Organizations are nothing more and nothing less than the people who work within them. In order for leaders to lead, managers to manage, and workers to work, organizations must be organized, workflow needs to flow, and a workforce needs to work. Ucora uses a proven set of proprietary management practices integrated with a unique workflow information system to assist in all levels of the organization. This empowers all staff to focus on customer care, business growth, and personal development.
Ucora delivers specific methods designed to free up valuable time for business leaders, management, and workers. This empowers our customers, permitting them to adapt, to innovate, and to become industry leaders within their field.
We help companies remove bottlenecks, reduce delays, improve workflow, and reduce stress while increasing profits. Through employee empowerment, our customers become sought-after places to work.
Ucora provides a full suite of tools for business leaders, managers, and front-line workers. We provide comprehensive training programs, and coaching workshops.
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Ucora's Fractevo™ field service/workflow information system delivers highly adaptable custom solutions in record time. Because our systems are custom-built, our team focuses on your needs, and not the needs of a product designed for a wider market of average competitors.
Together we create unique systems that allow your company's differentiating characteristics to shine through. Fractevo™ allows you to be different - to be the best possible.
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Ucora was founded, with a vision to create unique, specialized workflow systems.
Ucora grew out of a passion for innovation, and a desire to affect long-lasting, positive change in organizations, and in their people.
Ucora is able to guarantee results because of our extraordinarily high project success rate in dozens of industries.
Your organization will be organized.
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Your overtime will become free time.
IVY and its Impact on Your Business - Ucora Article published June 2, 2020
Successful companies make their employees successful. This is easy to understand. However, it is not so easy to do without understanding the fundamental forces at play.
A 2018 Neilson poll found over 50% of Canadian employees want to change jobs. In 2011, Psychometrics Canada study found 69% of Canadians indicated that engagement is a problem in their organizations. 43% of millennials expect to leave their job within two years, and only 28% expect to stay beyond five years, according to a 2018 Delloite study. This is somewhat like playing on a hockey team where half of your players want to play for the other side, which is certainly not a winning scenario. The root cause of so much discontent eludes even the most seasoned managers. Let's look at why.
Without people, a business cannot exist. What is the particular purpose of your business, a purpose that will attract and retain a group of motivated employees? Are they loyal because your company makes the best widgets, or provides high quality repair services? While providing quality is important, something else may be motivating your employees to stay - or to leave.
Let us introduce the concept of "IVY" (pronounced like the plant /ˈīvē/). IVY stands for Ideal Vision of Yourself. It is how you see your future self, in a positive light. Everyone has an ideal vision of themselves. It could be something small, such as wanting to lose a few pounds, or something larger, such as wanting to become company CEO. It may be something emotional, such as finding love, or something practical, such as paying off a mortgage. It is IVY that makes us get up in the morning, and it is why we show up for work everyday. Although it can change, grow, or shrink, it is always there, moving us forward. It is not what we are doing - it is what we want to become. It is the motivation underlying everything we do - the partners we choose, the jobs we seek, the cars and homes we purchase.
If an employee's IVY is misaligned with that of their employer, all that may remain as a motivator is the money they earn, and countless studies have shown that money is a very poor motivator for almost everyone. On the other hand, if an employee's IVY is aligned with that of their employer, motivation skyrockets. If the employee perceives the job they have as the best means to get themselves from where they are to where they want to be - their IVY - they will do more than what is asked, and won't even consider playing for the other team. This is what is called "IVY Alignment". If the company and the employee want the same thing, great things happen. Additionally, if IVY Alignment is consistent across most employees within a company, instead of employees pulling the company in different, often opposing directions, the team will all be pulling in one direction, which accelerates the company forward. Occasionally we hear about companies rising seemingly out of nowhere, and sometimes we may associate this to luck, or being at the right place at the right time. In many cases, it was because the company gave their employees the opportunities they needed, and this was aligned with what the company required. In a manner of thinking, the company acts as an "IVY vehicle" for all those working within it, owners, managers, and all employees. The better the vehicle, the faster it travels.
Not having IVY Alignment within your company can make managing staff frustrating. There may be a constant pressure pushing you toward increasing degrees of micromanagement, which increases overhead costs and reduces margins.
Society is changing rapidly, and the concept of a "career" in not the same for the new generation as it was for their parents. The promise of a long career in one company capped off with an easy retirement on the golf course is the furthest thing from the minds of today's youth. University and college graduates are in abundant supply, and they are eager to work for companies where they can make a difference and grow. They are seeking employers that offer personal growth opportunities: IVY Opportunities.
So, if IVY Opportunities and IVY Alignment are the solution, how does a company change to accommodate these concepts?
An employer typically has minimal influence on defining the IVYs of their employees. However, employers can create an IVY friendly environment where people are more aware and open about who they are trying to become. Employers can help guide employees to take particular paths in their IVY journeys, however each person's IVY is a very personal thing. Typically, employees come with an IVY the day they were hired. Also, IVYs are not static. They change throughout people's lives. Much like how water and wind currents allow a sailboat to sail - even while they change in direction and magnitude - varying and changing IVYs are forces to work with, instead of against. The best way to do this is to create as many IVY Opportunities as possible.
