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Rapid Realignment: Proven Strategies for Unbeatable Performance

Rapid Realignment: Proven Strategies for Unbeatable Performance

(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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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

    How to Bounce Back Gracefully After Getting Fired

    Whether you saw it coming or not, getting fired is a real shock and its impact is daunting. What did you do wrong? What are you supposed to do next? When will you stop feeling so angry?

    But there are ways to deal with a layoff.

    The most important thing is to remain calm and see it as an opportunity to reflect, change and improve. This is a great time to consider what happened, look again at your needs and desires and start afresh on a stronger, more constructive basis.

    Let’s take a look at how you can bounce back gracefully after getting fired.

    1. Deal with the Shock of Getting Fired

    To lose your job is to lose your identity as a worker and as a person. Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, states that 7 out of 10 of us define ourselves by our job titles, since work is where we spend the majority of our time and energy.

    Being laid off affronts your sense of self-worth—it implies that you simply are not good enough. It’s no wonder you feel confused and emotional.

    The first thing, then, is to take some time to digest what happened and deal with the overflow of sensations. People who quickly recover from the pain of a job loss tend to do two things very well:

    First, they accept their feelings of sadness, anger, fear and shame as a part of the natural healing process.

    Second, they do their complaining to a friend.

    Never call out your boss in the office or on social media. It’s a bad form to speak ill of the company you work for. Stay stylish, and your employer will speak better of you when you need a reference.

    2. Stay Away from the Drama Queens

    Mass layoffs are, unfortunately, very common. If this is your situation, then you may be surrounded by a lot of angry people, ruminating and lamenting their fate.

    “It’s not fair!” they say. “After everything we did for this company! We don’t deserve this!”

    You’ve lost your job and that’s tough. But please resist the urge to join in the negativity. Positivity is by far the most important attitude to apply right now. If staying upbeat means you have to limit your exposure to the Negative Nellies, then that’s what you have to do.

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    Remember, life is not harder for you than it is for other people on this planet. You live in a democracy, you have freedom of choice and you enjoy a certain material abundance.

    Stay positive and focus on what’s going well in your life and the exciting future opportunities available to you. Getting fired is only a temporary setback.

    Staying positing could be challenging in a difficult situation, so these tips can help:

    10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

    3. Take a Break and Let the Dust Settle

    Instead of running straight into another job that may not be the right one either, take a short break to recover from the job loss. You need a week or two to de-stress and meditate on the next step.

    Be attentive to your need for self-care during this interlude. Everything goes so fast these days that we often do not stop to think or give ourselves the permission to do a little mourning.

    Getting fired is a big shock: you need time to refocus and take stock of the new reality. Do not make things harder for yourself!

    What you need is to pause a while and do some self reflection:

    How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

    4. Be Anchored in the Present

    Since you no longer have a hold on the past, but have not yet designed your future, try to build yourself up with the present. What do we mean by that?

    We mean that right now is the only time you have any control over. Focus on that instead of losing yourself in memories or reliving the awful day you got fired over and over in your head.

    Get up at 7 a.m. each day, whatever happens. The body needs rhythm and habits. You will feel much more energized if you keep a consistent routine. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, revisit your budget, play sports, volunteer. Take care of the practical stuff like claiming unemployment. Enjoy the small pleasures of everyday life.

    When you’re busy, there’s no room for the inner critic to raise up and derail you. Keep active, and you will gain more of the precious energy you need so much to move forward.

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    Try these things to help you live in the moment:

    34 Ways To Live in the Moment And Grow in the Moment

    5. Understand the “Why”

    There are lots of reasons why people are fired. Sometimes the mistake is yours and it’s embarrassing to admit you backed yourself into this corner.

    Other times, it’s not your fault. Businesses change direction all the time—maybe yours is going through a major transition or merger and your job is disappearing.

    Either way, to give the situation some closure, you need to understand why you were dismissed. What slipped? What could you have done differently? Was your boss really out to get you or did you do something to put your job in jeopardy?

    Be honest with yourself. It’s not easy to admit that you might have dropped the ball but it’s the only way to turn the situation into a learning experience. Ask yourself:

    What skills do you need to improve?

    Is there training you can access, or learning you can do?

    In the end, did this job suit you that much? Were you happy there?

    Reflecting on these questions can help you put things into perspective. What lessons can you learn to avoid reproducing the same pattern in your next job?

    6. Find out If You Were the Right Fit

    Hiring decisions ultimately come down to personality. You can study for an interview all you like, but every candidate who is chosen for interview has the right credentials for the job.

