How we used it: Climate

You are reading a previously unpublished entry written August 11, 2010.

The Boss buys the climate idea

November 2009:  At the heart of “the climate idea” is notion that climate dimensions are a model for managing and leading.  So they offer a method for and measuring managers performance.  The problem the Boss faced is that after repeated invitations to change, fervent exhortations to change, and even some modest efforts to demonstrate that performance matters to you and your job, very little had changed.  What the Boss saw in organizational climate was a way to establish measures and hold people accountable for performance.  One way of looking at the state of affairs is that people were not changing because they were not carrying out, and not being held accountable for carrying out, day-to-day management and leadership responsibilities.

I learned about this idea from my pal and mentor Mike Maginn.  Without his sage advice, we might have taken a more piecemeal approach to looking for Archimedes’ lever.

Senior leaders learn about the idea

April 2010 The Boss and I gingerly introduced the climate idea to the senior management team.  We began the discussion with them where we began that discussion with Mike and among ourselves.  In August 2009, a survey of staff to identify issues of readiness to change delivered a load of complaints and frustration about management and leadership.  It hung in the air, and from where I sat, went on stinking up the place.  Few saw the messages in it as urgent pleas or indictments.  The main messages were that leadership doesn’t lead, leaders don’t communicate, and too much is expected of us.  If you know your climate dimensions, you’ll hear feedback about standards, structure/clarity, and perhaps, recognition.

The senior leaders read our text and in a group meeting, completed my version of the Rohrschak test:  What do you think our climate profile looks like? Interestingly, they rated their teams high in structure/clarity and standards and moderately low on the others, with responsibility being the lowest.  They envisioned that Teamwork and Commitment would be higher.  Weeks of discussions followed, all of which amounted to natural reactions to getting used to the idea.  Just as we planned to T-boned by the need to develop a plan for other efforts.  The projects that flow out of that plan promise to define much of our work for two years or more.  With the day to day work, they are our lab for using climate to focus action, especially by leaders and managers.  By the time we returned to climate in June, senior managers found little to object to and much to hope for in using climate to frame how we manage work and people.