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Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness

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Build Organisational Capability Through Team Effectiveness

April 3, 2014 - In Featured, Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

In business and public sector organisations in 2014, how well are the groupings of people reporting to a manager working?  Are organisations investing in developing teams?

In an organisation, teams are groups of people, normally reporting to a manager, who show synergy; where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The individuals work together in a way that captures all their personal contributions and additional inputs from collaboration.  Teams are important because they produce more than a group and can demonstrate high performance.  High performing teams have these characteristics:

Groups of people reporting to a manager do not become a team by accident or by expecting that they will.  Team development occurs because there is a sense that performance and/or work satisfaction can be improved, usually initiated by the manager of the team, but not always.  Once a decision has been made to develop a group into a team, the approach to developing a team can be discussed under the following headings:

Where are we now?

Determining the current reality of a group to be developed into a team is critical if the things that the group members believe to be important are to be addressed in any subsequent development process.  Gathering information from group members about how they see the group, such as its strengths and weaknesses, will contribute to the agenda for development.  Undertaking a diagnosis also involves the whole potential team, including the leader/manager, in considering the group’s effectiveness and engages them in thinking about how it can be developed.  This helps prepare everyone for any subsequent process.

At Nelson Consulting we use our Team Effectiveness Questionnaire to review a group’s current reality (‘where we are now’) in relation to their desired position (‘where we want to be’).  The questionnaire is organised into five domains:

The questionnaire is designed so respondents can make two decisions about each item in each domain; one for current reality and one for desired position.  This design produces a gap analysis between current reality and desired position.  A key issues section is also included for each domain for respondents to include further comments if they wish.

The findings of the diagnosis can be prioritised by the gap analysis which reveals the items with the biggest gaps as important to resolve. These items can be informed and clarified by the key issues identified by the respondents.

To address the findings the group needs to come together for a discussion.  Preferably this should be held in an off-site location where the group can debate the findings from the diagnosis free from interruptions and day-to-day pressures.

Common Purpose

Common purpose is essential for a team.  To start identifying common purpose, the simple question to answer is ‘what are we here for?’  However, this is rarely a sufficient question for a group that desires to become a high performance team.  We recommend that the basics of developing a team vision are discussed and agreed.  This should include a summary of the team’s common purpose and how it will enable:

It should also indicate how the team’s stakeholder interests will be served; colleagues in other parts of the business, the wider group, customers, suppliers etc.

Debating and agreeing common purpose is a task type activity because it focuses the work of everyone in the team.  It is also a relationship building activity, provided everyone feels that they have had the opportunity to contribute and have had their say.

The Leader’s Role

Clearly, the leader’s role is very important and it is likely that he/she will have initiated the diagnosis to find out how best to develop the team’s effectiveness.  Managers determined to achieve high performance and aware of the value of investing in team effectiveness usually aim to do some development early on following a group’s formation.  During discussions about the development of the group and any findings from a diagnosis, the manager needs to ensure that he/she does not dominate the discussions and encourages everyone to contribute their views.  This is critical in relation to the development and agreement of common purpose because everyone must have a sufficient level of commitment to the group’s common purpose for it to commence development as a team.

It is important for the manager/leader to have some clear views about the team’s purpose and have potentially a personal vision for the team.  As leader, it will be expected by the other members of the group that he /she will have some definite views.  However, it is recommended that these views are presented as a starting point for the group’s debate and positioned as an outline of common purpose to which everyone can contribute.  A leader who has a strong personal vision is advised not to deliver it in its entirety at the outset of a discussion lest it suppresses debate and discussion.  Encouraging and gaining individual members’ contributions and including these into the overall common purpose is likely to engage individual commitment and shared ownership of the group’s purpose.

The leader needs to maintain an inclusive approach to focusing the group on the findings of the diagnosis.  Some of the topics identified by the diagnosis may be difficult for the group to discuss fully without patience and support being offered by the leader.  Indeed in the early stages of group formation it is not unusual for there to be a lack of clarity around certain issues, such as role boundaries, which can cause sensitivity.  Difficult subjects should not be avoided but explored and discussed.  This will set a standard of openness which can be built upon as more topics affecting the team and its effectiveness are addressed.

