Shifting the board’s focus from compliance to engagement

Posted in Aktuellt, Board work / Styrelsearbete on september 28th, 2017 by admin

Board members today must grapple with increasingly complex matters of strategy and risk. In response, many companies are rethinking board meetings to enhance alignment, energize the board and elevate its performance.

In a conversation with a board chair and a CEO following a successful board search, we asked if their recently completed board review had surfaced any issues regarding the chair of the governance committee. The board chair was a bit surprised and asked what prompted our question. We then discussed what “good” looked like for a governance committee chair, and compared that benchmark of behaviors with the experience and inclinations of the incumbent. It quickly became evident that the board review they had undergone had relied too heavily on a simple questionnaire, which, to make matters worse, was analyzed in a cursory way by an outside firm. This “check the box” compliance-oriented exercise rarely leads to a meaningful improvement of board effectiveness and engagement.

Given that today’s investors scrutinize a company’s board of directors as closely as its financial results, boards increasingly are seeking more thorough board reviews to help ensure that their team interactions and processes are aligned. A proper board effectiveness review goes beyond the standard questionnaire and is centered on individual behaviors and team dynamics and interactions.

Each board has its own set of issues, depending on the history, structure and personalities involved. Even so, in the more than 550 board effectiveness reviews that Egon Zehnder has conducted, we have seen a common challenge emerge: The ongoing struggle to stay focused on strategy and not get bogged down with administrative and procedural matters. And it is a struggle: As more and more topics, from digitalization to diversity, are added to the board’s agenda, it becomes increasingly difficult even to track the various issues that directors must monitor, let alone for directors to step back and consider those issues in a larger context. The reality is that the board’s processes and information flow can unwittingly be at cross purposes with a strategic perspective. These are the sorts of derailers that a thorough board effectiveness review can uncover, while also putting in place mechanisms for ongoing, rather than periodic, feedback.

The board meeting today: Documentation and the agenda
Consider how the typical two-day board meeting unfolds. Approximately two weeks before the meeting, members receive the agenda and supporting materials to review. In the hard-copy era, the thickness of the board book was limited by the size of the FedEx box it was shipped in. Today, however, most companies use digital board books accessed through tablets. These applications are rightly heralded for their convenience, but they also remove any physical constraints on the amount of material distributed to the board. As a result, we have found that board members are inundated with reports, presentation decks and miscellaneous analyses on everything from investor relations to cybersecurity to safety compliance. Board members are sometimes surprised to learn that they contribute to this problem by their own requests for additional information. This is why some governance experts have sounded an alarm on a “boardroom information crisis”; it becomes harder and harder for even the most diligent board members to absorb, digest and reflect on all the material they are given. Managing the deluge of data crowds out the time needed to ask important questions. The board book material, instead of supporting the agenda, can detract from the agenda items truly needing attention.

We see this when we examine how typical board meetings unfold. The first day is frequently devoted to committee meetings. The board then gathers for dinner and then convenes the next day to work through the board agenda. At some point in the afternoon the meeting adjourns and everyone departs.

On its face, there is nothing objectionable about this structure, but a better approach is to recognize that significant amounts of committee work today can be conducted by teleconference, allowing the committee to work through many issues before the board meeting. This is not to say that the entire committee agenda can be dealt by phone, but that there are many ways of being more effective in filtering what requires the attention of the full board.

The board meeting reconsidered: Deep dives and discussion
What would a board meeting look like if the meeting were designed to maximize meaningful strategic discussion? Two to three weeks before the board meeting, a much thinner board book would be distributed. It would start with a one- or two-page letter from the CEO and board chair. The CEO would summarize the state of the company and frame key issues, and the chairman would outline the agenda for the upcoming board meeting, The agenda would include more time for discussion and debate, and be centered on a select number of strategic issues, sizable operating issues and major risk items. The supporting material in the board book would provide background on those topics. Of course, other administrative matters will still need to be discussed, but the majority of time would center on priorities that could unlock value.

For example, instead of reviewing in detail an investor relations presentation that has already been vetted and approved by the CFO and CEO, the board might be asked to consider the key issues and concerns that shareholders and analysts have most recently surfaced and flagged. Instead of the company’s latest 100-page sustainability report, the quarterly board book might include a summary of metrics and performance indicators while reserving a full-board “deep dive” discussion for once a year.

Committee chairs would conduct many agenda items by conference call. When the directors arrive on the first day, instead of breaking into committees, the entire board would meet for a detailed briefing by the CEO on the most pressing matters. A working dinner would follow, during which directors would discuss specific topics and could begin to identify points of agreement and divergence. The next day, the board would meet for a frank discussion to stretch and challenge assumptions and to work toward decisions. While some of the board meeting will have to be devoted to procedural matters, the board’s major focus is kept on a higher, strategic plane. The board chair of one of the world’s largest public companies recently shared with us his realization that when he was CEO and chairman of a prior company, he didn’t devote sufficient time to the board agenda. Only later did he realize that getting the agenda right has a sizable impact on board performance.

In an earlier day, it was sufficient for boards to monitor management’s performance, approve major decisions and ensure conformity with a much smaller set of regulations. But in today’s much more complex environment, it is not enough for boards to be stewards; they, like management, need to create value. The board does this when it focuses on its role as advisor and resource to management, rather than its mere overseer. Rethinking board meetings, considering team dynamics and providing open feedback to board members can align the board with this goal. That, in turn, will energize the board and elevate its performance.

Source:, September 2017
Authors: Steven V Goodman, Egon Zehnder, Houston, Calgary and Roopa Mehendale Foley,
Egon Zehnder, Dallas

Building the civilized workplace

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt on september 19th, 2017 by admin

Nasty people don’t just make others feel miserable; they create economic problems for their companies.

Lars Dalgaard is CEO and cofounder of SuccessFactors, one of the world’s fastest-growing software companies—and the fastest with revenues over $30 million. Dalgaard recently listed some milestones that his California-based company passed in its first seven years:
– the use of its software by more than two million employees at over 1,200 companies around the world
– the use of its software by employees speaking 18 languages in 156 countries
– growth three times that of the company’s nearest competitor
enthusiastic recommendations of the product by nearly all customers dramatically low employee turnover employing no jerks

That’s right—no jerks—although the word SuccessFactors really uses (except on its Web site) is a mild obscenity that starts with the letter A and sort of rhymes with “castle.” All the employees SuccessFactors hires agree in writing to 14 “rules of engagement.” Rule 14 starts out, “I will be a good person to work with—not territorial, not be a jerk.” One of Dalgaard’s founding principles is that “our organization will consist only of people who absolutely love what we do, with a white-hot passion. We will have utmost respect for the individual in a collaborative, egalitarian, and meritocratic environment—no blind copying, no politics, no parochialism, no silos, no games—just being good!”

Dalgaard is emphatic about applying this rule at SuccessFactors because part of its mission is to help companies focus more on performance and less on politics. Employees aren’t expected to be perfect, but when they lose their cool or belittle colleagues, inadvertently or not, they are expected to repent. Dalgaard himself is not above the rule—he explained to me that, given the pressures of running a rapidly growing business, he too occasionally “blows it” at meetings. At times, he has apologized to all 400-plus people in his company, not just to the people at the meeting in question, because “word about my behavior would get out.”

