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Golden Oldies: Ducks in a Row: Cultural Change by Edict

Monday, September 25th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Everybody pretty much agrees that the culture of tech companies need to change. (The focus used to be on Wall Street. It never changed, but the focus did and tech is the new, very visible poster boy of bad culture.) It’s also agreed that changing a company’s culture isn’t simple — and it certainly isn’t done by proclamation.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/7395002760/I’ve written many times about the importance of breaking down both horizontal and vertical silos (for more click the silo tag), but I don’t believe it can be done with an edict—even if that edict comes from Steve Ballmer.

This is especially true at a company like Microsoft, where the silos were intentionally built decades ago as part of the corporate structure.

Vertical silos, by nature, create, at the least, rivalry, but, more often, an “us against them” mentality within each silo.

For thousands of Microsofties, that’s the only cultural world they have known; many of them grew up in it, both in terms of years and promotions.

Changing culture is recognized as the most difficult organizational change any company, no matter the size, can undertake.

And one of the greatest error’s a CEO makes is thinking that all he needs on board is his senior staff the rest of people will fall in line.

For most companies, let alone one the size of Microsoft, terminating managers and workers that don’t fall in line isn’t even an option, since there is no way to replace them.

Yet having large numbers of your workforce on different cultural pages is a recipe for disaster.

The results of Ballmer’s changes will unfold over the next couple of years—in spite of Wall Street’s quarterly focus.

Changing culture is tremendously difficult; Charlie Brown didn’t pull it off at AT&T; Lou Gerstner said it was the most difficult part of turning around IBM.

Do you think Ballmer will succeed?

Image credit: Tobyotter

Editorial note: The answer was ‘no’ and Ballmer left Microsoft 6 months later.

Golden Oldies: Change Starts with the Boss

Monday, September 18th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I think the best commentary on this post comes from a comment on the original that validates it.

You just nailed the main issue with failed change efforts. Change starts in the head (pun intended. . .). Many times when I’m brought into a company, bosses want me to help change everybody else but them. Doesn’t work!

It always amazes me how bosses are more willing to waste money than to change their thinking and behavior. The trick is how to find a way to help bosses see the ROI of changing the way they think and behave before trying to embed those changes throughout their organization.

Great post! – Dr. Ada Gonzalez

No one ever said change is easy and it’s still harder when it is your MAP that needs to change, but it is possible. More on change during the week.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

The thing she [behavioral psychologist] taught me—and this sounds obvious—is that behavior is a function of consequence.  We had to change the behavior in the organization so that people felt safe to bring bad news. And I looked in the mirror, and I realized I was part of the problem.  I didn’t want to hear the bad news, either. So I had to change how I behaved, and start to thank people for bringing me bad news.Joseph Jimenez, chief executive of Novartis

The behavioral psychologist was brought in after a consulting group was paid to provide “better, more robust process, with more analytics,” which changed nothing.

When we started RampUp Solutions in 1999, we spent a good deal of effort coming up with a tag line that easily explained the services we provide.

After several iterations we finally settled on “To change what they do change how you think”

Over the years, I’ve heard and read story after story of how all kinds of changes—from turnarounds to improved productivity to retention — all started with a change in the way the boss thought.

And that applied whether the boss was CEO, team leader or somewhere in-between.

Stories and discussions about change tend to focus on the actions that bring about the changes, instead of starting at the beginning with the hardest work.4222820626_8089f3a13b_m

Work that requires the boss, at whatever level, changing the way they thinks and then dispersing and embedding those changes throughout their organization.

So before you hire expensive consultants or seek help from advisors look in the mirror to determine how much of the problem is you.

Image credit: manymeez

Golden Oldies: The Idiocy Of Ideologues

Monday, August 14th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Echo Chambers. They’ve been with us since humans first stood erect. We hear what we want to hear; listen only to those who agree with us. Seek out the likeminded with whom to spend our time. And, when all else fails, people have been known to go beyond the acceptable to prove they are right. But when this happens at work, what’s a manager to do?

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Last week I had a call from a “Rick,” marketing manager, with what he thought was a unique problem—sadly it’s not as uncommon as you might think.

Short version. “Chris” is one of his top producing marketing people and extremely valuable to the team and the company. Recently, the team had a vehement disagreement on a marketing plan, but finally decided to go with an approach different from the one that Chris had championed.

Since then, Chris has made a number of comments and suggestions that undermine the current effort and has privately said that she hopes it fails because the other approach was better.

The team was starting to notice and some were losing confidence—a sure way to guarantee failure.

Rick said he had talked a bit with Chris; she denied that she was sabotaging the campaign and if it failed it would be because the wrong choice was made.

When I asked if Chris was always such an ideologue Rick was startled. He hadn’t thought of her actions in those terms, but after thinking it over he decided that she was a bit, although normally not to this extent.

Rick went on to say that it was ironic, because during the election Chris had been adamant that the “hide-bound ideology on both sides was creating problems for the country” and that she thought Obama was less locked into a specific, narrow ideology than most politicians.

