Posts Tagged ‘organizations’

Driving higher engagement – 6 rules for Smart simplicity

January 26, 2014

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler”. Albert Einstein

Why is productivity in some organizations so disappointing? Despite all the innovations in technology and all the investment in training and developing employees and managers to adapt to more and more complex organizations, why does it appear (and statistics would seem to bear this out) that a significant number of workers are disengaged from their jobs and feel unhappy at work?

In his insightful presentation, Yves Morieux gives his views on the main drivers of employee disengagement. More than that, he offers 6 simple rules for driving employee engagement and higher productivity.

For Morieux, traditional approaches on how to engage employees to be more productive have up to now focused on two main management pillars:

  • the “Hard” pillar which seeks to improve productivity by working on structures, processes, systems, statistics, KPIs,…
  • the “Soft” pillar which seeks to work on the interpersonal communication and personal relationships, the traits and personalities of the individuals in order to help them adapt their personalities to the constraints of the organization

Many companies spend large amounts of money on reengineering their structures, processes and systems in order try to drive higher productivity and engagement and/or on training their managers and employees to adapt to these new structures, processes, systems.

But for Morieux, these two pillars of management are obsolete and are even counterproductive. Why?

All organizations are becoming more and more complex and by trying to improve engagement using one or both of these two traditional management pillars (work the structure and train the people to adapt), they in fact only add on more complexity.  Rather, they add on layers of “complicatedness” to an already complex environment.

For example, in the car industry, a drive to reduce repair time led to the creation of a specific “repairability” requirement which in turn led to the creation of a specific “repairability” function, the role of which was to align design engineers to repairability objectives. This inevitably led to the creation of a specific “repairability process“, a “repairability scorecard” and “repairability KPIs “to measure engineering  alignment to process objectives. But when one considers that there were 25 other competing functions each with its own process, scorecard and KPIs, very quickly one realizes how complicated it was for the engineers concerned to comply meaningfully with so many competing constraints and requirements and for “Mr Reliability” to impact positively on the “repairability” issue in a meaningful way.

The inevitable result is that rather than improving productivity, such a traditional approach only complicates things by adding extra layers of administration, back office work and non added value tasks. Costs are higher for zero results.

The secret for Morieux lies in not drawing additional boxes with complicated reporting lines or adding on extra organizational layers. It lies, as he says, in understanding the “interplay“, the connections and cooperation required between functions to deliver the required result. In simple terms, what is key is how the parts “cooperate” or should “cooperate“. As Morieux points out, “every time people cooperate, they use less resources and not more“.

Conversely, when functions don’t cooperate, they always need “more time, more systems, more processes, more teams….which means higher costs. 

But who pays for this?

Not the shareholders. Not the customers. Individual employees must eventually pay by overcompensating for the lack of functional cooperation  through higher effort and this inevitably leads to burn out, stress, disenchantment and disengagement.

Faced with such productivity problems, the “Hard” management pillar seeks to add on extra boxes to the “organizational skeleton”. The “Soft” pillar believes that if functions  like one another and fit better together, this will solve the problem. But in fact, the result is often the opposite because to maintain the relationship, functions will seek to add on extra organizational layers expecting these extra layers to resolve the conflicts or deliver the tough trade offs required which they don’t want to address themselves  for fear of endangering relationships.

These two approaches are therefore obsolete in a complex organization because they only generate unnecessary complicatedness and Morieux offers instead 6 key rules for smart simplicity :

Rule 1: understand what people really do.

We need to go beyond the job descriptions and the organization charts and understand what others really do operationally so that we know how different functions depend on and interact with one another. The designer should understand the consequences of his design for the customer services team and for the repair teams before he commits a design and generates costs further down the line.

Rule 2: we need to reinforce the role and powers of the  integrators.

Integrators are not middle offices but managers who must  “have an interest in and be empowered to make others cooperate“. How do you empower managers? Firstly, by removing unnecessary organizational layers. When you have too many management layers, you have more and more managers who are  “too far removed from the action” and who need “KPIs and score cards” to see reality.  What they see is not reality but a proxy of reality. Secondly,  you also need to simplify the management rules because the bigger and more complex an organization becomes, the more you must give discretionary power to managers to solve their problems at their level. Quite often, we do the contrary and we end up by creating huge systems of rules which freezes initiative and drains local managers of responsibility. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules but it is vital to ensure that the rule book is lean and that managers can act effectively and quickly.

Rule 3: Increase the quantity of power to everyone

If you want more employees to take initiatives and “engage” more with the organization, you must give more power to everyone so that they feel they can use their initiative and intelligence to good effect and that they have all the cards in their hands to make a difference. Only then will they be ready to take risks and really seek to cooperate meaningfully with others.

Rule 4: Create a shadow of the future

You must expose employees to the consequences of their actions by constantly creating feedback loops, thereby creating a shadow of the future.  This is what the car industry did when they told  design engineers that they would move to the after sales service three years on so that they would have to live with the consequences of their own designs. If you empower more people, you must also ensure that these empowered people get effective feedback on their actions so that they are constantly  adapting their behaviors to organizational expectations and can clearly link their actions and organizational results.

 Rule 5: Increase reciprocity

This means “removing the buffers that make functions self-sufficient”. There is too much dysfunctional self sufficiency in organizations, largely fed by increased organizational layers and sub layers. Remove these unnecessary layers and interfaces which interfere with meaningful cooperation and we will encourage greater productivity. Above all, seek to design your organization in a way that creates interdependencies between functions so that only cooperation can deliver the required result.

Rule 6: Reward those who cooperate, blame those who don’t cooperate

Rather than promoting a culture that blames failure, we should promote a culture that rewards cooperation and blames non-cooperation. Morieux cites the CEO of Lego who believes  that “blame is not for failure, blame is for not helping or not asking for help“. This indeed changes everything because it encourages us to be transparent and to cooperate.

These 6 rules have profound consequences for organizational design, for finance policies, for human resource management in complex organizations. Above all, if we implement these 6 simple rules, we will manage complexity without being paralyzed by complicatedness. We will create more value at lower cost. We will simultaneously improve performance and job satisfaction because we will have removed the root cause that hinders both : “complicatedness“. This is the real challenge facing all leaders of complex organizations.

Why some succeed where others fail. Start with “Why” and not “What” or “How”!

November 5, 2013

Why do some succeed where others fail?
Why are some organizations so successful where other organizations fail ? Why for example is Apple so innovative year after year after year whereas other computer manufacturers such as Dell or Gateway have failed in various initiatives to diversify?

Why should customers buy your products or services in a market place where your competitors have the same access to talent, the same agencies, the same marketing tools, the same market conditions, the same resources, the same technical expertise? What makes you different?

Start with “Why” and not with “What” or “How”
Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action” answers these questions in a very clear and simple way. The reason why some organizations succeed where others fail is for one simple reason: those who succeed are those who think, act and communicate in a totally different way and follow what Sinek calls the principles of the Golden Circle. Successful and inspirational leaders start by defining “why” they do what they do before explaining what or how they do it.  In other words, they define their purpose clearly and act and communicate aligned to that purpose. They communicate from the “Inside out”.

The Golden Circle

Communicate from the “Inside-Out”
Most organizations communicate from the “Outside-In”: they describe what they do, how they do it and then expect or hope customers to make a decision based on the facts presented. In fact, many organizations proceed this way because they don’t know “Why” they are doing what they are doing.

But this “Outside-In” approach as Sinek point out is very uninspiring and doesn’t capture the minds and hearts of the largest audience and certain doesn’t set us apart from the rest. Indeed, if you don’t know “Why” you are doing what you are doing, how can you hope to inspire others to buy your products or follow your lead?

Rather provocatively and counter-intuitively, the goal of business, Sinek reminds us, is not to do business with people who need what we have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what we believe.

When we communicate from the Inside Out and get others to buy in to our Purpose, we speak to the fundamental drivers of human decision making, the “emotions” and we inspire those who think the same way as we do, feel the same as we do, see the world as we do, who are ready to trust us because we share something in common more than simply a basic business need.

Apple is so innovative because it succeeds in inspiring those of us who share the same purpose and see the world as Apple sees it. Apple doesn’t first try to sell us technology or extra functionalities. Indeed, their products as a whole are perhaps no better than those of its competitors. But what they do best is sell a vision and a purpose which many customers buy in to perhaps even despite the short comings of the products themselves.

Indeed, the Golden Circle principle can be applied to all areas of human endeavor.

Hire people who share the same goals and values
From a Human Resource point of view, when seeking to build a great team, we shouldn’t simply seek to hire people who can simply do the job. As Sinek says, attracting people who want to work for the paycheck is not enough. We must seek to attract people who believe what we believe, who share and identify with the goals and values of the organization because only those who share the same goals and values will go beyond the simple actions required to earn the paycheck and will engage fully with the organization, especially when the going gets rough. How do we find those people? By talking about who we are and by communicating from the “Inside-out”, we will attract more people who share the same values as us.

The perhaps apocryphal advertisement supposedly placed by the Irish Arctic explorer, Sir Edward Shackleton in the Times newspaper illustrates how building a strong and effective team depends on much more than simply knowing how to perform the tasks required. The ad is supposed to have been published as below:

“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”

Perhaps this ad was never indeed placed but it captures what all high achieving teams really need. Going the extra mile, making the extra effort depends on much more than simple technical competencies and in Shackleton’s case, his team survived because they shared the vision, the same goal and values.

Leadership by authority versus Leadership by inspiration
From a leadership point of view, Sinek makes the difference between those who are in leadership positions because they have power and those who are leaders because they manage to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences. Power is not enough to inspire others and all the great leaders in history, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, JFK, Churchill (to name but a few), were effective leaders because they managed to capture the hearts and minds of their audiences through a shared vision and purpose rather than through any exercise of pure power. As Sinek so provocatively suggests, leaders inspire us to follow them for ourselves and not for them, because they personify what we believe.

Check out Simon Sinek on TedTalks for a fascinating and charismatic presentation of his views on how answering the question “Why” makes such a big, big difference.


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