Framing your problem so it can be solved..


By Elisabeth Goodman, 22nd February 2017

I had a very enjoyable day yesterday teaching four young people about Lean and Six Sigma as they explored how to improve one of their processes.  I work on the premise that ‘problems are treasures’: the more you find and deal with, the less fire-fighting you will have to do at time and cost critical times. They found lots of lovely problems to explore, and we got stuck into the 5 Why’s and Fishbone analysis to find the root causes to one of them.

fishbone-analysis

Fishbone analysis – illustration adapted from “The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook” by Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Publishing, 2015

How each problem is framed can make an enormous difference to what root causes are found, and how many of them.  This was graphically illustrated with when a re-framing of the problem resulted in some root causes that the team could actually do something about, as opposed to the original root cause which would have fairly limited potential.

I already know, from the workshops I’ve attended with the Ideas Centre that it’s worth exploring the nature of a problem before getting down to finding solutions for it.  There are many ways to do this.

Find the root causes

The Lean and Six Sigma techniques provide one way to do this.  As the story I share about the Jefferson Memorial building illustrates: there’s no point investing in bird scarers when the root cause for high cleaning bills caused by large number of birds, is actually when the street lights are turned on creating a food chain from midges, to spiders to birds.  The solution hinges on the timing of the street lights rather than the bird scarers!

jefferson-memorial-coloured

Illustration of the Jefferson Memorial building in “The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook”, by Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Publishing, 2015

The different headings in Fishbone analysis can also provide useful prompts to explore what other themes might be associated with a problem.  Is it to do with people, the methods or metrics being used, the wider environment, the systems or IT involved, or the materials available?

Get other people’s perspectives

A Lean Sigma principle is that it’s the people doing the work who have the best understanding of the associated problems.  As I found in the Ideas Centre workshops, involving people who are not directly concerned with the work will bring some different and often helpful perspectives on a problem.  They will ask the ‘dumb’ questions that those doing the work might not be aware of, or may not have the courage to ask.  That could help re-frame the problem, as well potentially providing some very different solutions.

A January-February 2017 Harvard Business Review article: “Are you solving the right problems” by  Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, p.76, refers to people who can provide these other perspectives as ‘boundary spanners’.

Think about the problem differently

One of my previous blogs about the value of learning to draw references a number of ways that we can think about or look at a problem differently, and the HBR article referenced above has a nice range of ideas too.

I like the suggestion that we could think about what could be happening, as opposed to what the problem is.  This has hints of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) – what vision would we like to move towards?  Appreciative Inquiry – what situations can we think of where things have worked the way we would like them to?  Clean Language / Questions – what would we like to have happen?  We can gain insights from these positive mindsets and experiences that could help us reframe and resolve the problem.

Conclusion

 

It’s worth spending time experimenting with how you frame your problem.  What solution will one definition of the problem give you?  Will a different definition potentially lead you in a different direction?

The various techniques described above could help you.  Treating each problem as a treasure to be welcomed, rather than another headache to get anxious about could be an interesting mind-set to experiment with too!

As one of yesterday’s delegates said in his feedback, they took away some good learnings from the course: “Wonderful training course, learnt plenty, look forward to using this knowledge.”  Hopefully one of those learnings will be to think carefully about how they frame their problems.  Will you?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

 

Decision making. Noise, intuition and the value of feedback.


By Elisabeth Goodman, 1st February 2017

There is a lot more ‘noise’ in decision making than we might suppose.

The Harvard Business Review has been running some very useful articles on decision making.  The most recent article by Kahneman D. et al, “The cost of inconsistent decision making”, October 2016, p.38, suggests that the incidence of professionals or experts making different decisions on the basis of the same facts and data is higher than we might suppose.  They call this “noise”.

HBR article by Kahneman D. et al on noise in decision making

HBR article by Kahneman D. et al on noise in decision making

This is different from bias, where people might make a consistently wrong decision based on their prejudices. (I wrote a blog based about this some time ago after reading Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Science”.)

