Board too risk-averse for innovation? Then bark up this tree…

The first job of a Board is to make sure the organisation continues to be viable.  And if you’ve been good in the ‘Added-Value Domain’ for a while (the work domain that’s about constructing the networks, systems and everything else required to deliver value to customers today and tomorrow)…it’s going to take a lot to start messing with that.

And so it should.  If the magazines Science or Nature allowed any old idea to get published…credibility of the whole science profession takes a nose-dive.  You’ve got to prove yourself before we start changing the laws of nature!

But as we also know, eventually what we produce in the Added-Value Domain is going to have to change as values change….and the connection comes from what we call the Innovation Domain of work.  The point of this work is for values and trends to be revealed in decisions to provide fundamentally new value to possibly new clients.

It’s different to the Added-Value Domain….but ends up in the Added-Value Domain.

(If you’d like to read more on these Domains, check out Luc Hoebeke’s wonderful work Making Work Systems Better)

Here’s the trick – the attributes of good work in the Added-Value Domain are fundamentally different to that in the Innovation Domain.  But if we don’t see this, and in particular, if we present information to Boards using the same criteria for both Domains….we are automatically set up for ‘no’.   Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

How to be known as someone who delivers

Want to be known as someone who delivers?  Then start saying this: “I can’t promise that“.

Or here’s an alternate “I can promise that, this is what I need from you“.

When do you say this?  Whenever you are asked to do something that you are not sure you will be able to get done.

Most of us would prefer to be known as someone who keeps promises.   So this requires us to only make promises that we can keep.

Yet we (me included) agree to stuff we can’t get done all the time!

Why?

Because we would rather wear long-term damaging workload stress in order to avoid the short-term anxiety of disappointing someone in authority.

If, however, you want to work in an organisation where people are trusted, people speak the truth, where promises are kept, and where respect is the norm…..someone has to go first.

And this requires bravery….because it might not work out well for you!

But one thing’s for sure…..if you’re waiting for senior or executive management to sort this out…that is not happening.  Because they are just as trapped in this as you.

No change without anxiety.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Behaviours are bulldust

How would you react to this decree from the government:

These are the five ways we expect every citizen to behave.  All people observed not behaving in this way will be sanctioned, at first via discussions, then via bad ratings on the official record, and ultimately removal from the community.  The five behaviours can be found on government issue posters, coffee cups and lanyards which are freely available at your local post office.  You will be rated once per year on your adherence to these behaviours.

Does this sound like a community you want to be a part of?  Does it sound like a community where people are trusted to be adults and serve the best interests of each other?

You get the point.  And it’s full on.   It’s essentially an act of HR and Management sedition to suggest that all of this behaviour stuff might be bulldust.

But it is.

In the words of a better person than me: “Far out”

Dude

 

Well, actually, there’s a situation where behaviours are not bulldust.  If a group of people get together to discuss and agree behaviours for themselves, then fine.  What’s bulldust is the decreeing part.  The mandating.  The ‘we know what behaviours are best for you‘ part.  This is the bit that treats grown adults like they are in child care….which is eventually going to create child care behaviour, which is dependence and rebellion all at once. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Developing a Strategy? Read This First

Magpies

You’re in charge of ‘developing a strategy’.  Perhaps you’re a General Manager, where developing and delivering strategy (what work, why that, and why us) is the key part of the job.  Or maybe you’ve been assigned the task because you’ve put your hand up, or you’re an agitator, or someone wants to see what you can do.  Or perhaps you’ve been asked to bring together the ubiquitous ‘cross-functional team’.

So what do you do?

Convene! 

Strategies are developed by convening gatherings of people who want to be there, then having real conversations about possible futures.

They’re not developed by working through a process of identifying the current situation, by doing a SWOT, PESTL….whatever.  These things might be useful to identify things to talk about, but they come at a cost, which is the implication that the process will reveal the strategy.

It won’t, and here’s why.

Real strategy, as in strategy that actually happens, is created by people imagining what might be possible, then making the choice to create a new future.   Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

51% – the brilliantly simple concept to start creating real commitment

Read it on stairs (2)

There’s an element that gets overlooked when you set up your organisation with the right number of levels (yes, there is a right number, but that’s a different post), and when you make sure that the people in the roles will be able to add value at the level that the role requires.  You get a natural feeling of release or ‘that feels better’ as some of the key conditions that create micromanagement or disconnection are now dealt with.

Couple in some training about what the unique value-add of each level is, and we’re well on the way toward an enterprise that can seriously get things done, both today’s work, and tomorrow’s.  If you’d like some research on this, and no less than 50 years’ worth is good enough for you, check out the work of Elliott Jaques.  We use it because it works.

But there’s a darker side.

In the process of defining ‘levels’, the human need for dominance rears it’s head.  I’m talking about the idea that “I’m at a higher ‘level’, therefore I know better than you”.  Don’t get me wrong, most times this isn’t evil, and comes through as genuine caring for ‘your’ people.  But the very act of assuming you know what’s best for someone else….how comfortable are you with being on the receiving end of that?

Yet, we need people who can think in longer timespans so we’re OK in the future.  And we need people who can make things work right now so we’re OK right now.  We need all of these things for a successful business.  Hierarchy is actually natural.

So what do we do?

What we do is move to the mindset described by Peter Block as Partnering not Parenting. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

The real reason your roles are not clear

Provide clarity to employees

We can almost include as a template ‘clarify roles’ as the next step at the end of any planning day.  Seems to be the perpetual org development activity, along with ‘sort out cross-functional relationships’.

