One of the easiest ways to create chaos in your workplace is to announce a major change. Change is often necessary, but if it’s enacted poorly or too broadly, it can cause the well-worn structure of a business to break down almost completely. Read More…
Every day, billions of people around the world wake up to a daily routine. Take a shower. Get dressed. Grab their favorite double tall latte from Starbucks on their way to work.
Humans are creatures of habit. Some more than others, of course. And while some patterns have positive impact on our lives, like scheduled sleeping times for children and adults, production of manufactured goods and weekly schedules, we also know that NOT following patterned behavior can be just as important. Read More…
Last month, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), released a notice requesting firms and their broker-dealers provide details about the organizational cultures that exist in their workplaces.
The notice cited Ben McLannahan’s article in The Financial Times, which estimated that fines, penalties and litigation costs associated with cultural failures in the industry have totaled over $300 billion since 2010. That’s billion… with a B.
We live in an age of data. Big data. The ability to collect and use data to make business decisions has become table stakes for any organization looking to gain operational efficiencies, drive innovation, obtain market share, and manage targeted and timely development of human capital. Looking back even five years, a McKinsey Global Institute report communicated the value of big data.
“We estimate that a retailer using big data to the fullest has the potential to increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent. Harnessing big data in the public sector has enormous potential, too. If US healthcare were to use big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, the sector could create more than $300 billion in value every year. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing US healthcare expenditure by about 8 percent.” (MGI, 2011)
Over the course of these past five years, we have gained a lot of capability and capacity to help us manage all of this data. And yet, many organizations still feel as though they’re falling behind.
Last month I attended Denison Consulting’s Annual Best Practices Forum, an event that has been a grounding point for me to interact with other thought leaders in the space and to share and learn with other internal and external practitioners who are doing the real work on the ground within organizations every day.
Dan Denison, a well-respected researcher in the space of organizational culture, gave a fascinating presentation during the conference, sharing some of the biggest culture stories from 2015 and some key lessons that we can take into this year. This article is intended to summarize some of the key observations of Dan’s presentation and add to the discussion from my own perspective.
Story One: Volkswagen
Last September, the Environmental Protection Agency found that many Volkswagen cars sold globally since 2008 included a “defeat device” in their diesel engines that detects when they were being tested. This allowed VW’s diesel engines to cheat their emissions tests while emitting nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the U.S. on the road.
In the ten years prior to this situation, VW became the largest car manufacturer in the world. Their mantra: Be aggressive at all times. Recently, the company has been pushing to sell diesel cars in the U.S. with a marketing campaign that touts its vehicles’ low emissions.
When the scandal broke, then CEO Martin Winterkorn denied any knowledge, but ultimately resigned a week later amid the controversy. But, Mattias Mueller, who took over as CEO, has only continued to raise more questions about the company after an interview with NPR where he stated, “We didn’t lie” to U.S. regulators.
Michael Horn, CEO of Volkswagen America, has at least taken a step to come clean. While he stated that the problem was caused by “a couple of software engineers,” he also stated that VW “has to bloody learn and use this opportunity in order to get their act together.”
What lessons can we learn from Volkswagen’s recent scandal?
Dan’s key points–
- First, scaling up anything requires a culture. Scaling by nature creates instability and change within a system, while an organization’s culture provides a solid foundational base. This dynamic tension is important in balancing growth with stability.
- When managing a crisis, it’s better to come clean and lead. The way leaders behave, especially during times of crisis, sends very clear messages to the team about what is truly valued and important.
- We use culture to describe a system. An underlying mindset and a system of behaviors we are operating within. You can’t only fix one and hope that the others will follow suit.
It’s clear to see from this case that the underlying beliefs and ways of working in an organizational system (the culture) have a profound effect on the types of behavior that are accepted and promoted. The amount of sheer effort it must have taken the team at Volkswagen to continually hide the truth from their Board of Directors must have been staggering. And culture was the driving force that enabled it to happen in the first place.
Story Two: Amazon
On August 15th, Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld published an article in the New York Times called Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace. The article cast a harsh, ultracompetitive light on Amazon’s culture, and sparked a firestorm of controversy in the media. But despite all of the commentary that followed, the article didn’t provide any real analysis or data.
In response, Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, called Amazon’s culture “friendly and intense, but when push comes to shove, we’ll settle for intense.”
