The Park

Recently as I was driving to work (often times, I do my best thinking when I’m driving to work), I passed a city park. I quickly glanced over and saw steam rising and thought to myself, “I didn’t know that there was a small lake at the park.” My second thought was, “I have been driving by this park for over two years. Why have I never turned into here and explored?” The parks in my community are very nice and appear to be well kept. Yes, we pay taxes in the county where I live for the upkeep so one should really take the opportunity to enjoy them. This sent me down another road in my thinking process and that was, “This is like some of the organizations that the Alber Enterprise Center works with. When we sit down to have the initial conversation, our strategy is to listen. We listen to what the employer’s needs are. We ask questions to learn about what keeps them up at night. And there are many times what we hear is, “This is the way we have always done it.”

Many organizations have not ventured away from the typical “one and done training”. You know, the kind of training where you go offsite, spend anywhere from 4 – 8 hours in the training and when you get back to your office, the well-put together notebook of training materials goes up on a bookshelf, right along with the other trainings that you have attended. Does this sound familiar? I am smiling because I, too, had a bookshelf full of well-put together, carefully thought out workshops. Then, once I got back to the office, it was “business as usual” and anything that I had hoped to implement went right up there on the shelf with the other notebooks. And then…all was forgotten.

What does this have to do with my drive in this morning and seeing the park? Well, I would challenge organizations to veer off the path, think differently, look at the overall picture and wonder, “What could we do differently that would make a greater impact?”

A good place to start and one that I strongly recommend is asking your staff what training or professional development they would find exciting, energizing, and meaningful? You would be surprised how much thought they have given to that very question and will, most likely, provide you with a lot of good information, such as developing their skills as an emerging leader or maybe it is one-on-one coaching. Another possibility might be to identify their strengths and areas where they will excel or it could be a process to become “lean” and the ability to put a process in place to improve efficiencies.

Take off the blinders and look at your organization’s professional development with fresh eyes. Be willing to veer off that well-traveled path and explore. You never know what you might see or discover along the way.

P.S. – On my way home today, I veered off the main road and drove through the park I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. I learned a couple of things. First, there is NO small lake – it was an open field with early morning fog. (Lesson here – don’t assume). Second, the road took me back to a beautiful bird sanctuary and a scenic area for rest and reflection. My next adventure will be to go explore those. Robert Frost certainly said it best:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by; And that has made all the difference.

 What difference might it make for you and your organization?

Where Are You Going?

Strategies for Organization Success.

It’s no secret that there are many factors directly linked to the performance of your organization. Possibly the most important of these factors, and most devastating when things go wrong, is your organization’s culture. At Alber Enterprise Center, we recognize culture as the collection of behaviors, beliefs, values, interactions, and attitudes that impact how things get done in your organization. These are reflected in your organizational processes, systems, communications, products/services, and most importantly your public image.

So what happens when your organizational culture doesn’t align with your organizational goals?

Well…you’ll find yourself fighting an uphill battle if you ever desire or NEED to create change to stay competitive. A culture that is aligned with strategic goals drives better performance, greater financial returns, clearer vision, and employees who are more motived, happy, and engaged.

Doesn’t that sound great? You’re probably wondering…how do we know if our culture is aligned with our goals? Or, if you have the inclination to believe that your culture is not aligned, you may be wondering…where do we begin to gain alignment?

You may have heard the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Well, that can indeed be the case when your strategy doesn’t take into account your culture’s influence. What about positioning your culture to enable strategy? What about taking a positive perspective and focusing on your strengths to better enable your strategy? Research supports that leaders who invest the same energy in their cultures as they do other key performance measures experience greater organizational success.

Noted authors on organizational change and culture, such as Kotter and Cameron & Quinn, claim that today’s organizations must be able to successfully undergo change if they are to succeed in an increasingly complex and constantly shifting society. Change is imperative, yet organizations rarely meet their intended objectives. Leaders may set out to change the “shiny object” such as technical alterations in processes to try to improve performance; however, in reality it is typically a culture change that is needed for their organization to meet their objectives.

Can you imagine a culture that utilizes what your organization is doing well to help you do even better? Taking a strengths approach will allow you to create positive momentum and experience positive returns sooner than later. Here are four steps we at Alber believe are the ways to getting a strengths-based culture.

  • Gather information through structured assessments to fully understand your current situation
  • Assess the gaps between where the data reveals you are vs. your ideal situation for optimal performance and success in your organization
  • Determine how to move from where you are to where you want to be
  • Implement an intentional plan that engages your new strengths-based culture and mindset.

These strategies will move the needle to greater organizational success.

