For a successful transformation, start by sprinting

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Executive Team / Ledningsgruppsarbete, Leadership / Ledarskap, Strategy implementation / Strategiimplementering on August 27th, 2019 by admin

No, don’t hurry through important steps. Rather, create a straightforward plan and implement it in short bursts—followed by pauses to reflect on effectiveness.

When done well, an organizational redesign fosters improved strategic focus, higher growth, better decision-making and more accountability.

However, a McKinsey survey revealed that only 30 percent of organizational redesigns are successful in terms of achieving overall objectives and improved performance. That means a daunting 70 percent of transformations fail.

Why? In the design phase, meddling by too many cooks often obscures the vision of a future operating model. Accommodating multiple opinions means the design becomes fragmented and vulnerable to individual pain points. Resources can get tied up in tasks that don’t add real value, unnecessarily prolonging the process.

More than 80 percent of executives have gone through an organizational redesign at their current company. They know that a transformation is a marathon. But to get to the finish line, it pays to do implementation sprints. That means taking a simpler, iterative approach; learning as you go; and correcting course more frequently. Under this approach, concept development and implementation are linked, running in parallel.

One high-end retailer, for example, faced difficulties with its siloed culture when redesigning its operating model and online assortment strategy. A series of focused two-week meetings, led by cross-functional teams, helped to foster a common view of what needed to change. The quick implementation of changes led to an impressive increase in its online assortment from 30 percent to more than 70 percent in just three months.

There are six things to keep in mind when going through a transformation:
1. Be bold: Set a clear and ambitious target that will help you substantially transform your organization and let it guide your future operating model.
2. Slim it down: Create a simplified first version of your envisioned end-state that will still deliver a significant amount of impact in the first phase of implementation.
3. Prioritize change initiatives: Don’t kick off all new initiatives at once. Instead, be clear about how the initiatives will be sequenced and how they relate to one another.
4. Conduct implementation sprints: Kick off the implementation in short design-test-apply cycles.
5. Adapt and hone when needed: React to requirements that emerge during the transformation and course-correct whenever needed.
6. Keep your eye on the ball: Stay focused on the actual end product: a truly transformed organization, not a perfectly designed plan. Embrace constant reality checks and adapt the plan accordingly. This helps to concentrate resources on those areas that contribute the most value.

Change is not easy, and the odds are hardly in any transformation’s favor. But tackling the root of the problem by simplifying the design and using a pragmatic approach—through implementation sprints—will boost the likelihood of success.

While we all aim for perfection, we should not do so when designing a new operating model. Sometimes complex concepts, which theoretically are superior to simpler plans, don’t get implemented. Instead, they can draw attention and energy away from more fundamental changes and delay the entire transformation.

Source:, August 2019
By: Patrick Guggenberger, advises leading global companies in the consumer industry and other sectors on how to optimize organizational design and operating models to improve performance and culture, and boost organizational agility-
Patrick Simon, dvises consumer-packaged-goods, apparel, and fashion companies around the world, with a focus on organizational transformation and harmonizing a company’s operating model with its strategy and the market’s requirements

Getting personal about change

Posted in Aktuellt, Leadership / Ledarskap on August 23rd, 2019 by admin

The need to shift mind-sets is the biggest block to successful transformations. The key lies in making the shift both individual and institutional—at the same time.

A surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot when you’re leading a large-scale change effort is to ignore what’s on the minds of your employees. In research we conducted for our recently published book, Beyond Performance 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, July 2019), we found that executives at exactly zero companies that disregarded an analysis of employee mind-sets during a change program rated the transformation as “extremely successful.” Conversely, executives at companies that took the time and trouble to address mind-sets were four times more likely than those that didn’t to rate their change programs as at least “successful.”

Those numbers reflect the power of mind-set shifts. In human systems, they help to achieve the same effect as the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly or a tadpole into a frog: when employees become open to new ways of looking at what’s possible for them and their organization, they can never return to a state of not having that broader perspective, just as butterflies and frogs can’t revert to their previous physical forms. To achieve such a metamorphosis, leaders must first identify the limiting mind-sets, then reframe them appropriately, and finally make sure that employees don’t revert to earlier forms of behavior. In this article, we take readers through the process to shift mind-sets, with a particular emphasis on why the final stage is so important and so difficult.

