Goal Tree chronicles – The hamster and the tree

Companies in nowadays competition need proactive and engaged people, yesteryear managers are expected to turn into leaders. Despite this general truth and the logical demonstration of required change, some managers just stick to their cosy routine: the hamsters.

In this post:

  • How a “hamster” manager refuses to embrace change required by robust logical analysis
  • At a certain point, dictating the next step is mandatory for company’s sake
  • The Goal Tree is hierarchy independent

The hamster

The scene takes place in a company in which I’ve spent a lot of time to carefully prepare the policy deployment with top management.

As so often, CEO and his C-suite had a clear overall idea where to drive the company for the five years to come, but they had only a vague slogan – and calling it slogan is a compliment – and a few numeral objectives ready. Nothing to overwhelm the lower level employees with confidence and motivation, on the contrary it’ll have all looked scary if communicated as it was.

First we (the consultants team) reworked the slogan and worked out details. I deliberately imposed the Goal Tree as structuring tool, first to my consultant staff, second to the client.

We started to clarify and restate the Goal. That exercise showed the C-suite how unprepared they were to communicate their plans. We spent a (long) time defining the Critical Success Factors and despite my insistence to keep only five or six of these high level objectives, the C-suite insisted on ten.

Once this was done, a presentation was made to management staff, and we (the consultants) went to see the next level of management to further explain the Goal Tree’s logic and ask managers to select the Necessary Conditions they knew/felt which needed improvement so they turn Green in my color status system (i.e. condition is constantly fulfilled).

I personally met one guy with a relatively high position and a long experience in the company. He was credited to be one of the company’s experts and one of the company’s pillars and probably among the opinion leaders.

During our face-to-face, what puzzled me most was his imperviousness towards the Goal Tree, or call it Policy Deployment / Hoshin Kanri principle. He managed to escape proposing anything, sticking to his “good soldier” posture and kept saying: just tell me what to do, I’ll adjust to it.

What a hamster he was!

The hamster is a category of employee as described in the BlessingWhite model of employee engagement.

>Learn more about “hamsters” >Learn more about “BlessingWhite model

This hamster (read manager) was typically enjoying the cosy comfort of his nest (read office) and saw no reason to add any annoyance to his routine. His position granted him some importance and the feeling that he was irreplaceable. While making believe he totally understood the threat of raising competition, all his attitude showed he didn’t care or expected to remain unscathed.

Yet he could not openly fight against the project, therefore he played obedient soldier even not wholeheartedly. “Just tell me what to do, I’ll adjust to it“. So disappointing from a manager at this level.

Not negotiable

The policy deployment was not an option and as it was obviously not possible to win this manager to the engaged camp, I made him clear what the next step was:

  • He had to explain to his staff the global project’s aim and background as well as the top of the Goal Tree (the company’s Goal and the top most objectives supporting its achievement)
  • As he couldn’t (didn’t want to) set contributing objectives for his department, he had to pass the ball directly to the next level and ask for meaningful contributions to achieve the Critical Success Factors directly linked to the department’s activity
  • These proposals must be filed into a standard format and will be reviewed by project’s steering committee for global alignment
  • He as manager was de facto accountable for the carrying out of the approved actions
  • One of the consultant will be present to facilitate the whole thing

This is not negotiable!

It may not be the best example of how to engage people, but in some conditions showing muscles and speaking in harsher tone is simply more effective and adequate.

At that moment I was the boss, empowered by the CEO and legitimate by my position as project leader on the consultant’s side.

The Goal Tree is hierarchy independent

Things went on as planned and the Goal Tree proved once again a robust and hierarchy-independent tool.

Even so the manager in charge of the department did not proactively (“reluctantly” would better fit the reality) support the cascading or “policy deployment”, the staff understood all the Goal Tree’s logic demonstrated, accepted the challenge and proposed relevant improvements.

Summing up

What does this story tell us?

  • (Goal Tree’s) Pure logic and rationality are sometimes powerless when facing emotional or cultural biases, often called “resistance to change”
  • Change management does not imply accepting any opposition as valid and trying to convert every opponent. At some point, “I am the boss” is an appropriate option
  • (Goal Tree’s) Pure logic and rationality often help to convert the mass to embrace the necessary change, even if some opinion leaders fight against it

Chris HOHMANNFeel free to comment or testify. If you liked this post, share it!

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