As Dalgaard suggests, there is a business case against tolerating nasty and demeaning people. Companies that put up with jerks not only can have more difficulty recruiting and retaining the best and brightest talent but are also prone to higher client churn, damaged reputations, and diminished investor confidence. Innovation and creativity may suffer, and cooperation could be impaired, both within and outside the organization—no small matter in an increasingly networked world.

The problem is more widespread than you might think. Research in the United Kingdom and the United States suggests that jerk-infested workplaces are common: a 2000 study by Loraleigh Keashly and Karen Jagatic1 found that 27 percent of the workers in a representative sample of 700 Michigan residents experienced mistreatment by someone in the workplace. Some occupations, such as medical ones, are especially bad. A 2003 study2 of 461 nurses found that in the month before it was conducted, 91 percent had experienced verbal abuse, defined as mistreatment that left them feeling attacked, devalued, or humiliated. Physicians were the most frequent abusers.

There is good news and bad news about workplace jerks. The bad news is that abuse is widespread and the human and financial toll is high. The good news is that leaders can take steps to build workplaces where demeaning behavior isn’t tolerated and nasty people are shown the door.

How workplace jerks do their dirty work
Researchers who write about psychological abuse in the workplace define it as “the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behavior, excluding physical contact.” At least for me, that definition doesn’t quite capture the emotional wallop these creeps pack. The workplace jerk definition I use is this: do people feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled after talking to an alleged jerk? In particular, do they feel worse about themselves?

Workplace jerks do their dirty work in all sorts of ways; I’ve listed 12 common ones—the dirty dozen—to illustrate the range of these subtle and not-so-subtle moves, which can include physical contact (Exhibit 1). Researchers who study workplace abuse and bullying have identified scores of others. I suspect you can add many more that you’ve seen, personally experienced—or committed.

The dirty dozen
Lists like these are useful but leave a sterilized view of how workplace jerks act and the damage they inflict. Stories, often painful ones, are necessary to understand how workplace bullies demean and de-energize people. Consider the story of this victim of multiple humiliations:

“Billy,” he said, standing in the doorway so that everyone in the central area could see and hear us clearly. “Billy, this is not adequate, really not at all.” As he spoke he crumpled the papers that he held. My work. One by one he crumpled the papers, holding them out as if they were something dirty and dropping them inside my office as everyone watched. Then he said loudly, “Garbage in, garbage out.” I started to speak, but he cut me off. “You give me the garbage, now you clean it up.” I did. Through the doorway I could see people looking away because they were embarrassed for me. They didn’t want to see what was in front of them: a 36-year-old man in a three-piece suit stooping before his boss to pick up crumpled pieces of paper.

The damage done
The human damage done by that kind of encounter is well documented—especially the harm that superiors do to their subordinates. Bennett Tepper studied abusive supervision in a representative study of 712 employees in a midwestern city.4 He asked them if their bosses had engaged in abusive behavior, including ridicule, put-downs, and the silent treatment—demeaning acts that drive people out of organizations and sap the effectiveness of those who remain. A six-month follow-up found that employees with abusive supervisors quit their jobs at accelerated rates. Those still trapped felt less committed to their employers and experienced less satisfaction from work and life, as well as heightened anxiety, depression, and burnout. Dozens of other studies have uncovered similar findings; the victims report reduced levels of job satisfaction, productivity, concentration, and mental and physical health.

Nasty interactions have a far bigger impact on the mood of people who experience them than positive interactions do. Recent research shows just how much. Theresa Glomb, Charles Hulin, and Andrew Miner did a clever study5 in which 41 employees of a manufacturing plant in the Midwest carried palm-size computers for two to three weeks. At four random intervals throughout the workday, each employee had to report any recent interaction with a supervisor or a coworker and whether it was positive or negative, as well as their current mood. The researchers found that negative interactions affected the moods of these employees five times more strongly than positive ones.

All these factors suggest an effect on costs. One reader of a short article I wrote on workplace jerks6 felt that more companies would be convinced if they estimated “the total cost of jerks,” or TCJ. If you want to develop a rough estimate of your company’s TCJ, take a look at my list of possible costs and attach your best monetary estimate to each, as well as to any other factors you regard as relevant. This exercise can help you face up to the damage that jerks do to your organization. When I told a Silicon Valley executive about the TCJ method, he replied that it was more than a concept at his company. Management had calculated the extra costs generated by a star salesperson—the assistants he burned through, the overtime costs, the legal costs, his anger-management training, and so on —and found that the extra cost of this one jerk for one year was $160,000.

Finally, if word leaks out that your organization is led by mean-spirited jerks, the damage to its reputation can drive away potential employees and shake investor confidence. Neal Patterson, the CEO of Cerner, learned this lesson in 2001 when he sent an e-mail intended for just the top 400 people in this health care software company. Patterson complained that few employees were working full 40-hour weeks and that “as managers—you either do not know what your employees are doing; or you do not care.” Patterson said that he wanted to see the employee parking lot “substantially full” from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM weekdays and “half full” on Saturdays. If that didn’t happen, he would take harsh measures. “You have two weeks,” he warned. “Tick, tock.”7 Patterson’s e-mail was leaked on the Internet, provoking harsh criticism from management experts, including my Stanford colleague Jeffrey Pfeffer, who described it as “the corporate equivalent of whips and ropes and chains.” Pfeffer went a bit overboard for my taste. But investors weren’t pleased either: the company’s stock value plummeted by 22 percent in three days. Patterson handled the aftermath well: he sent an apology to his employees and admitted that he wished he had never sent the e-mail. The share price did bounce back. Patterson learned the hard way that when CEOs come across as bullies, they can scare their investors as well as their underlings.

Enforcing the no-jerks rule
Executives who are committed to building a civilized workplace don’t just take haphazard action against one jerk at a time; they use a set of integrated work practices to battle the problem.

At the workplaces that enforce the no-jerks rule most vehemently and effectively, an employee’s performance and treatment of others aren’t seen as separate things. Phrases like “talented jerk,” “brilliant bastard,” or “a bully and a superstar” are oxymorons. Jerks are dealt with immediately: they quickly realize (or are told) that they have blown it, apologize, reflect on their nastiness, ask for forgiveness, and work to change their ways. Repeat offenders aren’t ignored or forgiven again and again—they change or depart.

Five intertwined practices are useful for enforcing the no-jerks rule.