BRIDGE: How a Signature Program Got its Roots

Not all problems are created equal.  Using one’s intuition or past practices might work for solving very simple problems.  Yet our past and our view of the future may limit our solutions.  When we are facing an issue or challenge that requires a fresh solution and has many interrelated components — perhaps several different constituents are involved or can be effected by the solution — a more robust process will bring you a clearer, more novel solution.  Based on Snowden’s (2007) research, there are four levels of problems – simple, complicated, complex and chaotic. As director of the Alber Enterprise Center, I helped to develop an issue management model specifically designed to resolve our clients’ complex problems.

In my own research comparing The BRIDGE Issue Management Process with other, more basic problem-solving models, I determined that there are three features that differentiate our model.  The BRIDGE:

  1. Identifies a system of interrelated solutions that resolve the issue;
  2. Provides templates for clients to document the desired outcomes, action steps, measurements, and resources into formal documents; and
  3. Gains buy-in from their respective organizations to implement and sustain the solution.

Deciding how to solve problems and issues can create a challenge in itself.  Giroux (2009) conducted a study of the decision-making habits of small business owners and entrepreneurs in Canada.  Using one’s intuition seems to be a common practice, as was learning from past incorrect decisions.  Also, emotions may unduly influence the decision if the problem is critical to the success of the business.  Without a formal process that helps them view the problem objectively, small business owners sometimes lacked the ability to make sound decisions (Giroux, 2009).  They are limited by their past experience and their view of the horizon.

There is history in the phrase “issue management process.” It was coined by the late Howard Chase in 1976 to describe a process he crafted for corporations to manage their public relations image and to influence public policy. Although Chase restricted his model to the corporate and public policy environment, issue management eventually progressed into a discipline used by other types of entities to develop strategies for a wide range of issues in their respective environments.

Extension’s new “signature program,” The BRIDGE: Issue Management Process, is not actually a program as educators know it.  It is a tool that anyone experienced with facilitating groups can utilize to solve complex issues with their constituents.  The BRIDGE creatively incorporates adaptations of several organization analysis tools designed by business scholars arranged in a logical flow.  First, the facilitator carefully chooses stakeholders familiar with the issue and invites them to a workshop to guide them through the process.  The facilitator then coaches the participants to storyboard what they can control or influence about the issue; to reflect on where they are currently and what they want as an end result in measurable terms; and to identify forces driving the issue as well as barriers that must be overcome.  The group then designs a comprehensive, multifaceted solution that specifies the action steps and addresses the human resistance to change that may hold back implementation.  Creating an evaluation plan for monitoring the outcomes is the final phase of the process.

We use The BRIDGE when 1) there are many components to an issue that are interrelated, and minor changes to one component could cause major consequences to others; 2) we want a creative solution that has not been done before; and 3) we have a short time period to resolve the issue.

I hope that this post helps to broaden your perspective on problem-solving vs. issue management, and that the next time you’re faced with a complex issue, you’ll reach for The BRIDGE tool kit.

Embrace the Changes: Quality & Environmental Management Systems

by Larry W. Sheppard, ISO 14001-2015 EMS & ISO 9001-2015 QMS Consultant

Companies currently certified to ISO 14001-2004 and ISO 9001-2008 must be re-certified to the revised standards by September 15th 2018 or risk the possibility of losing their certification.  The new standards did not add any new requirements; however, some of the existing requirements in the 2015 versions have significant changes. Transition for ISO 14001-2004 and ISO 9001-2008 certified companies should be easy to implement since they have an EMS/QMS base that meets most of the requirements of the 2015 version.

This is where the Alber Enterprise Center of The Ohio State University can assist your company during the transition to the new standards. We would be glad to meet with your management staff and present the new requirements in detail.

 Main changes in ISO 14001:2015 EMS

The new requirement is to understand the organization’s context has been incorporated to identify opportunities for the benefit of both the organization and the environment. Particular focus is on issues or changing circumstances related to the needs and expectations of interested parties (including regulatory requirements) and local, regional or global environmental conditions that can affect, or be affected by, the organization. Once identified as a priority, actions to mitigate adverse risk or exploit beneficial opportunities are integrated in the operational planning of the EMS.

 To ensure the success of the system, a new clause has been added that assigns specific responsibilities for those in leadership roles to promote environmental management within the organization.

The expectation on organizations has been expanded to commit to proactive initiatives to protect the environment from harm and degradation, consistent with the context of the organization. The revised text does not define ‘protect the environment’ but it notes that it can include prevention of pollution, sustainable resource use, climate change mitigation and adaptation, protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, etc. i.e. environmental performance.