An IVY Opportunity is a scenario facilitating the matching of a particular business need, to a particular employee's IVY (or job candidate). The more IVY Opportunities, the more likely IVY matches will occur, which increases the probability of greater overall IVY Alignment. How does an employer create IVY Opportunities and encourage matches? By being open, trusting, honest, and flexible. If the company clearly communicates what it requires, and employees work in a psychologically safe environment where they can freely talk about their needs, then the IVY Opportunities will be greater compared to the competition. This will attract the best job candidates, and IVY Alignment will increase naturally.
Ask questions such as:
Few employees stay at companies for more than 5 years. The best option is to make those 5 years as productive as possible. Sometimes we are surprised to find employees growing within their IVYs stay for much longer.
Ucora has studied and documented a progression of five levels companies goes through as they transition from low IVY Alignment to high IVY Alignment. Level 5 companies are able to achieve sustained growth rates of 20% per year. Each level in this progression has a set of barriers preventing entry, and a specific set of solutions focused on reducing and overcoming these barriers. These methods form the foundation of Ucora's PEARS management practices, which is supported by our Fractevo™ workflow platform.
Ucora's mission is to provide others with the knowledge they require to improve their work environment and workflow, by leveraging a strong understanding of IVY and PEARS. Read our next article, which will provide details on what PEARS is, and how to apply it within your business. We share this information openly and freely, and will be happy to share and exchange ideas with you.
How to Apply PEARS to a Service Business - Ucora Article published June 25, 2020
The previous article on IVY - Ideal Vision of Yourself - provides a good lead into this article. If you have 10 minutes, give it a read.
As a service company tries to scale up, barriers to growth are encountered. Faced with these barriers, companies often drag out the usual suspects:
Working harder on these usual suspects will rarely have a lasting positive impact. Most companies have already been trying without success, yet remain convinced that if they could just try harder, then eventually success will materialize. The struggle seems endless. Without any other option, they keep at it, day after day. What else can a company do?
To understand the true barriers to growth, it is helpful to first understand what growth looks like.
As companies increase in size, they transition through periods of slow growth and periods of high growth. This is a non-linear path. Instead of improvements happening incrementally over long periods of time, growth occurs in spurts, followed by periods of relative stability. These periods of stability are normal. However, they can become stagnant if permitted to last too long. Instead, the stable periods are opportunities to solidify the changes from the previous growth spurt, and to act as a staging platform for the next level. They should not be permitted to become the new status quo. In other words, while the resulting growth curve is non-linear, the growth effort should be continuous. Knowing why growth occurs in spurts, and understanding the barriers preventing the next stage, is key.
To help understand company growth patterns, the PEARS methodology details 5 distinct levels on the growth curve, with entry into each level blocked by a set of well defined barriers. Companies are stable at any given level, but not as they transition between levels. During a transition period, as a company moves from one level to the next, the team risks sliding back, else it succeeds and reaches the next level, which becomes its new stable point.
PEARS is an acronym that provides a name to each level, which reflects how an employee feels working in a company operating at that level: Programmed, Educated, Autonomous, Respected, Spokesperson.
The graph above illustrates the PEARS growth pattern. The Y-axis represents growth and profitability, while the X-axis represents an increase in distributed decision making or empowerment. The more empowerment, the more profit. However, a deeper understanding is to view profitability and empowerment as natural consequences of something much more fundamental: IVY Alignment and IVY Opportunities. In short, IVY is an Ideal Vision of Yourself, and it is what everyone in a company is working toward. (No, their IVY is not to make your business grow and be profitable, not unless you have IVY Alignment) See the previous article for a detailed explanation of what IVY is. In this view, the Y-axis is IVY Alignment and the X-axis is IVY Opportunities.
Most companies operate in the Programmed level. It is similar to a command-and-control military mindset. The organizational structure is very hierarchical, and the resulting culture is one of fear and complacency. The belief is that people higher up in the hierarchy are smarter, and care more about quality, responsiveness, and customer care relative to people lower in the hierarchy. IVY Opportunities and IVY Alignment are close to nonexistent at this level.
At this level, through increased trust, workers start being given access to information previously reserved for management. They are able to see the entire business process and learn how their actions affect the whole. Information asymmetry and its negative effects are reduced. Frontline workers start to experience basic IVY Opportunities. IVY Alignment increases. Profit margins increase.
Workers are now given sufficient tools and autonomy to make customer decisions without always requiring management's approval. The organization's hierarchical structure starts to flatten, and this changes the culture where previously management had a monopoly on decision making and customer care. IVY Opportunities become significant for workers and start to increase for management also. IVY Alignment starts to take hold. Growth accelerates as more and more employees start moving in the same direction.
At this level workers have been elevated to being respected professionals in their fields, and are regarded as equal partners in making business process design decisions. The business process evolves without mandatory management oversight. IVY Opportunities and IVY Alignment are at an all time high. Not only does growth and profitability continue to accelerate, company innovation, evolution, resilience, and adaptability are now an inherent part of the business. How the company does things becomes more important compared to what the company does.