Since 2008, Amazon stock grew from $38 to $530. It’s a place where turnover is high, confidence in leadership is low, and it has all of the intensity of a startup with 200,000 people.
It seems quite common for the media to judge company cultures as “good” or “bad” as is the case with the Amazon story. But we prefer to refrain from such judgments and attempt to understand how the existing culture may be helping (or hindering) execution of the strategy in a sustainable way.
Dan’s key points-
- So, who’s right? Amazon, or the people interviewed for the article? The truth likely falls somewhere in the middle.
- Hyper-competitive industries create hyper-competitive work environments by nature, and Amazon appeals to people who have a compulsive need to achieve status and success. It’s a tough place to work. Many people can’t stand the pressure and leave.
- Amazon’s culture, viewed by many as harsh and demanding, is unfortunately far too common.
This story caught the attention of the masses in 2015 and highlights the impact that culture can have on the people who are attracted to, stay with, or leave the organization. In this example, the truth seems to be the subject of some debate, but the fact remains—an organization’s culture sends clear messages to employees about what is expected and what success looks like.
At the end of the day, the really important aspect is the extent to which the culture is aligned with the strategy and the way in which the culture does or doesn’t reinforce behaviors in the day-to-day.
Story Three: Tesco
Tesco PLC is a global grocery and general merchandise retailer based out of the UK. It’s the third largest retailer in the world by profits and the second largest by revenues.
While Tesco has experienced spectacular growth over last 20-30 years, they’ve experienced £6bn in losses and a sharp decline in stock prices following a recent accounting scandal. In September of 2014, it was brought to light that Tesco had over-stated profits by £263M. And in the last five years alone, the company has gone through 3 CEO’s and experienced an exodus of other key executives.
Dan’s key points-
- Tesco’s slogan of “every little thing helps” underscores their money-saving reputation in the marketplace. Unfortunately, living up to a money-saving reputation eventually causes you to cut corners.
- It was often more difficult than advertised to find value in Tesco stores, and they have progressively moved away from innovative loyalty cards to gimmicky, no value promotions, and bullying in the marketplace.
The Tesco story showcased a tale of how an organization’s culture can, at one time, drive its wild success, but when taken to an extreme, can often be its downfall. The value of being good financial stewards, in and of itself is not a bad thing. But when taken to the extreme spelled trouble for this household name. This highlights for me the fundamental need for balance of the natural tensions that are required for sustainable success.
Story Four: Alibaba
Jack Ma founded Alibaba in 1999 as a B2B online marketplace to allow companies to source goods produced in China. In 2003, they expanded from B2B to B2C and even C2C with the creation of Taobao, using a similar model as ebay.com.
Alibaba Group Holding Limited is often described as combination of marketplace, search engine and bank. They are the world’s largest online sales company, accounting for 60% of all packages shipped in China, and in 2014 they completed largest IPO in history. But with their rapid global expansion they have faced several challenges, from trying to break into the mainstream American and European markets, to becoming more of a player in media market.
What lessons can we learn from Alibaba?
Dan’s key points-
- The successful organization that you build will be a strong reflection of you and your most important values. The things that you as a founder or senior leader pay attention to are the things that others will pay attention to, like it or not.
- Thinking five years ahead is a compulsion that is shared by many great leaders. Valuing the long-term has allowed Alibaba to see trends in the market and to be one step ahead of many of their competitors.
Not all of the biggest culture stories of 2015 were cautionary tales. Alibaba’s rise to a leader in the space is not by chance. Their success was the result of a long-term view and intentional actions that support a forward-looking strategy.
The organization’s ability to look years into the future and plan for major change and disruption has positioned it for growth and success. This long-term thinking is a fundamental aspect of their organizational culture. Balancing the long-term view in conjunction with the day-to-day execution is a fantastic challenge for leaders and businesses to manage. That’s what makes success such an elusive thing for many.
What Will Be Your Story?
These four examples showcase the tangible impact that an organization’s culture can have on performance. The systems that people operate in; the underlying beliefs and the behaviors all combine in a culture that drives performance. Leaders who understand this and who are able to take a long-term perspective are those that are able to shape aspects of their culture to progress.
Each of these examples highlights the dynamic tensions that exist in organizational life and can serve as examples for others to consider as they grow their own organizations.