Individuals and Teams

Individuals and their membership of a group can be a big topic, largely due to the degree to which an individual retains their individualism or difference from others or decides to ‘join’ the group.  Interestingly, mature and high performing teams can include powerful and talented individuals but also be unified in commitment to the teams’ purpose, goals and values.  This team characteristic is a result of team building and an ongoing commitment to maintaining team effectiveness.

It is a useful investment in team development to address individuality and being an effective member of a team.  This can be facilitated by using a self-perception inventory such as Belbin’s Team Roles or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Both inventories deliver positive descriptions of different people types that, in their own individual way, can contribute to team performance.

The process of a group of individuals undertaking an analysis such as that provided by Belbin or Myers-Briggs is usually very constructive because apart from the self learning provided, everyone develops a better understanding of why their colleagues see things differently.  This generally leads to group members recognising that the individual differences of their colleagues can provide a broader range of contributions to team performance.

The important issue to address and get accepted early by individuals and the group as a whole is that diversity is strength.  Critically, it is important for the leader to accept this dimension of team effectiveness so they do not surround themselves with too many of the same types.  Too many of the same tends to lead to dysfunctionality, sometimes manifested by ‘groupthink’, unproductive conflict or simply underperformance due to insufficient breadth of talent.

Practical Team Development

Developing a team from a group needs a piece of quality time in a suitable location where the group members can concentrate on the subject of team building.  Preferably, a 2.5 day plus residential workshop, designed with some structure to achieve the specific aims for the group, will set a direction for success.  The programme should address the topics discussed above and if the recommendation of a diagnostic is used, time must be included to discuss the findings and make decisions about addressing the opportunities.

Using experiential exercises can get the workshop off to a good start and set a practical tone.  Strategies for change need to be agreed and the process for maintaining and progressing team development established.  There are many useful tools that can be used to help the team develop, but success ultimately depends on the leader and the team members making commitments and agreeing actions to make it work for them and their organisation.

Follow-Up and Follow-Through

As with any learning, it is important to follow-up the original initiative; this to prevent the natural degradation of learning that occurs if no review takes place.  Of greater importance is to progress the development of team effectiveness by the team discussing implementation successes and challenges and engaging its full capability to achieve its goals.


Ensuring HR has Real Business Impact – Now’s the Time

February 12, 2014 - In Featured, Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

The UK and US economies seem to be picking up and others are looking a little less sick although there is much more to do, including driving policies to build genuine sustainability and promote long term growth.  The financial crisis curtailed business investment and focused organisations on cost cutting and risk management.  The crisis also happened after years of short-term focus on results that prevented in many organisations the continuous investment in organisational development for sustainable high performance.

In 1997 Dave Ulrich’s article ‘A New Mandate for Human Resources’ was published in the Harvard Business Review.  In the article Ulrich observed that many of the ‘traditional forms of competition – cost, technology, distribution, manufacturing and product features – can be copied’ and that the only competitive weapon left is organization’.  It is this assertion that caused Ulrich to call for the transformation of HR approximately 17 years ago.

Where Are We Now? 

Certainly many organisations have set up shared service centres for HR administration and the title HR Business Partner is common place, but what do the non-HR communities in our organisations think, especially line managers?  We suspect it varies considerably, but some of the published survey findings suggest that the transformation of HR is incomplete.

Continue reading Ensuring HR has Real Business Impact – Now’s the Time.


TRUST: The Foundation for Reputation and High Performance

December 9, 2013 - In Featured, Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

‘An organisation that trusts itself is more likely to show trust to others’ 

In October 2013 a conference was held in London to consider how business can restore its reputation in an atmosphere of public concern about ethical behaviour.  The context, heavily influenced by the aftermath of the 2007/2008 financial crisis is sharpened by more recent events such as the mis-selling of retail financial products PPI etc, the rigging of the Libor interest rate and the concern over energy prices.

