Archive for the ‘Employee engagement’ Category

Why Change Initiatives fail and what we can do about it.

June 6, 2016

According to a study back in 2013 by Towers Watson, only 25% of change initiatives are successful in the long term! (See Victor Lipman, Forbes, Why Change Management Fails)

Quite dismal results when you think of the huge investment made by many corporations to implement change initiatives in their organizations, even more so when you consider that such initiatives are almost always announced as critical for future business success!

Highlights of the study involving approx. 280 large and middle size organizations from North America, Europe and Asia showed that:

  • Employers felt 55% of change management initiatives met initial objectives but only 25% felt gains were sustained over time
  • 87% of respondents trained their managers to manage change but only 22% felt the training was effective.
  • 68% of senior managers said they got the message for change but this fell to 53% for middle managers and 40% for front-line supervisors.

 

These are quite dispiriting figures and seem to show, unsurprisingly, that the lower down you go in the organization, the less informed and therefore less engaged employees are.

Why do these change initiatives fail? More importantly, what can we do about it?

Commentators suggest the following reasons why change initiatives fail:

  • The change initiative goals are not realistically attainable
  • The CEO is not at the forefront of driving the change
  • Senior managers talk the talk but don’t walk the talk.
  • Middle managers and supervisors are not sufficiently informed and don’t really understand the reasons why the changes are needed
  • Management wants a quick fix and doesn’t understand that implementing change is a long-term effort.

These are certainly very understandable reasons and the following solutions would seem the very least we should do:

  • Look at the territory and not the map. Set SMART change objectives.
  • Make sure the CEO is at the forefront and leads the way!
  • Make sure senior managers not only talk the talk but walk the talk by demonstrating the behaviors required to drive the change down into the organization
  • Prepare for the long term. Lead, plan and budget accordingly.

But what about the crew down in the hold rowing hard to the corporate drum beat?

Doing all the things listed above will certainly increase our chances of getting more buy in from grassroots employees but what more can we do?

How can we get grass roots employees to engage more directly and more often in supporting and implementing enduring and sustainable change? How can we harness the power of the grass roots employees to deliver extraordinary results long-term?

This is really the question at the heart of “The Open Organization, Igniting Passion and Performance”, Jim Whitehurst’s account of his leadership journey when he became CEO of Red Hat, a world leader in open source solutions.

open orgThe starting point of Jim’s leadership journey was his realization that the traditional top down, command and control, classical hierarchical organization that he was used to at Delta Airlines could not work for the Open Source culture of Red Hat.

For Jim joined an “Open Organization”, an organization that is not led in the traditional top-down way and that depends on ever-growing collaboration between internal and external communities of contributors who update and improve software (essentially Linux based) by working together, an organization where decisions are taken not top down but bottom up or even from edge to edge of the organization to respond to business opportunities. If Linux is open source and supposedly free, Red Hat is in the business of adding value to free code and providing customers with peace of mind that “their entire system based on Linux is the most stable and secure system on the planet”. And to do that, openness, transparency, participation and cooperation inside and outside the organization is critical.

Moreover, as Jim explains, not only do they need the inputs of more and more employees

Think Outside The Box Tic Tac Toe Concept

further and further away from the centre or from partners and customers if they are to innovate and gain competitive advantage but decisions have to be taken faster and faster. For such organizations, the traditional hierarchical chain of command no longer works because it takes too long, consumes too many resources and because they don’t own the code on which their solutions are based. As he says himself, “you can’t command initiative, creativity or passion”. These are gifts and every day, employees choose whether to bring them to work or leave them at home. Suppliers and customers likewise.

So leading such an Open Organization requires a new management paradigm where decision-making is no longer the prerogative of hierarchy and where decision making is top down but one where decision making is bottom up, where employees are trusted to do the right thing and where management is hands off enough to allow the people in the organization to direct them and make their own decisions.

open org management model

 

I would highlight 7 key leadership principles that are key to managing change successfully in Open Organizations and indeed in all 21st century High Tech, innovative organizations.

  1. Start with Why!

For Jim Whitehurst, you must start with “Why” because starting with “Why” and building a compelling sense of Purpose creates an extraordinary degree of engagement among all stakeholders and catalyzes creativity, innovation and organizational commitment. Jim Whitehurst quotes Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Babson College Professor Raj Sisodia:

PURPOSE concept

“People are most fulfilled and happiest when their work is aligned with their own inner passions. Personal passion, corporate purpose and business performance all go together”. If you can create a compelling reason for people to participate, they will.

So a compelling Purpose is the first driver of engagement and if your change initiative doesn’t have a clear compelling Purpose that employees identify with, you won’t get the levels of engagement from employees required to drive change successfully.

 

  1. Ignite Passion!

But a compelling Purpose is not enough. Today’s workers want their work to mean something and they want to be part of something that makes a difference. So organizations must activate passion amongst employees to really achieve great performance.

An employee who feels passionately about his company’s purpose will be engaged and

Wherever you go, go with all your heart

motivated to deliver extraordinary performance and go that extra mile. And to get that passion, organizations must be prepared to challenge their people to take initiatives, find ways to innovate and of working together to gain an edge on the competition. As Jim Whitehurst says, if you don’t want passionate people, you can always use robots but robots won’t deliver innovative solutions to unforeseen or new complex challenges!

So the second ingredient in managing change: encourage passion in your employees and give them opportunities to express their passion from Day 1!

  1. Engage your employees from Day One!

As employees today need to understand “Why”, leaders need to engage with their workforce in a much more direct, continuous and positive way. Expecting employees to behave proactively and assume accountability for their decisions means that leaders have to provide much more information and context than ever before and this means much more than simply pushing information down the organization through the usual internal communication channels.

This means constant and ongoing dialogue between leaders and employees at all levels. So in an Open Organization, the leadership role is not undermined or abandoned. Rather, the leader’s role becomes one where he/she constantly provides context and meaning and constantly supports employees in their decision making by “determining the appropriate amount of latitude that each individual is capable of handling, plus develops, coaches and stretches their capabilities along the way”.

This third element of successful change management requires leaders to engage constantly with employees and not only when some change management initiative needs to be implemented. If leaders haven’t been busy building the engagement of their team members from day one, don’t expect to get it when you need to launch an urgent organizational change. It’s too late!!!

  1. Develop Accountability!

In conventional, top-down command and control organizations, Accountability is simple. I am accountable to my boss who is accountable to his/her boss who in turn is accountable to his boss, etc. But as Jim Whitehurst points out, real Accountability is not asking permission to do something or saying “May I” all the time.

It’s about being accountable for a set of outputs after the fact! And if you want employees to accept real accountability, you need to foster a culture that encourages initiative, trust, transparency, information sharing and all the things that allow employees to feel that they have the means and the support from leaders to take reasonable decisions at their level and are willing to be therefore accountable for the results.

 

AccountabilityAbove all, the best way for leaders to develop Accountability is to demonstrate it themselves and walk the talk by actively seeking feedback from all levels of the organization on whatever issues concern team members. Leaders have to listen to and engage with employees on how to resolve the issues raised rather than simply telling them to shut up or accuse them of being obstructionist. One very frequently used way of getting feedback is the annual employee survey and one equally important way of walking the talk is by acting on the employee feedback obtained in the annual survey in a positive way.

As Jim Whitehurst says, feedback is a gift so take the feedback at face value, don’t shoot the messenger or risk disengaging your employees!

It’s all about trust. Employees who trust their managers are more productive and trust comes from open dialogue and from leaders walking the talk!

So real accountability is a 4th element in ensuring successful change management and again, this has to be from Day One and not only when circumstances require it.

  1. Enroll your thought leaders, not just your managers!

In classical top down organizations, decision-making is simple. The Boss decides ultimately and the hierarchy dictates who gets heard. In Open organizations like Red Hat, this can’t work.

Those closest to the issue rather than those responsible for overall direction of the organization or team, tend to make the decisions. This of course requires collaboration and mutual respect between employees and their managers in a complimentary relationship. Decisions are made on merit. In other words, they are made on the best case put forward and excellence, not position, prejudice, titles, politics or privilege is the criterion of choice.

So the role of leaders is to ensure decisions based on merit can be made by the right people working together on the right things. And how do leaders do this?

