learning

When I go into an organization to work with leaders and teams, I often hear how the organization’s silos are getting in the way of business success. I hear people blaming other departments for everything from taking credit where credit is definitely not due, to stalling projects...

We have a very talented team of Mentors and Conductors. They are full of powerful knowledge derived from education and experience. I recently asked our team to suggest books that senior level executives/managers could read to help them take their career or business to the next...

This is the continuation of my unconventional approach to reviewing Flat Army by Dan Pontefract. As in my first post (Chapters 1-4 1/2), here are my favourite excerpts and quotes from Chapter 4 1/2-12. So you may be asking yourself, "why did Mike stop in the middle of Chapter 4 last time?" The simple answer is that I was typing each quote in by hand and I felt the post was getting a bit too long. The author, Dan Pontefract, was nice enough to send me a copy that allows me to cut and paste.

So here they are, my favourite excerpts and quotes from the rest of the book:

Chapter 4

  • Things don't always go perfectly: Embrace mistakes and invest time relating with those who have difficulty.
  • Your way or vision will not be understood by all: Ask for opinions or feedback and determine whether the team understands what is really going on
  • Dev Patnaik, author of Wired to Care, believes that
    [a]s sophisticated as our neurological systems for detecting the feelings of others might be, we've created a corporate world that strives to eliminate the most human elements of business. Companies systematically dull the natural power that each of us has to connect with other people. And by dulling our impulse to care, corporations make decisions that look good on paper but do real harm when put into practice in the real world.
  • ...empathy is positively related to job performance.
  • In a study conducted by IBM in 2010 with 700 global chief human resource officers (CHROs) entitled Working beyond Borders: Insights from the Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study, researchers find the single most critical issue facing organizations in the future is their ability to develop future leaders.
  • It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure employees understand they have an equal responsibility to participate in the developing process.
  • “Organizational Career Development Is Not Dead: A Case Study on Managing the New Career During Organizational Change” in the Journal of Organizational Behavior provides three key points about the attribute of developing:HR is not unilaterally in charge of developing employees, but the responsibility should be moving down the organizational structure, while supported by HR or the corporate learning team itself.
    Immediate supervisors or leaders don't always have the skills to provide such development support to employees.
    Employees are therefore confused and often struggle to find the right level of support to address their development needs. They too don't know where ownership lies.

An enormous amount of time and energy gets devoted to solving problems within organizations, all under the pretence that solving those problems is the best way to achieve success, superiority, a competitive advantage and greatness. The challenge is that growing organizations are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to new and more interesting problems to solve. It’s an endless cycle of focusing on problems that means it’s impossible to solve our way to greatness.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional problem-solving approach. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Copperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in the mid ’80s. It focuses on doing more of what does work: uncovering the high moments in an organization’s history and using the commonalities of those experiences to build a plan to replicate those wins for the future. Sounds like more fun than constantly problem solving, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works and how it can be applied to your business.

In an effort to avoid conflict, leaders and team members often conceal their true feelings, withhold their opinions or outwardly agree and go along with the crowd while inside they are vehemently opposed.

For some, this lack of candour also extends to hoarding information or avoiding communicating with others entirely, in an effort to save face or get and stay ahead of the pack.

Strength of the strategic plan and the ability for executives to collaborate cross-silo with their teams depends considerably on trust and respect within and between teams. The willingness to come forward with authenticity and transparency is key to building up that trust and respect.

In Jack Welch’s book Winning, he describes a lack of candour as businesses’ “dirty little secret.”

When you start working on the action plans for your strategic objectives for the year, one of the most important steps is to understand the order of priority of your objectives.

You might think you know what needs to happen first, but your team might not agree with you. The key is to spend time together as a team to rank the order of your objectives using a technique called the Hoshin Star (a variation of matched-pair analysis).

Originally developed for total quality management, the Hoshin Star helps leaders understand the cause and effect connection between objectives to determine the underlying order of importance.

Using this tool to prioritize strategic objectives can serve two purposes:

In the past month, I have had two unique opportunities: the first was to spend a few days in Boston with one of my clients and Frances Frei from Harvard; the second was a fireside chat with some fellow CEOs and author Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Outliers, What the Dog Saw). There were some great strategic nuggets interwoven into both conversations, and I want to share with you what I learned.

Frei is a professor in Harvard Business School’s technology and operations management unit and the chairwoman of the MBA required curriculum. Because Frei’s work focuses on how organizations can more effectively design service excellence, I was eager to hear her thoughts on organizational strategy. I was not disappointed.

Here are some key points I took away from the conversation.

Choose great over average. When you’re considering your points of differentiation as an organization the key is not to try to become five out of five on all aspects of your client value proposition; by diffusing your efforts as an organization among so many things you end up becoming three out of five (average) on everything.

Really great, standout companies figure out what they can sacrifice (areas where they are at about a one out of five), so they can truly be five out of five on the areas that count most to their customers.

Choose differentiation versus “me-too.” For true differentiation you need to do something that the competition can’t properly replicate. Consider the example of the Heavenly Bed Wars. Once Westin hotels rolled

out its heavenly beds campaign, all their competitors had to do was provide a similar quality of bed – a simple yet costly undertaking, the net result being that consumers now get better beds from all competing hotels. But each is still in the same price-competitive space: higher cost, lower margin and no differentiation. The trick is to focus on providing something to your customer that is difficult for your competitors to replicate.

Sign-up for a course, read the textbook, attend some lectures, study your notes, write an exam, and repeat. That's the mantra that most of us used to build up our academic knowledge. Until now...