Organizational Artifacts

Organizational Culture

Modified Jug_by-NikitaAvvakumovCompanies carefully develop and vigorously safeguard their corporate logos and trademarks because the leaders understand the importance of brand. Logos speak for the company, what it makes, and stands for. Some trademarks become terms for common items, actions, or a range of products. Years ago people would Xerox a copy when they wanted a photocopy. Everybody had a Frigidaire even if their refrigerator was a Whirlpool. Today if you want to find out some piece of information, you Google it. Mention these names or show their logos and people create a vision of excellence in each of those industries. The trademark is the company and people know the values of each. Artifacts, such as logos and trademarks, are the visible representations of an organization’s culture and values. Other aspects of artifacts include customs, traditions, celebrations, buildings, and attire. Leaders can use artifacts to change behaviors of stakeholders to align with desired values.

Back in the day, families had coats of arms that contained symbols representing significance accomplishments from the past, the region of origin, and tools of their trades. Military organizations thrive on the symbolism of their unit crests. Good leaders understand the qualities shown in organizational symbols and use them to provide a common bond for all stakeholders. The symbols and traditions create a unification for all those involved in the organization.

The terms blue collar and white collar demonstrate how artifacts affect perception. Mention blue collar worker to someone and they probably envision a person working on a factory floor, working in an automotive repair facilities, or dumping waste cans after the office closes. White collar workers are viewed as those working in clean environments such as offices, hospitals, or laboratories. Blue collar workers have GEDs or high school diplomas. White collar workers have college degrees, have offices higher in the building relative to their perceived power. These statements are not necessarily true as there are plenty of people holding traditionally blue collar jobs with high levels of education, and many office workers with high school diplomas.

Ceremonies and customs are other artifacts that show the world and stakeholders where an organization places value. Organizations that toss their new employees to the wolves with little training demonstrate they value people less than accomplishment. Those who celebrate small successes show they care when people succeed and understand that when an individual succeeds, everyone in the organization is better because of the achievement.

A smart leader seeking to change an organization’s culture can use artifacts to help that change occur. He can point to the symbols of a logo to talk about the important values of the organization. He describes how certain behaviors emulate the organizational values while others detract. He eliminates ceremonies celebrating negative achievements that belittle and embarrass, and replaces them with rituals observing feats supporting desired behaviors. Awards for compliance with desired organizational values serve as visual representations of success and encourage others to model similar behavior. Employee of the month is one example, but a creative leader finds other ways to also provide visual cues.

Understanding organizational culture is a critical leadership skill. Knowing how symbols, ceremonies, and traditions creates certain behaviors enabling leaders to change artifacts to encourage behaviro changes. If something runs counter to a professed value, it is shed. Leaders adopt new artifacts that support behaviors aligned with desired values. Take a look around your work place. What do the dress, visible symbols, behaviors, and traditions say to someone walking in for the first time about what is valued? Change those that subvert what you want others to think of you and your organization, and replace them with artifacts that show the character you seek to achieve.


Photo Credit

Nakita Avvakumov https://www.flickr.com/photos/drnik/2857646470/in/photolist-5mwbJJ-6bXTAW-cWNuEG-ogb2uP-6bXUYC-74auQQ-bjUuLa-dfPbpg-BsuyfJ-8eCvnt-ogstHx-dMZSDL-2A6cFN-E1JUTs-67mS86-ATUtr2-9euKg7-uLhc-57xfTs-Bz4NEy-PZP2PQ-5V9AWA-c7hjWf-wMfExB-QvqyfS-MGFg37-N6NaAj-PZP3zh-NncCAS-zEmsYi-QkEA9Q-ManQ54-N2jNX8-KdZwbq-MCHQ11-MEWtdK-S35rzb-S35rnC-QU9tXK-S35rfd-ExDU2b-622Hms-S5FNVK-RXKgGM-T2GiWi-kHLLyN-RoViju-qyFLP4-r2BLQg-6iE95L Creative Common License

Building a Foundation for Character with Organizational Guiding Principals

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Guiding principles, or values, lay the foundation of character for every organization. A wide variety of people make up organizations, coming from different backgrounds, and bringing different personal and cultural values to the group. An organization’s guiding principles establish what things are important for the organization. Successful organizations establish and ingrain compliance with their guiding principles through training. Using a daily or weekly meeting is an easy way to train employees about the organizations principles.

