I just received a note from Brian Lassiter, the President of the Minnesota Council of Quality, where he discusses this topic. It is worth review by all leaders who believe that innovation is important to their businesses – and as I read it, I can’t imagine leaders that do not.
This article describes a measure of an organization’s ability to innovate – to turn research expenditures into business gain. This could tell you your ability to get results based on your research investment. As Brian states: Knott’s goal for organizational IQ is to ultimately provide a tool to help firms determine if they have the right stuff to turn research and development investments into profits (or, in the case of nonprofits, into growth of mission, impact, and so forth). Knott predicts that IQ information will provide useful data for organizations because “…once you know your IQ,” according to Knott, “you can actually start to improve it.” In essence, your organization can indeed get smarter.
Here is a link to the article: What is Your Organizational IQ
When approaching changes in your workplace, there are benefits in expecting the worst. Every change means something different to each participant in the process. And, whether positive or negative, change presents a threat to some or all members of the team. In fact, it is during times of positive growth or advantageous moves that some team members may appear to be most stressed or resistant. I have seen teams moving into beautiful new quarters devolve into tension and in-fighting. This peculiar and seemingly irrational negativism is perhaps the most troubling aspect of change for leaders.
Individuals and groups respond to tension in some fairly predictable ways. You may hear rather random or illogical complaining, see irritability in the last person of whom you would expect it or experience emotional outbursts or shutdowns that seem disconnected to the immediate reality. Change evokes a grief process, even when it is change for the better. When challenged, groups may band more tightly together or sub-divide. They might scapegoat a team member or manager, or begin small rebellions.
Managers who are surprised by these responses are in danger of taking them personally and reacting from hurt and anger. They may feel like they have done everything right for their team, won the good fight and now are getting kicked in the teeth for their efforts. The team’s reaction feels like a betrayal and in response the leader may actually intensify the group’s dysfunction. Have you ever been in charge of a group like this, one for which you had really done your best, only to have them turn on you?
The thing is, change always represents the potential of danger. Regarding a move to a new building an employee might say, “I may be allergic to the dust in the old building, fearful of the rats and catching colds due to the broken windows but at least I know where the pictures of my kids go and I am used to the pathway, on the stained carpet, past my friends to the coffee pot. What is it going to be like when we are in this new monstrosity and my friends are not even on the same floor?” I may have exaggerated the old building a little. But the point is, we respond to moves, policy changes, comings and goings of staff, etc. with profound physical arousal. Some aspect of the transition which would not affect one person at all will cause extreme anxiety in another. This doesn’t make one uncaring or the other mentally ill. Our reactions are different for a host of reasons. It does mean that savvy managers and team members will be aware of this transitional trauma and develop a structure for accommodating the group to the new reality.
Managers and team members are best served by preparing for both the mechanics of the move and the emotional fall-out. When managers recognize that this is a normal human response and not a personal attack, they are better able to facilitate and manage challenging emotionally charged reactions and keep the group on task. If you begin to take it personally, you will be less effective and lose more sleep during the transition. Instead, one must remind oneself that, as in the movie The Godfather, “it’s just business.” When examined through this filter the peculiar responses of your staff can be predictable and even helpful, in understanding your team.
Relax, observe and provide some room for individual responses, while maintaining the mission focus, and don’t hesitate to ask for help or mentorship. Most leaders benefit from the ability to talk the process out with a trusted confidant. If an employee’s response becomes too disruptive or disturbing it will be even more critical that you seek help from your Human Resources department, if you have one, or from other mentors or advisors. Change will always happen in organizations and humans will always struggle with change but you can help make the struggle less problematic by first recognizing how normal all of this really is.
So maybe, like many of my clients, you’ve been in this situation. Your team is not working well together. It seems like it’s more about cliques and competition than mission. Two of your subordinates seem to have formed a coalition against the rest of the team. The leader of this uprising, Caligula, is ruthless in opposition to you and your ideas. He is a bully and tends to get his way through manipulation, kissing up and intimidation.
Your company called in a consultant who took your group through several “team building exercises”. The day out of the office was good. The boss arranged for good food and snacks, and the exercises were fun. You, Caligula and his partner-in-crime, Madame Borgia, actually won a contest in building a tower out of popsicle sticks together.
