Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hitting the nail on the ...

Sometimes the example you choose gets it right...

 In my latest book Behave! I talk about getting people to be great problem solvers by accessing their discretionary thinking: "To continue to get employees to give you their discretionary thinking and deliver ideas that boost margin, you must empower them to implement their ideas…For a CEO this can be scary stuff. What happens if an employee gets an idea to build a perpetual motion machine! Do you let that employee pursue an obviously flawed idea? The answer to that question is the marketing answer: “It depends!” Sometimes the by-product of a crazy idea is a great idea. 

This Fall the Nobel Committee awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to William E. Moerner of Stanford University. Being very clever, he'd found away around a previous law of physics. In optics the limit to your ability to magnify something with a microscope was defined by the size of the wavelength of light. W.E. Moerner figured out a way to overcome that law-of-physics obstacle.

Robert Galvin, the late CEO of Motorola once said, "At times we must engage an act of faith that key things are doable that are not provable."

Monday, October 13, 2014

Michael Porter Takes Regional Economic Development to Task

Speaking at the University of Minnesota where on Sept 30th Harvard launched its new Cluster Mapping tool, Michael Porter talked about the focus of Regional Economic Development offices. He suggest these activities are typically low yield activities. He concludes, in this 4 minute snippet, that we need to focus on something else. Here is the graphic he used:
Here is the video snippet that goes along with the slide:
In the book "Advantage: Business Competition in the New Normal" it starts out saying, "What makes a company a competitive powerhouse is how well it solves a customer problem…Being better than your competition in the enterprise of problem solving is key…Innovation is a special kind of problem solving…Innovation is creating new knowledge that solves a customer problem and provides competitive advantage."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Change the Thinking, or Change the Behavior?

Captain David Marquet needed to turn around the thinking on the nuclear submarine Santa Fe.  
U.S. Navy photo by Christina Shaw
And he needed it done in about seven days. How do you turn around the thinking of a group of people? Captain Marquet realized they didn’t have time to let his thinking percolate down through the ranks. Instead, he recognized that all he really wanted was a change in behavior. It turns out, all you have to do is ask for the change in behavior. You have to be specific. But when you are, the behavior is observable and people can readily give you that behavior. It worked on the Santa Fe. In the end, Marquet believed that most of the crew eventually changed their thinking once they changed their behavior. But, if they didn’t, it didn’t matter that much to Captain Marquet, after all, they were delivering the behavior as if they did believe in the change.  This is a big part of how this submarine when from worst to first in performance in the US Navy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Carnegie Mellon's People Capability Maturity Model

In looking for processes to enable company leaders to transform their organizations into highly innovative enterprises, I came across the Carnegie Mellon People Capability Maturity Model.

The model is predicated on the idea that you climb up the capability curve by adding management and workforce capabilities with each of five levels. "When the goals of all process areas at a maturity level and lower levels have been satisfied, the organization will have achieved the maturity level."1   It is a stair step approach of adding on to the tools implemented on a lower step.

The model assumes the usefulness of many common business practices such as performance reviews  that  ensure “activities comply with the organization’s policies and stated values.”2   We know that for companies that have successfully gone through the transformation, performance reviews are not used, policy documents are practically non-existent, and values are not stated.  For these companies such things either work against you (performance reviews) or are useless window dressing (stated values).
The trouble with the Carnegie Mellon People Capability Maturity Model is that it is based on the idea that the more you manage the better you do.  However, in looking at real world cases where companies have achieved the transformation, exactly the opposite is true.  It's about letting go of control, not increasing it.

Also note that in the 600 page People Capability Maturity Model document, there are lots of statements that leave you wondering how something might work or who is ultimately responsible for something since often it is a shared responsibility, e.g. “the human resources function shares with management and individuals the responsibility for process and individual improvement.”3   So who’s accountable for what?

The Carnegie Mellon People Capability Maturity Model is increasingly complex as you move up, rather than increasingly simple as we’ve seen in the real world.  Successful companies find that there is a strong inverse correlation between how innovative, productive, and high quality it performs, as related to the level of management activity. Less is more!