There is a shift in emphasis with regard to continual improvement, from improving the management system to improving environmental performance to be consistent with the organization’s policy commitments.  In addition to the current requirement to manage environmental aspects associated with procured goods and service, organizations will need to extend its control and influence to the environmental impacts associated with product design and development to address each stage of the life cycle, i.e. acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end-of-life treatment and final disposal.

Main Changes in ISO 9001-2015 QMS

Major Differences in Terminology between ISO 9001- 2008 & ISO 9001-2015

 

ISO 9001-2008 ISO 9001-2015
Products Products and service
Exclusions Not used

(See Clause A.5 for clarification of applicability)

Management Representative Not used (Similar responsibilities and authorities are assigned but no requirement for a single management represented)
Documentation, quality manual, documented records Documented information
Work environment Environment for the operation of processes
Monitoring and measuring equipment Monitoring and measuring resources
Purchased product Externally provided product and services
Supplier External provider

 Documented Information has replaced the ISO 9001-2008 version need for the quality manuals and some procedures to define the documented QMS. Documented Information includes instructions, records of process performances, external provider’s performance, internal audits and management reviews etc.

As part of the continual improvement process risk base thinking was added to the revised standard. The concept of risk has always been implicit in ISO 9001 as preventive action. The 2015 revision makes it more explicit and builds it into the total QMS.

Teams That Get Results

Great leaders get things done through others and many times through teams.  This post lays out four practices that will get your teams headed in the right direction and achieving results.

Vision

First, why does this team exist?  What are you hoping to achieve?  Knowing the end before you begin brings clarity to all team members.  Don’t obsess over this.  Simply discuss what a successful outcome looks like.  Example: a team convened to create a new marketing plan.  Their vision was to successfully drive demand for a new product.  This had clear measurable results  (10% increase in revenue for the coming quarter).  It also drives their implementation.  If instead they wanted results over the next year that would change their goals.  A clear destination drives the goals to get there.

Focus on Goals

The team with a vision of creating a 10% sales increase naturally leads to the appropriate goals.  It might consist of target audience research, so much marketing to print media, so much to social media, etc.  Important – goals must be assigned to team members and held accountable; i.e. who will do what, by when?  Each person understands their role in the process and how they must perform so that the team succeeds.  This focus on goals requires monitoring and feedback along the process in order to stay on track.  Before we get to that joint accountability, let’s look at the choice of team members.

Choose Team Members by Strengths

Choose team members with complementary strengths and watch the synergy blossom.  We’ve found it helpful to use Gallup’s CliftonStrengths® approach, where each person discovers his or her top five strengths under four domains (Executor, Influencer, Relator, Strategic).  It’s important to make sure the team has at least one of each domain so that things get done, the right people buy in, contributions are valued, and the long-term view is considered fully.

Joint & Self Accountability

For status sessions, use the following format with four symbols: + What went well?; ! What did I learn?; ∆ What will I change?; —> Next steps.  Have team members come ready to share.  It is then easy to help each other get back on track if needed.  Best, they will regulate themselves.  Healthy teams hold each other accountable to stay on track.  This requires a high level of courage and vulnerability.  Foster these through personal example and development programs (Our “Building Healthy Teams”, for example).

If you’d like to partner with us to learn more about our program Building Healthy Teams and using Gallup’s CliftonStrengths for teams, please contact us below and let us help your teams make 2018 your best year yet!

 

 

 

New Year, New Opportunities

Happy New Year to all of our clients, followers, readers, and colleagues!  We sincerely hope that 2018 brings you joy, prosperity, and renewed energy.  As we turn the page on this new calendar year, the Alber Enterprise Center is turning the page with resolve. We are resolved to:

  • Demonstrate our belief that employees are the heart and soul of an organization;
  • Be the catalyst for change, innovation, and progress; positively impacting individuals, organizations, and communities;
  • Demonstrate that integrity, honesty, and excellence are at the heart of our work;
  • Hold ourselves personally accountable to one another and to our clients;
  • Develop and maintain long-term relationships that allow us to build solid partnerships leading to enhanced productivity, empowered leadership, and creative problem-solving.

What sort of challenges are you facing in 2018, and how might you and your organization resolve to overcome those challenges?  We would love to support you in your resolutions, as together we can make an impact on whatever barriers exist.  Let’s jump into the New Year with purpose!

“Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day.” – Michael Josephson

Building Customer Loyalty: 3 Ways to Move From Good to Excellent Customer Service

Have you ever thought about the difference between good customer service and excellent customer service?  Most of us would agree that there is a difference, but does it really matter? According to a recent survey cited on customerthink.com, 86% of buyers said they will pay more for a better customer service experience. And 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.