    The final decision comes down to personality. Who does the recruiter like the best? Who is a better fit for the company culture? That’s the person who strikes it lucky.

    Firing decisions are based on personality, too. Slacking off, insubordination and playing fast and loose with the company rules—these are the official reasons why people are getting fired.

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    But all of these reasons boil down to one thing: personality. Specifically, they signal a personality clash between an employee and a manager, or an employee’s fit with the company’s culture.

    Here’s an example:

    Suppose you were fired for “not being a team player.” Some people, namely introverts, lose energy when they are surrounded by other people and gain energy when they are on their own. Forcing an introvert to continuously work on a busy, noisy team without any solitary rest periods means the job is a mission impossible. This employee will never perform at her best.

    Or how about the time the Kansas City Star newspaper fired Walt Disney for a perceived lack of imagination? Talk about a clash of personalities![1]

    Getting fired can be a signal to turn inward and do some self-reflection so you can better understand your personality and how it might fit in with corporate culture.

    In particular, personality assessments based on Isabel Briggs Myers’ sixteen personality types can help you to understand your own work style and how you can find a job and workplace that better match who you truly are.

    In many cases, it is totally liberating to realize that all the crap you had to deal with was just down to a clash of work styles and not something you did wrong!

    7. Rediscover Your Strengths and Talents

    A personality test can also give you clear insights into your strengths, weaknesses, motivations and work potential. Do you have leadership abilities? How do you communicate and manage conflict? What benefits do you add to an organization?

    Identifying your working style should be your top priority right now, otherwise you risk accepting a new position that has all the same problems as before. The last thing you want is to reproduce the same old dramas the next time around.

    When you become aware of your potential, you will have the confidence to search and find the type of work you love.

    For example, getting fired from your banking job may have knocked you sideways. But you have some stellar home decorating skills, and a personality test shows that you are curious, flexible, rational and resilient—all the traits of successful entrepreneurs. Maybe this dismissal is an opportunity to launch the business you’ve always dreamed of but never dared to admit to yourself?

    By considering all your special skills and talents, you increase your chances of finding a job you would really enjoy, and not just the one you can do.

    8. Get the Word Out

    At this point, you should be ready to take action and move forward with your job search. Let’s not sugarcoat the situation: getting a new job is tough. It helps to have a clear idea of the direction you want to go in, a list of all your crossover skills and a freshly polished resume.

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    Look around for inspiration. Talk to recruiters in your sector to establish what they consider to be your most valuable skills. Use all the resources at your disposal: job search agencies, headhunters, work coaches, careers websites and so on. These resources can help you match your qualifications to the job requirements and ensure you have the right keywords on your resume.

    Don’t hold back on marshaling your networks. Put friends and family to work to pop up leads, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Sometimes the simple act of getting the word out to the people who know you is the surest way to find work fast.

    9. Anticipate Questions and Know How to Answer Them

    Even if it wasn’t your fault, getting fired can hurt you if you don’t know how to explain why you were let go. You have to be honest here and tell recruiters the truth. Even if a would-be employer does not specifically ask why you left your previous job, it is better to clarify the situation upfront before it comes out in your references.

    The best approach is to take your share of responsibility and show that you want to go forward and that you understand the lesson.

    For example, suppose you got fired for asking the difficult questions that no one wanted to answer and your candidness set people on edge. Acknowledge that some people perceive your communication style as abrupt and explain how you’re taking steps to increase your diplomacy skills.

    A recruiter can be seduced by someone who knows how to evolve and who shows a great energy for personal development.

    10. Adapt and Persist

    Throughout this journey, you inevitably will go through moments of self-doubt and disappointment. There are undulations in every road, and these are the normal steps for regaining self-confidence after getting fired.

    Stay tough! Don’t conclude that your future is hopeless just because the dream job doesn’t land straightaway. You open a positive path when you maintain focus. Have the confidence to know that the perfect job for you is out there.

    Remember, you are not alone. Many people walked this road and they would urge you to keep the momentum. Stay open-minded and go where the opportunities take you: it will bring you closer to the job you really want.

    Coming Out on Top

    While getting fired isn’t the ideal situation, it isn’t the end of the world either. Even if feels like a doozy right now, you will get through it and emerge happier on the other side.

    Be clear on what you want, have courage and believe in yourself. In the end, you may decide that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to you. It can be the catalyst for a powerful, career-fulfilling change.

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    Featured photo credit: Jesus Kiteque via unsplash.com

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