Kahneman et al suggest that this noise, or variability, in decision making could be quite important in professional settings that require judgement, such as medicine, finance, project management.  Presumably this would also apply to scientific research and development, and in such areas of management as evaluating job performance!

The authors maintain that people assume that they, and their peers, will be able to make good and consistent judgements, and yet this is not the case.

Decision making relies on intuition, as well as facts and data

I was reminded of a series of three blogs that I wrote a few years ago based on Gary Klein’s book “The power of intuition”.  To quote an extract from the third blog: intuition “is solidly founded on experience and can be enhanced or diminished dependent on our receptiveness, diligence and the environment in

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Quality decision making is one of the good practices that RiverRhee explores for high performance teams.  Click here for more information. 

which we operate.  It is the result of our expertise and how we exercise it.”

The September 2016 article on decision making “How to tackle your toughest decisions”, by Badaracco J.L, p.104. suggests five key questions to consider, in order to use judgement effectively.  Badaracco defines judgement as a combination of thought, feelings, experience, imagination and character – so some echoes of Klein’s definition of intuition.

Decision making is enhanced by good feedback

Kahneman et al. remind us that in high skill areas such as playing chess, or driving, we get very rapid and significant feedback on our decisions.  If we make a false move, there are very tangible consequences!

By contrast, decisions made in projects, or in research and development can take quite a long time to play out before we know the outcomes and their implications.

Management decisions such as evaluation of performance, can also result in quite rapid feedback from the individuals concerned, but it may not always be considered in a very constructive way..

Practitioners of Knowledge Management already use a range of techniques to help them and their teams reflect on what they can learn from experience.  This is a form of feedback.  The techniques include short and sharp “After Action Reviews” after significant milestones, and more in-depth “Learning Retrospects” at the end of projects.

Systematic approaches for reducing noise in decision making

Kahneman et al, Klein and Badaracco between them suggest a number of approaches for enhancing decision making.. Their approaches, and some others that I have come across include:

Tapping into different mindsets

The MBTI zigzag model ensures that we use the different information and decision making preferences available to us: ‘sensing’ to review all the facts and data; ‘intuition’ to extrapolate to what might be; ‘thinking’ to consider cause and effect; ‘feeling’ to reference how we feel about alternatives and outcomes.

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is another variation of this, and helps a group of people work collaboratively in both generating and then evaluating ideas.

Badaracco’s five suggested questions is yet another variation (with thanks to my colleague Liz Mercer for talking me through these..):

  • Think, as widely as possible and with input from others, about the net, net consequences of all your options.
  • Consider your core obligations to the key people (stakeholders) affected by your decision: what they would think and feel about the consequences.
  • Think about the world as it is – be pragmatic about your chances for success.
  • Consider your values – what do you / your organisation stand for, and how would this decision align with those values.
  • Ask yourself “can we live with this”? Imagine explaining your decision to a friend or partner and what their reaction would be.

Using 4-box and more complex decision matrices

The 4-box decision matrix used in RiverRhee's Lean Sigma courses for evaluating decisions.

The 4-box decision matrix used in RiverRhee’s Lean Sigma courses for evaluating potential improvement solutions.

These are visual tools for evaluating alternative options against agreed criteria.  The 4-box matrix is the simplest version.  More complex decision matrices will have more criteria.

Check-lists and carefully formatted questions

This would seem a fairly simple way to document the factors to be considered when making perhaps more routine decisions, ensuring that all the necessary information has been collected and evaluated.

Constructing algorithms

This is Kahneman et al’s main recommendation for reducing ‘noise’ in decision making, after conducting a ‘noise audit’ to find out quite how bad the variability is.  They suggest that it would be possible to construct algorithms fairly simply, by identifying a few (6-8) key variables that are closely linked to the outcome. These could then be combined into a formula, with alternative decisions assigned to the different outcomes.  Sadly the article was missing a simple example to illustrate this approach.

Using Decision making exercises or ‘DMX’ from Klein

These are “an accelerated learning process” for developing individual intuition.  They rely on defining and working through scenarios as a group, so participants can gain quicker and deeper insights from each others expertise.

Kahneman el at suggest something similar: but with people working on a given scenario independently – and then coming together to explore the decisions made and what they can learn from that.

