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Ducks in a Row: Transformation Done Right

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/howardh/6259041319/

Last February I wondered if the iconic 1984 Apple Super bowl ad would still feature a woman if it were made today.

There’s been a lot of change since that ad, but for women and people of color much of the pre-2000 progress has regressed.

Fixing that means transforming what-is to what-should-be and management professor and guru Henry Mintzberg offers some of the wisest thoughts I’ve seen on the subject (‘wise’ being very different than ‘smart’).

Transformation requires change — the organization and its culture must transform itself based on a new vision and different core values.

But where to begin? That’s easy: at the “top”. Where else when there’s such pressure. Besides, any chief who has been to a business school or reads the business press knows that it’s all about leadership: the boss who does the thinking that drives everyone else. Louis XIV said “L’état, c’est moi!” Today’s corporate CEO says “The enterprise, that’s me!”

I’m sure we can all think of numerous CEOs who model Louis’ mindset and dozens of them have gone down in the conflagrations they started at the top.

Yesterday’s Golden Oldie revisited Steve Ballmer’s effort to transform Microsoft’s culture by edict. It didn’t work.

Ballmer seemed to channel John Kotter’s eight point approach:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency.
  2. Form a powerful guiding coalition.
  3. Create a vision.
  4. Communicate the vision.
  5. Empower others to act on the vision.
  6. Plan for and create short-term wins.
  7. Consolidate improvements and produce still more change.
  8. Institutionalize new approaches.

As Mintzberg points out, this is a top-down, command/control approach that certainly won’t fly well with today’s workforce in spite of being taught at Harvard Business School by a “transformation guru.”

Mintzberg demolishes each point (read his post) and is backed by solid brain science.

…to achieve this result, people throughout the company need to change their behavior and practices, and that can’t happen by simple decree. (…) New behaviors can be put in place, but only by reframing attitudes that are so entrenched that they are almost literally embedded in the physical pathways of employees’ neurons. These beliefs have been reinforced over the years through everyday routines and hundreds of workplace conversations. They all have the same underlying theme: “That’s the way we do things around here.”

The most dynamic, ongoing case study of transformation is being played out publicly at Uber.

It will be interesting to see which approach Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi uses.

Image credit: Howard Hecht

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.

Ryan’s Journal: Are Companies Replacing Governments?

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gdsteam/26584933684/I was on LinkedIn today reading a post by an employee of a company that I was unfamiliar with.

In the post this guy wrote about how great his company is. They allow you to work remotely, pay for all insurance premiums for the entire family and also give a $150 credit towards a monthly gym membership. I’ll be honest I was a bit jealous at the perks and thought about the possibilities there. At the same time, I thought about how companies have come to exert great influence as well.

Governments are designed to keep us safe, build roads, ensure proper regulations and so on. Depending on who you ask and what generation you are speaking with there is also an expectation for access to proper education, low cost or free healthcare, and perhaps a living wage. Government has not really lived up to those dreams, though, and companies have stepped in.

Is this a bad thing? From a free market perspective it is the natural next step. As economies mature the workforce demands greater amenities. Of course a lot of these higher end perks are limited to one industry, tech.

So maybe the free market isn’t responding at all, this is merely a bubble. And if we take it one step further these companies we hear about with great perks are the outliers. Even most run of the mill tech companies do not offer unlimited vacation and in-house yoga classes.

As I ponder all this I think it can go a few different directions, because I really do not see government stepping up to the plate anytime soon. Companies that are offering these great perks are on the cutting edge and leading a sea change.

The next generation will take these amenities for granted and time will march on. The flip side is we determine these amenities are unsustainable and companies wind them down. As a result greater pressure is put on government to reform.

Without stepping into the hell called politics today, I will say this.

I like a path where we can chart our own course. We can choose the company that we want to work for based on our value system.

That way, as we mature as a society, we can learn to accept different beliefs of value and realize it is the differences that can make us good.

Image credit: gdsteam

Change Requires Trust From All Parties

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/vexrobotics/17795865460/

Sometimes — more like most of the time or at least too often — we all say things without thinking through the full ramifications, especially those gleaned from experiences we’ve never had or opposed to what we think.

Yesterday I mentioned a startup CEO who said he was concerned about hiring more women, “It just seems like such a huge risk as CEO,” which brought the social media house down on him.

Although he apologized, etc., I noted that his words and actions probably didn’t do much to change his mind.