Whether it be the Tesco example, which highlights the tension between stability and flexibility, or Alibaba’s example of balancing both the long-term view with the short-term ability to execute, these tensions exist in everything we do. How we as leaders manage these tensions is strongly guided by the underlying beliefs and assumptions we hold to be true about business should be done.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
It amazes me how many executives are knuckle-draggers. A knuckle-dragger, for purposes of this conversation, is someone who is unintelligent (or makes unintelligent decisions) and is stuck in the past, promoting and using antiquated and ineffective methods.
This is the person who is still wandering out of his/her cave with a club in search of something to knock in the head and eat for dinner. There isn’t a lot of thought that goes into a knuckle-dragger’s actions. In an office environment, it is the executive that screams at people when they make mistakes. Or a C-Suite that performs mass layoffs.
Yep, I said it. If you do mass layoffs, you are a knuckle-dragger.
According to CNBC, in January of this year, layoffs surged to a 6 month high. Over 75,000 planned job cuts by US-based companies were announced last month. That’s 200% more than December, and 42% higher than this time last year. Two of the major contributors are Wal-Mart and Macy’s, cutting 16,000 and 4,820 respectively.
People try to justify mass layoffs by talking about the good of the company, looking out for shareholders, blah, blah, blah. Here’s what they don’t tell you: They are laying off people because of their failure. Simply put, most executives rely on mass layoffs to compensate for their inability to lead properly and make the right decisions.
A great example is Al Dunlap, aka “Chainsaw Al.” He was famous for downsizing. Everyone thought his methods caused companies to become successful by “cutting the fat.” However, what people didn’t realize was his turnarounds were elaborate frauds. When Sunbeam brought him in to solve their financial issues, he downsized. Sunbeam went bankrupt, and he was caught trying to engineer an accounting scandal.
The Myths and Realities of Mass Layoffs
The simple truth is that downsizing and mass layoffs are BAD for your company. They will give you an uptick in profits at the end of the year if done at the proper time, but they are not a viable long term solution. In fact, in the long term they are detrimental to the sustainability of your company. Here are four myths and realities about layoffs:
Downsizing and mass layoffs are thought to improve the productivity of the organization. It supposedly motivates employees (which we will talk about later), consolidates resources, and makes the organization leaner.
But the simple truth is that organizations aren’t any more productive after a mass layoff than they were before it. The budget sheet looks better because there are less expenses, but productivity doesn’t increase. In fact, studies show you are likely to see a drop in productivity in the short and long term. Here’s why: When an organization has a mass layoff, they usually don’t determine who are the talent players (often because the people making the decision have no idea who they are laying off). So they choose some metric, and get rid of people using that.
Because they are only measuring performance based on a single factor, they get rid of both talented and untalented employees. The result is a smaller workforce, not a more productive one. Often mass layoffs cause employees to look for work elsewhere. Would you want to work where you could get laid off any minute? Usually, the better employees get hired at other places and leave. Once this happens, the level of talent at your organization actually decreases.
Motivating the Workforce
Downsizing and mass layoffs are thought by some to motivate employees. They don’t motivate, they distract. Think about it. When a company has a mass layoff, it causes widespread uncertainty and fear. Every employee wonders if they are the next to go. While they might work a bit harder for a short time, they are constantly worried about losing their job.
At best, mass layoffs motivate your most talented employees to look for jobs elsewhere.
Solving Financial Issues
Many people think mass layoffs will solve an organization’s financial problems. But rather than actually solving the problem that caused the budget shortfall, layoffs are usually used to offset it. An organization fires a large amount of people to help their budget and then, as things seem to get better, they hire all these people back until they are in the same spot they were in to begin with. 3-5 years later, they have to have another mass layoff. The cycle repeats itself.
In addition, studies show that layoffs actually drag down a company’s stock value.
Making the Company Stronger
There is this perception that mass layoffs make companies stronger. They don’t. Usually, its because they don’t solve the root of the problem. The problems might even be making the layoff decisions.
Other than some major external factors shifting without warning, the failures that lead to a mass layoff are the responsibility of the C-Suite. And in the end, it is the failure of company leadership that causes mass layoffs. Sadly, they often don’t see it and aren’t held accountable. Instead, they hold others accountable for their failure in leadership and decision making.
Are You a Knuckle-Dragger?
It saddens me how many executives think mass layoffs are a viable option. To be fair, in some rare cases they are, but not usually. Yet, we have created a business culture that says it is just another way of doing business. But the ways of doing business are changing, and mass layoffs are more of a detriment to your organization than ever before.
