Since about a decade, we talked about a business environment that is constantly changing, complex and exposing our company to disruption. The year 2020 showed us, how real this can be for any business and for our entire life. Over the last five years, I have developed a framework which I think allows us, our teams, and our company to create a platform for lasting success. A conversation yesterday motivated me to share this here again.
The volatile business environment we are in, requires an important revelation: if we continue doing the same thing, we will be getting the same results. So, we need to try new things. Then, the main question is: who should define these experiments? Who should be in control of bringing our business forward? As a change management practitioner, I suggest two dimensions which are highly important to our leadership.
Direction - How often do we define a new strategy and after some time realise that our business is still running in the same way? In my experience, the bottleneck is not the understanding of what the strategy is; rather, there is a lack of understanding and persistence on how this new strategy is impacting everybody's daily work. Here we need alignment and transparency to define and implement the collective dream.
Acceleration - In a next step, there are more barriers for success: who is coming up with the crazy ideas? Only big bets will make us move forward over time. And, implementing big bets seems to be a daunting endeavour like climbing the Mount Everest. Here we need experimentation, focus, safe working environment, cross-silo collaboration, etc in order to innovate and to excel.
How are you able to trigger the change in your company culture to achieve this platform for lasting success? Please reach out to me to exchange thoughts.
Over the last decade, I could collect many examples where teams and entire organisations tried to accomplish too many things at the same time - with the result that they are advancing very slowly. I observed this in manufacturing environments, corporate functions, product development teams, etc. And I am sure, many of you agree to this. And still, there are so many important topics; how to choose?
Last year, a team approached me to support them to improve their productivity. They organised themselves in a very typical manner: each team member got a topic assigned and worked on it individually. During my observations I discovered two main obstacles. First, the team members felt that they were not in a good position to help each other. Second, the team was not able to accelerate urgent topics fast. That's why we tried a new approach.
How often do you observe similar situations in your organisation?
In this team, we tried to follow the principle: let's minimise the topics we are working on in parallel. We started with selecting one focus topic per cycle - a two weeks period in their case. At the beginning we had a deep dive into the topic to get everyone familiar with the topic. Then, they discussed what are the tasks to bring this topic forward and continued to work together on these activities. With this sequential approach, the team didn't have to select important topics to reduce the number of projects on their plate. There is always the next cycle, where the next important focus topic will be progressed. This gave the team the confidence to spend very little time on the other topics.
During the reflection after the first cycle, the team expressed how they enjoyed to work closer together; this was a great team bonding. In addition, they were able to significantly accelerate the delivery for the focus topic. At the same time, the team struggled with a steep learning curve during the deep dive and shared that they had to find a new balance between working in a group and focus on individual tasks. We agreed that both points will become much easier over the course of the next cycles. Overall, they all agreed the benefits outweigh these drawbacks. The team highly appreciated the switch to a more parallel approach of delivery.
Where do you see areas to implement this way of working?
Many companies are in the process to define the annual performance goals and in this context, we often talk about accountability. Harvard Business Review was recently sharing some interesting insights, how these goals are set; for example, 21% of the employees feel that they can control their goals and 69% of employees feel that they don't perform up to their potential. How are you creating motivation and ownership during these goal-setting conversations?
At Hive17 Consulting, we are conducting Vision-to-Action programs that translate your strategy into changes in people's daily work. In this program, we create an environment where the teams, the employees, are defining their objectives themselves. As a result, we have observed that these teams are taking more ownership of the outcome, are collaborating closer together, and the delivery quality improved.
What are the key points that drive engagement during the goal setting period?
How do you feel about giving away control?
Source: How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability
This year, I am celebrating my 10 year anniversary as a practitioner in the field of change management. I started to get curious about the topic while I was deep in implementing knowledge management programs at a multinational company. We were constantly presenting new ways of working to our colleagues and it was natural to get closer to the levers of facilitating change.
Admittedly, Change Management is not the most popular term and yes, I am not using it a lot either. Still in my heart I know, I found my calling in this profession. On the one hand, I am always eager to look at performance and improvements. On the other hand, I like to connect with people and I am curious about how they are interacting with each other. Both topics are very tightly interlinked. New systems, processes and organisations only unfold their potential when they are embraced by the people involved in them. And, we can only design great systems, processes and organisations, when we deeply understand the human actors in it.
The way I look at the change management is holistic. This means, I suggest that we go beyond the simple implementation of (for example) a new software tool; a better way is to look at the journey and the larger ecosystem where this software is supposed to add value. In this sense, my focus is on how can I enable people to embrace and grow with the constant change that is happening around them. How can we bring more antifragility to the people and to the organisation. in my eyes, this has a lot to do with culture and leadership. How can we create the right space between people that they can grow together; and as a leader, how can I provide a platform that gives people passion and ownership.
