The Participative Planning Illusion


(Part 2 of 2 Parts)

After assuming his CEO role, Harris’s message to employees was, “I believe we have a lot of opportunities for bringing on new products and improving our promotions.”  Harris further explained that he had scheduled a retreat with his seven direct reports to firm up a strategic plan.

Prior to the retreat, Harris and his team researched industry trends, competitors’ strategies, and the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses.

During the retreat Harris unfolded his vision of investing heavily in product development and changing promotions to rely more on social media and celebrity sponsors.

After vigorous and extensive debates, team members enthusiastically agreed that they emerged from the retreat with sound plans for improving products and promotions.

Following the retreat, Harris and his team presented goals, timetables and metrics to all operating managers.  After making a few modifications based on managers’ suggestions, all divisions understood and readily accepted their responsibilities.

The antidote to the illusion of participative planning is for the leader to initiate a clear vision and strategies.  Of course, the leader should encourage suggestions and accept improvements.   Also, particular departments should have some latitude in how they execute their contributions to the plan.

 

The Participative Planning Illusion


(Part 1 of 2 parts)

“I believe in participative planning,” the new CEO announced.  “I’m asking all departments to submit their views on our mission, goals and strategies.”

The CEO organized an oversight committee to guide the process.  Over the next few weeks, employees throughout the company met and debated their future.  “Our challenge,” said one team leader, “is to focus on something we can agree upon.”

As a deadline approached, teams scripted mission and goal statements.  However, most teams focused on their particular interests; and as you might imagine, there was little coordination among the different functions.

As the next deadline beckoned, to finalize a plan they could agree upon, the oversight committee converted most suggestions into abstract statements, such as: “Our vision is to be the best at what we do.” “Our goal is to deliver high quality service.” “We want to expand.”

While employees were engaged in their planning frenzy, the CEO opened a new division, successfully introduced new services, and redefined dealer relationships. None of these ideas surfaced via the participative planning process.

Participative planning is an illusion.  Neither cars, smart phones, airplanes nor most other great ideas emerged from planning groups.  To think you can convert the suggestions of hundreds of employees into a coherent plan is simply unrealistic.

 

 

Learn to Embrace Change


I recently asked an acquaintance, “How are you doing?”

“I am in a state of complete confusion,” he replied.  “In just the last six months, we have opened a new territory, restructured my division, upgraded our computer system, and my long-time assistant has retired.  I’ll be so glad when things get back to normal.”

The irony of my acquaintance’s statement, of course, is that his condition is pretty normal.

Changes in the workplace are so prevalent that they should not cause surprise.  As one manager said, “We don’t have programs on overcoming resistance to change; we just assume that managing and adjusting to changes are an understood part of the job.”

Should you feel blown about by the turbulence of continuous change, look for ways to make your job easier.

If the change is legal and ethical, support it. It is not necessary for you to like the change; and it is likely that some employees will resist—no matter what.  Don’t spend all of your time explaining the benefits.  Everyone already knows what they are—to make things better, faster and cheaper.

Do try to remove as many “unknowns” as you can and enjoy the ride.  Your team will embrace the changes more quickly and with less stress.

My First Day on a New Job


“I went home with a headache, a stomach ache, and doubt,” is the way a new employee explained his first day on the job.  “I spent half of the day in an onboarding session, but I don’t remember much other than places I can’t park.”

When the new employee got to his work station, the person showing him what to do seemed distracted and impatient.

The expression, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” certainly applies to an employee’s first day.  Unfortunately, most organizations overburden new persons with tediously, boring informational sessions.  You may not be able to change that routine; so, when the employee gets to you, make the experience enjoyable.

Treat the person like a welcomed guest; exchange appropriate personal information; explain what you like about working there; show the employee around; and make sure other team members meet and greet.

Although the new hire may have experience, be sure to get a friendly, high performer to teach him how you do the job here.  For the first couple of weeks, make it a point to chat frequently, answer questions and offer support.

Leaders Must Address Backbiting


Melanie said to Layla, her manager, “Don’t tell Josh I said it, but he spends a lot of time on social media.  And he blames us for not getting reports to him on time.”

Unfortunately, many members of Layla’s team seemed to be very critical of each other.  As a member summed up the situation, “I’ve never seen so much gossip and backbiting.  People appear to be friendly, but behind your back they are uncommonly critical.

Petty and immature behavior among team members is serious and should be addressed.  Consider these actions that Layla could have taken.

When Melanie complained about Josh, Layla should have said something like.  “Have you clearly communicated your concerns directly to Josh?  If not, I want you to talk to him.”

Melanie would likely say that she had and it did no good.  At that point, Layla should call Josh into the meeting and ask Melanie to explain to Josh her concerns.  And Josh would have his turn to respond.

Backbiting among team members is less when members know they will be forced to confront each other with their criticisms.

 

Older Employees May Feel Uncomfortable Working for Young Managers


Two employees from different departments were talking about their new managers.

“I know our new manager is smart and knows computers, but he is very young and pretty green.  He has a lot to learn.”

The friend responded, “Our new manager looks young enough to be my grandson but he has fit in really well.  Even our long-time employees respect him.”

When managing employees who are older, it is safe to assume that some of the old timers may be resentful and skeptical.

The manager in the first example made an early assessment of changes he wanted to make and he got management’s support.  However, when he presented his ideas to his team, many become doubtful and reluctant—he came across as insensitive and impulsive.

The second manager interviewed all his employees and got to know them as individuals.  He let his team know that his top priority was to ensure their success and well-being.  He asked many questions and when good suggestions emerged, the manager gave proper credit.  The youthful manger often used phrases like “What do you think?” and “How can I help with that?”

While young leaders cannot outrace time, they must earn their team’s respect.