This year has brought many changes and we all had to innovate with great speed. One of these areas is the way we are working. After month in this frency, I hear more and more people mentioning that they are simply too busy; too many meetings, changing priorities, new organisational structures, people leaving companies... This is stressful and I see people around me burning out. What are we doing wrong?
Inspired by this Entrepreneur article - 4 Ways to be More Productive, not just Busy - I put together a set of simple principles on how to create more value and not simply working more hours. And if you only want one line it goes like this:
1) Know Your Priorities - with external input and based on a good conversation in the team create your own priority list and keep evolving it. Reduce distractions and stop following other people's priorities.
2) Big Rocks First - based on your(!) priorities first plan your second quadrant activities - these are the important and non-urgent items - in your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly calendar. Only then add the urgent stuff.
3) Experiment - avoid perfectionism when you deliver and frequently interact with the people you are are creating value for. Switch to try-to-learn experimentation. This means try things out, build prototypes to test your assumptions and then validate them - it is a learning journey.
4) Reflect & Energise - take regular breaks by simply looking out of the window and pause - wind down for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. This will make your creativity flow and new ideas will pop up.
How are you switching from sprinting to creating lasting success? I am sure that Iolanda Meehan, Veldhoen Company, can provide more excellent advise on this.
The last two days I joined the 4th Annual Open Innovation Virtual Summit as a participant and as a speaker. It is great to from large companies (ABB, Givaudan, Orange, Roche, etc.) how they are facilitating and rewarding ideas and innovation within their organisation. A common thread is that it is vital to put the customer at the centre of the innovation process and work together with the external ecosystem. This was creatively underlined by Gregory Poletta's introduction of the Da Vinci Mindset - think impossible!
People Excellence was at the centre of my speech where I highlighted that a new, positive leadership style is a fundamental driver for innovation and therefore vital for lasting success in today's business environment. Empower and facilitate creativity & experiment based on great relationships and a meaningful purpose.
Big thank you to the organiser Milana Dreo, Vonlanten Group, and to the two hosts Jordi Rafols and Andy Wynn. With great curiosity, I am looking forward to the next summit!
Over the years in sparring with leaders on operational excellence, the question of how to structure the organisation is coming up regularly. And as so often, the unsatisfactory answer pops up: "It depends...". Are we creating a global structure that supports the different teams? Are we focusing on a region and integrate all functions in one structure? Shall we go down the path of a matrix organisation? All options seem to have major drawbacks.
While the answer is not simple, I like to think along a few principles that guide the design of the organisation. All of us are engaged in two categories of work. One is focusing on daily operations and is directly impacting the value creation within the company. The other is more strategic thinking and reflects on the way we operate and improves and innovates the operation. So, how does that impact organisational design? Let's look at some examples.
In one global manufacturing organisation, the environment, health & safety (EHS) team was looking the best way to serve the different organisational units. On the one hand, the company is divided into different business units and regions. On the other hand, the EHS team is organised in different functions like product safety, process safety, etc. Are we creating global, functional teams that are serving the regional operations, e.g. packaging, manufacturing, import facilitation, etc.? As a result, the specific, local nuances are often neglected and the functions within the region are not well aligned. Shall we design the organisation along the regions? Then, a result is that within a function, the global alignment receives less attention.
In a service organisation, a technical delivery department was looking how to organise themselves more effectively. The company is organised according to business units (customer segments) and regions. Plus the delivery team has different subject matters like data warehouse, software platforms, user journeys, etc. Currently, the company is organised according to the subject matters. And, as a result the collaboration between these units is very poor and the speed of delivery is limited. Shall we change the organisation to a business unit and regional structure? How can we ensure alignment within the subject matter units?
Let's go back to the principles above of daily operations and strategic thinking. All of us are engaged in contributing to the value creation within our company as part of our daily work. At the same time, we also reflecting on our way of working and preparing the organisation of the future success. In my eyes, we should focus first on value creation. And the organisational structure should reflect this by creating departments and teams along the value chain. In the EHS team, this means that we are establishing regional, cross-functional teams that focus on the value creation of the customers. And for the service organisation, we establish teams along the business units and regions - incorporating the different subject matters.