More recently, she had been furious with Rush Limbaugh’s comment “I hope Obama fails,” seeing it as destructive and unpatriotic.

And therein, as I told Rick, lay his solution. Here is what I suggested.

  • Arrange a conversation without interruptions, such as an off-site lunch.
  • Make a production of turning off your cell phone (if Rick isn’t answering his, Chris is unlikely to interrupt to answer hers).
  • Keep the tone conversational; avoid anything that sounds like an accusation or makes the lunch feel like a confrontation.
  • Remind Chris’ about her previous thoughts regarding ideologues.
  • Once she confirms her thoughts gently draw the parallel between her attitudes and an ideologue.
  • Use her own words and feelings to refute whatever defense she raises (again, without attacking her).
  • Keep it conversational and take your time leading her to the recognition that her actions are the same as those she dislikes, just in a different arena.

Rick called today to say they’d had lunch that day and the conversation went exactly as predicted. It wasn’t perfectly smooth and there were some dicey moments, but when that happened he backed away and tried another route. He said that it would have been impossible to do in the office with interruptions and turning off their cells created a whole different mood.

He said that when Chris realized that she was doing a highly watered down version of Limbaugh she was openly shocked and very apologetic.

Instead of leaving it there, Rick took extra time to walk through the competing plans and why the team had chosen the one and not the other. He explained that it wasn’t that Chris was wrong, she just held a different opinion and that was OK, but it wasn’t OK do anything to undermine the program—even unconsciously.

With a more open mind Chris grudgingly agreed to the reasoning. She said that in spite of still feeling the other plan was better she would do everything in her power to make the project work. She said that the success of the project was more important than being “right.”

Rick was lucky because a critical member of his team was also a rational thinking person who could see a parallel when it was pointed out and not enough of a hypocrite to claim “that’s different…”

Chris was lucky because she worked for a manager who valued her and was willing to take the time to help her change and grow.

How do you control your inner ideologue?

Or do you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last week I wrote Time To Get Off Your Ass And Lead (Yourself) and Ravi Tangri added some very intelligent thoughts in his comment. I hope you’ll take a moment to click over, read it and add your own thoughts to the conversation. It’s an important one for all of us.

Image credit: Gurdonark on flickr

This golden Oldie dates back to 2009 and includes a comment worth a click.

Ducks In A Row: Changing Our Heroes 1

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/deano_exposed/2085899170/

Wally Bock’s post yesterday ended with this comment.

Our heroes have always been cowboys, but maybe it’s time for something different.

Assuming you agree with him, the question, of course, is how do you change?

One problem with the current version of hero is that they aren’t good at driving innovation — unless they thought of it themselves.

If not, they often respond in one of two ways.

  1. Negatively, by immediately stating all the possible reasons it won’t work; or
  2. duplicitously, by putting it down and then presenting it later as their own idea.

Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, known for creating social designs that explore the relation between people, technology and space, has a simple idea that provides an elegant solution.

The Yes But chair.

This chair has voice recognition and will give you a little shock when you say the words ‘yes but’. He developed this chair because he was frustrated that so many people start with these words when they hear a new idea.

One useful modification that comes to mind is some kind of control that is capable of adjusting the voltage, since a minor shock might not be enough to jolt a hero out of their rut.

Please join me over the next 10 days for more on changing what what makes a hero.

Image credit: CyrielKortleven.com and DeanO Exposed

Uber Suicide?

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/9698637692/Have you noticed that Uber-frenzy has eased off? It’s a nice change to see other lead stories taking its place.

The most valuable private company in the world is definitely at a crossroads.

There is one thing that’s definite and that is that without new leadership that can staunch the blizzard resignation at all levels, galvanize the troops, lead the change to a radically new culture, and keep all the wheels turning in sync Uber easily could fall from its vaunted position.

In short, the new CEO needs to be someone with a sterling reputation, a string of high profile successes, and a believable visionary who people will trust.

Is that how you would describe Marissa Mayer?

The last thing that Uber needs is someone who defends Kalanick and seems to excuse what happened.

“I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he’s a phenomenal leader — Uber is ridiculously interesting.”

Mayer, who may be campaigning for the Uber CEO role, added: “I just don’t think he knew. When your company scales that quickly, it’s hard.”

Mayer went on to say that Uber was going through the same kind of thing Google went through when Eric Schmidt was brought on as CEO to help founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

But Mayer is not Eric Schmidt; in fact, her two main qualifications seem to be being female and buddies with Arianna Huffington.

Of course, there’s a long way to go and a number of other names being bandied about.

If she is hired I’m sure the investors will be excited to watch Uber take the same path as Yahoo.

Image credit: Mike Mozart

Ryan’s Journal: How Does Time Affect Culture?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/becosky/3304801086/

I had an interesting conversation today with a Director of IT Security from a large healthcare provider in Delaware who is a customer of mine.

The conversation was mostly to do with what his daily responsibilities were, how he balanced competing priorities and to gain a better understanding of his particular challenges.

