Unlocking the potential of frontline managers

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

Instead of administrative work and meetings, they should focus on coaching their employees and on constantly improving quality.

A retail manager responsible for more than $80 million in annual revenue, an airline manager who oversees a yearly passenger volume worth more than $160 million, a banking manager who deals with upward of seven million questions from customers a year. These aren’t executives at a corporate headquarters; they are the hidden—yet crucial—managers of frontline employees.
Found in almost any company, such managers are particularly important in industries with distributed networks of sites and employees. These industries—for instance, infrastructure, travel and logistics, manufacturing, health care, and retailing (including food service and retail banking)—make up more than half of the global economy. Their district or area managers, store managers, site or plant managers, and line supervisors direct as much as two-thirds of the workforce and are responsible for the part of the company that typically defines the customer experience. Yet most of the time, these managers operate as cogs in a system, with limited flexibility in decision making and little room for creativity.
In a majority of the companies we’ve encountered, the frontline managers’ role is merely to oversee a limited number of direct reports, often in a “span breaking” capacity, relaying information from executives to workers.1 Such managers keep an eye on things, enforce plans and policies, report operational results, and quickly escalate issues or problems. In other words, a frontline manager is meant to communicate decisions, not to make them; to ensure compliance with policies, not to use judgment or discretion (and certainly not to develop policies); and to oversee the implementation of improvements, not to contribute ideas or even implement improvements (workers do that).
This system makes companies less productive, less agile, and less profitable, our experience shows. Change is possible, however. At companies that have successfully empowered their frontline managers, the resulting flexibility and productivity generate strong financial returns. One convenience store retailer, for example, reduced hours worked by 19 to 25 percent while increasing sales by almost 10 percent. It achieved this result by halving the time store managers spent on administration; restructuring their work (and that of their employees) to focus on the areas most relevant to customers, such as the cleanliness of stores and upselling efforts at the cash register; and creating easy-to-understand performance metrics that managers now had enough time to coach employees on daily.
The key is a shift to frontline managers who have the time—and the ability—to address the unique circumstances of their specific stores, plants, or mines; to foresee trouble and stem it before it begins; and to encourage workers to seek out opportunities for self-improvement. In difficult economic times, making employees more productive is even more crucial than it is ordinarily.

The reality of the front line
To unlock a team’s abilities, a manager at any level must spend a significant amount of time on two activities: helping the team understand the company’s direction and its implications for team members and coaching for performance. Little of either occurs on the front line today. Across industries, frontline managers spend 30 to 60 percent of their time on administrative work and meetings, and 10 to 50 percent on nonmanagerial tasks (traveling, participating in training, taking breaks, conducting special projects, or undertaking direct customer service or sales themselves). They spend only 10 to 40 percent actually managing frontline employees by, for example, coaching them directly.
Even then, managers often aren’t truly coaching the front line. Our survey of retail district managers, for example, showed that much of the time they spend on frontline employees actually involved auditing for compliance with standards or solving immediate problems. At some companies we surveyed, district managers devote just 4 to 10 percent of their time—as little as 10 minutes a day—to coaching teams. To put the point another way, a district manager in retailing may spend as little as one hour a month developing people in the more junior but critical role of store manager.

In our experience, neither companies nor their frontline managers typically expect more. One area manager at a specialty retailer with thousands of outlets said, “Coaching? A good store manager should just know what to do—that’s what we hire them for.” A store manager in a global convenience retailer told us, “There are just good stores and bad stores—there’s very little we can do to change that.” Another store manager, in a North American electronics retailer, said, “They told me, ‘We don’t pay you to think; we pay you to execute.’”
These shortcomings are rooted in the early days of the industrial revolution, when manufacturing work was broken down into highly specialized, repetitive, and easily observed tasks. No one worker created a whole shoe, for example; each hammered his nail in the same spot and the same way every time, maximizing effectiveness and efficiency. Employees didn’t necessarily know anything about the overall job in which they participated, so supervisors (usually people good at the work itself) were employed to enforce detailed standards and policies—essentially, serving as span breakers between workers and policy makers. Many manufacturing companies still use this approach, because it can deliver high-quality results on the front line, at least in the short term. In many service industries, the same approach has taken hold in order to provide all customers in all locations with a consistent experience.
Although attention to execution is important, an exclusive focus on it can have insidious long-term effects. Such a preoccupation leaves no time for efforts to deal with new demands (say, higher production or quality), let alone for looking at the big picture. The result is a working environment with little flexibility, little encouragement to make improvements, and an increased risk of low morale among both workers and their managers—all at high cost to companies.
The effects of poor frontline management may be particularly damaging at service companies, where researchers have consistently detected a causal relationship between the attitudes and behavior of customer-facing employees, on the one hand, and the customers’ perceptions of service quality, on the other. In service industries, research has found that three factors drive performance: the work climate; the ways teams act together and things are done; and the engagement, commitment, and satisfaction of employees. Leadership—in particular, the quality of supervision and the nature of the relationships between supervisors and their teams—is crucial to performance in each of these areas.2 Clearly, the typical work patterns and attitudes of frontline managers are not conducive to good results.
At a North American medical-products distributor, for example, one supervisor reflected that the company “is like California—forest fires breaking out everywhere and no plan to stop them. A lot of crisis-to-crisis situations with no plan. We’ve been in this mode for so long, we don’t know how to stop and plan, although that’s what we desperately need to do. I wish I knew how to intervene.” Because frontline managers were so busy jumping in to solve problems, they had no time to step back and look at longer-term performance trends or to identify—and try to head off—emerging performance issues. It’s therefore no wonder that the company’s performance had begun to decline: inventories were increasing and errors in shipments became more frequent. Companies can also get into frontline trouble if they fail to maintain well-managed operations (see sidebar, “The danger of complacency”).

