Organizational development in education


Every industry is unique; education is unique enough that many resent anyone who calls it an industry. But across industries and into the world of education, institutions, organizations, and companies are composed of people — people who develop a culture, with norms and roles, who sometimes have issues communicating, and who can be more or less effective at their jobs.

The idea that each occupation requires unique treatment works well — for certain industry-specific consultants, at least.… Read the rest

Articles, Quality

Don’t just listen!


For decades, people have talked about listening to the customer. Yet, our systems seem as bad as ever. Are we listening?

I would argue that we’re listening… we’re just not taking the right actions.

Once, I helped to present the results of an employee survey; we mainly left it to them to develop action plans — the best way to instigate change.… Read the rest

Articles, Blog

Test it out!

crash testing

When I first started in the employee survey business, I was responsible for some big mistakes. Eventually, I realized that anything we did not test would go wrong; and that it wasn’t just testing that mattered, but testing thoroughly and intelligently. The latter realization came after an Excel copy/paste bug — where the first 20 and last 20 cells were correct, but everything in the middle was just a repeat of the first 50 or so cells, over and over.… Read the rest

Articles, How-Tos

How-to: Solving old problems and getting fast action

break past problems

I’ve heard it too often: “You’re the tenth consultant we’ve seen, and nothing ever happens!”

How do you break past that? The most effective ways are usually helping the people in the organization fix their own problems.

One example comes from a single-day training seminar — usually kind of a throwaway item where people sit through, have a nice lunch, and everyone goes home happy and unchanged.… Read the rest


How-to: Customer recovery, or the forgotten country

customer recovery graphic

Most businesses focus on attracting new customers and keeping the ones they have, but few seriously try to bring back people who left — customer recovery.

Some companies do sales-and-marketing efforts such as sending out coupons or making sales calls to past clients, but there’s another level out there, starting with recovery research. 

To find out how to bring back old customers (and keep more of the ones you have), the first step is to find out why they left.… Read the rest


Nonprofits, government, and schools: the informal contract

government or school

Some people deliberately work in places where they get paid less than normal.

Some economic theories would have us believe that’s impossible, but there’s more to compensation than a paycheck or benefits. Often, people will work for less money — and if you want to take advantage of that, you need to know about the informal contract that keeps them attracted to their jobs.… Read the rest

Articles, How-Tos

How-to: Keys to successful cultural change

change signs

Cultural change efforts seem to fail as often as they succeed, partly because it’s neither easy nor fast — just brutally effective. Cultural change requires concentrated and focused effort over the long haul, a widespread belief that change is necessary, and the willingness to critically examine current beliefs, values, and practices.

In 1997, Chrysler was an oft-cited example of a company which had used cultural change to suddenly regain a leadership role, changing the way almost everything in the company was done within a few short years.… Read the rest

How-Tos, Research/Surveys

How-to: Getting real change with an employee survey

survey as a tool

How can you make employee surveys a real tool for change, at every level? There’s been a lot of practical research and trial-and-error; and we can conclude that there are things you can do which definitely work.


For many consultant, summarizing the data and providing recommendations is standard operating procedure, but it often leads to little action. That makes sense: most employees only get a little (if any) feedback, and the top managers are given a set of recommendations they can safely ignore or forget about.… Read the rest