Three Keys to Culture Transformation

January 30, 2014

Diana Rivenburgh

by Diana Rivenburgh

[Guest Blog Post]

What causes cultures to run amok? Why do people do things they never thought they would? Perhaps the most important question is “what can we do to create ethical, high-performance, engaged cultures?”

Simply scan the daily headlines to find evidence of dysfunctional cultures:

“Pfizer caught running global bribery network,”

“JP Morgan Chase Will Pay $13 Billion in Record Settlement,”

“Cheating Probe Roils Philadelphia Schools.”

What causes cultures to run amok? Why do people do things they never thought they would? Perhaps the most important question is “what can we do to create ethical, high-performance, engaged cultures?”

Toxic Cultures

While there’s no lack of examples of toxic cultures, there are many organizations where people love their work, go above and beyond, strive for innovation and collaborate for greater results. Culture does more than create a great place to work.

Research over several decades from Denison Consulting and others clearly shows the correlation between culture and every financial and productivity measure you can think of.

Three keys for culture transformation

Whether you seek to create the culture for your new firm or change an existing one, focus your efforts on three keys for culture transformation – lead, engage and align.

Lead: Toxic leaders create toxic cultures. Vibrant leaders create vibrant cultures. Culture begins to form from the very beginning based on the founder’s vision, values and style, and continues to evolve as new leaders join.

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz held faithfully to the company’s values even when, in 2008, the company’s stock price dropped 52% and its fourth quarter earnings were down 97%. Shultz firmly believes that making money and raising stock prices are shallow goals unless they are linked to creating value for society and people. This commitment paid off as the company’s stock percolated up to record earnings.

Engage: Engaged employees bring their best to work every day, go above and beyond, invest extra time and effort, and find ways to continuously improve and innovate. Organizations with highly engaged workforces identify individual strengths, place people in roles that fit these strengths, develop strong leaders and managers and create the right work environment for success.

Novo Nordisk, the world’s leading provider of insulin, recognizes the value of culture and employee engagement to its business success. This Danish-based pharmaceutical company audits employee engagement every year and requires all its managers to have engagement plans in place. Managers work with employees to identify strengths and set them up for success by placing them in roles where they can tap into these assets.

Align: Every organization operates with management systems comprised of processes, policies and practices for hiring, training, performance management, communication, compensation and governance. All of these as well as its organizational structure and workspace design must align to achieve the desired culture.

A client of ours was dealing with chaos and frustration after going through multiple acquisitions. Identifying and changing many of their systems, practices and structures to align to their strategy and desired culture resulted in stronger collaboration, higher engagement, improved client satisfaction and greater profitability.

Take a look at your organization to determine the ways you can lead better, engage your people, and align your management practices to achieve the high performance culture needed to realize your company’s vision and achieve its strategic goals.

The author

Diana Rivenburgh @sustainableorgs is a consultant, speaker, recovering corporate executive, and author of The New Corporate Facts of Life and is a Top 100 Thought Leader for Trustworthy Business 2014.


“Why don’t I ever post comments to this site?” Let’s be having you

January 28, 2014

Delia Smith

Delia Smith

“Why don’t I ever post comments to this site ?” asked Louise? “I read it regularly. I’ve even ‘liked’ some of the blogs.”

A good question. Louise teaches leadership on courses around the world. So why doesn’t she contribute comments?

“You don’t get many comments at all.”

It’s a fair point. I mumbled something about maybe readers are a bit embarrassed to post comments for some reason. Maybe my students don’t want to risk looking foolish? But Louise isn’t a student.

“Perhaps” added Louise “you can ask a question at the end of a post to encourage comments”.

Me: “I have to think about how to do that. Maybe I need to work on it” [was I being defensive?]”

So I thought a bit about the idea and came up with a question which may be the sort of thing Louise had in mind.

The question inviting comments

So here’s a question for readers. I know you are out there, at least visiting Leaders We Deserve, even if you don’t comment. Do you have any suggestions to add to Louise’s which you would like to contribute? Why not write a comment? I read them all, and try to comment back. Don’t worry if you think your English is not good enough. Our readership comes from over 180 countries, and there is editorial help if needed. I look forward to reading your suggestions.

And after commenting, how about writing a post?

Maybe it’s one short comment for Louise and one big step towards publishing a blog post. As the national treasure Delia Smith once said, appealing to her [football] supporters “Come on, let’s be having you’. Students are particularly welcomed.