Ok, great! And how can we align the different subject matter experts globally? In my experience, formal global communities of practice allows to bring these experts together and share experiences and define new standards - building the platform for future success. This is much better than engaging in complicated matrix organisations with double reporting lines.
In which area do you want to try out this organisational design?
May 2020! I clearly remember how we were looking at the later part of the year: a 'new normal' might have st in, the worst of the pandemic might be over and maybe we can travel. We were pretty wrong at the time. What seemed strange in May 2020 has often become part of our everyday life today.
At that time, we started our first survey and now, it is time for a follow-up. We want to send you the second round of our previous survey - the same questions - and we are curious to see what has changed. Please answer as spontaneously as possible. It should take you less than three minutes to complete.
What happens with your answers? They are valuable to understand the urgent - and not so urgent - needs of leaders. We intend to use this data to continuously track the leadership sentiment in organizations like yours - and help you to strengthen your leadership muscle.
About Hive 17 and morethentic:
Hive 17 and morethentic are dedicated to enable individuals, teams and organizations to drive change and growth while respecting everyone’s contribution to success. With offices in Europe and in Asia we help clients to connect cultures and to be successful in new environments.
This survey is created in collaboration with Actavia, your Singapore-based sparring partner to successfully run your business in the region.
Since several months now we engaging in a new routine: in front of our computers, we are looking at the webcam and talking to our peers or to a wider audience. When we are lucky, we receive some audio or even video back. Though, overall it is very difficult to gauge our peers and employees' engagement. What do they think? How do they feel?
We can all agree that face-to-face interactions are much richer and create a better conversation. At the same time, virtual conversations will stay and we have a great opportunity now to become better at it. Creating a wider selection of environments that allow excellence at work. And for this, we collected a few tips to become a better virtual leader.
Eye Contact - The awkward thing in video calls is that when we look at the other person's eye, they see us looking at another direction. In order that our counterparts perceive that we are looking at their eyes, we need to look directly at the camera. Something I realised that takes practice and the best way is to switch focus between video screen and camera.
Appreciate Pause - Sometimes technical things go wrong - and that is fine. We don't need to fill in every second with audio and activity. A short pause - and a longer silence break - is appreciated and gives room to think. So, next time your presentation doesn't load, give a short announcement and pause the commentary.
Gesture Engagement - We are more than our face. And often in video calls, the camera is focussing only on our face. This means, our presence is less lively and the participants will not experience our gestures. So, step back and show some of your torso and your arms.
Small Talk - The current situation and the awkwardness of talking to a computer can make us tense. Start your session with some chit chat. This will loosen up yourself and makes the entire conversation more relaxed. Let's smile and laugh more.
Less Topics - In my experience, to cover one topic we need at least 30 minutes discussion. I have seen too many virtual meetings that are trying to cover too many things. Focus on the topics that require a healthy discussions and minimise the number of different topics. Oh, and virtual sessions that last longer than 90 minutes are significantly less effectective.
What did you learn to become a better leader in the virtual environment?
Source: Your webcam is killing your leadership presence. Save it in 3 steps
Last week, I posted a small poll to understand how companies are exploring their sources of innovation. The idea of the poll came out of a conversation about that many companies resort to two different types: either they have special teams that are developing new products, services and processes which are then taken up by the core business. Or, the companies are engaging their core business teams to explore new ideas themselves. According to the poll, over 60% of the people experience the latter.
At Hive17 Consulting we are promoting a third alternative that is taking the advantages of both options and allowing the companies to transform with more speed, less resistance and more creativity. Let's explore...
Companies that have established innovation labs complain that the core business is not taking up the new ideas with enough energy. The dedicated teams are great at identifying customer needs and have the resources to deep-dive into the respective markets. Often they are cross-functional and bring diverse experiences to the table, which is strengthening creativity and the creation of novel ideas. At the same time, they are disconnected from the core business and once they have claimed a victory, the company expects that the core business to stem the hard work for the big success. This creates friction.
