Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Types of Organisations

These two dimensions of power can provide us with the tools to navigate the four metaphoric domains.
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The Weeds

In this quadrant, personal influence and informal networks rule. I call it “the weeds” because it’s a dynamic that grows naturally, without any maintenance. It can be a good thing. For example, at one not-for-profit organization, the Secretary-General was seriously underperforming, and sometimes acting unethically, leading staff to worry that they’d lose the support of key donors and government officials. As a result, an informal group regularly met to cover up his mishandling of situations. However, the problem became unsustainable and the same group, within the year, helped to ease him out to protect the organization’s reputation. Thus, the development of an informal coalition saved the organization and political activities, in this case, were a force for good.
But “the weeds,” if left unchecked, can also form a dense mat through which nothing else can grow. In these circumstances, informal networks can be a countervailing force to legitimate power and the long-term interests of the organization. For instance, they can thwart legitimate change efforts that are needed to put the organization on a sounder long-term financial footing.
To deal with the weeds, get involved enough to understand the informal networks at play. Identify the key brokers, as well as the gaps — if you can fill the gaps — orally with the brokers so that you can increase your own influence. Conversely, if the brokers are doing more harm than good, you can try to isolate them by developing a counter-narrative and strengthening connections with other networks.

The Rocks

Power in “the rocks” rests on individual interactions and formal (or “hard”) sources of authority such as title, role, expertise, or access to resources. It might also include political capital that arises from membership of our strong ties to a high-status group such as the finance committee, a special task force, or the senior management team. I call this the “the rocks” because rocks can symbolize a stabilizing foundation that keeps an organization steady in times of crisis. But conversely, the sharp edges of hard power can wreck a plan.
Consider a mid-sized advertising agency that was implementing a new growth strategy. The Chairman used his formal power to stop the changes. He would constantly question decisions agreed with the management team, change his mind from one meeting to the next, stop agreed on the allocation of resources to new structures, and take people off the special task forces, without notification. Here we see the formal use of hard power to satisfy self-interest over the firm’s longer-term value.
Navigating the terrain here relies on drawing on formal sources of power, rather than fighting against them. Your best bet is to redirect the energy of a dysfunctional leader, either through reasoned argument or by appealing to their interests. For example, in the case of the advertising company, senior executives used the argument of “leaving a legacy” to get the Chairman to see how he was undermining his own and company’s long term interests. In fact, it was this sort of political behaviour and misuse of power that inspired Max Weber, a sociologist an early organizational scholar, to write the classic book Bureaucracy, where he argued that bureaucracy was the most rational and best way to organize and co-ordinate modern corporations. This leads us to take the high ground.

The High Ground

The high ground combines formal authority with organizational systems; I use the term to describe the rules, structures, policy guidelines, and procedures that form the basis of political activities. The benefits of these rules and procedures are they provide a check against the whims of individual level, charismatic or autocratic individuals. Thus, the ‘high ground’ provides guide rails for the rocks. It’s a functional political. the process that uses structures of control systems, incentives, and sanctions that keep the organization in compliance. However, as many executives know, rules and procedures can also lead to the company becoming overly bureaucratic, where rules are used as a political device to challenge interests not aligned with the bureaucrats or to prevent innovation and change.
If you find yourself stranded on the high ground, take a lesson from one company that used feedback from clients, customers, and end-users to highlight difficulties and make the case that the current structure was constraining the organization. Since organizations, where the high ground is a problem, tend to be risk-averse, you can also try emphasizing that not changing can be even riskier than trying something new.
You can also argue that a separate group or task force needs to be set up to examine an issue or bridge silos. It creates a working space outside of the mainstream structures, norms, and habitual routines of the organization, providing an alternate source of power. Such groups can also revitalize innovation and change.
For instance, a public agency was having problems collecting revenues because the structures were slow and had to follow formalized steps to stop potential fraud. It meant that millions of tax revenues were not collected at the end of the year. Senior leaders decided to set up a dedicated task force outside of the formal organizational structure to solve the problem. After the first year, they had reduced the problem by over 50% and reached a 95% recovery rate by the second year. The organization then changed its official processes to match these improved methods. Other well-known examples of similar methods include the changes at Nissan, pilot projects at Asda, and companies opening up Innovation Labs in Palo Alto to remove the barriers of bureaucracy.

