Human Performance Technology: the study and ethical practice of improving productivity in organizations by designing and developing effective interventions that are result-oriented, comprehensive and systemic. (Handbook of Human Performance Technology, James A. Pershing)
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What have survival skills in common with corporate performance?

Posted: June 22nd, 2009 | Author: Patrick Smits | Filed under: From the news | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments », CCL, uh...bob

In the article “How to Survive A Disaster”, Amanda Riley describes in nice examples how little things can change you life in life threathening moments.

How to Survive a Disaster

Some learning’s from these stories are also meaningful for corporations improving their performance. Often little things can mean a world of a difference. Mostly those things are counter intuitive. And that’s why they seem obvious but Oh, so difficult to implement.

1. Prepare a plan

Experience shows that effective rescue plans are counter intuitive. A plan will help you to act against your intuition. The best plans are made without stress, when things are obvious and logical. It also gives you time to test your plan. You can call in outside advice to improve your plan. Knowledge is somewhere out there. Have also a plan B. When you are used with the practice of drafting plans, this skill will help you to adapt the plan when needed.

Therefore “scenario planning” is essential for organizations. And it needs to be a continuous process. It is best done when there is no need and everything seems to go well.

2. Build teams

Teams work best when there is a minimum of linking between the members. This will support team members to help each other. In mountaineering my fellow climber stands for my survival. The more I help him, the more I will be helped when needed. Team cohesion is essential for survival.

Organizations depend on their teams and networks. Teams become more global and virtual. Team members hardly ever meet in a world of travel restrictions. In this context it is therefore more difficult to achieve this cohesion. And yet, it is only in a face to face encounter that those connections are made. Teambuilding needs time and a place.

3. Define and attribute roles

The fact that all team members are skilled “first aid helpers” and carry their title, will engage them in helping. It is impressive what just roles do with people. People will tend to act to their roles.

In matrix organizations people have more and different roles. We called it “role inflation”. Roles and responsibilities are diluted. Simple and clear roles help clarity. These roles can change as long as this is communicated and clear for everybody. A simple label with your role can already do miracles. At rock festivals the security people have SECURITY clearly on their hats and T-shirts’. No discussion.

4. Organize Leadership

Not everybody can lead. Leadership does not always need to be the same person. It is a role. And the person in the role needs to know what is expected from him/her in that role. This can be planned, trained and tested. The clearer the roles and leadership the more efficient the team becomes. This is not rocket science, but the price is high when leadership fails.

Leadership can be trained. Some people have more potential than others to take on a leadership role. However, I would prefer a trained leader to a high potential yet untrained leader. What is hidden potential without training and coaching? When we work with teams, we are sometimes surprised to see some people develop into great leaders when the conditions are right.

5. Train, train and train

It sounds boring. But repetition helps us to react without thinking. Specific connections are built in our brain that will engage when we need them. It seems that the body remembers and the brain is shortcut. An example is the musician who plays without thinking.

Training is about skills. Skills improve with repetition. There is no way around it. However it is important that the most effective skills are trained and reinforced. It has absolutely no use to be very efficient in doing the wrong things. Therefore is the planning so important.

6. Focus on the positive

But above everything that is mentioned there needs to be a “will to survive”. When this will to survive is not there, any plan nor skill will help you. A way to build this will to survive is by envisioning a positive outcome. One of the strongest ways to build teams is to let them work with the ideal situation. By focussing on the little positive gains, we are able to coop with the most devastating situations.

It sounds easy and in practice it is also very easy to focus the team on the positive. I think this is the easiest and the most effective intervention that can be done with immediate effect. Also this is a skill that can be learned.

Some simple questions can help you to do a health check:

· Do we have a plan?

· Did we test our plan?

· Do we have an alternative plan?

· Does everybody know his role?

· Is everybody trained for is role?

· Is it clear who will lead when?

· Are the leaders trained to take the lead?

· Did we train our plan?

· What would be the ideal outcome?

· What goes well?

These simple questions can already mean a lifetime differences to teams and organizations. In times of world financial and economic crisis, I think we need to go back to the basics and as us these little questions.