Identify the root causes of behavior that helps or hinders
The story of the Manchester Shoe Company, told by Benjamin Zander in his book The Art of Possibility, neatly encapsulates the significance of a positive mind-set. In the early 1900s, inspired by a desire to enter a faraway market, two traveling salesmen were sent as a beachhead into the region. A few days later, two telegraphs came back independently. One said, “Situation horrible. They don’t wear shoes!” The other said, “Glorious opportunity; they don’t have any shoes yet!” Imagine what would have happened if the company had acted only on the first message.

Now consider Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad’s management fable of four monkeys sitting in a cage staring at a bunch of bananas accessible only by steps hanging from the roof. Whenever the monkeys try to climb the steps to reach the bananas, a blast of cold water blocks them. After a few days, realizing there’s no point in trying to get the “forbidden fruit,” they naturally give up. Some humans in the room then remove the water hose and, at the same time, replace one of the original monkeys with a new one. On seeing the bananas, it starts up the steps, but the other simians, being social creatures, pull it down before it gets blasted by water. The new monkey is startled, looks around, and tries repeatedly to scale the ladder, only to be repeatedly pulled back. Finally, the new monkey accepts the group code of conduct and doesn’t bother to go for the bananas.
Over the next few weeks, the onlookers remove the rest of the original monkeys, one at a time, and replace them with new monkeys that have never seen the water. By the end of the experiment, with perfectly ripe bananas sitting on the platform above, and monkeys that have never seen a jet of water, none of the animals tries to climb the steps. They’ve all learned the unwritten rule: “you don’t grab the bananas around here.”

Hamel and Prahalad created this story not to represent any actual findings from the field of primatology but instead as a potent and memorable way to demonstrate a wider truth about organizational life—namely, that mind-sets ingrained by past management practices remain ingrained far beyond the existence of the practices that formed them, even when new management practices have been put in place.

Here are three business examples that underscore the perils of ignoring this lesson. Example one: a bank that identified how its high performers succeeded in crossselling decided to roll out a change program with support scripts and good profiling questions for the other bankers to use—and was dismayed to find that these moves had a negligible impact on sales. A second example: a telco introduced a dramatically simplified process and rating system for performance reviews only to find that its leaders still avoided delivering tough messages. Finally: a manufacturer invested hundreds of millions in a knowledge-management technology platform meant to discourage hoarding and encourage collaboration—only to declare, several months later, that the system had been a complete failure.

In all these examples, the companies did a good job of recognizing the behavioral change needed to achieve the desired goals. Yet they didn’t take the time, or use the tools available, to understand why smart, hard-working, and well-intentioned employees continued to behave as before (see sidebar, “Uncovering unconscious mind-sets”).
At the bank, for instance, two seemingly good but ultimately performance-limiting mind- sets accounted for the failure of the new sales-stimulation tools and training. The first was “my job is to give the customers what they want”; the second, “I should follow the Golden Rule and treat my customers as I would like to be treated.” At the telco, employees had a deep-seated, reasonable-sounding belief that “criticism damages relationships.” At the manufacturing company, people had an underlying conviction that “around here, information is power, and good leaders are powerful leaders.”

Uncovering unconscious mind-sets

The primary tool for uncovering subconscious mind-sets is an interview technique known as “laddering,” grounded in the theory of personal change set out by Dennis Hinkle in 1965. The ladder employs techniques such as role playing, posing hypothetical questions, provoking participants, prompting storytelling, and drawing linkages between current and previous statements. These efforts prompt people to reflect on their deepest motives and eventually lead them to state the values and assumptions they use to construct their personal world.

Although the laddering technique is powerful, its limitation is that it’s hard to scale in large, diverse organizations. A complementary technique, which provides for gathering a broader and deeper fact base about what’s going on beneath the surface, uses focus groups and visual cues. This approach involves putting a hundred or so pictures on a table and asking participants to choose the images that best represent their feelings on a given topic—for example: “What most energizes or frustrates you about the organization?”