Here’s what’s not addressed: the reason roles aren’t clear is because we like it that way!

How do I know this?  Because you would take a stone out of your shoe if it was hurting.  Because when your friend recommends a certain dish from the menu, you give it a try.  Because, in the end, the world around you is the world you have created, which means you must like it that way.  Otherwise you would change it.

Getting roles clear is no harder than saying either “here’s what I want you to deliver”, or “here’s what I intend to deliver”.  This is the starting point, then discuss.  If you can’t reach agreement, boss makes the call.  Then list them up, and you’ve got yourself a role.  Make sure jobs higher in the hierarchy have longer timespans for what they are delivering so you don’t get compression in the levels, and you’ve got the general idea.

So why isn’t clarifying roles as common as ‘here’s your email address’?  Here are some of the usual reasons:

  • It will stifle creativity” – nope, creativity is stifled by a) unclear outcomes and boundaries b) specifying ‘how’ it needs to be done c) not having a good enough relationship so people can come back with ‘here’s a better outcome we should be doing’ d) people having work that is either under or overwhelming (too short or long in timespan) Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

What you need to know about setting accountabilities

Setting accountabilities is no more complicated than writing down, then having a conversation with your people about what the organisation needs them to produce in the next period of time (usually a year).

An easier way to think of this is in terms of outcomes, results or even requirements, by asking the question ‘if whatever I describe on this piece of paper is 100% guaranteed to either appear or have been delivered at the end of the year, what would it be?’.

Most roles will have between 3-7 key results that they are asked to deliver each year, use this as a rule of thumb when determining how many.

The challenge in this process is that it requires imagination.  That is, the future needs to be imagined, then described to your people so they can then use their capability to go about delivering it. 

Describing Accountabilities or Results

As a way of describing it, you can use the following categories:

  • Quantity or Deliverable – what do you actually want to see delivered, and if there’s any related volume amounts (sales dollars, square kilometres maintained, number of shows successfully run), put these down
  • Quality – what is the sufficient quality standard that tells the person ‘you’ve done enough’
  • Time – when or how often does the above need to be delivered, and note any milestones along the way
  • Resources – what will the person be provided so they can deliver.  Not just equipment and funding, but which other people have you set up to work with them?  This can also include any limits and boundaries which aren’t to be crossed, remember, the more clear the boundaries, the more freedom people have to bounce around within them.

 The conversation is more important than the document Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

The simple principle that keeps large groups connected

“OK, so what have we found?” asked Kathy, CEO of a mid-size manufacturer, about 1600 people.

“We’ve found a possible cause of the issues coming out of your Eastern plant” I replied, putting on the table a diagram known as a Levels of Work Analysis.  The diagram is like an X-Ray for organisational design – it shows clearly the cracks and splinters in the org design itself that are causing frustration and lack of delivery.

Kathy leaned forward and pointed at the clearly marked red areas.  ”What’s going on there?”

“I need to give you a quick bit of lingo” I said.  ”We use some fundamental principles that, if in place, will see frustration down and delivery up.  One of these is about having what we call building blocks in place to make sure that our natural need for connection isn’t accidentally designed out.”

Kathy’s eyebrows went up.  I waited to check I was making sense.  ”Go on” she said.

“The first building block is the basic team structure.   But above that we have the wider structure, or the three-tier structure.  The fancy term for it Elliott Jaques coined was the ‘Mutual Recognition Unit’, or ‘MRU’.”

“Fancy indeed” Kathy commented.  ”So how does this help me?” Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

An easier way to do ‘accountabilities’

It’s that time of year when many HR/OD areas are sprucing up their performance appraisal systems, our long-term clients included.  It’s all part of an ongoing cycle, so the setting of accountabilities is naturally also on the agenda.

It’s that middle part of the last sentence that I’ve been pondering (because that’s the sort of thing cool people do)…the notion of ‘setting accountabilities’.

I’ve always advised this, I’m often brought in to help with this, and it’s important – any decent research into both performance and innovation shows that clarity of goals is a condition for both performance and innovation (after all, both ‘performance’ and ‘innovation’ are just work, and ‘work’ is the use of judgement to make decisions to achieve a…..goal.  But that’s another post)

Back to ‘setting accountabilities’.  One word at a time.

The word ‘setting‘ carries a certain implication…’set and forget’, ‘set in stone’, ‘we’re set to go’….it all implies that we’re now done, final, complete.  Which makes it seem like a huge deal, and something we can’t get wrong.  Like building a skyscraper. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

The real foundation of your cross-functional issues

Does the discussion in your meetings often turn toward other departments and how they are letting you down?  Actually, why am I even posing that as a question?  Let me start again:

When the discussion in your next meeting turns toward why and how other departments are letting you down, trying saying this:

Sounds like we’ve got ourselves an org design issue.

You can predict the response: “What do you mean org design?  They know what they are there to do.  They should just do their job and deliver“.

But here’s what’s missed….the other area is staffed by people just like your team is.  And they’re probably putting in some sort of effort just like your team is.  And they probably know how to do their job about as good as your team knows how to do theirs.

So the problem isn’t the other department.  The problem is that what the other department sees itself as accountable for differs from what your team thinks it should be accountable for.

And what do you call the work of sorting out what departments and roles are going to be accountable for?  Organisational design.

It’s what sits at the foundation of your organisational issues.  It’s the key to developing your organisation.

But you won’t see it until you see  it.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.