Organizational Management Training


Organizational Management Training


Organizational Management and Risk Perception


A number of years ago I had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Hillson, aka The Risk Doctor, speak at a conference. Hillson is an author, speaker and thought-leader in risk management. During his presentation he shared information on the different ways risk may be viewed by people and why. Here are some of the impacts on risk perception.


If we imagine the outcome of the risk will be negative we see the risk as being greater than it is. When we believe we have some control in the situation, we imagine the risk to be lower than it is. The risk will also seem lower if we feel we have choices regarding the risk. These perspectives are especially important during times of organizational change. When people feel they have some control and choice over aspects of the change it will seem less risky which improves the chances of buy-in and success.

Exposure to a risk matters. We consider the risk to be greater if the situation is new to us. Exposure to the same risk over time reduces our perception of its riskiness. If we believe the risk might result in a negative outcome to us, we rank it as riskier than if the negative outcome might happen to someone else. If we see the risk could result in a perceived benefit we will discount the risk and emphasize the benefit.


A risk that has a high media profile or one that is of current concern to the general public will appear to be a higher risk. When a trusted party offers protection from the risk we see that risk as lowered. Conversely, if we lack trust in those offering protection it will result in the risk seeming larger to us. This has practical applications for the importance of strong work relationships. Those who can offer support or protection will be more effective if they have fostered good working relationships with those they supervise.


If you would like to explore risk management a great place to start is the Risk Doctor’s website.


Fern Richardson MBA PHEc


Organizational Management and Conflict at Work


Most of us don’t enjoy being in conflict with others whether at work or home. There are some common underlying causes of workplace conflict that, when addressed, can make life easier for all.

Do you recognize any of these at play in your workplace?

Lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities

Be crystal clear in your directives and make sure to cover the who, what, when, where, and why. Make sure to include time for questions.

Unclear language

Mean what you say and say what you mean.  Vague statements like, “Do it when you have time.” can be interpreted in multiple ways, including never. “I need it by this Friday at noon.” leaves no room for confusion.

Different perspectives and experiences

We all have our own unique library of life experience and we filter information through those experiences. Work to understand their perspective. It creates greater clarity and as an added bonus it expands your own horizons.


When emotions are engaged reason can go out the window. It is better to take a break and have everyone calm down than try to push through an emotional response. Consider exploring the emotional side with the participants at a later date.

If unproductive conflict is happening in your workplace review these common causes and plan ways to minimize their impact.

Fern Richardson MBA PHEc


Organization Management and Learning


Successful organizations in today’s marketplace understand the importance of learning. For example continuous improvement and innovation are strongly linked to learning. How does your organization support learning?

Learning is more than just classroom training. The American Society for Training and Development found that 15% of all learning needed to function in most jobs is through traditional classroom training.

What are other ways we learn in organizations?  One obvious way is to examine what’s working well, our successes, and what isn’t working well, our whoopsies. It is easy to reflect on our success and much harder to focus on what didn’t work. The latter information is probably more valuable. Documenting lessons learned is a great practice for everyone. Another idea is to hold a future focus. What are new trends in your industry? How can you build on them? It’s important to spread the learning message throughout the organization. How do your executive team, managers and supervisors encourage and support learning? Some companies make learning a priority by creating a position of Chief Learning Officer.

Practical things organizations can do to encourage a learning focus include:

“Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well. On the other hand, when they split up knowledge, concentrate on their own field, and scorn and ignore other fields, they grow less wise – even in their own field. Isaac Asimov                                                                        

Fern Richardson MBA PHEc



Organization Management and Pre-mortems


Smart organizations take time for post mortem project reviews. It’s an opportunity to discover lessons learned: what went better than expected, what went as expected and hmmm let’s rethink that! Another helpful tool is the pre-mortem discussion.


As a team closes in on a big decision it can become harder to express doubts, especially if leadership has stated their opinion. Concerns can be gradually suppressed and may be seen as disloyalty to the team. Suppression of doubt contributes to overconfidence in groups where decision supporters have the only voice. A pre-mortem discussion helps a group overcome groupthink and tap into the creativity of knowledgeable individuals. It can also help the group from falling into the sunk cost fallacy where we invest more resources into a losing situation when better investments are available.


Here’s how it works. A pre-mortem discussion occurs when the organization is almost ready to make an important decision but has not made a final commitment to any one decision. The pre-mortem discussion brings together people who are knowledgeable about the decision. They are asked to consider the following scenario: “Imagine we are a year or two into the future. We have implemented this plan as it now exists. The outcome was a disaster. Please take 5-10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.” This reframing technique gives the group permission consider the decision from a different angle. The ensuing discussion can assist the group in finding and repairing gaps in the decision or even jettisoning a poor option.