“What is your greatest hope for the organization?” “Which image represents what it’s like selling to customers?” “Which image represents how it feels to be in a performance review?” “Which image represents how collaboration and knowledge sharing work around here?” Pictures trigger a more honest, emotive, and visceral conversation than stock questions that start with “Tell me about . . .”

The third tool for more broadly understanding organizational mind-sets comes from the social-science methodology known as qualitative data analysis (QDA). This technique mines rich sources of textual data (such as reports, websites, advertisements, internal communications, and press coverage). It then uses linguistic techniques (narrative, framework, and discourse analysis) to identify recurring themes and search for causality. One basic and straightforward QDA method that many people are familiar with is the use of word clouds.

The upshot? By looking at—and acting on—only observable behavior, company leaders overlooked its underlying root causes. Consequently, the change efforts of all three organizations led to disappointment.

Reframe the root causes
Once the root-cause mind-sets are identified, the next step is to reframe those beliefs and thereby expand the range of reasonable behavioral choices employees make, day in and day out. That creates the caterpillar-to-butterfly effect described earlier. Would different beliefs, for example, have inspired expanded and better-informed behavioral choices for average-performing bankers? If so, which beliefs? Suppose they believed that their job—indeed, the way they add value for others—was to “help customers fully understand their needs” rather than “giving customers what they want.” Also, what if instead of applying the “Golden Rule,” bankers applied the “Platinum Rule”: treating others as they (rather than bankers) want to be treated.
And what if the telco executives, in their performance-management discussions, had believed that “honesty—combined with respect—doesn’t damage relationships; in fact, it is essential to building strong ones”? And what if the manufacturing managers had thought that “sharing information rather than hoarding is the best way to magnify power”? Had they believed that, the company very likely wouldn’t have needed an expensive (and ultimately futile) knowledge-management system to help employees reach out to one another and share best practices.
Beneath each of the reframes described above, it’s important to note, lies a deeper shift in worldview. For example, moving from the giving-customers-what-they-want mind-set to helping them fully understand what they really need reflects a move from subordinate to peer. Recognizing that honesty builds rather than destroys relation- ships reflects a shift from victimhood to mastery. And choosing to believe that power is expanded by sharing information, not that hoarding information is power, focuses on abundance, not scarcity.
The best examples of naming and reframing are not only profound (using practical, relatable terms that reflect these deeper changes in worldview) but also insightful (raising the subconscious to consciousness in ways that expand possibility), memorable (so issues can easily be raised and discussed in day-to-day work), and meaningful (specific to the organization and evoking a “that’s so us!” response).

In this way, a retailer found it vital to shift from “listening and responding” (a reactive mind-set) to “anticipating and shaping” (a proactive one), and an engineering company
that wanted to improve the way it captured external ideas found that it was consis- tently overoptimistic about results and underestimated its competitors. This company came to realize that these shortcomings were driven by a “winning means being peerless” (expert) mind-set, which led to increasingly insular behavior. Changing to the learner mind-set—“winning means learning more and faster than others”— prompted employees to look for best practices in competitors and beyond.

Human-health analogies reinforce the message of business examples. Consider the predicament of people with heart disease. Years of research have shown that most cardiac patients live considerably longer if they cut out smoking and drinking, eat less fat, reduce their stress levels, and exercise regularly. Indeed, many patients make a real effort to do so. Yet study after study has shown that 90 percent of people who have undergone surgery for heart disease revert to unhealthy behavior within two years.

Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, decided to reframe the underlying mind-set beneath the patients’ narratives. He wanted to change it from “If I behave this way, I won’t die” (fear driven) to “If I behave this way, my life will be filled with joy” (hope driven). In his words, “Telling people who are lonely and depressed that they’re going to live longer if they quit smoking or change their diet and lifestyle is not that motivating. Who wants to live longer when you’re in chronic emotional pain?” How much better would they feel, he thought, if they could enjoy the pleasures of daily life without suffering any pain or discomfort? In his experiment, 77 percent of his patients managed to make permanent changes in their lifestyles, compared with a normal success rate of 10 percent. Make the change personal Reframing the root causes of mind-sets that block change is a critical step in the right direction and can sometimes create the desired shift in behavior on its own. At the aforementioned bank, for example, once employees were exposed to the Platinum Rule, they could immediately see how much more productive following it would be. They simply had never previously thought about the impact on customers of the way bankers had been relating to them.

