1. The Sponsor as the face of organisational change

    November 25, 2013 by

    A large proportion of projects are not given enough executive level attention. Due to this, a large number of projects ultimately fail, as they move further and further away from the business’ core competencies, and strategic alignment between business and project breaks down. In order to overcome this, effective organizations recognize project sponsorship as a key part in any project. It is very important to have active sponsors who support change. Sponsors establish direction for the future, communicate through vision, and forge aligned, high performance teams.

    Dr. H. James Harrington, CEO and Douglas Nelson of Harrington Associates, have written a white paper explaining further how an effective sponsor, who sits at an executive level, can help eliminate the barriers to change and ensure the rapid and effective implementation of project outcomes. Commissioned by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the white paper, outlines characteristics and skills of a strong sponsor, including; power, sense of urgency, vision, public role, private role, and leverage. It includes a small but effective tool for assessing the suitability of a person for a sponsor role.

    The following statement from Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide (PMI, 2013b) provides the foundational concept for this whitepaper.

    “A sponsor provides resources required for change and has the ultimate responsibility for the program or project, building commitment for the change particularly at the senior management level across the organization. Direct responsibility and accountability for the change needs to be clearly defined and accepted at an appropriately high level within an organization. Consequently, the sponsor for a change effort should be someone who has sufficient authority, influence, power, enthusiasm, and time to ensure that any conflicts that could impede the change are resolved in a timely and appropriate fashion.”

    Read the white paper HERE hosted by PMI.


  2. How Mindfulness impacts organisational performance

    November 16, 2013 by

    Mindfulness has moved from a largely obscure practice to a mainstream organisational idea in some leading organisations. This purposeful, flexible, and open state of attention and awareness of the present moment has become a significant talking point. The reason? Mindfulness is linked to higher level functioning and people’s increased ability to focus their attention in a dynamic, task-focused way. Its advocates are convinced that it increases performance and it is this link to performance that will be explored.

    What makes mindfulness particularly relevant for work places interested is that it can be trained through mindfulness meditation practice. It is not a genetic trait that some have and others don’t, and instead there is increasing evidence that even brief mindfulness training helps people improve their memory and cognitive ability.

    Researchers are still working on establishing a solid empirical link between mindfulness and organisational performance, but  leaders in top organisations such as Google and Apple have begun implementing mindfulness initiatives for their employees.

    What is mindfulness about?

    Mindfulness is about paying attention with a particular intention: this intention is based on your willingness to give up pre-judgement and certainty, and to bring into your experience of the present moment:

    • A deep curiosity to discover something new,
    • An openness to notice things about the situation, including negative or unpleasant ones, and
    • The flexibility to accept change in the environment or within yourself, rather than resist it.

    How do you become mindful?

    Everyone can practise mindfulness. There are a few things that enable you to become mindful, such as:

    • Slow down.
    • Notice five things about you, or about the situation, good or bad.
    • Ask yourself: What can I learn about the situation?
    • Only then take action.

    This approach is an antidote to overly complex and dynamic environments – it helps people stay present and therefore choose more effective action.

    Mindfulness vs. positive thinking

    The crucial component in developing mindfulness consists of becoming aware of the entire range of thoughts and feelings within you, as you evaluate what is happening in the situation. Counter intuitively, mindfulness enables positive changes in performance not by focusing on the positive, or on those aspects of a situation that you like or appreciate, but by becoming ever more able to welcome into your experience all thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative.

    This is particularly hard during stressful situations. Most people don’t like feeling stressed, and instead avoid the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that are inevitably part of experiencing stress. This can take inconspicuous forms, for instance, by reacting to an unwelcome voicemail by checking email, or by eating a packet of crisps. The problem: by shutting out of our experience those thoughts or feelings that we deem ‘negative’, we shut ourselves off from noticing aspects about such an unwelcome message that are potentially useful, for example, the tone of voice with which the caller conveyed the message. Noticing whether the caller sounded frustrated or disappointed may help us respond more appropriately, and put to good use the information conveyed through the caller’s tone of voice.

