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Maset News

Volume 39  June 22, 2004

Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Helpful Hints from fellow Practitioners
One Liners
Feature Of This Issue
Second Feature Of This Issue
QBQ! QuickNote
Coming in the Next Few Issues


Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested friends, customers and potential customers




We would like to congratulate our associate and partner Erik V. Myhrberg, CEO of Moorhill International Group, Inc., on receiving his PhD in the area of International Business from Rushmore University.

This month's feature article is part three in a series of five articles by H. James Harrington. These articles cover the broad topic of creating organizational excellence. The emphasis this month is on change and how difficult it is to implement it in an organization, as well as in our own lives Many of us at Maset have spent most of our careers assisting and supporting positive change in departments, divisions and companies.. There is no easy way, but this article offers suggestions to assist you in implementing change in your organization.

Our second article, by Meridian Resources, is part two, focusing on the topic of coaching in foreign lands. Specific suggestions related to coaching different types of bosses and what might be expected from your coaching efforts are included.

The QBQ article this month is very germane to everything we do in our lives. It affects our personal life and our work life, as well as most of our interactions. Communication involves two entities, the sender and the receiver. If there is not complete transfer of understanding then the communication failed. Read and enjoy.




  • "The new look of Maset News looks much better and is more reader friendly than the old one. At some point, I almost want to suggest you to modify the old format as it took a repeating round to read them all. Well, a result of the decision for a change in mail distribution suppliers has incidentally helped removing that minor drawback." - China
  • "Thanks for the excellent tips on the top ten mistakes to avoid in Implementing Lean" - Indonesia
  • "The new look is efficient and easy to read. Looks good. It's always nice to get your newsletter because it not only reminds me of the fundamentals but gives me great ideas to move beyond. Thanks!" - California




This month we have not added anything new to our web site, but there are many new items in process.




For any type of team situation - Establish VERY clear goals, objectives, agenda and "ground rules" for how the team will function, AND a method of knowing whether the team is on track and is/will meet the objectives. Sometimes this is obvious, but MUCH more often it needs to be clarified and put on a flip chart hanging in the room to use as a reminder when (not if) things get off track.



ONE LINERS - "To make you think and/or smile"

  • Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need more.
  • Light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off as a part of cost cutting!





The more things change, the more they need to be managed.

This month's column is the third installment in a five-part series on organizational excellence, which is made up of five elements. The first two, discussed in previous issues, are process management and project management.

Change, change, change-we're all for change. We want to see him, her and them change. We want to see our organizations change. Yes, we're all for change-as long as we don't have to do the changing. But it's a fact of life: We're all changing every day, and so is our environment, our culture and the way we work.

In his book, The Employee Handbook for Organizational Change (Pritchett Publishing, 1990), Price Pritchett states: "It is pretty obvious to people that the stress of a rapidly changing organization can be difficult and unpleasant. What's not so clear to us sometimes is how much trouble we're in for if the organization fails to change."

Handling change is a big problem for most organizations. Through 2005, 40 percent of global enterprises will wrestle with change initiative portfolios that exceed those companies' capacities for change, which will result in failure rates in excess of 60 percent (a 0.7 probability). Through 2005, 75 percent of enterprises contemplating widespread change will fail to adequately consider their organizational abilities and willingness to adapt, ignoring the root cause behind the more than 60 percent of initiative failures (a 0.8 probability).

"Research confirms that as much as 60 percent of change initiatives and other projects fail as a direct result of a fundamental inability to manage their social implications," confirms the Gartner Group. "This lack of understanding typically manifests in dysfunctional behaviors that, taken to an extreme, cause a downward spiral in organizational vitality and competitiveness-a spiral that organizations can't escape because they don't understand the causes."

Most human beings are extremely control-oriented. We feel most comfortable when our environment is stable and predictable and when our expectations are met. In fact, one definition of the term "status quo" is just that: meeting expectations. We might not like the environment we're in, but we know it, understand it and have adjusted to it. Change occurs when this balance shifts and expectations are disrupted. Thus, "change" can be defined as a disruption in expectations. When this happens, the four C's are triggered:

  • Competence. You question whether you'll be competent to exist in the changed environment.
  • Comfort. You no longer feel comfortable because you don't understand what's going to happen to you.
  • Confidence. You lose confidence because someone else is defining what's going to happen to you.
  • Control. You've lost control of the situation.

A methodology known as change management is used to minimize the disruption change has on an organization. It's a comprehensive set of structured procedures for the decision making, planning, execution and evaluation phases of the change process. It should be used whenever an organization undertakes a major project.

Think of change as a true process, just like any of those that occur within the organization. It's the process of moving from the present state, through a transitional period, and into a future desired state.

Pain management is one of the tools used in change management, and it applies to the change process. An individual isn't going to move out of the present state unless, from his or her standpoint, there's likely to be more pain associated with remaining in the present state than what he or she will experience during the transitional period or that will remain during the future state.

