2020 ENEWS

Innovation & Problem Solving

Change Mastery:  Innovation in Problem Solving 

by Teri J. Traaen, Ed.D., D.P.A.
CEO Traaen & Associates, LLC

As we all move forward sorting out the new directions that our organizations willingly (or perhaps in some cases unwillingly) will be taking over the next six (6) to twelve (12) months, the tool that will serve us well is an advanced mastery at solving disagreements and conflicts.   The days of top down, bottom up and hoping for the best are done.  We will advance most rapidly to the next stages of affirmative organizational success through the individual and collective use of advanced problem solving.  
This skill set can take a variety of forms.  We can debate, discuss and/or plant our feet hoping for an eventual compromise.  Or we can remedy all situations with critical thinking, appreciation of varied viewpoints and most importantly recognition of 'why' we are making the choice to move ahead in a certain fashion.  Author Simon Sinek, in his bestseller, 'Start with Why', captured this reality.  He writes that often the mis-step is that we begin with 'how' we will proceed - 'how' we will take the next step - and therefore, totally miss explaining why.  The human resistance to the 'why' discussion is that we fear, among other things, resistance.  Or rejection. Or anger.  Or being one-upped by a talented adversary.
The combination of using 'why' to establish the overall foundation of all work being done over the next year with implementing strategies for the use of 'interest based problem solving' is a more comprehensive approach  than what is often used.  Piecemeal steps will likely fail.  Integration of a purpose driven approach allows multiple levels of involvement and feedback throughout the standards of problem solving.  Interest based problem solving relies on clear and focused identification of 'every' interest/concern/hoped for outcome by all partners and/or stakeholders. 
Proactive problem solving of all conflicting interests requires a complete understanding of the driving force behind the concerns, while seeking common ground for resolution of each issue.  A major criticism of the technique known as interest based problem solving is that it can/does often take a greater time investment.  This is an accurate reality.  Interest based problem solving is not singular in source, idea or solution.  Interest based problem solving recognizes, respects and uses all feedback and interests in every discussion process.  Reaction to taking the time to really listen and understand all perspectives shifts an organization to far greater inclusivity.  The greatest need is recognition that an organization will emerge stronger, more transparent and likely with a higher level of ethics after adopting interest based problem solving than ever before using this tool.  The outcome is mastery of building and sustaining trust at all levels.

Promoting Flexibility

by Sarah Stewart, M.A.
U.K. based service provider for Traaen & Associates LLC

In last month's edition, wei spoke about considerations in transitioning part of your workforce to long-term or permanent telecommuting. For those employees unable to work remotely, challenges such as childcare, concerns taking public transport, or additional time and planning required to undertake routine everyday tasks can leave employees at risk of stress and burn-out. 

Creating a culture of workplace flexibility can help ease some of the stress for those unable to have the flexibility to work from home.  Fostering autonomy on how and where work is done enables employees to have more control over their day. This in turn enables the employee to engage their 'best self'.  Consider  whether any of the following suggestions could help your organization move to a more flexible culture:
  1. Sitting at the same desk day-in and day-out isn't always the most inspiring work environment. Are you able to offer flexible workspaces or alternate work areas? Are there any open or 'group' areas that could support cross-team collaboration? 
  2. How much flexibility do your employees have over when they start or end their working day, and how long a break they take for lunch? Allowing flexible start and end times can help employees spend less time commuting, and more time with their families. Don't automatically assume this isn't possible for customer facing roles. With a little planning and coordination you could create occasional flexibility that could make a high difference to your employees.
  3. If remote working isn't a realistic option, is there some form of remote working that could work at least occasionally?
  4. Are you able to offer seasonal hours - unpaid time off during slower periods, or compressed or reduced work weeks during school holidays? There's no one-size fits all here. Just knowing they have options can make a world of difference to someone trying to juggle work and caring responsibilities, or looking for a better work-life balance.
  5. Does your approach to working hours support fitness and well-being? Can you offer flexibility that might allow an employee to work out during their lunch break rather than having to get up early or home late to fit this into their day? Combined with a slightly earlier start time to make up for the longer lunch break, this could help avoid peak traffic as well as encourage workplace fitness.
  6. Encourage a culture of walking meetings. These are great for daily updates, brainstorming, or chatting through priorities for the week. Lead by example to increase the comfort level of others. Consider team vs team step challenges to add a little fun!  