As an alternative, companies then drive innovation from within their core business. Different initiatives are directed at identifying improvement ideas and developing new products. The core business is close to daily operations and has a good understanding of where we have friction and they are able to quickly implement improvements. Though, they lack the resources of creating a deep understanding of the larger context of the opportunity and often work in their respective silos.
How can we innovate and take the best from both options and drive creativity and operational excellence at the same time?
At Hive17 Consulting we are implementing an alternative we call 'Innovation Crews'. We support establishing small, interdisciplinary teams that are dedicated to a specific opportunity - growing a market, developing a new solution, improving manufacturing excellence, etc. These crews have the resources to deeply understand the ecosystem and bring different silos together. This allows the company to come up with crazy ideas in a short period of time. Because the team size is small, the team is forced to work together with the core business throughout the discovery, identification and development of the solution. This means, from the start the business is involved and contributes to the innovation projects. The innovation crew takes up a role of a facilitator to enable a smooth and accelerated journey towards groundbreaking innovation.
How did you experience the different options to drive innovation in your company?
For many leaders it is obvious to focus on long-term benefits; for our shareholders, customers, for our employees and many other stakeholders. We will be able to survive, grow and we are focusing on sustainability and lasting success.
Still, this McKinsey study shows that the majority of executives feel under pressure to redirect resources from strategic initiatives in order to meet short-term financial goals. This is impacting the sustainability of the business. The company will reduce its readiness for the future and the motivation of the people are jeopardised. The article formulates five behaviours that brings back the leadership focus to long-term objectives.
1) Invest in risky, large-scale initiatives which help the company to navigate into a position of growth. These initiatives can be about digitalisation, product innovation, talent development, exploring new markets.
2) Design a portfolio of strategic initiatives that in its sum are delivering positive value. These initiatives focus on how to maximise the value creation with existing assets; this can be in the areas of operational excellence.
3) Continuously allocate resources and people to strategic revenue generators. This also means to regularly exit old businesses; this allows you to focus on growing forward.
4) Take a broad range of stakeholders into consideration (beyond shareholders). Generate meaningful value for customers, employees, business partners, the society and the environment. This will also secure stakeholder value.
5) Ensure that short-term gains are not jeopardising your long-term success. Navigate through a crisis that will make the company stronger.
How are you navigating around the temptation to focus on short-term financial goals?
Neuroscience tells us that we are more creative and productive when we are working in a positive emotional state. As a leaders, this means we are responsible to create an environment which excites people to work in - establish a feeling of enjoyment and pride. Psychological Safety plays a big part in creating this environment. This is not a hygiene topic; rather it will allow people to deliver more value.
Two interesting articles are referenced in an article from 'CNBC Make It': Google determines psychological safety as the most important quality for success; Gallup reports that increased psychological safety leads to 12% increase in productivity. This is a worthwhile endeavour. And what does it take?
Which routines do you establish as a leader to create an appreciative working environment?
Source: ‘Psychological safety’ at work improves productivity–here are 4 ways to get it, according to a Harvard expert
This week I was engaged in a few discussions about how some teams feel that they are constantly under pressure. They feel they don't have breathing space and realise that this is not a situation that is tolerable and sustainable. Often, such circumstances result in burn-outs, attrition of talent and reduced performance. How can we then thrive when we are put under pressure?
Let me first divert into neuroscience. Studies have shown that when we are in a negative emotional state, our creativity and our capability to solve problems is shut down. In order to be effective as a knowledge worker, we want to be in a positive emotional state. Here are three ideas how to achieve this.
While you are experimenting with this lighter approach to absorb the pressure from outside, keep a good focus on your social connections - within your team, with the teams around you and with the stakeholders you are creating value for. Make your journey fun.
What is your approach to growing under pressure?