Conclusion

So, there are lots of factors to consider for improved decision making.

You could conduct a “noise audit”: have people make decisions independently to find out how different their conclusions are, and use this as a learning opportunity in its own right or…

….explore alternative approaches for your decision making.

You could use techniques such as “decision making exercises” to enhance people’s intuitive skills.

And you could ensure that you collect feedback and take time to learn about the consequences of your decisions on a more systematic basis.

What will you do?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Developing your coaching skills as a manager


By Elisabeth Goodman, 18th January 2017

There are so many resources available to help managers perform at their best.

We teach coaching skills in  RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management  course and just one of several frameworks available for that.  We also apply these skills ourselves as coaches. The result is a double benefit: it enhance managers’ performance and it gives them a tool to develop their direct reports’ performance.

I’m always looking out for new resources to develop my own performance as well to pass these on to the scientists and managers that we work with.

I recently wrote about Appreciative Inquiry and how this could be applied to the GROW model of coaching.

I’ve been re-visiting Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work”, and it seemed a very good fit with the Discover phase in the 5-step model that I learnt about in Appreciative Inquiry. (This phase equates to the Options step in GROW.)  I tried some of this out with someone I was coaching and really liked the result.  This is how a couple of Stanier’s tools could be used in the Discover or Options steps.

Make sure you have helped the person you’re coaching articulate what it is they want to achieve

This the Define step in Appreciate Inquiry, or the Goal in GROW.  In particular, help them to articulate this in positive terms: what they want to move towards, rather than away from.

Ask them to think about what’s currently happening: find the great work and their values

They might dwell on the things that are going OK, or the things they are not happy about.  (This by the way equates to the Reality step in GROW).  What you’re after are the instances of great things that are happening, even if only once!

Getting them to jot down their thoughts can be a good aid to their reflection.

illustration-for-doing-more-great-work

Illustration of the tools in Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do More Great Work” for exploring great work.

Exploring why the individual has selected that or those examples of great work will reveal what they value most about their work, what motivates them, what their particular strengths are that they would like more of.

What to do once you’ve discovered what makes your work great!

I also like Stanier’s 4-box grid which compares and contrasts things the individual cares and does not care about, with those that their organisation do or don’t care about and thought it could be usefully super-imposed with the 5-Ds’ from the MindGym’s book “Give me time”.

So this becomes a useful tool for discussing what options the individual has in relation to their aspiration for doing more great work.

taking-action-on-great-work

Michael Bungay Stanier’s ‘caring’ 4-box matrix overlayed with the 5Ds (in blue text) from the MindGym

The ideal is of course the dream scenario, but the reality is that we tend to have a mix in our work – and we may need to decide what we want to do about that.

(The dream scenario fits nicely with the Dream step in Appreciative Inquiry.)

At this point, the person you are coaching may be ready to consider what they will do…

These are the Design / Deliver steps in Appreciative Inquiry or the Will step in the GROW model.

…as always, I’d be interested in hearing what readers think of these tools and approaches…

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

 

 

Why leadership training fails – some tips for what to do about it


Guest blog by Liz Mercer, 11th January 2017.

why-leadership-training-fails_hbr-oct16

Editor’s note

Delegates from RiverRhee’s training courses often come away with one or more new ways of working that they would like to influence when they get back to their place of work. We are glad that this is the case: it is an indication that we have helped them to reflect about their own and others’ approaches to work, and what could be done to improve things.

However, they can sometimes be frustrated by the difficulties associated with implementing these changes. So I was very interested to hear about this article that Liz Mercer had come across, and suggested that she write this blog as a guest author to tell us more about it.

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The organisational context needs to be right for learning and growth

As passionate proponents of all things Leadership Development, I was drawn to an article in Harvard Business Review’s October 2016 edition, entitled ‘Why leadership training fails – and what to do about it’.