How did I get started? In the beginning I read a lot of different books and articles about the topic and followed a course or two. And about four years ago, I also started with my certification. I can really recommend to get in touch with the global Association for Change Management Professionals (ACMP); you can find great, like-minded people and lots of resources. They have developed a great professional standard and I like their certification path. Though, most important is to be exposed and learn on the job - consciously applying what you think is right, try new things and develop your own practice.
I want to thank the people that strongly supported me on this path: San-Daleen, Jerome, Sandra, Michael, Björn and many others!
In my practice, I am often talking about three different topics: change management, operational excellence and innovation. For many people, they are very different concepts and many companies assign these to different departments. What makes them so distinct? Or are they not?
For me, they are strongly supporting each other and tightly interlinked. Let's start with innovation. This topic is about creating and implementing new solutions. Change management is supporting innovation by driving the change (behaviours) that the new solution will bring. And according to some studies, about 80% of the innovation are incremental, operational improvements, while still disruptive.
In the same way, operational excellence is strongly supported by innovation methods in order to discover crazy ideas. And, in my experience, change management practices support to engage the people and motivate them bring better results.
Lastely, for me change management is directed at improving the business. This can only happen by cultivating an innovation mindset and driving operational excellence across the entire organisation.
So, instead of distributing these three topics in different corners of your organisation, bring them together. Some successful companies have one (Transformation or Excellence) team which can be the driver for company-wide innovation which includes operational excellence and has strong change management practices.
How do you bring innovation, change management and operational excellence closer together?
We are excited to provide you with the findings of our follow-up study about how leaders in Asia and Europe are working through the pandemic. If you remember, in July we published the first report: Teams Come First - New Business Models Later. Here comes part two...
The second study has crystallized some key questions for the way forward: How do you provide a sense of stability in an uncertain environment? How can you focus on Employee Motivation and Customer Value? And, how can you keep nurturing solid relationships in your ecosystem?
The results also show that people - and that’s employees as well as customers and business partners - are taking center stage. Still, many people indicate that they lack direction and vision.
Complete report: hive17.com/antifragilityreport2021
Now is a great moment to evolve and develop your teams and your business. How do these questions and topics resonate with you?
In the last post, I shared arguments to shift from command & control to guide & facilitate leadership. What does that actually mean? What are the new leadership routines? In the context of positive leadership, I am promoting two key activities for an effective leaders: establish a collective dream and actively let go.
Let me start with one question: as a leader, are you controlling your entire ship? And is that actually something you want to achieve? How can you ensure that all relevant information is coming to your desk? What are you levers to motivate your teams to follow your vision? What is the behavioural impact of taking central control? And, do you want to take this burden on yourself? This approach of running your organisation might lead to bottlenecks, people not performing to their potential, and slow-down of the organisation and the people. So, how can I engage in the two key activities and give control away?
The start is to create a collective dream (guide); a dream because we want to evoke passion; collective because the dream is created and lived by everyone in the organisation. One important result of this collective dream is that everyone is looking at lasting success, and this is based on a balance between delivering positive outcome and developing the organisation and the people to become better. Here some suggestions:
In one of my recent coaching engagements we talked about this collective dream in the context of a people initiative. While we discussed the objectives and the motivation around this initiative, it became apparent that the goals of the people responsible for the implementation where not aligned with the business intention. We identified a potential resistance and started to work on the alignment of the objectives.
Once this meaningful direction is established, the second activity is to actively let go (facilitate). With this we start to increase decision-making power at the front (where the information is). Here the qualities of curiosity, appreciation and learning are so important. As a leader, you start to appreciate the capabilities and progress people are making; you are curious to discover new approaches to solve problems, and you are experiencing that you can still learn a lot. Key activities in while letting go are:
Coming back to the coaching engagement above, we identified that the regional expert acted as a central node of expertise. This created bottlenecks and hindered learning across the regional group. We then established regular sessions where we facilitated conversations between the local experts that they can share their practices and ask for direct support from peers.
This example also shows that we are creating leaders on all levels. And in my experience, providing guidance via a collective dream is often well understood. Though, many leaders are still afraid to let go.
What hinders you to let go and give control to your people?
Command and control leadership style is outdated - we heard this many times. What makes it outdated? What are the alternatives? How can we establish the right routines for a new leadership approach? There are many debates around this topic and I feel I want to share my belief and opinion.
Control - let's start with this as many of us have experienced it in form of micro-management. Frequent status update meetings ask if the projects are on the right track. Senior managers churn out roadmaps and give milestones on what needs to be achieved by when. An army of analysts provide reports on a number of data points. All this machinery is in my eyes blocking ownership; there seems to be no leeway for experimentation and leveraging experience.
