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Performance in engineering and manufacturing suffered due to conflicts within engineering disciplines and between engineering and manufacturing. The size of the organization, geographic separation, and diversity of engineering specialties all contributed to organizational conflicts and inefficiencies. Several organizational interventions from 1991 to 1994 (creation of process improvement teams, design build teams, and customer design teams) incrementally helped improve communications but engineering management continued to find discontinuity and conflict that resulted in missed deadlines, work inefficiencies, wasted resources, and low morale. Influence Systems assistance came in the form of Achieving Influence (AI).
Management recognized that organizational solutions (introduction of team models) did not adequately resolve problems. Placing people in "teams" where conflict, withholding, and lack of management support prevailed would not increase organization efficiencies. What was required was a method for developing the communication, influence, and cross-functional linking skills of team members. Building these skills would increase team efficiency (internal communication) and effectiveness (teams' ability to influence outside the team).
In the first pilot, 90 days after participating in the influence program, 76% of respondents cited a specific instance where the influence skills had made a positive difference in achieving a desired outcome. The second evaluation, done in 1998 (n=300), showed that training participants rated the program as having 96% relevancy to their jobs both as engineers and as team members.
Anecdotally, one group responsible for introducing engineering standards (and reengineering initiatives) organization wide incorporated the Achieving Influence process into their planning process. Engineers were required to plan for and provide the influence or implementation process alongside the reengineering initiative or plan for a new standard.
Northeastern insurance company is over 100 years old with a national presence experienced difficulty engaging and retaining employees in 3 regional "home offices"—processing centers where underwriting, issue, claims pay, and customer support units operated.
The problem involved the philosophies and practices of old-line management brought from the Northeast to set-up and run large processing centers distributed through the United States. Exit interviews, management and employee interviews revealed that a "command and control" leadership approach no longer matched the current levels of expertise in the organizations. When setting up the organizations, the directive leadership style of management served very well (in fact, home office had purposely selected leaders who used a very directive leadership style).
As the three organizations began to mature (processes and personnel established), the leadership challenge became one of not directing employees and front line management but figuring out how to capitalize on the accumulating knowledge of workers. Decision-making tended to be top down resulting in management overload and burnout with the unintended consequence of preventing employee development (allowing employees to make operating decisions for which they were best qualified. Equally important, relationships with field sales offices suffered as decisions on applications and claims slowed due to backlogs.
The client needed a program to increase the ability of field line management to empower direct reports and delegate decisions and processes to front line personnel that would also complement the company's flagship leadership program. Influence Systems worked with corporate and field line management to adapt our Leadership Effectiveness and Participation (LEAP) program by creating written and video case studies which mirrored the leadership and empowerment challenges faced in the regional home offices.
The program Leadership Effectiveness and Participation (LEAP) , in its seventh year, continues to be used to develop 1st, 2nd and 3rd level management.
A Fortune 500 organization serving 2.3 million members struggled with achieving a key strategic objective—developing the skills of personnel to better serve the customer. An outside consulting firm identified several problems hindering the continued development of personnel:
Organizational survey (Campbell Organizational Assessment) showed that feedback practices and developmental opportunities were rated low. Management and employees complained about the inconsistencies in using the performance management process. In many parts of the organization, employees only met once with their managers when conducting the performance and salary review.
Influence Systems assisted the organization in revitalizing their performance management processes while strengthening the links to the company's strategic initiatives. Three Influence Systems programs contributed to transforming the organization's performance management systems:
These three skill based programs have helped resolve the company's challenges with performance feedback for two consecutive years. Managers, with increasing frequency, are having quarterly feedback discussions with direct reports. The Campbell Survey showed a 30% increase in management employee feedback as a result of training the first year. The performance feedback series continues to the company's most widely used training suite. Executive management encourages and coaches middle management on the use of performance feedback practices.
Management, based on Influence Systems recommendations, made the feedback training available to all employees. This has promoted lateral and upward feedback and strengthened overall communication processes throughout the organization. When the executive team participated in the training in June 2000 it further established in employees' minds the importance of feedback in developing performance and the extent of executive management's support.