Consider adding the pre-mortem to your group decision making.


Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc


Organizational Management and Saying Yes


Why do we say yes when we really want to say no? In his book Influence Robert Cialdini offers many useful insights into what influences us to say yes.


Social proof is one way we decide what the “correct” behaviour is in a given situation.  We look to others to see what they are doing.  This mindless response can make us vulnerable as we are easily fooled by fake and partial evidence. Disengage your automatic pilot and keep your eyes open for evidence to the contrary in the situation.


Liking is another reason we go along against our better judgement. Feelings of liking are increased by: physical attractiveness, compliments, greater contact and cooperation and those we believe are similar to us. To prevent this influence recognize that liking has happened. Ask yourself if the other person used any of the liking techniques listed above. If the answer is yes, mentally separate the person from the situation.


Obedience to authority is part of our socialization. The problem comes when we respond with automatic, unquestioning obedience. We respond not just to legitimate authority, but to symbols of authority. Titles, clothing and other trappings such as fancy offices and vehicles can sway us to compliance. Be aware of the power and impact authority can have and how easily authority can be faked. Ask “Is this authority figure truly an expert? What are their credentials and are those credentials relevant to the situation at hand.”


Scarcity is another influence strategy. We are more motivated by the thought of losing something than of gaining something. Think of limited time only advertisements. Censorship and competition also increase the feeling of scarcity. This is an emotional response so even when we are aware that scarcity is being used as an influence strategy, it doesn’t help us much to resist. When you recognize the pull of scarcity, calm yourself and ask why you want the product or service. Remember that scarcity doesn’t increase the merits of a product.


Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc




Organizational Management and Telework


Have you ever considered the option of telework? Some people love the idea of spending the day working from home in the comfort of their PJs. I recently read a list of advantages and disadvantages to telework that might help you think through your decision more clearly.


On the plus side many teleworkers describe an increased quality of life, a decrease in the stress caused by commuting, less interruptions than when at work and greater flexibility to manage their life and workload.


On the downside, two thirds of teleworkers surveyed would prefer not to work like this and the decision was made by the employer. Many teleworkers commented they worked longer hours, and did not always get compensated for this extra time. Additionally, some found an increased expectation that they would be available outside work hours. Some teleworkers felt isolated when not working in an office environment. Another concern was due to out of sight, out of mind. Lower visibility in the organization could result in a loss of future career opportunities. Teleworkers also described concerns on the home front including: more distractions to work, blurred work/home boundaries with increased work hours and stress, and a possible reduction of family help with chores. After all you are home all the time!


To telework or not to telework? As with anything in life there are advantages and disadvantages to telework. Before you decide if this work style is best suited to you think carefully about what you, your family and your career need.


Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc


Networked: The new social operating system

Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman

MIT Press, 2012



Organization and Your Work Space

Saturday, November 26, 2016 

Is your office work space laid out in an efficient way?  If not, it could be costing you precious time as you hunt for the stapler or look for the file that was on your desk just yesterday. Additionally, a messy or inefficient space can distract you when you are working on a top priority project.


If it’s time to organize, look at your space with fresh eyes to create a more functional work space.  First consider what you do in your office space and make a list of the activities. Think about your space as work zones. For example: the desk area is for budget planning and meeting clients; the computer zone is for writing reports, email and research; the table is for ongoing project files. It’s a good idea to sketch your space and label the zones. Are there pieces of furniture that could increase the efficiency of your space? For example, if you have too many files in a desktop file unit then a small filing cabinet by the desk might be a useful addition.


Organize your main work space by answering the question, “What do I need so I can function effectively in this space?” Think about what supplies are required for each work zone. Things in daily use should be closest to hand; those items used weekly can be further away. If you have monthly or yearly items consider storing them behind or underneath more frequently needed items. They shouldn’t be using prime real estate space.


Ascribe to the “clean as you go” philosophy. The easier it is to get your common tools the easier it is to put them back when you are done. Consider containers to hold supplies and projects. Choose the right container size by the contents you have. Whenever possible pick clear containers so you can see what’s inside at a glance.


Why not take a few minutes to look at your space from this perspective. It’s amazing what a few small organizational changes can do to create efficiencies in your work flow.


Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc



Organizational Management and Tough Mental Tasks

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Some things we do can be pretty much done on auto pilot. Then there are the parts that require sustained, intense mental energy. How can you stay focused on challenging mental work and still avoid mental fatigue? One way is to reduce the brain’s perception of the effort needed. Whenever possible match your best mental self with the tough mental tasks and challenges in your day.