Time better spent
At best-practice companies, frontline managers allocate 60 to 70 percent of their time to the floor, much of it in high-quality individual coaching. Such companies also empower their managers to make decisions and act on opportunities. The bottom-line benefit is significant, but to obtain it companies must fundamentally redefine what they expect from frontline managers and redesign the work that those managers and their subordinates do. The examples below explain how two companies in different circumstances and
industries made such changes.

Manufacturing and the front line
Sometimes a corporate crisis drives frontline changes. A global equipment manufacturer, for example, was facing backlogs, capacity constraints, and quality and profitability issues in its core vehicle assembly business. The company’s senior leaders concluded that they would have to change operations at five plants by running two shifts rather than three while also raising production levels and quality. “Substantial” results would be needed in no more than seven weeks. Frontline managers were to have a critical role in the changeover—indeed, it couldn’t succeed unless they adopted a new way of working. To communicate the importance of the changes being introduced, senior leaders, among other things, ordered vice presidents to spend full days in vehicle assembly stations and sent the company’s director of operations to participate in daily shift start-up meetings at each plant. More on the importance of the senior leadership’s role in driving change can be found in Carolyn B. Aiken and Scott P. Keller, “The CEO’s role in leading transformation,” mckinseyquarterly.com, February 2007.
Meanwhile, the jobs of frontline managers changed. They were to spend more time in active roles: critical processes and workflows were redesigned according to lean principles,3 and the managers played the principal part in implementing these changes. Administrative activities, such as writing reports to plant managers and gathering data to prepare for site visits from regional managers, were eliminated. Innovations spouted—boards posted on factory floors, for example, were continuously updated with performance information, such as hour-by-hour tracking of lost time, as well as long-term problems and the solutions found for them. End-of-shift reports let each shift know exactly what the previous one had accomplished. Weekly reports informed workers about the five most important defects to correct and the five most important actions needed to improve performance. A typical manager’s span of control fell to 12 to 15, from 20 to 30.
Such changes freed managers to spend more time providing on-the-floor coaching and helping teams solve immediate problems. Managers received on-the-job training in lean technical skills as well as in coaching, team building, and problem solving. They also moved their desks from offices to the shop floor and spent at least five hours a day there, literally putting themselves in the middle of the transformation.
As a result, managers and workers identified and implemented other improvements—for example, making parts more available, with fewer defects, and routing materials more efficiently—so that lost production and the need for rework fell. Overall, though the transformation took ten weeks rather than seven, the initial targets were exceeded. Across the five plants, the number of completed vehicles rose by 40 percent a month—despite the elimination of a shift—and quality by 80 percent. Worker hours fell by 40 percent.

Retailing and the front line
Changing the mind-sets and capabilities of individual frontline managers can be the hardest part. In our experience, many of them see limits to how much they can accomplish; some also recognize the need to restructure their roles but nonetheless fear change. At times, before the job of coaching can begin, companies must address more insidious mind-sets—such as a belief that employees can’t learn, their negative attitudes toward customers, or a lack of confidence that frontline managers can influence performance.
The first step is to help frontline managers understand the need for change and how it could make things better. At the convenience store retailer mentioned earlier, for example, an analysis revealed that store managers spent, on average, 61 percent of their time on administration and that they struggled with poorly defined processes for interacting with customers. In addition, these managers felt that they had no control over key performance drivers (such as sales in important product categories), lacked simple tools to monitor daily performance, and had inadequate leadership and coaching skills. They were also tired of “flavor of the month” corporate-improvement initiatives that dictated more work without addressing the fundamental causes of problems.
To give store managers a sense of what could be, this company showed some groups of managers a radically different model store. There, work processes such as stocking took much less time than it did in the company’s ordinary stores, because similar products were grouped together, and high-volume stock was stored in a common and much more accessible location. Cleaning was easier because the layout had been improved, employees had the equipment and supplies to clean more frequently and quickly, and an if-it’s-simple-clean-it-now policy had been introduced. Such steps created a more attractive store environment, simplified the work of employees, freed them to interact with customers, and reduced the amount of time managers had to spend dealing with problems in these areas.
Managers also gained time in other ways: for example, they no longer had to complete long weekly sales reports, respond to corporate directives that arrived at unexpected times, and accommodate too-frequent visits by district or regional sales managers. Streamlined sales reporting captured fewer but more essential indicators, such as the volume of sales in key product categories. All visits from district or regional managers were scheduled in advance and followed a predetermined and performance-focused agenda.
As a result, the time store managers spent on administration fell by nearly half, so they could devote 60 to 70 percent of their days to activities such as coaching workers and interacting with customers. These managers spent more time on the sales floor with individual employees and regularly discussed store strategies and performance metrics with them. The discussions took advantage of a new performance scorecard with just a few key metrics, such as the number of customers greeted during peak hours, success rates on “suggestive selling” at checkout, and immediate follow-up with customers to gauge their satisfaction. Because the stores stayed open 24 hours a day, managers weren’t always present. They therefore engaged all employees in regular problem-solving sessions to create a better selling and service environment in the stores—for example, by ensuring that more employees would be available at critical times of the week. Furthermore, managers could now adapt the company’s general operating model by deciding how many (and which) employees would be present in stores at any given time.
This vision of a well-run store, contrasting starkly with the stores of the managers who visited it, overcame their fears. Once frontline managers have accepted the need for change, however, they must learn the new ways of working required by the demands of their redefined roles. At the convenience store retailer, training sessions and trial-and-error fieldwork helped the managers develop the needed capabilities quickly. Some of these skills were technical, focused on managing more effective processes and revised daily routines, as well as keeping track of the simplified store performance scorecards. Other forms of training enhanced the managers’ interpersonal skills, such as how to engage and empower subordinates; to have regular, constructive conversations about performance; and how to provide feedback and coaching.
Managers were also made aware of the negative mind-sets (such as, “I am just another associate when I go on the store floor,” and “My job is to make sure that tasks get done”) that made it harder to develop the right skills and capabilities. They learned how to counter these mind-sets and to adopt more positive ones (for instance, “I regularly provide my employees with constructive feedback and tips,” and “My job is to ensure that tasks are complete and that customers are served as well”), which promote more appropriate behavior and better performance. When the company rolled out the program broadly, the results were impressive: productivity rose by 51 percent in one region and by 65 percent in another.5