It’s my own experience, and long held belief that there are four key elements that need to be in place before any leadership development activity can truly work:

These are:

  • The leader has a desire to learn and grow, and the timing is right
  • The leader has some self-awareness and is motivated to improve their emotional intelligence
  • Supportive mentors and managers provide the right playground for development to be a positive learning experience
  • The organisation creates the space and opportunity to experiment and grow

So, when the articles’ authors Michael Beer et al, proposed that “no matter how smart and motivated they (leaders) are” unless you have “a favourable context for learning and growth” brought about by “senior executives attending to organisational design”, my attention was turned to much broader and more wide ranging considerations.

More than that…” if the system does not change, it will not support and sustain individual behaviour change – indeed it will set it up to fail”.

They go on to say that organisations will continue to put millions of pounds, time and energy into leadership development, only to find when leaders try to embed the behaviour change that they are now so committed to, they simply hit brick walls, barriers and infertile ground: a somewhat depressing thought for so early in this new year.

HR’s role came up for closer inspection once again too. I am familiar with the need to align learning, training and development with organisation strategy and goals: to identify the right set of competencies to develop in the people who can deliver the strategy and make change happen.

The organisation as a ‘system’

And yet, I was reminded by the article that organisations are systems of interacting elements, including, but not limited to roles, responsibilities, relationships, organisation structures, processes, styles, cultures, back grounds – the list goes on. It’s an amalgamation of all these elements that drive organisation performance and behaviour, not just, and only, the leadership community.

In their research, the authors found that CEO’s and their leadership teams needed to be confronted with uncomfortable truths more frequently, in order that they can free up the organisation and its leaders to take it where they want it to go.   One CEO insisted on taking a step back before approving a programme of leader development. When managers were asked to say what barriers they experienced, it wasn’t a lack of training that was the issue, some old favourites emerged…

  • The senior team didn’t have a clear and articulated strategy with corporate values
  • Well-structured talent and development planning discussions were infrequent
  • Talent hoarding restricted movement and created higher turnover

I noted that in the end, once the systemic changes happen then this encourages – even requires – the desired behaviours that leaders embrace in leadership development programmes.

So, what can you do about it?

The authors identified six basic steps to real talent development and these are summarised here:

  1. The senior team clearly defines values and an inspiring strategic direction
  2. Identification of barriers to learning and strategy execution: this may result in the redesign of roles, responsibilities and relationships.
  3. Day to day coaching and process consultation to help improve effectiveness in this new ‘system’
  4. Training and development activity is embedded where needed
  5. New metrics for individual and organisational performance are developed.
  6. Systems for selecting, evaluating, developing, and promoting talent are adjusted to reflect and sustain changes in organisational behaviour.

And so, what I loved about this article was that it reminded me of the importance of the ‘system’ in leader development and organisation growth. To ignore the system runs the risk of the huge investments made in leadership development, simply not paying off.

What this means for me as a proponent of managerial, leadership and organisation development is an increased focus on diagnosing the systemic barriers to individual growth and organisational development: for these to be worked on at least in parallel to leader development, if not earlier than that.

Only in this way will leadership development efforts have a real chance of success and, thereby, make organisations unstoppable in what they can achieve!

HBR article authors:

Michael Beer is the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and a cofounder of TruePoint Partners, a research and consulting firm specialising in organisational transformation. Magnus Finnstrom and Derek Schrader are directors at TruePoint.

About the editor

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

About the author

Liz Mercer is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting.  She is a Human Resources professional, with 30 years experience, mainly in Pharmaceuticals and Biotech and understands the challenges of leadership, management and team development. 

Liz runs her own business, Perla Development, providing training, facilitation and coaching, for individuals and teams: with a particular interest in the challenges for virtual team leaders. She is an accomplished facilitator and development coach.

She has a Masters in Organisational Behaviour, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is accredited in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

 

 

 

What to do when the difficult person is your boss


By Elisabeth Goodman, 19th December 2016

untitled-design

My Associates and I at RiverRhee have a module that we explore with managers on dealing with difficult situations.  It is also something that can crop up in our one-to-one coaching.  Our delegates often have examples of situations that they have encountered with colleagues that they would like help with how to address.  Those colleagues are often peers or direct reports, occasionally they are their own bosses.