More often than not, however, employees struggle to change their behavior for reasons that are more emotional than intellectual. The single biggest barrier to rapid personal change, after all, is our propensity as leaders to say, “Yes, that’s the problem and the shift we need. If only others would change how they think and behave, we would make more progress.”
At one company we know, for example, leaders were asked to estimate how much time they spent tiptoeing around other people’s egos: making others feel that “my idea is yours,” for instance, or taking care not to tread on someone else’s turf. Most said 20 to 30 percent. Then they were asked how much time they spent tiptoeing around their own egos. Most were silent. Psychology explains this dynamic as a very predictable, and very human, “self-serving bias.” It involves viewing our own actions favorably and interpreting events in a way beneficial to ourselves. This explains why 25 percent of students rate themselves in the top 1 percent in their ability to get along with others. It’s why, when couples are asked to estimate their contribution to household work, the combined total routinely exceeds 100 percent.

In many behavior-related areas, we human beings consistently overestimate how much we are part of the solution, not the problem, and role modeling change is one of these areas. On average, when leaders are asked if they “role model desired behavior changes,” a full 86 percent report that they do. When the same question is put to people who report to these leaders, it receives only a 53 percent average positive response.
How best, then, to overcome this bias and help leaders and employees commit to changing themselves? Our own journey has led us to the deep conviction that offsite,
5 workshop-based learning journeys of small groups of 20 to 30 employees are the most powerful intervention. These are typically centered on in-person working sessions, over two days, led by facilitators experienced in the principles of adult learning and knowledgeable in techniques developed in the field of human potential. The workshop methodology is grounded in the “U-process”—a social technology developed during a ten-year partnership between Generon International, Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Society for Organizational Learning.

The U-process has three phases:
• Sensing. This typically involves a senior leader who has already been through the workshop and shares the company’s change story, describes her or his own personal change journey, and answers questions from participants.
• Presencing. This involves participants exploring their personal “iceberg” of behavior. It includes working through modular, discussion-based content and questions that equip leaders to achieve new levels of self-awareness and self-control. “Where and why do I act out of fear rather than hope? Scarcity rather than abundance? Victimhood rather than mastery? And what would be the result if I made different choices?”
• Realizing. In this phase, participants make explicit, public choices about personal mind-sets and behavioral shifts; identify “sustaining practices” that will help them act on their insights; and reflect on how they will engage their personal networks for the challenges and support they will need during the rest of their personal change journey.
Following these workshops, small groups typically convene to offer peer accountability and advice. After a number of weeks, there is a further facilitated session to take stock of changes in behavior.

We acknowledge that this approach will sound unduly “soft” to some. But we’ve seen it have a transformational impact on everyone from Dutch engineers to American invest- ment bankers to Middle Eastern government officials to employees of South Korean conglomerates. While some organizations put all their employees through such a workshop, they can achieve most of the impact through a critical mass of people leaders, which the field of epidemiology has shown to be, typically, 25 to 30 percent of the total. In these cases, all leaders eventually shed the “if only they would change” mentality and replace it with a profound sense of “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
Not every successful change program we have seen uses these techniques, but in our experience every change program that used them (in the context of other recommended interventions) has been successful, and in time frames far faster than most leaders had expected. The effect can be particularly positive when organizations grapple with how to thaw what’s often referred to as “the frozen middle”—a changeresistant layer of middle managers.

Reshape the work environment
Victor Frankl was an Auschwitz survivor whose seminal book, Man’s Search for Meaning,has long challenged and inspired readers across academic and professional disciplines. He summed up, in a compelling way, the full picture of what it takes to achieve caterpillar-to-butterfly-like personal change when he wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” We find it helpful to use a shorthand version of Frankl’s idea: S (stimulus) + T (how you choose to think about the stimulus) = R (response).
The S in this equation is vital for the aforementioned work on the T to fully take hold: after all, as the story of the monkeys illustrates, the work environment is a particularly powerful shaper of employee mind-sets and behavior, albeit a relatively slow-acting one. Nonetheless, if employees come out of workshops committed to change but find themselves back in the very same work environment that had ingrained their original mind-sets, it’s far less likely that the new mind-sets will become truly personal— or permanent.