    Practising mindfulness at the individual level is hence akin to developing a mental muscle; more specifically, it is about practising the capacity to become aware, and subsequently use, all information available to you, especially information you would have otherwise shied away from. This is where the power of mindfulness lies: rather than focusing on positive thinking at the expense of noticing what it is that may make you experience stress (and the associated tunnel vision or defensiveness), mindfulness enables you to choose the most effective action in the moment, based on a careful evaluation of all intelligence available to you in the situation.

    Organisational influences on mindfulness

    A question asked less often is: How is an employee’s personal mindfulness practice affected by organisational circumstances?

    This is pertinent to organisational decision-makers because – as ever-keen students of organisational performance, we know that many situational factors influence employee performance (competing demands, job fit between a person’s skills and motivation and the task at hand etc.).

    It is an important question to ponder before going ahead and bringing mindfulness into an organisation also because we understand that mindfulness is more beneficial for task performance when the work environment is complex and dynamic (as opposed to an environment where routine jobs need to be performed on a daily basis).

    A research study presented at the Academy of Management’s annual conference in Orlando in2013, carried out by Jochen Reb and colleagues at Singapore Management University, dealt with precisely this question: how do organisational factors impact employee mindfulness?

    Jochen Reb and his colleagues have carried out a research programme that examines what aspects of mindfulness drive employee performance. In an earlier study, Reb and colleagues found that an organisational leader’s mindfulness affects employee performance because the leader’s mindfulness helps foster employees’ psychological need satisfaction (in other words, their autonomy at work, their perceptions of competence, and the relationship quality with others at work).

    In the study examining the effect of organisational factors on employee mindfulness, (which is forthcoming in the journal Mindfulness), Reb et al discovered that several organisational factors strongly affect the employees’ mindfulness: constraints such as poor equipment, conflicting demands, the employee’s autonomy, and also people factors such as supervisor support. Reb and his colleagues go on to demonstrate that the employees’ mindfulness, as measured by their awareness and attention at work, strongly affect their well-being and their performance at work.

    Implications for raising performance using mindfulness

    What does this mean for people pondering to raise performance through mindfulness training in work settings? Rather than focusing exclusively on helping individual employees to practise mindfulness, we can also make organisations more mindful by (mindfully!) examining contextual factors at work that facilitate or hamper a mindful task focus amongst workers.

    The verdict

    It is early days in understanding how organisations can benefit. More work is needed to understand the organisational constraints affecting mindfulness and its link with performance. We need to widen our lens in this field and shift our focus away from zooming exclusively in on the individual and her cultivation of mindfulness, and towards helping leaders in organisations support their employees more effectively (through mindfulness-based approaches and others) and/or removing situational constraints that make it difficult to practice mindfulness as much as possible. In this way we have a better chance of successfully bringing mindfulness into our organisations.

    This article was republished from Dr. Jutta Tobias at Think: Cranfield


    Dr Jutta Tobias is a lecturer at Cranfield’s Centre for Business Performance. She has a broad interest in behaviour change to help improve people’s performance at work

    Cranfield’s Praxis Centre offers  a 2 day mindfulness open programme, The Mindful Executive: cognitive decision making for the wise  leader and a mindfulness practice is taught on their Fearless Leadership programme.

    For more information contact Mary Mills on +44(0)1234754502, email m.k.mills@cranfield.ac.uk or visit Think: Cranfield


  3. Leadership Transition

    September 30, 2013 by

    Insights

    Transition into a new leadership role can be a turbulent path whether you are facing the new role yourself, or an executive leadership change is to occur within your organization. According to a 2012 Corporate Executive Board Company study almost half of all new executives under perform during this transitional period. This lack of productivity can be avoided by both sides of the arrangement by fulfilling and acting upon several focus points.

    The article below by Robert G. Fangmeyer, Acting Director of Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, gives ten excellent focus point for a leader to concentrate on during his/her transition into the role. In addition he gives a further 5 key points, that outline what an organization should provide in order to assist the new executive leader into their new role.


