Flat Army Book Review: Part Two

Flat Army Book Review: Part Two

This is the continuation of my unconventional approach to reviewing Flat Army by Dan Pontefract. As in my Flat Army – Book Review 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.
  • How to be developing:
  • Assuming your employees are developing themselves on their own is foolish: Be proactive and identify with them their strengths and weaknesses, related to both their own self-development and the needs of the team or project at hand.
    Presuming that development actions are naturally occurring is naive: Establish regular conversations and review check-in points with your team to assess progress on both short- and long-term developing goals—be accountable.
    Agreeing to a development action plan and either not investing the time or money, or, worse, ignoring it outright, is leadership suicide: When the plan is mutually agreed to, stick to it.
    An all-formal-classroom learning strategy is anachronistic: Read Chapter 9 and ensure you are utilizing all facets of the learning spectrum.

  • How to be communicating:If you beat around the bush or are too vague, your people will question everything: Be direct and clear in your verbal and written communication.
    A verbose or overly wordy communicating style is equally appalling: Work towards finding the appropriate volume in your messaging
    Don't dumb down or water down your content: Straight talk is the preferred method.
    If you aren't listening to your team, you aren't communicating: Pay as much attention to what others have to say as to what you have to say.
    A singular medium is as useful as a flashlight mid-day: Expand your modalities to include blogging, micro-blogging and video-casting, among others (see Chapter 10).
    Content isn't king—context is king: Communicate with context by connecting dots within the team or organization's priorities and objectives. Make it make sense

Chapter 5

  • if leaders do a better job of being leaders, every single percentage point of improvement is equal to vast amounts of other operating or capital expenditure investments
  • Leadership is about being able to analyze situations, not only in terms of profit and loss or goals and objectives, but in terms of the human condition.
  • How to be analyzing:If it looks good on paper, it might not look good on skin: Analyze through empathy (a becoming attribute).
    Situations are not always as they seem: Connect with people directly to conduct a proper and thorough analysis before executing.
    Close-minded analysis is for those who love hierarchy: Open your analysis to multiple possibilities before acting.
    Doctors don't normally operate on the spot: Analyzing requires time as well as assessment, diagnosis and investigative skills—patience in analyzing serves you well.
    Analysis is flawed if it's used flippantly: Devise personal methods that can be repeated with which to analyze.
    Myopic evaluation of options and opportunities forfeits any chance of success: Become a specialist in the holistic big picture with your analyzing skills.
  • Deciding is a process rather than a one-time action.
  • In the book Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls, authors Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis suggest that “the judgment calls that leaders make cannot be viewed as single, point-in-time events.” They go on to describe a three-stage process that proved successful in the myriad leaders and companies they studied:Time—the period before, during and after deciding what to do
    Domain—deciding about people, strategy and time of crisis
    Constituencies—the relationships needed to make knowledge decisions3
  • Deciding model:Area: Outline who the decision affects and any potential ramifications.
    Ask: Consult others as appropriate regarding who should be involved to help decide which way to proceed.
    Alternatives: What options present themselves through the deciding process.
    Accountable Action: Someone holds the ultimate yay or nay; hold them accountable for timely action.
  • How to be deciding:The decision tree of one is yesterday's way of thinking: Demonstrate the confidence to include others in the deciding process.
    It's not about power in the decision: It's about empowering your team in deciding the path and outcome.
    The inability to start or conclude the deciding process is gutless: Define the schedule and stick to it
    Consensus is nice but not a necessity in the deciding process: Inclusion in the process is fair, but the outcome doesn't have to be.
    Small-minded, myopic thinking in the deciding process is foolish: Be holistic and look at the overall impact to the organization.
    Hoarding details, facts and information helps no one: Open up all of the data to improve the deciding process.
  • [Richard] Branson employed a strategic competitive advantage—its corporate culture of delivering. Virgin employees across the globe are continually asked—perhaps strategically pushed—to innovate, look outside the box, and to deliver as a high-performing and unified team.
  • How to be delivering:Unclear, wishy-washy objectives help no one: Use SMART objectives to ensure clarity.
    Rushing to deliver may impede a positive outcome: Adjust as necessary and remain malleable.
    Ignoring problems and underperformers is disengaging: Address issues as soon as possible.
    Being oblivious to time, people and budget constraints ends badly: Build in proper resource-management, evaluation and priority processes.
    Unaccountable leadership is confusing to all: Ensure roles and responsibilities that pertain to you and to the team are clearly articulated.
    Forgetting to celebrate and reward the team is foolish: Inspire and fte the team throughout delivery of the action or project.
  • "To work with"-that's really what cooperating means.
  • Singularity is hierarchical: Work with your team through both good times and bad.
  • On average, Americans aged between 25 and 54 spend 26 percent of their time working, 33 percent of their time sleeping and the rest—roughly 41 percent of their time—doing anything but sleeping or working.
  • Americans work on average 2,278 hours per annum, which now correlates to a hair shy of 40 percent of waking time being spent on work.

Chapter 6

  • Coaching—in the context of Flat Army and thus going beyond a connected leader—is an ongoing informal conversation with the employee who focuses on providing the following:counsel on current objectives and actions to categorically improve the result
    feedback concerning their progress or improvements on Flat Army habits
    advice on personal or career advancement or opportunities
  • Your brain is not a contingency backup: Create a system in which you're recording conversations, thoughts and ideas for each of your team members. Review these regularly
  • The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured.
  • Gerstner said, "In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value."
  • How to be adapting:The future happens every day; get used to it: Leaders need to be continually uncomfortable with the status quo.
    No road is ever smooth: Anticipate bumps and barriers so others can succeed in changing business conditions
  • “Success isn't about how many direct reports you have; it's about how well you are bettering your team and the organization whatever the situation."