Make the rule public by what you say and, especially, do
Plante & Moran, a company on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work” list for nine years in a row, proclaims its rule openly: “The goal is a ‘jerk-free’ workforce at this accounting firm,” and “the staff is encouraged to live by the Golden Rule.” At Barclays Capital, COO Rich Ricci says that “we have a no-jerk rule around here,” especially in selecting senior executives. BusinessWeek explains what this means for the employees of Barclays Capital: “Hotshots who alienate colleagues are told to change or leave.”8
Talking about the rules is just the first step; the real test happens when someone acts like a jerk. If people don’t feel comfortable blowing the whistle on the offender, your company will both be seen as hypocritical and fill up with jerks, so don’t adopt the rule unless you mean it. SuccessFactors shows how to back talk with action. Consider this post on the company’s public blog site by company employee Max Goldman:
My own personal experience with [the no-jerks rule] is very simple. Once, my boss was being a jerk. I told him so. Instead of getting mad, he accepted the comment and we moved on. Later, he thanked me for telling him. My boss thanked me for calling him a jerk. Let me repeat that. My boss thanked me for calling him a jerk. Calling the behavior what it was helped everyone work better together and get more done. Can you do that at your company?

Weave the rule into hiring and firing policies
Consider how the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie, which earned a spot on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work” list in 2007 for the fourth year in a row, applies the rule during job interviews. Partners Bob Giles and Mike Reynvaan were once tempted to hire a rainmaker from another firm but realized that doing so would violate the rule. As they put it, “We looked at each other and said, ‘What a jerk.’ Only we didn’t use that word.”
Similarly, Southwest Airlines has always emphasized that people are “hired and fired for attitude.” Herb Kelleher, the company’s cofounder and former CEO, shows how this works: “One of our pilot applicants was very nasty to one of our receptionists, and we immediately rejected him. You can’t treat people that way and be the kind of leader we want.”10 As Ann Rhoades, a former Southwest vice president, told me, “We don’t do it to our people; they don’t deserve it. People who work for us don’t have to take the abuse.”

Teach people how to fight
The no-jerks rule doesn’t mean turning your organization into a paradise for conflict-averse wimps. People in the best groups and organizations know how to fight. Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor maker, gives all full-time employees training in the “constructive confrontation” that is a hallmark of the company’s culture. Leaders and corporate trainers emphasize that bad things happen when the bullies win using personal attacks, disrespect, and intimidation. When that happens, only the loudest and strongest voices get heard; there is no diversity of views; communication is poor, tension high, and productivity low; and people first resign themselves to living with the nastiness—and then resign from the company.

To paraphrase a primary theme in Karl Weick’s classic book, The Social Psychology of Organizing,11 this approach means learning to “argue as if you are right and to listen as if you are wrong.” That is what Intel tries to teach through lectures, role-playing, and, most essentially, through observing the way managers and leaders fight—and when. The company’s motto is “disagree and then commit,” because second-guessing, complaining, and arguing after a decision is made sap effort and attention and thus make it unclear whether the decision went wrong because it was a bad idea or because it was a good idea implemented with insufficient energy and commitment.

Apply the rule to customers and clients too
Organizations that are serious about enforcing the no-jerks rule apply it not just to employees but also to customers, clients, students, and everyone else who might be encountered at work. They do so because their people don’t deserve the abuse, customers (or taxpayers) don’t pay to endure or witness demeaning jerks, and persistent nastiness that is left unchecked can create a culture of contempt infecting everyone it touches.

The late Joe Gold—the founder of Gold’s Gym, which now has more than 550 locations in 43 countries—applied a variation of the no-jerks rule to customers. He didn’t mince words: “To keep it simple you run your gym like you run your house. Keep it clean and in good running order. No jerks allowed, members pay on time, and if they give you any crap, throw them out.” Gold applied the rule to customers from the time he opened his first gym, a block from Muscle Beach, in Venice, California, where early customers included Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Manage the little moments
Putting the right practices and policies in place is useless if they don’t set the stage for civilized conversations and interactions. People must treat the person in front of them, right now, in the right way, and they must feel safe to point out when their peers and superiors blow it. The power of efforts to work on “the little moments” can be seen in an organizational change at the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To reduce the bullying of employees, psychological abuse, and aggression at 11 sites with more than 7,000 people, each site appointed an action team of managers and union members that developed a customized intervention process. But there were key similarities among all of the sites: employees learned about the damage that aggression causes, used role-playing exercises to get into the shoes of bullies and victims, and learned to reflect before and after they interacted with other people. Action team members and site leaders also made a public commitment to model civilized behavior themselves. At one site, for example, managers and employees worked to eliminate seemingly small slights such as glaring, interruptions, and treating people as if they were invisible—small things that had escalated into big problems.

The results included less overtime (saving taxpayers’ money) and sick leave, fewer complaints from employees, and shorter waiting times for the veterans who were the patients at the 11 sites. A comparison of surveys undertaken before and after these interventions, which started in mid-2001, found a substantial decrease, across the 11 sites, in 32 of 60 kinds of bullying—things like glaring, swearing, the silent treatment, obscene gestures, yelling and shouting, physical threats and assaults, vicious gossip, and sexist and racist remarks.

Being a jerk is contagious
The most important single principle for building a workplace free of jerks, or to avoid acting like one yourself, is to view being a jerk as a kind of contagious disease. Once disdain, anger, and contempt are ignited, they spread like wildfire. Researcher Elaine Hatfield calls this tendency “emotional contagion”:12 if you display contempt, others (even spectators) will respond in much the same way, creating a vicious circle that can turn everyone in the vicinity into a mean-spirited monster just like you. Experiments by Leigh Thompson and Cameron Anderson, as they told the New York Times,13 show that when even compassionate people join a group with a leader who is “high energy, aggressive, mean, the classic bully type,” they are “temporarily transformed into carbon copies of the alpha dogs.” Being around people who look angry makes you feel angry too. Hatfield and her colleagues sum up this emotional-contagion research with an Arabic proverb: “A wise man associating with the vicious becomes an idiot.”

A swarm of jerks creates a civility vacuum, sucking the warmth and kindness out of everyone who enters and replacing them with coldness and contempt. As we have seen, organizations can screen out and reform these contagious jerks and, if those efforts fail, expel them before the infection spreads. But treating nastiness as a contagious disease also suggests some useful self-management techniques.

Consider some wise advice that I heard from the late Bill Lazier, a successful executive who spent the last 20 years of his career teaching business and entrepreneurship at Stanford. Bill gave this advice to our students: when you get a job offer or an invitation to join a team, take a close look at the people you will work with, successful or not. If your potential colleagues are self-centered, nasty, narrow minded, or unethical, he warned, you have little chance of turning them into better human beings or of transforming the workplace into a healthy one, even in a tiny company. In fact, the odds are that you will turn into a jerk as well.

Author: Robert Sutton
About the author: Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, is cofounder of its Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. This article is adapted from his book The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.

Så påverkas prestationen och kroppen av att arbeta i ett öppet kontorslandskap

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt on september 18th, 2017 by admin

Det är viktigt att inte dra alla kontorslandskap över en kam. Det menar Helena Jahncke, som är doktor i psykologi och arbetar som forskare vid Högskolan i Gävle. Beroende på verksamheten skiljer sig ljudnivåerna i kontorslandskapen åt.
– Det är viktigt att belysa att vissa kontorslandskap är jättetysta. Andra är väldigt bullriga. Det ser helt enkelt väldigt olika ut, säger hon.