    Let me start by introducing myself to those who don’t know me: I am the acting director of the Baldrige Program. My career at NIST began in 1991, in the agency’s Office of Workforce Management. I came to NIST with many years of small business/service industry experience, an MBA, a very strong customer focus, and an innate desire and drive to improve whatever activity, process, or project in which I was involved. That attitude led me to join the Baldrige Program in 1997. During my tenure in Baldrige, I have held multiple positions: staff member, team leader, supervisor, senior program analyst, deputy director, and now acting director. I have been a leader of the efforts to transform the Baldrige Program’s business model, business plan, and organizational relationships in the post-federal-funding environment and have played a leading role in the development of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence and the design, development, and implementation of the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, as well as in international Baldrige activities.

    I have obviously, for personal reasons, been focusing on transitions for the last few months, reflecting on both leadership and organizational perspectives. I have synthesized thoughts from my readings on the subject into guidance for myself and others who may be facing transitions in their own leadership roles or in witnessing leadership transitions in their organizations. Chances are pretty good that you fit into one of those two categories: according to a 2012 Corporate Executive Board Company study, the average large organization replaces 12% of its senior executives annually.

    That study also found that 46% of leaders underperform during the course of their transitions. Beliefs about that time period in which new leaders must fulfill expectations placed on them during the transition vary widely. In a 2011 Corporate Board Member/RHR International study of 246 board members, 55% of respondents said that a new CEO has up to two years to deliver on expectations, and 28% believed such leaders should be given a longer time period. In contrast, 15% believed that a new CEO has only one year to deliver, and 1% said just six months. I am personally thankful that only a small fraction will be quick to judge the success or failure of the new Baldrige director!

    Whatever the time period for achieving high performance, all new leaders strive to attain that performance and to do so quickly. Let me share with you what I learned about what leaders should focus on during the transition to a new role, what organizations can do to help a new leader make the transition, and finally, the different types of situations leaders may find in moving to a new organization.

    Leader’s Focus

    I found ten areas for a leader to consider for an early focus during his or her transition. While I have assimilated information from various sources, of particular note is the book The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. I present the list of ten with some sense of priority, but do not consider it sequential:

    1. Check fit.

    This area is almost a prerequisite. Make sure you and the organization are compatible. Understand the organization’s culture—what it values and how it performs its work. Make sure you understand the drivers of the organization and the organization’s industry and that you can adapt to and address them. Make sure you understand the organization’s strategic challenges, strategic advantages, and core competencies.

    2. Accelerate your learning.

    Speed up your learning curve. Learn all you can about the organization’s products, customer and workforce relationships, internal politics, and work systems and processes. How does the organization gather, disseminate, and use its knowledge?

    3. Enhance self-awareness.

    Understand your personal strengths, your weaknesses, and your blind spots. Build mechanisms to rely on others for help in areas of lesser personal capability or interest. Listen to what others say about you, and use the information for personal growth.

    4. Promote yourself.

    Make the break from your old job. This is particularly challenging if you are remaining with the same organization. What has made you successful to date may not make you successful in your new job. Different skills and relationships may be required. More of the same may not be the right answer.

    5. Exercise personal discipline.

    You can’t do it all. Decide where you will place your early focus. Do not engage in areas that will not accelerate or allow your early understanding of organizational situation and needs. Rely on others to help you.

    6. Put people first.

    As a leader you are dependent on a lot of other people. Making it clear that you value them highly is critical. Develop a relationship with your boss early. Listen to the ideas of colleagues before making early pronouncements. Understand the ideas and personalities of people reporting to you, and then build your own team. Use the team effectively as an advice and counsel network. Processes are critical to organizational success, but people make the processes succeed or fail. Your colleagues and your boss have a vested interest in your success, because your success facilitates their success.