In my experience, people at the front know best where to improve and where we can reduce friction. Though, they need an environment where they can connect with diverse experts and experiment with different options. The objective here is to learn, make quick decisions and continuously improve and excel. As a leader, we need to be the facilitator for this environment, removing bottlenecks, allocating resources, and connecting the right people. And, this requires a big picture direction...
Command - the second dimension is more nuanced. Managers might give commands, telling people what to do and giving them very little room to explore their own methods and defining their own objectives. Again, this is close to micro-management and the lack of freedom where to go is stifling creativity and a growth mindset. At the same time, a commander's responsibility is to give people a purpose and direction, and keeping the teams aligned with a bigger purpose. The big question here: are we creating followers or leaders?
In my experience, I have seen often a gap between a nice mission statement and how people perceive this is impacting their daily work. People need a high-level direction that allows them to define their daily priorities. And, everyone should be involved in defining this high-level direction to add their 'local' expertise and for better adoption. As a leader, we need to be the guide to jointly develop a collective dream. And then, coach the teams to translate this dream into a meaningful direction for themselves.
Based on these arguments, I propose to switch from command & control to guide & facilitate leadership. In short, I prefer to call it positive leadership which focuses on appreciation, coaching, curiosity and learning.
Where do you see the pitfalls of command & control?
Image credit: Konrad Frost, Volvo Ocean Race
When is the last time that you have been frustrated that you have not reached your objectives? This might be a personal fitness objective, an ambitious result for your sport or a project deliverable at work. In my practice, I observe that most people are setting goals that seem to be unachievable. Which can lead to frustration and in the best case, lack of celebration. Is this in itself a bad thing?
Setting high ambitions are a great thing. They can induce passion and purpose we want to strive for. This collective dream brings the members of a team together, they create alignment and meaning. There is no doubt, ambitions and objectives are essential. And this collective dream makes us start the journey. Though, they are not good to sustain our motivation.
A true, deep motivation requires that we are disconnecting enjoyment from the actual achievement of the goal. This means, we appreciate the journey that leads towards our ambition. As a swimmer, I have the ambition to reach a certain result in an open water competition. Though, I enjoy the preparation and training that leads to achieving this result; this keeps me motivated. Similarly at work, while we set a specific goal to bring our operations to excellence, we appreciate what we are learning along the way. The goal is almost an excuse to create a journey of excellence.
In order to build this motivation, I suggest to keep reminding yourself about the feeling that is created by the activities (and micro-achievements) that lead towards your big picture goal. Make the journey worthwhile and valuable in itself. Then you might never lose momentum to reach your collective dream!
What are your new resolutions for 2021? The start of the new year is usually the opportunity to rethink our priorities, to trigger new behaviour, and to create a new, positive momentum for personal growth.
In the last few days, while asking people about their 2021 priorities, I heard a few times the same thing: "I need to see what my boss tells me". And to be honest, I was a bit shocked. Who is owning your priorities?
Here is what I think: work is part of our life; a considerable part of our life and our well-being and our achievements in our job is defining the success we feel in our entire life. Therefore, I think it is important to first understand what we want to achieve in our life overall. In 10, 20 years, what is the life we want to look back at? What are the fundamental values that define me as a person.
Based on this we can then see how our current work fit into our life ambition. How does our career contribute to the betterment of ourselves? In this sense, now at the start of the year, I suggest to start to think in two steps:
Start 2021 with a new resolution: take ownership and be proactive!
A special year is coming to an end and I want to thank all my families, friends, network and followers for your encouragement, conversations and learning opportunities. Despite all the difficult moments, I think I have been lucky and grateful of all the things that have happened - maybe it is by choice?
The New Year is coming and if we can predict one thing, it will be different from the past. Will it be better? I think, this depends on what we make out of it, right? For myself and for all the great people around me, I wish that we are getting ready for what will come. First, I think we will need curiosity to discover the opportunities; we want to understand our passion that gives us a big picture direction. And then, let's start with small steps towards this collective dream, and building together with our network of people.
Wish you a fantastic start of the New Year!
In the last few weeks we all observed a sentiment of fatigue. Many of us feel exhausted of what the year 2020 brought to us and are craving for the festive break. Why did this happen?
From my perspective, I can see two things that have contributed to this feeling of wanting to pause. One is external; the continuous uncertainty of what is coming next. The widespread consequence of the reaction to the pandemic has created big shifts on the economy, how we work and how we interact with our family and friends. The second element is more internal; due to the environment, many of us reacted with activism directed at keeping the lights on, stemming the impressions and impact from the ecosystem, and simply putting the head down and keep running. In this situation many of us stopped pausing and reflecting on the bigger picture. Budgeting and forecasting were not done properly because the felt meaningless. Any long term plan was avoided because we were in survival mode.