They can do this by building an organization that listens to all employees and allows Hand writing the text: Be a Voice Not An Echoeveryone to voice their opinions openly so that gradually, real thought leaders can rise to the top. Organizations of course usually know who their key influencers are (the thermostats as Jim Whitehurst calls them), those thought leaders within the organization who are generally recognized by their peers for their achievements and expertise and whose contribution is vital for the success of any change initiative. But such thought leaders are unlikely to contribute positively if they are being stifled by a command and control type manager or if they witness colleagues being gagged or not being listended to. If you want your thought leaders to participate willingly and if you want to avoid groupthink conformity, proactively encouraging a culture of open expression where everyone’s voice is heard is a (small) price to pay!

So to ensure the success of your change initiatives, listen to everyone from day one!

  1. Nurture creative abrasion!

It’s not enough to show you listen. In conventional organizations, everyone is expected to fall in line and conflict is seen as a threat and usually repressed. But as Jim says, you can’t get the best creativity, initiative or efforts from members of an Open Organization, indeed any organization, by saying “Go do this”. The best ideas happen when teams “hash things out”! Open organizations therefore encourage and accept not only bottom up feedback but also organize and develop strong, energetic internal debates which may even occasion conflict and opposing points of view.

What Jim Whitehouse calls “creative abrasion”, something that involves some level of conflict – a disagreement, contention or argument – works best when it is practiced in a community that has a shared purpose, shared values and rules of engagement that help keep the conflict productive rather than destructive”.

If you don’t encourage such debate, you may well end up with what Jim calls a “terminally nice” culture that ends up in real trouble because you never initiated the difficult conversations required to challenge the status quo and get the meaningful inputs required to turn things around.

And the role of leaders in these Open Organizations is even more important: encourage and manage these abrasively creative discussions where everyone is free to exchange their points of view in a candid, positive way. Jim quotes the former CEO of Xerox PARC who

Disrupt Change Innovate New Business Product Concept Word Collag

said: “you want an organization that argues with you. And so you want to nurture the bottom up but you’ve got to be careful that you don’t degenerate into chaos”. In a way, leaders have to disrupt the conventional way of getting things done if they want to avoid falling in to the “terminally nice” culture that suffocates successful change management!

 

Lots of tools now exist to orchestrate such internal debates and in implementing them, you can use the wisdom of the crowd to police discussions. Indeed, peers themselves will step in themselves if discussions become too virulent, if you really have a community of like-minded employees who share a common goal.

So 6th element in managing change, accept being challenged and proactively promote a creatively abrasive, bottom up feedback culture and do it from Day One!

  1. Involve employees directly in decision-making!

Managing change is fundamentally about decision-making and getting decisions implemented operationally. So change management is not only about big transformational projects but is at the heart of what leaders need to do every day: get their team members to adapt with agility to change and execute effectively.

In a typical command and control organization, the manager says and the employee does but we all know that it doesn’t work like that in real life, especially in Open Organizations, indeed in most 21st century high tech organizations. Leaders need the buy in of employees to execute effectively.

But as Jim Whitehurst points out, classical change management approaches usually focus on the “execution” phase and huge effort is spent on “explaining and selling the changes” top-down to employees, once decisions are made by management at the top.

At Red Hat, they do it differently. Rather than focus on “selling” the execution plan to employees once the plan is hatched, they have moved most of the change management activities into the decision-making process itself and using a host of different feedback mechanisms, get inputs from all levels in the organization before any significant decision is made or implemented. The drawbacks are numerous: the feedback process is time consuming, objectives needs to be explained and understood, leaders have to be prepared to listen and even ready to alter their plans according to the concerns raised and this can be threatening for many managers.

But as Jim Whitehurst points out, the results are worth the effort because the time you

pride acronym concept

lose in preparing your change is gained back in the adoption phase because you have more employees on board and they will follow you “because they trust you and not because you ordered them to”. As we all know, employees feel more ownership in the changes needed when they are involved in the decision behind them!

This doesn’t mean that a company is a democracy. leaders still remain the ultimate decision makers and may have to make difficult decisions despite all the efforts to listen and engage teams. But if you take the time to explain why and can back it up with a rationale, you can still drive progress and get things done.

So the 7TH element in managing change successfully is in switching the change management from the execution phase to the decision making phase and really making the effort to involve employees in the decision making process on an ongoing basis.

Hurry slowly. It’s worth it!

So 7 simple principles for leading change in Open Organizations.

And they obviously work for Red Hat as they have grown from an organization with revenues of $400 million to one with revenues of $1.5 billion. A great achievement.

But in my view, these 7 essential principles of leading an Open Organization can be applied in any organization, Open Source or otherwise, that seeks to foster initiative and creativity rather than running operations on HiPPO – the “highest paid person’s opinion”.

And if they are applied, they will help to build a really collaborative culture where employees are engaged from Day One and change doesn’t need to be “managed” but is an integral part of the leadership and collaborative team work process on a daily basis.

Remember the 7 Principles of leading in change in an Open Organizations:

  • Start with Why
  • Ignite Passion
  • Engage with your employees from Day One!
  • Develop Accountability at all levels
  • Enroll your thought leaders as well as your managers!
  • Nurture creative abrasive bottom up feedback
  • Involve employees proactively in the decision-making process

 

What do you think?

 

What’s killing Employee Engagement and how to deal with it?

May 23, 2016

JFK once said « Things do not happen, they are made to happen » and Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle may have been thinking of JFK when he chose Employee Engagement as the topic for his address at the opening keynote session of Oracle HCM world in Chicago recently (see The Compelling Case for Employee Engagement).

Employee engagement deals of course with how deeply an employee connects with his/her company and how willing he/she is to « go the extra mile » to get the job done well.

make it happen text write on paperWhen employees are engaged, they think not just “what’s in it for me?” but “what’s in it for us?”.

Employee engagement is of course a “hot potato” for all organizations the world over as between 30% and 50% of employees declare themselves to be disengaged to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the Survey and the region.

So why did the CEO of a global High Tech company chose to handle such a “hot potato” in such a public way?

Engagement: a Productivity driver!

The reason is simple. Mark Hurd chose to discuss engagement, because he considers the topic as not just a noble gesture but a real « productivity » mechanism that contributes directly to the company’s bottom line. And Mark Hurd was ready to admit that increasing engagement from 70% to 80% at Oracle would deliver around 2 Billion USD in savings! That’s a huge impact!

«The team with the best help for their business model usually wins », Hurd continued and we all know that to win outside, you have to win inside. Of course, over the past few

Employee Engagement

years, due to the economic downturn, many companies have compensated for sluggish growth by cutting costs. But as Hurd reminded his audience, there is another way to cut expenses: “raise employees’ productivity and get more output for the same investment”. As Hurd said, “more highly engaged employees do more work, do better work, care more about your customers, they perform better and so does the whole entity”.

Not just a Millennial issue!

What’s more, it is not a generation thing with millennials being somehow more disengaged than Generation Xers or Baby Boomers. As Hurd pointed out, all generations seek more or less the same things, have more or less the same expectations and are more or less engaged.

So what drives Engagement?

So what do employees expect? What drives higher engagement and what can we do to influence these drivers positively?

Research on Employee Engagement identifies many key drivers of employee engagement. Below are a few of those key drivers and some suggestions on what we can do to live up to JFK’s words and make things really happen rather than wait for them to happen! Some of these actions may well be on the Oracle Engagement Action Plan!

1)Company Purpose

Not surprisingly, engagement is not only about money!

Today, employees want to be paid fairly but they also want to work towards a greater

Do work worth doing

purpose and to do work that really matters. At its core, a company’s purpose is a bold affirmation of its reason for being in business. It conveys what the organization stands for in historical, ethical, emotional and practical terms. No matter how it’s communicated to employees and customers, a company’s purpose is the driving force that enables a company to define its true brand and create its desired culture. Quite often however, companies don’t formulate their purpose very well and fail to communicate it from top to bottom of the organization.

More importantly, often, there may be a disconnect between the company’s Purpose and the behaviors demonstrated lower down in the organization. Action speaks louder than words and a bold company purpose has to be backed up by coherent behaviors within the organization. Not only Talk the talk. Walk the talk!

Some key suggestions:

  • Clearly formulate the Company Purpose and communicate it to the organization top down.
  • Start at the Top! Express the Purpose in terms of some key top-level business and management behaviors expected of senior leaders and encourage them to walk the talk!
  • Organizing round tables throughout the organization between managers and employees to define simple meaningful behaviors that express the Company Purpose at local level.
  • Include these behaviors in leadership and employee learning and development programs.
  • Build these behaviors into the annual appraisal process and indeed in the ongoing discussions between managers and employees.
  • Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate these behaviors in positive ways and share with the organization as a whole.