Let’s say the organization has three guiding principles; loyalty, quality customer service, and finding winning solutions for everyone. Supervisors hold meetings every Monday with their staff. In addition to the regular items, modified_meeting_torimiddelstadt_uaf-school-of-managementthe supervisor includes one of the guiding principles on the first Monday of the month. The supervisor provides the company’s definition of the principles and facilitates a discussion about ways employees can incorporate behaviors into their work lives to live up to the principle. This week they discuss loyalty. The conversation includes loyalty to the company, the smaller group, customers, and shareholders. The meeting breaks and employees go about their work.

During the week the leader moves about the work area looking for opportunities to recognize behaviors that comply with loyalty issues discussed during the weekly meeting. The leader notices a technician on the phone who appears to be talking with a customer. He tells the customer how much he appreciates his loyalty by sticking with company. He explains that he cannot do the repair work for free but will research a discount because of his loyalty.

During the next Monday meeting, the supervisor continues the discussion on loyalty. He starts the conversation by telling the story of the technician who found a way to stay true to the company while rewarding customer loyalty. Next he goes around the room asking others for stories of things they did during the previous week to live the principle of loyalty. Not everyone had a story, but all participated in the conversation. He also facilitated a conversation about how their views of loyalty changed during the week as they focused on different ways to be loyal to all the company stakeholders. The conversation was lively. Eventually the supervisor had to cut them off so they could conduct the business of the company.

The following week, the leader may start the loyalty discussion by telling a story of an experience he had where the principle was the focus of the situation. He opens the floor for others to tell stories. One way to ensure there will be some discussion is to have a chat with one or two employees during the week ending by asking them to share their story at the next weekly meeting.

On the fourth Monday, the group engages in a conversation wrapping what they have learned about loyalty. Again there should be time to allow story telling of application of the principle, but the conversation should shift to lessons learned and how to apply them. Using these steps allows people to be taught about an idea, followed with examples of how to use the idea and concludes by them practicing what they learned. The discussion allows corrections to be made so everyone becomes better and also recognizes behaviors meeting expectations for the particular guiding principle.

On the first Monday of the next month the supervisor introduces the next guiding principle, quality customer service. He follows the same format during the month when they learned about loyalty. The employees are told about quality customer service. They are shown examples of quality customer service. They try and report on their efforts. They are praised for success and coached to improve when they fall short of the standard. The process is repeated the next month for the finding winning solutions principle.

Change up things after going through the guiding principles once . Ask one of the employees in the group to lead themodified_geese-flying_john-johnson conversation when you return to the first guiding principle. Allow that employee to discuss and introduce the guiding principle. She could lead the conversations about how others engaged in behaviors exemplifying the principle. Repeating the process instills a deeper understanding of each principle and allows employees to further ingrain that principle into their daily lives. As new employees come on board, they learn not only how things are done, but why.

Creating organizational change is difficult. Helping employees improve their understanding of an organization’s guiding principles is one step leading to change. As employees begin to live the principles of the organization, the culture changes. Reinforcing each lesson through reflection of behaviors supporting compliance with organizational principles ensures lasting change. Employees see how small changes improve working conditions and organizational cohesion. Focusing attention on a guiding principle at daily or weekly meetings results in easily training teams about each principle. Try it at your next group meeting.

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Photo Credits

All photos from Flickr.com with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Granite wall by Wolfgang Tonschmidt, cropped by author

Group meeting by Tori Middelstadt at UAF School of Management, modified by author

Geese by John Johnson, modified by author

Inspire Others to Go Forth and do Good

ImageAs the hour draws to a close the speaker comments on what a great bunch your group has been. She was so concerned things would not go well because she was not sure what she had to offer would meet the needs of the rest of the team or that she had enough material for the 60 minutes she was allowed. She asks of there are any questions; there are none, and thanks you all for coming. You stand up hoping to sneak out of the room before your boss has an opportunity to corner you about the poor performance of your direct report during the monthly senior staff training, too late, he yells across the room to meet him in his office in five minutes. What went wrong?