Men att arbeta i ett landskap där ljud hela tiden avleder vår uppmärksamhet kan påverka oss.

I Helena Jahnckes doktorsavhandling (2012), undersökte hon hur ljuden i ett kontorslandskap påverkar vår prestation.
– Man ser att ljudnivån kan ha betydelse för hur man presterar. En del har också att göra med hur väl man hör vad andra säger. Man presterar sämre ju tydligare man hör vad kollegerna pratar om, säger Helena Jahncke.

Där skapas en typ av paradox. Man vill helst reducera så mycket bakgrundsljud som möjligt i kontorsmiljön – men då hör man i stället vad andra säger tydligare.

Det är lättare att vänja sig vid konstanta ljud, medan de variationsrika ljuden är svårare att vänja sig vid.
Ett liknande moment 22 uppstår om man i landskapet ska kunna arbeta både med koncentrationskrävande uppgifter, men också kunna prata med varandra och lätt uppfatta vad andra säger.

Däremot verkar det som om de konstanta ljuden, som fläktsystem som brummar i bakgrunden, är lättare att vänja sig vid än en varierad ljudbild, till exempel där mobiler ringer eller röster plötsligt höjs.
– Vi har sett att prestationen försämras i en varierande ljudbild när det gäller arbetsuppgifter som kräver att man minns och lär sig saker. När man måste uppehålla och bearbeta information i korttidsminnet är det lättare att bli störd.

När man gav testdeltagarna i avhandlingens studie en uppgift där de exempelvis skulle skriva ned så många fyrbenta djur som möjligt, verkade inte ljuden runt omkring störa lika mycket.
– Det kan bero på att den här informationen hämtas från långtidsminnet, säger Helena Jahncke.

Varför vi störs av ljud finns det flera teorier kring, berättar hon. Ljud bearbetas semantiskt av hjärnan: Vi försöker förstå vad det är som händer och vad folk säger runt omkring oss.
– När semantiska processer används för att hantera ljudinformationen omkring oss och vi samtidigt ska göra en semantisk uppgift, som att läsa en text och förstå den, blir det en krock som gör det svårare att ta till sig texten.
– Det är därför det är lättare att vänja sig vid konstanta ljud, medan de variationsrika ljuden är svårare att vänja sig vid, säger Helena Jahncke.

Men även om lågfrekventa ljud som ventilation och avlägset trafikbuller inte stör oss på samma sätt som plötsliga ljud, påverkar de oss.
– Hjärnan har registrerat ljudet och behövt processa det. Den processen, att filtrera bort de lågfrekventa ljuden, kräver mental energi som annars skulle kunna ha gått till att lära sig något, arbeta snabbare eller vara mer alert, säger Kerstin Persson Waye, professor i arbets- och miljömedicin vid Sahlgrenska akademin vid Göteborgs universitet.

Dessutom är vi alla olika. Det handlar kanske inte så mycket om specifik känslighet för ljud, utan om arbetsminneskapacitet. Om man har en god förmåga att bearbeta och upprätthålla information i korttidsminnet blir man inte lika störd av ljud som är konstanta, berättar Helena Jahncke.

På ett aktivitetsbaserat kontor har man ingen fast plats, utan kan flytta runt under dagen beroende på uppgiften man har för handen.
– Men när ljuden varierar så har även personer med hög arbetsminneskapacitet svårt att vänja sig, säger hon.

Det är också de varierande ljuden som kan vara svåra att göra något åt i större kontorslandskap. Därför är det viktigt att det finns rum eller avdelningar för olika ändamål.

Det är på det sättet man tänker när man designar så kallade aktivitetsbaserade kontor. På ett sådant kontor har man ingen fast plats, utan kan flytta runt under dagen beroende på uppgiften man har för handen. Tysta rum för koncentration, ytor för mindre projektgrupper och små webbmötesrum, till exempel.

Helena Jahncke leder just nu ett forskningsprojekt där man vill ta reda på hur människor påverkas av att arbeta i en sådan miljö.

I studien har man följt flera grupper av anställda på Trafikverket som bytt arbetsplats från cellkontor, alltså kontorsrum, eller kontorslandskap, till att arbeta i ett aktivitetsbaserat kontor. Man har låtit grupper av medarbetare utföra minnesuppgifter och själva rapportera hur de mår, men också mätt hur mycket eller lite personerna rör sig. Resultaten håller nu på att sammanställas i flera vetenskapliga artiklar.
– Om ett aktivitetsbaserat kontor verkligen fungerar, att man alltså byter plats under dagen, kan man kanske få de anställda att röra mer på sig. Det är också en viktig aspekt, eftersom det finns samband mellan hur mycket vi sitter under arbetsdagen och ohälsa.

Men för att få till ett kontor med en bra fysisk arbetsmiljö är det viktigt att göra en behovsanalys. Den behöver tydligt formulera vad det är för arbetsuppgifter som ska utföras, och i vilken miljö de kan utföras bäst.
– Man kan även behöva se över hur rummet är planerat. Utnyttjas alla rum eller är det många som står tomma och kan användas på ett bättre sätt?, säger Helena Jahncke.

En plan för hur man agerar på jobbet är också att föredra.
– Kom överens om hur man beter sig på arbetsplatsen, särskilt i miljöer där många vistas samtidigt. Talar vi högt i telefonen när vi har många omkring oss eller drar vi oss tillbaka och visar hänsyn i tysta zoner? säger Helena Jahncke.

Genom regelbundna diskussioner kan man komma fram till många sätt att jobba med att få en bättre ljudbild på kontoret.

Råkar man sitta bredvid en person som man anser talar för högt eller har en telefon med väldigt hög ringsignal, är en grundprincip att försöka ta upp frågan med personen själv för att undvika framtida konflikter, säger Thomas Jordan, lektor i arbetsvetenskap vid Göteborgs Universitet.
– Det är så klart lättare om det finns en sådan kultur på arbetsplatsen, en överenskommelse om att ta upp irritationsmoment med den som det berör, säger han.

Om det inte fungerar att tala med personen i fråga kan det vara lämpligt att gå till sin chef, som då borde hjälpa en. Att lösa sådana problem som uppstår ska ingå i det systematiska arbetsmiljöarbetet.

– På vissa arbetsplatser fungerar det jättebra, på andra finns det inte alls ett sådant stöd. Om man dessutom har en chef som inte är bra på att ta sådana samtal, kan problemen ligga och skava i stället, säger Thomas Jordan.

– Om man jobbar på ett kontor med dålig akustisk miljö, och dessutom under hög belastning, kan bullerstörning ses som en stressfaktor bland andra. På kort sikt kan man likna den reaktion som sker i kroppen med vad som sker när du utsätts för en farlig eller skrämmande situation och inte kan påverka din situation, säger Kerstin Persson Waye, professor i arbets- och miljömedicin vid Sahlgrenska akademin.