 

2) Company Strategy and Direction

If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be and most research shows that employees need to have a clear appreciation of where the company is going and how their own actions are contributing to business results.

This means cascading strategy in a simple, pragmatic way and ensuring that employees’ operational objectives are connected to overall strategy.

Some key suggestions:

  • Make Employee Engagement a strategic objective and define the key KPIs to measure improvements to employee engagement. Hold managers and HR accountable for reaching Engagement targets and monitor on a regular basis.
  • Of course, use all the classical methods to share and update the company strategy: Annual Kick Offs, monthly All Hands, newsletters, intranet, etc.
  • Use the annual appraisal process as a tool to translate the strategy into actionable SMART goals at operational level and to ensure employees connect what they are doing to overall strategy and goals with the help of their managers.

 

3) Leadership

Employees don’t leave companies. They leave managers!

Most research shows a clear and critical link between an employee’s level of engagement

Leadership diagram

and his/her relationship with his/her manager. The better the relationship, the higher the engagement. Employees expect today a positive, mentoring type relationship with their managers and more importantly, expect more autonomy, more opportunity to express their opinions and contribute to decision making more frequently and directly.

Some key suggestions for leaders:

  • Today, employees expect to have a voice! Empower your team members. Explain the strategy and how it translates for your unit in operational terms, encourage your team members to propose their own objectives and discuss with them as and when these objectives need to be aligned.
  • Employees expect regular feedback so meet your team members regularly. Discuss whatever needs to be discussed and position yourself as a coach who wants to help team members achieve their goals. Be hard on the issues, not on the people.
  • Employees need to feel trusted so be transparent and share wherever possible information that helps them understand the business.
  • Delegate and control: delegate responsibility but always control and hold team members accountable. More empowerment means more accountability.
  • Lead by example and walk the talk.
  • Seek first to understand before being understood!
  • Invite your team members to offer solutions and you will find they will have a lot of ideas.
  • Promote a no-blame, continuous improvement approach. If team members can express opinions, admit mistakes and seek to improve, they will be more confident and engage more readily.
  • Say thanks regularly and not necessarily with money.

 

4) Relationship with peers

Most research suggests that a positive work atmosphere and good relationship with peers is critical to employee engagement.

The better and stronger these relationships are, the higher the level of engagement. And the best way to promote great relationships is to develop great teamwork!

Some key suggestions:

  • Ensure clarity of purpose – Employees must know what they are trying to accomplish, why, how well, and with what priorities and constraints both as a team and individually and where the two intersect.
  • Ensure clarity of roles – Talent and responsibilities must be well-matched so employees feel challenged but with a fair shot at excellence.
  • Ensure clarity of process – Employees must understand how the game is played, know where things stand, know how they can best contribute, believe decision-TEAM - Together We Can Manage, acronym business conceptmakers are informed and fair, and believe they can influence the process if things are going awry.
  • Recruit eagles and teach them to fly in formation! On boarding is critical and engage with new starters as of day One!
  • Use the annual performance review as a way of updating on roles and responsibilities and on monitoring skills required to do the job on an ongoing basis.
  • Encourage Cooperation and not Competition. Reward cooperation as much as possible because effective teamwork delivers exponential results above anything star performers can do!
  • Keep things simple and put people first.
  • Defend your team in times of trouble. It’s a great way to build trust. All for one and one for all! When things go wrong, examine first the process and see how the team can improve together.

 

5) Continuous Improvement

Research consistently shows that engaged employees not only want to do a great job today but want to improve continuously and expect their organization to promote a continuous improvement culture.

One concrete way of promoting a continuous improvement mindset is by constantly seeking employee feedback and involving employees not only in identifying the problems but also in offering the solutions.

Some key suggestions:

  • Promote a culture positive to feedback. Deploy an annual survey of course but don’t wait for the once in the year audit results to find out what employees think. Seek feedback frequently and multiply the channels for obtaining feedback.
  • Feedback is a gift. Engaged employees want to contribute and care about what they are doing so accept the feedback, however critical it may seem. Don’t seek to punish or reprimand and don’t prejudge why employees respond the way they do. Take the feedback as it is.
  • Involve managers, team members and HR not only in analyzing the results but also in defining the action plans together so that all parties are part of the solution not the problem.
  • Recognize and reward teams for continuous improvement suggestions that are implemented successfully and share throughout the organization.

 

6) Career development

Engaged employees have high expectations with regard to how their careers are being developed and want to believe they can grow with the organization.

Some key suggestions:

  • Use the Annual Performance Appraisal as a Career Plan for each employee and to discuss strengths and development needs, roles and responsibilities, how to stretch the employee in his/her current role, what roles the employee can target as a career step and what skills are needed to succeed the move. Set loose career goals with each employee and discuss progress year on year.
  • Promote a learning and development culture. The annual performance review is the best place to set some SMART learning objectives for each team member to help him/her progress on his/her career plan.
  • Learning doesn’t only need to be classroom based and can also involve coaching, new assignments and responsibilities, special projects, etc.

 

7) Compensation & Benefits

Most research shows that employees expect to be treated fairly compared to their

Equity theory business diagram illustration

colleagues in terms of compensation and benefits and expect decisions concerning compensation and benefits to be taken as objectively as possible.

However, research also suggests that while compensation is a contributing factor in employee disengagement, it is rarely a critical factor, especially when it comes to deciding whether to go or stay!

Some key suggestions:

  • Be transparent on the process. Explain the rules upfront to all employees concerning how compensation & benefits plans are built, how salary increases and bonus awards are decided, by whom and with whom, when and where and give employees the opportunity to share their expectations early with their managers before decisions are finalized.
  • Train managers of course in the fundamentals of Comp & Ben and how to discuss with employees the salary review process.
  • Promote a “Total Compensation” approach which highlights all the different components of the employee’s compensation and not just base and variable.
  • Don’t forget other Benefits because Base pay is not everything and research often shows that employees are ready to forego a raise for a good perk such as a health plan or retirement plan! Research also shows that for most employees, pay and benefits do not pay a significant role in decisions to change job. Culture and values, career opportunities and senior leadership have a more direct impact on employee satisfaction and therefore on employee retention! Food for thought.

So lots to do and great challenges indeed to reinforce employee engagement from a leadership and organizational point of view.

Of course, employees have their own part to play in developing their engagement levels and we’ll discuss in a later blog.

Like the painting of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a never-ending battle but one that is worth the effort and investment!

What do you think?

What makes a Great Team? How to go from Good to Great!

May 7, 2016

 

So Leicester City has won the English Premier League!

If you are not an avid soccer or sports fan, this piece of news will probably leave you cold.

But for all the crazy sports fanatics around the Globe, this is a truly astonishing result.

Here is a team that has absolutely no recognized « A » players in its first team, has one of the smallest budgets in the Premier League, that was almost relegated to the lower league last year, has a manager who had never before won anything and that was given 5000/1 odds to win the League at the start of the championship!

Yet, Leicester managed to beat some of the richest teams in Europe, all staffed with high profile “A” players. A victory indeed for the underdog!

leicester

Leicester City: Soccer Scrum Champions?

So how did the 5000/1 underdogs do it? They undoubtedly had good players at the start of the season but how did they go from Good to Great?

Of course, there are many reasons but one key reason has got to be great teamwork!

 

 

And what are some of the success factors that contributed to achieving this great teamwork?

I guess Jeff Sutherland, the father of “Agile Management” and co-creator of the “Scrum Software Development Framework” would probably have some more very interesting ideas on this subject.

 

This is the question he sets out to answer in

Capture d’écran 2016-05-06 à 11.37.01

Why do some teams achieve greatness when  other teams languish in mediocrity?

Indeed, after some years of working in various senior management positions managing software development projects, Sutherland came to two very simple conclusions:

  • The traditional command and control « Waterfall » method of software development where projects were completed in distinct stages and moved step by step towards ultimate release to consumers and software users just didn’t work. Projects were often late, overran on budget and quite often were even abandoned because they no longer corresponded to the customer’s needs.
  • Worse, from a people point of view, this traditional “Waterfall” approach was a nightmare for those who had to apply it, made life miserable for all and more or less encouraged mediocrity, poor teamwork and failure.

Inspired by the Toyota Total Quality System (TQM) in automotive manufacturing,

Women hand writing element of TQM concept.for business concept and use in manufacturing

Sutherland gradually came to define an alternative way of managing software development projects, which he called “Scrum” and which has become globally recognized as one of the most effective way of developing software projects.

How does Scrum work?