Level five is truly extraordinary in that most everyone in the company are free to represent, promote, and share the unique processes and culture within their company. The employees are regarded as industry experts within their respective fields. The company is viewed internally and externally as an ideal source of IVY Opportunities for personal growth. Some employees are loyal for decades, others come in, grow, and move on, promoting the company as an ideal place to learn, to grow, and to purchase quality services from, second to none. Why the company does things becomes the focus.
Consider the following:
In order for people to believe in you as a leader, you must believe in your people. Trust is a reciprocal relationship. Employees want the same things people in management want:
Collectively, delivering the items above creates an environment rich in IVY Opportunities. This is the X-axis on the PEARS chart, and it enables companies to move up along their growth path.
It may seem counter-intuitive that spontaneous, seemingly effortless growth is a side effect of the latitude you give your team. In other words, less effort gives more results. On the flip side, we all know that more effort can provide more results, however we often find these results are limited and short-lived. If growth and profit are forced, then these are capped by how much of your personal life you are willing to sacrifice for the business. It is an even trade at best, and more often a miserable existence of servitude. Ask yourself: Do you own your business (or your job position), or does your business own you? Are you able to walk away, and come back months later to find the business not only running as smoothly as before, but also running better than when you left?
PEARS, and the fundamental force underlying it - IVY - provides a clear path toward growth and profitability, without increasing measurement, control, discipline, enforcement, punishment, or ill conceived bonus systems. As a savvy business manager once said after success with PEARS "I've come to learn that this is more about letting go than anything else."
The five distinct levels of PEARS provide an advantage because it enables us to focus on only the set of barriers between the level your business is on and the level you are trying to reach. Having a road map makes the journey easier, and avoids getting lost along the way. Each level on the PEARS road map becomes easier and easier to implement because each level frees up more and more time, and because all levels build upon the same fundamental concept: Creating an environment that allows people to become who they want to be – to achieve their IVY - inherently structures a business to run itself.
Ucora is a Vancouver based management consulting and information technology firm with 30 years of experience servicing customers in a multitude of industries. We are happy to share these ideas and more with anyone interested in positive change. See www.ucora.com for more.
Create a Self-Running Operation - Ucora Infographic published June 29, 2020
Read Ucora's business management series: Big Hairy Hugs - A New Perspective On Business Management
Learn about valuess delays and how to banish waste in your service business: Lean Thinking - James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
Ucora article on valueless delays and unnecessary handovers. Valueless delays — The devil in disguise
If Semler wasn't so successful, we might discount his radical ideas: Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace - Ricardo Semler
All businesses can learn from how HVAC service companies manage the day-to-day chaos. 7 tips from the HVAC service industry
You may know your EQ, however what is your Adaptability Quotient (AQ)? Natalie Fratto AQ TED Talk
How to nurture the crazy ideas that win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries: Loonshots by Safi Bahcall.
Make Customers Happier with Operational Transparency: HBR Podcast with Ryan Buell.
Quick tip: What motivates people at work? It may not be what you think.
Quick tip: If you want it to get done, frame it properly.
Following the mindset of Job To Be Done (JTBD) if you want people to do what you ask (quotes, internal tasks, work instructions, etc) then frame it properly:
Great TED Talk about productivity within teams and "Super-Chickens": Forget the pecking order at work - Margaret Heffernan
Ucora article on viewing a business from a different perspective: Know what you do at work - It may not be what you think
Reality rarely plays out as planned. Instead of fighting this, create a process that embraces it! Avoid missed opportunities. Become opportunistic.
Do you know your "Job To Be Done" or the JTBD of others in your company? JTBD
Maybe your perceived disadvantage is actually your greatest strength: Multipotentialites - Emilie Wapnick
Can company software cause or alleviate stress? We believe it can be either: Stress or Stress Relief Due To Software?
Women own 39 percent of all businesses in the US, yet female entrepreneurs get only two percent of venture funding. What's causing this gap? Dana Kanze TED Talk
Adapting, innovating, and self-betterment all depend on changing old habits. Try Habit Stacking as a way to build new and better habits.
Quick Tip: A cognitive bias is a systemic error in thinking that affects the decisions and judgments that people make. Thinking about thinking can help.
From the “Cognitive bias cheat sheet” by Buster Benson. frame it properly:
Information overload is real - we can't know everything, so we aggressively filter,
sometimes the noise becomes signal, we cannot see everything. Sometimes the information we filter out is actually useful and important.
What's it Mean? Lack of meaning is confusing, so we fill in the gaps. Signal becomes a story,
our search for meaning can conjure illusions. We sometimes imagine details that were filled in by our assumptions, and construct meaning and stories that aren’t really there.
Think Quick! Need to act fast lest we lose our chance, so we jump to conclusions. Stories become decisions,
quick decisions can be seriously flawed. Some of the quick reactions and decisions we jump to are unfair, self-serving, and counter-productive.
What to Remember? We try to remember the important bits. Decisions inform our mental models of the world,
our memory reinforces errors. Some of the stuff we remember for later just makes all of the above more biased, and more damaging to our thought processes.