Organizational Change – make it real

One of the questions I get asked the most when working with an organization is, “How do you go about creating cultural change?” I think the reason we get asked this so frequently is because the task seems huge, outside the realm of the possible. There are a number of reasons a corporate culture needs or wants to change, but regardless of why, the process of making the change a reality is rooted in dialogue.

Human beings experience the world through language. It shapes our reality and defines our lives. The most cohesive organizations have a common language. Sometimes we call it jargon, and sometimes it is all but impossible for someone from the outside to understand, but the way the team (or company, or entire discipline) talks impacts its identity.

In the book Tribal Leadership, Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright outline five stages of organizational development which are defined by the conversations that members of the organizations have. Moving an organization through the stages is a process that can be managed, but requires that individuals become conscious of and responsible for how they communicate. If you work for or with an organization that is struggling, this book is a good place to start looking for solutions.

While the book focuses on the impact that corporate culture has on productivity, what I find in my work is that corporate culture impacts and is impacted by so many aspects of an organization. We may measure our success based on productivity, but in the end that is only a measurement, as are things like job satisfaction, recruitment, and turn-over rates.

How then, do we bring out real change in an organization? Is it really as simple as managing the conversations? Yes and no.

The first thing to remember is that leaders set the tone. Not just in the formal speeches like those made at the Annual Meeting of the Board, for example, but in every interaction they have with members of the organization. All too often, leaders are focused on themselves. On their work, their goals, their team. They use “I, me, and my” statements without realizing that this often sets up competition within the organization itself. In fact, they frequently see internal competition as healthy in a Darwinian way.

The authors of Tribal Leadership contend, and my own observations support, that this is not a conversation that allows for or supports positive organizational change, and yet it is the most common conversation that happens in an organization. Instead, positive change occurs within the conversation of vision. This is where teams come together and take on industry standards as the competition, not other parts of their own company. This is not an easy shift to make, but it is essential for both personal and organizational growth. We see this in many industry-leading companies and most successful social movements.  Simon Sinek may have said it best in his TED Talk, “Start With Why.”

If organizational change is something your organization is struggling with, know that there are a number of resources to help. For more information, contact your local Community Development Extension personnel. We would love to help you.

Laura Fuller is a county Extension educator in Noble County (Buckeye Hills EERA).

Understanding Polls

Welcome to an election year. As bad as the television ads are, I feel even more inundated with political messaging on Facebook. Although I rarely watch television these days, political messaging is seemingly everywhere during an election year and it is not going to let up between now and November. One of the staples of the political messaging tool-kit is the poll.

polling-2016-10-27Polls are, among other things, an attempt to record people’s opinions. They can be done a number of different ways, and some of them are more accurate than others. One of the biggest differences between a poll and a survey is in the way the sample, or the group of people who are asked the questions, are found. Surveys are often used for longer term projects, and therefore require a very careful statistical analysis of the group of people you ask your questions. Polls, on the other hand, are designed to ask groups of people the same question or two and crunch the numbers quickly so that you can measure change over even a short period of time. That makes them ideal to measure who is favored to win an election. Usually, election polls are expected to be accurate within a three percent margin of error.

So what went wrong in Michigan’s presidential primary last March? There, Clinton was favored to win by a large margin of between 11 and 37 points depending on the poll. Instead, Sanders won.  Not by much, but by enough to make people question the veracity of polls in general.

The problem with polls is who is getting asked the questions. Let’s go back to the Michigan example. Reputable polling companies (Gallup being the best known) follows federal law, which stipulates that only landline phones can be called with the poll questions. That law is rooted in the technology and cellular plans of the nineties when people only got a few minutes of cell phone calls a month and did not want to spend them on political polls! But what worked in the 1990s and early 2000s does not work in 2016 when many people gave up landlines for unlimited cellphone talk time. Restricting polling to landlines means that pollsters are going to be literally unable to reach a significant chunk of the population.

Fortunately for those conducting research, this is changing.  In fact, more than a third of households no longer have landlines. But part of what makes this so skewed is which households those are. In a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 61% of rental homes do not have landline phones and 45% of homes with children do not have landlines. By not polling people who only have cellphones, you are automatically skewing your data by not reaching a proportional number of younger people, families with children, or those who rent. All of these are demographic groups who were more likely to vote for Sanders in the primary.

The second problem with the Michigan Poll was also related to who was asked. The poll in question was targeted to registered Democrats. While that sounds fine in theory, the fact of the matter is that a lot of people are registered with a political party and yet haven’t voted in the last election for a variety of reasons. Changing party registration can happen right at the poll, so getting a list of registered voters or registered members of a party does not mean that they are likely to vote in any given election, even a presidential primary. A better solution is to instead look at recent voters, people who voted in the last election, or in two of the last four elections. This way you hopefully manage to avoid the people who are registered, but don’t bother to go to the polls.

