Tag Archives: roles and responsibilities

From stoical survivor to natural navigator – strategies for proactive change programme managers.

By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th February 2015

Roles of those associated with change programmes

I’ve just come back from delivering a seminar for the Midlands branch of the APM, with my colleague (and Chair) on the APM Enabling Change SIG, Martin Taylor. The event, “How to keep programmes on track and teams inspired during periods of change”, attracted a lively set of people.  About a third of them were managing change programmes, another third were supporting programmes in some way and a further third were frequently (!) being drawn into change whilst addressing their day to day responsibilities.

This blog reflects some of the points that came up on the theme of proactive management of change programmes.

(By the way, this was our second visit to the Midlands branch of the APM.  I spoke last year on Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects.)

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

The nature of change within change programmes

I was impressed by how some of the people I spoke to were doing what they did because they enjoyed the challenge of change. They were often dealing with continuous change, rather than discrete periods of it, had multiple change programmes on the go, sometimes juggling equal priorities, whilst at the same time coping with change within the programme itself.  These ‘internal’ programme changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Sponsor turnover
  • Shifting objectives
  • Additional constraints on timelines, budgets and resources
  • External impacts – legislation, competitors, politics – the typical components of a PESTEL analysis. (We are now entering the “purdah” period for the forthcoming UK elections which brings additional constraints for those operating in or with the public sector.)

Strategies for keeping change programmes on track

Some of those present mentioned how they would like now and then to have just a few change programmes to deal with at a time.

They’d like to see some joined up thinking between programmes, especially where they are affecting the same stakeholders.

They’d also like the decision makers to remember why individual programmes are happening in the context of the bigger organisational strategy.

All of these and more formed the basis of a check list that Martin and I developed with the delegates for how they could proactively keep programmes on track during periods of change. (The full list, other notes and slides from the event will be posted shortly on the APM Enabling Change SIG microsite.)

Victims, survivors and navigators of change

The above proactive approach to change is also an illustration of how programme managers can effectively be navigators rather than victims or survivors of change (terms defined by Richard McKnight and further described in one of my publications – The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2013).

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Victim, survivor and navigator responses to change

Being a victim of change, as the name implies, is an unproductive ‘us and them’ mindset where we blame others for the situation we find ourselves in and expect them to sort it out. Whilst we may occasionally need to give way to our emotions in this way, as leaders of change we do, at some point, have to shake ourselves up and get on with it.

Stoical survival techniques can also only be temporary. It’s a kind of “in limbo” state where we are only just coping, and it will bring its own stresses.

Navigators on the other hand are people who ’embrace’ change and explore what they can do to make it happen in a constructive way: tackling the issues, anticipating the risks, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

Helping your team to be inspired during change

In the seminar we also discussed how managers can help their teams to be ‘inspired’ during the changes that affect the team: the sorts of changes that we outlined above. These changes can ‘hit’ the team at any stage of its development: whether newly formed, already storming or in full high performance flow.

We discussed how the programme manager can and should adopt the situational leadership approach: being highly directive during periods of uncertainty and ensuring that members of the team have one-to-one time to discuss their concerns and explore their ideas.

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Members of the team, as much as the stakeholders affected by the outcome of the change programme, will benefit from plenty of communication. We all respond best when we have some degree of certainty and control over what happens to us.

Any information, however negative, or preliminary will help towards certainty.

Clear roles and responsibilities, and some level of involvement, will help people to feel more in control.

If, as a programme manager, you can provide this level of direction and support for your team, you will create the conditions where team members can feel more motivated, become navigators themselves and take more of a leadership role within their own domain of responsibility, and ultimately be more creative and inspired!

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, 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. 

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 (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

Finding the leader within ourselves

Why yet another article about leadership?

I’ve had an unusually busy few weeks so the gap between my blogs has been greater than usual. However the magical combination, for me, of coming across an inspirational article, engaging with enthusiastic people, and listening to others’ ideas at a conference has finally triggered my own reflections!

So, this blog is about leadership.  As Julia Hordle, a speaker at this week’s Perfect Information 2014 (#PIC2014) conference, pointed out, there is already a lot of literature on this topic.  So, like Julia, I’m not making any claims to be an expert, nor am I going to try to cover the whole area.  These are just a few points that have struck me in what I heard from her and others this week.