Photo credit: Ainhoa Sanchez, Volvo Ocean Race
Already 15 years back, we heard that the number 1 reason for being stressed are distractions. That's when we sticked red post-it notes on the screen to indicate: "Don't distract me". We are also often heard that when we are distracted from a piece of work, it might take 23 minutes to be back in our 'flow'. Why is this important to keep our distractions at bay? They create stress, kill our productivity, limit our creativity, influence the way we concentrate on conversations, losing focus on what is important... The list might go on and on.
In a recent interview, Andy Puddicombe mentions we are spending 50% of our time distracted. This is a lot of time! And instead of trying to blame externalities for these distractions, he suggests to look inward. Recognising and labelling these distractions is a great start to reduce them. And as we are training our muscles and our stamina with sports, we can train our mind with regular exercises. After almost 100 hours of meditation, I see results. This routine is part of keeping my body, mind, heart and soul fit and strong.
As a result of being mindful, you will look at distractions in a different way; allowing yourself on focusing on small steps. Not getting lost in too many parallel activities and thoughts about things that are not relevant today. This might happen in the context of a conversation with a peer or in the context of a large scale project. Creating a space to reflect and focus on what is creating value.
Source: Headspace Co-Founder Andy Puddicombe Says We Spend Half Our Lives Distracted. Here's His Simple Solution.
Often, I get involved in discussions about how to motivate people; simply because I believe that in order to achieve excellence, we need people that are excited about what we want to achieve in our company. In this context, it is difficult to avoid the topic of financial targets. In my eyes, financial targets are a contributor to dissatisfaction when handled wrong. When handled right on the other hand, they don't motivate. Why is that?
Here, I want to share some of my thoughts about financial targets; and I am happy to hear your comments as well.
What are alternatives targets then? In a discussion with my friend Daniel Benes, he has suggested three key factors to focus on:
Which key performance indicators create success in your teams?
Quarter four is around the corner and yes, this is the last quarter of the year - time is flying in 2020! For many, this means reviewing their objectives and defining the new key results; closing all the major deliverables for the year...
Focusing purely on the deliverables though, might not lead to lasting success. This focus on the 'what' is not addressing the effectiveness of reaching the results. In a previous post - a single focus on performance might impede performance - I highlighted that we also need to look at 'experience' and 'learning'. What does that mean for our key results?
Here my suggested sections for expanded Objectives & Key Results:
Interesting... and what does that mean for our key results? How can we make them concrete and measurable? Let me list examples from a recent project.
Stakeholder Engagement (learning)
What are your examples? How do you accelerate your teams' effectiveness in reaching their deliverables?
This June was the first time I came across this word - Antifragility. Grant Rawlinson mentioned it as a strategy he applied during his adventures. Recently, more people started to mention it and I got curious. The story is simple. When we are fragile, we break under pressure. We start to be resilient; that means we don't break under pressure - we are surviving. The idea of antifragility is that we are growing and becoming stronger under pressure. Nassim Taleb defines it as:
"Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty."
How can we become thriving under pressure? Buster Benson summarised ten principles based on Taleb's book. Here are my thoughts around it:
In order to create lasting success, we might want to build a collaborative foundation and have a clear direction where we want to go. Then, we can combine this with curiosity to experiment and with a common understanding who are we creating value for. This might be a formula that avoids the trap of short-term thinking and shortcuts that ruptures our strength over time.
Source: 10 Principles to Live an Antifragile Life
Today, I had the opportunity to share a hybrid approach to transformation in operational excellence together with Pascal Daniel during the OPEX Week Live APAC. What excites me about conferences are the interaction between peers and experts in the same field - even in a virtual format. So, we had an interesting sharing of insights how we can trigger lasting success in the current disruption. Exciting to see that the audience is also focusing on innovation, positivity, adaptation, health, empowerment, etc. A very people-centric view.
The hybrid approach we presented is pushing along these keywords; the approach is based on human-centricity, bottom-up and and an ecosystem & value focus. The method is inspired by design thinking and lean startup and follows four key steps:
Join us in a workshop where we guide you in applying this approach to your own challenges and opportunities. Fill in this form to express your interest: https://forms.gle/9W3MqGuwsvrEY39PA
About a year ago, a factory in Thailand embarked on a journey to redefine how they approach operational excellence. One aspect was to get crazy ideas; we conducted a design thinking workshop that engaged over 70 people in six teams. In this article, I want to focus on the execution of these ideas: Big & Small Thinking.