To simplify, rather than trying to implement the inefficient “Waterfall method”, whenever you start a project, you regularly check in with your team members, see if what you’re doing is going in the right direction and if it’s actually what people want. And at the same time check if there are ways to improve how you are doing what you are doing and if there are any ways of doing it better and faster and what obstacles may be getting in your way. Simple really!

This dynamic process follows a few simple steps:

  • Build an initial plan and rough cost estimate good enough to start;Concept of Scrum Development Life cycle and Agile Methodology, Each change go through different phases and Release
  • Gather a small, competent and empowered and cross-functional team to execute;
  • Prioritize the work around the initial tasks that will deliver some value very quickly for the customer and use demos to show to all at the end of each work cycle;
  • Organize the teamwork around short work cycles of 2 to 4 weeks called Sprints;
  • At the end of the Sprint, check what has been done, what remains to be done, what was done well, what can be improved and move on to the next cycle.

 

But what has Scrum and Software Development to do with the success of our 5000/1 Leicester City sporting underdogs?

 

For Scrum to work, it involves not only a whole new way of working but more importantly, a whole new mindset to managing projects and teams.

As Jeff Sutherland says, Scrum is a simple idea but executing it requires thought, introspection, honesty and discipline and Leicester City certainly showed all of these qualities throughout the season.

But when we look closer at some of the Success Factors behind Scrum which help teams go from Good to Great, I would highlight at least 7 key success factors I suspect helped Leicester City transform themselves from Good to Great.

 

1. Great teams have a goal but build the road as they go!

Scrum teaches us that while it is important to have a clear idea of the final objective, great teams build the road as they go and it is better to refine the plan throughout the project rather than do it all up front. You can never plan everything up front. The real world doesn’t work like that. People don’t work like that.

Plan in just enough detail to deliver the next increment in value and estimate the rest of the project in large chunks. This of course means having confidence in the team to work closely together as they go so that the plan is constantly adapted to the changing environment and customer needs.

Key takeaway: Promote an agile organization that doesn’t over obsess with Gantt charts and exhaustive planning and accepts that what seems like a bad decision now is better than a decision delayed taken too late. Progress slowly towards the goal, Sprint after Sprint, match after match!

 

2. Great teams plan and prioritize…just enough!

If Jeff Sutherland reminds us of the trap of trying to plan exhaustively everything that has to be done before acting, he never suggests that we should work in an ad hoc way.

If you want to go fast, you nevertheless need to plan sufficiently to ensure you attack the key challenges that really add value for the customer.

For any software development program, as Jeff Sutherland points out, 80% of the value is delivered by 20% of the functionalities. So Scrum insists on defining that 20% of essential work that needs to be done, prioritizing that work in terms of value for the customer and then attacking those tasks delivering highest value first in the Scrum work cycle called a Sprint, usually of a duration of 2 to 4 weeks.

Sutherland reminds us of some simple quality tools that are very useful for planning and Demingkreisnotably, the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle created by Prof. W. Edwards Deming and
adopted by Toyota. This simple tool helps to plan and prioritize work from Sprint to Sprint so that you define what you want to do, you do it, you check what you have done, and you correct what you did not do or did wrong.

A simple but effective way of escaping the ad hoc, day-to-day execution of tasks!

Great teams plan simply and prioritize so that they deliver 80% of the results by doing the key 20% tasks first from cycle to cycle.

Key Takeaway: Train all employees in all functions to use continuous improvement tools such as PDCA and Pareto. It will help teams plan, do, check and act on the key 20% of tasks adding 80% of value. Above all, you will drive improvements everywhere.

 

3. Great teams focus on Systems! Hire Eagles and teach them to fly in formation!

All companies want to recruit the best person for any job but as Jeff Sutherland points out, modern business has perhaps become too focused on finding “A” players and star individuals when the real exponential value is generated through building effective systems which allow great teams to flourish.

Scrum teaches us to focus above all on the System and not the person because an efficient system will always deliver exponentially more value. It is really a case of 1+1 = 3n rather than 1+1 =2. As Aristotle said more than 2000 years ago:

whole is more print

And Leicester City surely demonstrated this more than 2000 years later by putting the system first!

Key takeaway: Great teams focus on effective systems. Seek to develop and optimize high performance systems that allow great teams to flourish! Hire Eagles and teach them to fly in formation!

 

4. Great teams promote a no-blame culture!

If improving the system can deliver much more than blaming any one individual, it is important to understand this and promote a no-blame culture that encourages everyone to participate in perfecting the system.

As an example of why this is important, Jeff relates the case of General Motor’s NUMMI automotive plant in Fremont, California that was closed 1982 by GM who considered the workforce the worst in America.

When Toyota wanted to reopen the plant in 1984 with GM in a JV, GM recommended hiring the management but not the workforce!

Toyota did the exact opposite and rehired the workforce but not the management!

Very soon, NUMMI was producing cars with the same precision and as few defects as those made in Japan. As Sutherland says, same people, different system, different management methods, different outcomes!

NUMMI

This is what I like to think happened at Leicester City. They focused on the system just as Toyota did at NUMMI, forgot about the poor results of previous years and set about building a system that would eventually deliver outstanding success.

Key takeaway: rather than blame individuals, always promote a no-blame culture. Team members will be more ready to cooperate, participate proactively and contribute to improving the system. Blame the people and you sap the team spirit and morale, you tackle the wrong problem and you allow a failing system to continue. It’s as simple as that.

 

5. Great Teams build Trust

Trust is the glue that holds great teams together.

Diagram of trust

If you have a goal and you work to that goal and fight to continuously improve so that you can accelerate and deliver more, this means focusing on how to improve the process as you go.

This means team members must take responsibility for their own share of the work and how to improve it and they will only do so if they trust their team. Team members have to be able to give honest and straight feedback to one another that helps every one to improve and this will only happen in a climate of trust. If there is no trust, team members may adopt all sorts of deviant behavior such as hoarding information, ignoring errors, silo mentality, blaming others, all the behaviors that inevitably inhibit greatness.

 

6. Great teams share Purpose, Autonomy & Skills

To achieve team greatness, as Jeff Sutherland points out, all teams must have 3 key characteristics:

  • A higher sense of purpose which unites and motivates them to overcome difficulties and achieve success together
  • A sense of empowerment to take the decisions they need to take at their level to move fast. The more a team has to defer to an external authority to get things done, the less chance they have of success.
  • Finally, each team should have all the skills it needs within the team to deliver the expected results. The more a team has to defer to an external resource to get something done, the less likely it will succeed.

Key takeaway: Instill in the workforce a sense of higher purpose; Build a system that empowers them to act effectively towards that purpose and constantly track and provide the skills needed by that team to become Great.

 

7. Great teams seek to improve continuously!

At the heart of Scrum and the Toyota Total Quality System is a constant quest for continuous improvement.CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT Vector Sketch Notes

Scrum encourages teams not only to ask what they have done but how they can improve on what they have done so that in the next work cycle or Sprint, they can go even faster.

Continuously improving the process accelerates the productivity from Sprint to Sprint so teams can work smarter without having to work harder!

 

 

Indeed, at the end of each Sprint, team members perform a ”Sprint Retrospective” where they look at:

  • What was done during the Sprint?
  • What went right?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What can be improved during the next Sprint?

These simple questions can be asked everywhere throughout any organization for any project or task.

This continuous improvement mindset must of course be shared by the whole organization, from top to bottom and not only those on any given project. If senior managers don’t believe this, employees lower down won’t either.

As everyone in the organization must not only “talk the talk” but “walk the talk”, this involves the company culture and values and everyone needs to understand and buy into this continuous improvement culture and values.

All employees can be educated to understand and adopt this mindset in many ways: from on boarding, to the annual objective setting process, to rewards and recognition, to work methods and processes, to internal communications, to training and development, to Succession Planning, even to the internal Annual Survey and the types of questions you ask, how you ask them and how you act on employee feedback.

And every function should have its own continuous improvement goals and agenda.

Key takeaway: Actively seek to promote a continuous improvement culture throughout the organization and train and educate employees at all levels to adopt a continuous improvement mindset that seeks not only to “do” but also to improve “how” to do.

 

To conclude, these 7 key success factors contribute to building Great teams:

  1. Have a goal but build the road as you go
  2. Plan and prioritize…just enough
  3. Focus on effective systems. Hire eagles and teach them to fly in formation!
  4. Build a no blame culture
  5. Promote Trust
  6. Develop Purpose, Autonomy and Skills
  7. Seek to improve continuously

 

Great teams of course do much more than this but you will have to read Scrum: The Art of doing Twice the Work in Half the Time to discover more “Success factors” on how to help teams go from Good to truly Great.