Think about millennials, for example. We constantly hear companies complain that the millennials don’t want to work for them, or are more concerned with personal gain than their loyalty to the company. I’ve heard many business executives shake their heads, tsk and complain about this behavior. Guess what, knuckle-draggers? You caused it. Who’d want to be loyal to a company when mass layoffs are a just another way of doing business?
Financially, layoffs reduce stock prices. They reduce productivity and cause a need for payouts in severance, plus the cost of rehiring employees as business improves. They cause a burden on the tax payers because of the increase in unemployment recipients. They make people wary of working there, have a severe negative effect on employee health, and often leave the organization with a less capable workforce in the long run.
So, with the overwhelming amount of evidence about the detrimental effects of mass layoffs, why do they still do it? How do we get the knuckle-draggers to put down the clubs, become leaders, and make better decisions?
Guest article written by Levi Nieminen, Ph.D.
As part of the debate over whether to end traditional performance management and where to go from here, one fundamental question that needs to be addressed is whether a single HR- Talent Management system can achieve both evaluative and developmental objectives? In this brief article, I describe a few of the principles that OD professionals live by and the challenges they present for the designers and overseers of “performance management 2.0.”
“Blow up” performance management
Over the last several months, the list of high-profile companies who have “blown up” performance management (PM) as they (we) once knew it has grown to include GE, Microsoft, Adobe, Gap, Accenture, and Deloitte. These are just the most recent public denouncements of what is certainly a long standing and widely held discontent over PM and appraisal practices. Two years ago, CEB’s research indicated that upwards of 90% of companies were looking at major overhauls to their PM systems.
These days, it appears that the debate over PM is taking on both on new heights (see Bersin by Deloitte report) and adding new angles of aerial attack. As an Organizational Development (OD) professional looking in from a semi-outsider perspective, it occurs to me that the latest round of scrutiny has focused on the many ways in which traditional PM systems fail not only from an evaluative perspective (i.e., valid appraisal of people), which is old news, but also from a developmental perspective. That companies want to invest more in the development of their people makes good sense. Whether this responsibility can or should be housed within traditional HR departments and aligned in other ways with formal PM systems remains to be seen.
I am biased however, to think that PM 2.0 will fail on developmental objectives until the old principles of PM are replaced with a radical new set. Though a much longer list is certainly possible, here are 3 principles that most OD professionals I know live by, and which might provide useful guideposts for PM 2.0… if we are to take the new focus on development seriously.
Principle 1: You can lead a horse to water…
PM 2.0 needs to turn the concept of who owns employee development on its head. In the past, we have pointed to management, the HR-Talent Management-OD department, and most recently, team leaders (see Deloitte in HBR) as the owners of the development process. While we talk about the idea that managers need to “develop their people,” from the employee perspective, this makes development feel like something “they’re doing to us.” Once the whole activity takes on an odor of compliance, what follows more often than not are check-the-box actions and commitments. There is an art form to giving ownership to employees that will no doubt involve learning new and productive ways to lead the horses to water. And some leaders and some cultures will support these coaching behaviors more than others.
One organization that has been leading this charge is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Rather than focusing their efforts on manager-supervisor engagement in the process, they have recently begun to shift toward fostering employee ownership. One practice involves training employees in how to seek, receive, and use feedback. Culturally, they recognize the need to attract and hire the right people for this strategy to be effective.
Principle 2: From big data to small data
Many of the emerging trends of PM 2.0 [so far] have focused on solving the old problems of how to evaluate people, for example, how to fix ratings. As a result, many of the proposed solutions focus on giving bigger and better data to management so that organizations can make smarter decisions about how to compensate and utilize its people. On the hand, this is really good progress!
On the other hand, this progress seems to do little to address the development objectives. While new data-driven solutions are certainly needed on this side too, what’s needed will likely look very different than the recent clamoring for big data. Instead, it’s much more likely to look like small data–informal, ongoing, un-documented, and owned by the individual.
Every coach who has used a 360 with a client knows that there comes a moment-of-truth question when it’s time to ask the HR sponsor: “Who will own the data?” The old PM script that gives HR co-ownership of the data is one of the best ways to compromise the individual’s ownership of the process and certainly conflates the purpose of development with a new possibility that evaluation will sneak in. Even the best and most well-intended HR partners cannot be expected to un-see performance data they’ve seen and this can be a problem when it later comes time to weigh in on personnel decisions.