Providing good service will allow an organization to survive. But a commitment to excellent customer service goes beyond surviving – to building customer loyalty to create a healthy, thriving future.

True excellence is marked by an excellent customer experience (CX). The focus on providing excellent customer service encapsulates a simple, three-prong model.

Be Prepared. Being ready to serve the customer is the very foundation for excellence. If buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, then it behooves organizations to spend some time getting to know their customers…what they value and what influences them, and ultimately, being proactive in anticipating their needs and problems.

In his book, Five Most Important Questions, Peter Drucker reminds us that our customers are never static. They are constantly changing, as well as their needs, wants, and expectations. Do the research and use customer analytics that make sense, not just satisfaction scores which only show customer satisfaction from the past.

Be Passionate. Being passionate encompasses taking the expertise (knowledge, skills, and abilities) of individuals in the organization and using it to create a shared-learning organization.  It is an organization in which customer service representatives (CSR’s) become experts, knowing their products and services, and how to do the ordinary, extraordinarily well.

In one study focusing on customer service loyalty, Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that 24% of repeat customer complaints stemmed from an emotional disconnect between the customer and the CSR. Specifically, this means the customer did not trust the answer given to them and/or they thought that the CSR was hiding something.

In order to meet customers’ constantly changing expectations and to provide an excellent CX, our representatives must be armed with interpersonal skills, training and a comprehensive knowledge which will allow them to respond more accurately and articulately, and to quickly find better solutions. Competence increases the customer’s confidence in the CSR and in the organization.

Be the Hero. Being the hero stems from the philosophy that every customer desires and deserves to be treated with respect and care.  Unfortunately, many organization miss the mark with this one! As representatives of an organization, we have the opportunity to make life better, easier, more convenient, and/or to create value in our customers’ lives through the products, services, and exchanges we offer.

According to the HBR article, the number one most important factor in customer loyalty is reducing customer effort. Long wait times, cumbersome paperwork, having to make repeated calls to solve a problem, or having to use multiple channels to get information are all frustrating to a customer. Organizations need to remove obstacles and get rid of things that make it hard for customers.

Being the hero not only involves removing obstacles but also taking every opportunity to add good stuff to the CX. Customers want quick, convenient transactions and products that are true to what is claimed. They want trustworthy representatives who can engage competently and respectfully whenever needed. The success of the CX is tied to the emotions of the experience. Help customers to feel important and valued, and let them know you care and appreciate their business. In doing so, they will walk away wanting to come back for more.

References

Dixon, Matthew, Karen Freeman, and Nicolas Toman.  Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, Harvard Business Review

Drucker, Peter. Five Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Today’s Leaders, Wiley.

Jaiswal, Vivek. 8 Customer Experience Myths Busted, customerthink.com.

 

 

A Need for Access to Education for Military Spouses

Did you know that military spouses suffer from unemployment at a staggering rate of 12%? According to Blue Star Families, up to 43% of military spouses are not in the labor force. Given the nature of their ever-so mobile lifestyle, it’s difficult to manage a steady full-time job when you might have to move across the country next month. This lack of control over their physical location effects their ability to find a job they enjoy doing while feeling valued. They are also subject to underemployment which is a very real challenge that is less frequently discussed. Military spouses are more likely than civilian spouses to find themselves in a job that is below their education level and with lower pay.

Our vision at the Alber Enterprise Center is to stimulate positive change for maintainable economic growth in individuals, organizations and communities. We are proactively trying to make a difference for these spouses by offering 100% online national certification preparation courses that can be paid with the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) through the Department of Defense. The MyCAA scholarship will offer a one-time scholarship, up to $4,000 over a two-year period, for eligible active-duty military spouses to continue their education.

Once the spouse finishes the online course, they will be given the opportunity to practice their newly learned skills in an in-person externship, mentored by professionals in that field. We will work with the spouse to find an organization near where they’re currently living for them to complete the externship. The cost of the course, which can be paid in full by the MyCAA scholarship, will provide them everything they need to complete the course. This includes course materials, the externship, and the cost to sit for the national certification exam in their field.

Follow this link to read more about our MyCAA courses. https://osu.edu2.com/t-mycaa.aspx

Source: “Social Cost Analysis of the Unemployment and Underemployment of Military Spouses”, Sorenson Impact Center & David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah, 2016

Five Leadership Hacks

You know that with better leadership skills, your team could start performing at a whole new level.  Here are five ways to boost your team’s leadership skills today.

  1. Develop your leadership.

As a leader your job is to develop those around you.  Mary mentored and fostered new leaders in our organization on a regular basis.  Dozens of people she mentored went on to become leaders in our organization.  She was valuable because she created other leaders.  Be valuable too.