Companies that succeed in redefining the job of the frontline manager can improve their performance remarkably. Successful approaches can be applied across many industries. A mining company that implemented such a program enjoyed a 10 percent increase in tonnage per frontline employee. A bank branch found that cross-selling went up by 24 percent within a year. Total sales at a department store rose 2 percent in one six-month period.
The key is to help frontline managers become true leaders, with the time, the skills, and the desire to help workers understand the company’s direction and its implications for themselves, as well as to coach them individually. Such managers should have enough time to think ahead, to uncover and solve long-term problems, and to plan for potential new demands.
A nursing supervisor at a European hospital that empowered its nurses offered perhaps the clearest description of the way frontline leaders ought to think—a description that couldn’t be more different from the role of traditional frontline managers: “I am a valued member of this team, who has responsibility to make sure my ward nurses have the right coaching to improve patient service while contributing to the overall functioning of our ward—for the first time, I feel as important as a doctor or an administrator in the success of this institution.” That kind of frontline leader can consistently help employees to enhance their impact on an organization’s work.

Source: McKinsey.com
Authors: Aaron De Smet is a principal in McKinsey’s Houston office, Monica McGurk is a principal in the Atlanta office, and Marc Vinson is a consultant in the Cleveland office.

What people still don’t understand about culture and how to change it

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Leadership / Ledarskap, Strategy implementation / Strategiimplementering on October 9th, 2019 by admin

The world of organisational culture has changed in the last 10 years. It doesn’t matter if you are a manufacturer, financial services provider, a FTSE 100 or a SME, this is what you need to know about culture today, that still seems to be misunderstood.

1. Your values are not your culture
Your values form part of the building blocks of your culture, along with your purpose and vision or equivalent but they are not the culture itself. The process of setting them does not mean that you have a great culture.

It is an often heard comment that your values on the wall do not make great culture and it is so true. Culture needs to be lived, it is seen, heard and felt throughout the business, through your customers, your employees as well as your partners and suppliers.

So, what exactly is it?

It is the beliefs, mindset and attitude that your employees turn up to work with every day
It is the leadership style leaders and management capability that’s displayed
It is the customer experience you deliver
It is how your people communicate and collaborate
It is how manageable your employees workload is and how effective the tools are they use
It is how you treat your partners & suppliers
It is how much of an effort you make to be diverse and inclusive
It is your appetite for risk and or innovation
It is how all your processes, policies and systems support what you say you want to achieve
It’s a long but not exhaustive list of what your culture is made up of and a reminder of how many facets of the organisation you need to really embed those values into.

2. Culture Change Needs to be Embedded Not Just Communicated
Firstly, if you want to design a new culture or change/enhance an existing culture whether it’s at organisational, regional, divisional or even team level, you need to do it with intentionality – there needs to be a concerted effort AND a structured approach to it.

The good news is that with all the technology, tools, data and experience that we have at our disposal these days culture change can now happen quite rapidly and in a fairly agile way but still it requires an organised approach rather a once-off intervention.

A 3-stage approach is a good starting point:
Stage 1: Understand the current culture – listen to your stakeholders and understand what their views and concerns are. Listen to your people and find out what really happens in the day to day happenings of the organisation. What’s enabling performance and results and what’s holding it back or could hamper the strategy or current transformation project?

You also need to understand what the case for change is. If there isn’t a compelling case for change then you need to create a very desirable and compelling future state.

At this point it’s also useful to explore how equipped your leadership team are to drive and lead any culture change.

Stage 2: Design the future culture required to fulfil the aims and ambitions, whether that be the purpose/mission and vision. What are the values, behaviours and mindset shift required to drive the new culture forward?