Everyone in a team is a potential leader

I can’t remember who said this during the years that I was working at GlaxoSmithKline.  It may have been one of the values that informed our performance review discussions. The idea was that everyone within a team had a particular area of expertise and a particular strength, and by exercising leadership in those, could really add value to the work of the team.  (This was often referred to as ’empowerment’.)

It was whilst I was at GSK that I was also introduced to ‘Lessons from Geese‘, inspired by Milton Olson, and beautifully captured in the video by Breakthrough Global.  Amongst the several lessons is that of everyone taking a turn at doing things, rather than expecting the team leader to do it all.

Some of the lessons from geese for high performing teams

Some of the lessons from geese for high performing teams

Julia Hordle shared another video, Lord Digby Jones’ 5 tips to business where he encourages leaders to train their teams to do the simple things well so that, when they are faced by challenging tasks, their intuition can kick in and so, by implication, exercise leadership in what they do.

As my co-speaker, Steve Boronski, pointed out during our joint workshop at #PIC2014 on “Project Management through a knowledge and information management lens”, when everyone within a team is clear on what they are expected to do, and has the training to do it, then the team leader’s role is ‘simply’ that of managing by exception: providing the support and direction to deal with the unexpected.

Also on this point, the article that has inspired me to write this blog is the one on Blue Ocean Leadership, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, in the May 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review (pp.60-72), pointed out by my business colleague Sarah Hillman.  There are some terrific insights in the article on the behaviours of ‘to-be’ as opposed to ‘as-is’ leadership.  I particularly liked the concept of “inspiring people to give their all as opposed to holding people back”.

Leadership is about daring to do or say what others might not

A member of the audience during Julia Hordle’s presentation at #PIC2014 quoted some recent figures, one of those bold generalisations, to the effect that women will only consider taking on a new position when they are 80% sure of their capabilities to deliver it, whereas men will do so when they are 50% sure.  The delegate wondered whether this might have a bearing on the behaviour of leaders.  I, like many others, dislike such generalisations but they can also be food for thought.

Another member of the audience (a man) responded that there might be some truth in this because he does not hold back, as a leader, from voicing opinions that others might consider stupid.  The discussion continued along the lines that leaders, and indeed any team member, should be confident enough to air their views.  This will benefit the team in the long run and, although it may carry risks for the individual, being true to yourself does ultimately deliver benefits to you too.

Which brings me to the particularly enthusiastic people that have inspired me this week.  I spent a very enjoyable hour with some young entrepreneurs on the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy course at Cambridge Regional Centre.  We were exploring the topic of team make-up and leadership.  At a certain point I asked them to write out their personal strengths on individual post-it notes: the strengths that they might bring to a team.  About 60% of the notes carried the word ‘confidence’!  They certainly came across as a very confident set of people.  At least 3 of them had already set up their businesses, in such areas as luxury goods and organising musical events, and many of the rest were looking forward to doing so as they moved on to their business degrees.

And yet…

Leadership is also about communication and empathy

What made those young entrepreneurs so enjoyable to speak to was that not only were they very vocal and articulate, they were also clearly listening to and reflecting about what we were discussing.  Amongst the many post-it notes about confidence, there were also several with the words ’empathy’ and ‘listening’.

Julia Hordle and Lord Digby Jones had a lot to say about the importance of a leader’s communication skills (as listeners as well as conveyers of messages), and their ability to inspire trust.  A leader’s ability to empathise is something I’ve explored in a previous blog.

I came away from my interaction with the PJEA students feeling quite enthused about the qualities that many of them would bring to their future roles as leaders.


Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer,  facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also registered as a Growth Coach and Leadership & Management trainer with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.

Preparing new managers to be effective coaches

Guest blog by Sean Conrad, Halogen Software

Note from the Editor, Elisabeth Goodman

Every now and then, people approach me (or I approach them) with a suggestion for a guest blog.  Anything that can bring insights for helping teams, or team leaders to work more effectively is potentially of interest.  What I like about this blog is the recognition that managers have a role in coaching, as well as in directing the work of their teams.  It resonates with some of my earlier blogs on the different roles managers need to play as their teams go through the various stages of team development.  Team members particularly need the support of their managers when they are going through the ‘storming’ and ‘mourning’ or ‘renewing’ stages.  The role of the project manager as coach is also something that came up in one of my recent blogs.  Read the rest of this blog to find out what Sean Conrad, of Halogen Software, has to say.