I ett arbete där man ofta behöver lära sig nya saker, vara kreativ och arbeta under tidspress kan upprepad bullerstörning utgöra en stor stressfaktor. Ljudbelastningen gör att man tappar tråden, glömmer bort vad man precis har läst eller skulle formulera.
– Då känner du att du behöver anstränga dig mer för att kunna nå de där 100 procenten. Efter åtta timmar kan man därför känna sig fruktansvärt trött, eftersom man tömt sitt energilager, säger Kerstin Persson Waye.

Kroppen har dock ett eget system som finns till för att hantera stress under kortvariga perioder. Till exempel ökar hjärtfrekvensen, och ibland ökar mängden av stresshormonet kortisol i kroppen. Men aktiveras de systemen långvarigt, dag efter dag, kan det påverka hälsan och få konsekvenser för blodtrycksregleringen.
– Även det metabola systemet, som gör att vi lagrar fett i buken, kan påverkas, säger Kerstin Persson Waye.

Men människan är samtidigt påhittiga överlevnadsdjur, menar Kerstin Persson Waye.

– Det gör att man försöker anamma olika copingstrategier. Man kanske lyssnar på musik för att stänga ljuden ute. Men det är också komplext, här talar vi om saker som vi egentligen har ganska dålig kunskap om – hur en sådan arbetsmiljö påverkar på sikt.

Jag skulle vilja att man utformade arbetsplatsen för människan. Det är oerhört viktigt att man gör behovsanalyser.
Hörselkåpor för anställda borde vara den sista utvägen, anser hon.
– Jag skulle vilja att man utformade arbetsplatsen för människan. Det är oerhört viktigt att man gör behovsanalyser på arbetsplatsen, och att man ser till att ta fram bästa möjliga strategier och rutiner för att göra den så bra som möjligt.

Kontorslandskapen har också en lång historia, och har skiftat i utformning under årens lopp. Från ”trälhav” där fabrikernas administrationspersonal arbetade i ett öronbedövande knatter av skrivmaskiner, till en digital revolution som ger personalen möjlighet att byta plats under dagen beroende på arbetsuppgift.
– Kontoret som sådant växte fram med industrialiseringen i slutet av 1800-talet och i början av 1900-talet när fler kamrerer och tjänstemän behövdes i administrationen, berättar Christina Bodin Danielsson, docent i arkitektur och författare till boken ”Vad är ett bra kontor?”.

Då var det i princip bara höga chefer som hade tillgång till egna rum, cellkontor, samtidigt som kontorslandskapen blev större.

Men med tiden förändrades även detta. Under 1960- och 1970-talen växte två parallella rörelser fram – en där man såg kontorslandskapen som något positivt för kommunikationen mellan anställda och chefer, en där cellkontoren inte längre var reserverade för enbart chefer.
– Kontorslandskapen relanserades som något trevligt och mer organiskt, och cellkontoren var en effekt av ett väldigt starkt arbetsmiljöarbete i Sverige, säger Christina Bodin Danielsson.

För debatten om störningsmoment i öppna kontorslandskap har funnits länge, berättar hon.
– Det är inte så att man inte har förstått det, och det finns absolut ett ekonomiskt intresse bakom hur man har byggt.

Utvecklingen fortsatte med flexkontoren, det som sedan 2010-talet i stället kallas för aktivitetsbaserade kontor.
– Det finns inte alltid ett egenvärde i att sitta öppet. Som arkitekt måste man också hela tiden balansera mellan riskerna för störningsmoment och möjligheterna till gemenskap och kommunikation.

Christina Bodin Danielsson är övertygad om att cellkontoren kommer att göra comeback i någon form. Hon anser också att de bäst byggda kontoren är de där man tagit hänsyn till forskning, arkitekters kompetens, specialistkunskap och medarbetarna.
– Det aktivitetsbaserade kontoret passar inte alla organisationer. Man får heller inte vara för trendkänslig. Det viktigaste är att utforma kontoret efter den verksamhet som ska befinna sig i det.

Viktigt att tänka på i ett kontorslandskap
Eftersom verksamheten ser olika ut på olika arbetsplatser är det svårt att ge svar på exakt hur ett bra kontorslandskap ska designas, menar Helena Jahncke, doktor i psykologi vid Högskolan i Gävle. Men det viktigaste av allt är att göra en behovsanalys tidigt:
• Gör klart vad det är för arbetsmiljö som de anställda behöver på kontoret för att kunna utföra sina arbetsuppgifter på bästa möjliga sätt. Designar man inte kontoret utifrån det man ska utföra, blir det svårt att utföra uppgifterna på bästa sätt.

• Man behöver också se över ljudbilden och inte enbart fokusera på det estetiska. Det handlar inte bara om klassiska, ljuddämpande skärmar – tysta rum kan behövas.

• Kom överens om hur man beter sig på arbetsplatsen. Ska vi skrika till varandra om vi behöver information snabbt, eller gå bort till personen man söker? Drar vi oss tillbaka till ett annat rum om vi måste diskutera något under en längre tid? Talar vi i telefonen vid skrivbordet eller i enskilda rum? Regelbundna diskussioner krävs för att komma fram till hur man får en bättre ljudbild på kontoret.

• Om något specifikt stör – ta först upp problemet med personen i fråga som ligger bakom störningsmomentet.

Källa: Helena Jahncke, Thomas Jordan

Källa:, 18 september 2017

Så fungerar social kompetens – och så kan du träna den

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt on september 11th, 2017 by admin

En ”god social kompetens” är ofta efterfrågat både i privatlivet och på arbetsmarknaden. Men vad innebär det? Är det att alltid vara utåtriktad och orädd för att prata inför andra? Eller handlar det snarare om att kunna lyssna, vara inkännande och empatisk? DN har pratat med två forskare om vad social kompetens egentligen är.

Begreppet social kompetens kan kännas luddigt och brett, inte minst när det efterfrågas av en arbetsgivare.
– Ibland förväxlar man social kompetens med att vara utåtriktad och att ha lätt för att prata. Snarare syftar social kompetens på förmågan att fungera väl i olika sociala situationer. Det handlar också om att kunna samverka och upprätthålla god kommunikation med andra, till exempel kolleger, säger Bo Melin, professor i psykologi vid Institutionen för klinisk neurovetenskap vid Karolinska Institutet.

Även Per Johnsson, lektor i psykologi vid Lunds universitet, framhåller att förmågan att kunna anpassa sig efter situationen är viktig för att anses ha en god social kompetens.
– När vi talar om riktigt god kompetens har man en god förmåga att byta strategi, eller sätt att vara, beroende på situationen. Till exempel om man är på en arbetsintervju eller en middag med vänner, säger Per Johnsson.

Han beskriver det som en rörelse som pendlar mellan ett lyssnande och att lyckas ta tag i samtalstrådar som behandlas – men att vara måttlig när det gäller hur mycket man relaterar till sig själv i samtalet.
– Många har nog mött personer som alltid börjar konversationen med sitt eget jag, och sedan enbart talar om sig själva. Det uppskattas sällan.
Social kompetens började synas som en allt mer efterfrågad egenskap i arbetsplatsannonser runt 1990-talet. Förklaringarna kan vara många, men en av dem är troligen att arbetsmarknaden hade förändrats. Från ett individuellt arbete vid ett löpande band hade man även inom industrin börjat arbeta i grupper för att producera varor – då krävs att de som arbetar är bra på att samarbeta, menar Bo Melin.
– Men jag tror generellt att arbetsgivare gör det lite för lätt för sig när de skriver att de vill ha social kompetens, att de inte alltid har tänkt igenom vad de egentligen menar med det. Om det är att man ska kunna samarbeta, vilket är en viktig förmåga i dagens arbetsliv, så är det i så fall den egenskapen man ska söka efter, säger Bo Melin.