 

And well done to Leicester City who, like real champions, show us how the “Whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts” and that good players can become a Great Team when some Scrum success factors are added into the mix in a disciplined and honest way!

 

What do you think?

 

PS: I’m a Munster fan myself. That’s Rugby Scrum and not Soccer Scrum…but that’s another story!!!

 

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose: 3 keys to driving higher performance

January 16, 2016

Why organizations need to rethink their carrot and stick approach if they want to motivate employees to deliver higher performance.

The “carrot and stick” approach is a tried and trusted classical way of rewarding performance in business organizations. Paying someone more for reaching specific objectives is generally considered as a simple way of driving the behaviors an organization needs to get the results it requires to satisfy customers and share holders. Money is considered to be the key driver of employee motivation and most organizations have some form of “carrot and stick” policy whereby they reward good performers with bonues and ignore poor performers (or worse). This “carrot and stick” approach is indeed so classical that most organizations take it as self-evident and as “the only way” to recognize performance and motivate employees.

 

But what if this very simple and fairly universal way of driving performance is not as effective as it is generally thought to be? Not only that, what if the good old “carrot and stick” approach not only doesn’t deliver the good performance it is supposed to but in fact even drives poor performance, the very opposite of its intended purpose?

 

This is what Dan Pink asserts in a very thought-provoking presentation on the subject of Employee motivation and the factors that drive higher performance.

For Dan Pink, the basic and supposedly “self-evident” notion that you inevitably get the “behaviors you reward” needs to be challenged. He draws upon different studies made by experts at MIT on the link between monetary reward and increased performance which seem to demonstrate that increased monetary reward, rather than driving higher performance, produces in fact poorer performance. Briefly stated, MIT performed a series of tests with students where they rewarded the participants according to their performance in a series of academic and cognitive tests. The best performers would receive most financial reward, the worst performers would receive nothing.

 

Surprisingly, these tests reveal two startling results:

 

  • As long as the test involves purely mechanical skills, the higher the reward, the better the performance. In other words, the “carrot and stick” approach seems to work perfectly for mechanical, unimaginative tasks.

 

  • However, once the task calls for more than rudimentary cognitive skills, surprisingly, a larger financial reward led to poorer performance. The more the task requires conceptual and creative thinking, the less financial reward seems to drive performance.

 

 

This does not mean to say that money is not a motivator. However, money, as Maslow and Hertzberg amongst many other thinkers on human motivation have pointed out, usually only helps to reduce the impact of  “dissatisfaction” rather than increasing causes of satisfaction.

 

Paying someone more is simply a way of getting money off the table as an issue and removing it as a distraction.

 

However, paying someone more won’t necessarily get you better performance, particularly when it comes to knowledge workers.

 

So if money in organizational terms doesn’t make the world go round, what does?

 

Pink points to 3 key factors leading to better performance:

 

  • Autonomy

 

Back in the 80’s, Peter Drucker already pointed out that you can’t manage people the way they were managed in previous decades. The more educated the worker, the more he/she is driven by a desire to be self-directed. The old “command and control” management mindset cannot work with today’s generation of highly educated, technology biased, highly mobile, generation Y workforce. Today’s workforce needs to feel in command of its own destiny and self-direction is key. Command and control is great if you want compliance but not so great if you want engagement and today, all organizations know that it’s no longer enough to enforce compliance to get good performance. Engagement is the key and engagement cannot be commanded. It must be nurtured.

 

The key to higher performance today is employee engagement. Organizations need employees to engage, go the extra mile and you can’t force employees to engage and give the necessary discretionary effort upon which all success really depends today. The less self-directed an employee is in his  job, the less motivated he will be and the size of the carrot won’t change this. So for Dan Pink, the first challenge facing all organizations seeking to drive higher performance is to drive autonomy down into the organizations so that employees can direct their own activity aligned to the organizations goals.

 

People will no longer accept being told what to do. They can accept being told what goals need to be reached but they won’t accept being told how to achieve those goals. Empowerment is therefore critical to driving higher performance. Give people more autonomy, empower them to act and you increase the chances of ensuring they  deliver more.

 

Pink gives a very concrete example of how a company can seek to empower its workforce to be more productive through greater creativity and innovation. He mentions an Australian software company, Atlassian, which seeks to encourage the creativity and innovation of its employees, not through an “innovation bonus” but by allowing their software engineers once every quarter to work on what they want for a whole day. There is only one precondition: the software engineers then have to produce the results to the company in special workshops. Just one way management can get out of the way (if only for a day) and allow employees the autonomy to do what they want to do aligned to corporate objectives.

 

2) Mastery

A second factor driving performance is mastery. The more we feel we master an area of expertise, the more satisfied we are. This is why people take up different hobbies and try to develop expertise in all sorts of exotic areas. We all like to progress and grow and become better at something. More money won’t give us a feeling of mastery if our role is more restricted, more specialized and if we feel we are not growing as individuals and learning more. So individuals will be motivated by tasks which help them acquire more mastery of their area of expertise and money won’t replace satisfaction felt when one has more mastery of a subject.

 

  • Purpose

Finally, more and more organizations realize that we as individuals are not only “profit maximizers” but “purpose-maximizers“. We all need a purpose greater than ourselves to get us up in the morning and get us to engage fully in any activity. Sportsmen in any arena will give their all for their team and the winners are not always the highest paid. Some people will give up everything to dedicate their lives to helping the poor and the destitute. Why?

 

Because a fundamental aspect of all human motivation is transcendence and living one’s life dedicated to a purpose greater than oneself. More and more organizations are coming to realize this. This is why so many organizations spend so much time and effort  formulating mission statements with elaborate declarations of purpose, in the hope of engaging employees to adhere to a common purpose which transcends the simple pursuit of profit. As Pink points out, more and more organizations realize that if you fail to link your profit motive to a “purpose”, you not only fail to deliver good performance but you drive bad performance and the result is poor products, poor customer service, poor working conditions, higher accident rates, etc. Many examples abound of corporations who have lost the link between their “profit motive” and their “purpose motive” to quite often dramatic effect (Enron, etc.). In Pink’s words, there is a higher risk of poor performance when the “profit motive” becomes “unmoored” to the “purpose motive“.

 

So money can buy you a lot of things but it can’t always buy you higher performance because to get higher performance, you need to build an organization which gives employees more autonomy, allows them to develop their skills and mastery of their chosen areas of expertise and allows them to feel that their efforts and commitment feeds into a greater purpose beyond the pure pursuit of profit.

 

So how does your organization seek to empower your employees? How does it seek to develop their mastery of a specific field of expertise? How does it link its financial purpose to a greater, more socially responsible purpose? How is your company moving away from the classical “carrot-and-stick approach” to capture the creativity and conceptual talents of your workforce?

 

Many thanks for your ideas.

Check out Dan Pink “Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates people” by clicking on the link below

 

Effective performance: it’s all about trust. 10 tips for managers to develop team trust

February 7, 2011

It is clear to many people today that we are experiencing a crisis of  trust. The recent global banking and financial crisis seems to have undermined radically the bedrock of all business success: TRUST.

All the traditional pillars of society are now more or less in question and all levels of society seem to be affected by this fundamental lack of trust. It’s not surprising that this crisis of trust has spilled over to the world of work and many internal employee surveys continue to show that employees the world over place seem to place less trust in their organizations and management to look after their best interests.

A lot of employees feel indeed they are now paying what Stephen M.R. Covey calls a hidden “trust tax”: the less trust they have in their organizations, the more they adopt counter productive behaviors to compensate, generating in turn further distrust. The excessive use of emails at work may be only one basic example of this “trust tax” because excessive email ties up unnecessary time for many people who don’t need to be necessarily on copy for everything.

And yet, never has trust been more necessary because as Stephen M.R. COVEY points out in his book  “The Speed of Trust“, nothing can be achieved long term without trust. Without trust, short-term gains may indeed  be acquired but at huge cost and after huge delays and in today’s fast evolving business environment, speed is key to business success.

Trust is therefore the fundamental driver of performance in the new global economy and indeed is “the key leadership competency” required to drive effectiveness. Especially in fast evolving, matrix, lean organizations, it’s not possible to monitor every employee and “compliance” can’t be the only management objective. Only a culture of trust delivers the behaviors businesses needed to get the results required at the cost and speed expected by customers.