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So it was with interest that I read Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries’ article in December’s Harvard Business Review, “Do you hate your boss?” (pp.98-100).  The article is based on his work as a researcher, management coach and psychoanalyst, and includes some illustrative case studies.

People leave their boss rather than their job

Kets de Vries started by quoting some statistics that confirm the common maxim that people leave their boss rather than their job.  He stated that 77% of people in a Gallup survey said that they were engaged with their work and had positive interactions with their manager. Only 23% of those who were not engaged with their work had the same degree of positivity.

“Is it me”? Consider your own behaviour first

It was good to read Kets de Vries echo some of our guidelines: to consider whether it might be your own behaviour, rather than your boss’s, that is contributing to the difficult situation. He suggested that you reflect on the feedback that your boss has given you about your work to see if addressing that might make a difference.  Asking colleagues about and observing positive ways in which they interact with your boss, and asking them for feedback on your own behaviour could also help.  Asking your boss directly for ways that you could be even more effective in your work is an additional option.

Empathy is a great aid for achieving mutual understanding and rapport

I liked Ket de Vries’s suggestion that you should use empathy to put yourself in your boss’s shoes.  This could help you to understand what pressures your boss might be under, and how this in turn may be affecting their behaviour towards you.  After all we are all subject to stresses and strains, and we can’t always put them to one side.  An open question during an informal occasion: travelling together, over dinner, etc. may provide just the opportunity to show interest in what your boss is currently dealing with and so pave the way for a more positive relationship.

Of course you could seek a more direct way to open the discussion about how the two of you are or are not getting on, but the situation may have become too difficult to do so.

Waiting for an opportune moment to have a non-confrontational ‘debrief’

So, if neither of the above non-confrontational routes work, then Ket de Vries suggests waiting for an opportunity where you have worked with your boss on a project, or with a client, and perhaps things have not gone to plan, may lend itself to an ‘after action review’ style discussion.  You could suggest that the two of you take some time together to reflect on what happened, and on what you could both have done differently.  Again, this can be handled in a non-confrontational way.

Last resorts..

Ket de Vries’s final two options are to either organise a formal protest to HR, with the support of your colleagues.  Be careful to have facts and data to support you! Or you could start looking for your next job.  The author suggests that waiting for things to get better is only recommended if you give yourself a timeframe for that, rather than waiting indefinitely.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Performance reviews – kill them or keep them?


By Elisabeth Goodman and Liz Mercer, 6th December 2016

The idea of starting our own ‘Journal Club’ cropped up recently during a demonstration of the GROW coaching model on one of RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management course.  Both of us are keen to keep up with our professional reading and so pick up and feed ideas more effectively into the training and coaching that we provide to our clients.

hbr-article-on-performance-evaluations-nov-2016

Goler, Gale and Grant’s Harvard Business Review (HBR) article “Let’s not kill performance evaluations yet” (November 2016 pp.91-94) seemed a fitting topic to start with as it’s one that we cover in our course, and has also been very much to the fore recently in our in-house training for clients.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that this HBR article is written from a US perspective and may not be reflective of the situation elsewhere.  It is also a case study of Facebook’s approach where Goler and Gale work.  Dale is a professor at Wharton and also a consultant to Facebook.  That said, there are some good, thought provoking ideas relevant to any organisation that employs people! And many organisations we’ve worked with have considered the same opportunities and challenges.

Performance evaluations, performance reviews, appraisals – what’s the difference?

The terms seem to be used somewhat interchangeably.  The article seems to focus on the use of performance ratings or scores as an integral part of performance evaluations.  We have mainly seen or heard the terms performance reviews and appraisals used interchangeably in the UK – and tend to use the former, as in the title for this blog.

Arguments for killing or keeping performance reviews

Goler et al have found that some organisations are stopping the formal performance reviews altogether, because the assignment of ratings is often biased, and the annual cycle means that employees don’t get feedback often or soon enough.

However, as the authors point out, ratings will still be assigned by management behind the scenes as a way of making decisions about pay and promotion. They suggest that the mechanism for assigning ratings should be transparent.

