Friday, March 13, 2009

How to Manage in a Downturn

As layoffs continue to mount, shortened work weeks are required; we must remember to take care of ourselves, and the staff that remain on the job. There still is work to get done, and goals to meet. In this time of change there's an opportunity to reexamine what we do, and how we do it - especially if remaining staff must do more - or take on new roles and responsibilities.
There are 3 organizational components that should always be monitored, and possibly more so right now - people, process, and organizational needs - PPO.

As a manager or senior executive you must figuratively embrace your current staff and offer them support. Remaining staff after a layoff become an even more important asset than usual. In order to maintain momentum, and to meet identified goals, albeit modified goals in response to the changing external environment, current staff need to know they are appreciated, and are needed for company stability. And, since no one wants any surprises right now, ongoing, open communication of what's going on is vital information.

Challenge staff to consider ways to improve communication and how best to share important information. Ask them how they want to be kept informed and what they need to be able to do their job and meet performance goals. This is a difficult time to work and produce - everyone needs to consider how to build morale and continue to do what needs to get done.

When processes are correctly in place, and working well, they are helpful to staff and to the daily needs of work that include:

•how we work together,
• how information and knowledge is shared,
• what protocols are in place and acceptable,
• how issues are aired and dealt with.

Right now, gaps in processes will rise to the surface due to external stresses and the modified needs of the organization. As you can see, in times of change or crises, opportunities present themselves to see things differently or more clearly. As a result, creativity and innovation is ignited, and sometimes great new things can be initiated.

This is the time to listen to the rhetoric of organizational change and development. Companies need to turn their attention to how they can be more productive, more competitive, better organized, and more supportive of their talent then their competitors.

A first step in this improvement process is to identify where things have lagged and what is needed for growth, or change. Use this time to review, and evaluate how the organizational structure can be designed so it fluctuates with internal and external changes. Also, build organizational cohesion by:
• creating cross functional teams,
• identifying individual performance goals and aligning them to organizational needs,
• supporting personal and professional development through training, and coaching.

All these efforts will make you better prepared and stronger when the market improves.

The economic downturn is difficult, and possibly catastrophic for those who have lost jobs, homes, and health care. However, we still must look for the "silver lining" and find the opportunity in this environment. Things have changed and will continue to change, and not necessarily only from a financial perspective.

How we work, how business is conducted, and what makes us successful as individuals are in flux. Additionally, how businesses will maintain a competitive advantage in providing products and services that customers need, while ensuring its market value, will be tested.

With all that said, now is an opportunity to evaluate how and why we operate as we do, and where there may be room for organizational change, as a new business model is forming.

Please add your thoughts or current policies on learning and development programs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blogs and Other new Ideas are for Whom?

Several weekends ago, after periodic whining from my 8 year old son who claimed boredom, and me, hot off the trail of my Web 2.0 seminar, had a brilliant idea! Put your love of baseball and constant chatter about it to good use - create a baseball news blog. What? We both thought at the same time - was I suggesting to an 8 year old?

Now, after 2 weeks of blogging, I see the wisdom of my suggestion. He is focused, interested, productive, and learning, on his own, regularly. As he reports baseball happenings with personal commentary, he is writing, reading, and editing his work. What joy this brings to me; he's learning and having fun!

So how does this relate to you? I'm thinking about those employees who need something they can call their own. Sometimes, putting the cart before the horse can work. Give your staff an opportunity to show what they know, to step outside of yours and theirs usual comfort zone - take a chance, make a change. If you show a person you believe in their abilities and give them something to call their own, they may prove themselves a leader, an innovator, or an initiator. Sometimes, we look to far a field to solve internal issues or challenges. Is it possible that what needs to get done can be internally outsourced? Can you delegate some of the issues on your current plate to others? This means allowing grass roots efforts to percolate and grow - go with the flow and let others show the way. You may find your staff (and you) are learning and putting new learning and knowledge to work in ways you hadn't thought of before.

Remember to identify opportunities, to create an environment where allowing others to step up to the plate is possible. We all feel successful and satisfied when we accomplish something new, or something outside of our norm, and rising to this challenge provides learning and often is fun.


Monday, June 9, 2008

We've come a Long Way!

I read the article headline twice, to be sure I was seeing it correctly, "Former Justice Promotes Web-Based Civics Lessons." In today's New York Times, former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor is not only a supporter and believer in online learning, but essentially she is the working SME (subject matter expert) and lead advocate of creating a web site and interactive web-based course on civics for 7th - 9th graders. Together with Georgetown University Law Center and Arizona State University they are developing a site called Our Courts ( that will have two areas. One section will be educational and directed toward school use and one will be directed for learners to use independently with an entertainment component to it - similar to a game. Justice O'Connor admits she is not much of a computer expert. However, she learned about computers and interactive media from her grandchildren. She recognizes that interactive learning involves the learner and that such learning can be more effective than traditional learning. The students will be presented with real legal issues, and asked to argue their beliefs against the computer and each other.

Without knowing it, Justice O'Connor identified many of the "selling" points for online, interactive learning. She said "I believe that when we learn something, a principle or concept, by doing, by having it happen to us, which you can do by that medium of a computer, and you exercise it and you make an argument and you learn, 'Oh yes, that's an argument that prevails,' you learn by doing."

Wow! couldn't have said it better myself.

To add your thoughts, click on comments below.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Technologies - New Ways of Learning?

As a consultant, and Principal of Knowledge Advantage, a company that creates learning solutions - often elearning - I'm always trying to determine what my clients and prospective clients need (in terms of learning and development) and how I can provide them with it. In short, how can I be more valuable to you? The answer, comes full circle to what I do, and believe in - be knowledgeable about changes and advances in the industry, and continue to learn new techniques, methods, and deliveries for learning.