Men social kompetens får inte ersätta kvalificerade meriter, anser han.
– Går man 15 år tillbaka i tiden översatte nog många social kompetens till att vara en bra säljare, och då blev det problem. Många kände sig kallade för att de var bra på att ta människor, men hade inte rätt utbildning.

Även Per Johnsson är inne på samma spår. Att enbart efterfråga social kompetens, och med det mena utåtriktade personer, kan skapa en likriktning i personligheter på arbetsplatsen som inte alltid är positiv.

Om den sociala kompetensen är medfödd eller inte är svårt att säga.
– Inom intelligensforskningen vet vi ganska mycket om vad som är ärftligt och vad som är förvärvat. Men vad som är social kompetens är svårare att definiera, och som forskare vågar jag inte riktigt svara på vad som är medfött och vad som inte är det, säger Bo Melin.

Men att vissa är födda blyga, och andra med ett häftigare temperament, kan vi konstatera menar Per Johnsson. Däremot är det möjligt att träna upp sin sociala kompetens.
– Det är min erfarenhet att vi föds med olika temperament. Men det går att hjälpa varandra inom familjen redan från barnsben, säger han.

Ett enkelt och effektivt sätt är enligt Per Johnsson att äta tillsammans i familjen. Vid middagen kan föräldrarna hjälpa barnet som är lite tystlåtet att ta mer plats, samtidigt som någon annan får lära sig att lämna plats, menar han.

Något av det mest grundläggande i kommunikationen mellan människor är ögonkontakten, och det är också den egenskapen som är mest central för att man ska anse att någon har hög social kompetens.
– Evolutionärt har det varit en otroligt viktig kompetens. Att ta ögonkontakt är viktigt för föräldrar gentemot sina barn och det är viktigt när vi ska träffa en partner. Men det är också viktigt på vår arbetsplats, säger Bo Melin.
– Förmågan att titta människor i ögonen, inte stirra, utan titta, är väldigt viktig för den sociala kompetensen, säger Per Johnsson.

Men ögonkontakten är också det som kan vara svårast att träna upp om man är ovan eller obekväm med det. Vad som ligger bakom att man känner obehag inför att titta andra personer i ögonen kan variera, vilket också betyder att en eventuell terapiform för att lära sig hantera det kan variera. Bo Melin rekommenderar KBT.
– Där tränar man antingen i grupp eller enskilt med terapeuten på att upprätthålla en ögonkontakt, om det är det man har identifierat som ett problem som man vill komma tillrätta med. Man kan också träna sig i aktivt lyssnande, det vill säga om man är en person som har lätt för att prata för mycket, säger Bo Melin.

Per Johnsson anser att typen av terapi som fungerar är högst individuellt.
– Det finns olika sätt, och det beror på vad du har i bagaget. Ibland behöver man ringa in de rädslor man har, och det kan ta lång tid. Sedan behöver man ta itu med de rädslorna först, innan man kan bättra på sin sociala kompetens, säger Per Johnsson.

Viktiga basegenskaper i den sociala kompetensen – och vad du kan träna på
Ögonkontakt. Basen för kommunikation mellan människor. Viktig både i det privata och i det offentliga, som i arbetslivet. Titta, men stirra inte, den du talar med i ögonen.
Handslag. Att känna av vad som är lagom hårt när man skakar hand kan vara svårt, men är viktigt att öva på.
Lyssna. Att vara en bra lyssnare är en konst. Men lyssnar man ordentligt blir det lättare att hålla en konversation vid liv och att återknyta till ämnen som diskuterats tidigare i konversationen.
Tala. Var lyhörd när det gäller vilken ljudnivå och samtalston som råder där du befinner dig. Ställ öppna frågor i konversationen, alltså frågor som inte går att bara svara ja eller nej på.
Hjälp varandra. Middagsbordet är en bra arena för att träna barn på förmågan att både ge och att våga ta plats, något som är viktigt för en god social kompetens. Var uppmärksam som förälder och försök att uppmuntra den blyga och lugna den energiska när det behövs.
Kom ihåg. God social kompetens handlar inte om att ta mycket plats och att alltid vara utåtriktad, utan om förmågan att kunna anpassa sitt beteende på ett positivt sätt till den sociala situation man befinner sig i.

Källa: Bo Melin/Per Johnsson


Organizational health: A fast track to performance improvement

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt on september 7th, 2017 by admin

Working on health works. It’s good for your people and for your bottom line.

The central idea underlying our organizational work for the past decade has been that the best way to run a business is to balance short-term performance and long-term health.

Healthy companies, we know, dramatically outperform their peers. The proof is strong—the top quartile of publicly traded companies in McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index (OHI) delivers roughly three times the returns to shareholders as those in the bottom quartile—so strong, indeed, that we’ve almost come to take it for granted.

But now we see new, longitudinal evidence that redoubles our conviction. Companies that work on their health, we’ve found, not only achieve measurable improvements in their organizational well-being but demonstrate tangible performance gains in as little as 6 to 12 months. This holds true for companies across sectors and regions, as well as in contexts ranging from turnarounds to good-to-great initiatives.

Our recommendation is clear: start managing your organizational health as rigorously as you do your P&L, providing pathways for leaders at all levels to take part and embedding and measuring the new ways of working.

Health and the bottom line
We think of organizational health as more than just culture or employee engagement. It’s the organization’s ability to align around a common vision, execute against that vision effectively, and renew itself through innovation and creative thinking. Put another way, health is how the ship is run, no matter who is at the helm and what waves rock the vessel.

The case for health
Over the past ten years, we’ve monitored the health of more than 1,500 companies across 100 countries. We do this by aggregating the views of their employees and managers (more than four million to date) on management practices that drive nine key organizational dimensions—or “outcomes,” as we call them. We assign scores to each practice and outcome, allowing a company to see how it compares to others in the database.

Would you like to learn more about our Organization Practice?
Visit our Organizational Health Index page
We’ve long seen a strong, static correlation between health and financial performance. But our latest research is more dynamic: it highlights the potential for the vast majority of companies to improve their health and how this can correspond with enhanced performance. Our findings include the following:

Almost all companies perform better if they improve their health. Around 80 percent of companies that took concrete actions on health saw an improvement, with a median six-point increase in their overall health. The majority of these companies moved up an entire quartile against all other companies in our database. Over the same period that the companies in our sample were making changes to their health, their earnings1 and total returns to shareholders (TRS) were also increasing disproportionately—by 18 percent and 10 percent, respectively (against an average 7 percent increase in earnings and an average 9 percent increase in TRS for those companies in the S&P 500).
The unfit are the most likely to make the biggest health advances. After working on their health, companies in the bottom quartile saw a 9-point health improvement, with notably strong improvements in the company direction (+17 points) and innovation and learning (+14 points) outcomes. This group of “health workers” made progress across every outcome.
Those at the top achieve the biggest financial rewards. Companies whose health-improvement efforts took them from the second quartile of the OHI to the top quartile recorded the biggest financial-performance boost, a clear sign that working on health is an important factor in going from “good” to “great.”

