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The Alignment Factor – Addressing Change As a ‘People Challenge’


You work for an organization that is spending millions of dollars on a major new process that will completely change the way you work and who you work with, and require you to think about your work in a completely new way. The success of the company depends on you and your colleagues!

Feeling pretty confident so far? He didn’t think so. Every day in organizations around the world, these kinds of challenges are placed on the people who do the work of the organization. It’s true, it’s rarely stated so clearly. Too often, organizations simply announce the initiative, whether it’s a new technology, a new process or a new way of thinking…as if the initiative itself represents the entirety of the change.

This is rarely the case. Change is always about people. As jarring as our “let’s go get the tiger” example is, it at least represents a level of transparency that is often missing in organizations.

The People Piece

Dramatic case studies are not hard to find. Let’s take ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) as an example. For the uninitiated, ERP is a broad – and complex – technology initiative that promises system efficiency by sharing common data across every part of the organization. Star struck, many companies took ERP as Indiana Jones lifting a golden idol from an Incan temple.

The results were just as encouraging. (Remember that jumbled rock?) For example, in 1999 Hershey’s ERP startup problems cost the company $150 million. That same year, FoxMeyer Corp’s faulty ERP installation cost them a $1 billion lawsuit … and ended in bankruptcy for the company. The Climate Administration abandoned the initiative and had to bear the cost of $150 million.

The lesson here is not to avoid this ERP business. Or total quality, culture integration, Six Sigma, CRM, shared services model, supply chain, or other comprehensive change initiative. Many companies have transformed themselves with these powerful initiatives. No, the lesson here is much deeper. And easier. Here’s how one Nestlé executive summarized what the company learned in a May 2002 interview with CIO magazine: “No major software implementation is really about the software. It’s about change management… When when you go to SAP (specific ERP software), you change the way people work… You question their principles, their beliefs and the way they have done things for many, many years.” People should appreciate the importance of initiative.

In other words, just because you’ve installed the software and completed the training doesn’t mean your job is done. You’re just getting warmed up. To produce powerful results, you need to introduce the ‘human variable’ into the equation, which changes and communications company Paradigm Learning puts it this way: An equation is a variation on a theme.

This version comes from a change leader at consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark. Michael Fischer uses the equation to explain why their massive supply chain initiative has been so successful. Kimberly-Clark realized early in the process that changing an entire organization — or part of one — is a complex equation.

Much has been said and written about the first element of the formula above, the quality of the change initiative. Although devilishly difficult, this switch has the virtue of being obvious: Get the technology wrong and it won’t work, end of argument. Many consultants and much of the change management literature focuses on this first critical variable. But it is the second area, human compatibility, that is often overlooked. And this is where a powerful force can be found. For change to occur and for real results to be achieved in organizations, there must be alignment of organizational culture – norms of behavior, operating principles, common understanding of “how things work here” – and mental models, which are often hidden. . beliefs, conclusions, assumptions, and ways of thinking about how individuals perceive the world.

The Great Transformation: Vision, Knowledge, Responsibility

Cultures. Mental models. Paradigms. It would be nice to change them by printing a slogan on a coffee cup, but the experience of countless organizational change agents supports that this is not the case. People strongly resist change in the ways they perceive and relate to their world, especially if that change is forced upon them. Those organizations that have succeeded in getting the horse to water and drink indicate that widespread and voluntary registration is a positive.

Making the case for people:

Not exactly. Training means something you ‘do’ to employees. The goal here is to act more irrationally, which is learning. As theorist David Kolb points out, learning occurs when people choose to embrace a new concept, practice its application in their own context, reflect on their own experience, and ultimately expand its application broadly.

You can’t do this with a PowerPoint presentation. In his powerful article, Learning by Doing, author Michael Robin suggests an interesting approach to learning: Organizations are discovering that hands-on experience produces the most valuable learning (Journal of Knowledge Management, March 2000).

In it Michael says that, “In today’s volatile global economy, performance is difficult to predict and standardized behavior may not be successful. Businesses need to innovate faster, respond to new challenges, and find opportunities to create value. In this In the new situation, traditional educational methods are falling short in several key areas … related to … time … and cost.”