After reading the post a friend from back east wrote me his thoughts as a man-of-color/founder/CEO.

Sadly, everything he says is true and has been for decades — and I say that from first-hand other-side experience.

In the 80s and 90s I was three things that weren’t supposed to align: a successful tech (hdwr and sftwr) recruiter who was female.

Back then it was assumed that, as a woman, I acquired most of my clients in the same way Hollywood starlets got parts — on my back.

But, as I always said, if that were true I wouldn’t have had time to go to the office, let alone recruit anyone.

Here is the email; my only editorial change was to delete the name of the incubator.

Miki,

When I expressed skepticism regarding real change, you said that it’s better because now people are speaking about it. I replied that it will probably be worse for women in general, because now they will be seen as a risk factor. Unfortunately this is my own experience — I am afraid of mentoring women because they will often take it the wrong way, as several have interpreted my well-meaning advances as attempted pickup. It’s just not worth it.

Most recently, I saw a young black woman at an incubator I was visiting and decided to pay attention to her in a purely social way to make her feel welcomed. There were NO black people there, and since I am viewed as somewhat of a star and important, I believed it would be a boost for her. I never had a conversation with her, and the contact stayed on the level of smiles, fist bumps, etc.

While I was in SF, I received an invitation to a Y-Combinator invite-only event on women and leadership that I could not attend. I approached the woman and told her about the event and asked if she was interested in going. She said, “Absolutely!” and I said — “Send me your email and I’ll introduce you to the people who are leading this effort within YC.” She wrote her email address on a piece of paper and I made the introduction. 

Unfortunately her email bounced. I tried several different approaches. Then I went to her a few days after the event and said that I tried to make the introduction, and that her email had bounced. She looked at the piece of paper that she’d written her email on and confirmed it was incorrect without correcting it.

It then dawned upon me that she’d purposely provided me with the wrong email address, probably because she interpreted my friendliness as sexual advances. The sad thing is that I subsequently observed her whispering with other women and looking over at me, and that other women were avoiding contact with me. 

I then resolved that it’s just not worth it. I’m never going to make friendly advances to a woman in a work situation in the US again.

I do it all over the world, and have mentored men and women in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the US, but here is the only area where I’ve had negative experiences doing so with women (several). I’ve never had, or been interested in, a sexual relationship with any woman at work, in any country where I’ve worked or lived (except my partner who was my teenage girlfriend). 

The inflamed, sexualized nature of everything regarding female/male relationships in the US work environment does much to damage women’s advancement.

Which men will take the risk of staying late to mentor a woman after everyone has left the office — not me. Which men will take a woman out for drinks to have an informal chat about the politics at work — not me.

Which men will associate informally and socially outside of work with women they work with — not me. The reputational risk is simply too great. 

Who is the loser? Obviously both men and women, since there is greatness among them both.

Culturally it is more difficult to mentor women in the US than in Pakistan. Who would have thought…

The following came as a PS about an hour later.

Sexual advances are something most women, and some men, have to learn to deal with.

This has always been the case, and there have always been successful women. There are more successful women now than ever before.

The worst thing that can happen is to scare away the men that genuinely mean well.

Haven’t you ever asked yourself why women in more misogynistic societies are surpassing US women in societal and professional advancement to an increasing degree?

May it be because there is no cost to supporting women for those men who choose to do so? In fact, there is often great benefit, as they will have access to a more motivated and competent pool of people.

All that said, I am not recommending turning a blind or benign eye to the kind of behavior and toxic cultures that have been making headlines.

Image credit: VEX Robotics

Ducks in a Row: Change? Yeah, Right

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/timove/34352989113/

I read a post by Ellen Pao in Medium in which she asks if anything has really changed.

On its face, it all sounds like meaningful change, right? Or at least it sounds a lot better than the very recent public shaming of women who came forward and the sweeping of bad behavior under the rug. (…) Public apologies and one-off actions are superficial ways to react to criticism or put on a happy face, but they often cover up company culture failures that are hard to fix, especially if no one is seriously trying.

While there have been multiple resignations and apologies (complete with crocodile tears), do you really believe that any of these wealthy, well-known, white guys will land anywhere but on their feet? That their actions will have any permanent effect on their future?

If so, you’re living on a planet to which I’d love to emigrate.

Whereas the women who went public will pay a heavy toll.