For as Stephen M.R. Covey indeed points out, trust always impacts 2 key outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes down, speed goes down and costs go up. When trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down. In high trust environments, all the different ingredients which contribute to effective performance are encouraged: internal communication is smoother, collaboration is more effective, execution is faster thanks to quicker decision-making, innovation is greater, alignment is easier, employee engagement in increased, partnering and relationships with all stakeholders are more positive.

In low trust environments, of course, all of these ingredients are impacted and impaired. Communication becomes difficult at all levels as employees may hide information, collaboration within teams becomes more complicated, execution becomes cumbersome as decision making involves more and more people, the source of innovation dries up, there is misalignement between strategy and individual actions, employees become more disengaged and relationships with stakeholders inevitably suffer.

Trust is not some soft skill “nice to have but hard to measure“. Covey quotes a 2002 study by Watson Wyatt which shows that return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low trust organizations. Trust or the lack of it impacts on the bottom line dramatically.

What’s more, managers can actually do something about it. Trust is something that can be developed and managers have a responsibility and an opportunity to build trust with their team members and with stakeholders  across the organization.

Here therefore are some tips for managers to help build trusting relationships within teams:

1) Recognize that trust is the key driver of performance and that building trust is a key management responsibility and objective. Too often, managers set themselves hard, quantifiable, task-oriented objectives but they rarely set themselves an objective of building a culture of trust. As trust is the bedrock on which everything else rests, this is very surprising, to say the least.

2) Walk the talk by setting example. Say what you do and do what you say. Meet your commitments small and big. You build credibility and trust by demonstrating that you keep your word and that you can be counted on to deliver. Team members lose faith and become demotivated when they notice a gap between the “talk” and the “walk“. Worse, they may even adopt the same behavior because as we all know, the manager’s behavior sets the tone with regard to what is/not acceptable behavior within a team. Pay attention to detail and to the small things because as we again all know, the “devil is in the detail“. Failing to meet commitments in apparently “small issues” can set the tone. Quite often, team members don’t see the big things but notice the “small details“.

3) Empower team members. Empowerment means giving each person a meaningful role aligned to his/her competencies where he/she feels he/she has “stewardship” for the job. In other words, each person feels responsible for getting the job done and for evaluating results. This doesn’t mean the manager exerts no control because there can be no delegation of responsibility without control. What it does however mean is that employees are given the chance to feel they have a form of “ownership” for their objectives and have accountability for results. As we all know, we all respond more favourably to being trusted and we are more motivated to get things done when it becomes a personal challenge and when we feel we are personally responsible for results.

4) Don’t delegate “tasks”. There may be times when a task needs to be completed and someone has to do it. A manager needs to delegate that task to a team member. However, delegating tasks must remain the exception rather than the rule. Managers should seek to delegate a set of responsibilities that allows a person to take responsibility and accountability  for the expected results for a given role in the team.  Being responsible for a given role obviously allows the person to be proactive and develop strategies to manage work. Being constantly asked to work urgent tasks prevents employees from being more effective. The simple matrix below illustrates  some differences between delegating tasks  and empowering through clearly defined roles.

5) Get out of the way. Once you empower your team members in an appropriate way, get out of the way and let each team member play his/her role. If something goes wrong or if things don’t progress as quickly as desired, avoid the temptation to step in and decide or act in place of the team member who has “stewardship” for the action. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t take back a responsibility granted and don’t short-circuit team members or act in their place. This only contributes to demotivating the person concerned who will feel that he/she doesn’t really have responsibility for the task at hand and that when push comes to shove, someone else will decide.

6) Align “roles and responsibilities” within the team. There can be no “empowerment” without role alignment within the team. Ensure that all team members understand their role and how it fits into and interacts with the greater whole. Too often, even when a manager defines a role with a team member, this is not shared with other team members and role confusion and conflict ensues concerning “who does what“. As organizations are not static, roles and responsibilities will evolve and the key role of the manager is to work constantly with his/her team to adapt roles and responsibilities in an appropriate and systemic way and in a win-win relationship.

7) Establish win-win relationships with team members. Quite often, some managers may see team members as simple cogs in a wheel serving the sole interests of the manager. Managers need to recognize that employees have their own agenda and own personal goals and these goals have to be understood and nurtured in true win-win relationships. If managers only see employees as instruments to help the advancement of their own careers and manage them in a “directive, hands-on” way, this will only lead to demotivation and poor performance as team members inevitably come to the conclusion that their contribution is ignored. Team members are not mere puppets to be manipulated at will. So know your team members, understand their needs and work to help them progress towards their goals in a “win-win” spirit.

8) “Recognize good performance in public, criticize weak performance in private“. Employee engagement is nurtured by recognition. Recognition can take many forms. Obviously, monetary recognition such as a pay increase or a bonus is one obvious way of recognizing performance. However, there are many other more subtle ways of recognizing good performance. One effective way is to give recognition in public in front of the team or through appropriate internal communication tools. A simple thank you  can go a long way. A contrario, never criticize in public. It impacts not only the person concerned but all team members and leads to demotivation and disengagement. If a team member needs to improve, the feedback should be given in private.

9) Consider objective setting and performance evaluation as a collaborative task with each team member. Use the annual appraisal process to reinforce the “win-win” relationship between the manager and team member. Start by allowing each team member to evaluate his/her own performance. This reinforces the feeling of personal stewartship and demonstrates that the manager trusts the employee to evaluate his/her own performance in good faith. Always give the employee appropriate time to respond to feedback, especially when the feedback is written down and/or captured in the annual appraisal. Never confront the team member with a “fait accompli”. Avoid always jumping to conclusions and hear what the employee has to say first. If one accepts that the vast majority of employees want to perform well, one should also recognize that employees are the best placed to know how they are performing.

10) Be open and transparent as a manager. Explain your intentions clearly. In complicated, fuzzy logic organizations where responsibilities are shared, it is becoming more and more important for managers to communicate clearly their intentions so that team members can understand the “why” a course of action is being taken. Too often, some managers resort to “command and control” techniques which gets things done quickly but in the long run, are counter-productive and lead to employee disengagement. Employees can’t evaluate if a manager “walks the talk” if the manager doesn’t first “talk the talk” by explaining clearly what his/her intentions are. Furthermore, hiding information or sharing information sparingly can confuse team members and disempower them by putting them in situations where decision-making is high risk or impossible. Indeed, sharing information and involving team members in decision-making will build trust and reinforce confidence. Openness inspires openness. This doesn’t mean sharing all information with everyone but it does mean ensuring that all team members have access to the information they need, no only to do their jobs better but to avoid errors resulting from decisions taken without the relevant information.

Follow these 10 tips and you will transform you “trust tax” into a “trust dividend“. You will also go a long way to building trusting win-win relationships within your team and thereby drive better performance and higer engagement in the workplace.

View Stephen M.R. Covey for more insights on the importance of trust in driving higher performance.

The speed of trust by Stephen M.R. Covey

The lion and the ant: some lessons for managers and HR

May 8, 2010

I came across the following fable recently and  I found it an interesting way of challenging the roles of the manager and HR alike in many organizations.

“Every day, a small Ant arrived at work early and starting work immediately, she produced a lot and she was happy. The boss, a lion, was surprised to see that the ant was working without supervision. He thought if the ant can produce so much without supervision, wouldn’t she produce more if she had a supervisor!

So the lion recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as a supervisor and who was famous for writing excellent reports. The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking in attendance system. He also needed a secretary to help him write and type his reports. He recruited a spider who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls.

The Lion was delighted with the cockroach’s report and asked him to produce graphs to describe production rates and analyze trends so that he could use them for presentations at board meetings. So the cockroach had to buy a new computer and a laser printer and recruit a fly to manage the IT department. The Ant , who had been once so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which used up most of her time.

The lion came to the conclusion that it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked. The position was given to the Cicada whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office.The new person in charge, the cicada, also needed a computer and a personal assistant, whom he had brought from his previous department to help him prepare a work and budget control strategic optimization plan.

The department where the ant works is now a sad place, where nobody laughs anymore and everybody has become upset. It was at that time the cicada convinced the boss, the Lion, to start a climatic study of the office environment. Having reviewed the charges of running the ant’s department, the lion found out that the production was much less than before so he recruited the Owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions. The Owl spent 3 months in the department and came out with an enormous report, in several volumes, that concluded that ” The Department is overstaffed..”

Guess who the lion fired first ?

The Ant of course “Because she showed lack of motivation and had a negative attitude.”