Project and Program Evaluation - Outputs vs. Outcomes

by Teri J. Traaen, Ed.D., D.P.A.
CEO Traaen & Associates, LLC

Many of the organizations that we are working with are aggressively seeking solutions to far reaching and new problems. In some cases, these issues have never before been experienced within their industry or locally within their own organization. The key dilemma that we are seeing is how to rapidly  'correct or solve'  a problem that is large enough to cripple the services or products being provided.  Typically, the solutions expressed are short term ' quick'  approaches that do  not  include any measurable outcomes and thus do not account for determining which action(s) will be the real source for permanent change.  It is a bit like rushing to a drive through for fast food, therefore eliminating the terrible hunger pangs when you have not eaten all day.  There is no concern for the quality of the food, the impact on one's overall health or the long term effects on any presenting or chronic health conditions.  However, it does eliminate the immediate discomfort.
The best solutions are outcome driven and mission framed.  If an organization seeks to provide food to the homeless, it should not only be about counting the citizens being served (i.e., outputs --- 1000 people served).  Instead the mission is to eliminate hunger - aka the need for community feeding programs permanently, thereby lifting up every individual who is food deprived every day within a given community.  To do this means that the outcomes will represent increased employment opportunities, safe housing, and general community support systems that address issues in totality - not just hunger for today.  Outcomes can serve to frame and build the very steps of every program and service offered.  But they must be measurable.  They must be real and easily discussed. They must be within the resources available to the organization that strives to achieve them.  They must surround the work for every employee at every level.  The next time you want to design/re-design/re-direct the essence of what your organization is doing, ask this question.  'How will we measure the outcomes every day of our efforts?'
Driving a Culture of Resilience

by Sarah Stewart, M.A.
U.K. based service provider for Traaen & Associates LLC

The past few months have underlined what HR has known for a long time: workplaces cannot avoid the inevitability of managing employees in crisis. What role can HR play in helping create a supportive culture and building resilient teams that can effectively deal with the inevitable struggles of life?

We  build connections by acknowledging that each of our experiences is important. Most of us think we are good listeners, but we can all do better. Helping managers truly see and hear their employees can be a powerful step in ensuring employees don't feel anonymous at work, and creating a culture where everyone matters, and everyone's contribution counts.

Ask your managers the following questions:
  • Do you really know your people? Their interests? How they spend their spare time? Where they are in their lives? 
  • Do your employees know how their work impacts and affects the organization? 
  • Do they know how to assess their own progress or success?
  • Do they have the right resources to fulfill their role? 
Where managers have gaps in their responses to the above questions, HR has an opportunity to support and train on how to continue to the conversation to develop a genuine caring culture where employees feel valued as individuals rather than cogs in the machine. 

Helping managers move beyond ' How Are You' can also create opportunities to identify signs that someone is struggling. If you encourage frequent 'check-in' discussions or a conversational style approach to performance management, do your managers have the tools to move beyond the 'small talk'?  Consider providing your managers with some core questions to drive the conversation to the next level:
  • What do you wish you had more time to do?
  • What things are you doing that you would like to stop doing?
  • If you were hired to consult with our company, what would you advise?
  • What are you feeling?
  • If X, Y, Z doesn't change, what is likely to happen?
While these are small steps to help develop more genuine conversations, they might just be the key to creating a supportive culture, one conversation at a time.

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September 13-16, 2020

September 18-22, 2021

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