I went into this meeting with my only desire to better understand him as a person and see how I could be of better value to him as my customer.

I did not expect to come away from the conversation with real world cases of how culture within an organization can change over time, but I have found when you keep your ears open it is surprising what people will say.

Some of you may have experience with healthcare providers, either as a patient or perhaps in a business relationship. I am sure that one thing we can all agree upon is that as a rule they can be slow to adopt, adapt and mature.

This may be hardwired into the DNA of the organization. I know that when I break my leg a doctor will put a cast in it because that has been proven to work through millions of previous experiences.

This can be the desired outcome versus the doctor that decides to try a different remedy for every broken leg. 

As I was speaking with my customer he said one thing that struck me. He said, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

He was saying this in reference to his desire to shape the culture to be more security conscience. However, he understood that if radical changes were made overnight he would lose the support of the organization. Instead he was implementing incremental changes over time to affect change.

Isn’t this the desired outcome?

As I think through this, there are times when radical change is needed, but typically it’s at the personal level that it is achieved.

Obvious examples being taking up exercise, limiting the amount of alcohol or taking up a new routine.

Try and push that on your friends or family overnight and good luck!

It takes time and buy-in from the group to effect lasting change.

That leaves us with a question that I do not yet have the answer to.

How do we achieve the change that is desired?

Image credit: becosky

Golden Oldies: The Abuse Of Authenticity

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

“…that’s the way I am” How many times have you heard it? How many times have you said it? Is it valid? How much damage does it do?

Read other Golden Oldies here.

no-excuseMAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) is a wonderful thing, encompassing as it does everything that makes you you.

MAP is also the great excuse, the adult version of the “because I said so” people use on their kids.

How often, when asked why you do X, have you responded “because that’s the way I am.”

Organizations have two versions, “not-invented-here” and “we’ve always done it that way.”

Whether individual or company, both use them to avoid innovation, change and disturbing their comfort zone.

But at what cost?

Marshall Goldsmith calls it an excessive need to be me and tells the story of a CEO who was lauded in other areas, but refused to provide positive feedback because it wasn’t him and would, therefore, be phony.

The example isn’t as extreme as you might think. I’ve talked with many executives, managers and workers who use authenticity as their reason not to change their MAP.

And because authenticity is hot, it’s the perfect excuse for not tackling the root causes of whatever needs to change, although, as with most excuses, it doesn’t hold up well to the light of honest, intelligent analysis.

But what do you analyze; how do you know what to change?

Take feedback from your colleagues, team and customers; then take a hard look whenever the answer to “Why?” is some variation of the reasons mentioned earlier.

Then think it through; ask yourself if there is a real, rational reason to stay that way or if it’s something that would be better to change,

And remember, whether individual or company, the most powerful reason for changing MAP is that doing so pays off handsomely, as the CEO in Marshall’s story learned.

Image credit: pattista on flickr

Innovation and the National Park Service

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Bureaucracies are not noted for their vision or rapid adoption of new technology and the National Park Service is a prime example of that.

So it was a major surprise to see that the NPS is integrating cutting edge technology in iconic Yellowstone Park’s infrastructure.

Not only that, but NPS is doing it with a public/private partnership, to boot.

The new concrete, called Flexi-Pave, is made with stones and recycled tires, and Michelin has been helping them install it all over the park.

Wow. If NPS can do something this radical maybe there’s hope for progress on other fronts and from other bureaucracies.

Video credit: Tech Insider

Ducks in a Row: Bosses Different as Night and Day

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/15708236@N07/2708299113/

Edicts by Steve Ballmer and tweets by David Sacks do not a culture change.

Changing culture doesn’t happen overnight and takes a lot of damn hard work.

But it can be done.

And for CEOs willing to take the time and do the work, the payoff is ginormous to the 10th power and goes well beyond money — for the company, the employees, stakeholders and last, but certainly not least, for themselves.

Just ask Satya Nadella or Lou Gerstner, who turned around IBM and said it best.

“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.”

On a funny, or should I say ironic, side note.

As I looked through past posts and articles I realized how similar in name Nadella is to his complete cultural and managerial opposite, [Robert] Nardelli.

Separated by two letters and a mental chasm that dwarfs the Grand Canyon.

Flickr image credit: jphilipg

Entrepreneurs: Change the World — or Yourself?

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/inspiyr/9670184989/The entrepreneurial mantra that weaves through every startup vision and recruitment effort focuses on how X product/service will change the world.

This particular passion applies whether it’s a cure for cancer, a big data application, a new messaging app, social network or dating app.

How does one truly change the world?

Or is it a phrase with no real meaning?

Even if one does change it does the change make the world better?

Better by what yardstick and whose standards?

Change isn’t always a positive.

What is your responsibility if you do change it?

In his graduation speech at USC, Larry Ellison said, “You will change the world and the world will change you.”

For better or worse, change is the only true constant.

Flickr image credit: Inspiyr.com

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