In a workshop the teams split the crazy ideas into smaller clouds. Each of these smaller clouds represented a potential three months projects; they followed the following principles:
These criteria represented a shift away from the typical 12-18 months projects. The biggest challenges the team were facing were, a) that after each three months we can add value to the business and b) that we don't know what we will be working on after this project is completed. Both elements allow the teams to stay flexible and adjust the big picture journey to new discoveries and to changes in the environment. At the same time, we were able to celebrate much earlier. The engagement was very high.
How do you drive excellence in a complex and ever-changing environment?
While coaching teams to become more agile, I am observing teams that are rushing after their action log. Things don't go according to plan and friction starts. That is normal. And, what is the impact on the morale and the quality of the collaboration? This churn can't go on forever, that is for sure.
This is why teams regularly meet, sit back and reflect on their daily work. Some call it after action review, some call it retrospective. Different teams use different structures to conduct this meeting. The tools are not the most important. As an observer, you can identify how well the is collaborating; how the dynamics work; uncover friction. These are the important parts during the reflection sessions; looking at the bigger picture.
Typically, the team members share things that went well and then the group has lengthy discussions about what went wrong and what we should do differently. In this article, I don't want to write a guide on these reflection sessions. Though, I want to highlight one single thing.
The end goal of your reflection session is that the team feels confident and energised to go back to their daily work.
Often that is forgotten or neglected.
What is your routine to boost energy?
Uncertainty has been discussed for some time and in 2020, we experienced it in a new dimension. I used to ask leaders to show me their 18-months plan from 18 months ago. Now, I think it is clear that past plans don't hold a lot of guidance anymore. How can we still lead our teams and create confidence and success?
Anita Sands shared in this article the seven habits for highly effective leaders in times of uncertainty. A great real life experience sharing what works for some of the best leaders. These seven points allowed me to reflect on four pillars of my Wheel for Agility - I haven't been so far off.
1. Balance Realism And Optimism - People in general prefer bad news over uncertainty. Not knowing what comes is very stressful. At the same time, even the worst situation holds opportunities. As a leader it is important to strike a balance between the two. Get the people out of a downward spiral.
2. Communicate Often And Authentically - Proactive communication goes hand in hand with the first habit. Vulnerability shows that we are human and that creates better connections. If we don't have an answer for the future, we still have the values we are proud of. Let's continue to live by them.
3. Focus On Purpose And Culture - Many successful leaders have evoked passion in their employees and their customer base. Why am I giving a lot of my life's energy for this company? A leaders provides a meaningful answer to this question. I like to call this creating a collective dream.
4. Nourish Yourself - As a leader we are giving a lot of energy to the people around us. Do you have enough energy yourselves that you can give away? This means we need to continuously fuel our body, mind, heart and soul. Be generous to yourself!
5. Evaluate Competitive Positioning - Many organisations fell in a fight/flight/faint/freeze mode due to the huge negativity created in the past months. As a leader it is important to create a positive environment that allows creativity and the discovery of new solutions that bounce us forward. This also requires a deep understanding of the needs & challenges of our customers.
6. Get And Stay Curious - New solutions only come from experimentation - let's try things out and evolve from what we learn. As a leader we need to be curious ourselves, and we need to empower our teams to be curious and experiment. Further, curiosity is correlated to resilience; it enables a range of cognitive, emotional and social capabilities that allow us to cope with duress. Let's walk around with a beginner's mind.
7. Pause And Celebrate Successes - Simply rushing forward might make us blind to understand if we are on the right path. Regularly pausing and reflecting on what we have achieved and learnt; this gives us the space to focus on the right opportunities. Celebrating even the smallest success, will bring some of the positivity back. This gives us a glimpse of the blue sky above the clouds.
How do you inspire your teams?