They also argue that something is better than nothing: people want to have feedback on their performance and discuss their development goals.  They quote Daniel Kahneman’s findings that even bad news about performance is better than no news – it gives people the certainty that they need to adjust their perspective and take action.

Some of the organisations that Goler et al have come across are switching to real-time feedback systems.  However, they suggest that an annual review is a useful way of formalising the process – allowing proper time for consideration and reflection.

Our experience of performance reviews in the UK

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All the companies that we have come across are using some form of performance reviews.  Our experience is that some of them are:

  • Taking the rating piece out of the performance review discussion, so as to allow a more open discussion – however that does mean there is less transparency about how pay and promotion decisions are made.
  • Supplementing the formal annual review with quarterly or twice yearly reviews.  Something that is particularly important for many of the Life Science organisations that we work with, as the unexpectedness and uncertainty of science can make it important to review and adapt objectives on an on-going basis.
  • Ensuring that direct reports have regular one-to-one discussions with their managers to discuss feedback in a timely way

How Facebook is taking performance evaluations a step further

Facebook has adopted some interesting approaches to their performance evaluations.

  1. Peers write evaluations, share them with their managers, and, in most cases, one another.  This supports openness and transparency.
  2. Managers then discuss their reports in a face-to-face meeting, championing and defending.  This reduces the risk of personal bias.
  3. Managers then write the performance review documents – which are examined by a team of analysts to remove bias.
  4. Ratings are translated into compensation using a pre-defined formula.

In addition:

  1. They set stretch goals, with a 50:50 chance of success, as they believe it is more motivating for people to have something high to aim for.  They suggest that people want to find out and know what they can and can’t achieve.
  2. Senior leaders share the feedback from their own performance evaluations, normalising the fact that they too can sometimes fall short of targets.
  3. There is a general acceptance that people will not get the same performance ratings from one year to the next.

What we would like to see adopted more widely by organisations

We don’t have a solution yet on whether ratings should be shared as part of the performance review discussion.  We can see arguments either way.  However we do think that:

  1. How ratings are determined should be transparent.
  2. There is definitely value in senior managers having a face-to-face discussion about all the performance reviews of their managers’ direct reports, for the reasons described by Facebook.  We know one company in the UK that does this both before and after the performance review discussions.
  3. More effort should be made to collect feedback from other managers or peers that individuals work with, especially in matrix organisations where they may report to both line and project managers.
  4. Performance discussions should be a continuous process, throughout the year – a shared conversation and based on a growth mindset.

And we do believe that some form of annual review process should be retained, for all the reasons given above!

About the authors

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Liz Mercer is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting.  She is a Human Resources professional, with 30 years experience, mainly in Pharmaceuticals and Biotech and understands the challenges of leadership, management and team development.  Liz also runs her own business providing training, facilitation and coaching, for individuals and teams: with a particular interest in the challenges for virtual team leaders. She has a Masters in Organisational Behaviour, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is accredited in MBTI and has a certificate in Coaching.

 

Appreciative Inquiry – a tool and philosophy for positive change


The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

The Appreciative Inquiry five-step model

By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th November 2016

Asking questions sets the tone for what will follow – start from what’s working well

It seemed obvious from the moment that our facilitator, Andy Smith (Coaching Leaders), mentioned it at the start of the two day course on Appreciative Inquiry (AI) that I attended this week. The minute you ask someone, or a group of people a question, you have influenced their mindset. Ask them what they like about something, or what is going well, and the chances are they will relax, open up and be in the mood to be creative. Ask them what’s not working and they may get defensive, close up and descend into despondency.

That’s a simplification of course as people may want to air their problems before they can open up to explore solutions, and they may automatically rise to the challenge rather than wait to be asked the right question. But the general premise of AI is to focus on what’s working well, on what people do best and on everyone’s potential to do so much more and better. Asking the right, open, positive questions will enable this to happen.

There are implications for coaching and personal development, for team building, for problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management and for managing change! This blog just highlights a few of the ways to do this. There’s obviously a lot more about this that I will weave into RiverRhee‘s work and that you can find out about from some of the references below.