How do you develop your leaders?  Has your team had formal leadership training?  Our unique approach instills the five traits of exemplary leaders.  Make sure each of your leaders has the skills they need to lead.

  1. Know your people better.

Remember when the standard to meet with direct reports for formal performance reviews was once a year?  No more.  Now the guidance is at least once a month.  This does three things.  One, it builds a sound relationship with your team member.  Leadership is about relationship.  Two, it is a valuable chance for you to get regular, valuable feedback on your organization.  Finally, it gives them a regular update on their performance.  Tackle performance problems early.  Encourage high performers at every chance.  Here’s a good format for the 1 on 1:

  • What is going well?
  • What have you learned?
  • What will you change?
  • What are your next steps?
  1. Vision/Mission – again and again.

The best leaders never forget why they exist.  People hunger for meaning and purpose and a consistent reminder to your team vision and mission will remind them that what they do is significant.  Start every meeting answering the “why.”  Why are we meeting?  How does this meeting tie into our larger purpose?  Do this and they will be more inspired and fulfilled.  “Our meeting today is for (purpose)… which enables us to (mission/vision).”  Simon Sinek said it well, “Great leaders are able to inspire people to act; they give them a sense of purpose or belonging …”  Remind your team of the “why” – and inspire.

  1. Set clear expectations and follow-up.

Is your team working toward some measurable vital result?  We may have told them (or think we did). What is their understanding and what metrics are they working toward every day?  What gets measured gets improved (Drucker).  Is it sales, profit per transaction, repeat customers?  Ensure that your team has what they need and knock down any obstacles.  Are you serving them so that they can meet the expectations?

  1. Recognize results and desired behaviors.

Be the kind of leader who never stops finding the good in people and telling them.  It builds loyalty and fosters high performance.  We asked them to achieve it. Celebrate it.  Recognize everyday behaviors that will lead to results.  For example, long hours to meet a deadline, creative new approaches, serving the customer well, etc.  When was the last time you said it?  Do it today.

Do these five things regularly and watch your team take off!

Marion Student Leaves Center, Makes Impact

(Above) Sabrina Mazyck, right, gathers field data with fellow student intern with National Park Service.

Outstanding students at Ohio State Marion have unique stories. Sabrina Mazyck, born and raised in Ohio, already had a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science when she came to Ohio State Marion Campus. Now, she is pursuing a degree in Environmental Engineering and has completed as much of her coursework at the Marion campus before she transitions to the Columbus campus this summer.  We were fortunate to benefit from her skills as a dedicated student employee in the Alber Enterprise Center this past year, and pleased that Sabrina will remain a Buckeye.

“I was fortunate to be able to take courses at Ohio State Marion since the tuition is so affordable. Financial aid is not available to students working on a second bachelor’s degree – only student loans,” Sabrina said. Cost of higher education has been a challenge, but Sabrina is hard-working, creative and persistent.

This student is a real go-getter, with past experience working as an Intern for Senator Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, on issues related to environmental policy.  She wrote about environmental impacts, attended briefings and visited government agencies, and became enamored with everything related to studying and improving the environment. “I feel that I had a tiny hand in the decision-making process around environmental policies (with the Senator’s office),” she said, adding, “But environmental engineers are involved in both policy work and the science behind it all, which means I could make a bigger impact.”

Another interesting internship Sabrina completed was with the National Park Service, where she worked on the Cuyahoga River as a Bioscience Tech Intern. “The Cuyahoga River has caught fire a total of 13 times, dating back to the 1800’s,” she said. Sabrina was part of team who waded in the water looking for zebra mussels and other invasive species, along with conducting organism surveys and recording the data. The group removed invasive species and propagated native plants near the river. “I carried a 50-pound backpack of herbicide and sprayed certain kinds of plants (identified as invasive), adding: “People in environmental work are some of the most kind-hearted I’ve ever met.”

After graduation from Ohio State, Sabrina is considering a Master’s in Ecology or Environmental Engineering. While her diverse experiences and initiative could take her anywhere, she would like to return to Hawaii after graduation from Ohio State in May, 2019.  With a cousin there, Sabrina was able to visit each of the Hawaiian Islands while interning for the senator. She said that the natives’ love of the land (meaning of Hawaii) is real…they are very environmentally-conscious. “The sea turtles are sacred – it is illegal to touch them. The people are so welcoming…I just loved it there!” said Sabrina.

Suffice it to say, Sabrina Mazyck is one student whom we would love to follow along to see where life takes her next. The sky really is the limit.