A Flash in the Pan Culture- No More!

One of the most common questions I get from clients is how to best create “buy in” from the organization for their performance management initiatives. This question pops up frequently, as performance managers struggle to collect and report performance information, and then get the organization to actually follow through on best practice implementation and other improvement recommendations. The problem is not new, yet many are still searching for the magical answer.

Truth is, there’s probably not one magical answer. Organizational cultures are built over time, and are the result of a lot of pieces and parts working together well. Nevertheless, there are some common characteristics that exist within organizations that have achieved the type of of buy in and alignment necessary in building that kind of culture. One of those characteristics (and the most important in my opinion) is the ability of the organization to free itself from what I call an “initiative driven”, or “flash in the pan” culture. That is, a culture where management and workers are in a constant state of having something DONE TO THEM, rather than encouraging and enabling them to take ownership for their own performance improvement.

Let’s face it- we are largely a codependant workforce. We surround ourselves with consultants for everything from restructuring initiatives to the hands-on management of the company itself. This has created many problems, the most significant being that the organization loses the ability to “own” the results of their actions. I’ve actually had executives acknowledge using consultants and temporary workforces so that “there is someone else to blame when things go south”.

Most organizations used to claim they did a major restructuring every 7 years. Now, many of the same organizations (including large consulting firms, ironically!) go through an organizational shakeup every year or two. Benchmarking programs run on an annual cycle and tend to be big distractions for the workforce as these initiatives peak. Couple that with process redesign, quality, and six sigma initiatives, and what you’ve got is an organization in a perpetual state of working for the consultants and internal PM staff. Kind of backwards, wouldn’t you say?

We need to get to a place where these programs are no longer viewed as “initiatives”. A place where things like benchmarking and process improvement are woven into the fabric of day-to- day management. A world in which managers have PM tools on their desktop so that they can drive their own conclusions, rather than being spoonfed via consultant reports and presentations.

Several years ago, I led a very interesting engagement where we (the consultant) spent our time setting up profit centers throughout the enterprise. Basically, we created these small workgroups organized around business lines and service areas, each of whom was given their own P&L. Rather than redesigning their processes for them, benchmarking them, or reorganizing them, we placed all of our attention on changing the philosophy of the business model and the incentive structure. We basically incented them to think like owners, and once they did, all of the other things just fell into place. What was once done TO THEM, was now done BY THEM. A new culture was born, one which had fewer initiatives, special projects, and task forces. Fewer distractions, better alignment, and a highly innovative and productive culture.

What are you doing to rid your organization of “flash in the pan initiatives”, and the dependency that goes with it? Start doing less TO THE ORGANIZATION, and more FOR THE ORGANIZATION. Enable management rather than spoonfeed. A more aligned and motivated culture will follow.


Author: Bob Champagne is Managing Partner of onVector Consulting Group, a privately held international management consulting organization specializing in the design and deployment of Performance Management tools, systems, and solutions. Bob has over 25 years of Performance Management experience and has consulted with hundreds of companies across numerous industries and geographies. Bob can be contacted at bob.champagne@onvectorconsulting.com

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