By way of analogy, imagine that you go to the opera on Saturday and to a sporting event on Sunday. At the climax of the opera, the very best part, you sit silent and rapt in concentration. You and the rest of the audience then offer a genteel clap. At the climax of the sporting event, also the very best part, you leap to your feet, yelling and waving and jumping up and down. You haven’t changed; you are the same person with the same feelings, values, and needs. But your context has changed, and so has your mind-set about the behavior that is appropriate for expressing appreciation and enjoyment—and therefore the behavior you choose to exhibit and the practices you choose to participate in.

When it comes to changing the stimulus (the S)—the work environment—employees are exposed to, we find that the four levers in McKinsey’s “influence model” offer the most practical and proven guide (exhibit).1 Our research and experience demonstrate that changes in thinking and behaving will be significant and sustained if leaders and employees see clear communications and rituals (the understanding and conviction lever); if supporting incentives, structures, processes, and systems are in place (the formal-mechanisms lever); if training and development opportunities are combined with sound talent decisions (the confidence and skills lever); and if senior leaders and influence leaders allow others to take their cues from the leaders’ own behavior (the role-modeling lever).

Many leaders wonder which of the four levers is the most important. Evidence shows that they all matter, with minor statistical variations in degree, and that people do not have to experience them in any particular order—the key is to ensure that all of them are experienced consistently. Communicating to employees that you want them to adopt sports-stadium mind-sets, practices, and behavior is no use if your evaluation systems, and the leadership moves that employees see, are those of the opera house. If you want people to think like sports fans, you must create a stadium environment that encourages and enables them to think and act differently.

We’ve discussed the importance and value of both the stimulus (the S) and the thinking (the T) separately, but in reality they are profoundly linked. One person’s mind-sets (the T) drive that person’s behavior (the R), which becomes the role modeling part of the S for those who interact with this person—a testament to the importance of starting changes in the T at the top.
It’s no accident that we’ve used a lot of stories in this article. Storytelling is powerful: it goes beyond facts and figures to stimulate and shape mind-sets. Thinking in terms of stories is also a helpful reminder that change is ultimately personal, as every story is open to individual interpretation and individual meaning. Along the same lines, if you want to lead change, you must take on both the contextual and personal dimensions. Mastering them is a challenge but also can be incredibly rewarding—not just for the organizations and people you’re trying to lead but also for you as a leader and, ultimately, as a person.

Source:, August 2019

Psykologen: Normalt att vara trött efter semestern

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt on August 19th, 2019 by admin

Nu börjar sommarsemestrarna lida mot sitt slut. Den som känner stress och ångest över att vara tillbaka i vanliga rutiner är inte ensam.

– Det är normalt att vara trött i förändringen som sker, säger psykologen Linn Almlöf.

Nu börjar många komma tillbaka från sommarsemestern. Några känner sig redo att börja jobba igen, medan andra kanske är tröttare än vad de egentligen vill erkänna. Övergången från semester till vardag och jobb kan vara ansträngande.

– Det är normalt att vara trött i förändringen som sker. Det är en omställning att vara tillbaka i vardagen med krav som kanske inte finns under en ledighet, säger Linn Almlöf, legitimerad psykolog vid Stressmottagningen i Stockholm.

Hon tror att stress inför jobbstarten och hösten handlar om att många upplever krav på att leverera särskilt bra efter en lång sommarledighet. Då kan det vara en god idé att stanna upp och tänka igenom vad man kan behöva för att må bra och få vila.

– Ofta finns det en bild av att man vilat upp sig under semestern och att det ska startas igång nya projekt. Det är lika viktigt då som alltid annars att ta en sak i taget, att ta pauser och inte lägga i högsta växeln på en gång, säger Linn Almlöf.

– Om man har en sårbarhet för stress kan det vara bra att bromsa sig själv och inte trycka på för hårt, det är såklart bra även för alla andra.

