Archive for the ‘General’ Category
I was interviewed by Justin Kirby on the subject of Socialogy last week.
Justin and I had previously collaborated on Collaborative Innovation on behalf of Nesta.
The interview runs to about 20 minutes and the main topics we covered were as follows:
- Four Groups’ 4G methodology and human capital management software platform
- The 5 factors required for business transformation, i.e.
- Simple to explain
- Scalable and predictable
- Changes to people’s jobs
- A return on investment (ROI)
- External validation
- The use of these 5 factors of existing innovations versus Social Business
- Stowe Boyd’s ‘Physics of People’ and the holy grail of predicting behaviours
Listen to the interview below.
Succession is one of those topics that gets very little coverage given it’s significance. An interesting blog post in the New York Times (here) by Quentin Hardy draws attention to some of the pitfalls in not having a plan in place as it discusses high profile tech founders who outstay their welcome and ultimately damage their organisations.
Above all, this article raises some interesting questions about leadership and culture in the organisation. The article features former Dell CEO Kevin Rollins who was ousted and replaced by the computer giant’s eponymous founder makes some valid arguments about some of the unintentional damage founder/CEOs can do by hanging on in the top job for too long. These include stifling the next generation of leaders within the organisation and the unique power and influence that visionary tech founders are able to exercise on their organisations.
Visionaries are fantastic, but their companies are often notoriously hard to run. Sometimes, these leaders cling to dated visions and stifle innovation. And sometimes, they simply won’t get out of the way. Promising executives with new ideas get fed up and leave.
The unfortunate dichotomy facing the boards of tech companies is that to achieve great success in the first place you need someone with the vision and single-minded determination to impose their will on the organisation. Over time this results in the founder personifying the organisation’s culture and values. However, this approach is rarely compatible more a more mature business or shifts in the competitive landscape. The result is that over time the behaviours that make a founder and organisation successful in the first place get ingrained in the organisational culture so much that change or an awareness of what new circumstances require is very hard to achieve. When things start to go wrong it becomes very difficult to know what to do if the tools that have served you so well in the past no longer seem to work.
Arguably, succession is not given the attention it requires because it is intangible and complex. This is because it is not just about having a plan in place. Succession is much more than a process that can be mapped out in the boardroom. Particularly for tech companies who often experience astonishing growth in a short period of time where the founders wield undue influence, the harsh truth is that in many cases succession is inextricably tied in with a necessary cultural shift in the organisation. A rejection of those values that make you successful is never an easy option.
A classic (it was published in 2005!) from Stowe Boyd on Social Software. Much of it has come to pass, but its nice to look back and see the connections. I particularly enjoyed his conclusion, the full effects of which are still a long way off…
Perhaps just as interesting as the way that social software is transforming group interaction, across different time zones or in the same room. Social software is destined to have a huge impact on how businesses get at their markets. So the essential elements of social software will be incorporated into more conventional software solutions, changing the way collaboration and communication is managed within and across businesses, and ultimately transforming how companies sell and interact with customers.
One of the thoughts that crossed my mind is the potential
contrast between black & white and coloured networks.
What do I mean by black & white and coloured networks? The rise in
networking, network analysis and the recognition that improved
relationships (and lower transaction costs) are drivers of better
performance has been gaining greater recognition in recent times.
While these types of diagrams are presented without context, they are
often used to represent paths of communication, trust, people who
connect groups and influence the flow of information. They also can be
used to show how a process is really carried out and by whom in a way
that can contrast or complement the traditional (or assumed)
Another key feature of these diagrams is that the lines connecting
people tend to be black and white. There may be arrows to show flows of information and sometimes the line width varies too. Also, the
length of the line usually has no material bearing on the
interpretation of the diagram. My point in all of this being that the
black and white network diagram is exactly that, black and white.
By way of contrast, the use of 4G makes it possible to create network
maps that are coloured and show how each connection has different
qualities to it.
In other words, each connection or relationship can
be assigned a weight/colour to show the nature of a particular
relationship. In this case, green represents the most productive and
engaging relationships while blue, yellow and red require greater and
greater levels of time and energy to be as productive as the green
ones. This then adds a whole new spectrum of information to complement our understanding of the network and people’s relationships within it.
As a final note, it’s also worth making a couple of other
observations. Firstly, while there are just four colours in the
diagrams above, there are actually 14 different types of relationship,
suggesting far greater complexity and granularity than can be shown with just 4 colours. Equally, there is a whole series of tips,
suggestions and ways to improve and develop these relatonships from a
coaching and development point of view.
Finally, given that the information from 4G in its current state is
100 percent psychological and the information in other network
analysis diagrams is 100 percent contextual, the two make very
complementary bed-fellows, each one providing the other with
information that compensates for the other’s blindspot.
1. Image credit Wikimedia Commons
Two ideas to consider…
- Focusing on the ‘unstructured, intangible and typically unmeasured’ will lead to the greatest increase in profits and problem solving over the coming years.