Tudor Rickards
Editor, Leaders We Deserve


Sherlock Holmes series on BBC TV illustrates charismatic infatuation

January 26, 2014

The recent Sherlock Holmes series on BBC Television was launched in a sustained and skillful blaze of publicity. Its impact suggests an explanation of charismatic influence

The advertising hype created a teaser over the apparent death of Sherlock at the end of the first series two years earlier. The character in the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories survived a fall. The viewers were now invited to explain the survival of the Sherlock as played by Benedict Cumberbatch

The Holmes Watson relationship

Two themes dominated the first of the three episodes. The first was How did Sherlock survive the fall from a high building? The second was the intense homoerotic nature of the Holmes Watson relationship.

The Marmite factor

The reaction of viewers to all episodes was intense. The reviews released a quite astonishing emotional outpouring of replies. Fans demonstrated the so called Marmite effect [you love it or loath it, with little cool or rational reactions displayed] Nearly a thousand comments appeared hours after the Guardian review.

For the first two episodes reviewers tended to be rather lukewarm towards the production, acknowledging outstanding elements of acting and plot but rather unsatisfactory coherence and more than a whiff of smug self-indulgence. The third was widely regarded as by far the most dramatic and compelling to watch.

The infatuation effect

As evidenced by the thousand comments [of the first two and more unsatisfactory episodes for the critics], a sizable proportion of fans were infatuated by the mega-star of the series, Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch. For this group, the overwhelming emotion was unconditional expressions of love, coupled with anger at those who expressed any signs of disappointment in the production.

Is this a clue to the nature of charismatic leadership?

Possibly. At least there is a suggestion of a line of research into followership and charisma. The vulnerability induced in followers by the charismatic leader could be studied through investigation of the concept of celebrity infatuation.


Berdych beats Ferrer: Injustice as a spur to change

January 21, 2014

Injustice as a tipping point? Berdych v Ferrer.

I remain unconvinced about the tipping point theory of change. An incident in a tennis match, however, appears to give the theory supporting evidence.

Thomas Berdych and Ferrer were playing for a place in the semi-finals at the Australian Open [21 January, 2014] Ferrer was out of sorts, Berdych playing at his best. Ferrer, the higher ranked player, is noted for his tenacity, Berdych for his power.

Berdych sweeps to a two set lead, then Ferrer ups his game, Berdych dips. Ferrer improves and wins third set.

Commentators see that ‘momentum has swung’ to Ferrer. [Another dubious concept but also another blog post.]

The tipping point?

The tipping point occurred when Berdych was given a code violation for slow play. His resigned attitude seemed to change. He played more aggressively and became competitive. Breaks and retains advantage at 5-3

Conclusion. One episode supporting tipping point theory.


Lord McAlpine, (1942-2014) colourful politician and author of books including The New Machiavelli

January 18, 2014

Lord McAlpine was a successful businessman turned conservative Politician and political author of fiction and non-fiction including a book on The New Machiavelli. He attracted controversy for a somewhat individualistic lifestyle and successfully defended himself in 2012 against allegations in the media.

You can read more in an earlier post
:


Murray breaks back in the non-medical sense

January 18, 2014

Broken RacquetA TV transmission from the Australian Open in Melbourne illustrates an important issue for effective team work, as two commentators exhibit group think and mutually reinforcing mind sets

The match took place in round three [January 18th 2014] and involved Scotland’s Andy Murray and Spain’s Feliciano Lopez. UK viewers were following the fortunes of the Wimbledon champion Murray who had recently returned from back surgery.

Even before the match started, the two commentators from UK Eurosport appeared preoccupied by the possibility that Murray would be feeling the after effects of the injury. I decided to keep notes to see whether their suspicions would turn out to be justified.

Game one. Murray drops serve and touches his leg as if in pain. Murray has tended to do this throughout his career. However it induces an outburst of commentator anxiety 0-1

Game two: more injury signs detected. Commentators even more anxious. Murray breaks back. Just realized that I must explain what I mean. Murray has not broken his back, but equalizes by breaking serve. 1-1

Game three. Injury talk continues to dominate, although Murray wins serve 2-1

Game four. Easy Lopez hold. Murray makes errors each accompanied by explanations of
poor execution because of injury. 2-2

Game five. Mix of poor and good Murray Shots. Crowd v quiet. A stretch for a ball at the net looks laboured and
suggests commentators may be right. Murray looks out of sorts. Wins but Looks up at coach a lot during change over. 3-2

Game six. Commentators distracted by news of other matches. Both players up game. Lopez holds serve. Slightly less injury talk. 3-3

Game seven. I’d say it is a typical scratchy Murray match when he is not quite on song. Holds serve. 4-3

Game eight. Quick win for Lopez. 4-4

Game nine. Murray serve also powerful. 5-4. Commentators have calmed down slightly.