Often employees or outside subject matter experts are asked to make presentations about hot topics. Powerful presentations are not guaranteed just because the presenter possesses expert or referent power and may deny the members of the organization the inspiration to do great things with what they have learned. Even when the person makes a great presentation, they may end up talking about everything except the one or two areas of concern for your organization. Taking the time to identify objectives of what you want participants to learn helps you and the presenter focus on material that will enlighten, educate and inspire. Steven Covey calls it beginning with the end in mind.

It may seem too simple to write out a comprehensive terminal learning objective. Doing so focuses the efforts of the trainer to only that information which will help the audience achieve the final educational goal. The end result is a focused presentation meeting the needs of the audience. Steven Covey covers this principal when he advises his readers to begin with the end in mind.

There are three important parts of every learning objective whether it is the capstone objective, or a smaller piece of the puzzle. The parts are action, condition and standard. The action is what you want the student to learn how to accomplish when they complete the training. An example might be something like, “The clerk will complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.” The conditions for the task or action to be completed should include the environment and any tools or resources available while completing the action. Often training is conducted in a classroom or conference style setting and that should be reflected in the condition statement. Finally spell out how someone will know when the student has achieved success by stating the standard. This can be performance steps, standards for a finished product, a score on an examination or any other means of measuring performance. Often in a classroom this may be as simple as, “The student will respond correctly to questions related to the action.”

This is a sample of a TLO for a classroom setting where there will be no formal testing.

Action: Complete a telephonic customer order on the computer.

Conditions: A classroom environment, a block of instruction and random questions from the instructor.

Standard: Correctly answer questions related to taking a customer order on the phone and entering the data into the computer.

Ideally action statements start with a verb. Conditions describe resources available to complete the action. Standards should be measurable and attainable, very much like setting SMART goals.

Establishing learning objectives when assigning someone to conduct training improves communication and enables the trainer to understand the perceived needs of organization. Given an objective such as the one above instead of some generic statement like, “Hey Smith, I need you to give a class on that new software at the next staff training conference next week.” With the first, employees should walk out of the training understanding how to take customer orders using the new software. Who knows what you will get with the second. When you are tasked to provide training, having an understanding of the process allows you to develop a TLO, run it by the person who assigned it and then help you focus your attention on what is necessary to meet expectations.

Developing training objectives help trainers focus on presenting important information in the time allowed for students to achieve a given task. When assigned, both the manager and the trainer have better expectations of what the finished product includes. Quality learning objectives contain three parts, the action, the conditions, and the standards. When assigned by your manager to train others using a learning goal ensures you and he understand what is expected of you. Don’t let your next presentation flop. Take the time to develop an objective for the time you are given to teach others.

References

Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. electronic edition. New York, NY: Rosetta Books, 2012.

Henry, V. E. (2002). The COMPSTAT paradigm: management accountability in policing, business, and the public sector. Flushing, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications.

http://www.grayharriman.com/ADDIE_Writing_Learning_Objectives.htm

Photo by tiffa 130 on flicka  http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiffanyday/4233065842/sizes/o/in/photolist-7s4yZQ-8Wryi-ffna1C-47iP3d-52AQpJ-bGYWzB-4AufPZ-6tcK9H-9TLQ4V-8NuGDD-8Hg5U4-9JMiVv-9JMita-9JgqsL-7YrzMS-dKTJnF-8HpL4e-BFAGU-eNMWSj-eNNwHC-7n4gRh-eNN2rq-bZzNxs-c4SdKS-c5qaBj-c4SXZQ-bZH6nN-bZSrEN-c5EoAW-bZyRyh-5Vc4Mb-5Vc4uY-gx8cF-e4GEBY-dtYtxp-5F11Pu-4gL5v1-4tppYd-Gfs6t-BXKac-c5ECoN-c5Er4b-c5EzqU-c5EtBq-c5Es7u-c5EpMy-c5Ev57-c5EAUf-c5ExWq-bZPjLw-bZPucw/

Trainer = Leader

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   The Director of the Training Council opened the instructor development course congratulating the soon-to-be instructors on their selection for attendance. “You have entered a new level of your career. As an instructor, you represent management and to be successful you must be convincing as you present your training material to employees.” The Director could have said as instructors and trainers you are leaders. Even without the title, people selected by any organization to conduct training, whether members of the organization, or outside consultants, are leaders of that organization.