- Benefiting from working on the ‘unstructured’ will only be fully realised when it is possible to see this in the context of new technologies, processes and practices. In other words, the emergence of a new paradigm or theoretical approach.
‘Unstructured, Intangible and Typically Unmeasured’
as much as 60% of an organization’s processes are unstructured – and probably also unmonitored, unmanaged, unknown and unruly
In a similar vein, John Hagel of Deloitte writes that
In a rapidly changing world, the knowledge that matters the most is tacit knowledge… Accessing this kind of knowledge requires long-term trust based relationships and a deep understanding of context
The CIPD then offers us the following
The intangible value of an organisation which lies in the people it employs is gaining recognition by accountants and investors, and it is generally now accepted that this has implications for long term sustained performance
There are of course many more examples, one of the most recent being the contrast between Israeli and US airport security. The Israeli’s focus on intangible, human factors, having established successful processes, while the US still focus on the tangible, to the detriment of the more subtle¹.
If only 40% of processes within organisations have been mapped, or are formal enough to commit to ERP programs, for example, that leaves the majority of an organisation’s activity which might be better tackled from a different perspective.
New Technologies, Processes and Practices
The obvious candidate to fulfil the brave new world of intangibles is Enterprise 2.0 and its collection of internet technologies. While the potential exists for E2.0 to be open, democratic, disruptive and transformative, the jury is still very much out on this.
barely one-fifth (21%) of employees are truly engaged in their work, in the sense that they would “go the extra mile” for their employer. Nearly four out of ten (38%) are mostly or entirely disengaged, while the rest are in the tepid middle. There’s no way to sugarcoat it—this data represents a stinging indictment of the legacy management practices found in most companies
Interestingly, Gary’s recommendations aren’t a million miles away from other recent suggestions on the subject
We’ve got to get management’s dirty little secret out of the HR closet and into the boardroom. And second, if we’re going to improve engagement, we have to start by admitting that the real problem isn’t irksome, monotonous work, but stony-hearted, spirit-deflating managers
These thoughts reminded me of a point made by Rick where he writes
That the HR function needs to become more strategic is a mantra I first heard over twenty years ago when I started working in HR…
Just because senior executives are starting to see the importance of managing human resources it doesn’t mean that they will give Human Resource managers a seat at the top table. It might even be that the HR function never becomes strategic at all and that HR professionals are relegated to a support role while someone else does all the interesting stuff
1. Finding spending comparisons between Israel and the US is easier said than done.
Welcome to 2009’s third quarterly review, as with previous issues, engagement continues to be at the forefront of people’s thoughts. Behind the engagement debate however there seems to be a growing call for a wider reappraisal of the fundamental way corporations are organised and for me personally, this is the most interesting aspect of this quarter’s articles. Other themes include;
- Shifting the Organisational Pyramid
- The McLeod Review on Employee Engagement
- The Leader/Manager Debate
- Line Managers who Lead
- The Intrinsic Motivation of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose
- The Irrationality of Human Behaviour
- Tomorrow’s HR Professionals – A Multi-Disciplinary Background
Articles are included from the likes of Harvard Business School, Henry Mintzberg, HR Magazine, McKinsey, the McLeod Review, the Partnership Institute, Personnel Today, Strategy + Business and TED.
We discussed the idea that people-based issues can be managed in a systematic and structured manner, something that Bruce is firmly in support of. 4G represents a proprietary approach developed by his company to understand and predict intangible aspects of people’s personality, interaction and values. However, our conversation was not so much about 4G itself but about taking a holistic approach and the how’s and why’s of it.
The introduction is below.
Is 2009 the year the HR function finally enters its ascendancy as organizations place greater emphasis on talent management and putting strategic HR activities at the heart of the business? Or is HR destined to remain a transaction-based cost center as leaders still struggle to rise to the challenge?
If you’d like to read the full version, it can be found here.
Welcome to the first issue of the Four Groups Leadership, Intangibles and Talent review. The purpose is to try to distil and comment on some of the more interesting and articles shaping the field. That said, the subject matter is not strictly defined but takes into account wider economic issues, particularly given the challenging climate. In this issue, articles have been included from the likes of Deloitte, IBM, McKinsey, The Hay Group and Towers Perrin.
There is no set criteria for inclusion, just that an article, survey or blog entry should be thought provoking, challenging or state more than the obvious. Comments and feedback are of course welcome
Summary – Q4 2008
Unsurprisingly, many articles are focusing on what it will take to emerge from the current downturn in a position of strength. As such the main themes focus on;
- Is creativity and intelligence being filtered out of the system?
- The need to let go of many of HR’s traditional functions
- The need for senior level sponsorship
- The psychological change agenda
- Managing talent
- Ethics and employee branding
There seems to be considerable agreement that the organisations likely to manage and emerge from the downturn in the strongest position are ones which are; flexible, promote clear and consistent communication, are innovative and exhibit consistency between their internal and external behaviour. The theme tying all these attributes together is developing the ability to manage the intangibles of organisational behaviour, such as; social networks, collaboration, innovation and change.