Preparing new managers to be effective coaches

Like anything in life, doing something for the first time can be a little daunting. Becoming a line manager for the first time is no exception. While many organisations have some excellent programs in place to develop, groom, shape and mold individuals to become great people managers, sometimes a key aspect of training is overlooked. I’m referring to the need for organisations to provide their managers-to-be with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to become not only good managers but also great coaches to the members of their teams.

Why is coaching so important in the workplace?

When managers do receive the training they need to be great coaches, the benefits to the organisation can be many. In particular, developing effective coaches can lead to:

  • Improved employee engagement and higher performance
  • More meaningful annual performance reviews
  • Better conflict resolution or resolving issues before they happen

If there are some new wet-behind-the-ears managers in your organisation looking for ways to improve their coaching skills, here are a few ideas.

Teach them to coach rather than clone

One of the most common mistakes managers can make is using themselves as the yardstick to measure their employees’ progress and performance. They look at their employees, their work, how they handle situations, and they think about how they (i.e., the manager) would have done it differently. Then the manager gives their employees feedback and coaching based on these reflections (e.g., “That’s not how I would’ve approached it.”)

What’s wrong with this scenario?

For starters, these well-intended managers end up trying to create clones of themselves rather than coaching employees to be their best and put their best skills and talents to use for the good of the organisation.

How can you help ensure your new managers are coaching rather than cloning? First, and foremost, it’s critical to recognise that everyone is different. That’s right, no two people think or process information in exactly the same way. Equally important to remember that the perspectives, motivations and responses of others aren’t any better or worse than ours, they’re simply different.  We need to value our different ways of thinking, perceiving, solving and acting. Often we can achieve the best results when we consider all perspectives, and use a combination of approaches to the situation.  Not surprisingly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. This means that managers need to get to know their employees as individuals.

Building good manager-employee relationships

At the risk of stating the obvious — but sometimes forgotten — here are some ways your new managers can get to know their team members while also positioning themselves as trusted and effective coaches.

  • Show interest in what motivates employees by asking them questions about a particular work situation and why they handled it a certain way (this can reveal a lot about an individual). Determine their aspirations, interests, preferences, strengths and passion (and encourage them to bring this passion to work each and every day).
  • Give employees meaningful feedback on an ongoing basis by increasing the frequency of employee reviews and one-on-one meetings.  Ensure that you provide regular recognition/praise for achievements. Consider gathering input from others. Feedback from multiple sources is broader and more objective, and helps you and your employees get a more accurate view of their performance.
  • Maintain an ongoing, two-way dialogue about employee performance where you share expectations, provide coaching, answer questions, support employee performance, and solicit feedback on your own performance. During these conversations, you should remember to be an active listener not an active talker (avoid the autobiographical overlay).
  • Provide employees with ongoing development opportunities, both formal and informal. Everyone needs to know where they are and where they’re going (i.e., that they have a future with the company). Work with them to determine and plan training and development activities.

Regardless of approach, techniques or individual differences, a good manager will work with employees to listen, question and “coach” them to be the best they can be, leading to greater engagement, higher productivity and improved organisational performance.


  1. A senior product analyst and Certified Human Capital Strategist at Halogen Software, Sean Conrad regularly writes about talent management trends and issues in industry publication and the Exploring Talent Management Blog.
  2. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale (and using coaching as well as training, mentoring and consulting). 

Banishing the Monday morning blues: Being Exceptional

Holidays are an excellent time to catch-up with my reading, so I have just had a very stimulating week reading Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional”.  I’ve previously enjoyed Yeung’s books on networking, and emotional intelligence, and picked this one up at random, not really knowing what to expect.

It’s a gem!  Like his other books it’s extremely readable – with anecdotal illustrations from the many exceptional people that he has interviewed, backed up by references from the literature, exercises to start developing our own capabilities for being exceptional and summaries at the end of each chapter in case we missed anything.