All in all, it was a very rewarding experience, one you won’t soon forget. Still, you knew all along that Caligula had no intention, or perhaps no ability, to become a team player. Your new demand to be cooperative and friendly may only set you up for further defeats, so now what?
There is considerable evidence that sociopaths, people with virtually no moral compass and a need to defeat and win at all costs, can be extremely successful in business. On the other hand, is the long term mission of forming a functioning corporate culture best served by this reality? Bullies tend to get by and get ahead through a mixture of fear and resignation by the group. Maybe a different direction is in order to more accurately attack the problem. This other approach might include (1) a recognition of personal strengths and normal responses to stress and fear (2) how to use self-protective devices that do not play into Caligula’s game and (3) recognition of areas of leverage that may go unnoticed when anger and fear are overriding your best thinking.
This is not to say that team-building is unhelpful but rather to suggest that in the case of a dysfunctional team, the invitation to simply play nicer with one another will largely fall on deaf or resistant ears. Rather, a more active approach must boldly address the areas of conflict, while applying pressure to return to a mission focus. Supervisors who ignore or reward destructive acting-out must be brought to task as well. This approach will then also offer permission and an outline for staff surrounding Caligula to gracefully step out of the game and use everyone’s strengths for the good of the organization.
I just finished reading this post from Brian Lassiter at the Minnesota Council for Quality. Here is how it starts:
Last weekend, I read that President Obama “enjoyed” his vacation at Martha’s Vineyard with daily briefings from his economic and counterterrorism advisors. The newspaper showed Obama with a golf club in one hand and a cell phone in the other, and commented that Obama had taken only 61 days of vacation in this first 30 months of his Presidency, compared to 180 days of vacation at the same point in President Bush’s tenure. Sure, the current President is managing some pretty major issues, but it got me thinking: are US workers overworked? So during these waning days of summer, I did a little research. The data will frighten you. And an overworked, overstressed workforce is no doubt impacting American productivity, morale, and health. Wait until you see these numbers…
This is data that really makes you stop and think. Are we getting enough downtime to be as productive as we need to be?
So you’ve been interviewed, tested, battle-hardened and promoted to the top. Now as you look around and examine the organization you lead, you might still wonder what it is in you that affects your responses to specific challenges. Clues abound in your family and cultural background history. No you don’t need to understand Freud or think about hidden sexual desires in order to explore your leadership style, but it will help to revisit critical learning passages you have experienced and what you deeply learned from those experiences.
James B. is playing at the top of his game. He runs a tight ship and is admired by his executive and managerial staff. In any measure of successful organizations, one would have to say that he is doing fine. A trusted senior employee confronted him recently with a pattern that he had not recognized at all. When anyone close to him left the company, for whatever reason, he would shut down towards that person. He did them no harm and wished them no ill-will. In one case, it was he who had facilitated the person’s move to an organization which seemed to offer a better fit and more advancement opportunities. Still, even in that case, he simply stopped speaking to the employee during their last month on the job. This might sound like an insignificant peccadillo but in some cases the departing employee’s knowledge and good will were critical to ongoing tasks and transitions. Also the bitter taste that was left by this seeming brutality, could have long-term repercussions. But even beyond these realistic concerns, James was aware that this was not healthy. He spontaneously described relationships with friends which had suddenly ended badly in which he knew he overreacted. Take a minute and think about what early life experiences might have shaped his responses to people leaving.
Sarah, a somewhat new division manager, was sent to me because her team seemed to be fragmenting, with everyone angry at everyone. She was completely frustrated and thinking of resigning. In talking about her own leadership philosophy she stated, “All I ask of my employees is that they always have fun at work.” I swallowed the flip reply that, “that is not why it is called work,” and explored this idea further. We discovered that when an employee had a bad day, or seemed unhappy, Sarah would experience a personal sense of defeat or failure. This actually led her to respond angrily to the employee rather than offering support or correction. Sarah later talked about growing up with an alcoholic father, who could be quite violent. Unhappiness, in her experience always led to scary or deeply hurtful results. Suddenly her relentless cheerfulness made perfect sense, as did her near panic when things did not go as she expected.
