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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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?
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
The other day, a financial adviser shared with me that there will be a market correction coming soon and I should put my planned investments on hold. I was contemplating on this... What happens if many people believe in this correction and act accordingly? The spiral will go down. And, what will this mean for the companies I planned to invest in? They might lose funds and their growth will slow. Is this what I am believing in?
As a leader, I think we have a choice. We can follow the advice, maybe get richer ourselves and then what? Or, we can stick to our long-term investment strategy, support the organisations we are passionate about and reach our long-term growth targets; not just financially.
So, what does that mean for leaders? What can we achieve with financial targets? How is this creating engagement with your teams? Can these monetary targets be meaningful? Aren't these objectives leading to more selfishness?
As an alternative, we leaders can follow our passion and activate excitement among our team members. This will stimulate motivation and will lead to value creation for our customers. We can develop a greater and collective feeling of purpose. This collective dream will strengthen the collaboration in our team and across the wider ecosystem.
When you sit down with your team and define your goals, try to go beyond these dollar figures. Think about the results you want to achieve for your customers and with your business partners. In addition, specify the work environment you as a team want to cultivate. These are objectives that will bring meaning, excitement and passion to your team.
How are you leading beyond financial targets?
There is no magic how to master uncertain times - be innovative, be creative, think out-of-the box! Why is it so hard for many companies to thrive?
This article - How to rebuild a business after the coronavirus lockdown, WIRED UK - shows interesting cases of startups in the UK that managed to turn around and be successful despite the storm hitting the business world.
“Go back to basics,” Hannah Martin says. “Who are your ideal customers, what problem do you solve for them, how has that changed, can you adapt? Approach people, don't wait for them to update you. Look at what others are doing, in and outside your industry, see if you can get ideas.”
Many corporations are stuck in their view of the world, decision makers are too far away from reality, motivation structures are based on lagging indicators, experimentation is discouraged, silos are preventing velocity. Today's leaders need to get out of this cycle to create lasting success.
How do you bring your vision into action?
Do you still think that meeting face-to-face is the only effective way to collaborate? Many people went through different experiences. First, they struggled to work remotely overcoming technical and social barriers. Then came the realisation that remote working actually works; it is possible to achieve a lot (and even more) even when we are not able to meet. And a third phase has arrived where we want to enrich virtual collaboration with physical interaction. What is you preferred mix of the two worlds?
I do love to read WIRED UK, uncovering the latest trend in tech and innovation. This recent 'work smarter' article expressed this observation: Coronavirus could finally fix some of our most toxic work habits.
In the past, many managers believed that they need to call a meeting to discuss everything, and most deliverables can only be created during these face-to-face interactions. This is great for the people that love to speak up and then hope that others are picking up what they said. How can you be sure that you have you captured all ideas from everybody?
“If you give people time to react to your question they can take the time and their contributions can often be more thoughtful,” says Prithwiraj Choudhury, Harvard Business School.
Work is not meant to be tied to a desk. Now, we have the opportunity to change our view what is the essence of working in the office. This can be the place to meet colleagues, to facilitate the random knowledge exchange at the "water cooler". Sometimes it is great to conduct a workshop face-to-face - the dynamic is different and maybe more relaxed. At the same time, we learned to appreciate to work by ourselves, which allows us to focus on tasks and go deeper with our thoughts.
The flexibility to choose the work location based on a variety of criteria will be one of the new norms we can build upon.
How will you benefit from this?
Image credit: Giacomo Gambineri
Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.