I would strongly recommend everyone to read this book, but in the meantime, here’s my own interpretive summary.

(By the way, the key capabilities in this book are aimed at individuals, but many would apply to businesses or teams – so I’ll be writing the next issue of my company newsletter based on this too.  Look out for ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ on http://riverrheeconsulting.wordpress.com)

Banishing the Monday morning blues (authenticity)

I’m always sad when I come across people who feel glum or worse at the start of the working week.  I’ve wondered if I’m naïve to think that people have a choice: that they could take the plunge and go for something different.

Rob Yeung backs me up: he calls this ‘authenticity’ and suggests that we should absolutely be true to ourselves and find work that is inspiring: what we enjoy most and are good at.  It’s what will help us feel fulfilled and, whilst doing it, put us ‘in the flow’ – where time just goes by without us noticing.  If we find and do what is authentic to us, Yeung maintains that the money will follow!

Being ‘authentic’ does not necessarily mean completely changing what we’re doing – it may be possible to craft a current job or role to bring it closer to what we enjoy doing the most.  This relates to other blogs that I’ve written about taking a self-employed attitude when working for an employer.  Fostering this may also lead to greater employee engagement and empowerment.

Having a vision

The idea of writing a business or team vision is well established – that of writing one for ourselves as individuals is less so.  Yeung makes a strong case for both developing and writing down our personal vision.

A vision acts as a framework for our ‘authenticity’.  It helps us create work-life balance so that we give enough time to all the things that are important to us: family, friends, physical health, social activities or anything else, as well as our work. It helps us enjoy the ‘here and now’ and avoid ‘destination fixation’.  And it puts our shorter term goals into a longer term context so that we can make sure we don’t get inappropriately side-tracked.

Up till now my personal vision has been very much in my head – but I’ll be writing it down, referring to it and refreshing it as Yeung suggests.  I’ve written my first draft.


I’m following a different order in describing these capabilities than the one in the book, because I believe that finding our area of ‘authenticity’, and then putting it within the context of a personal vision gives us the focus from which everything else can flow.  Daring is then all about taking action: pursuing opportunities that come our way even if they’re scary, but with the conviction that they’re the right thing to do – as I did in starting my own business!

Being daring is about doing things that we would otherwise regret not having done.  But it’s also about articulating these daring activities as individual goals, with specific measures (so we know when we’ve succeeded), timelines (to avoid procrastination), and a series of steps that we can follow one at a time and so maintain and build our motivation as each step succeeds.

I love Yeung’s suggestion of having a ‘setback manifesto’, so that we can constructively review what’s happened if things go wrong, identify actions to take to reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence, and know how to behave if something similar happens again!

All the ‘C’s

Yeung describes 5 other capabilities of exceptional people, which would seem to ‘feed’ and sustain our authenticity.

Curiosity or ‘awe’ enables us to develop our knowledge, pick up new ideas, be more creative.  In a work situation this is what enables us to ‘work smarter not harder’: solve problems more effectively and innovate.  Yeung encourages us to read widely – not only in our area of expertise, but across disciplines too.  Incidentally he challenges the group approach to brainstorming, saying it is less effective than individual brainstorming and suggesting a new (4-tier) model, which combines the two.  I will definitely be trying this different approach with teams.

Connecting with people to achieve diversity in our contacts, but with an emphasis on ‘netfriending’ rather than ‘networking’ so that we build relationships with the people that we get to know.  Yeung talks about ‘seeking the spark’ with people where connecting comes easily rather than forcing ourselves to try building relationships with everyone we meet.  He also reminds us that making connections with people can come through speaking at and running events or courses, writing, joining committees, going to conferences etc. not just attending pure networking events.  For those working within an organisation, connecting can come from going to lunch with people, joining task forces, or simply stopping by to say hello to colleagues.

Cherishing is about building that rapport with people; having the emotional intelligence to put ourselves in other people’s shoes; really listening to others and giving them space to express themselves.  Yeung also encourages us to look for the ‘3rd way’ in conflict situations in that both people could be right in their views, and the way forward could build on both views, rather than on only one or the other.