    7. Be human; get personal.

    Great leaders care about their colleagues. They show interest (without prying) in the personal lives of their colleagues and also share information about their own personal life. Leaders should be outstanding executives and outstanding, caring human beings.

    8. Seek early wins; accelerate everyone.

    Be proactive in establishing some short-term goals that colleagues can achieve with you. Recognize them for their success. Early wins for you become wins for them and accelerate your mutual respect and sense of pride.

    9. Achieve alignment and focus.

    Determine strategic priorities and share them. Align the organization to achieve the priorities. Bring structure into alignment with strategy. Demonstrate your commitment to the strategy by involving yourself in assuring adequate resources, displaying ongoing involvement, and reviewing progress regularly.

    10. Build community.

    Personally engage with key stakeholders. Show allegiance to important partners. Build a personal relationship with key customers. Be visible in the community.

    Helping the New Leader

    Senior leadership transitions are a regular occurrence in large organizations. The organization should be prepared for these transitions and should strive to ensure the success of the new leader. Obviously, this begins with good succession planning and leadership development programs; but how does the organization best help the leader immediately after her or his appointment? According to the Corporate Executive Board Company, the best organizations help new leaders succeed by providing the following:

    1. Organizational knowledge:

    Help the new executive understand organizational culture, business model, and current organizational capabilities.

    2. Assistance with key stakeholders:

    Identify; share background information, including any challenges; and make introductions to key stakeholders.

    3. Expectations:

    Inform the leader of the organization’s expectations of him or her. Make clear the leader’s role relative to direct reports and peers.

    4. Strategic guidance:

    Inform the leader of strategic priorities that come from the organization and of transition priorities that need to be executed.

    Based on the information I shared above, I would add a fifth:

    5. Patience:

    Allow the new executive enough time to learn, adapt, and assimilate. How much time to allow will depend on many factors.

    Situational Understanding

    “Change takes place no matter what deters it. . . . There must be measured, laborious preparation for change to avoid chaos.” —Plato

    Over time and frequently at transitions in leadership every organization will change. If organizations do not thoughtfully implement strategic change—and sometimes even if they do—change will happen to them rather than through them, and that is much more challenging to handle. A key component to being comfortable in a new organization and driving necessary change is to make sure there is a common purpose and shared values between the organization and yourself. You must know what changes have occurred recently and learn of change that is needed.

    It is vital that, upon entering a new organization, the new leader understands the current organizational situation. Michael D. Watkins has characterized the five possible situations with a STARS model to help leaders assess the situation and tailor their initial strategies. The five situations are Start-up, Turnaround, Accelerated growth, Realignment, and Sustaining success. In some cases, the leader may face a combination of these situations. I believe the national Baldrige Enterprise exhibits several of these situations simultaneously at the current time as we improve alignment across the Baldrige system and seek growth opportunities for all.

    In this summary of key factors for new leaders to consider, I hope to help myself and the Baldrige Program during this transition and to help others facing a similar leadership transition. In addition, I hope existing leaders will consider these insights in helping their organizations prepare for the inevitable leadership transitions of the future.

    In coming months, we will return to a regular Insights column. I have asked Harry Hertz, the former director and now director emeritus of the Baldrige Program to continue to share his thoughts in this space with me. We look forward to contributing our ongoing insights on the road to performance excellence!


    For further information on Baldrige and this blog post refer to http://www.nist.gov/baldrige/insights.cfm


  4. 40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest

    August 30, 2011 by
    southwestairlines

    Southwest Airlines is the largest airline in the US, based on domestic passengers carried and one of the most profitable airline companies (at least in the US). On 18th June 2011 Southwest celebrated their 40th anniversary of being in business. To highlight its success Southwest Airlines published 40 lessons to learn in their in-flight magazine “Spirit”.

    The 40 lessons details many of the best practices that are often highlighted by business authors and consultants. In my opinion, the one thing that is clearly different is that Southwest Airlines does not just talk about these concepts, they apply them every day and every time.

    These lessons are universal and if you learn and apply them then you can be successful as well. So read the article and use it as checklist for  "how are we are doing".