Today was Day 2 of the APAC Operational Transformation Summit with a inspiring speakers that look at new aspects of Operational Excellence: culture, sustainability and agility.
Eric Tachibana started of with an deep dive into culture. Culture is important because there is a clear correlation to financial success - btw, strategy doesn't show this correlation. At the same time, it seems to be difficult to grab and manage. Eric introduced a model to make to make culture more tangible: values, rituals, stories and artifacts. Influencing culture starts with the little behaviours we conduct every day in these four areas. He shared that at Amazon there is a strong focus on the leadership principles that provide guidance to the entire organisation and to create new routines across the four elements of culture.
Luanne Sieh introduced another angle to operational excellence and illustrated the impact of human society on our planet in the last 100 years and how it shot through the roof. In today's business, we need to look at the triple bottom line - profit, people, planet - in order to establish a sustainable operation. Investors today are more and more interested to go beyond th short term financial KPIs and push the companies they are investing in to be active in creating a better world for our society and our planet. This essentially will bring new business opportunities and allows companies to distinguish themselves in the market.
Majid Bhatti supports the view that innovation is essential for business success; creating new products, increase motivation, increase productivity, establishing new relationships. Innovation is not only about creating ideas; selecting the right ideas and executing them are essential parts of innovation. Successful innovation is based on collaboration and interaction between people; based on empathy and understanding. In this context, he introduced agile methods which have a strong focus on interacting with peers and customers. Getting early feedback from them is essential to develop solutions iteratively. Agility also suggests that we are creating flat organisations and facilitate the flow of ideas and improvements from all corners of the organisation. Agility is a platform for innovation and improvements in our operational excellence.
For me, it was refreshing to observe a broad perspective on how we can improve our operational excellence and look beyond the usual set of tools. Diving deep into culture, sustainability and agility might create more engagement within the ecosystem; looking at a wider range of criteria can drive improvements in our daily operations.
Today was Day 1 of the APAC Operational Transformation Summit and we had a great lineup of speakers. And we could clearly see a red thread going through all the presentations. Operational excellence is based on digital transformation. And the success of digital transformation is enabled by the people.
First we had Michal Golebiewski from Microsoft sharing how digital transformation is a journey and that starts with the definition of a new you, with a purpose. This purpose is guiding the customers, the partners and the employees on how we are kick-starting this journey. We need a vision & strategy; a northstar. The transformation needs to look at the culture and mindsets that will allow experimentation and stimulate a growth mindset. The unique assets and the capabilities of the organisation need to be aligned for this journey. And finally, success is based on employee empowerment and we need to stay engaged with them. These are the ingredients for success.
Abhishek Sharma, Axa, continued the journey and added that the tools and the process are necessary to make bring fruits from the ingredients. In order to start your digital transformation journey, you need to investigate your what, who, how and the impact you want to create. Important here, you will not reach the peak in the first round. And as a leader, you encourage your team members to climb the mountain by themselves - milestone after milestone. And at the same time, you are there to hold a guiding hand when necessary. This will build confidence. The transformation journey is triggering a cultural shift that involves everyone. THat is why it is important to cultivate trust with your employees, your customers and in the entire ecosystem.
During my presentation, I took the concept further and introduced positive leadership as a model that allows you to drive engagement, motivation and therefore operational success. Today's uncertain and complex business environment requires agility in order to create success. This agility is based on empowering people to experiment, guiding them with a collective dream, creating an understanding how we can create value for our customers, and lastly on building a collaborative platform to facilitate relationships and trust.
Finally, Kesavan Sivanandam, from AirAsia, shared an inspiring story about perseverance and pushing boundaries. Needless to say, the airline industry is hit very hard and AirAsia took this as an opportunity to push digital in the end-to-end experience. He shared the story how strong collaboration with various agencies and business partners allowed them to achieve a contact-less solution from "curb to gate" within a few months time. This was possible based on a common purpose within the ecosystem to keep the business going in a safe way. And in this journey, it was important to keep the people engaged under this collective dream.