For larger companies, this might not be just at the top of the organisation- it might be what does this division want to do differently to standout or outperform from the rest. What’s the right culture to mobilise the people on your strategy? Make it personal to you. It’s not one size fits all.

Stage 3: Embed the culture. Build a roadmap and engagement plan to embed the desired culture and make it stick. This is the piece that most organisations don’t do well. Culture needs to be fully embedded across the entire business and not just into HR policies but also into processes, systems and structure that guide the organisation.

3. A Culture of Innovation is your only Choice
If you’re not innovating, you’re sliding backwards. There’s no such thing as sitting tight and waiting to see.

There is lots of innovation going on today but mostly it’s happening in pockets of organisations, in a lab or hub in a different building somewhere. Innovation needs to be embedded as a way of life where people have changed the way they think and work, with everyone contributing in some way to the innovation ecosystem.

In our book, Building A Culture of Innovation, we talk about the attributes of a Next Generation Organisation as Intelligence, Collaboration and Adaptability.

Intelligence is about getting meaningful insight so that you know what problems, opportunities or ideas will best serve you and your customers.
Collaboration is about truly leveraging skills, knowledge and experience of not only your own employees but also your partners, suppliers and customers.
Adaptability is about speed and agility to move. We’re still seeing businesses take too long to get a new proposition to market. And employees taking too long to adopt new ways of working.
Making these 3 things a way of life requires changing the mindset, behaviours and skills of your people.

4. Your Future Culture needs to be Human, Business and Technology Focussed.
Let’s start by saying that the future of work is definitely human. Even if we think that 40% of today’s jobs will be automated and the near future sees us fully working alongside robots. There will obviously still be jobs for people. The likely scenario though is that there will be an even greater skills gap and the war for talent even tougher.

This means that creating a culture which will attract and retain the best talent needs to be a priority.

Employers will have to factor in the overall wellbeing of their people (physical, mental, financial and social)
Employee experience will need to be inclusive and welcoming to people from all backgrounds and be able to appeal to the needs and wants of all generations of workers.
The rapid pace of change will mean that you will constantly need to be upskilling and creating a learning culture.

Given the pace of technological change no single technology solution is going to define your culture but you will need to provide work tools which enable people to work the way they want to. Flexibly, collaboratively, differently. You will also need to provide the tools that continually measure your culture and its impact so that you can react immediately to issues that arise. Or even with AI in culture tools, you should be able to react before the issue!

It’s obvious that you need to focus on the business aspect but don’t lose sight of your strategy! We’ve seen too many people and tech initiatives fail because they weren’t connected to the overarching strategy of the business. Define your strategy then decide what culture and tech you need to support it.

5. Equip your people to lead the culture of the future
Many of the skills that will be needed for the future will need to be learnt. Equipping people at all levels with the right skills for the future will be key for success.

Leaders: There’s always quite a bit of focus on leaders but not necessarily on the right things. Ensure they are equipped with future- focussed leadership skills such as resilience and adaptability and being an excellent communicator with strong empathy and an inclusive mindset.

Managers: Rather unhelpfully referred to as the permafrost- these people need to not only be taught how to be effective people managers, time managers and project managers, they need to be given the resources to manage their own careers and the time for their own ongoing learning.

Front-line staff– rather than herding ‘staff’ through culture change- you need to think about the individual scenarios that are going to appeal to and benefit people. The modern workplace is very diverse and its people have various needs and wants- don’t make too many assumptions that put people in buckets such as Gen Y or Mothers or LGBT- take the time to find out what they really want.

Source:Thefutureshapers.com, 8October 2019

KRONANS Apotek – Märklig syn på kunden

Posted in Aktuellt, Customer care / Kundvård, Leadership / Ledarskap, Strategy implementation / Strategiimplementering on September 19th, 2019 by admin

Ibland funderar man på hur företag verkligen överlever i dagens stentuffa konkurrenssituation.

När jag växte upp fanns det e t t apotek. Man gick helt enkelt till Apoteket! Situationen var, som i många andra branscher, den att konkurrensen var obefintlig. Följaktligen spelade det ingen större roll hur man tog hand om kunderna. De kom ändå. Det fanns ju inga andra alternativ.

Idag finns det, tack och lov, ett flertal möjligheter (t.ex. Apoteket, Kronans Apotek, Apotek Hjärtat, Fox Farmacia, Apoteksgruppen, Lloyds, Swevet). Alla med bra affärslägen, generösa öppettider och inte minst service på nätet. Och massor av produkter. Och produkterna är i stort sett desamma. Och, i alla fall vad gäller läkemedel, är kvaliteten likvärdig. Detta sörjer Läkemedelsverket för.

Med så mycket och så bra, hur ska man då konkurrera? Jo, man kan ju sänka sina priser. Men vem vill göra det?
Med allt annat lika kvarstår då möjligheten att säkerställa ett bemötande som är bättre för mig som kund än hos de övriga aktörerna. Känner ni igen situationen? Genom att ta hand om sina kunder (nya och befintliga) på ett bra sätt (och bättre än andra aktörer) skapar man nöjda och återkommande kunder. Och stärker sin konkurrenskraft. Låter enkelt, eller hur? Men det har visat sig svårt. Och nästa omöjligt för vissa.