The conference included executives from major companies, fund managers and representatives from the Church and its purpose was to debate the Blueprint for Better Business initiative.  Practical principles are being drawn up to be applied to business situations and training programmes.  The draft principles include, among others, that a person is a ‘someone, not a something’ and that managers should ‘show respect for the dignity of each person and for the whole person…’ Continue reading TRUST: The Foundation for Reputation and High Performance.


Organisational Effectiveness by Richard Nelson

October 1, 2013 - In Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

An organisation’s ability to serve its customers successfully and compete with its competitors is critical if it is to prosper over time.’

No matter how obvious this statement may seem, many organisations fall short in taking the necessary actions to build the probability of success in their favour.  We have witnessed the credit crunch, stimulated by overly ambitious financial innovation, and the subsequent financial crisis. Continue reading Organisational Effectiveness by Richard Nelson.


Executive Workshops, by Richard Nelson.

November 28, 2012 - In Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

“One of the major benefits that the workshop can provide is the chance for the participants to ‘stand backand reflect on the practical implications of their strategic decisions.”

The term ‘Workshop’ is now common currency among managers, consultants in management and management educators.  It tends to cover a range of events, from seminars and training courses to events of an essentially practical nature.  It is these practical experiences that we are concerned about here.  The main difference between a seminar and a workshop is that a seminar is a teacher-led event developed from subject matter researched and selected by the seminar leader, usually with a teaching purpose.  A workshop is more typically designed by a consultant/facilitator from research undertaken with the prospective participants of the planned workshop. Continue reading Executive Workshops, by Richard Nelson..


The CEO Proposition – Some leadership ideas for senior executives by Richard Nelson

November 9, 2012 - In Featured, Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

Getting the best out of your executives individually and collectively and, ultimately, your organisation can be a challenge for which there are few ready-made answers.  This is because your situation is unique and defined by the special characteristics of your organisation’s purpose and direction, culture, structure, processes and systems and people.  Leading changes to improve the effectiveness of the organisation often needs a multifaceted approach. Continue reading The CEO Proposition – Some leadership ideas for senior executives by Richard Nelson.


HR in the 21st Century – A High Level Summary By Richard Nelson

May 4, 2011 - In Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

The Development Context

The future of HR is closely related to the current/future needs of organisations. HR will need to contribute more directly to improving the performance of organisations if it is to play a core role in the businesses of the future. HR will need to focus on delivering outcomes. It will be important for HR to be defined by what it delivers rather than what it does. Continue reading HR in the 21st Century – A High Level Summary By Richard Nelson.


Employee Engagement

March 2, 2010 - In Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

David Sharpley is an occupational psychologist and Nelson Consulting associate, and has recently worked with us on the 360◦ Development Review element of a comprehensive personal development programme for senior managers in a large financial organization. We developed the Development Review Questionnaire based on a number of competencies in relation to the strategy of the specific management group. The 360◦ review was carried out online using David’s internet-based PARIO system. Continue reading Employee Engagement.


Culture, Strategy and HR, by Richard Nelson

February 2, 2010 - In Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

Strategy, culture and the function of HR may appear to be different aspects of an organisation but potentially they can be intricately linked, especially if the HR function has real influence. It is important that different aspects of company culture are internally aligned so that stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers and communities) experience a unified organisational character. An example of disunity is when the sales people demonstrate both a professional and caring approach to meet a customer’s requirements; but a possible long term relationship is put in jeopardy by overly casual and inefficient behaviour by customer service staff. Continue reading Culture, Strategy and HR, by Richard Nelson.


The Role of HR in Developing Organisational Effectiveness

May 15, 2009 - In Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

Organisational Effectiveness is an organisation’s ability to maximise results in the competitive external environment.

In this article, we look at how the Human Resources function can help an organisation be effective.  We argue that once cost cutting and efficiency improvements have been made to increase profitability, the organisation needs to focus on the further generation of improved revenues and profitability through peoples’ innovation and the development of new ideas. Continue reading The Role of HR in Developing Organisational Effectiveness.


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