I am being swept up in the wave of Web 2.0, that includes at a minimum, user generated content, Blogs, Wikis, Ajax, RSS feeds -- and I'm trying to understand and determine what impact it has on how we do business, and how we learn. What is evident, is learning and learning deliveries are in flux, and changing technology and our changing demographics play an important role in the future of these new technologies and tools.

Are you drawn to the Web 2.0 bandwagon? Do you find Gen Y staffers attached to these new mediums? How much and how soon will Web 2.0 influence or impact your learning and development vision and goals?

Please jump into this conversation, so I can learn from you as to where you are on this new spectrum and what kind of support and help you may need in the future.



To add your thoughts, click on comments below.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hey - I Need Some White Space!

When I'm busy managing several projects, thinking about what to write for next month's newsletter, and consulting with prospective clients, I feel tied to my desk. This is when paralysis seeps in, and I don't allow myself to step away from the computer for fear of lost productivity. In reality though, these are the times I'm least productive.

What I need to help myself make progress on any one project and to move forward is a change of scenery. I need some "white space" to help me think, to gain clarity and to gain perspective.

What is white space and where is it, how do we find it?

White space is removing yourself from your normal /regular surroundings, it is taking a break from focusing on your daily work and "to do" list. White space is the magic that happens when you are doing something else -- walking, cooking, talking to a friend, or exercising -- and from seemingly nowhere, Eureka, the article for the newsletter gets written in my head, or the best way to handle a non-responsive team member flies into your thoughts.

Since we are not machines, we can't always be productive on demand, or even on schedule. We need to find the muse for our creativity to solve our most pressing challenges. White space allows us to do this.

As managers and directors we need to remember that our staff need to find their white space, and where and how to find it is different for everyone. This means not having stringent rules about where to work (only in the office) or when (9-5). It means recognizing the individuality in each of your direct reports, and knowing they need the time and space to find their white space to meet their goals and enjoy overall performance success.

If you'd like to share your thoughts, click on comments below.

Till next time,


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Art and Science of Learning

While I was reading articles on, I was struck by the likeness of each of the articles, and the similarities to my own “mantra” with clients around learning and development needs. The truth is, we (those of us who lead HR and L&D groups) know the theories around learning, why change is difficult, and the challenge of integrating new learning into the core of the organization. What we may not know, is the how – what will work best for our organization and our staff?

So what sets each of us a part? What are the differences in why some solutions work for company A but not company B? I think the first part of the answer is the art and science of it. That is, like other areas of study, organizational learning is a combination of art and science. The science is the theory and foundation that is the cement and mortar of how we learn, and how and why we change. It also includes, and maybe more importantly, the systems and processes that surround and support it. The art piece is the human side – both of the learners and those who set the course of how to learn or implement change - and that of course – is the challenge.

Since we are confronted with so many variables in different environments and situations, the same science or theories won’t work the same each time. That’s one reason why we need business and learning needs assessments – to understand the specific needs of the environment we are in, and to take a pulse of the human side. To understand the individual needs and goals of our audience, and the collective temperature around change, learning, knowledge, and organizational success.

So, in as much as we (consultants and learning professionals) are all the same, and spew similar rhetoric, there are differences between us in much the same way of the learners – our human side. Our personality, our approach, our style, who we are and how we interact. And this, is the bottom line to success – finding the right mix of the art and science. Identifying the best approach for your organization, your collective individuals. We need to work with others who understand “where you’re coming from” and with people we like, know and trust. Someone who has the same temperature you do, where together there is an “aha” in how to reach the ideal.

If you'd like to join this discussion, please click on Comments and add your thoughts.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Is Early Burn-Out Part of the Gen Y Mix?

During a business networking after hours this week, I had an interesting conversation with a woman, now retired from 30 years in financial services. In explaining to her how Knowledge Advantage helps organizations, I got on my soapbox around talent management -- the search for "good" talent and the challenge of retaining that talent. I explained how the impact of the boomers retiring, and the Gen Ys coming onboard, confound these issues, specifically around retention. We know Gen Ys like to move quickly, like to be involved in many things simultaneously and are pros at multi-tasking. So, the importance of on-boarding new hires becomes even more critical. If an organization provides valuable orientation to new hires, they feel informed, and knowledgeable about the company and their work, and ready to contribute. Conversely, without immediate immersion into the organization, new hires are left feeling uninformed, at a loss of what to do, directionless and not productive. Add to this mix the Gen Y who wants to have an impact, who wants to perform to show what they know and can do, and the Gen Y who gets restless quickly and has no qualms about moving from job-to-job to find personal success and gratification quickly. Remembering this, it's easy to see how onboarding is win/win. On-boarding fuels the energy and confidence of a new hire; while showing commitment and belief in the new hire, from the organization, particularly to a Gen Y. On-boarding produces more confident, productive, loyal and satisfied employees. Without it, the organization makes a bad impression on the new hire and risks the possibility of losing that employee sooner, to an employer of choice, who provides training and personal and professional development.

After my great speech on the value of organizational learning, beginning with on-boarding and continuing throughout an employee's tenure, to ensure individual growth and retention, she asked, "do you think the ways of the Gen Y, moving so quickly, multi-tasking, always wanting everything now, puts them on a fast road to burn-out?" MMMM, I thought, interesting question and do we know the answer yet?

To add your experiences and thoughts around new hires, on-boarding and Gen Ys, please click below, on Comments, and add your post.