Archive for March, 2012

WAMU Story Is Retrospective on Stated Values

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

As an information junkie and also a neatnik, I’m continuously waging a battle with the rogue waves of paper that inundate my office. I’m often rewarded, though, with surprising–and sometimes sobering–discoveries.

While recently cleaning out my files, I ran across a set of my notes from  a 2003 business event in Seattle where WAMU CEO Kerry Killinger was the featured speaker. In an interesting convergence of events, an article in the Seattle Times a few days later reported the financial settlement related to the demise of WAMU was, at last, final. A highly regarded institution for more than 100 years that represented Northwest reserve, stability and integrity and made us proud was no more, and it’s officially in the history books as the largest bank failure in the U.S.

My notes from just nine years ago reminded of the values Killinger was espousing even as he was leading the iconic institution to destruction. As he told us at the business event, the core values of WAMU were 1) honesty and integrity at all levels, 2) respect for employees and customers, 3) teamwork, 4) innovation, and 5) excellence. As both a customer and a stockholder, I wish that had been as true during the housing bubble as it had been for decades before. But instead of excellent performance based on integrity, honesty and respect for others, WAMU set out to write as many mortgages as possible, regardless of the viability of the deal.

It’s a sad reminder that adopting and espousing impressive core values comprises only the first step of good management. Just as importantly, the leaders of an organization need to demonstrate their commitment to their value through their actions.


Blitz Communication Strategy Works

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

If your organization finds communication and employee engagement challenging, especially when implementing change, a blitz strategy may be the answer.  According to an article in “Reliable Plant,” this approach is an easy way to comprehensively disseminate messages and to support change efforts.

Here are the steps of blitz communications as outlined by authors Joe Mike and Patricia Landry:

  1. Senior leaders craft a succinct message
  2. They then divide into groups and spread throughout work areas to discuss the message with supervisors, listen to their feedback, and check for retention
  3. Supervisors meet with their employees in small groups and deliver the same message
  4. Leaders document how well employees retain the message, with the goal being 40 percent of the employees able to clearly articulate it

Landry reminds leaders that messages can always be improved, so it’s important not to measure the success of their communication based on their own perception. Checking whether employees are able to repeat the message accurately is the only sure measure of the message’s effectiveness.

Making communication clear and concise during a big project is the single most important factor in successfully implementation of change, Landry says. At one organization where she spearheaded the blitz process, most of the feedback was positive–so much so that the company plans to use it again.