Monday, June 13, 2011

How to manage cultural change within your organization?

In my last blog, I talked about few high-level tips to successfully change your organizational culture. As I help my client to divide this high-level vision of cultural change into smaller parts, I will simultaneously blog about my current experience. My client is a manufacturing company, who manufactures the same equipment from last several years. In order to change the organization's culture, existing employees need to unlearn the old values, assumptions, and behaviors before they can learn new ways of operations. I have provided following recommendations to manage this cultural change:


Provide training: Change in organizational culture will depend on individual's behavior changes. Thus, we need to provide extensive training to our employees to make them understand what is expected of them, and how to actually do that using new methodologies, and how they will be rewarded for their new behaviors. For example: provide training of differences in national cultures, provide training of new acquired standards such as 'six sigma', etc.


Change organizational structure: If your existing structure doesn't support your desired organizational culture then you need to change the physical structure of the organization to align it with the desired organizational culture. For example: flatten your organizational structure for quick responsiveness, add few verticals to incorporate new acquired divisions, etc.


Change reward system: Changing reward and recognition is the key aspect of the cultural change. By changing reward system, we can encourage desired behaviors in the organization to achieve the desired organizational culture. For example: provide extra bonuses for peak performer, provide salary raises based on the performance, etc.


Change your documents: In order to change organizational culture, we need to make sure that we document our new mission, vision, values, and processes. This will serve as a new guidelines for existing employees, while it can be also used as a reference for any new hires in the organization. For example: remove your posters of existing vision and replace it with the new vision, update your internal website with this information, change process documents with new guidelines, etc.


I hope, these tips will help you to successfully manage your organizational culture change. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions regarding organizational cultural change. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams

I have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.


Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.


Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.


Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.


I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi