I don’t know about you but I do some of my best thinking during weekends when most of the well-establshed weekday obligations take a rest…as do I.
For the next several Fridays at least, I will post a brief statement that I think is worthy of careful consideration.
The first is provided by Steve Jobs:
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work very hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
How to overcome the major (hidden) barriers to a “goldmine” of resources and opportunities within your organization
With Patricia O’Connell, Neil Smith has written an exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking book. Whereas in Sydney Finkelstein’s book, Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes, the focus is on the performance of individuals, Smith focuses on lessons to be learned from excellent companies whose employees generally (but not always) avoid or overcome hidden (albeit “natural”) barriers. These barriers, “individually and collectively, can prevent employees from taking actions that are in the best interests if the given company. In short, the barriers are the reason the company does dumb things, not the employees themselves.”
Smith devotes a separate chapter to each of the barriers (Chapters 1-8) and then shifts his attention in Chapter 9 to “Twelve Principles for Breaking Barriers” and provides “A 100-Day Process for Breaking Barriers” in Chapter 11. I commend Smith on his skillful use of two reader-friendly devices at the conclusion of each of the first eight chapters: “Barrier in Brief” (Takeaway and Solution) and “Look at Your Organization” (Inaccurate Information and Bad Assumptions). Also, throughout his narrative, Smith also provides five mini-commentaries contributed by Richard Levak: “Why People Avoid Controversy” (Pages 22-25), “Why People Procrastinate” (38-40), “Why People Are Reluctant to Change” (50-52), “What’s Behind Management Blockers?” (85-87), and “How to Change Corporate Culture” (209-212).
As I worked my way through this book, I was reminded of passages from two recently published books. First, from Judgment Calls: Twelve Stories of Big Decisions and the Teams That Got Them Right in which Thomas Davenport and Brooke Manville explain how and why decisions made by a Great Organization tend to be much better than those made by a Great Leader. Why? While conducting rigorous and extensive research over a period of many years, they discovered – as Laurence Prusak notes in the Foreword — “that no one was looking into the workings of what we term organizational judgment – the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.”
Organizational judgment must not only be discerned but also managed. And precautions should be taken to ensure, as Prusak notes, “that the courses of action taken by organizations are more grounded in reality and a shared sense of what is right.” In recent years, the rapid emergence and development of social media enable organizations to become even more grounded in what has become an expanded reality. Only through an open and inclusive collaborative process can the use of social media enable any organization to tap the collective genius of its stakeholder constituencies.
In his latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, Paul J. H. Schoemaker asserts, ”The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘ Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’”
Excellent companies achieve and then sustain success with sound collective judgment, their management calls. Meanwhile, as Schoemaker correctly suggests, their leaders view mistakes as (potentially) valuable assets, not as “failures.” Schoemaker notes that one CEO obtained some empty L’eggs pantyhose plastic eggs, sprayed them with gold paint, and used them when awarding the “best mistake of the month.” That is, the mistake from which the most valuable information was obtained. As Thomas Edison never missed an opportunity to point out, understanding what doesn’t work — and
why — is critically important to determining what does.
What Smith offers in this book is a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective process by which almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) can achieve its strategic objectives. How? By avoiding or overcoming “hidden” or at least unrecognized barriers such as the eight on which Neil Smith focuses. I agree with him that most organizations already possess most of what they need to succeed. It remains for their leaders to locate the “goldmine,” then allocate appropriately and supervise effectively its precious resources.
Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Mark Hordes for the Organizational Excellence Journal, published by the Sinclair Group. To read the complete article, check out others, sign up for free email alerts, and obtain information about the firm, please click here.
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It is a common practice for people to visit their physician, insurance agent, stockbroker, accountant and attorney at least once a year to assess and rebalance their lives. So why do many organizations fail to follow this common-sense idea when it comes to assessing the health of their organization?
[Here is the first of four benefits that Hordes discusses.]
1. Provides immediate opportunity for employee involvement and engagement: Partly, it’s because organizations fail to understand four benefits of conducting an Organizational Excellence (OE) best practices assessment at least once a year. Understand the benefits, and you’ll be on your way to helping keep your organization and its people in good health.
Before many organization transformations, leaders ask, “What is the best way to engage and involve our workforce in our Organizational Excellence initiative?”
In an OE survey, leaders and employees reveal what is working and what is not working well with the organization. A good way to proceed is by having every employee rate the organization against best practices through open-ended questions to provide input on the strengths and weaknesses of the company.
Employees value this opportunity because it gives them immediate access to a platform for involvement, and creates a sense of ownership in the company. Allowing the entire organization to participate in this type of activity is a best practice.
Having only a sample of the workforce participate can create feelings of separation and cause the organization to lose the input of those who wish to speak up and voice an opinion. When seeking to implement change through an improvement process, creating dissonance among employees leads to resistance, which is very difficult to overcome.
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To take a self-assessment survey and find out where you stand on a variety of crucial categories like change management, employee performance, knowledge management, employee relations, safety practices, energy level and more, please click here.
We will email you two reports — Your organizational profile and a Predictor of Success Scale. We’ll also send you our Leading From Commitment® White Paper and provide a consultant to share ideas for performance improvement based on the findings in your assessment reports. There is no charge or obligation for this meaningful analysis.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Mark Hordes is the Organizational Excellence Practice Leader for Sinclair Group, and has over 30 years of professional experience in organizational design and development, human resources, building high performance organizational cultures and implementing large scale change management transformations. He has worked for and with leading organizations across the globe including, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Schlumberger, ConocoPhillips, Baker Hughes, Celanese, as well as other Fortune 500 enterprises.
Leave Nothing To Chance; Be Simple; Be Human And Engaging – Three Thoughts For You And Your Business
Thought #1 – Leave nothing to chance
I stopped in on the 25th anniversary celebration for High Profile Staffing. Bronwyn Allen, the President, has been an in-and-out participant of the First Friday Book Synopsis over the years, and she is one of those high energy dynamos. I could only be there for a few minutes, but it was enough. 25 years and counting in this day and age does not come by doing shoddy work. It comes from leaving nothing to chance. And High Profile leaves nothing to chance.
Herb Kelleher once said that “if our rest rooms are dirty, people will think our engines don’t work.” Well, High Profile’s engines work just fine, because everything else was perfectly attended to. From the moment I arrived, there was energy, attention to detail, personal touches. Jock Stafford, the CEO (whom I had never met) was at the door, and we “hit it off.” Which tells me that he hits it off with everybody he meets, because we did not have long to make that happen. And then, as I went through the offices, there was food (good, tasty, creative food – which, by the way, was overseen by Jock’s wife, whose name tag bore the description “The REAL Boss”), color, buzz… You know, the kind of event that screams “we are very good at everything we do – you can see that in the way we covered every detail in this event.”
Oh, and by the way, early yesterday morning I received a reminder e-mail about the event, with parking instructions in case it was still raining (we had had quite a rain the day before). So the high quality of the event was evident before I ever showed up.
The lesson – leave nothing to chance.
Thought #2 – Be simple
There are a few people who want to invest the time in looking for the very best, one step, one component at a time. But there are a whole lot more people – a whole lot! – who just want a quick and easy and “good enough” simple solution.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells the story of Target and its ability to target young mothers with just the right coupons to get them in the store, and keep them coming back. They know that a young mother, with a small child, has no time for the complex task of multi-store, leisurely comparative shopping. They want to walk in, find just what they need, and get out. (My daughter-in-law is discovering this with her 2 year old and one-month old daughters. These are our granddaughters I’m talking about. My impression is that she wants things really simple these days!)
So, this morning I was reading about IKEA’s new television: An Ikea Television? Why Not?: Ikea’s clever plan to sell you a piece of furniture with a TV attached to it, and how it might upend the TV manufacturing industry, by Matthew Yglesias. Yes, you read that right. IKEA is going to market their own television. No, it’s not better – but it’s good enough. And everything you need, cord management, sound, cabinet, will all be built into its one piece of furniture. No, it’s not the best. And that rare seeker of the best will go elsewhere. But it will be a quick, simple, one-stop, good enough solution. The article ended with this: In a world of good enough technology, the ability to avoid an extra trip may be all the selling point that’s really needed. I bet that they turn out to be right on this new bet of theirs.
