Monthly Archive: June 2013

Top Ten Signs Your Culture Needs a Change

In any company, large or small, a culture emerges that can sometimes hamper the implementation of a strategy, launch of a new product, or even regular day to day operations. A good organizational culture promotes open sharing of information, people willing to pitch in to help one another, communication that is open and honest, systems and processes that are clearly defined and effective, continuous improvement that is an organizational priority, the atmosphere promotes fun, celebrates success, and people can influence decisions, and leadership styles are consultative, encouraging, and respected.

Here`s a list of 10 ways to influence a positive culture, increase, productivity and your company`s bottom line:

1. Meetings. Meet because you actually need to. Set an agenda so people are prepared. Be on time, and avoid cancelling meetings often (if you have to cancel, reschedule right away). Run a timely meeting wil clear objectives and take minutes with clear action items and timelines. If people go off-topic, put it in the parking lot to adress next time. Replace your BUT statements with AND. For more on this click here.

2. Communication. Have an environment where people feel comfortable to come and speak to you, or kindly ask them to make an appointment with you. Be honest and share information openly using open body language and language. Use active listening to ensure you understand the concerns people have and use Ruth’s favourite saying “Kindness and curiosity leave no room for anger and resentment”. Keep the rumor mill at bay with open forums and team meetings.

3. Emails. Respond always (when a response is required) and respond in a timely fashion. Keep your emails simple and clear (don’t ramble). Use “Info” or “Action” in the subject line so people can sort and prioritize, pair this with GOOD use of the “To:” and “CC:” lines.

4. Processes. Review your processes often and make sure that you can eliminiate bottlenecks, duplication, and wasted time, effort or resources. Make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined so that everyone knows what they are accountable for. Make continual improvement an organizational priority.

5. People. Treat your people well. This means great positive reinforcement and difficult or (important) conversations happen all the time. Formally and informally. The best feedback (constructive or positive) is given immediately after the event. It also means engaging your teams and getting their input and feedback so they feel involved in the overal strategy and direction of the organization.

6. Decisions. Make decisions please. Have a decision making process – set a target, use tools to help guide decisions, get an outsider to facilitate, identify risks and manage accordingly. Nothing frustrates employees and creates a negative work environment when their fearless leaders cannot come to a decision about something.

7. Training. In order for people to feel confident and assured in doing their jobs, make sure they have the training that they need to perform their job duties well. Its great to have a new software system, but everyone needs to know how to use it well and optimize its’ functions.

8. Project Management. Don’t let projects just die. Sometimes a project does have to die, but make sure that it is communicated why it isn’t being completed, and what lessons can be applied for future projects. A good project management strategy means that projects get completed on time, in budget, and successfully meet objectives/

9. Strategic Planning. In order for everyone to be working towards the same vision, the organization has to have a clear vision of where it is going and that each individual player is making steps towards achieving that mission. Make sure your strategic plan engages the team, is communicated clearly and often, and updated regularly to reflect business cycle changes.

10. Fun. Laugh a little. Celebrate your success. Don’t take everything so seriously. You can achieve business objectives AND have fun while you are doing it.

It takes time, but it can be done.

Do you have a business culture story? Share it with us! Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!

Perfuncta What?

Operational Definitions: Not a Perfunctory Exercise

We have a colleague whose favourite words these days is “perfunctory”, and he uses it frequently enough that I looked up the definition just to be sure I knew what it meant.

per-func-to-ry adjective \pər-ˈfəŋ(k)-t(ə-)rē\

  1. characterized by routine or superficiality
  2. lacking in interest or enthusiasm

That little exercise reminded me of how important it is to have common definitions at work. Never mind the embarassment of using a word incorrectly, which we’ve all done on occasion. (Well I have, anyway…) It’s about speaking the same language in the office, and avoiding any potential for misinterpretation and mistake.

My Definition is This (Bonus earworm for those who know that tune, for those who don’t, click here )

One of the things we are working on right now is a review of a PMO (Project Management Office) function in a large public sector organization. As part of any review, we conduct a number of interviews with various employees at all levels of the organization. And, as always, we find that people are working with differing levels of understanding of key operational terms, and that this is creating some confusion with respect to roles, responsibilities, and key outcomes.

Here’s a good example: what does performance management mean to you? Is it related to the work output and behaviours of an individual employee, and the ability of a manager to influence it positively?

No? Oh, well perhaps you feel it’s the use of key performance indicators to ensure that an organization meets its goals and targets in a timely manner.

Wait, what? You think it’s both?

If you look it up, even Wikipedia gives several definitions:

Performance management (PM) includes activities which ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner. Performance management can focus on the performance of an organization, a department, employee, or even the processes to build a product of service, as well as many other areas.

PM is also known as a process by which organizations align their resources, systems and employees to strategic objectives and priorities.

Performance management as referenced on this page in a broad term coined by Dr. Aubrey Daniels in the late 1970s to describe a technology (i.e. science imbedded in applications methods) for managing both behavior and results, two critical elements of what is known as performance.

If you’re working on a culture shift in your organization, then a great exercise involves getting groups of people together in a room and having work in small groups to define key terms. For instance, for a PMO conversation, you might have people define: Project, Charter, Project Manager, Process Owner, Project Sponsor, Communication Plan, Risk Mitigation Plan, etc. Here’s the trick: there’s usually no right answer. Just pick the one that works for most people, and stick with it! If everyone is speaking the same language, you’ll save so much confusion and time.

And there’s nothing perfunctory about that.

Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week,

Why the Miami Heat will beat the San Antonio Spurs. Simple! Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Last night I was working away on a client’s file when I decided to take a TV break.

I started watching the basketball play offs; Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs. It was a fast-paced game; lots of pressure to be accurate and efficient in front of 20,000 live fans and millions more watching worldwide. For those of you who didn’t watch, I won’t spoil it by saying who won.

Watching the game emphasized the fact that organizations, whether they be sports oriented or more corporate oriented, depend heavily on the success of clear roles and responsibilities.

Why do Defined Roles and Responsibilities Lead to Success?

1. Pin Points You in the Big Picture. If you have no clue what your role or responsibilities are, you’ll have no idea how you fit in the ‘game’, and thus it will fall apart when you try to play it.

2. Establishes Accountability. Each player is accountable for a certain outcome that leads to the collective success of the team. Just like an organization. For example, the point guard begins and sets up the play, the power forward drives and executes the play, and the centre supports the success of play by taking a second opportunity at the basket if it rebounds on the first try.

3. Helps to Avoid ‘Ball Dropping’. If you know what you are expected to be (role) and to do (responsibilities), the work, or in this case the ball, will flow continuously, from player to player to the basket. (2-points! Yay!) If you don’t, you may not have anyone to pass the ball to and end up having to hold it for too long, or even worse, double dribble. Ugh!

That said, Go King James! (Yes, a long shot I know ☺ )

If you have any improvement or success stories about roles and responsibilities that you’d like to share it with us, give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Until Next time!