Ett annat stressmoment kan vara att återgå till vardagslivet. Att plötsligt behöva passa tider, hämta på förskolan och arbeta långa dagar kan vara svårare än man tror.

– Det kan vara en stress att börja få ihop livets olika delar igen, säger hon.

Sociala medier har närmast svämmat över av till synes perfekta semesterbilder. Men för många är ledigheten inte bara avkoppling och roliga aktiviteter.

– Många som vi träffar här hos oss kan tycka att semestern är mer kämpig än den vanliga vardagen. Man har kanske barn hemma som behöver sysselsättas och det ska hittas på saker. Vissa har ett väldigt intensivt schema, man far hit och dit och det är många man ska träffa, säger Linn Almlöf.

En annan vanlig känsla är att semestern inte levde upp till förväntningarna.

– Känner man så är det extra viktigt att ha återhämtning nu när man kommer tillbaka in i vardagen, att inte ställa så höga krav på sig själv och att inte allt behöver kännas bra direkt, säger Linn Almlöf.

Det finns väldigt lite forskning om vilken effekt semester har på människor.

– Den enda slutsats som egentligen finns är att oavsett hur lång semester man har så får man bara en kortvarig välgörande effekt av den, säger Dan Hasson, stress- och arbetsmiljöforskare vid Karolinska institutet och Mayo Clinic i USA.

– Oavsett om du haft en lång eller kort semester varar effekten bara upp till ett par veckor.

Finns det någon förklaring till det?

– Det går inte att återhämta sig i förväg, det går inte att sova ett halvår för att sedan vara vaken ett halvår, säger Dan Hasson.

Läs mer: Det här händer i hjärnan vid stress

Det finns ingen enkel förklaring till varför folk kan känna sig stressade efter semestern.

– Om man känner sig stressad är det bra att fundera över anledningarna till det. Det kan handla om något så enkelt som att det rör sig om en förändring, och förändringar kan vara mer eller mindre stressande. En stressreaktion är kroppens sätt att anpassa oss till en föränderlig värld, säger Dan Hasson.

Bara för att vissa personer upplever stress över att semestern är slut gäller det absolut inte alla.

– För en del är det en lättnad att komma tillbaka till jobbet. Kanske har man haft ett barn vid varje arm som dragit i en, familj som ska träffas och har det blivit fullt upp. Då känner vissa att de äntligen får pusta ut när de kommer tillbaka till vardagen, säger han.

– Det kan finnas många skäl till att man mår dåligt. Alltifrån att man inte trivs på sin arbetsplats till att man verkligen njöt av semestern och inte ville att den skulle ta slut.

Vad händer i kroppen?
– Alla förändringar är något vi måste anpassa oss till, och anpassningar är energikrävande. Vare sig du ska varva upp eller ner så innebär det en anpassning. Det är bra för hjärnan att ha lite variation i tillvaron, men det kan vara jobbigt ändå. Om man anpassar sig till att ligga i hängmattan blir det ett stort hopp till att bli högproduktiv, säger Dan Hasson.

– Det är därför jag brukar ge rådet att mjukstarta, om det är möjligt. En busschaufför kan ju inte stanna vid var tredje hållplats, men på vissa jobb kanske man kan börja på en onsdag och då är det ganska nära till helgen.

I Sverige har vi ovanligt mycket semester. I till exempel USA är det vanligt att ha 10 till 12 dagar som standard.

– Det har inte forskats på det här, men om jag får spekulera verkar frågan om tillräcklig semester ha varit mycket mer central i Sverige jämfört med i USA, där jag också jobbar i bland, säger Dan Hasson.

Läs mer: Så minskar du stressen på jobbet

Tips till dig som känner stress efter semestern
Tänk inte att du måste vara supertaggad inför hösten. Det är okej att vara trött och omotiverad i början och många andra känner likadant. Ta det lugnt och tänk i stället att du ska försöka må bra på ett långsiktigt plan.

Ha en avstämning med dig själv efter semestern. Tänk igenom: Hur har sommaren varit? Hur känner jag mig? Har jag fått återhämtning eller har sommaren tagit väldigt mycket av mig? Vad behöver jag inför hösten?