En del i att utveckla marknadens bästa kundbemötande (och de stora konkurrensfördelar det ger) är att hela tiden vara lyhörd för hur kunden ser på vårt erbjudande och vårt beteende. Det är idag så viktigt att det är en stående punkt på agendan för de flesta styrelser.

Och precis som vi ger återkoppling till våra barn dagligen (för att de skall kunna utvecklas som individer) är det av största vikt att företagets anställd löpande får information om vad kunderna tycker om oss. Vad gör vi bra? Och vad vill kunderna att vi utvecklar ytterligare? Både vad gäller vårt produkterbjudande och hur vi bemöter våra kunder.

Nu till min egen upplevelse av hur detta fungerar (eller snarare, inte fungerade alls) hos Kronans Apotek:
Jag besöker Kronans Apotek på Odengatan i Stockholm. Ljust, fint och massor av produkter. Men det är ju precis som hos alla andra apotek. Det vill säga – detta skapar ingen konkurrensfördel över huvud taget.
Just mängden produkter gör att jag har svårt att se skillnaden på olika alternativ. Följaktligen ber jag om hjälp, beskriver mitt behov och blir rekommenderad en produkt. Tackar och betalar. Gott så!
Väl hemma igen Googlar jag på produkten och finner at det här inte alls är det jag behöver. Och de angivna biverkningarna är dessutom direkt olämpliga för just min situation.
Nåväl, Kronans Apotek ligger ju bara ett stenkast hemifrån. Nästa dag promenerar jag över till dem och träffar nu en annan expedit än den som expedierade mig igår. När jag beskriver mitt behov (på samma sätt som för hennes kollega dagen innan) skakar hon på huvudet och utbrister att ”då ska du verkligen i n t e använda denna produkt”! Hon plockar snabbt fram en ny produkt utan de olämpliga biverkningar som fanns i produkten från igår.

Nu dyker gårdagens expedit upp. Hon kommer fram, minns mig från igår och börjar genast försvara sin rekommendation. Felet till att jag fick en direkt olämplig produkt igår är kundens! Kunden (jag) har inte alls beskrivit behovet på rätt sätt. Jag behöver inte höra detta utan ber att helt enkelt få byta produkten från igår mot den jag just rekommenderats av hennes kollega. Trots att gårdagsprodukten är betydligt dyrare, och jag berättar att det inte spelar någon roll och att jag inte behöver få mellanskillnaden tillbaka, går detta inte att genomföra utan uppvisande av kvitto. ”Hur ska man annars veta att produkten är köpt här”? Men vi har ju just stått här, ansikte mot ansikte, och talat om vårt möte igår!!! Jag lämnar nu Kronans Apotek utan vare sig den första eller andra produkten eller några pengar. Jag har inte mitt liv till diskussioner som denna! Dessutom ligger Apoteket bara ett stenkast bort och här kan jag handla det jag nu vet att jag behöver.

Kan dock inte släppa tanken på hur illa det uppenbart fungerar på just detta apotek. Väl medveten om att just denna situation inte behöver spegla kundbemötandet i alla Kronans Apoteks butiker i Sverige.
Men visst vore det väl ändå värdefullt för Kronans Apotek på Odengatan att få information om hur kunden (jag) upplevde bemötandet. Kanske kan man lära sig något av situationen för att undvika en sur kund framöver? Jag väljer (vilket jag tror att ytterst få missnöjda kunder gör) skriva till Kronans Apotek och förklara min upplevda situation.

Svaret jag får är från en central kundservicefunktion. Man berättar att det naturligtvis inte går att byta produkten (trots obruten förpackning) utan ett kvitto. Och för att ytterligare understryka detta hänvisar man till att ”det är vår policy”. Punkt!
Hur ska man t.ex. veta att den aktuella produkten är köpt just i det aktuella apoteket?
”Men expediten, hennes kollega och jag talade ju om hennes rekommendation och mitt uppföljande köp. Och hon minns ju mycket väl mitt besök” förklarar jag.

Nåväl. Jag ska inte trötta Dig mer med den fortsatta skriftväxlingen med Kronans Apoteks kundservice. Låt mig istället gå till slutet av vår mailväxling. Jag avslutar med att skriva ” Jag utgår från att apotekschefen på Kronans Apotek, Odengatan 54, får ta del av vår dialog och att hen tar en kontakt med mig om hen ser ett värde i detta”.
Nu uppkommer det märkligaste i hela situationen! Jag häpnar när jag läser detta!
Man kan nämligen i n t e förmedla detta till den som är ansvarig på detta apotek. Istället uppmanas jag att söka en personlig kontakt på plats med den ansvarige platschefen!
Varför man inte kan förmedla denna kundåterkoppling från sin centrala funktion ”kundservice” till det berörda apoteket framgår inte. Vad som dock framgår med oönskad tydlighet är att Kronans Apotek inte ser ett värde i att utveckla sitt kundbemötande baserat på faktisk kundåterkoppling.
Rent tekniskt går det ju att i alla fall (även om det skulle te en dryg minut) kopiera texten från vår maildiskussion i ett mail till den berörda apotekschefen. Men det är inte problemet. Problemet är istället att Kronans Apotek uppenbarligen inte har en kultur som uppmuntrar sina anställda att vara lyhörda för kundernas synpunkter! Och det är ytterst en ledningsfråga!