I [Pao] have heard from several women who spoke up in this newspaper and elsewhere this year that they continue to face harassment. They have been told that discussing their experiences has limited their careers.

After virtual reality startup UploadVR was sued for sexual harassment in May, a male startup CEO publicly commented that lawsuits like this make him “VERY afraid to hire more [women]. It just seems like such a huge risk as CEO.” His comments went viral and he later retracted, apologized and deleted them.

Retracted, apologized, deleted, none of which is likely to have changed his attitude.

Speaking of UploadVR, which had, and probably still has, one of the worst, sex-drenched cultures in Silicon Valley.

The Valley will protect it, because it isn’t just a guy or a company, but a hub for the VR crowd and, collectively, they need it.

While current publicity is heavily focused on tech, the same actions are alive and well in many venues from the University of Rochester’s Department of Brain and Cognitive, one of the top graduate programs in the US, to women in sports broadcasting.

Are things getting better? Maybe.

But as long as there are no long-term ill effects for guys there is little reason for them to do the hard work of educating against bias, both inherent and societal, and changing culture.

Nothing is as simple as it seems. Be sure to read about an experience, shared by an East Coast founder (published September 20), that turns a spotlight on rarely mentioned fall-out from the harassment problem.

Image credit: TimOve

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

Ryan’s Journal: Hurricane Madness

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/noaasatellites/37064048185/in/photolist-XTaCJY-XSEXo9-X9wkNd-YtdWex-XT1eej-Ys8QZR-YcwrBJ-XeZQaP-YubEqB-YubFH6-YtbPRB-YtJZLc-YcWK5s-XejK4K-YcjXkm-Ygp2JZ-YcbeBG-Ycuqsj-Ycwwaw-XeZ68r-XT9br9-YcjXi7-XSQyzd-Y9CBQA-Ye8SEj-Xe457g-XdoJw1-XT9cMf-YfPiPx-Xfhisx-XdoULj-XT94D1-Ye8D5d-Ycx58E-Ye8Hdd-YgFriF-YdCeME-X9BC7A-X9wkLQ-SACtD4-X9wkMS-YbSHFy-YtJZKv-XSQAa7-Ygp3BF-YcjXkb-YgoXVM-Ya2Xro-YdQniY-XeZ3UDHave you ever watched the propaganda film from the 1950’s titled, “Reefer Madness”? 

It was put together by the US Government with the intent to scare the population about the dangers of Marijuana.

Most of what they presented as negative aspects of using the drug were not particularly true, but they were effective.

However, this post isn’t about drugs, it’s about paranoia.

I live in Florida and you may have heard that there is a MASSIVE storm headed our way. Obviously with Harvey in the news people are taking it seriously. However there is a certain amount of panic as well.

Grocery stores are empty of water and canned goods. Gas stations are without fuel and the roads have started clogging up with people exiting the state.

To a certain degree this is rational behavior on the part of the individual, but when taken in aggregate it becomes more of a prisoner’s dilemma.

That may be a charged statement, but as I am watching my fellow man I start to see the cracks in civilized society.

People seem to be in a rush. They cut in line. There is a general “me first” attitude of self preservation.

My perception is that this is a natural state before a storm. Once the storm passes and we are left with the after-effects you see folks band together in harmony.

I’ll keep you posted whether this happens.

Now, what did I do as a rational consumer? I loaded up on water and food, more than what I need. I filled up all my vehicles with gas. And I am preparing to leave.

I have little ones and cannot risk them to chance.

But I did let someone in front of me in the water line out of kindness, a way to balance it all out.

Image credit: NOAA Satellites

Don’t Buy The Lies Of Silicon Valley

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Silicon ValleyThis is a short post, because it contains links to the two biggest Silicon Valley lies.

I realize that lies aren’t nearly the big deal they used to be, but when the source of those lies is the MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) prevalent in a critical piece of US infrastructure the lies take on a life of their own.

They carry so much credibility that their insidious spread is guaranteed.

The first lie is that success requires constant hustle. Whether starting a company or working in an existing one, hustle means giving up everything else — family, friends, recreation, relaxation, whatever, no exceptions — and work 24/7/365 (more if you can figure out how).

But for some, “hustle” is just a euphemism for extreme workaholism. Gary Vaynerchuk, a.k.a. Gary Vee, an entrepreneur and angel investor who has 1.5 million Twitter followers and a string of best-selling books with titles like “Crush It!,” tells his acolytes they should be working 18 hours a day. Every day. No vacations, no going on dates, no watching TV. “If you want bling bling, if you want to buy the jets?” he asks in one of his motivational speeches. “Work. That’s how you get it.”