    Training is intended to change behaviors by influencing employees to conduct their activities in accordance with the procedures presented. The best definitions of leadership include descriptions of influencing others, providing motivation, sharing a vision or improving the organization. Trainers do all these things.

    Anytime the official leaders of an organization introduce change they typically provide some sort of training program. The training describes the desired change ensuring employees understand the new philosophy and can complete new processes. Frequently formal leaders, sometimes called managers, are called upon to conduct the training, but not always. How the trainer presents the material will either improve acceptance and success or result in rejection of ideas by employees and failure of the concept in practice. Training presented passionately in favor increases success and the trainer’s profile with senior leaders.

    Selection as an instructor gives line employees on opportunity to develop an appreciation for the vision of the top leaders in the organization. Most employees know where the organization is, but few at the bottom of the organizational chart really understand where the CEO wants to go. Becoming involved in the training infrastructure of an organization requires employees to take a few steps up the ladder improving their view of the destination. Employees who have demonstrated an ability to influence others in a positive fashion are more likely to be selected by managers to conduct organizational change training. Selection as a trainer provides an opportunity to learn more about the organizational culture and help senior leaders determine if those employees demonstrate abilities required to fulfill future leadership positions. Employees seeking ways to open the doors to formal leadership positions look for opportunities to teach and train. Often employees may be unaware their desire to teach mark them as future leaders, and all too often managers overlook those in training roles when leadership positions become available.

    If your eyes are raised higher up the organizational ladder here are several ways you can improve your chances of becoming a trainer and attracting the attention of you bosses. After attending a training, mention to your supervisor you would like an opportunity to present what you learned to others in your section at your next staff meeting. Once you receive approval, mention the training to some of your contacts in other sections or shifts. Their interest may draw them to the meeting increasing your exposure. A successful meeting may result in requests from others in the organization. Think about professional organizations for your career field and material you are qualified to present. Meeting attendance is improved when someone is scheduled to speak about a cutting edge topic. You may not receive any pay for your appearance, but the movers and shakers in the group will recognize your contribution and when the time comes to move along or they need to fill a leadership position you will be recognized as one with expertise.

   Trainers influence organizational culture and behavior. Learning to train others provides junior employees opportunities to show their leaders they possess skills to influence others and an ability to communicate important ideas and concepts. By creating quality training programs, trainers help management introduce important organizational changes focused on improvement. Standing in front of the crowd provides the trainer a spotlight to demonstrate their ability to organization leaders to influence others. As a trainer you are a leader in your organization. Change a life; change your organization; take time to train others and become a leader.

   Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tippinst1/9142907874/in/photolist-eVVMYE-eVJo6c-eVJoGH-eVJoCe-eVVNkj-eVJoMV-eVJnEP-eVJnup-eVVNqm-dQfD4p-dQmfx9-dQfDjk-dQmfE7-dQfNpg-dQmfCu-dQmfBs-dQmpA1-dQmftL-dQi58o-dQctjK-dQcte6-dQmfyd-dQmpvb-dQi5vj-dQfNir-dQfDcv-dQmpqS-dQfNjc-dQhQ7f-dQmpBS-dQmpxq-dQfD6n-dQctia-dQmfo1-dQi5iY-dQfNog-dQcdez-efkXb2-5JNgcc-dQmfKj-dQmfqq-dQmfn9-dQfDkM-dQctfV-dQm9xN-dQm9wJ-dQcuc2-dQmh6S-dQm3Z3-dQibYW-dQm4Qu/lightbox/