Kim Vogel

About Kim Vogel

Kim is an established leader of business strategy and corporate culture development. ...

Posts by Kim Vogel:

Ready. Aim. Fire! The rallying cry for successful change initiatives

We all know that the only constant is change. And with about 70% of all change initiatives failing what that means in today’s challenging business climate is that, while all the more critical, it continues to be challenging to make change happen.

Even after thorough and proper planning change initiatives commonly meet reactions from employees like “that’s not the way we do things around here” or “this is the latest flavor of the month”. One thing I find that companies struggle with and that would make your change initiative more successful is creating and bringing to life a compelling vision for change.

A compelling vision is more than just having a meeting where you share an acronym with a logo and a catchy tag line for the undertaking. For a vision to truly be captivating it has to be motivating and inspirational so that people eagerly move toward the new destination created by the vision.

Part of being a good leader is being able to create and communicate your vision. For significant change initiatives, leaders need to be masterful in creating the vision of the new destination. This takes skill, time and repetition of the message. Leaders also need to be authentic about challenges to be faced, commitment needed and what to do if people don’t feel up to the task because being on the bus but not being an active participant is not an option. Consider for example the programs that both Zappos and Amazon have in place for paying employees to quit.

One of the most commonly missing pieces I find when crafting a compelling vision is creating a “burning platform”. The burning platform makes it clear that staying in the current position isn’t an option. Change is uncomfortable. What leaders need to do is make it more comfortable to move forward than to remain where you are currently.

So how do you create the burning platform that is inspirational? Let’s break it down…

The burning platform for me is visually depicted as a wooden bridge that acts as the transition between what your business has been and what it can become. The wooden bridge has a very deep canyon below and the bridge is on fire. Now imagine you are standing in the middle of the burning wooden bridge. As the fire continues to burn it becomes more and more risky to stay standing on the bridge. The art of effectively creating the burning platform for change is enabling people to be brave enough to walk forward to a place unknown.

To be successful leaders must:

  • Make the vision clear and compelling drawing people forward enabling them to overcome their natural fear and resistance to new and different things
  • Ensure forces are stronger drawing people forward than their inherent desire to return to what is familiar and comfortable
  • Create a sense of urgency around making change happen

An example of where this was well done was a leader in a segment of the quick service restaurant industry. It was faced with the challenge of creating the compelling need to change while being a leader in their category. To create the need for change the point of comparison was reframed. Rather than being satisfied at being a leader in their category the gauntlet was thrown down that it wanted to be the leader in the fast food restaurant overall industry. That completely changed the landscape. The goal was clear. The company wasn’t number one but it could see the taillights of the industry leader and now all it had to do was close the gap. The sense of urgency came from the fact that the industry leader was moving forward. The vision was clear, the rallying cry went up and the company was able to drive change with this renewed focus.

One thing that companies can do to significantly increase the success of their change initiatives is create a burning platform. Once the vision is clear you need to delicately set the torch to the platform to create the sense of urgency around the need for change compelling people to move forward. This is one area time and time again I see as an opportunity for companies to be more successful with the change initiatives.

As you begin your strategic planning for 2015 ask yourself: Are you ready? Have you thoroughly planned out your change initiative? Is the aim of the vision clear and laser focused? Is your vision compelling including a burning platform for change that is really on fire? These questions will help lead you to achieving greater success with your change initiatives.

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The Business of People – Six Trends to Capitalize On

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HR as a strategic business partner? Absolutely. It’s no longer simply a support function for hiring and firing, and I made this point clear to a room full of senior executives during a recent workshop that I delivered. I even reinforced the point with the one trend that is music to the ears of everyone in business — happy, engaged and well-trained team members can move top-line growth.

This was only one of the six trends that I highlighted that are impacting business and the teams that we build. As a senior business leader, I view these as a great opportunity to maximize the impact your people practices can have on the bottom line. I wanted to take the opportunity to share them with you so that you can leverage them in your businesses:

1. The Leadership Gap
The top business issue reported in Deloitte’s “Predictions for 2014” was that more than 60 percent of executives are struggling with leadership gaps at all levels. Organizations need to have a strategy to develop the talent required to deliver corporate goals today and in the future.