Which, as anyone familiar with productivity research knows, is a pile of poop.

The truth is that much of the extra effort these entrepreneurs and their employees are putting in is pointless anyway. Working beyond 56 hours in a week adds little productivity, according to a 2014 report by the Stanford economist John Pencavel. But the point may be less about productivity than about demonstrating commitment and team spirit.

The second lie is that Silicon Valley is special. But Silicon Valley’s special is completely self-serving.

Silicon Valley has a lot of self-interested reasons for preferring to maintain a facade that its culture is special, and that its industry is more innovative, virtuous and productive than every other industry. It serves as a great recruiting tool as the region competes for talent with other industries and areas. It allows insiders to maintain outsize control of their companies. And it is a way to prevent regulators from coming in and regulating Silicon Valley to the extent that it might otherwise seek to do.

Stop drinking the Valley kool-aid. Facebook doesn’t love you, it loves your identifiable personal data, which is slices, dices and sells to all comers. Google jettisoned its “don’t be evil” motto when it got in the way of revenue generation.

Read the articles.

Share them, tweet them and stop ruining your own life by believing them.

Image credit: Elektor Labs

Ryan’s Journal: Culture Is A Reward

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gotcredit/32943610593/

I attended an AA-ISP* event tonight and heard something that struck me, “culture is a reward.” What a profound statement.

I’ll back up and explain what transpired tonight. I am in B2B sales and I have found that I must constantly sharpen my mind.

Sales is, to some degree, a game, but one requiring confidence. There is a lot of rejection and stress. Add to that the fact that most folks view sales as a negative field and it makes for a combustible result. I attended an event tonight that focuses on improving sales and the profession.

With all the negativity that surrounds the role, I have found the absolute opposite when actually at work.

Yes there is rejection, but there is also a lot of positive outcomes. I meet with clients that are trying to solve massively complex problems and I get to somehow help. My clients are usually more knowledgeable than I am, so I also learn something new.

That said, let’s get back to the statement I made earlier regarding culture as a reward.

Have you ever started a job thinking it was one way when it the reality turned out much different?

You felt like you got the rug pulled out from under you? I have and I hated it. The culture was negative and nothing was as it seemed. From the outside it was fine; from inside terrible.

On occasion, though, we luck out.

We stumble across an opportunity that delivers as promised, whether Google or some local shop that has a great team.

Doesn’t it feel like it’s a reward to just go to work? That is it!

A good culture is its own reward. I could not add to it because it is so true.

Now I just need to surround myself with it and never let go. 

* American Association of Inside Sales Professionals
Image credit: GotCredit

Managers, Micro Cultures And Values

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Note: It’s imperative to recognize that culture has nothing to do with perks, such as free food, fancy offices, free services, etc.

Culture is about values and how they play out in both the internal and external functioning of the company.

But company culture isn’t the end game — micro cultures are.

Micro cultures are based on individual bosses’ values.

Both cultures are fundamental to that perennially popular subject, employee engagement.

HBS’ Jim Heskett recently asked his audience what’s needed to engender employee engagement given that engaged employees are 2.7% more productive.

Most of the responses talked about the need for managers to respect their people, listen to ideas from everyone, have better people skills, etc., and several mentioned the skills acquired with an MBA.

But, as I pointed out, and Heskett cited in his summary, “Respect and valuing employee input have little to do with education and much to do with personal values.”

Unfortunately, education is no guarantee of values.

Colleges are no different, with MBA students leading the pack. “56 percent of MBA students admitted to cheating…  In 1997, McCabe did a survey in which 84 percent of undergraduate business students admitted cheating versus 72 percent of engineering students and 66 percent of all students. In a 1964 survey by Columbia University, 66 percent of business students surveyed at 99 campuses said they cheated at least once.”

If scholastic success was based on cheating it’s likely that that lack of respect/get-ahead-at-all-costs mentality would carry over to their management style.

Yesterday’s post ended with this comment,

That [provide an environment in which people can learn, grow and excel] is what a good boss is supposed to do.

But it’s the great ones who actually do it.

In fact, they go beyond that and shelter their people from any kind of toxic culture coming down from above.

Image credit: thinkpublic

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