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Rapid Realignment: Proven Strategies for Unbeatable Performance

Rapid Realignment: Proven Strategies for Unbeatable Performance
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(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dr. George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, the
co-authors of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance.)

When Admiral Vern Clark became Chief of Naval Operations in 2001, he made our previous book, The Power of Alignment, required reading for all the admirals in the Navy. He did so because he could sense there was enormous misalignment in his organization that was costing his service in terms of performance and money. “Things were broken in ways that nobody knew,” he explained. “The Navy was hollowing out. It was my sense.” He told us, “that if we were a public company, we’d have been in Chapter 11.”

In support of his focus on alignment, we pointed out that there is over thirty years of empirical research that shows aligned organizations outperform their nearest competitors by every major financial measure. He surprised us, however, when he said, “that may be true, but the main reason I made alignment my number one goal wasn’t financial. It was because in my business, second place is a terminal disease.” At that moment we learned why the imperative to align is so great in military and government organizations: because the price of misalignment is so high.

But military and government organizations offer unique challenges to leaders charged with rapidly realigning them to meet ongoing challenges. Government functions are usually supply driven, and operating units are often insular and bureaucratic. Their focus is on spending budgets and on activities versus customer-related performance metrics. Also the scale of these organizations is often very large and the timeframe required for realignment is often very short.

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We spent years measuring the state of alignment within major military and government organizations and working with senior leaders to improve it, often with dramatic results. The lessons we’ve learned from military and government leaders who successfully realigned their organizations are contained, with others, in our new book Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance (McGraw Hill 2012).

    In each case, we’ve learned something new and valuable. We’ve learned for example, that leaders can create alignment by measuring alignment. And when leaders are provided information that informs action, leaders can take focused action that yields more immediate results.

    For example, one of those capable leaders was Vice Admiral Phil Balisle, head of the Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA. NAVSEA is a huge enterprise with over 54,000 people and a budget of more than $20 billion dollars. It is responsible for the technical and engineering support and long-term maintenance of the surface fleet and submarines.

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    VADM Balisle took command in at a time when the Navy’s brass felt that NAVSEA needed to revolutionize its procedures, streamline operations, and break away from the perception that it was dedicated to the status quo. He knew that the Navy’s usual three-year command cycle would make implementing long-term change difficult. Could he get it all done in three years?

    Adding to the challenge was the fact that the majority of his work force was civilian, not military. Most had been doing their jobs for years and had developed an entrenched way of doing things that had made them resistant to change — rapid change in particular.

    In taking on his task, Balisle adopted what we call a Slow-Faster-Faster approach: taking his time (up to six months), initially to listen, learn, gather data, and plan; speed up with a set of ambitious initiatives; and, finally, going all out to engage the workforce in enduring change, assessing alignment at each stage.

    Each initiative adopted what Balisle’s teams would call the “Hundred Day March.” One hundred days to align and transform long-established practices seemed daunting, but Balisle felt that the foundation of change had to be laid down quickly. The first 30 days of each “march” would be devoted to defining the problem and objective. What needed fixing, and how could they fix it? For each initiative the remaining 70 days would be devoted to implementation. By the end of the hundred days, the goal was to have new and aligned structures in place.

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    The balance of Balisle’s years in command was devoted to making those new structures enduring, and to engaging the workforce — from top to bottom — in the new way of operating. Gaining buy-in was an important challenge for each team. It required an aggressive communication plan that would reach every sailor and civilian employee with a consistent message over time. As in every other successful example of rapid realignment, message consistency and repetition was required to sustain the alignment initiative. Measurement was also essential. Balisle and his team used our web-based alignment assessment tool each year to measure how people were responding to changes and to identify barriers to further progress.

    As challenging as the NAVSEA project was, and as taxing as its hundred-day marches were for people, it worked. As Phil Balisle told us:

    “We saw results very quickly — money savings and improved efficiencies. We were doing jobs with less people, were cleaning up work areas so people felt better about their work and the organization of it. We could see tangible things that were very important to where we had to go. We also received recognition of progress in the Federal Government’s 2005 survey of Best Places to Work, which showed significant improvement in NAVSEA’S across-the-board scores and a rating well above Navy and Department of Defense averages. These results, which included ranking No. 1 in effective leadership among U.S. Navy organizations, were an especially notable achievement given the amount of change we imposed on the workforce.”

    These scores were gratifying, as NAVSEA had consistently ranked low in the Department of Defense survey prior to Balisle’s command.

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    VADM Balisle’s experience, and that of other military/government leaders we have worked with, proves that no matter how challenging the environment, with focused leadership action rapid realignment can be achieved.

    Dr. George H. Labovitz, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is the founder and CEO of ODI, an international management training and consulting company, and professor of management and organizational behavior at the Boston University Graduate School of Management.

    Victor Rosansky, co-author of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance, is co-founder and president of LHR International, Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, helping Fortune 500 clients to drive rapid strategy deployment and alignment.

    (Photo credit: Business Chart showing positive growth via Shutterstock)

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    Published on July 27, 2021

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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    During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

    But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

    Put the Pro in Professional

    After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

    1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

    The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

    Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

    2. Dress the Part

    While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

    Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

    For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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    Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

    3. Stage Your Workspace

    Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

    Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

    4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

    Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

    Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

    Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

    Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

    5. Arrive on Time

    In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

    Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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    6. Turn on Your Video

    Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

    If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

    Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

    7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

    Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

    Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

    Attend to the Pesky Details

    8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

    With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

    Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

    9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

    Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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    Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

    10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

    As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

    Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

    Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

    Talking Has a Time and a Place

    11. Chat Appropriately

    Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

    At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

    12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

    The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

    Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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    13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

    In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

    Manage Yourself

    14. Minimize Distractions

    While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

    Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

    15. Save Snacking for Later

    Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

    However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

    Final Thoughts

    Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

    Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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