1 Curtis, B., Hefley, B., Miller, J., (2009). People Capability Maturity Model (P-CMM) Version 2.0, Second Edition. Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University.p.48
2 Ibid p,289

3 Ibid p.70

Monday, May 19, 2014

Business Bromides

Business Bromides are trite, clich├ęd sayings which aren’t very helpful or specific, and managers tend to say them over and over again. The word bromide comes from the chemical compound historically used as a sedative, a medicine that dulls your senses.  When we use such expressions in business, we seduce ourselves and others to set less audacious goals and take less bold action.

We know from psychology that if you say something often enough “Saddam Hussain has weapons of mass destruction!” you start to believe it’s true.  This is especially true if it’s something you’d like to be true.

Look, we can only afford so many new initiatives.”, is a Business Bromide.  Right now, you’re thinking, ‘But it’s true, we can only afford so many new initiatives.’  So, if it’s true, then why is this a Business Bromide?  

It is a Business Bromide because of how, when, and why we utter such statements.  It is a statement that’s often followed by, “...and this project probably should be put on the back-burner for now.”  We say a statement like this to find a simple reason for not doing something we don’t want to do, or that we feel might compete with our own agenda.     

Listen to your managers’ speech.  If you hear expressions like the following, you know you’re listening to Business Bromides and, as we’ll see, they are hurting you.
“We can’t do everything.”
“We can only afford so many worthwhile projects.”
“Our market share is good right where it is.”
“There are only so many good people.”
“We will always have projects on our cut-off list.”

This list isn’t my list.  It comes from Robert Galvin.  Mr. Galvin was the CEO of Motorola for over 30 years.  He ran the company through its most innovative years when its growth was extraordinary.  Under his guidance the company balance an innovative culture with the need to produce very high quality.  He understood that you do not sacrifice innovation in favor of the single mindedness that quality demands.  Innovation always wins in Robert Galvin’s mind.  That’s saying a lot since it was his company that invented Six-Sigma.  

Galvin said that this list of Business Bromides is what you hear managers utter.  They are roadblock statements. 
These are statements designed to create artificial limits. Great leaders do not say things like that.  Galvin subscribed to the Socratic method.  Wherever , as a leader, you’re tempted to make a statement, ask a question instead.  When leaders make a statement, they limit the thinking and creativity of other members of the team.  Galvin believed in the “How do we...” question.

Where a manager might say, “We can’t do everything.”, Galvin suggests leaders ask: "How can we do everything?   You still won't do everything, but you'll likely do more.

Instead of saying, “We can only afford so many worthwhile projects.”, ask, “How do we fund all our projects?
Rather than say, “Our market share is good right where it is.”, ask, “How do we satisfy every potential customer?
If you ever hear someone say, “There are only so many good people.”, respond by saying “They’re all good people, let’s make them great!
Instead of saying, “We will always have projects on our cut-off list.”, ask “How do we complete all these projects?

By asking the “How do we...” question you open the discussion.  When you make a statement like “We can’t do everything.” you close the discussion.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Focused Leader

In the table of contents for the December 2013 Harvard Business Review is the following teaser: "The Focussed Leader.  Great leaders have learned to focus their attention in three ways: on themselves, on others, and on the wider world."

Isn't that pretty much everything!  So, great leaders have learned to focus on everything?  I am confused by the word 'focus' in this context.  What is it supposed to mean?  Having read the article I still unclear as to why the word 'focus' is used.

This is a Daniel Goldman article.  He is one of the chief proponents of the essentialness of emotional intelligence.  He assumes that people with high emotional intelligence are good for business and people with low emotional intelligence are bad.  He says "People who lack social sensitivity are easy to spot - at least for other people.  They are the clueless among us."  He points out that if they just put some effort into it, they could develop emotional empathy.   I've known plenty of people who fit this description.  They are almost never clueless.  Actually, these geeks are often extraordinary problem solvers who have an astonishing capacity to stay focussed.  But they just don't care what opinion you happen to have, or how you feel.  Those things are irrelevant to the problem they are solving.  They are after facts not feelings.

What a truly great leader does is put into place a process for operating the business that recognizes the extraordinary value of having different types of people engaged.  The process enables the people to be highly effective by dealing with their shortcomings and leveraging their talents and differences.  That is precisely what we deliver with Behavioral Advantage.  We give leaders the tools to implement this sort of process.