The Woods

In addition to their formal processes and guidelines, organizations also have implicit norms, hidden assumptions, and unspoken routines — and that’s where we get into “the woods.” The woods can provide cover and safety for people in your organization, or they can be a bewildering place where good ideas and necessary changes get lost. Thus, here it is important to understand the woods from the trees as you can miss the former if you focus on the symptoms rather than the hidden barriers to strategy execution.
Strong implicit norms can define what is even discussable. In some organizations, for example, displays of emotion may be seen as socially undesirable, and so the organization finds ways to marginalize, ignore, or reframe any emotions that are shown. In other organizations, the display of certain emotions are essentially mandatory — think of the smiling flight attendant.
Some organizations get lost in their woods. They focus on the presenting issue rather than the unspoken ecosystem of habits and practices that remain unseen. The challenge here is to make the implicit explicit. Ask the stupid question, bringing implicit organizational routines and behaviours to the surface. Ask clients, recent hires, or temporary contractors about their observations and experience of how the company works; a fresh pair of eyes will often identify things that incumbents are blind to seeing. Get benchmark information from surveys and specialist experts. Once the implicit assumptions are out in the open, ask your team to reflect on whether they’re helping your company or hindering it.
For example, consulting to a newly merged, international telecoms company, we conducted a simple exercise using the culture web framework to help each of the newly merged entities to describe their own cultural norms and those of the other parties. It quickly generated truths and myths that could be discussed and used to iron out blockages in them rolling out their distribution and cable network — the key to capturing subscribers and business operational success.
Understanding the political terrain can help executives fight dysfunctional politics. But it’s also important to recognize that each landscape also contains positive dynamics. In either case, try to understand the drivers rather than just judge the behaviours. Project leaders who do can avoid the hidden traps of political dynamics, defend themselves against the dark side of politics, and use what they know to support wider organizational goals will find it easier and get more skilled engaging in positive political behaviours at all levels of the organization.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Operating Model Building Blocks

Building Block #1: Autonomous and cross-functional teams anchored in customer journeys, products, and services

Successful companies constantly rethink how to bring together the right combination of skills to build products and serve customers. That means reconfiguring organizational boundaries and revisiting the nature of teams themselves, such as creating more fluid structures in which day-to-day work is organized into smaller teams that often cut across business lines and market segments.

Building Block #2: Flexible and modular architecture, infrastructure, and software delivery

Technology is a core element of any next-generation operating model, and it needs to support a much faster and more flexible deployment of products and services. However, companies often have trouble understanding how to implement these new technologies alongside legacy systems or are hampered by outdated systems that move far too slowly.
To address these issues, leaders are building modular architecture that supports flexible and reusable technologies. Business-process management (BPM) tools and externally facing channels, for example, can be shared across many if not all customer journeys. Leading technology teams collaborate with business leaders to assess which systems need to move faster. This understanding helps institutions decide how to architect their technology—for example, by identifying which systems should be migrated to the cloud to speed up builds and reduce maintenance.

Building Block #3: A management system that cascades clear strategies and goals through the organization, with tight feedback loops

The best management systems for next-generation operating models are based on principles, tools, and associated behaviors that drive a culture of continuous improvement focused on customer needs. Leading companies embed performance management into the DNA of an organization from top to bottom, and translate top-line goals and priorities into specific metrics and KPIs for employees at all levels. They make visible the skills and processes needed for employees to be successful, put clear criteria in place, and promote the sharing of best practices.

Building Block #4: Agile, customer-centric culture demonstrated at all levels and role modeled from the top

Successful companies prioritize speed and execution over perfection. That requires agility in delivering products to customers and quickly learning from them, as well as willingness to take appropriate risks. The best organizations have already made agility a cornerstone of how they work beyond IT. One credit-card company brought together law and compliance personnel to sit in with marketing teams to intervene early in processes and have daily conversations to identify and resolve issues. Law and compliance functions have also begun to adopt agile methodologies to change their own work. As functions and teams collaborate, they are on track to reduce effective time to market by 90 percent for some core processes while also reducing operational risk.

Lean Management

  • Lean Management in service industries. We apply Lean Management across service operations with the aim of transforming the client’s organization. We don't just focus on process redesign, but rather on refining a company's systems and changing employees' mindsets and behaviors to ensure that  the new way of working sticks over the long-term. The benefits from Lean Management come from more effectively meeting customers’ needs, and also from the long-term results of being more competitive. We have a proven methodology and a ready-to-use set of tools and techniques to scale the lean management system across an organization quickly. Each solution is tailored to the client’s specific needs to ensure lasting impact.


  • Frontline and sales transformation. The Lean Management approach is also applied to the customer-facing frontline operations and sales organization to maximize growth and productivity. We have expertise in frontline and sales transformations across a variety of sectors including retail, heathcare, hospitality, financial services, telecom and high tech.
  • Field service. We build and improve after-sales service businesses, covering the installation, maintenance, and repair of services and delivery of parts through the entire lifecycle of a product or service. Areas addressed include the key service delivery model, distributed service network operations, and field operations. Our proprietary assets and capabilities allow us to rapidly diagnose, test and rapidly scale across an organization.
  • Customer care. We design strategies to transform the customer-facing parts of operations from sales to service. Our rapid, outside-in benchmark-based diagnostics prioritize issues, resulting in a comprehensive view of performance based on KPIs and work practices. We further design and test alternative end-state solutions with our Advanced Analytics and IT-enablement capabilities, help scale the approach as part of the broader implementation, and support clients in building capabilities quickly.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Making it happen effectively