The article continues that, “One of the clearest effects on organizational productivity from experience-based learning can be seen in higher levels of retention, which ultimately leads to the transfer of knowledge into informed action.

While retention rates for traditional learning from lectures or reading are typically only three to five percent, retention rates with experience-based learning are known to reach 80-90 percent.

Technology and Alignment at Marathon Oil

Let’s go back to the world of SAP for a case study. The organization is Marathon Oil Company, a Houston energy company that began its ‘Project Renaissance’ initiative in 2000 to implement SAP for more than 2,400 employees worldwide. In addition to the outstanding technological component, Marathon from the beginning treated the Renaissance as a public challenge, and set a plan for the transfer of vision, knowledge and responsibility. And for this they used the power of experiential learning. Partnering with Tampa-based change and communication experts Paradigm Learning,

Renaissance developed a communication tool called the “Discovery Map®”. A 4-foot by 6-foot visual display filled with data, images and metaphors related to the Renaissance initiative, the Discovery Map shows three universal elements for the change initiative: Marathon’s current reality (including their challenges), their vision ( or their description). where it wants to go), and the means of crossing the map from ‘here’ to ‘there’ (in this case, SAP technology represents the bridge).

In a structured learning activity, organization members interacted with the dynamic content of the Discovery Map, connecting its metaphors to their own experiences. The end of this story is interesting: Employees recognized and embraced the value of SAP’s challenging technology. With this extensive organizational support, Renaissance came under budget. And after only 13 months of work (a record in the industry), they were up and running. In their reflections, leaders at the highest levels of the organization identified this “commitment,” not technology or software, as the cornerstone of their success. Marathon was right: It’s about coordination. It’s about people.

Korn Products Aligns Its Workforce

Imagine a scenario where the entire senior leadership team of an organization is focused on one goal. Now imagine that the majority of employees do not understand the goal. Not only do they not understand, they don’t even know what the words in the written statement of purpose mean. That was the case facing Corn Products, a global leader in food ingredients and industrial shelter. Is learner-driven, not trainer-driven Is team-based Considers learning as a cycle, builds on each understanding Allows time for reflection and internalization. Embraces mistakes as a learning tool Gets the big picture and creates new mental models.

Discovery learning is:

In the process of trying to strengthen its bottom line while expanding its product portfolio, “The mantra of the entire senior team was, ‘We have to improve working capital, we have to improve working capital,'” explains David Spirk, managing director. management and organization. development “But during a meeting, an employee raised his hand and asked, ‘What exactly is working capital?’ That’s when I knew we had some work ahead of us.” Corn Products leaders quickly realized that they needed to focus on coordination. They had to make sure everyone was on the same page if the revival process was going to be successful. Understanding the concept that it was critical to success, and even more so, that every employee could influence it, were mission-critical challenges.

For this, Corn Products chose a unique method… a board game, again based on discovery learning techniques. Zodiak® Paradigm Learning: The Game of Finance and Business Strategy offers a way to build understanding, knowledge and most importantly, the commitment to do what it takes to achieve the Corn Product goal. The Zodiak game put Corn Products employees in the role of business owners for a day and allowed them to ‘run’ an organization over three simulated years of operation.

While playing the game, participants learned how to read and construct income statements and balance sheets, how to analyze numbers, and how to interpret the impact of their decisions on key financial measures such as working capital. As they immersed themselves in the game, calling their own shots, they became more conversant in the language of business and faced the critical financial impact that individuals can have on a company’s success. Does it work? Are employees aligned around what is important to Corn Products? Corporate leaders think so. “Our people need to know where this company wants to go and what we need to do to get there,” said Corn Products President and CEO Samuel Scott. “We are all connected, and this experience is something that clearly shows every employee how true that is.”

Organizational Change and the Temple of Doom

You are in an Incan temple, reaching for that golden idol of organizational change. Bali. There are traps here. Ask yourself:

What are the results you want to achieve? How will you make the change seamlessly … and with value? Finally (and this is the important part): How will you align the people in your organization around the Watch?

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