Det är individuellt vad som är återhämtning. Vissa behöver mer träning, andra mindre. Vad kan jag behöva och vad är återhämtande aktiviteter för mig så att jag ska hålla och må bra? Vilka är mina vanliga fallgropar för stress?

Källa:, 19 augusti 2019, Linn Almlöf/Stressmottagningen

Making a culture transformation stick with symbolic actions

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Executive Team / Ledningsgruppsarbete, Leadership / Ledarskap, Strategy implementation / Strategiimplementering on August 15th, 2019 by admin

Elephant in the room: making a culture transformation stick with symbolic actions

Leaders are familiar with the challenge of making a cultural transformation. To signal changing expectations, execute carefully considered symbolic actions.

Why did a leading global agriculture player order small rubber elephants adorned with the company’s logo for its meeting rooms? Far from being mere props, these elephants were symbols to facilitate desired behavior shifts in employees.

The organization was undergoing a cultural transformation to become a higher-performing, more innovative company. Leadership realized that to achieve this goal, employees needed to become more open and comfortable having the candid conversations required to move ideas forward—they needed to be able to put the elephant on the table. To encourage this change, leadership sought a way to signal the beginning of the transformation and role model the new behaviors.

Leaders across industries are familiar with the challenge of making—and sustaining—a cultural transformation. To signal that cultural expectations are changing, leadership should execute one or two carefully considered symbolic actions.

Make expectations clear through role modeling
“Beyond Performance 2.0” discusses the importance of senior leaders employing symbolic actions—highly visible acts or decisions that indicate change in the organization—to demonstrate their commitment to the transformation. Symbolic actions can augment critical, but often less visible, day-to-day behavior shifts among leaders, addressing a common frustration: “I’m doing things differently but no one is noticing.”

Our research shows that transformations are 5.3 times more likely to succeed when leaders model the behavior they want employees to adopt. We also found that nearly 50 percent of employees cite the CEO’s visible engagement and commitment to transformation as the most effective action for engaging frontline employees.

Symbolic actions are most successful when employees connect the dots between the act and the broader change message, facilitating both a mindset and behavioral shift. For example, employees at the agriculture company were initially confused when they discovered the rubber elephants. But their confusion subsided when they saw leaders pick them up and put them on the table as they raised difficult topics others might have felt uncomfortable surfacing. The practice was eventually adopted by other employees when they too needed to call out the elephant in the room.

Develop a portfolio of symbolic actions
Leaders can identify the right symbolic actions for their organization and evolve their approaches by undertaking three key activities:

1. Define the purpose of and audience for potential symbolic actions.
Leaders should identify what specific changes they want to facilitate and which group should be part of the symbolic action. Being clear on what is being symbolized and for what purpose will focus energy on the ideas that will have the greatest impact.

2. Brainstorm symbolic actions.
Go for quantity over quality when generating ideas. Use external examples for inspiration and adopt design-thinking tactics, such as empathy mapping, to better understand the audience. Categorizing the ideas according to design dimensions such as who will execute the action and the frequency of the action (one-time, periodic or ongoing) helps the group iterate.

3. Review and prioritize ideas.
Evaluate the list as a team and identify options that you feel will be the most effective, shifting the focus to quality over quantity. Prioritized actions should be consistent with broader transformation messaging and should be designed to appeal to the different sources of meaning that motivate and inspire employees, such as doing good for society, supporting their working team, or enabling personal gain.

The behavior change and the broader culture change transformation catalyzed by the elephant on the table ultimately paid off for the agriculture company. Its employees now have more open, candid conversations, enabling improved performance and health of the organization. The company climbed to the top decile of organizational health in McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index database—an achievement that our analysis indicates correlates with clear improvements in financial performance. For shareholders, there is nothing symbolic about those returns.

For more on leading successful large-scale change programs, see our book, “Beyond Performance 2.0.”

Source:, July 2019
Authors: By Jessica Cohen, Matt Schrimper and Emily Taylor

The negative impact of self-serving, controlling leaders

Posted in Aktuellt, Leadership / Ledarskap on August 13th, 2019 by admin

There are two distinct categories of leaders as perceived by employees, says business author and management consultant Scott Blanchard.