Centredness is also a form of emotional intelligence.  In this case it’s about developing our inner calm; cultivating more positive than negative inner thoughts; recognising that ‘thoughts are just thoughts’; and developing a mindfulness or focus on the here and now.  Yeung has some very helpful exercises on how we can help ourselves feel better about both short-term and more serious emotional setbacks.

Citizenship is all about integrity, being a responsible member of our community, and respecting the environment (sustainability).  It’s about focusing on our personal legacy and managing our reputation.  Without it, all the other efforts we might make at being exceptional could be wiped out!

Closing thoughts

“E is for Exceptional” has been an inspirational book.  There are lots of ideas that I have taken away for developing my own capabilities, and I’m looking forward to exploring how these ideas can be applied to ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ in my RiverRhee Consulting newsletter.  Hopefully some of you will also pick up Rob Yeung’s book, and/or follow my newsletter.

I do hope that anyone suffering from Monday morning blues will discover a way to banish them forever, and will be daring enough to follow it through!

[Footnote.  It’s interesting to compare Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional” with Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness” – there is a strong overlap in the capabilities covered between them and I may re-read Covey’s books in that light on my next holiday!  I would also mention Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work” as another easy to read, exercise based approach for helping you to find your ‘authenticity’.  I wrote a blog some time ago (Building Strong Personal Careers)  inspired by “The 8th Habit” and “Do More Great Work” which readers might also find interesting.]


Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.

Why is employee engagement such an important topic?

By Elisabeth Goodman

My blog on employee engagement (Employee engagement – some interesting data and perspectives for Lean and Six Sigma practitioners) is, of all the blogs that I have written since 2009), the one that has attracted the most attention.  I wrote it in response to an article I read in the business section of the Sunday Observer1 – a very informative study that the Observer had commissioned, rich in case studies and data from FTSE 100 companies.  So why has this blog attracted so much attention?

Employee engagement is the key to organisational and team effectiveness

The Observer article caught my attention because employee engagement, or involvement is intrinsic to business process improvement through such techniques as Lean and Six Sigma.  If people are not engaged, they won’t be committed to the organisation’s goals, won’t be able to communicate those goals as part of building strong customer relations, and won’t be looking for ways to achieve those goals through efficient internal processes.

People also need to be engaged in order to achieve effective business change.  Participants in my Change Management courses sometimes find it a revelation to hear that resistance from those experiencing change is a good thing, something to be welcomed.  Resistance is an indication that people are actually beginning to engage with a change:  that they are considering what the impact will be on them, rather than oblivious to or ignoring it.

And without engagement, people will find it impossible to identify and share the learning and insights, which are essential to healthy and thriving teams and organisations if they are to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes.

As I wrote in the December 2011 version of my RiverRhee Newsletter, “The answer comes from within… with the help of others”, it’s only possible to have an effective team or organisation if people are engaged.  Employees have the key!

‘Empowerment’ and ‘Intrapreneurs’

One of the big themes in my life as a corporate employee was ‘empowerment’: encouraging employees to appreciate and act upon the idea that they had ‘the power’ to make decisions and carry them out without necessarily referring to their managers.

As someone who is now self-employed and runs my own business, the idea of acting otherwise makes no sense at all!  I work in teams in an associate relationship, and we collaborate in our decision-making and actions.  I meet a lot of entrepreneurs, and have often wondered what it would be like if people took an ‘intrapreneurial’ approach to working within organisations.  In a 2010 newsletter (‘Finding our voice’ – a route to greater employee engagement and empowerment?), I suggested that what might help people to do this is to take a more active perspective of their careers – so that they view their current job as one that they have chosen, and are in control of, rather than something that they are being subjected to (to put it a bit bluntly!).

What if there weren’t any managers?!

I really enjoyed reading the case study of Morning Star in the December 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review.2   Gary Hamel describes a leading food processor, with revenues of over $700 million and 400 full-time employees, which functions entirely around the principles of self-management.

At Morning Star, no-one has a manager, each employee negotiates responsibilities with their peers and is responsible for finding the tools that they need for their work, everyone can spend the company money, there are no job titles or promotions, and compensation is decided between peers. The only ‘boss’ is the overall mission of the company.

