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Combining People and Organizational Development – what really works (Annual Conference 7/9)

Wednesday 15 September

A true wake up call came from Paul Evans of INSEAD, who shared his insights on how people perform and learn in organizations.

Titling his talk “ Combining People and Organizational Development – what really works,” he took delegates on a journey designed to let them easily identify issues that they meet in their
day-to-day work. As part of that, he told the AHRMIO delegates that most great
managers operated from a basis of some simple, fundamental ideas that governed
their framework for managing.

He also pointed out that most great managers had a huge capacity to make things simple so that, as he put it, “your grandmother could understand it! They act as a torch that can lead us through

the fog we all live in.” Using the example of Lou Gerstner, the legendary head
of IBM at its most vulnerable time, “One of his leading ideas when making
change was to focus on the top 200 people in the organization….It is said that
he called those 200 people into a room and said, “there are a third of you here
that are with me, a third who are waiting to see what happens and the rest of
you who don’t buy into these changes and won’t be around to see what happens.”’
Then he added, “Of course, as we all know, in any situation like this the majority
are made up of those waiting to see what happens!”

A Capacity for Integration

Evans then went on to explain that it was companies like IBM that succeeded because they had the capacity to integrate their operations, to work across silos and across boundaries. Companies like

these always have an edge because all the people are able to work well
together. “If your organization has that culture, you need to capture that

Evans then went on to talk about best ways of developing people and suggested that a lot of the great managers tended to be people who had faced up to major challenges at an early age and

succeeded. Successful companies like
Nokia had a policy of developing people through challenge by giving them three
or four times the challenge they think they can take and seeing if they

But Evans was quick to warn the conference that there was one other thing they all needed to keep in mind when dealing with change and challenge, “The only thing that really counts in

dealing with change,” he counseled” is finishing the change process. Lot of organizations, lots of people, are very good at
starting change, but few finish it.”

Are You Challenged ?

Then Evans asked, “How much challenge is their in our workplaces, how challenged do people feel in your organization?” He then challenged the audience to discuss this amongst themselves. What came
out of that was a thought that, of course, you give the challenges to the
people who you feel are most likely to succeed. And that means that they
develop even more. And, as Evans pointed out, if you aren’t one of those people
you just won’t progress in your career, because you’ll never get asked to meet
the challenges that occur. This can
therefore be a very biased approach.

There was a policy in some organizations to “turn them around or turn them out.” Meaning that if people didn’t make the grade, it was better to move them out of the business. This, as several members
of the audience observed, wasn’t always an option in international organizations,
where you just had to put up with these people.

Responding to that, Evans said that one thing that we didn’t do well enough was talk to these people and try and find out the reasons for their non-performance. However one delegate reminded his
conference colleagues that non performance was an ongoing problem. He said, “This
is our own fault, we don’t hire dead wood, we create it!”

Sharing a Secret

INSEAD’s Paul Evans shared a thought about management success. He said he had met with a leading Brazilian entrepreneur who was asked the secret of his success. “Was it
because he was able to smell opportunities and capitalize on them?” “No, that
is not the answer,” he replied. “The secret of success is to resist getting
involved and think instead ‘where can I find someone who would be much better
than me at making this opportunity work and bring them on board to do it.”

Don’t Forget Acceptance

Paul Evans reminded the audience that one of the things that too many of us forgot was to get acceptance for change. “We all spend time on the quality of the analysis in the planning phase, but we
don’t take the time to make sure the idea is being accepted by the business.”

And he used the equation Q x A = E, where Q is the quality of the planning, A is the acceptance of the decision and E is the effectiveness or execution.

To get people fully involved he suggested that we needed to be mindful of what her termed the “Five E’s of the change process, if you want to make sure you get people fully engaged. These were :
Engagement (allow the people to be heard), Exploration (look at different
options), Explanation (learning from experiences), Expectations and Evaluation
(learning from experiences). It was this last one, Evaluation, that Evans said
too many people forgot, so they didn’t really learn from the experience.

He also referred to the “tipping point of change”, where you had to manage the process all the way through to make sure you finally had everyone supporting the new idea or project.

Key Insights

Finally, Evans asked the audience to share with him some of their insights into change and how to deal with it. Mostly the responses were rather negative. Said one participant, “The real
problem with us is that senior management has already made its mind up about the
change and how it will take place, we are not really consulted.” Said another,
“My thought is that change seems to be constant. So people who expect the
changes to stop are often angry that this isn’t the case.” And she went on to
say that in her opinion change was more like a circle – never ending – than a
line with a start and end point. She felt that people needed to change their
mindset to cope with this new reality.

Evans responded to this by saying that, in his view, smart managers take the trouble to talk with people all around an organization before they make changes. “They don’t make public commitments
until they have talked with people, until they have worked it out.” He added,
“They explain their vision and are also open to be challenged on it.”

While this seemed like a sound idea to most of the participants, it was clear from looking around the room that this wasn’t always the way decisions to change are made, at least in the world of
international organizations.

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