    The 40 lessons are below and you can download the full article from here.

    Ahmed Abbas
    BPIR.com


    40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest Airlines 

    1. Keep the idea simple enough to draw on a napkin.

    2. A legend is an asset.

    3. Hire a good lawyer.

    4. Raise more money than you think you need. Now double it.

    5. Crazy is no liability.

    6. Find Executives who look like they walked off the set of "The Expendables".

    7. Target the overcharged and underserved.

    8. Be the good guy.

    9. Two strikes is one hit away from a home run.

    10. Recognize your luck.

    11. Lack of money makes you frugal.

    12. Gain talk equity.

    13. Promote from within.

    14. If the zeitgeist works for you, use it.

    15. Invent your own Culture and put a top person in charge of it.

    16. A Culture has its own language.

    17. The legal part is never over.

    18. Have a recognizable home.

    19. A crisis can contain the germ of a big idea.

    20. Simplicity has value.

    21. It doesn’t hurt to look like a toy.

    22. Remember your chief mission.

    23. Instead of whining, give a lollipop.

    24. It helps to have an extroverted Leader.

    25. Get into fun advertising wars.

    26. Take your business, not yourself, seriously.

    27. See your business as a cause.

    28. Put the worker first.

    29. Sweat the small stuff, but try not to lawyer it.

    30. Beware of imitators, but take them as a compliment.

    31. The Web ain’t cool, it’s a tool.

    32. Set and renew noble expectations.

    33. Increasing size should make you a force for good.

    34. Get green.

    35. It’s about Customer Service, not "scalability."

    36. Listen to advice, then celebrate it.

    37. Pick your peaks and stick to them.

    38. Manage permanence.

    39. Never rest on your laurels or you will get a thorn in your, um, butt.

    40. It’s OK to be unprofitable for a year.


  5. Collaborate to Grow the Pie

    July 22, 2011 by
    piesplitting

    A very interesting article by Vicki Gardner, Harvard Business Review, is shown below. It highlights recent micro research conducted by Nielsen suggesting that genuine innovation should come from collaboration between manufacturers and retailers instead of fighting each other over splitting the profit pie.

    The study suggests that collaboration between manufacturers and retailers is essential to introduce new products or categories that consumers want and need and at the same time does not damage the existing lines or listings. For example many of the gadgets today offer features which most “normal” consumer are not even aware of more than ten percent of the features let alone use them all. The study also suggests that there are “supposed” innovations introduced by the manufacturers which are not really genuine innovations and consumer focused but merely they are more of product tweaks and noise made to create supposed ‘we have news’ sales packs and media releases.

    The full article below.

    Ahmed Abbas
    BPIR.com


    The National Football League (NFL) is in the midst of a public and piggish spectacle of billionaires arguing with millionaires about how to split approximately $10 billion in revenue. This is time, effort and money merely focused on splitting the pie versus growing the pie by innovating the product for the benefit of all, especially the fans.

    Similar lockouts are played out on a much more frequent basis between the consumer packaged goods makers and their retail partners. Far too many retailers and manufacturers opt for pie-splitting instead of collaborating to come up with pie-growing strategies. Of the billions of dollars spent each year on trade promotion and innovation, our estimates are that only $1 in every $8 spent on trade promotion (13%) and $1 in every $20 (5%) generated from innovation actually grow their respective categories.

    The rest of the dollars just shift share from one retailer to another or one manufacturer to another. These pie-splitting strategies often just drive short-term, unsustainable results where companies are merely "renting share." And in the long-run, too much share stealing without category growth destroys long-term industry profitability for everyone involved.

    The Nielsen Company just completed a macro study analyzing trade promotion across 30 grocery categories. The findings are surprising. Only 13% of trade dollars spent actually result in category growth. Instead, 15% of sales driven by trade promotions result in brand switching (good for the "winning" manufacturer) and 17% of sales driven by trade promotions result in store switching (good for the "winning" retailer).