If we transpose this fable to the world of work, one is tempted to offer this fable as a good illustration of why it’s necessary to promote and implement empowerment in every organization and how the role of a manager should be to empower the team member to that he/she can do the job effectively and not be burdened by excessive layers of red tape and administrative tasks which only serve to justify and prove that actions are being taken rather than that results have been achieved.

Indeed, as we all know, the amount of reporting and administrative tasks required by an organization is inversely proportional to the effectiveness of the organization in question. The more reporting you have in an organization, the more tempting it is to conclude that performance is low.

Results speak for themselves whereas failure always seems to have to justify itself!

However, in the above fable, one has to question the motivation of the Lion. Rather than trying to improve the productivity of the ant by adding more ants (which would seem the logical step) or by simply asking the ant what needed to be done to make things better (even more logical as the ant is best placed to know what needs to be done to improve productivity at least initially), without consulting the ant, the Lion adds backroom staff because one suspects that the Lion doesn’t understand what makes the ant effective in the first place nor does the lion understand how to go about improving things, because if he did, he would have begun by asking the ant first!

All the measures the Lion takes seek to control rather than encourage and reward the ant. Why?

Perhaps it is because the Lion may be confused as to what his role is and he  seems to think that if he doesn’t implement a whole arsenal of checks and controls which allow him to monitor the ant, he isn’t playing his role as a Lion.

The Lion seems indeed to think his role as a Lion is to control and monitor the activity of the ant rather than freeing him up to be more effective. Of course,  as the working day is not endless (even for ants), the time needed to produce more and more reports means there is less time for operational issues and this impacts inevitably on the ant’s productivity and in the long run on his engagement and motivation. And so the ant becomes trapped in a vicious circle of more controls, more reports, more reports less productivity, less productivity more checks, more checks more reports, more reports less productivity and so on.

Perhaps one is reading too much into the Lion’s behaviour and perhaps his motives are more well-intentioned. However, whatever  the Lion’s motives, one cannot blame the ant for perceiving this behaviour as a demonstration of a lack of trust in his abilities to perform. Rather than consulting him and asking him what needs to be done to improve productivity, the lion deems it necessary to impose on him all sorts of checks and controls.

Is it any surprise the ant may become frustrated? As the lion is confused as to his role, is it any surprise he fails to understand why the ant is frustrated and that he concludes in error that it is because the ant is disengaged and negative?

Indeed, this is an example of the Pygmalion effect in reverse. The “lion” seeks to assert his authority rather than guide performance and imposes a command and control mode of management which generates frustration in his “ants” and this in turn in the “lion’s mind legitimates the command and control management mode generating the frustration in the first place. What a paradox!

Lessons for managers

So there is a lesson for managers here. One clear sign of a poor manager is that he/she is guilty of playing the wrong role and will spend more time checking and monitoring his/her “ant” rather than supporting them and ensuring that they have the means and resources to perform effectively .

Good managers, on the other hand, dedicate themselves to supporting, coaching, developing and rewarding their “ants”, building the environment which helps their “ants” perform better and supporting them when necessary to clear any obstacles which impede performance. Good managers either add more ants(they understand the profile and recruit similar complimentary profiles) or they work with the ant to build an action plan to optimize performance. Above all, good managers sit down with their team members at year start, set SMART objectives their “ants” can achieve and then work with them  throughout the year to ensure they remain on course. In other words, they empower their people to act and then get out of the way and let them perform but check regularly to ensure they keep on track.

So some tips for managers who want to be “good lions”:

  1. Understand your role and play it effectively: avoid the  “command and control” mode. Act as a leader. Treat others as you would have them treat you.
  2. Listen to your “ants” and ask first before acting in their place. Respect your team members and demonstrate that respect. Always be fair and treat all objectively and equally.
  3. Set clear objectives and empower your competent “ants” to act on these objectives.
  4. Get out of the way and let your “ants” perform. Don’t step in when things go wrong but support your “ants” to solve the problem themselves.
  5. Monitor progress regularly but not excessively.
  6. Demonstrate trust and respect your “ants”. Admit your mistakes. You will gain your followers respect.
  7. Support and defend your “ants” in the event of turbulence. Don’t hide behind your team. If you delegate a task, you remain responsible.
  8. Keep reporting to a minimum. Remember it is more important to talk to your team members on how they are doing than hide behind statistics.
  9. Be lean and don’t create multiple layers of management as this will only slow down decision making and frustrate good “ants”
  10. Reward and recognize good performance. Praise good performance in public. If you have to give negative feedback, do it in private.

Lessons for Human Resources who want to have “good lions” in their organization

There are also some simple lessons for Human Resource managers. Rather than promoting management practices which only serve to frustrate and block the effective ants in their organizations or which generate disengagement and lack of motivation, HR should be promoting policies and strategies which empower the ants to act effectively  and which develop them, recognize and reward them in level with their line of performance.

As importantly, HR should ensure that the Lions in the organization understand their role and how to play it, should train and develop each lion to play this role effectively and step in whenever one or more “lions” confuse their roles and switch to command and control mode too systematically. After all, every lion is also an ant to someone higher up the chain and a “command and control” management mindset only generates disengagement and demotivation and frustration throughout the organization.

Some tips for HR

  1. Clarify manager roles and responsibilities: banish “Command and control” mode and develop managers to lead.
  2. Train and empower managers to play that role
  3. Step in if some managers demonstrate role confusion or revert systematically to command and control mode.
  4. Promote corporate values which empower all employees to act at their level and show initiative.
  5. Promote a culture which listens to all employees
  6. Allow employees contribute to their own objectives
  7. Promote a lean management culture
  8. Keep reporting to a minimum
  9. Recognize and reward performance as a partnership between manager and employee
  10. Cherish not only your “lions” and but also your “ants” because performance depends on both.

Disclaimer:” The characters in the fable above are fictitious and resemblance to real people and facts and any coincidence with corporate world is purely coincidental”.

Imagine yourself leading

February 20, 2010

The world is in crisis and turmoil looms. People all around the world are either  losing their jobs, are victims of senseless conflicts or terrible natural disasters. Never more so than today would strong leadership seem more necessary. And yet, never more so than today do so many people seem to have lost faith in leadership. Indeed, many of the problems today seem to be the result of bad leadership.

History shows us that humanity has gone through many crises and driven itself to the brink many times. And each time, single individuals have stood up and shown the way forward through strong and positive leadership.

So what about now and the current crisis? Do we have the leadership to take us forward in a positive manner?

Many of us are not perhaps engaged in actions which impact the greater scheme of things or which can change History with a capital H. And yet, many ordinary individuals can and do change things for the better.

Great leaders from the past can indeed show us the way: FDR, JFK, Churchill, Gandhi, etc. But even more importantly, we can all ask ourselves how we can develop our personal leadership to help turn things around at our own level, wherever we are in the world, whatever our station in life or job.

As Mother Theresa says “we can’t do great things, we can only do small things with great love“.

Leadership shapes our lives for the better or the worse. It brings peace or generates war. Leadership give us direction and purpose for better or worse. It bonds us together or drives us apart. We all can ask ourselves how we want to lead and help to change the course of events.

Rather than relying on some major figure at a global level to turn things round, now is the time to think how we can all individually contribute to changing things for the better by developing our own personal leadership. Leadership is not the domain of the great and the powerful. Everyone can exercise leadership. For what is leadership if not standing up for what one thinks is right and challenging the status quo despite the cost.

Rather than waiting for a super hero to save us, we must all assume personal leadership and do what we can at our own individual level to make the world a better place. The real lesson from history is that all of those super heroes who saved humanity in the past or who changed things for the better were perhaps ordinary people who stood up when it mattered. How do you imagine yourself leading?  What does leadership mean for you?

Discover the video from the Harvard Business School leadership Initiative.

Imagine yourself leading


 

Why geese fly in V formation: some lessons for developing effective team work

January 30, 2010

We all know how powerfully effective team work can be in delivering higher levels of performance and all managers need to focus constantly on developing the capacity of their team members to work cohesively together. Developing team work is a key skill requirement for every manager, especially in highly competitive environments which tend to encourage more individualistic behaviours. Indeed and paradoxically, the standard performance management model used by most organizations today based on Management by Objectives can drive the very behaviours contrary to good performance (individualism, the temptation to go-it alone, silo mentality, every man for himself, dog eat dog, etc.). The sum of the parts does not always necessarily add up to the whole and quite often, the successful completion by individuals of their personal objectives as formalized in the annual appraisal process does not mean that the company is globally  better off at the end of the day.

