We’ve been asked by many of our customers for periodic, no-nonsense emails with just-in-time information for managers and knowledge workers on how organizations work. This is our 20th edition and we hope you enjoy it. Past editions are available on our website.
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What We're Reading
The Future of Management by Gary Hamel with Bill Breen. Harvard Business School Press, 2007. (click for purchase information)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Vintage Books, 2007.
(click for purchase information)
My son suggested I read Pulitzer Prize winner, The Road and once I started it; I could not put it down. It is such a disturbing book but I have to say in a good way. A father and son are on the road to find a potentially more survivable environment. The world as we know it now is gone and the father can only tell the son about things such as birds and the sun and a blue sea. They are the 'good guys' trying to survive against the terror of the bad guys and the horror of a destroyed earth. In one abandoned house the father looks at old newspapers and notes the 'quaint concerns' written about in the stories. What an example of framing; what looks like a crisis today ($4 gallon gas) is quaint compared to having to find food by scavenging a land destroyed by a nuclear (?) war.
As I read this book, I tried to imagine what it had to say about leadership and organizations since none survived the war. The book stayed with me and kept haunting my thoughts as I read Gary Hamel's book about the future of management. What Hamel is telling us through a series of stories about organizations such as Google, WL Gore & Co and Whole Foods is that we need to stop 'patching up and retrofitting' the management principles we rely on that are now almost a century old. Instead of giving us a best practice recipe to follow, he suggests we "invent tomorrow's best practices today."
The connection between the two books is the theme that we don't know what tomorrow will look like but incremental change is not likely to lead to organizations "that actually deserve the passion and creativity of the folks who work there, and naturally elicit the very best that people have to give." (pg. xi)
Here are 4 questions he asks you to consider (pg 39-40):
1. "What's the 'tomorrow problem' that you need to start working on right now?
2. What's the frustrating 'either/or' you'd like to turn into an 'and'?
3. What's the espoused ideal you'd like to turn into an embedded capability?
4. What's the 'can't do' that needs to become a 'can do'?"
The 'tomorrow' problem I think many organizations need to work on today and all the other ways I would answer Hamel's 4 questions have to do with this: innovation comes from being able to process and learn from mistakes, unexpected results, and failures. The companies he cites as examples could be seen as chaotic if viewed from traditional management beliefs. For example, there are no ranks or titles at WL Gore. You are a leader only if people follow you. At Whole Foods, in-store teams have a great deal of authority for who is hired, what products are sold and at what price. And the teams are held accountable for their results. Meeting profit goals means a bonus but the bonus is team-based so you can't 'hide' your performance or lack thereof.
"Mistake of the Month"
In an older but related article in Fast Company, the focus was on defying the business culture that teaches all to never admit mistakes. One company featured began a 'Mistake of the Month' contest with a cash prize for the winner. Another company gave out a 'failure trophy' quarterly. Also cited was Harvard Business Professor Amy Edmondson, (whom I've cited before) saying, "Managers would do well to think more like scientists. Failure provides more learning in a strictly logical or technical sense than success. It's a principle of the scientific method that you can only disconfirm, never confirm hypothesis."
So what if a team/organization/leader created an environment where the following defined the 'way we do things around here':
1. We have more ideas that could turn into new products, services and profit for our company than we can even deal with this year.
2. We are both right and wrong and we take the time to explore equally how we can be both.
3. We say and we actually DO seek out and listen and give authority to and reward those closest to our customers.
4. We have the time to ask for and listen to the unique points of view and experiences of all our employees.
I love the idea of implementing a 'mistake of the month.' In fact, I'm going to do so for my small business and my consulting work. This will be a good way for me to process and learn from my own failures or misaligned expectations, as I like to call them. I'm going to start seeing what isn't selling so well as a lesson. What can I learn from this that I could use to make a better product? What was right about it? What was wrong? Who did I get feedback from when I created the product? Did I take the time to ask the questions that didn't confirm my bias that this was the next great breakthrough product? Did I ask customers or clients what they needed or wanted rather than dispense my "brilliant" idea and ask them to retrofit it to their needs?
I'd love to hear from you about these topics/questions and ideas...let me know what you think at email@example.com.
Frontline Management on Sale in June
This month's sale item will be the idXready program on Frontline Management: Leveraging the Strengths of Your Style. This program is a terrific resource for inventing the future of management at your organization because it is strength based and focused on those closest to the customers. Regular price for the program is $995. During June it will be $100 off. Participant workbooks that go with the program will be $90 this month instead of the usual $108. Take advantage of this great program or contact me if you would like to preview the program. We've found that once our customers take a look at any of the idXready programs, they buy them. More