A new five-step model

The illustration at the start of this blog is of the five-step model. (Andy calls this ‘the 5 Ds’ but I already have a different 5D model that I refer to for time or productivity management so I will keep these distinct.)

Define the topic to be explored in an affirmative way: so it is stated in terms of what you want to move towards, rather than the problem to be moved away from. Focus on the vision and your mind and body will be already working out creative ways to achieve it.

Discover all the things that you are already doing well towards achieving that vision. This is where the affirmative questioning really starts to kick in.

Dream what it would be like when you achieve that vision: what will you hear, feel, see, think? What would it be like if a miracle happened overnight? This step engages the emotions: the heart as well as the mind and creates a really compelling vision.

Design all the possible alternatives (without evaluating at this stage) for achieving the dream. Build on what’s going well and stretch beyond that.

Deliver – this is the point at which you evaluate the alternatives and decide on the next steps to achieve your vision.

Applying Appreciative Inquiry to coaching

People familiar with the GROW and T-GROW models of coaching will have spotted that define equates with setting the topic (T) or goal (G). Discover equates to reality (R) but with a focus on what’s working well rather than on what’s generally happening. Dream is an enhanced version of the goal. Design equates to options (O) but holding back on evaluating those options. Deliver equates to will ( W ).

The slightly different order of the AI five-step process means that the aspirational vision or dream can build on the positive mood generated and so be more creative than the early definition of the goal permits in the GROW model. Although, in practice, either model can be iterative in a coaching situation.

Appreciative Inquiry and team building

The five-step model could also be used with a group of people in a team situation, to explore how a team can become more effective and attain, or sustain high performance. It could be used ‘live’ within a workshop, as an alternative to using pre-workshop diagnostics or temperature checks as described in some of my previous blogs for team development.

So the team can define in real time what it wants to achieve, discover all the things it is currently doing well, dream of what it could do, brainstorm how it could get there (design), and then agree the actions to take forward (deliver). The team could use rating scales (1 to 5, 1 to 10 etc) at any point in this discussion to make their assessments and goals more tangible.

Appreciative Inquiry and problem solving, decision making, innovation, knowledge and project management

As the previous sections demonstrate, the five-step model has built in approaches to aid with problem solving, decision making and innovation. Focusing on what has gone well and using the dream steps arguably allow people to go beyond just fixing the problem into new realms of creativity.

Apparently others have already explored how to apply AI in Lean and Six Sigma, and I shall look into this more. Certainly, exploring what has gone well and why, in the Measure and Analyse phases of the DMAIC are possibilities that I do already touch upon in my RiverRhee courses. We also sometimes use ‘blue sky’ thinking to imagine a ‘to be’ way of working in the Improve phase.

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, and the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis also encourage equivalents to the Discover step (yellow hat, and Strengths respectively), the Dream step (green and Opportunities), and Design (green again, and the actions arising out of the SWOT analysis).

Andy also mentioned SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) as an affirmative alternative to SWOT and which should give more scope for the Dream step!

Finally, knowledge management techniques will obviously benefit from AI, especially as having a productive conversation is at the heart of sharing knowledge between people. After Action Reviews, Learning Reviews or Retrospects (or Lessons Learned exercises in Project Management) already explore what went well. So AI techniques and philosophies would enhance the outcomes in these areas too.

Appreciative Inquiry and managing change

Last but not least, AI has something to offer those leading or dealing with change and so support one of my missions which is to create ‘navigators‘ as opposed to ‘victims’ of change! We can aim to understand and look for ways to maintain, enhance, or at a minimum, compensate for the best of what people previously had in creating whatever the new situation might be. And we can ensure that that new situation is as compelling a vision or ‘dream’ as possible.

In conclusion

There are lots of opportunities to apply Appreciative Inquiry tools and ways of thinking in our working and home lives.  I am using some of these applications already, and looking forward to exploring more with with clients, colleagues, friends and family!

I’ll try not to be a “rose-tinted evangelist” though: we still need to acknowledge the very real problems and challenges that people experience and how they feel about them.

How might you apply AI?

further references

ABOUT THE author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.