Till aktörer som Kronans Apotek kan man bara säga: Lycka till! Det kommer att behövas …

Läs gärna mer om kundvård här.

De vanligaste anledningarna till att inte ha en mentor och varför de är fel

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on September 18th, 2019 by admin

Missförstånd nummer 1: Är mitt lilla problem något denna erfarna mentor verkligen bryr sig om?
En sak är säker, som företagare har du problem. Nästan jämt. Vissa är stora och vissa är små. Och inget av dem kommer att vara för litet eller för stort för din mentor eftersom hen bryr sig om dig och din verksamhet och vill att du ska lyckas. Inte nog med det – din mentor kommer också veta hur du kan lösa några av dem och stötta dig med problemlösningen så att den går snabbare och enklare än om du skulle behöva komma på allting själv.

Missförstånd nummer 2: Kan jag verkligen lita på att det stannar mellan oss två?
En annan vanlig fråga vi möter är om man vågar anförtro sig åt en helt främmande människa? Och om man kan lita på att det som sägs stannar mellan dig och din mentor? Ja, det kan du självklart göra. Som mentor är det vår skyldighet att skydda och hjälpa dig och din affärsverksamhet och vår relation bygger på att vi litar på varandra och respekterar att det vi berättar för varandra inte förs vidare. En mentor har inget egenintresse av er relation mer än att hjälpa dig lyckas med det du gör.

Missförstånd nummer 3: Jag vet inte vad jag kan förvänta mig av en mentor?
Vi vet, om du köper en pryl kan du känna på den innan du köper den. Gällande tjänster ser du i stället priset men vet inte vad du får. Men vet du vad den vanligaste feedbacken är som vi får från våra kunder? Ett citat i stil med: ”Varför jag har inte gjort detta tidigare?”. Det behöver inte vara svårt att hitta en mentor och 98 procent av våra kunder är jättenöjda med att deras mentorer lyssnar, ställer frågor och delar med sig av sina erfarenheter och hjälper dig med tips och råd.

Missförstånd nummer 4: Det för tidigt att skaffa en mentor
Sist men inte minst så är det ett vanligt missförstånd att det är för tidigt att skaffa en mentor. Att man måste ha drivit företag i X antal år för att ha nytta av att ha en mentor. Men det är fel. Ju tidigare du får en mentor, desto enklare och bättre kommer ditt företagande att bli eftersom du kommer att få rådgivning och stöd i hur du ska arbeta vilket kommer att leda till att ditt företag lyckas ännu snabbare än om du ensam ska komma på och utföra allting. Utnyttja i stället chansen att få lyssna på, ställa frågor och bolla dina idéer med en person som gjort en liknande resa förut och som kan ge dig tips och stöd på din företagsresa.


Making time management the organization’s priority

Posted in Aktuellt, Allmänt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on September 16th, 2019 by admin

To stop wasting a finite resource, companies should tackle time problems systematically rather than leave them to individuals.

When a critical strategic initiative at a major multinational stalled recently, company leaders targeted a talented, up-and-coming executive to take over the project. There was just one problem: she was already working 18-hour days, five days a week. When the leaders put this to the CEO, he matter-of-factly remarked that by his count she still had “30 more hours Monday to Friday, plus 48 more on the weekend.”
Extreme as this case may seem, the perennial time-scarcity problem that underlies it has become more acute in recent years. The impact of always-on communications, the growing complexity of global organizations,1 and the pressures imposed by profound economic uncertainty have all added to a feeling among executives that there are simply not enough hours in the day to get things done.

Our research and experience suggest that leaders who are serious about addressing this challenge must stop thinking about time management as primarily an individual problem and start addressing it institutionally. Time management isn’t just a personal-productivity issue over which companies have no control; it has increasingly become an organizational issue whose root causes are deeply embedded in corporate structures and cultures.
Fortunately, this also means that the problem can be tackled systematically. Senior teams can create time budgets and formal processes for allocating their time. Leaders can pay more attention to time when they address organizational-design matters such as spans of control, roles, and decision rights. Companies can ensure that individual leaders have the tools and incentives to manage their time effectively. And they can provide institutional support, including best-in-class administrative assistance—a frequent casualty of recent cost-cutting efforts.
Approaches like these aren’t just valuable in their own right. They also represent powerful levers for executives faced with talent shortages, particularly if companies find their most skilled people so overloaded that they lack the capacity to lead crucial new programs. In this article, we’ll explore institutional solutions—after first reviewing in more detail the nature of today’s time-management challenge, including the results of a recent survey.