Chapter 7

  • the corporate version of pay it forward is say it forward
  • Generalized reciprocity, according to sociologist Nancy Bonvillain in Cultural Anthropology, is “the exchange of goods and services without keeping track of their exact value, but often with the expectation that their value will balance out over time.”
  • guanxi means connections, networks and community relationships. It describes a very basic dynamic: your personal and professional circle of contacts is your center of influence, and, thus, the more you build your network, the more likely it is that you achieve results, answers or knowledge.
  • autopoiesis as a recursive interaction of processes and exchanges among employees.
  • The community becomes the exchange system, but because it's such a collaborative force, it has the means to self-regulate, driving efficiencies and coherencies at all times.
  • The definition of a tie, which he calls “a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie
  • the organization is healthier if employees are connected—not necessarily directly to one another, but indirectly.
  • “weak ties”—have no bearing on the positive competence or performance delta of an employee. Rather, competitive advantage lies with the personal, local or direct network of the individual. It's about how participative a leader is in building her network.
  • interlocutor, the one to create new direct connections among others.
  • weak ties are possibly irrelevant when you need to get things done in your organization.
  • Participative Leader Framework:
    • Continuous
    • Authentic
    • Reciprocal
    • Educating
  • Determine the correct level of frequency that you will employ with your team on all matters.
  • contribute back one's knowledge to the network if one truly wants to achieve Flat Army status
  • Consuming the ideas, concepts and thoughts of those in your direct network permits you the opportunity to increase your own knowledge base first and foremost.

Chapter 8

  • Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
    —Niccolo Machiavelli
  • “leadership that is committed to managing the paradoxes of profit and purpose and short-term vs. long-term needs.”
  • Collaborating: The unfettered allowance and encouragement of employees to both contribute and consume knowledge, insight or ideas with any direct relationship via professional or personal networks to achieve an outcome.
  • there could be somewhere between a $900-billion to $1.3-trillion value spike to the economy by virtue of employees working more communicatively and collaboratively through the use of social media.
  • Heterarchy permits relationships to form between employees and leaders without a focus on positional boundaries.
  • Cyclical stages of the Collaborative Leader Action Model are:
    • connect
    • consider
    • communicate
    • create
    • confirm
    • congratulate

Chapter 9

  • Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.—Samuel Johnson
  • Pervasive Learning: The switch from a “training is an event” fixed mindset to “learning is a collaborative, continuous, connected and community-based” growth mindset
  • 33 percent formal learning and leadership
    33 percent informal learning and leadership
    33 percent social learning and leadership
  • There is actually no empirical evidence supporting this assumption [that learning maps to the 70–20–10 rule] yet scholars and practitioners frequently quote it as if it is fact.
  • I believe eLearning is an important piece to the mix, but not if it's crap. What to do? Try the following:Make it relevant and context specific.
    Don't make it a page-turning exercise.
    Keep it to thirty minutes or less in duration (ten to fifteen minutes is ideal).
    Employ interactive elements that engage the learner.
    Don't convert classroom learning to eLearning (it's futile)
  • Anatole France is alleged to have said, “Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.”
  • Coaching is an attribute that functions between you and a member or members of your direct team. Mentoring, on the other hand, is your opportunity to provide motivated counsel and advice to others in the organization not situated within your span of leadership. Both are important.
  • Social Learning: An exchange of ideas, knowledge or information via Internet-enabled services that provides initial or supplemental understanding through personal and professional networks

Chapter 10

  • how Flat Army leaders might think about using badging:Goal Setting: Badges challenge users to meet the mark that is set for them.
    Instruction: Badges convey the notion that individual activities have value and create an awareness of a community of users.
    Reputation: By providing an encapsulated assessment of engagement, experience and expertise, badges can be an invaluable tool for determining the trustworthiness of other people or the reliability of content.
    Status/Affirmation: Badges mark significant milestones and provide evidence of past successes.
    Group Identification: Achieving badges can provide a sense of solidarity and increase positive group identification through the perception of similarity between an individual and the group
  • Thought leader and former Microsoft vice president Linda Stone coined the term “continuous partial attention.” By definition it is paying partial attention, continuously. Linda said to me, “In this state, we are constantly scanning and often attempting more than one activity that requires cognition. CPA is different from simply multi-tasking, and more similar to complex multi-tasking.”

Chapter 11

  • Don't be one of those leaders hellbent on transferring the knowledge of baby boomers to younger employees. Instead, think through how you can create a culture that ensures knowledge is being shared all the time, and that employees are really “learning at the speed of need” regardless of age.
  • [on Zappos] We believe that your company's culture and your company's brand are really just two sides of the same coin. [we feel the same way at ViRTUS]
  • my passion for culture] comes from a deep-rooted belief that when your peers and competitors are able to emulate your technology, you realize the one thing that is difficult to copy is your culture.

Chapter 12

  • Noted cultural dimensions researcher Geert Hofstede defines organizational culture as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one organisation from others
  • or purposes of our Flat Army central thesis, organizational culture is defined by one criterion, and one only: an organization's culture is defined by the manner in which employees are treated by their direct leader
Mike Desjardins

Mike is a a graduate of UBC’s Sauder School of Business with a Bachelors of Commerce, Mike has spent the past 21 years transforming businesses.

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