    Sadly, the single largest result of trade promotion is subsidized volume at nearly 55% of all trade spend. This is trade spend where the no new consumers or incremental units were purchased—instead, customers who would have purchased a product anyway are being given discounts, gutting profits. One might think that all consumers would be happy with lower prices, but The Cambridge Group analysis across dozens of categories shows that the truly price sensitive consumer tends to be only 10-30% of households. Most consumers actually want new benefits and innovation and are willing to pay for them.

    Regarding innovation, the numbers indicate that the vast majority of innovation also results in splitting the pie vs. growing the pie — and in some cases, innovation inadvertently shrinks the pie. Nielsen also looked at sales from new products in every category within grocery in recent years. In one year $2.7 billion in sales was generated via new products in the grocery channel. But $3.2 billion was lost due to de-listing — meaning failed products that were pulled from shelves, or products pulled by manufacturers even though some consumers may have preferred the product — for a net negative of $500 million. Put another way: for every incremental $1.00 gained from a new product, $1.20 was lost due to de-listing.

    So is growing the pie an impossible task? No, but manufacturers and retailers have to collaborate more upfront on shopper and innovation strategies.

    Consider one example. Over the last five years, Jimmy Dean's has expanded its frame of reference beyond just breakfast sausage into convenient breakfast meals that provide longer lasting energy — a niche that delivers a breakfast like what you'd get at a fast-food restaurant with sausage at its center. In that time, Jimmy Dean's tripled its frozen breakfast sales with $200 million in incremental sales. But the category overall grew from $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, with Jimmy Dean's driving nearly two-thirds of all the growth. It's a great example of what can happen when manufacturers and retailers stop fighting over splitting the pie and instead find a way to increase the share — in this case by stealing sales that might otherwise have gone to fast food establishments.

    The path to pie-growing strategies centers on better innovation. When manufacturers create innovation that drives category growth, there is less need to drive unhelpful trade promotion.

    First, innovation leaders at manufacturers need to redefine success. Too often manufacturers aim for $50 million+ ideas without regard as to where the additional revenue originated. Ideally it comes from category growth. If it comes from a competitor's share or, even worse, cannibalizing a product in its own portfolio, it's a less effective innovation. Innovations that grow the pie allow the manufacturer to benefit disproportionately — and the retailer will be fully supportive, since it grows sales instead of reapportioning existing shares. Our collective experience is that innovations that are truly differentiated and are appealing enough to command pricing power have a much greater chance of growing the category sales and margin.

    Second, innovation leaders need to better collaborate across marketing and sales functions within their organizations and with retailers to not just hand off innovations, but get roll up their sleeves into the trenches of retail execution and category growth. How can this innovation drive incremental trips to the store? How can this build baskets for the retailers? What SKUs will be deleted to make room? What is the optimal shelf-spacing, assortment and merchandising?

    Finally, as is the case with any real collaboration, greater honesty and accountability is required from both manufacturers and retailers about innovation. At a recent summit of top retailers and CPG manufacturers, several executives were refreshingly candid about the innovation charade that goes on every year. The executive noted that manufacturers constantly launch new products that they know in their heart of hearts aren't worthy (not differentiated, not worthy of a price premium, not likely to grow the category), but they go ahead because they complain retailers want 'new news'. Retailers constantly accept innovations that they also secretly believe aren't really that good, but they do so because they don't want to be the first one to say the emperor has no clothes.

    Fundamentally, the issues are rooted in our culture of competition and the need for more courage to collaborate. Pie-splitting as a growth strategy is attractive because it is more familiar and easier. For many of us it is deeply ingrained that for one to win, the other has to lose. Pie-growing is not only more foreign, it also takes more courage as it is a more uncertain and messier. It also takes more creativity, as well as an ability to stand in your partner's shoes. We expect the best retailers will sync up with the best manufacturers and lead the way, as it is way more fun to work in a growth category. Hopefully a new, mutually beneficial way of working together will emerge — just in time for a full NFL season.