Game ten. Slightly patcher. Murray return length high quality persists. Lopez wins. 5-5

Game eleven. Murray comfortable at 40 love and wins. I think tiebreak coming up 6-5.
At changeover so does commentary theme.

Game twelve. Tight points. Murray stretch at net works well. Lopez errs to set point but then aces. Survives. 6-6

Tie break. No sign of back problem says commentator. Murray ups game. Wins. “Looks as if he’s stopped [his] preoccupation with his back”. Think it’s not Murray with the preoccupation7-6

Second set

The commentators are again agreeing totally. But their shared perception has now shifted. After an early service break by Murray they agree this match is now be one-sided. I began to develop a theory of team mind-set. Murray wins easily. 6-4

Third set

Even easier for Murray who extends his record of wins over Lopez to eight. 6-2

Conclusion

Murray in his post-match interview denied he had problems beyond what was to be expected after recent surgery. The commentators during the match were united in a different mindset. This was eventually dispelled. Their initial narrow focus ignored important information about court conditions, and temperature, players’ head on head records, even time of day for European viewers.

I felt that they needed to make more effort to be aware of the assumption that was dominated their thinking. This is common enough. A newer thought occurred to me. Maybe the two commentators were in a comfort zone reinforced by mutual agreement on their shared ‘map’ or basic assumption. This is a possibility for explaining the persistence of beliefs in face of contrary evidence.

If so, we have a nice example of the importance of creative and constructive challenge for effective group work. Otherwise groupthink will become increasingly inhibiting.


A Blog is Born: Advice to a new blogger

January 10, 2014

Tudor Rickards

You have started a business course and you have to write a blog post based on a current news story. Here’s one approach based on experiences of writing and publishing over a thousand such posts

I write two leadership blog posts each week for Leaders we deserve. In six years, I have never failed to find suitable news stories. Here are some tips which have worked for me as I clocked up over a thousand posts for Leaders We Deserve.

The Mapping principle

I think of what I am doing as map reading, map testing and map making. You can find a lot of posts if you search for map making on this Leaders we deserve site. A fuller explanation is to be found in Chapter 1 of Dilemmas of Leadership.

Map reading refers to your examination of the primary source or sources of your news story.
Map testing is when you look more carefully at the news story to assess its credibility. That is why looking at more than one source of the same story is valuable. Here I like to use my imagination by trying to guess the most urgent dilemmas facing key decision makers.
Map making is ‘getting personal’ by relating the news stories to your own experiences. If you understand the post you can change that map and comment on what you have done. Even more important, you may have made some change to your own personally important knowledge. For example, a story may show you a new interpretation about a piece of information or of your belief. The map making refers to changes in your maps or to your version of the original news story.

Here is a post with a three minute test with ten questions. You can take it to test your understanding of the mapping principle.

Active search

Each day I search actively for a breaking news story which has an easy to understand main point often expressed in its headline. If I see such a story with a leadership implication. I become more interested, and test if it is attracting social media interest on Twitter.

Writing your post

Stage one is reporting your map reading in your own words.I cut and paste the core of the story, always with the source acknowledged, I hope. However, if you are working on a student assignment, check with your tutors and with examination regulations if you are worried about word limits, citation style, and acceptability of cut and paste efforts.

Beyond factual reporting and IMHO

The post becomes more interesting and will gain more approval and ‘likes’, even from examiners, if you add something new. Map-testing is one way. Introducing interpretations or personal judgement is fine, but make sure you indicate that you are not mixing beliefs with assertion of accepted facts. On the Internet this is still sometimes signaled by IMHO which stands for In My Humble Opinion.

An example

This week I carried out my active searches as usual. On Monday [January 6th 2014] I reported on on typical story about the future of Hollywood blockbusters. You can read it as an example of my mapping approach. My map reading showed the debate about the future of blockbusting films in face of new technology. My map testing suggested to be that there was plenty of evidence to suggest that Hollywood faced dilemmas of escalating costs of movie making and risks of trying out original story lines.

Map-making suggested that I had seen something similar in a quite different context, namely in the pharmaceutical industry, and this gave me a hook for the story. Maybe leaders in Big Pharma face similar dilemmas to those facing movie makers. The old models are failing: should they work harder to fix them or change to new business models? Can they risk the company on one or two as yet undiscovered innovations?

Summary

If you want to try out this system, to help you write a blog, start today. Look at the breaking news stories. Try to capture their core point or headline. Test the assertions in the reported stories. Look for tough decisions or dilemmas facing leaders. See if the process links with your personal beliefs, the O in IMHO.

