A regional business unit had introduced a new strategy that set ambitious targets in various market segments. The leadership team launched many conversations with their teams in order to understand the new strategy. The functional heads (i.e. marketing, sales, R&D) encouraged their teams to discuss and define the path forward - with mixed results. Hive17 Consulting understood that the team members didn't yet feel empowered to act on this freedom; at the same time, the leadership team struggled to provide that autonomy.
Together, we planned a new workshop that build on the previous intervention. The new one-day event aimed at providing a structure that provided a safe environment to be creative and establish alignment between the functional heads and their team members. This workshop was based on the method of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
First, we split the group of about 45 managers from all functions into different 'virtual' teams. Each of these market segment teams had members from all key functions: marketing, sales, R&D, manufacturing and supply chain. Each team selected one of the functional head as a sponsor of their team. We did not introduce new reporting lines and the sponsors had the responsibility to give guidance and provide the strategic direction.
The teams then went through an exercise to define the objectives and key results for their market segment - jointly within the cross-functional team. At certain points in the journey, the sponsors joined their teams and they reviewed what the teams established. These OKRs were then used to provide the teams direction on where to focus their efforts. And they created transparency with the leadership team on the status of their activities.
This workshop allowed two things: the cross-functional teams were empowered and given the space to translate the strategy into tangible operational activities by themselves. And the functional leads had the opportunity to provide their feedback without interfering the thought process at an early stage, applying a coaching leadership style.
The regional leadership team was surprised with the results. The dialogue between them and the team members was constructive and they felt as part of the team. The autonomy of defining their own objectives created a strong team cohesion and engagement with these objectives. The teams were inspired and had a great motivation to push ahead with the new strategic focus in their daily work.
"If we keep doing the same thing, we keep getting the same results. In order to grow, we all need to start doing things differently!" - Regional Technical Director.
Neuroscience has been becoming very interesting in explaining how our brain works - and hence how we behave. This article by Paul J. Zak took this practice and explained trust - not only how it works in the brain; also how we can influence this system as a leader.
Why is trust important? Comparing to low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:
Zak went through 10 years of experimenting this topic and discovered the following. Our brain is producing a chemical called oxytocin; when more of this substance is present in our brain, we tend to be more trustworthy. This means, the amount of trust we put into the people around us is influenced by the presence of oxytocin.
His research went further and he experimented what are the levers that influence the level of oxytocin in our brains. How can we as leaders create an environment for trust - proven by neuroscience. Here are the eight findings.
How are you struggling to become a trustworthy leader? Share your story.
Thank you, Daniel Benes, for sharing the article:
We are all getting used to our remote working situations and the virtual meetings. We know that we need to connect frequently, use video for a richer conversation, use collaborative tools for discussions and brainstorming. Why does it feel that it is not effective?
From friends I hear different issues. Some get overloaded with topics and discussions, loose track what is the objective of the call. Some are trying to initiate a good conversation and are confronted with silence. Some feel they need to rush through many things because we are inefficient. All these situations cause stress, confusion and additional uncertainty.
From my knowledge management experience, I think we can try to achieve less in one call at the time; focus on one topic. As we have frequent calls we will still be able to cover many things. Here some tips for effective virtual meetings:
What did work on your side? Share your experiences...
For a while now, I am an advocate for empowering teams to reach their northpole autonomously - a human-centric and sustainable formula for success and growth. Recently, I got introduced to the story of the USS Santa Fe, a submarine that was commanded by David Marquet from a desolate state to the best operated submarine. A story of positive leadership.
Captain Marquet took a totally different approach to his role on the vehicle. Instead of being the centre of operation where all the information is gathered and he is making the decision, he delegated decision-making authority to the different units and ensured the relevant information is flowing between all units.
In an interview he mentioned that a first key change was the way he formulated orders. A typical command is direct like "sail the ship to this location at this speed and that depth". He started to express an intend: "I intend to be at this location in order to achieve that". Then the relevant units are required to suggest the right method to achieve this intention. This changed how people got involved and shared their expertise.
Other learnings shared by David Marquet:
How can you apply this in your leadership role?
Learn more about the story:
The year 2020 has started in a weird way. And the current virus situation many companies start to struggle. In this context, I see many leaders react in the same way: push for targets!
Here an example. The productivity team has a target to achieve 4 million savings in production costs. Initially a tough objective. Now, imagine production slumps down 20%. We have reached our target. Do we celebrate? Did we really get more excellent? How will our productivity results look like if production is increased by 20%?
Instead of focusing on lagging indicators and financial targets, I advocate to look at how do we operate. How do our structures support collaboration in cross-functional teams? How well are we aligned and promote transparency? Can I talk about my mistakes? Who is listening to my ideas?