For PM 2.0 to truly prioritize development, organizations will need to add a healthy dose of small data that is owned by individuals and off-limits to corporate. This does not mean that the new systems will lack transparency, but that the modes for achieving transparency will need to be different. For example, the assessment data or feedback can be held and owned privately by the employee, so long as the process also encourages honest conversations about the key insights gained from that data. Those conversations are essential in order to gain the input and support of the boss, co-workers, and HR as the employee embarks on new development priorities and goals. As the next section describes, there is a certain “art form” in the coaching that is needed to guide a person through this process.
Principle 3: Feedback without coaching doesn’t work
Freeing managers from the burdens of ownership (Principle 1) does not let them off the hook. But it does allow for a shift in how they interact with the process and the skills they will need to build. In the big scheme of things, organizations might get more return-on-investment from PM 2.0 by wrestling a little less with the measurement of performance and a little more with teaching managers how to be good coaches for their people.
Recent research confirms that providing feedback without the adjacent support of a coach leaves a lot of the value in these exercises on the table, and in particular, whether the individual sees growth in him or herself as a leader over time. One reason is that the translation of the feedback into priorities and specific actions is rarely self-contained in the feedback. This takes work and requires not only a motivated individual who wants to change but also a supporting process that builds awareness and alignment with the key people around him or her.
In this respect, PM 2.0 will need to replace the old “compartmentalized” view of individual performance with a wider-lens that also shines a light on key elements of the team, organization, and strategy. The most value will be created when the development strategies for people accurately reflect the specific needs of the business strategy (read J. Boudreau’s, “Trouble with the Curve” for an interesting take on this). And it seems reasonable to expect even more demand on coaching and coaching skills as a more complex view of individual performance and the surrounding context is embraced.
Development and evaluation: A paradox?
Stanford business professor Charles Bonini described how it is not possible to create a model that is both accurate and useful. A model that is fully accurate is too complex to understand, and thus, we must compromise some accuracy in order to achieve some practical value. This is called “Bonini’s paradox.
As with the HR sponsor in the 360 moment-of-truth, the designers of PM 2.0 will need to decide what their ultimate priority is. If development is the priority, the new systems will need to be engineered with development principles in mind, and the solution will be as much about changing the culture as it is about improving the measurement. As my description of each principle has highlighted, these cultural shifts will most likely entail:
- The shift toward employee ownership of development and corresponding changes to how HR and managers support and bring accountability to the process,
- New norms that effectively balance privacy and transparency so that employees can own their feedback and data (e.g., 360 data) while also having the honest conversations needed to allow others to support their progress, and
- A shift in management style and skillset that moves away from “telling and directing” and moves closer to “asking and coaching.”
This article first appeared on Denison Consulting.
Levi Nieminen, Ph.D. is the Director of Research and a Senior Consultant with Denison Consulting. His work focuses on conducting applied research on organizational culture and leadership and translating that research into improved solutions for clients and shareable knowledge for the larger scientific community.
I recently sat down with a good friend and fellow entrepreneur to catch up. We get together on a fairly regular basis and I value our time together as a chance to share our experiences, challenges and successes through our respective careers. And because we are at very different points in our entrepreneurial journeys, we are able to provide each other with a new perspective.
During our last conversation, my friend made a reflective observation that I really admired. He told me that he’d been recently pondering the impact of his inevitable departure from the company he has run for the past thirty years. Although he has no immediate plans to retire or leave, the truth is, he won’t stay in his role forever.
In a recent town hall meeting, he came to the stark realization that the way he behaved every day sent messages to his team. Whether intentional or not, his people took his cues on how to behave within the company to heart.
Faced with this immense influence and responsibility, my friend realized how deeply his departure would impact the organization he had worked most of his adult life growing. As a result, he has become very intentional in planning his departure in order to minimize any negative repercussions.
The Impact and Influence of Founders
Founders have enormous influence on the culture of their organizations. Their personal beliefs and assumptions about the right and wrong way to do things takes on a life of its own as they onboard new employees during the startup phase. If the beliefs of the founder don’t make for good business, the organization will fail to thrive and will likely shut down. If the organization succeeds, that success only serves to reinforce for members of the organization that those ways of working are, in fact, the right ways to work.