Today, when I look back at the last 12 months, I can see many accomplishments and great opportunities for the future. We have learned about many new possibilities which we can leverage. For example, focusing on the essence when forecasting, improving the way we discover the needs of our customers, crating flexibility how we are working, strengthening the work environment with a focus on the value of our people, and connecting to friends in a more meaningful way.
Last month, McKinsey published an article - Overcoming pandemic fatigue: How to reenergize organizations for the long run - that outlines five key points how we can go "beyond grit and perseverance". Which was for me a reminder of the relevance of the Wheel of Antifragility we at Hive17 Consulting have developed.
We believe that these four pillars establish an environment and a culture that enables short-term benefits that evolve into lasting success.
How are you looking forward into the New Year?
Keeping traditions... Huntsman's technical campus in Shanghai celebrated again an Innovation Day last week. This is the third iteration since I met the local leadership team in 2015 and a great routine to keep.
In my recent experience, many companies and teams are pushing for daily delivery without pause and reflecting are we running in the right direction and are we using the right gear. And I am observing that only after a few months in this mode, teams are getting exhausted.
The Innovation Day in Shanghai is reversing this trend and the leadership team understands the wider purpose and benefits of such an event:
Thank you Enshan, Renyi and Stella to keep this tradition alive!
Great to read the outcome of an interesting conversation with Rachelle Lee and Michael Zimmel about how innovation and creativity can shape the way finance professionals are looking at their work.
One key pillar for success is understanding how we are creating value for our customers. This starts with exploring who we are creating value for. And then get inspired by their needs and insights. Where are the pain points and how we can we make these groups of people successful.
In the past, finance professionals were routinely creating standard reports piling up lagging financial indicators. In today's ever-changing, complex world this is not creating value. I suggest to look at leading indicators that we can directly influence and have an impact on the success we are aiming for. We can see a huge potential for finance teams to tremendously increase the value they can create for their 'customers'.
Read more in this interview: The Changing Mandate of Finance.
Last month I asked the question if we are busy or productive. Today, I want to share how this works in practice based on 'Thriving under Pressure' workshops we conducted. At the start, it is important to note that we are not trying to reduce the pressure - here is why.
The first question we asked ourselves, where does pressure come from? The answers clearly indicated that the pressure is created mostly by externalities: competing priorities, work-life balance, various stakeholders, etc. This means, we can't simply take away that pressure. Though, there are means to reduce the stress that this is causing.
One interesting source of pressure shows a different light on the challenge: 'high expectation from myself'. And yes, that is the one part of the pressure we can influence. But how?
In the previous post we talked about: know your priorities, big rocks first, experiment and reflect & energise. How did we apply these in the context of our daily work? Here some thoughts and suggestions:
How are they linked to antifragility? Hive17 Consulting works with four pillars that are spinning the wheel of antifragility: purpose, customer value and experimentation are defining how we are setting our priorities and executing based on them. The fourth pillar is the foundation: the relationship bonds are crucial to maintain positivity and a healthy way to collaborate in environment of crisis.
How do you apply these elements to stay productive?
We heard this a lot - especially in the current pandemic: stress is causing our brain to react with flight, freeze, faint or fight. And this reaction is blocking our creativity and problem-solving capability. Stress can come from so many directions: uncertainty, feeling threatened, lack of job security, work overload, lack of control, feeling insecure, feeling lost...
Neuroscience tells us that a positive emotional state restores this creative thinking which allows us to solve problems and accelerate the much needed innovation. As a leader, we can switch the work environment from one of fear & challenges, to one where we can discover great opportunities. This will also strengthen trust and self-esteem.
Here is one surprising source for this positive environment. According to this IMD article is humour! Feena May describes in The incredible lightness of being: use humor to inspire your team during a crisis "humour as a leader's capacity, ability and willingness to share themselves in service of the situation" with lightness of spirit, kindness and presence.
As so often, the intent is important. We want to use humour in order to enlarge and open the space between people; take them out of their shells and caves and bring them together with purpose and fun. Humour is not the same as jokes; these are often making fun of a certain group of people, which is counter-productive. The silent clown can be an inspiration; the apparently simple acts of holding space, creating connection and encouraging exchange. And often, a simple smile and light-hearted comment by a leader can create positivity which removes the stress and uncertainty.
Feena mentions three reflection points:
There are many ingredients to accelerate excellence, drive productivity and strengthen innovation. One of them is humour which creates fun and collaborative environment based on positive leadership.
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
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.