Could the causality run the other way? In other words, when companies improve their financial performance, might their people align, execute, and renew better and therefore be more likely to identify healthy changes in the characteristics of their organizations? In theory, yes. In practice, though, we’ve seen the opposite, over and over again. Consider, for example, the experience of a European entertainment company: Over the past three and a half years, it’s moved from the third quartile of the OHI to the top decile. Financial performance has improved dramatically during that period as well (its market share is up 7 percent, customer volume is up 15 percent, and EBITDA is up 85 percent). But when the company was acquired recently by a larger competitor, it was the improvement in health that particularly stood out. The acquirer’s CEO said that, in his mind, organizational health accounted for at least 10 percent of the entertainment company’s value. Health, in short, isn’t some survey artifact; it’s something you can see and feel when you’re inside a healthy company and a prerequisite for sustained performance.

Speed and rigor
Given all the data and practical experience that supports working on health, companies’ obsession with the P&L alone continues to puzzle us. It’s right that leaders manage their P&L meticulously, but why not do the same for their health? In fact, why not measure health frequently throughout the year, since it’s a leading indicator of performance, whereas financial results are a lagging one? Similarly, why do the vast majority of employee-performance dialogues focus on progress against financial targets, and not on whether behavior is contributing to organizational health?

In private conversations, executives often confess to being quite torn on this issue. They of course want a healthy organization, but they worry about how long it will take to realize tangible benefits from efforts to improve health and about distracting people from other mission-critical priorities. Our experience suggests that these concerns are misplaced. Just as anyone can compete in a 5K race if he or she trains properly, so too can companies be conditioned to improve their health in a short period of time—and those improvements can reinforce those mission-critical priorities.

The key to speed is a rigorous approach. This starts with making the quest for organizational health an integral part of forward-looking leadership: senior leaders need to consider themselves architects, not passive bystanders. Then it means integrating health into monthly and quarterly performance reviews, with data to show how both are trending versus targets. Supporting priorities include tying financial incentives to accomplishing health goals; creating and holding accountable a health team dedicated to embedding the right behaviors in the organization; and weaving health into the performance initiatives already under way.

A basic-materials company, spun off from a larger company and expected to go bankrupt in a year, highlights how rapid progress is possible when organizations implement their health aspirations with rigor. A year ago, the company had a health score in the 22nd percentile, with every one of its 37 management practices “broken” (that is, in the bottom quartile). Today, its health has improved to the second quartile, measuring at the 57th percentile, and it has no broken practices. A key to speed was choosing ten practices to embed throughout the year—and then breaking up execution into monthly sprints focused on just one practice. The CEO kicked off each sprint personally with a description of what embodying that practice meant. That message was cascaded and personalized throughout the organization. Employees who led performance initiatives also tracked how they would embed health practices into their initiative (collectively, more than 2,000 of them), with a transformation office monitoring progress on a weekly basis. While there have been other market and industry factors at play, it’s significant that the company’s revenues have since improved markedly and its stock price has jumped tenfold.

A focused approach to achieving organizational health quickly
So how do you make health gains quickly? In our experience, there are four areas forward-looking leaders must invest in to build a healthy, performance-driven organization (besides, of course, ensuring that they are fully aligned on the business strategy; strategic and organizational misalignment are a surefire path to poor health and general operating dysfunction). The first, most important step is choosing the performance culture—or what we call the “recipe”—that will best drive their organization’s performance. Then it’s about moving to adopt that recipe as quickly as possible, addressing the mind-sets that will drive new forms of behavior, building a committed team of people at all levels to get involved, and, finally, developing fast feedback loops to monitor progress and course correct if necessary. These actions will help companies target resources on the right priorities, move swiftly, and make the new habits stick.

Pick a health recipe
It’s clear that there is no such thing as a single winning performance culture. But based on our OHI analysis, we have identified four combinations of practices (or “recipes”) that, when applied together, drive superior health—and quickly. We call these four the Leadership Factory (organizations that drive performance by developing and deploying strong leaders, supporting them through coaching, formal training, and the right growth opportunities); the Continuous Improvement Engine (organizations that gain their competitive edge by involving all employees in driving performance and innovation, gathering insights and sharing knowledge); the Talent and Knowledge Core (organizations that accelerate their performance by attracting and inspiring top talent); and the Market Shaper (organizations that get ahead through innovating at all levels and using their deep understanding of customers and competitors to implement those innovations).

They all sound pretty good, right? The reality is, though, that organizations can’t do all of them, which is why a focus on one of them will lead to better and speedier results. Our research shows that when organizations are closely aligned to any one of these four recipes, they are six times more likely to enjoy top-quartile health than companies with weak alignment or diffuse efforts. Achieving such alignment requires focus on a small set of organizational-health practices (usually no more than five to ten, as was done at the basic-materials company mentioned earlier) that work in concert with each other. Contrast that with what happens more commonly: leaders in various parts of the business copy different external “best practices” across myriad management disciplines. This approach diffuses people’s efforts, can easily result in conflicting approaches, and hinders development of the sort of common performance culture that connects employees regardless of where they sit.

A family-owned Asian conglomerate faced this very challenge: People across the organization employed “best practices” from multiple sources and were adapting them in different ways. As the conglomerate’s leaders sought to change its conservative, risk-averse culture to a more innovative and entrepreneurial one, they began placing greater emphasis on organizational health and chose the Continuous Improvement Engine (CIE) recipe to govern their health strategy. Three themes were central to that strategy: improving knowledge sharing across business units, developing innovation and entrepreneurship, and improving employee motivation. Heads of HR across the business units drove the subsequent learning initiatives under the CEO’s sponsorship, launching a corporate academy on innovation, promoting regional innovation conferences, and providing extrinsic motivators such as nontraditional career paths for innovators and entrepreneurs. This consistent and coherent approach led to a nine-point improvement in health.

Get to the heart of the mind-sets
Don’t be fooled by the symptom; understand the cause. To create rapid and lasting progress on the set of practices that will drive health, companies have to identify and address the deep-rooted mind-sets influencing employee behavior and then define new ones to replace them.

When seeking to understand and address these mind-sets, we like to use the image of an iceberg popularized by MIT academics Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer.2 Above the surface (the tip of the iceberg) is the visible behavior repeated and reinforced by the organization every day. Under the surface are employees’ thoughts and feelings (both conscious and unconscious); their values and beliefs (the things that are important to them); and their underlying needs, including their fears and the threats to their identity. These below-the-surface factors have to be understood and addressed before shifts in behavior and culture can be realized to drive organizational health.