As the organization continues to grow, new members will either adapt to the culture or fail and depart. More time and more success only serves to further embed the culture and way of doing things as the ‘right’ way. Even when founders leave an organization at this stage, their legacy can continue to drive thinking and behavior in the organization for years to come.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The danger arises when the organization is reliant on the embedded ways of working despite changes in the environment that change the game. Being great at baseball is fantastic so long as the game doesn’t suddenly change to football and you’re left wearing a batting helmet.
A Challenge or an Opportunity?
When founders have been successfully leading their organizations for long periods of time, their departure can be extremely challenging. It may come at a time when the organization finds itself at a crossroads; a point where the old ways of doing things may not be the best path to the future.
In these cases, the culture may need to evolve in some ways to better position the organization moving forward. But a founder’s poorly planned (or unplanned) departure can leave the organization they created set on autopilot as the remaining team members continue on the path that was established for them.
This type of situation can bring an organization to its knees as people grapple to make sense of the departure and try to understand how they will continue without them.
While certainly challenging, this does provide the founder with the opportunity to be proactive about preparing their organization for the time when they finally make their exit.
How to Prepare for a Proper Exit as a Founder
Here are four things to ensure that your departure as a founder goes smoothly:
1. Take the time to properly reflect. Consider the beliefs, assumptions and values that you hold and how they have shaped your organization. This may require seeking the help of others as you reflect on the current culture of your organization and all the strengths that may come with it.
In order to do this right, founders and their leadership teams need to understand the culture in which they operate and think deeply about how it may serve the organization well, or potentially derail them, in the future.
Founders can then begin an intentional process of shaping the culture over time, by role-modeling needed future behaviors, by shaping recruiting processes to hire the right talent, by shaping the compensation structure to reward and reinforce the needed behaviors in the future, and by evolving other key systems and processes to carry the organization forward and yield sustainable success.
2. Don’t wait to develop your plan. Waiting until your departure is imminent will only leave you regretting the chance you had to plan ahead. More importantly, it puts the sustainability of your company at risk. If for nothing else than to mitigate risk, planning for your exit now helps ensure that no matter what, your team will be able to carry on in a sustainable way.
3. Select a successor early enough to implement a thorough transition. Often, founders will wait too long to identify and begin grooming their heir. Take the time to engage your successor in reflecting on the current culture and how it may need to evolve to help drive the behaviors required for success during their tenure. By partnering with your successor in this process, you can reinforce your underlying beliefs and assumptions about what is important. Then, you can both understand how those beliefs may or may not need to evolve to set the organization up for success once you are gone.
4. Keep your team engaged. As the time of your exit nears, take the time to engage your team to help them understand what is happening and what it means for them and the organization’s future. Culture is a collective concept; so actively engaging team members in understanding the culture, the strategy and the ways in which things may need to change can be beneficial. It allows people to become a part of the process rather than sitting back and feeling like something is being done to them. It also helps align them around what may need to change and what must remain stable in order to succeed in your absence.
Whether by design or default, no founder can guide the ship forever. Eventually, things will change. Preparing for this eventuality can have a profound effect on the future of what you and your team have worked so hard to build.
As a founder, you and your team have all had a hand in building a solid foundation that has weathered many storms. You’ve all seen it grow and evolve over the years and the foundational culture that you’ve created together has helped drive that success. Being thoughtful about your departure is like adding that final coat of varnish on the house that will help team members seal and protect that foundation as they carry on in your absence.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
As we all settle in to 2016, you may be rolling out new initiatives or policies that are meant to better your organization going forward. Whether it’s a few minor changes or a total reorganization, knowing where to focus your resources to be most effective can be a daunting.
At gothamCulture, we’ve helped our clients plan, implement and measure these kinds of organizational changes for the past ten years. So, we asked our team to share some of their insights and advice for leaders looking for a change in 2016.
Kevin Schneider, Operations Manager
As your organization begins to map or roll out new initiatives for the year, it’s important to consider your role in the success of those initiatives. One method I’ve found to be helpful in doing this is to embrace a “beginner’s mind”.
To embrace a “beginner’s mind” means to be open to new perspectives and to leave your preconceptions behind. Don’t roll your eyes at this year’s strategic plan because last year’s strategic plan didn’t live up to your expectations. Let others chime in more often with suggestions. Before you know it, you’ll be learning new things about yourself and contributing to the positive energy your organization needs in the New Year.
Mark Emerson, General Manager
Look back at your financial reporting and see what added value and what didn’t. Was there any information missing that your leadership team needed (or wanted)?