When helping employees make the decision to accept change, it's important to describe the future desired state. This must address questions like, "What will the business processes look like?" and "What are the technology, process and people enablers?" People must also have answers to the following questions:

  • Why is this change necessary?
  • What's in it for me?
  • Why is it important to my organization?
  • What are the disadvantages of the change?

Eight risk factors must be managed during any major change initiative. They are:

  • Defining the cost of the status quo
  • Developing a clear vision
  • Obtaining sponsored commitment
  • Developing change agents and change advocacy skills
  • Understanding targeted responses
  • Aligning change with the organization's culture
  • Anticipating internal and external organizational events
  • Developing a sound implementation architecture

The Gartner Group estimates that inexperience, overextension or under-committed executive sponsorship will account for 50 percent of enterprise change-initiative failures. They further state that 75 percent of change leaders will employ one or more levers to help drive change without possessing even a rudimentary understanding of the implications, which will directly cause destructive organizational behaviors.

Change management methodology includes close to 50 unique tools, among which are:

  • Cultural assessment
  • Landscape surveys
  • Change agent evaluation
  • Change history surveys
  • Change resistance scale
  • Overload index
  • Predicting the impact of change
  • Role map application
  • Knowing when to apply implementation architecture

Daryl R. Conner, author, lecturer and leading authority on organizational change, states: "It is inadequate to manage just project cost, schedule and quality. Without managing the project's social impact, most projects will fail to reach their full potential."

And so will you.

About the author

H. James Harrington has more than 45 years of experience in quality. Visit his Web site at

Reprinted with permission of the author H. James Harrington. Originally appeared in Quality Digest, March 2003, p. 14.




By Meridian Resources

In recent years, coaching has become a widely accepted means of helping executives of multinational organizations enhance their leadership skills. Due in large part to the success of this technique, a number of firms have begun to implement coaching programs in a broader set of locations around the world. In last month's issue of the Global Skills Update we examined issues related to establishing a coaching program abroad. In this issue, we look at some specific coaching strategies that we have found to be effective with different types of international employees.

Coachee Types:
Although the coachees we have worked with have had an astonishingly diverse array of characteristics, they have also presented some common themes. Based on our experience over the past several years with Chinese, Japanese, and European coachees, here are: 1) several of the types that we encounter most often, 2) culturally-based issues that shape their experiences, and 3) potential ways to assist them in learning new behaviors.

  • The "Boss" Type:
  • Many coachees come from more hierarchical cultures than that of their firm's home office. To put it bluntly, they are used to telling subordinates what to do and having their orders obeyed. Yet a key objective that they often have is to develop successors who can think for themselves and take on more independent responsibility for growing the business. In other words, these leaders need to serve as coaches themselves, drawing out the skills and abilities of their own subordinates. When leaders with this frame of mind encounter coaching for the first time, their typical reaction is, "But it's faster just to tell people what to do!" Or, they may impatiently try to "coach" for a few minutes and then quickly revert to lecture mode.

    Coaching Strategies:
    We find that with these kinds of leaders it is helpful to remind them of the rationale for coaching (see Part One of this series), and also to work with them to develop a more refined set of listening skills. These skills include: focus on the speaker, reflective listening, drawing out background information and explanations, defining options, and asking for commitment. We try to enable them to emphasize listening and other low-intervention management techniques such as feedback rather than leaping quickly to guidance or advice. In the long run many realize that it is more effective to ask a question that causes the other person to think deeply and respond than to launch into a well-meaning monologue that falls on deaf ears or, worse yet, produces subordinates who have to be told what to do.

  • The "Dragon" Type:
  • Employees abroad who have had limited exposure to the organization's corporate culture may mistakenly conclude that it involves forms of behavior such as direct confrontation with colleagues or being extremely tough on subordinates, swinging to extremes uncharacteristic of their own cultural background. They themselves have gone through a trial by fire, so they believe others deserve to do so as well: "This is the way we do things here." These people may be unaware that the corporate models that they have witnessed are not necessarily representative of the whole, or that when they move to a different level in the company, more collegial, consultative behaviors are expected.

    Coaching Strategies:
    With these individuals we ask first if they would be willing to speak with or observe other role models to check their definition of accepted corporate behaviors. Then, based on feedback gathered from interviews with colleagues and subordinates, we also try to hold up a mirror to them and ask if this is the way that they want to continue to lead and be perceived, or whether this style is still appropriate for them at their new level.

  • The "Wallflower" Type:
  • High potential employees of global companies who favor a less direct communication style report that, "I try to contribute to the conference call but just can't catch the timing to get in," or "I start the meeting and am supposed to be the meeting owner, but then the participants just run away with it." Their foreign peers complain that they are not adding sufficient value or simply have not made a distinctive enough impression on headquarters colleagues to be recognized with a promotion to the next level.