And revise thoroughly

And for most people, thorough revision pays off.

Good luck in your future blogging.


Hollywood blockbusters and the message for Big Pharma

January 6, 2014

AvatarThe business model for blockbusting films is coming under increasing scrutiny. There may be a message for the major drug companies

Last year, [2013] 26 films costing more than $100m each were released by the major Hollywood studios – more than ever before. They are likely to have raked in tens of billions of dollars in worldwide box office revenues as a result. But despite the runaway successes, there are concerns that blockbuster budgets are getting dangerously high.

The business model

The business model works because the large blockbuster is more the visible part of a process than a stand-alone product. The basic plan is to develop a series of movies after an initial demonstrated [financial] success. Each successor is part of marketing campaign now well-routinized of spin-off products and deals.

Only a fraction of revenues come from ticket sales with the bulk coming from television licensing, DVD sales, and assorted merchandising deals. Arguably it is the model for sporting franchises as well.

“There’s eventually going to be an implosion, or a big meltdown,” said Hollywood elder statesman Steven Spielberg in a speech earlier this year. “Three or four or maybe even a half dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Spielberg had warned of an “implosion” in Hollywood as In 1980, Heaven’s Gate effectively bankrupted United Artists.

Half full or half empty?

British film academics John Sedgwick and Mike Pokorny have found that blockbuster films become have become more reliably profitable: in the late 80s just 50% of major studio films turned a profit. In 2009 it was 90%. Flops have become rare. Spielberg worries with others who note the changes in the market place. DVD sales are threatened by online streaming services such as Netflix. Studios are seeing profits growing more from their TV interests.

Aesthetic bankruptcy

Others refer to dumbing-down and “aesthetic bankruptcy”. Screenwriting talent is increasingly moving over to television.

Entertainment has flourished on change since silent moves found its voice, and later its glorious in sound and visual transformations. The blockbuster model may well be bust. The challenge to Hollywood is one that also applies to the giants in Big Pharma

A message for Big Pharma?

It is the challenge facing other industries where the early winners face being overtaken by outsiders as the name of the business game changes. Maybe Big Pharma will learn from Hollywood that the days of searching for big blockbusting drugs are over.

What else?

The question may be addressed by the stirrings of interest in new leadership approaches in recent years. The last movement to claim New Leadership was in the 1980s. That involving visions and transformations. Newer ideas are trying to recentre business leadership as utterly concerned with ethics and also with distribution of power and authority. [see here for a more critical view of distributed leadership]. It calls for further rethinking of the ultimate rationale for organizational structures and patterns of behaviour.

We not be able to wait another forty years for such ideas to be applied effectively and globally.


The filing system of the future

January 2, 2014

IT Innovations have made the traditional filing system obsolete. Leaders we deserve offers a glimpse into the future of personal information systems

Filing cabinet [floor version]

Filing cabinet [floor version]

In the early hours of 2014,

In the early hours of 2014, the editor of Leaders We Deserve examined his filing system in anticipation of resuming his labours …

The image reveals the superficial structure of the existing system, post-modern with a hint of bricolage – even if his spell-checker continued to suggest there is a hint of bricklayer rather than bricolage about it.

What’s the sphere?

The spherical object is a word-ball which provides, yes you guessed it, words to help fill otherwise blank spaces in blog posts as and where required. The much-used red dictionary in the background serves a similar purpose.

The elements within the filing system

The system is designed to accommodate books of all sizes, reports, office products, folders, games, IT relics, recycled boxes, tins plus items I would have to examine more closely before I could identify them.

The dynamism of chaos

There is a dynamism of chaotic forms. Their apparent timelessness is defective. [Or as my spell checker suggests, detective].

The chaotic aspect visible in my filing system masks a deeper order. If I produced a time-lapse film it would show the changes as a project progresses. As the project tails off, so the filing system resumes an earlier state

The Filing system of the future

The filing system I have in mind for he future is already taking shape in my mind. It is more distantiated, if I can borrow a term from a lecture by Tony Giddens I attended some years ago. It occupies a different and more virtual space. The floorspace could be extended to the under-utilized area beneath the desk. Some piles of objects could be increased in height by removing irregularly shaped ones thus forming new clusters in office space.

Hyperspace is already beckoning.

My assorted pictures are increasingly tagged for retrieval. My array of student theses is no longer growing as physical and bound volumes. E versions are accessible from the University archives. Increasingly, the textual materials are up there somewhere in the cloud.

Perhaps in Second Life, an Avatar Archivist will soon be able to stack and unstack items, like a zero-hours worker from a Tesco’s in hyperspace.