The lesson — be the simple solution.
By the way, this is not a new idea. Anybody remember these marvels from my childhood days?
Thought #3 – Keep it human and engaging.
I don’t quite have as tangible an example of this as I do with the two others. But I’ve got a not-so-slight beef to get off my chest. I’m tired of inhuman, unengaging communications.
Last night, at the High Profile Staffing Anniversary, I made human contact. You know, eyeball-to-eyeball conversations. At moments like this you realize that all that advice to get out there and network is just a reminder to get out there and make a whole lot of human contact.
I have a couple of friends that I occasionally just call up and say let’s meet for lunch, just to talk through what I am wrestling with at the moment. And we talk, eyeball-to-eyeball.
When I speak, I try to make genuine contact with my audiences. That starts with topic selection and refinement (is this what this audience wants and needs to hear at this moment?) and then in the actual moment of delivering the message, it requires what the books call “eye contact,” but what I want to beef up just slightly with the phrase “eyeball-to-eyeball contact.” You know, genuine human contact. After all, those are human beings in that audience.
In other words, we are all, first and foremost, people. Before we are employees, before we are consultants, before we are task-doers, we are people. And people relate to each other with human contact.
Here’s one way this plays out. An e-mail is wonderful tool. To convey details, (here’s a map to our location; click here) it can’t be beat. But an e-mail is only any good after there has been some sort of more human connection. Same with a voice mail. I don’t mind leaving a voice mail with “information.” “The address is; the name of the book I could not quite remember is…” But voice mail does not let you have the give and take , the ebb and flow, of human conversation. For “relationship connecting — business and personal,” voice mail is woefully inadequate. E-mail, voice mail — these are stops #s two and after. Step one (which we should repeat one and over again) is face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball conversation. (Or, at least, actual telephone person-to-person conversation, which is much better than voice-to-voice mail)
Do yourself, and the people you interact with, a favor. Interact; converse; show up. Have some conversations, eyeball-to-eyeball.
The lesson – keep it human and engaging.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by John Boudreau for Talent Management magazine. He suggests that, for talent managers, “creating learning and change is as much about changing habits as it is about imparting skills or providing great experiences.” To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
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Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, describes tantalizing evidence on how much retail marketers and others can learn from data on customers’ purchasing habits.
In Retooling HR, I suggested marketing frameworks could apply to talent, including talent segmentation, to target employment features to pivotal employee groups, just as marketers use consumer segmentation to target product features to pivotal consumer groups.
More lessons are emerging from marketing, this time from research on habits. Duhigg’s Feb. 19 article in The New York Times Magazine describes a predictive analytics scientist at a major retailer who discovered that shoppers’ purchasing habits are remarkably hard to break. Big-box retailers have lots of customers who shop for large quantities of staple items like paper towels, but do not purchase electronics, groceries or specialty foods, even though they are cheaper than at other stores. This happens because habits become unconscious.
Neuroscience research at MIT and other universities suggests the brain shuts down once the habit is formed to preserve conscious brain space. If you already know where to shop for electronics, why reconsider it?
It’s the same with habits like overeating, with complicated patterns of cues and rewards that may have little to do with hunger. Duhigg describes his habit of visiting the company cafeteria to buy a cookie at 3:30 p.m. each day. Upon analysis, it was a combination of mid-afternoon boredom, getting away from his desk and gossiping. The cookie was incidental to the actual reward, but it was no less a culprit in weight gain.
For talent managers, creating learning and change is as much about changing habits as it is about imparting skills. Like retailers trying to lure customers with low prices, traditional efforts to create organizational learning may be thwarted if employees are not aware of the habits they must first unlearn.
Retail analytics show that there are certain life moments when people open up their habits and are ready to change. The birth of a child is such a moment, but not if you wait until after the baby is born. The second trimester is a key moment when purchasing habits change. Retailers found existing customer data that could reveal with great accuracy when a woman was entering her second trimester, and they could target baby-related advertisements and coupons to her family.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
John Boudreau is professor and research director at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations, and author of Retooling HR. He can be reached at email@example.com.