Self exploration does not suggest the relinquishing of clear boundaries with subordinates. I remember the executive who had worked very successfully with me on his marriage and some family history concerns. He returned the following year with a seemingly simple request. Two female employees were causing him no end of headaches. They were disruptive in the office, breaking rules, arriving late, spreading gossip and were insubordinate towards him. He wanted some guidance on having a meeting with them in order to discuss these problems and wanted to reveal some of his learning surrounding his own family background and his relationships with women. I was flabbergasted by this and quickly reminded him that his own self-exploration had no place in the room with these two women. He had taken his own work to heart but his leadership role in this case demanded that he place disciplinary parameters on these employees, with strong boundaries between himself and them. This was not the time for a sharing session, particularly as there was no evidence in his story that he could trust these two employees to not use this information against him.
I am not suggesting that every leader must be on a couch somewhere, desperately surveying his or her background for deep, dark secrets. However, being open to exploring anomalies in yourself and how these affect your leadership style can be immensely relieving and gratifying. Being mindful of when a business episode or opportunity begins to feel personal, or arouses anxiety, confusion, rage or sadness and whether there is history behind such reactions can make you a much sharper leader.
Don Ferguson, Ph.D.
In his book, “The Essence of Leadership” Mac Anderson discusses many keys to being a great leader. Here are 13 of them:
- Develop a service attitude – Service is the lifeblood of any organization. Everything flows from it and is nourished by it. Customer service is not a department, it’s an attitude!
- Love what you do – Many things will catch your eye, but few will catch your heart. Pursue those.
- Focus on priorities – Focus on the critical few, not the insignificant many.
- Understand the soft stuff – “There are two things more powerful than money and sex – recognition and praise” Mary Kay Ash
- Build your brand – In the race for quality, there is no finish line.
- Embrace humor and optimism – “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement” Helen Keller
- Embrace excellence – “Excellence is not an act, it’s a habit” Aristotle
- Take risks – Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.
- You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
- Reinforce core values – Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.
- Earn trust – “Trust, not technology, is the issue of the decade” Tom Peters
- Take action – You cannot discover new oceans if you don’t have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
- Aim for the heart because they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
After decades of outsourcing, America’s ability to innovate and create high-tech products essential for future prosperity is on the decline, argue professors Gary Pisano, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and Willy Shih, Professor of Management Practice in the Technology and Operations Management Unit also at Harvard Business School. Yet they are cautiously optimistic that it is not too late to get it back. From HBS Alumni Bulletin. Click here for the full article.
Key concepts include:
- There is a long standing misconception that manufacturing is kind of the brawn and not the brain, and that the country should focus on the brain, i.e., product design and innovation.
- There is a role for public policy in terms of making sure the country is maintaining a broader set of manufacturing capabilities.
- Manufacturing capability takes a while to erode, but the damage is almost irreversible. So now is the time to be doing something about it.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
The authors argue that the United States is still an innovation powerhouse, but the problem comes about as more manufacturing moves offshore and commercialization capabilities diminish. This is true because exporting manufacturing ultimately drains away American innovation.
There has been a naive view that innovation is just about R&D and separate from manufacturing. People in the United States and other advanced industrialized countries say that the future is in innovation, not manufacturing, as if manufacturing is not part of the innovation process. In many sectors that’s simply not true. The ability to develop very complex, sophisticated manufacturing processes is as much about innovation as dreaming up ideas.
In my own 30+ years in engineering design and manufacturing, product innovation and product design are only part of what’s needed to produce high quality, low cost products. Manufacturing processes are also key to success. Moreover, close collaboration between design and manufacturing are essential. I use the term “design for manufactureability”. This becomes problematic when the design engineer and the plant are 10,000 miles apart.
So here’s the problem. For any individual company, it is often better, in the short or intermediate term, to outsource production to an overseas supplier. The company can buy manufacturing services at a much lower rate if it goes to China or elsewhere, depending on the industry.
But if everybody is doing that, you get a general erosion in the ability to innovate – to increase quality, reduce costs and develop breakthrough products. This results in the long term erosion of the American economy. An individual company, though, can move assets anywhere. So companies can reward their shareholders regardless of what happens to the national economy. As a result, the interests of companies and the Country have diverged.
The authors point out that one of the issues in developing a national economic strategy has been confusion with the term “industrial policy,” which “has been anathema in Washington”. “Industrial policy” suggests some degree of central planning. We don’t and shouldn’t do that.
