Energy Efficient

A global HR auto exec believes organizational effectiveness is necessary for growth and is a constant work in progress

09WP-StephanieDawkins1b

(Photo by Steve Cash)

Title: Senior Vice President/Global Process

Location: Greensboro, N.C.

Age: 50

Power Play: Dawkins is the first African American senior vice president in the 80-year history of AB Volvo. She is also National Action Network Labor Chair for the state of North Carolina and is regarded as one of the top female labor negotiators on a global platform.

How do you define organizational effectiveness?
Organizational effectiveness is a process that uses operational tools to enable an organization to maximize its productivity by optimizing its human capital. When it becomes a natural process, you have one of the main components of operational efficiency.

In this economic climate, what does organizational effectiveness look like and how can it be achieved?
Unfortunately, too often managers are shortsighted and see organizational effectiveness only as a training initiative. In this climate, the entire organization—not just the executives—must fully understand the primary goals and objectives to be accomplished. There should be a series of communication platforms—town halls, surveys, Webinars, one-on-one meetings—to educate the organization to ensure total alignment of its mission and goals. This is also a great way to get more ownership from your employee base for maximum contribution. And since the economy will continue to change, companies should be focusing on a few key initiatives as opposed to 30 or 40 that more than likely wouldn’t be achieved even in the best of times.

How much does the economy hinder a company’s ability to improve its effectiveness?
Successful companies are flexible and adaptable. An effective organization should have contingency plans in place to capitalize on unpredictable conditions. Organizational effectiveness has a methodology. Once it is properly in place and reinforced, the organization can virtually use autopilot for changing conditions. Bear in mind, the key factor is sincere reinforcement by the CEO and his or her chain of command.

Does organizational effectiveness apply beyond the company—to its vendors and customers?
It is applicable to vendors, customers, and anyone who uses the organization’s product or service. This is actually the intent of organizational effectiveness in its truest form. Most, if not all, of the processes and tools of it would work in the ideal organization if every person who ultimately touches the product has a seat at the table. Bringing all of the players to the game and having no one sitting on the bench is the way to develop a truly winning team. It helps to build an ethical foundation while at the same time cultivating moral values, because it allows the organization to be as transparent as possible. It helps to eliminate hidden agendas.

Although organizational effectiveness can vary considerably from company to company, what is consistent in its implementation?
Organizational effectiveness is not going to happen overnight. Metaphorically speaking, if you didn’t gain 100 pounds overnight, you can’t expect to lose 100 pounds overnight. An organization must be patient, focus on education, and celebrate its accomplishments. Implementing organizational effectiveness is not a textbook application; it is understanding and embracing your culture. The methodology takes a bit of tweaking and massaging. Be prepared to perform quality audits during the process. The process must maintain a checks-and-balances system. One size does not fit all.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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