Ed Brenegar (edb3@msn.com)
Thu, 12 Nov 1998 10:50:19 +1200

Replying to LO19766 --


My experience with groups like the one you describe is that the staff are
responding to the signals they are receiving from the managers, in this
case the owner/managers. Until they see changed behavior in their bosses,
I don't think that any particular exercise will affect staff attitudes and
actions appreciably.

I don't work with many family businesses, but they always seem similar to
non-profit organizations where there is a strong executive and a weak and
compliant board. Moving the board to become equal partners in their
endeavours is quite difficult if the executive is resistant to change.
One family run business that I've been in discussions with since May, has
the same problem, how to move line staff to take greater initiative in
quality improvement. Our conclusion has been that the leadership team is
where the problem exists. Because they are going through ISO 9000
certification, the leadership team doesn't think it can handle addressing
this issue, so our project is put indefinitely.

Change starts at the top. If this is a project to change the staff,
without the company's leadership changing, then I don't think it will have
a positive effect. The owners/managers need to understand how their
behavior affects their employees. Being clear about that, and being clear
about goals and outcomes should help everyone to think more strategically.

One suggestion: If the managers really want their staff to think
strategically, they have to demonstrate that they are willing to listen to
their ideas and trust that the information that comes from the exchange of
ideas is used appropriately. I don't know how many employees they have,
but if it is a manageable number, I'd survey them anonymously. A survey
of 5-10 questions concerning a range of issues and opinions would help the
managers know better what people are thinking. And in order that the
staff know their opinions are respected, take the raw data/ comments, and
return them to the staff prior to a large group meeting where some ideas
for improvement can be determined and an action plan implemented. In
essence, give the power to change into the hands of the staff. I read
recently of a company in California that has a line item for change. And
any idea an employee has for improvement is funded and acted on with out a
lot of hand wringing. The other way to go is conduct an Open Space
meeting with the staff and let them determine where the issues are, and
how to approach them.

I hope this helps. If you need a sounding board, feel free to contact me.

Dr. Ed Brenegar
Leadership Resources
Hendersonville, N.C. 28791



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