If you have your basics locked down pretty tight, start exploring the next level with forecasting – it is as much of an art as a science but it gives your leadership team even more visibility.
Are you a consultant? Spend some time and do postmortems on closed contracts. Did you underestimate task hours and work for free? Look at contracts that you didn’t win. In most cases, you can get a copy of the winning proposal. See how your competition won the contract. Was it price? Services? Experience?
Use 2016 to learn from last year, expand your brand and get to an even higher level of performance.
Shawn Overcast, Managing Director
Fast. Fasting is commonly known as a voluntary act of abstaining or reducing certain food, drink, or both, for a defined period of time. Let’s get creative and apply that concept to all of the other things we spend our time doing. It’s January, and I’m sure more than one of you is ‘fasting’ by starting a new diet, starting a new workout, watching less TV, imbibing less frequently. Why not apply this to your behaviors and habits that you practice within your organization?
What do you spend time and energy on that you can take a break from?
At the individual level, are there tasks that you do everyday that aren’t having the impact you’re intending? Stop. Just for a bit. Maybe a week, maybe a month. Resist the urge to fill that time with something else. Rather, reallocate toward the other things you’re already focused on. Then, see what happens.
At the team level, are there team norms in place that don’t seem to be helping move you in the direction you want to move? What standing meetings exist on the calendar? What monthly or annual events require the attention of your team? What have people been doing for so long that you just can’t recall why? Stop. Resist the urge to fill that time with other new and improved ‘team events’. Instead, let that time be reallocated to something else for a while. Then, set a date to reflect, collectively, on how that time was used and what impact it has had on the individuals, the team, and potentially the organization.
If you’re responsible for a business unit or company of your own, consider where you spend time and energy internally with your employees, and/or externally with your clients. Pick one behavior, habit, action and stop…just for a bit.
In fasting, it is important to remember that you are still in control. You still have a choice and can always make the decision to start again. But there is so much to be learned in the processes of stopping. It helps us see the other activities with more clarity and attention, because we are distracted by one less thing. It helps us to see what other behaviors or actions are dependent or driven by that one behavior we’re taking a break from. It frees us up to make a change to focus on something we didn’t have room for before.
Fasting gives us the opportunity to see our patterns, behaviors, and habits clearly. When we remove something, even for a brief period of time, our mind/body is not yet used to not having it, and so we still ‘go for it’. But, since we’re in control and telling ourselves we’re not going to this time, we can be reflective instead, and really understand what drives our behaviors. Take advantage of the calendar – the turn of a New Year – and fast.
Claire Taylor, Associate
With so much popular press about workplace culture and employee engagement, it can be confusing to know what to focus on to maintain or improve operations within your organization.
At the end of the day, these articles and success stories that detail what has worked for other organizations in other sectors and organizational climates can distract or obscure what needs to happen in your organization with your people. I think it’s important for us to look us to look to companies like Google, who’ve shown us how we can or take risks and be innovative to make positive changes in this space. However, I think we need to learn more from their reasoning behind changes rather than blindly adopting policies and procedures because another organization found success with them.
So, much like the advice I’d give to anyone trying to make positive change at the personal level in the coming year, to organizations I say, “You do you.” Look to others for inspiration and ideas about what can lead to success, or what might be avoided, but at the end of the day, you need to evaluate your organization, your goals, and your people.
Every organization has different strengths and different priorities, and these should drive your path in 2016 and beyond. Not passing trends in the organizational culture space.
Chelsea Weber, OD Intern
In 2015, Millennials (people born between 1982 and 2000) officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation, representing more than a quarter of the nation’s population at 83.1 million individuals (U.S. Census Bureau). Then, through countless articles, internet rants, and awkward conversations at family dinners, the world learned that the generation has a reputation for entitlement, laziness, and flippancy.
We also learned, however, that Millennials are changing the way the world looks at work. Not only are they more inclined to switch jobs often or freelance, but they are also looking for work that has meaning for them…and for the world. In fact, Millennials are the first generation to put these motives in front of making as much money as possible.
As waves of Baby Boomers retire, the Millennial generation is poised to fill in the knowledge and leadership gaps left behind. Companies will have to work to attract the best talent and adjust to work with a generation that offers crazy amounts of creativity and flexibility for a rapidly changing world.
If 2015 was the year of complaining about Millennials, then I say 2016 is the year to embrace them.