They further point out that, unlike other nations, we don’t currently have a national economic strategy. Note that strategy is different from policy, which is tactical. The authors think that we should develop a national strategy. I agree.
If you look at the United States in the post WWII period, there was a very strong national economic strategy around using science to drive economic growth. We created the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, among others, and the government invested dramatically in building a scientific and technical infrastructure needed to fuel growth. That was the national strategy, and it was not industrial policy.
Pisano and Shih conclude that there’s an important need today for having a coordinated national manufacturing strategy at the highest level. I say that the need is more than important, it is critical in order to stop the erosion that we have been experiencing.
On the bright side, there are real reasons to be optimistic: The U.S. economy is quite resilient, and it’s quite flexible. “We wouldn’t want anybody to interpret what we are saying as the sky is falling. While there are some issues around policy, and there are some issues around management, it’s time for executives to be leaders in terms of building the kind of capabilities that are going to make their enterprises great over a longer period of time.”
The Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence has invited 3 experts from our group to provide a CEO Briefing on April 14 titled A CEO Briefing: From Strategy to Results.
Questions for CEO’s
- What is your biggest issue with strategic planning?
- Can your executive team deliver consistent high quality results?
- Do you have buy-in from the whole organization for your strategic plan?
- Is your plan producing significant results?
Attend this special briefing for CEOs to learn
- The new rules of planning
- What really works for implementing strategy
- Training your executive team to manage for results
- What local CEO’s identify as the most important factor in business success
- Actions you can take now
Here is a brochure that provides you with the information you need to register for this interesting and timely workshop.
I highly recommend this video by Simon Sinek on Ted that really captures the reason for success for some organizations compared to others. He uses clear examples from Apple, the Wright Brothers, and TiVo to talk about the success of some compared to others. It is a simple and powerful video.
Successful business strategy lies not in having all the right answers, but rather in asking the right questions, says Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons. In an excerpt from his new book, Seven Strategy Questions, Simons explains how posing these questions can help managers make smart choices. Here are the seven questions Professor Simons suggests: 1. Who Is Your Primary Customer? He emphasizes the adjective “primary”. These are the customers to whom you should devote most of your company’s resources. 2. How Do Your Core Values Prioritize Shareholders, Employees, and Customers? Real core values indicate whose interest comes first when faced with difficult trade-offs. Prioritizing core values should be the second pillar of your business strategy. Most companies with whom I deal would answer “Customers of course”. But in practice, it is often not the case. There is no right or wrong, but choosing and consistently sticking to your choice is necessary. 3. What Critical Performance Variables Are You Tracking? It’s your job to ensure that your managers are tracking the right things by singling out those variables that spell the difference between strategic success and failure. Like the preceding two questions, the focus in this question is again on the adjective “critical”. These variables should tell where the company is going, unlike your accounting statements that tell you where you’ve been. 4. What Strategic Boundaries Have You Set? Strategic boundaries, which are always stated in the negative, ensure that the entrepreneurial initiative of your employees aligns with the desired direction of the business. I prime example of failing to do this was the Enron experience. 5. Are You Generating Creative Tension? Sustaining ongoing innovation in organizations is notoriously difficult. People fall into comfortable habits, sticking with what they know and rejecting things that cause them to change their ways. Yet without innovation in a world characterized by rapid change, the company will eventually wither and die. To overcome such inertia, you must push people out of their comfort zones and spur them to innovate. The author shows how to accomplish this. 6. How Committed Are Your Employees to Helping Each Other? This is a lot of what teamwork is all about. If your organization requires teamwork to succeed (and I believe that most do), then it’s critically important to build norms so that people will help each other succeed—especially when you’re asking people to innovate. 7. What Strategic Uncertainties Keep You Awake at Night? No matter how good your current strategy is, it won’t work forever. So adapting to change becomes imperative. Adapting is critical to survival, but it’s extremely difficult to do. With change constantly surrounding us, employees often do not know where to look or how to respond. Your personal attention is the critical catalyst to focus your entire organization on the strategic uncertainties that keep you awake at night. After all, everyone watches what the boss watches. Please click here to see the complete article that was published by the Harvard Business School on November 22, 2010. You may want to read Professor Simons complete book, “Seven Strategy Questions”