If you have to make multiple decisions before getting to a tough task you are more likely to procrastinate and then quit the tough task early. Do yourself a favour and routinize your low priority items and unimportant tasks. This eliminates the need for using precious mental energy on less important things. For example, pick out what you’ll wear to work the night before and on workday mornings plan to eat the same healthy breakfast every day. This saves your all-important mental energy for high priority decisions.


Aim to do your most important work early in the day when your willpower is strongest. Be consistent with work breaks. Some time away from the tough task can allow your unconscious to wrestle with the information. Often, after changing tasks for a few minutes or taking a break, the obvious answer magically appears.


How you view the amount of effort required to do a job seems to matter most. If you allow yourself to feel overwhelmed by a task you may be imagining it as harder than it actually is. Step back, take an objective look at the tough task and then break it down into smaller bites.


Bring your effectiveness A game to completing tough mental tasks. Save your brainpower for important decisions, do tough tasks early in the day, take breaks to recharge and break the big task down into smaller-sized chunks.


Fern Richardson MBA CED




Organizational Management and Networks

Sunday, May 29, 2016 

Today’s workplace is a networked world. Networks can be about working face-to-face in a team environment or through our use of computer technology. Here are a few tips about developing a good network.



Your network should be more than just hitting connect or accept. To be effective, a network has to work for you and that means you have to work for it as well.


Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc


Networked: the new social operating system

Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman

MIT Press 2012



Organizational Management and Personal Brand

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The concept of personal brand has been a popular topic in the last few years. We feel like we need to be constantly on the lookout for our next contract, position or entrepreneurial opportunity. Couple that with the ubiquitous presence of technology and social media which can spread our doings far and wide. Ultimately, your personal brand is first and foremost your reputation. What can you do to protect and enhance your personal brand? Here are some ideas to consider.

Make your networks work effectively for you and your personal brand.

Fern Richardson MBA CED PHEc

Networked: The new social operating system
Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman
MIT Press 2012



Organizational Management and Decision Making

Saturday, June 7, 2014 

How human beings make decisions is endlessly fascinating to me. The burgeoning world of neuroscience adds to the existing body of research knowledge to help us understand how to make good decisions. When faced with major life decisions it is helpful to understand that our intuitive or gut response first choices have biases and fallacies that impact our decision making. We shouldn’t ignore our intuition but consider it as part of a larger process. Remember your cognitive complexity; the ability to look at a situation from multiple perspectives.

To make a major decision first make mental notes about your initial intuition regarding the path you should take. Then put those thoughts on the shelf for a while. Secondly seek out the opinions and ideas of others regarding the decision to be made. Perhaps you have the skills to be an objective observer yourself. Look at the big picture and consider the situation from a broader perspective. Third, play the devil’s advocate with your intuitive response to the decision. Consider the opposite of whatever your gut instinct is telling you. Systematically work through the possible consequences in your mind. Finally when faced with multiple decisions, weigh your options at the same time rather than as separate decisions. Research shows joint decision making results in better choices and is less prone to bias than making each decisions separately.

Fern Richardson

Sonja Lyubomirski; The Myths of Happiness; Penguin Press, 2013



Organizational Management and Aha Moments

Monday, September 16, 2013


You’ve probably had one of those flashes of blinding insight after which the world never looks quite the same. Where do these mental insights or aha moments come from? Do they truly come out of the blue? Graham Wallas believes aha moments are built on four phases of information processing:

Mental preparation- when we recognize there is a problem

Incubation-  when we don’t give the problem any active thought

Illumination- when insight hits

Verification- when we confirm the insight


Researcher Colleen Seifert stresses the importance of incubation and suggests that effective mental preparation generates mental bookmarks. These mental bookmarks reactivate when random information appears that bears on the problem. This is called opportunistic assimilation and relates to the saying, “chance favours the prepared mind.”


Seifert’s experiments show this priming effect between incubation and illumination. Simple exposure to words outside an individual’s awareness is often enough to impact performance on a variety of recall tasks such as word completion tests. Priming may extend to abstract reasoning and problem solving which have clear workplace implications.


We often hang inspirational posters in the workplace to encourage employees. After a while these posters blend into the background. Are they still effective? The priming effect suggests yes- these posters play a positive, if unconscious, role in supporting employees’ success. Of course, it takes more than a few snazzy posters to create a successful and productive workplace but every little bit helps.


Fern Richardson