    Coaching Strategies:
    This kind of problem can stem in part from lack of English fluency, but it is more than a language issue, as there is also a culturally-based reluctance in many countries to appear overly aggressive or self-promoting. We ask coachees what they have done to try to control the flow of the conversation - often this can be done with very simple English expressions. ("Please stop!" "Hold on." "Slow down.") We also ask them if they have held any one-on-one conversations with foreign colleagues to request their cooperation (for example, by identifying the speakers on the other end of a conference call and taking turns speaking). Or we might ask them whether as a starting point they would be willing to identify just one or two points that they are determined to make in the next meeting and then make these points regardless of whatever else happens.

  • The "Frustrated Change Agent" Type:
  • This category often includes expatriates who have been sent to an overseas location with a mission to bring about change. Mid-career local hires who have been brought in recently from outside of the organization may experience these symptoms as well. The change agenda that they have carefully planned and upon which their own performance will be judged appears to be stalled. Employees whose cooperation is essential seem unable or unwilling to take on the new agenda and make it happen. Frustrated change agents are frequently ready to burst with anger and impatience and to fire half the people in the office, emotions which only guarantee further ostracism from their colleagues.

    Coaching Strategies:
    The frustrated change agent is moving at a pace that is sensible to him or her, but has failed to fully engage and gain buy-in from local colleagues. We ask such individuals how they might obtain greater buy-in, and they frequently come back with excellent ideas about how to proceed. A question that startles some is, "What is the local organization doing right that deserves to be preserved?" In most cases they need to wage a "listening campaign" throughout the office that makes them a better-known presence rather than a foreign threat. This allows them to incorporate good ideas from others and identify the specific sources of resistance that they will need to work with further.

    Lessons Learned
    The key lesson for those implementing coaching programs around the world is that coaching does not need to be reinvented in every new overseas location or with each new coachee. Instead, managers need to recognize some of the common challenges faced by coachees, to consider the culture-based issues that influence a coachee's behavior in a specific country, develop strategies that are successful with each type, then transfer this knowledge to future coaches. Our experience has been that coaching is a very transferable management technique, as long as the coachee's cultural assumptions are considered when developing a coaching strategy.

    Meridian offers a complete set of consulting and training services for companies doing business in the PRC. Contact us to find out more about how we can assist you with your China operations.




    QBQ! (The Question Behind the Question) QuickNote #13

    "Why don't they communicate better?"

    Thousands of times, it seems, I've asked groups, "What is your most critical business problem today?" Nine times out of ten without hesitation the "C" word is offered. Not Change. Not Competition. Not Complexity. What is it? You guessed it:


    And it's always - yes, always - somebody else's fault! Nobody has ever stood up and said, "You know, I think today I'll help address that problem by simply working on my ability to communicate!" Of course, to say that, two things would be required:

    1. Personal accountability.
    2. An understanding of what true communication is.

    The author Stephen Covey taught us to "Seek to understand." But before him, W. Steven Brown, my mentor for many years and author of "13 Fatal Errors Managers Make ..."" shared this:

    Communication does not begin with being understood, but with understanding the other person.

    Of course, to understand the other, we might need to talk to them. Or, we could always go the alternate route and have an -

    Email War!

    Time for some good old %*#*@! over the company network. This war has its own form of "rat-a-tat-tat" as we type away on the keyboard before us.

    There we are, hunkered down in our cubicle, corner office, or field site, ignoring the device Alexander Graham Bell gave us and the two feet God blessed us with. In the glow of the computer screen, we loft a volley to the other side. Like trench-protected troops in World War I we hope against hope that when they lob one of their own grenades back it will miss the mark, showing a Logic Gap in their argument so we can know that they are wrong and we are right. (And if there is a Logic Gap, our reply will be CC'd to all the troops and commanders to read.)

    These email wars do reveal a deep "We/They" divide within our cultures that hurts us in every way imaginable. And the sad part is, WE'RE ON THE SAME TEAM! To the customer/client base "out there" we have the same organizational name. We are one. But inside, communication with each other is a daily struggle. Some, of course, try to deny this reality ...

    I'll never forget the VP who claimed there was no "We/They" in his firm. When I expressed my surprise by saying, "What, no cross functional friction? No Field versus the Home Office? No Ops versus Sales?!" He proudly responded, "Nope, there's no "We/They" around here - but it is Us against Them!"

    How many of you reading this think we can each do better? It simply takes an attitude of accountability and a good question. We call it the QBQ! The Question Behind the Question:

    "How can I better understand you and your needs today?"

    That question alone could end the war and cause peace to come to our organizations. As a united front we will serve the customer and serve them well.

    As a young salesperson of his training programs, I once asked author Steve Brown why he taught what he taught. What was he trying to accomplish? His response was simple. He said, "I'm simply trying to get people to talk to each other."

    Using QBQ!s like the one above, let's talk to each other today. Great things might happen!

    John G. Miller
    author of the QBQ! book




    • Sales and marketing workshops
    • Risk - how to recognize it, assess it and make decisions about it
    • Go to Market strategy
    • GoalCentrix - Driving Effective Plan Execution
    • A new links page to connect you to other sites of interest and value to you




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