Once a company has identified the mind-set or mind-sets it wants to instill in employees, it needs a set of actions to change the working environment and drive adherence. Here, McKinsey’s long-established influence model defines practical interventions that help structure a way forward. Is there a clear change story to foster an understanding of why a new approach is required? What incentives should be introduced to reinforce that new approach? Are training programs required to improve the skills of people in the organization? Are leaders across the business role modeling the appropriate mind-sets? Being clear on these four dimensions is likely to be critical to the long-term success of a program for improving organizational health.

A global equipment manufacturer was under pressure from cost-competitive entrants, challenging its long run of dominance in a specialized, capital-intensive industry. With its most recently released product coming in at greater than ten times its original budget, the company needed to drive down costs to maintain its market position. Leaders had been trying to address this problem, but their lack of results only led them to more frustration.

The breakthrough came when, supported by the OHI, they realized there were deeply rooted mind-sets across the organization that were holding it back. The leadership team ultimately identified five of these mind-sets—the most important of which was how, historically, the organization had prioritized on-time delivery and product performance, often at the expense of product cost. In practice, engineers felt it was their job to design incredible products, with cost being an output rather than an input. To shift this thinking, the leaders set out to demonstrate that cost was just as important as on-time delivery and product performance. They launched a number of highly visible initiatives that gave them the opportunity to role model the appropriate new behavior and highlight the rewards associated with it, then rolled the initiatives out across key parts of the organization—especially in engineering, operations, and supply-chain management.

The company also found simple and low-cost ways to embed the new mind-sets. One of these included giving all employees who attended a health town hall or participated in an initiative a lanyard with a red and green card. The red card shared the company’s performance-limiting mind-sets, while the green card shared the performance-accelerating ones it sought to embed. This simple reinforcement made it quickly obvious who had the lanyards and who did not, providing a constant signal for all employees to take part in the program. It also served as a vehicle for providing feedback: in initiative team meetings, employees called out “red” behaviors by holding up their red card, allowing everyone to pause and colleagues to reset their approach. Employees reinforced “green” behavior, too, thereby encouraging others that they were on the right track. Thanks to these steps, the company’s current pipeline of products is on track to meet its delivery, performance, and cost targets.

Engage employees at all levels
It requires strong leadership and role modeling for change to take hold quickly. But change is not a top-down exercise. Health improvement happens quickly and sustainably when you drive it top to bottom, bottom to top, and side to side. This is best done by engaging a committed community or network of formal and informal influencers.

Influencers exist at all levels of an organization, ranging from assistants to middle managers. Such people often have an oversized impact on motivating colleagues. They may be rising stars or simply well-liked and enthusiastic team players with a positive attitude. And while in many cases they are not immediately visible to leaders, they can be unearthed via simple survey-based technology that asks employees to identify people who meet the characteristics of an influencer. Companies that map them—the exercise should take no more than one to two weeks—are often surprised by how deep many of these people are within the organization. Such influencers reinforce leadership’s case for change, role model the new mind-sets, collect feedback on what’s going well and what’s not, and excite and engage the front line.

An electronics company in Europe successfully unleashed the power of a group of influencers as part of its drive to become more innovative and customer focused. Employees had been generally upbeat about the transformation, but the company noted that attitudes didn’t change and leaders were struggling to translate their vision into new forms of behavior. Senior leaders therefore identified a minimum of two people in each location or function who were acknowledged and respected by their peers, regardless of their level in the hierarchy, and invited them to help communicate the progress of the transformation, to suggest ways to intervene locally, and to act as role models. They assigned a project manager to coordinate this network of change agents, keeping in touch and checking in with them to facilitate knowledge sharing. Thanks to these influencers’ interventions—sharing information with the front line, taking time to talk to customers and feeding the information back to senior leaders, and calling out colleagues who did not adopt the desired attitudes—substantial behavioral changes began to take hold quickly.

Get ‘on the pulse’
Organizational health is organic, and, like the human body, it evolves over time. If health is to be nurtured and improved quickly, it needs to be monitored and measured regularly. The days of conducting a survey and then waiting 12 months to remeasure are gone. This “on the pulse” measuring strategy, which requires fast feedback loops, pinpoints where course corrections are needed. Simple technology tools that put out one question a day provide real-time measurement while reducing survey fatigue. Weekly health huddles with teams offer instant feedback. And integral performance and health reviews reveal how an organization’s health is evolving in reaction to the actions taken. Leaders, as architects of the effort to improve organizational health, can then make changes to ensure that the new mind-sets are taking hold. High-performing organizations require leaders who can manage performance and health in concert.

A high-performing European telecom company embarked on a digital transformation only to discover that its highly directive and execution-oriented management approach (a profile that had served it well for decades) was getting in the way of rapid renewal. It was at the bottom of the class in health, according to the OHI, with eight out of nine outcomes in the third or fourth quartile. Recognizing that the company had to be more agile if it was to respond to the industry shifts and technology disruptions, the company’s leaders focused initially on four practices aimed at increasing employee motivation and giving the company a new performance edge: rewards and recognition, consequence management, role clarity, and personal ownership.

After three months of using the survey technique of one question a day, the company found that it was making progress across all practices except rewards and recognition. Such a fast feedback loop enabled the team to intervene quickly, celebrate the successes, and revisit its approach to rewards and recognition. As a result, leaders combined their internal learnings with external best practices and redefined their interventions to improve the ways in which they rewarded and recognized high-performing teams and individuals.

A global electronics company took a different approach, introducing a simple survey of no more than ten pertinent questions to check whether critical new practices—such as giving and asking for feedback—were being embedded. The responses, which were shared with and discussed by all the teams, showed which teams were taking the effort seriously. The results of the survey reinforced the right behaviors until they became routine.

And finally, the basic-materials company discussed earlier used “health” huddles as one way to monitor and react to organizational-health initiatives. It carved out ten minutes from its regular weekly meeting on health priorities to discuss progress and what could be done to improve it. Simple one-page plans described what the new health practices should achieve and provided ideas for getting the effort back on track. The huddle approach was seen as an opportunity for frontline employees to make their voices heard on how the plant should be run.

Companies often tell us that, while organizational health sounds like a great idea, it doesn’t feel like a necessity to achieving their short-term goals. They also worry that it’s going to be too much work. Both reactions are misguided. Far from being a distraction, a focused health-improvement plan should actually help companies achieve their short-term goals. And it will not be an added burden—in most cases, working healthy is doing what you’re already doing but doing it differently. It’s about redefining how to connect, engage, and communicate with employees. It’s about sharing a company’s vision and mission in a way that inspires employees to act in its best interests. Above all, it’s about adopting a more innovative and effective style of leading, executing, and innovating. Working on health works, and it works quickly.

Source:, 7 September 2017
Authors: Chris Gagnon, Elizabeth John and Rob Theunissen
About the authors: Chris Gagnon is a senior partner in McKinsey’s New Jersey office; Elizabeth John is an associate principal in the Washington, DC, office; and Rob Theunissen is a partner in the Amsterdam office.