Effective team work is even more critical today because in most organizations now organized in a matrix format, nobody can achieve anything alone and everyone depends on the inputs of many contributors at different levels to succeed. This is even more the case in international organizations where teams are spread out geographically, speak different languages, work in different time zones and have different cultural mindsets. In such environments, success can’t be imposed by command and control through top down management techniques. Leadership has to be more inclusive and focused on leveraging the strengths and capacities of all team members, wherever they may be and whatever their cultural background or organizational roles.

Developing team work is key and mother nature can teach us humans many lessons in the art of effective team working. Take the example of a flock of geese which you may observe flying across the sky in a V formation? Here are some simple reasons why geese fly collectively in V formation and the lessons we can  learn from their example to develop effective team work.

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

So as a manager seeking to drive performance through effective team work, apply the following five leadership principles (V principles):

  1. build a shared sense of community around a shared vision, set of values, common direction and shared objectives
  2. build, encourage, reward and recognize the sharing of resources and skills, knowledge and best practices throughout your team
  3. share your leadership by empowering team members to take responsibility at their levels
  4. Always encourage, never blame
  5. Always Stand by and defend your team members and promote solidarity and collective responsibility at all times.

Apply these V principles with your team and it will mean V for Victory!

Check out the video by clicking on the link below

Leadership and teamwork lessons geese teach us

To get the extra mile from your employees, be ready to go the extra mile!

July 5, 2009

To survive the downturn, many companies have taken the obvious route: downsize, outsource, cut costs, etc. and despite all these actions are still facing huge challenges to survive. And yet what if they spent more time addressing the most obvious source of higher performance: improving their employee engagement?

A recent global study by Towers Perrin of employee engagement showed that only 20% of employees declared themselves to be fully engaged, i.e. they are willing to go the extra mile to help their company succeed. What does it mean to go the extra mile? Quite simply, stay a little later in the office to finish that report, arrive a little bit earlier to make that call, persist in making that connection with a potential customer despite obstacles, etc.

If only 20% of employees are fully engaged, the Towers Perrin report showed that 40% were merely enrolled, i.e. ready to do their job but not ready to put in discretionary effort and go that extra mile for their employer. A further 30% were disenchanted with their current job i.e. thinking of going elsewhere and a final 10% were totally disengaged.

Obviously, no company can be satisfied with an engagement level of 20% and moving that figure to 30% and above would bring obvious gains. So how should a company go about driving employee engagement?

Engagement depends on how employees connect with their organization at three key levels:

– at a rational level: how well employees understand their roles and responsibilities
– at an emotional level: how much passion they bring to their job
– at a motivational level: how well perform their jobs

Towers Perrin identify 10 key drivers which build connections with employees on these three levels, thereby reinforcing engagement:

1) Senior management demonstrate a sincere interest in employee well-being
2) Employees believe their organization offers them an opportunity to develop their skills and capabilities
3) The organization has a reputation for social responsibility
4) Employees feel they can contribute to decision making
5) The organization demonstrates an ability to solve customer concerns
6) Senior management set high personal standards
7) The organization offers excellent career advancement opportunities
8) Employees benefit from challenging work assignments
9) Employees enjoy god relationships with their managers
10) The organization encourages innovative thinking

What can companies do to work on these drivers of employee engagement.

Towers Perrin identify 5 key areas leaders can work to develop employee engagement:

1) Know your employees. Leaders need to know their employees : who they are, what their background is, what their personal objectives and goals are. Many managers working with the same people over time will often claim they know their employees but they must never take anything for granted and constantly work their relationship with their team members through the different processes (annual appraisal, mid-year review, talent management review, etc.)
2) Grow your employees: Leaders need to develop their employees skills and competencies through training and development, job stretching, enlarged roles and responsiblities, etc. so that employees feel they are able to meet the challenges in a constantly evolving workplace
3) Inspire your employees: employees will only go the extra mile for leaders who inspire them. This means that leaders have to be exemplary, walk the talk and constantly engage with their team members by setting a clear direction, explaining constantly why the chosen direction is the best one and supporting employees to embark the chosen course with confidence.
4) Involve employees: Employees will feel more engaged if they feel they can contribute to the decision making process and their opinion counts. Effective leaders need to empower employees so that they feel they are not merely performing tasks but able to contribute added value by giving their input into decision making.
5) Reward employees: Employees will be more engaged if they perceive the reward and recognition process as a fair and equitable one and that their perception of their performance matches that of their leaders. This means that the reward and recognition process has to be robust and evaluation of performance factual and objective and not based on subjective personalized assessments. This of course means optimizing the reward and recognition process and working with leaders to ensure the inputs into the process are as factual and objective as possible.

To conclude, to get that extra mile from more employees, organizations need to understand that this can only happen if they encourage leaders to go the extra mile and lead as “engaged and engaging leaders”.

Know your people, Grow your people, Inspire your people, Involve your people and Reward your people are the 5 key actions of an “engaging and engaged” leader. Having engaged leaders may not promise you engaged employees but without engaged leaders, you have little chance of getting an engaged work force.

However, you get the behaviours you reward and if organizations don’t reward the leaders who dedicate time and effort to these 5 key areas, we know that leaders won’t invest in developing employee engagement. Which is why it is so important for organizations to put employee engagement at the centre of their human capital strategy and insist that leaders set at least one employee engagement objective in their key objectives. Otherwise, short-term operational goals will take precedence and the vicious circle will continue.

To get the extra mile from your employees, be ready to go the extra mile as an organization!

Visit the Towers Perrin website to learn more.

engagement gap

Generation Y: are we preparing leaders to deal with new workers’ expectations?

May 17, 2009

Things are not how they used to be. Employee expectations have definitely changed with regard to work. Leaders can no longer ignore these new expectations nor refuse to adapt their leadership style and methods to deal with these new expectations.

For the baby-boomer generation (1945-late 60s), optimism was the key mood. The ethos was hard work and focus was on serving your time and proving your loyalty to your organization. Baby-boomers were happy to stay in the same company doing the same job and were not particularly demanding in terms of careers, mobility, promotion, etc.

For generation X (70s-80s), the approaching end of the cold war brought uncertainty, counterbalanced by strong political leadership. Workers continued to demonstrate commitment to work and demonstrate strong work ethos.

With generation Y, the nineties generation, this has all changed. This generation no longer demonstrates blind faith in authority and is ready to challenge and be outspoken. This generation is used to being praised and encouraged every day. They expect to be recognized and rewarded more frequently than their predecessors (Generation Y is called by some the Trophy Generation). Furthermore, they’re now probably better equipped with the same or even better tools than work can provide them. So providing them with the basic tools such as a laptop and a mobile phone is not a bonus but merely basic. Generation Y are more autonomous, seek greater control over their work, are ready to be more accountable and are looking to make an impact on the bottom line. They’re loyal to their skill and not to their company. They no longer believe in hard work nor in working long hours.

According to research, generation Y workers have 4 key expectations:

1) Global collaboration : they expect to collaborate with colleagues globally and not be confined to a small network of contacts within their specific area;
2) Direct and instant access to management: They expect more direct and more frequent communication with managers. The hierarchical distance the baby boomer generation accepted is not acceptable to Generation Y.
3) Co-creation: They expect to co-create and work transversally to solve real business issues. Executing tasks or parts of a system or process will frustrate them greatly.
4) Control/personalized work: they expect to have more control over their work and be able to personalize their work to suit their personal routine.

What does this mean for leaders today who probably belong to the baby boomer or X generations?

Some suggestions for leaders managing in a generation Y environment:

1) Be available and accessible : practice an open door policy. People work for people so leaders need to get out from behind their desks
2) Focus more on empowering workers rather than adopting directive management styles
3) Develop innovative and diversified reward and recognition policies to recognize employee contributions more frequently
4) Include workers in the decision making process more often
5) Communicate constantly to workers not only what to do but why they should do it
6) Build collaborative teams which encourage team work and co-construction of solutions. Work in project management mode and allow team members to extend their network of connections
7) Be flexible in how work is organized and delegate real responsabilities and not simply tasks
8) Focus not only on the short term but also the long term: develop employees by offering them more structured career paths and internal mobility

Leaders today are facing a critical challenge: how to adapt their leadership practices and style to get the best out of Generation Y employees. They can’t do so alone. Organizations have a responsability to help managers understand how workers’ expectations have changed and how they can adapt their leadership style to these new conditions. More importantly, organizations needs to provide leaders with the tools and processes which allow leaders to reward and recognize, train and develop, empower generation Y employees more effectively.

View this video which presents the issues in a very concise way.

How are leaders dealing with the new work paradigm?


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