a gap in overall project leadership or team participation skills.

In this strategic context, the best method is to identify and document core processes, determine key roles (not organizations, not job descriptions, but process roles) in those processes (even better is across those processes), and then document the skills required for those key roles. To assess the gaps, review process measures that are available, have HR compile skills profiles (preferably based on competency assessments for employees fulfilling those roles), and access other similar data. If little data are available, then interview group/line managers to assess the overall skills of their groups AND of those they interact with, not by employee, but in the process areas of interest. The end goal isn’t a specific quantified gap measure, but a list of the strongest and weakest skills in each key role versus what is really required going forward. An action plan with specific training and hiring, as well as potential role enhancements, will spill right out of such an assessment. 

Another answer from LinkedIn

What are the best books on managing the human / organizational aspects of M&A?

The one I recommend to my clients is Five Frogs on a Log by Mark Feldman and Michael Spratt. I like it because it debunks some myths but also tends to integrate the change management piece into the overall M&A transition (more systems thinking, which I prefer). 

See David's other book recommendations