Time: The ‘infinite’ resource
When we asked nearly 1,500 executives across the globe2 to tell us how they spent their time, we found that only 9 percent of the respondents deemed themselves “very satisfied” with their current allocation. Less than half were “somewhat satisfied,” and about one-third were “actively dissatisfied.” What’s more, only 52 percent said that the way they spent their time largely matched their organizations’ strategic priorities. Nearly half admitted that they were not concentrating sufficiently on guiding the strategic direction of the business. These last two data points suggest that time challenges are influencing the well-being of companies, not just individuals.
The survey results, while disquieting, are arguably a natural consequence of the fact that few organizations treat executive time as the finite and measurable resource it is. Consider the contrast with capital. Say that a company has $2 billion of good capital-investment opportunities, all with positive net present value and reasonably quick payback, but just $1 billion of capital readily available for investment. The only options are either to prioritize the most important possibilities and figure out which should be deferred or to find ways of raising more capital.
Leadership time, by contrast, too often gets treated as though it were limitless, with all good opportunities receiving high priority regardless of the leadership capacity to drive them forward. No wonder that so few leaders feel they are using their time well or that a segmentation analysis of the survey data revealed the existence not only of dissatisfied executives but of four distinct groups of dissatisfied executives—“online junkies,” “schmoozers,” “cheerleaders,” and “firefighters”—whose pain points, as we’ll see, reflect the ways organizations ignore time (for a full description of each group, see the narrated slideshow, “Time management: Four flavors of frustration”).

Initiative overload
The myth of infinite time is most painfully experienced through the proliferation of big strategic initiatives and special projects common to so many modern organizations. The result is initiative overload: projects get heaped on top of “day jobs,” with a variety of unintended consequences, including failed initiatives, missed opportunities, and leaders who don’t have time to engage the people whose cooperation and commitment they need. Organizations often get “change fatigue” and eventually lack energy for even the most basic and rewarding initiatives.
Many dissatisfied executives, particularly firefighters and online junkies, struggle to devote time and energy to the personal conversations and team interactions that drive successful initiatives. The online junkies spend the least time motivating employees or being with their direct reports, either one on one or in a group; face-to-face encounters take up less than 20 percent of their working day. The communication channels they most favor are e-mail, other forms of asynchronous messaging, and the telephone—all useful tools, but often inadequate substitutes for real conversations.

Muddling through
Another unintended consequence of our cavalier attitude toward this supposedly infinite resource is a lack of organizational time-management guidance for individual managers.
Imagine someone on day one of a new job: she’s been through the training and onboarding, arrives at the office, sits down at her desk, and then . . . ? What determines the things she does, her schedule, the decisions she gets involved with, where she goes, whom she talks with, the information she reviews (and for how long), and the meetings she attends? Nine out of ten times, we find, the top two drivers are e-mails that appear in the inbox and meeting invites, albeit sometimes in reverse order.
Diary analyses of how different people spend their time in the same role—sales rep, trader, store manager, regional vice president—often provoke astonishment at the sharply contrasting ways different individuals perform the same job. The not-so-good performers are often highly fragmented, spending time on the wrong things in the wrong places while ignoring tasks core to their strategic objectives.
Our survey suggests that a laissez-faire approach to time management is a challenge for all four types of dissatisfied executives, but particularly for the schmoozers (CEOs are well represented) and cheerleaders (often C-suite executives one level down). These individuals seem to be doing valuable things: schmoozers spend most of their time meeting face to face with important (often external) stakeholders, while cheerleaders spend over 20 percent of theirs (more than any other dissatisfied group) interacting with, encouraging, and motivating employees.
But consider the things these people are not doing. Cheerleaders spend less time than other executives with a company’s external stakeholders. For schmoozers, more than 80 percent of interaction time takes place face to face or on the phone. They say they have difficulty connecting with a broad cross-section of the workforce or spending enough time thinking and strategizing. The same challenge confronts cheerleaders, who spend less than 10 percent of their time focused on long-term strategy. The bottom line: muddling through and devoting time to activities that seem important doesn’t always cut it, even for a company’s most senior leaders.

Troublesome trade-offs
When new initiatives proliferate without explicit attention to the allocation of time and roles, organizations inadvertently make trade-offs that render their leaders less effective (see sidebar, “Drowning in managerial minutiae”).
Companies often exacerbate time problems through the blunt application of “delayering” principles. One organization we know applied “the rule of seven” (no more than seven direct reports for managers) to all parts of the organization. It forgot that different types of managerial work require varying amounts of time to oversee, manage, and apprentice people. In some cases (such as jobs involving highly complicated international tax work in finance organizations), a leader has the bandwidth for only two or three direct reports. In others (such as very simple call-center operations, where employees are well trained and largely self-managing), it is fine to have 20 or more.
While the average span of control might still work out at seven, applying simple rules in an overly simplistic way can be costly: managers with too few direct reports often micromanage them or initiate unnecessary meetings, reports, or projects that make the organization more complex. Conversely, when managers don’t have enough time to supervise their people, they tend to manage by exception (acting only where there’s a significant deviation from what’s planned) and often end up constantly firefighting.
We saw these dynamics most at work among our survey’s firefighters. General managers accounted for the largest number of people in this category, which is characterized by the amount of time those in it spend alone in their offices, micromanaging and responding to supposed emergencies via e-mail and telephone (40 percent, as opposed to 13 percent for the schmoozers). Such executives also complained about focusing largely on short-term issues and near-term operational decisions and having little time to set strategy and organizational direction.