Companies that want to achieve sustainable success, need to look more at how we are doing business, focus more on values and principles. Look at the financial indicators once in a while to see if we are on the right track. And, set targets to operate in an effective way - especially for yourself as a leader.
In the recent months, I am very happy to support various teams in getting more agile. Last week, I had a call from one of the sites: "Tim, we have a huge problem! Some of our experiments have failed and some teams can't finish their projects" - "Hey, that's great! What we are focusing on is that we experiment and learn - getting faster along the way."
In a conversation earlier this week we reflected on this. Cultivating an agile mindset not only means applying the processes and methods for developing new solutions. In the example above, the teams struggle with significantly shorter project times and delivering experiments instead of fix deliverables - as usual, this is a journey.
Therefore, we need to experiment and use agility in applying the methods, concepts and processes of becoming agile. Experiment to experiment, be agile in becoming agile - if that makes any sense.
Implementing visionary solutions is like climbing a mountain. And so is to change a mindset of people. Why not using the same approach to take small steps to conquer the summit?
For the last about 150 years, we have become very good at becoming efficient. We have automated farming, manufacturing, and are full steam ahead in automating services.
In this process, we focused on making individuals and small units hyper-efficient. We looked at organisations as a system and producing in large scale based on rigid processes; using people as robots in these systems.
Today, the world is changing rapidly, predictions become less accurate and the systems don't operate in a stable environment anymore. In this context, how do we know that we are optimising the right processes and systems? Are we wasting efforts on the wrong things?
In order to be fast and successful in this uncertain environment, I suggest to focus back on the effectiveness of the overall organisation. Cultivating our relationships with peers, suppliers, customers. And, creating structures and routines which allow us to learn fast, reflect and focus on the right things.
Where do you want to reduce waste today?
Today, in our production facilities in Thailand we started to discuss how we can execute ideas to improve productivity in a different way: achieve results in a faster way while keeping the big picture in mind.
The excellent outcome of today's workshop was the definition of Focus Topics. We took the solution ideas we created during a Design Thinking workshop in August and modularised them into smaller chunks that can be implemented as minimal viable products. The teams have now selected the first Focus Topic which will be implemented in the next three months. The graphic below vitally supported the understanding of this concept - visualisation is such an important aspect in discovery.
The objective of this approach is not only to create tangible results fast; we also aiming to cultivate agility and a new mindset. Looking forward to see the results soon.
First we created a good understanding of the needs and insights, which helped to explore a wide range of ideas. Then the teams crafted prototypes and presented their pitches.
All these activities will greatly impact manufacturing excellence; and we can already see the positive impact we made on the people; triggering mindset shifts and better work relationships:
"We were able to bring issues on the table with a smile and positive energy; this was never possible before."
It is always exciting to start something new. This week in Thailand, we launched an Innovation Program to drive Operational Excellence for the production site here.
Inception of a new way of thinking: accelerating results with focus and structure. We defined six opportunity areas which we will work on over the next 12 months.
What I have learned? Build on existing activities and explain based on examples - keep this in mind.
Today's 'Quick Share' is about Objectives & Key Results (OKRs). Many heard about them, many use them - totally independent of region or industry. So, I am not going to explain how this works...
Here are three reasons, why I advocate them:
1 - pushing people to think about what they want to achieve in three months makes these results pretty concrete; plus, it creates more dynamic (or agility?)
2 - leaders get the opportunity to provide autonomy to a team and let them define their own goals together; under the leaders guidance
3 - in the end, the success is not done with defining the OKRs; they success comes in the weeks and months achieving results; this happens via frequent conversations; conversations about prioritisation, actions, collaboration
What do you learn from implementing OKRs?
Day 1 - Great networking and discussions today with peers in operational excellence. My first impressions:
- Focus automation on areas with minimal viable products; and don't forget to clean-up your waste first
- Operational excellence is bottom-up and top-down at the same time
- Start your transformation journey with the 'why'; and then experiment in high speed to create tangible results
- Yes, you can have a global IT organisation with only three hierarchical levels - implementing self-organising teams
- Who owns the customer journey in the company? Ideally the Operational Excellence unit; it is a cross-functional topic
Day 2 - Excited about the feedback I have received for my presentation about People Excellence; people are not machines and we thrive with freedom and passion.
Though the day continued to be exciting with many insights; here is what I got out of it:
- Operational Excellence is not a nice to have - it is about surviving in the market
- Rule-based activities can be automated with a bot; a great opportunity to up-skill people and engage them in more meaningful activities
- Employee Experience is a broad journey with social, physical and technical aspects; and requires a wide set of methods
- Drive agility by moving the focus (30%) from big ticket improvements to small Kaisen improvements
- Create an environment that allows and pushes experimentation; this is one of the foundation for transformation initiatives
- Ownership and curiosity easily compensates for the lack of expertise
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.