This model works at Morning Star because it combines an individuals’ responsibility (and freedom) for managing their work within the context of the overall mission, and collaboration between peers to define and review individual roles and expected performance.

The article goes into a lot more detail, but one of the many interesting aspects of this model is that engagement and empowerment are not issues at all in this kind of scenario.  As a result of this approach, every individual inevitably has to:

  1. Use their initiative
  2. Continuously develop their skills to enhance the quality of their work
  3. Display flexibility to respond to the changing environment of the organisation
  4. Work in a collegiate way to fulfill their role in relation to their peers
  5. Make decisions that directly affect their work

These are wonderful illustrations of process improvement / Lean and Six Sigma (1,2,4,5), Change Management (3), and Knowledge Management (2, 4) in practice.

Some final thoughts about thriving

I love my work, and welcome Monday mornings as the start of another week of new discoveries, opportunities to work with others and practice and develop my skills.  I meet many others running their own business that feel the same.  It sounds like the employees at Morning Star may also feel like this.

Another Harvard Business Review article3 suggests that giving employees a chance to learn and grow will help them and the organisation to thrive.  This time the managers are in charge again, but some of the themes re-occur:

  1. Providing employees with the discretion to make decisions directly affecting their work
  2. Ensuring that people have the information they need to understand how their work relates to the organisation’s mission and strategy
  3. Encouraging good (civil) behaviour – positive relationships
  4. Offering performance feedback

The authors suggest that these 4 mechanisms will foster vitality (or energy in individuals and in those with whom they interact), and learning (or growth from new knowledge and skills).


It seems that, unless people are running their own business or are self-managing themselves in an organisation such as Morning Star, employers need to study and support the mechanisms that will enable employee engagement and so help individuals and the organisation to thrive.  We’re obviously not there yet.

Why are you interested in employee engagement? It would be great to read your comments.


  1. Are more firms listening to their staff or are they just paying lip service? Observer, 22 August 2010, pp38-39
  2. Gary Hamel.  First, let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, December 2011, pp49-60
  3. Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath.  Creating sustainable performance.  Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012, pp93-99

Elisabeth Goodmanis the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

Achieving more value with less

As Stephen R. Covey, Bob Whitman and Breck England point out, in their one-hundred-and-ten page “Predictable results in unpredictable times”1: “in bad times, the distractions are more severe than ever… As people get laid off, the survivors have more to do.  The distractions pile up to the sky as the economy grows rougher…”

In our increasingly lean organisations, we all need to achieve ‘more with less’.  But rather than indiscriminately piling on more work with the stress and burn-out that this will entail, we need to find ways to ‘work smarter not harder’.  We can do so by focusing on what our customers value, and examining how we and our teams can deliver that value more effectively.

Covey et al’s book is a very readable synopsis of modern day thinking on how to tie a strong focus on strategy, keeping score and customer value with process improvement, engagement and empowerment of the people in our teams.  This blog picks out and discusses some of the book’s main points.

Build customer loyalty vs. customer satisfaction

We all know the importance of understanding what would satisfy our customers, but the concept of ‘customer loyalty’ takes this further.  What would it take for our customers to be emotionally connected to us, so that they would miss us if we were gone?  How far do we understand what we would need to do to achieve either customer satisfaction, or customer loyalty?

Covey et al quote a Bain survey of senior executives in 362 companies where:

  • 96% said their companies were customer focused
  • 80% believed their companies delivered a ‘superior customer experience’
  • Only 8% of their customers agreed

From my conversations with people in various organisations, there are many opportunities for companies to gain a much better understanding of what constitutes value for their customers.

Covey et al suggest that companies should look for opportunities to reduce the complexity and diversity of what they offer to their customers, and so do less than their competitors, but do it better.

Develop employee engagement, empowerment and loyalty

It’s a sad paradox that in difficult times, many of the people that get laid off are those who have the knowledge that could help the organisation out of recession.

Covey et al make a number of references to how Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox in 2001, managed to turn the organisation around.  One of the key ways she did this was by making fewer people redundant than others might have done, and by appealing directly to people throughout the organisation for ideas.  It may seem obvious but, as the authors point out, “only knowledgeable people can create the solutions you need to succeed in a crisis.”