So, there you have it. Some of the concerns about the numbers you see in polls and why they might not reflect what actually happens when people vote. Keep these in mind as you hear the latest polling data leading up to November 8th. And remember, a poll or a survey’s “generalizability”  is only as good as the sample. Or as is so often the case, you get out what you put in!

Happy Polling!

Laura Fuller is a County Extension Educator (Noble County & Buckeye Hills EERA).

How far will YOU go?

It was three years ago now that I attended a training on group facilitation. I learned a lot at the training, but one of the things that stuck with me the strongest was something one of the other participants said in their mock session. This particular man worked in the tourism industry in Michigan on the very successful Pure Michigan campaign. For those of you not familiar with the campaign, it is a series of advertisements voiced by native Michigander Tim Allen of television’s Home Improvement fame. His distinctive voice touts the many attractions of the Great Lakes State from coast to coast. It features small towns, big cities, and everything in between, each ad highlighting what specific locations had to offer. The ads were then played on radio and television both in and outside of Michigan. In 2013 the campaign attracted more than 4 million non-residents to that state up north who spent $1.2 billion while they were there. Put another way, for every $1 spent on the marketing campaign, $6.66 was spent by tourists visiting the state.

Fuller for 2016-05-12 #4The success of that campaign made me wonder what the secrets were. That became even truer when I started working in rural areas. After all, Pure Michigan highlighted small towns and big cities alike. So what were some of the things that enabled the campaign to attract people to out-of-the-way destinations?

One possibility was that the marketing was centralized, including a centralized webpage that had links to different attractions across the state. People searching the website then had a chance to stumble onto other things they wanted to attend or try, important for smaller towns that probably do not have a large, well-publicized visitor’s bureau. In this day and age, the importance of a strong, mobile phone friendly online presence is paramount. Staying on-trend with social media platforms is essential. If people don’t know about it, they cannot come to it! Ideally, you are attracting people to your event or place of business from outside the area so that their money can flow into the local economy as well.

It is also important to be realistic about what the attractions are. In the same presentation where I learned about the success of Pure Michigan, I also learned that on average, people want to have four hours’ worth of things to do at their destination for every hour they spend traveling to get there. This is important to consider when investing those advertising dollars. If you are going to promote an event that requires traveling to attend, make sure it is going to be worth the time it takes to get there!

Finally, be strategic about your campaign. If you have a multiple-day event, promote those days when there are a lot of things to do and try to group your activities to appeal to people with similar interests. Draw a circle around your town and figure out how long of a trip it is to get to your location. For example, say you have a two-hour show and want to draw a bigger crowd. Pair it with dinner and advertise within an hour’s drive so it is worth people’s time to commute. Another way to make it worth the effort is to band together within a community and set up a tour of attractions. Pick a theme for your campaign and then spend some time considering who would be interested in that. Most of all, think regionally and work together for maximum effect.

(Submitted by Laura Fuller, County Extension Educator, Noble County & Buckeye Hills EERA)

Supporting Local Businesses this Holiday Season

Shop LocalNow that Halloween has passed, we are starting to once again be reminded that the gluttony of holiday shopping is just around the corner. Already my Facebook wall is full of memes and commentary from my friends about where they will and won’t shop on Black Friday. However, there is a larger and much more important question at stake when it comes to where to do your shopping for the holidays. In a time when rural communities are threatened by unemployment, out migration, and job loss, where we spend our hard earned dollars counts more than ever.

We know that small firms (less than 500 employees) account for 67% of the net number of new jobs. Let me emphasize what you just read. Net new jobs. Even if we are not looking at new jobs, according to the United States Small Business Administration small businesses account for 55% of all jobs in the US.

As if that were not enough of a reason to support small businesses, study after study has shown that revenues generated by small businesses tend to stay in the local community in the form of jobs and wages that then flow back into the economy in the form of purchasing power. The amount in question is not small. One study from Utah saw on average only 14% of revenues at big box stores such as Walmart or Target remain in the community compared to 52% of revenues from small, local businesses. Even greater disparity exists in the restaurant industry, where local restaurants recirculated 79% of their revenues locally compared to 30% of chain eateries. So when you are out shopping and you stop to eat at that mom and pop diner, almost 80% of what you spend gets re-spent locally.

There are three main ways that money spent locally flows back into the local economy. We call this the Multiplier Effect. The first type is what is called a Direct Impact. A Direct Impact is when a business makes a purchase from another local business in the form of inventory, supplies, services, employee wages, or utilities. The second type of impact is an Indirect Impact. This is when the dollars that local business spent at another local business get spent AGAIN in the local economy. The third type of multiplier is called Induced Impact. This is when those local people who were paid by the local business spend their money in the local economy.

SBA Shop SmallUnderstanding this flow is key to understanding why it is so imperative to shop locally and support small businesses this holiday season. Money has to flow through the economy to keep a community strong, and it flows best when it is spent locally. So this holiday season, I hope you join me in supporting your local Main Street!

(Submitted by Laura Fuller, County Extension Educator, Noble County & Buckeye Hills EERA)