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

crash testing

Test it out!

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

break past problems

How-to: Solving old problems and getting fast action

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

government or school

Nonprofits, government, and schools: the informal contract

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

change signs

How-to: Keys to successful cultural change

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

change tools

How-to: Getting the most from a consultant

There are times when a consultant is brought in, and the results are stunning, with clear gains; and other times when it seems like the only gain is to the consultant’s bank account. How can managers make sure their engagements are all in the first group?

First, before bringing in an outsider, explore the skills, resources, and knowledge of your own staff.… Read the rest

visibility and credibility

Increasing executive and supervisor credibility through visibility and communication

Credibility of executives and supervisors was linked to visibility in our research.

We believe that, if a manager keeps their employees informed of the decisions and changes they’re considering (and their thought processes along the way), the employees can think along with the manager, or at least understand their rationale. Any decisions will not seem to contradict common sense or the manager’s previous stance.… Read the rest

post-mortem tools

How-to: Project post-mortems

Have you ever noticed your group making the same mistake over and over? (Or perhaps your customers have noticed for you?)

Personally, I hate making mistakes. I think I’ve stunned a few vendors when we dug through a problem and found it was their fault. They were expecting to be yelled at, but I was too relieved at not having made the mistake myself.… Read the rest

How-to: owner validation for your web site

We are going to start by sounding techy, but will explain what it all means in human terms later.

Does your web site use the right secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate? Here’s how you can tell if it does: there will be a green lock and the name of your company in the address bar of pretty much any browser.

Which of these banks would you prefer to deal with?… Read the rest

Steve Jobs

After the founder leaves: how long are the shadows?

In some companies, the founder is a key player who can’t be replaced; in others, they can be replaced with surprising ease; and in still others, they cast a shadow long after they’re gone, for better or worse.

The usual case study is Apple. Steve Jobs first pushed his friends into marketing and building the first personal computers; then, when he became a liability to the business and was sidelined, he pushed a group of engineers, technicians, and designers into creating the first mass-produced computers with a graphic user interface.… Read the rest