These 2 other extracts from the book are also I think particularly pertinent:

“Even in tough times (perhaps especially in tough times) people want to contribute, they want to help, they want to make a difference.”


“When a company aligns the customer experience with the employee experience, they create employees who are passionate about what the company stands for.”

These thoughts remind me of the points Stephen R Covey makes here and in his book “The 8th Habit”2, which I’ve written about elsewhere3 about how much more effective we can be in our work if we find our ‘voice’, and also in my commentary4 on Goffee and Jones’ book “Clever”5 about the need to clearly and regularly communicate the organisation’s vision and goals to your  ‘knowledge workers’.

Push the ‘reset’ button to align around goals and continuously improve your work

Covey et al close the loop on ‘doing more with less’ by having organisations realign what they do around the priorities set by customer value and employees ideas to address them.

The priorities are in effect the organisation’s one, two or three ‘wildly important goals’.  Effective team leaders will ensure that everyone understands what they need to do in relation to these, and also that there are good measures in place to monitor performance against these measures.

Covey et al differentiate between ‘lag’ measures and ‘lead’ measures. Lag measures are typically the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or output measures that organisations use to demonstrate to what extent they have achieved their goals.

Lead measures are more effective indicators of anticipated performance because they are based on ‘in-process’ performance.  Teams should be able to regularly review how they are doing against these lead measures, and share knowledge and lessons learnt to continuously improve their performance and so achieve the final goals more effectively.

Closing thoughts

Large sections of Covey et al’s book are devoted to the importance of execution and trust.  To me these are enablers of the 3 main themes I’ve pulled out above.

Effective execution relies on focusing on a few key goals, making sure everyone knows what they are, keeping score, and ensuring that the team reviews and improves performance.

Trust is the trust between leaders and their teams in ensuring that there is transparency around the goals and where the organisation is in relation to them, keeping commitments (on the leaders’ part), and extending trust to the team.

But trust is also about having trustworthy systems and processes such that, as for the Formula One pit crew: each knows their job: “Silently they do it, and they get out of the way.”  Great Ormond Street Hospital, London studied the Formula One team’s approach to improve the serious issues they were facing and, as a result of this, “introduced a system that defines carefully who does what, and in what order.  Every action is focused and productive; everyone has a contribution to make.”

In all of this thinking, there are strong analogies with Stephen Spear’s 4 main steps in “Chasing the Rabbit”6, which I also describe in one of my blogs7: design (or define customer value, processes and roles to achieve them), improve and share knowledge (involving everyone in these), build capabilities (through the interaction between leaders and their teams).

I’ll close with this quote in the book, which I particularly like:

“Focus on your customers and lead your people as though their lives depended on your success” Warren Buffett


1. “Predictable results in unpredictable times”, by Stephen R. Covey, Bob Whitman and Breck England. FranklinCovey Publishing, 2009.

2. “The 8th Habit. From effectiveness to greatness”, by Stephen R. Covey. Simon & Schuster Sound Ideas,1980.

3. Empowerment and self-employment; (A consultant’s) life is like a game of rummy; Aptitude, Attitude, Plenitude and Servitude.; Social networking tools, empowerment and knowledge management; Project leaders empower, project managers organise; Powerful quotes for strong performing teams… – see https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com”

4. Why conventional knowledge management, process improvement and project management won’t work with ‘clever’ teams.  Or will they? http://wp.me/pAUbH-1n

5. “Clever. Leading your smartest, most creative people.” By Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Harvard Business Press, 2009

6. “Chasing the Rabbit. How market leaders outdistance the competition and how great companies can catch up and win”, by Steven Spear. McGraw Hill 2009.

7. High performing organisations – interweaving process improvement, knowledge management and change management http://wp.me/pAUbH-1V

8. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, using process improvement, knowledge and change management to enhance team effectiveness.

Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, and about Elisabeth Goodman.

High performing organisations: interweaving process improvement, knowledge management and change management.

Approaches for building strong quality foundations are well documented in the manufacturing industry, but also occur across all business sectors and types of organisation such as flight airlines, the navy, health services, pharmaceutical research & development and education systems.