2. Big Data
The call for Big Data is starting to ring in all facets of business. And while Big Data tells you the analytics at a quantitative level there is an absence of qualitative data associated with it. For example, Big Data can tell you that someone drove five miles but it can’t tell you how the driver enjoyed the ride. As the human element of Big Data evolves and using data to make decisions permeates organizations it will be imperative to establish and utilize people metrics.

3. Hyper Connected Consumer
With 91% of U.S. adults online using social media regularly and the average person checking their cell phone 150 times per day, it is driving a frantic consumption of information and a rapid pace of change. With this pace of change it is essential to have processes in place that makes change “sticky”.

4. Experience Seekers
Customer loyalty is no longer a singular function of product satisfaction. Customer experience now plays such a substantial role that customers are willing to pay a premium for a better experience. The Disney Institute and McKinsey Company recently reported companies whose employees consistently offered exceptional customer experience realized a 2-percentage point advantage over their peers in revenue growth along with an increased employee satisfaction and engagement of 30 percent. Companies need to focus on employee engagement to drive employee satisfaction and create customer loyalty.

5. Customer Disloyalty
According to Forbes, among unhappy customers, 86 percent will stop doing business with a company because of bad service, 51 percent will give a company only one chance and only 4 percent will ever voice their dissatisfaction. Even 24 percent of content customers continue to seek out new vendors. It is more challenging now than ever to get and keep satisfied customers and we know the key to customer satisfaction is employee engagement.

6. Investing for Growth
There is a further shift away cost reduction and towards investment in growth. Deloitte is reporting that 24 percent of companies will be investing for growth this year; this is up from only 16 percent the past three years. To take advantage of this investment in growth, senior HR leaders need to have readied a business case for increased spending.

Now, more than ever, there are profound possibilities for people practices to have a significant business impact through:
• Crafting a talent development strategy
• Establishing and utilizing people metrics
• Making your change management process “sticky”
• Building employee engagement to create customer loyalty
• Having a business case for increased spending

Being able to seize the opportunity these business trends offer can have a significant impact on your bottom line!

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What do eBay, Coke, Proctor & Gamble, GE, Whirlpool and 3M have in Common?

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Recently these companies, and others, participated in the Unleashing Innovation Summit in NYC which I had the pleasure of attending.  There were organizations from around the globe that came together to focus on innovation with an emphasis on people and culture.  It was great to see innovation thought leaders discussing this very critical issue and have them reinforce what I have believed and practiced for over 15 years.  There was lots of sharing of experience on what worked and what didn’t when adopting an innovation focused culture.

So What’s Working…

From the group of participants it appears that companies are doing a good job at identifying the opportunities to address and are managing through the process of innovation rather well.  In their approach, large companies are striving to emulate small company’s entrepreneurism.  Companies are forming non-traditional partnerships and looking within their organization to their employees for solutions to improve the customer experience.  As an example we heard first hand about the success and challenges overcome in the design and launch of Coke Freestyle.  From the experience I have had leading change initiatives, leaders traditionally find the process improvement portion to be the easier part, mastering it more quickly.  This appears to hold true in the evolution of the adoption of innovation.

Today’s Challenges…

From case studies, fireside chats and storytelling we learned that the challenge of ingraining innovation into the culture was a difficult one facing many companies.  Also, the majority of companies are still grappling with the vulnerability of risk.  While we all understand the benefits of “fail, fail fast and fail often” it is still difficult to successfully make that part of an organization’s culture.  A culture where employees are not punished for making mistakes appears to still be a rarity.  Some of the successful cultural initiatives to overcome this we heard about included Innovation Day at United Health Group, Viz Kitchen from eBay and the BASF Cultural Ambassador program as forums to involve employees and even in some cases customers in the innovation process.

As a change leader I’ve found that fully delivering a cultural change takes effort and time.  The effort put forth in ensuring all of the moving parts align can be daunting but pays big dividends.  And affording the needed time to not only do it right the first time but in allowing employees to adapt and adjust is not something you can fast forward through – there just aren’t any short cuts to quality change.

The Future…

For me, the signs are clearer now than ever.  Organizations are looking within for ways to better delight customers, engage employees and impact their bottom line.  For companies wanting to do this through innovation the biggest challenge appears to be fostering a culture of innovation.  For us innovative change agents, our time has come!

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