If your organization struggles with effectively implementing change, you might want to ask yourself the following three questions:
  1. Do you have a common framework, language, and set of tools for managing significant change? There are plenty to choose from, and many of them have the same set of ingredients, just explained and parsed differently. The key is to have a common set of definitions, approaches, and simple checklists that everyone is familiar with.
  2. To what extent are your plans for change integrated into your overall project plans, and not put together separately or in parallel? The challenge is to make change management part and parcel of the business plan, and not an add-on that is managed independently.
  3. Finally, who is accountable for effective change management in your organization: Managers or “experts” (whether from staff groups or outside the company)? Unless your managers are accountable for making sure that change happens systematically and rigorously — and certain behaviors are rewarded or punished accordingly — they won’t develop their skills.
Everyone agrees that change management is important. Making it happen effectively, however, needs to be a core competence of managers and not something that they can pass off to others.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Using RACI

I’m a big believer in accountability. I also believe that, in teams, responsibility and authority go hand in hand. If you’re responsible for a task or project, then you should have the authority to make things happen. You are going to be held accountable for the results. 




RACI stands for who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who should Consult and who should Inform. According to Wikipedia, here’s how the individual roles are defined: 

Responsible represents the people who are doing the work. Now I understand not everyone working on a project is hands on, so I’m assuming this is focused on the hands on, in the trenches work to be done. I’d also like to think that being responsible doesn’t absolve you from being held accountable for completing the work. 

Accountability in this context means the person who ultimately will be labeled a success or failure based upon the outcome of the project. It might be the project manager or the person who championed the project in the first place. They also may or may not be doing some of the hands on work. 

Consult (or Counsel) are the subject matter expertswhose expertise is needed to complete the project. Depending upon the project scope, they might have a regular role within the project team or maybe they are consulted if a specific problem occurs. I could also see this role not being confined to internal resources. Maybe the SME is an external consultant or contractor.

Inform includes the person(s) who are sponsoring the project. Every project has a sponsor that helps the team obtain resources and buy-in. The sponsors must be kept in the loop about the project status. Often this can be done with written reports and occasional one-on-one meetings, but it’s a critical piece of the project. 

RACI intrigued me because I wonder how many teams actually spend time discussing roles as part of a project plan. I don’t recall ever being on a team where we had a deliberate conversation about this. And I wonder if teams spent more time on this aspect, if it would help the group reach their goals faster and with fewer setbacks. Each person knows their role, can operate effectively, and conflict is reduced. 

Business professionals can benefit from project management tools in their daily interactions. Acronyms like RACI can add a level of clarity to the project…and to the outcome. Maybe it’s time for business pros to start reading project management blogs and keeping a PM book on the bookshelf. It could come in handy. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Gemba

So what some of the key points to an effective Gemba walk?

Show Respect  

  • Ask good questions, not demeaning one's, - the people at the process are the experts
  • Build a mutual trust relationship (get to know your people)
  • Sincere communication (listening skills)
  • Leadership accountability for developing people
What are some (not all inclusive list) questions you should ask before, during, and after a Gemba Walk?

Before

  • What is the purpose for this walk?
  • Location?
  • Who is attending the walk?
  • Are there preconceived notions driving our thoughts?
  • PPE requirements
  • Safety Standards

During

  • Let the process owners or team know why you are there
  • Are there standards (quality etc)?
  • What is the process flow?- can you see it from start to finish?
  • Do we see a push versus a pull?
  • What is takt/cycle for the process?
  • Differentiation between assumptions/opinions versus facts
  • Is the process meeting internal/external customer expectations?
  • Identifying 8 forms of waste?
  • Are you seeing through the process (people are behaving differently because you are there).
  • Go-See, Ask Why, Show Respect
  • Be noticed - noticing, but not judging 

Post

  • Document findings
  • Discuss improvement areas for the Gemba Walk process
  • Develop plan
  • Confirm plan with process owners
  • Support

Reflection

  • How "value-add" was the Gemba walk to the company? (KPI relationship)
  • Did we develop people?
  • Did we engage with people?
  • Did we provide resources for problem solving?
  • What is the strategy for the next one?

Things to avoid

  • Harsh criticism
  • Selling, telling or convincing
  • Creating a hostile environment
  • Giving answers without questions first
  • Intimidating presence
  • Blaming the person first, instead of looking at the process
  • Root blame versus Root cause (defensive questions)
So to summarize, Gemba Walks are a essential part of a culture that focuses on developing people.   It is the responsibility of all leadership to be the servant leader and remove barriers and provide resources for true problem solving to take place.    Problems that are framed correctly are half solved, so finding the truth is crucial in completing the PDCA kanri cycle.   If you take the time you will often find that where you think discrepancy lives, there is a vacancy instead when you discover the power of the Gemba.  Utilize the extraordinary power of your people, they are one of the most important assets of your organization. 
Until next time, 

Kanban

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