Day 1 of the conference was a lot about creating a common purpose, engaging with the people, and cultivating relationships. Key ingredients for a smooth and sustainable digital transformation journey. I am curious to hear more during Day 2.
"When you bring a problem to me, also come with a solution." This has been a very common manager practice. Since a while, I believe that this statement is flawed. How do you expect your team member will react? Will they be openly and willingly approach you with their struggles? And, how does this contribute to a positive environment which is essential for creativity?
When your team is facing barriers in creating success then the entire team has an interest to overcome this barrier; the team needs transparency in order to excel and grow. As a leader you want to be a sparring partner for your team. Instead of looking at how we ended up with that problem, positive leaders will turn it into an opportunity to learn and improve the way we serve.
When we are facing a challenge, it is important to create a deep understanding of what is the problem and to withhold thoughts about possible solutions until a very late stage. Let's first identify the people we are creating value for; what are these people's needs and pain points; how can we make them excited? How are we delivering value to today and where are the gaps? With a solid understanding of the challenge, we will identify opportunities to reduce friction. Solution ideas will easily emerge.
Next time a team member comes to you with an issue, appreciate that they are sharing it with you and ask: "What did you already try?" and lead the conversation towards a factual analysis of what have encountered so far.
In my practice to give operational excellence a people-centric angle, I am always curious to learn more about how to experience and influence change. First, it is not possible to force people to change - and I think this is an important notion for any leader. You can only create an environment that facilitates people to change.
Recently I stumbled across this article - How to (Actually) Change Someone’s Mind- that illustrates how we can work together with naysayers that are opposing the change we want to create in our team and company. We all experienced the detractors that seem to be have this deep-rooted resistance to change, right? Here are three strategies that might help.
The cognitive conversation is about holding an objective and positive chat that uncovers new, specific information that can sway the decision into another direction. For success, it is important to consider the existing arguments and to keep emotions out of this discussion.
The champion conversation helps in situation where logic is not an important factor because the underlying relationship is week and is in the way of changing the decision. We want to become a champion in the conversation, get to know the people and allow them to get know you from different angles. For success it is important to stay authentic and continue to rely on logic.
The credible colleague conversation is an approach when deep believes are in the way of change; logical and emotional arguments are not working to overcome deep values. Sharing experiences from another person might help to see that other values are in favour of the upcoming change. The positive aspects from another angle might change deep-rooted opinions.
These types of conversations are not only great when dealing with individuals. The principles also work when designing the journey for large scale transformations: use logic, build authentic relationships, expand people's experiences.
Thank you Laura for putting these thoughts together and sharing these great examples.
In an environment of uncertainty and complexity, anti-fragility will allow you to create lasting success. That's a nice sentence and many people agree to this. And then the big question comes: how do you get there? how do these puzzle pieces fall in place?
Two months ago, I posted my leadership view on the four pillars for agility: customer value, purpose, relationships and experimentation: How to reach agility? Four Key Drivers for Leaders. Today, I want to come back to these pillars and share how they fit together.
The underlying premise is that your company is acting in an uncertain and complex environment. Now, in this uncertainty, you want that decisions are made fast and bottlenecks are removed. This means, you need to empower the people at the front to experiment and try out what might work - and learn. You need to increase their autonomy to allow your teams to run forward with high velocity.
Now, many people argue that this will only lead to chaos. Yes, and while we allow our teams to run forward, we need to ensure that they are moving fast in the same direction. The organisation requires an aligned and transparent understanding of the big picture purpose. Important, this is not a top down vision. I like to call it the collective dream which is evolving with everyone participating.
What is the key ingredient to this collective dream? Our customers decide if we are successful. That means, we need to create value for them. The company purpose and the different team purposes are highly influenced by how we are creating value to our customers. And this is based on a deep understanding of their needs and challenges.
The fourth pillar is about creating a platform that allows the teams to run forward in the right direction. This platform facilitates cross-silo collaboration which allows quick sharing of information and further eliminates barriers to speed and fuels creativity. Smooth collaboration is based on common goals and good relationships.