“Employees perceive either that they have a good manager who has their back and is someone they can trust, or that they have a self-oriented leader who sees direct reports as less important, potentially interchangeable parts.”

Blanchard explains that it is critical for managers to be perceived by their direct reports as positive leaders. Companies need to make sure they are not allowing or incentivizing managers to do things that are damaging to people’s engagement and performance in the workplace.

“People who perceive that their manager has their back have an overwhelmingly strong positive correlation toward performing at a high level,” says Blanchard. “That means going above and beyond the job description, staying with the organization, endorsing it as a good place to work, and being a good team member.”

“When we looked at the negative impact of leaders who use controlling behavior, we found that self-oriented leaders tend to be more controlling where others-oriented leaders are more facilitating and enabling.”

Blanchard points to research conducted by Dr. Drea Zigarmi and Dr. Taylor Peyton Roberts, who looked at different motivation techniques used by athletic coaches.

“Zigarmi and Roberts found that controlling behavior is most often demonstrated in four different areas. One is a controlling use of rewards. In the study with athletes, this manifested as: My coach tries to motivate me by promising to reward me if I do well; My coach only rewards me to make me train harder; and My coach only uses rewards and praise so I can stay focused on the tasks during training.”

Even though this research was done in a sports coaching environment, Blanchard says it’s not hard to understand how it relates to a workplace environment.

“Another controlling tactic is negative conditional regard, which is: My coach is less friendly with me if I don’t make the effort to see things their way; and My coach is less supportive of me when I’m not training and competing well.”

Intimidation is a third dimension, says Blanchard: “My coach shouts at me in front of others; My coach threatens to punish me; My coach intimidates me into doing things he or she wants me to do; and My coach embarrasses me when I don’t do things that they want.”

The final controlling approach is excessive personal control: “My coach expects my whole life to center around my work; My coach tries to control what I do during my free time; and My coach tries to interfere with the aspects of my life outside of my work.”

Blanchard says that when managers and coaches use controlling behaviors, they crush the positive intentions people would naturally bring to their work or sport. These behaviors also have a negative effect on a direct report’s sense of self accountability, says Blanchard. This is described in academic circles as locus of control.

“A locus of control is the extent to which a person believes they have control over their own outcomes. Here’s the idea: if I have an internal locus of control, I believe that through my efforts, my thoughts, and my determination, I can achieve success in getting the kind of outcomes I’m looking for at work. An external locus of control is where I believe outcomes are determined not by internal forces such as my own grit and determination but by the external environment.”

Encouraging and cultivating a person’s belief in their internal ability to positively influence their environment is important, says Blanchard. He points to research done by hiring consultants at Hireology, which shows that a candidate with an internal locus of control has a 40% greater likelihood of success in a new role.

Blanchard explains that people who work for a manager who is self-oriented and controlling will actually begin to doubt or set aside their belief in their ability to achieve successful outcomes.

“If people experience overly controlling management, they have two choices: they can perform because they have to, which is called controlled regulation; or they can just do the minimum to get by—that’s called amotivation.

“Others-oriented managers support personal industriousness and reinforce a sense of personal accountability. When you engage in positive behaviors, you reinforce the notion of internal locus of control where you take responsibility for your own results. This leads to autonomous regulation—a high quality of motivation—where you perceive you’re doing something deeply connected to who you are and what’s important to you.

“Work becomes more motivating when it aligns with who you are. The old adage is true: ‘If you find a job that you’re really passionate about, you never have to work another day in your life.’ Your work just feels like something that’s natural.”

Others-oriented managers help instill that kind of meaning and accountability in their people, says Blanchard. “It’s about working side by side with people in a way that lets them grow into their autonomy. Managers who overtly control people squash or kill that initiative, which causes their direct reports to be less loyal, accountable, and motivated.

“If you want to have robotic employees who only do what they’re told to do and what they’re rewarded to do, then keep putting controlling managers in front of them. But if you want people who take ownership of their jobs, produce better results, and are eager to stay with the company, you have to hire and prepare managers to be others-oriented.”

Source: Kenblanchard.dom, August 2019