Steven Spear, in ‘Chasing the Rabbit’1 discusses, with examples from the above, how this quality foundation for high performing (or ‘high-velocity’) and leading organisations rests on 4 main capabilities.  These capabilities are a graphic illustration of the importance of process improvement approaches such as Lean and Six Sigma, of knowledge management, and change management for effective team performance.

The 4 capabilities of high-velocity organisations

  1. Design: A clear definition of customer expectations.  Documentation of the end-to-end process and associated roles for delivering these outputs, using the organisation’s cumulative knowledge of existing best practices. This is even worth doing for 1-off operations to enable learning and adaptation as a result of unexpected occurrences.
  2. Improve: A commitment to seeking out and addressing problems as they occur. Involvement of key players in a ‘scientific’ approach to understand the problems (identify root causes), test solutions, implement counter-measures and resolve the problems (‘swarming’).  The importance of exploring a range of solutions and taking time to learn from them rather than converging on one too soon. Using cross-functional and possibly cross-company collaboration to tap into wider knowledge and expertise.
  3. Share knowledge: Sharing what was learnt about the problems and how this learning was acquired so that the whole organisation can benefit from the new knowledge gained.  Local discoveries become systemic discoveries (‘the multiplier effect’).
  4. Develop capabilities: The role of leaders in continuously developing everyone’s ability to detect and solve problems and share new knowledge (self-diagnosis, self-correcting, self-innovating and self-improving).  The leader as ‘learner-in-chief’, mentor and guide in establishing the right combination of behaviours throughout the organisation.

Problems are the consequence of complex systems and imperfect people

Steven Spear emphasizes that problems are to be welcomed as an opportunity to continue learning.  Each problem should be treated as a “consequence of imperfect people trying to design perfectly something very complex”.  By studying problems, rather than working around them or firefighting, the individual’s and the organisation’s knowledge, and the processes that they operate can continue to improve. The mastery of the complex interactions between people, processes, and what people are working on is never complete.

High-velocity organisations stand out from the pack in:

  • Their focus on process from start to finish, order to supply, end-to-end, rather than departments operating in silos – structure
  • Their attention to each problem as it crops up – dynamics
  • Their determination to make the best use of the talent within the organisation – capabilities
  • Their commitment to keep learning is reflected in the dynamic duo which I’ve described elsewhere2 between short-term stability (or standardization) and longer-term agility and responsiveness (innovation).

Through these they achieve quality, flexibility, efficiency and safety.

Concluding thoughts: extracts from ‘Chasing the Rabbit’.

I’ve selected some quotes from the book, which I think illustrate the points that Steven Spear is making particularly well.

The importance of design:

“No team can design a perfect system in advance, planning for every contingency and nuance.  However… people can discover great systems and keep discovering how to make them better.”

The importance of improving and problems:

“There’s something important you don’t know about me, but if you listen. I’ll tell you” (the process talking)

“Problems are not a never-ending plague to be endured but a never-ending guide to improvement”

The importance of sharing knowledge:

“Organisations depend on their ability to accumulate useful knowledge more quickly than their competitors.”

“One must create the ability in his staff to generate clear, forceful arguments for opposing viewpoints as well as their own.  Open discussion and disagreement must be encouraged so that all sides of an issue will be fully explored.” Hyman Rickover (Founder and long-time leader of the US Navy’s Nuclear Power Propulsion Program).

The importance of capability development:

“The point of process improvement is to improve the participants’ process improvement capabilities by coaching them as they try to improve the process.”

“It is arrogant to believe that anything we have created cannot be improved.  It is pessimistic to believe that we are incapable of ever improving something that is flawed.”

Steven Spear suggests that the winning mindset for high performing organisations is that of humble optimism.  I would add: it is also one of focused determination combining the best of process improvement, knowledge management and change management (or behavioural) approaches.


1. Chasing the Rabbit. How market leaders outdistance the competition and how great companies can catch up and win, by Steven Spear. McGraw Hill 2009.

2. How Lean can bring real benefits to innovation in Pharmaceutical Research Six Sigma & Process Excellence IQ, 8th January 2010, http://www.sixsigmaiq.com/article.cfm?externalID=1720

3. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, using process improvement and knowledge management to enhance team effectiveness.

Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, and about Elisabeth Goodman.