As a leader that drives anti-fragility, your role boils down to two things: bring the people together to define a meaningful and customer-focussed purpose. With this established, the second role is removing bottlenecks, providing resources and further driving motivation. Sounds easy and yes, it takes a lot of efforts to become this agent of success.
In German we have this expression - "Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist des Talers nicht wert"; basically saying, you need to value to small change in order to be worthy of the dollar bills. Did I get this right? In many efficiency improvement projects, companies deploy a small focus team that is working on the large improvements and within a few years they can achieve great improvement results. Why is this not enough? How can these initiatives excite the entire workforce? And do these central projects have a lasting impact?
In Southeast Asia we engaged in an energy efficiency project for about 15 factories. And, we took a different approach: we directly asked the frontline people where they see improvement potential. I clearly remember a few projects we celebrated together with the staff at the factories. One was the idea to change the switches in a large warehouse. Imagine a large warehouse, and whenever you enter it, there is one switch for all the lights. The team experienced this as a waste of energy and suggested multiple switches for the different sections in the warehouse. Does this have a million dollar impact on your business? Even we might consider this as a small improvement, we celebrated it because the behaviours is correct and we wanted to stimulate more of the same.
The next time this team walks past a idle running grinding plant, they will switch it off and will save significant energy costs. Based on over a hundred similar small projects, we were able to reduce the annual energy cost by a three digit million dollar figure. Plus, we created ownership, commitment and engagement from everyone working in our plants. This was an exciting journey.
A case study from Coca Cola in Sweden shows similar results - Improvement opportunities that are hard for managers to see. The study compared the improvement impact of a Six Sigma initiative with an idea system for continuous improvement. The sum of the small ideas in total generated 6 times more savings than the big projects.
A positive leadership engaging all the workforce to participate in the overall vision of the organisation will have significant and lasting effects on your bottom line. How will you implement this in your company?
In general, I am a forward looking person and striving to excite people about the future. Even these times are full of positive experiences and opportunities. And sometimes, it is great to explore the past - historians play an important role in our daily life. This article is looking at studies from previous crises and shares interesting conclusions - What you can learn from history about innovating during a crisis.
The companies that invested in innovation during the crisis displayed 14% more growth in the following decade than the companies that did not. What did these companies do differently? They collaborated with other businesses, explored new market opportunities, leveraged technology in new ways, and were competing on value instead of price.
At the same time, in a crisis companies need to be cautious with spending. The research shows that investing into innovation is not the only driver for success. Companies need to find a balance between investing in innovation and reducing your cost structure. Though, firing staff is not the preferred way to control your costs - this will only backfire in the near future.
Here are cost management strategies that have been proven successful in previous crises:
While these defensive measure are in place, follow your customers and invest where you can create value. Allow your staff to experiment with new ways to interact with customers and learn as much as they can. It is very important to build a solid foundation that pushes you into the pole position when the economy is picking up again.
Where do you find inspiration in this list of measures? How will you start to balance innovation and cost control?
Many leaders understand that empowering their team members will improve motivation, creativity, agility and will lead to lasting success. Still, many struggle to find a balance between being the boss and stepping aside. What is the right path?
Previously we shared about the Innovation Days, a two day event in Shanghai to drive creativity: Cultivate a Creative Mindset while Delivering Business Results. During this event we encouraged the sponsors of the teams to observe their teams and be available to provide guidance.
In one team we observed great leadership. When the team went ahead to create a prototype of their idea, they involved their sponsor as an ordinary team member. This allowed this regional director to learn from the project team and at the same time share his ideas and advise. The key here is that he did this while being on the same level - not as the sponsor or a senior person.
What does it take to be a supportive, positive leader? At the start and throughout the journey, the role of a leader is to create clarity on the collective dream and what we intend to achieve with this team. Another role is to display the expected behaviour and values; be a role model. Lastly, supportive leaders coach their team members to overcome obstacles. When this is done, why not join the team and enjoy the ride together with them?
Thank you for your great leadership: Renyi Wang, Lance Yang.
Photo credit: Huntsman, Shanghai
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.