Respecting time
The deep organizational roots of these time challenges help explain their persistence despite several decades of research, training, and popular self-help books, all building on Peter Drucker’s famous dictum: “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.”
So where should leaders hoping to make real progress for their organizations—and themselves—start the journey? We don’t believe there’s one particular breakdown of time that works for all executives. But the responses of the relatively small group of satisfied executives in our survey (fewer than one in ten) provide some useful clues to what works.
Overall, the key seems to be balance (exhibit). On average, executives in the satisfied group spend 34 percent of their time interacting with external stakeholders (including boards, customers, and investors), 39 percent in internal meetings (evenly split between one on ones with direct reports, leadership-team gatherings, and other meetings with employees), and 24 percent working alone.

Of the time executives in the satisfied group spend interacting with others (externally and internally), 40 percent involves face-to-face meetings, 25 percent video- or teleconferences, and around 10 percent some other form of real-time communication. Less than a third involves e-mail or other asynchronous communications, such as voice mail.
The satisfied executives identified four key activities that take up (in roughly equal proportions) two-thirds of their time: making key business or operational decisions, managing and motivating people, setting direction and strategy, and managing external stakeholders. None of these, interestingly, is the sort of transactional and administrative activity their dissatisfied counterparts cited as a major time sink.
In our experience, all of those dissatisfied leaders stand to benefit from the remedies described below. That said, just as the principles of a good diet plan are suitable for all unhealthy eaters but the application of those principles may vary, depending on individual vices (desserts for some, between-meal snacks for others), so too these remedies will play out differently, depending on which time problems are most prevalent in a given organization.

1. Have a ‘time leadership’ budget—and a proper process for allocating it
Rather than add haphazardly to projects and initiatives, companies should routinely analyze how much leadership attention, guidance, and intervention each of them will need. What is the oversight required? What level of focus should the top team or the steering committee provide? In other words, how much leadership capacity does the company really have to “finance” its great ideas?

Establishing a time budget for priority initiatives might sound radical, but it’s the best way to move toward the goal of treating leadership capacity as companies treat financial capital and to stop financing new initiatives when the human capital runs out. One large health system we know has established a formal governance committee, with a remit to oversee the time budget, for enterprise-wide initiatives. The committee approves and monitors all of them, including demands on the system’s leadership capacity. Initial proposals must include time commitments required from the leadership and an explicit demonstration that each leader has the required capacity. If not, the system takes deliberate steps to lighten that leader’s other responsibilities.

2. Think about time when you introduce organizational change
Companies typically look at managerial spans of control from a structural point of view: the broader they are, the fewer managers and the lower the overhead they need. Augmenting that structural frame of reference with the time required to achieve goals is critical to the long-term success of any organizational change. The hours needed to manage, lead, or supervise an employee represent a real constraint that, if unmanaged, can make structures unstable or ineffective.
Getting this right is a delicate balancing act. Excessively lean organizations leave managers overwhelmed with more direct reports than they can manage productively. Yet delayering can be a time saver because it strips out redundant managerial roles that add complexity and unnecessary tasks. One major health-products company we know recently made dramatic progress toward eliminating unnecessary work and taming a notorious “meeting culture” just by restructuring its finance organization, which had twice as many managers as its peers did.
Likewise, when another company—this one in the technology sector—reset its internal governance structures, it saved more than 4,000 person-hours of executive time annually while enhancing its strategic focus, increasing its accountability, and speeding up decision making. In particular, the company revamped complex decision-making structures involving multiple boards and committees that typically included the same people and had similar agendas and unnecessarily detailed discussions.

3. Ensure that individuals routinely measure and manage their time
At one leading professional-services firm, a recent analysis revealed that the senior partners were spending a disproportionate amount of time on current engagements, to the exclusion of equally important strategic priorities, such as external networking, internal coaching, and building expertise. Today individual partners have a data-backed baseline as a starting point to measure how well their time allocation meets their individual strategic objectives.
Executives are usually surprised to see the output from time-analysis exercises, for it generally reveals how little of their activity is aligned with the company’s stated priorities. If intimacy with customers is a goal, for example, how much time are the organization’s leaders devoting to activities that encourage it? Most can’t answer this question: they can tell you the portion of the budget that’s dedicated to the organization’s priorities but usually not how much time the leadership devotes to them. Once leaders start tracking the hours, even informally, they often find that they devote a shockingly low percentage of their overall time to these priorities.
Of course, if you measure and manage something, it becomes a priority regardless of its importance. At one industrial company, a frontline supervisor spent almost all his time firefighting and doing unproductive administrative work, though his real value was managing, coaching, and developing people on the shop floor. The reason for the misallocation was that shop-floor time was neither structured nor measured—no one minded if he didn’t show up—but he got into trouble by not attending meetings and producing reports. The same issue exists for senior executives: if their formal and informal incentives don’t map closely to strategic priorities, their time will naturally be misallocated.
The inclusion in performance reviews of explicit, time-related metrics or targets, such as time spent with frontline employees (for a plant manager) or networking (for senior partners at a professional-services firm), is a powerful means of changing behavior. So is friendly competition among team members and verbal recognition of people who spend their time wisely. And consider borrowing a page from lean manufacturing, which emphasizes “standard work” as a way to reduce variability. We’ve seen companies define, measure, and reward leader-standard work, including easy-to-overlook priorities from “walking the halls” to spending time with critical stakeholders.

4. Refine the master calendar
To create time and space for critical priorities, business leaders must first of all be clear about what they and their teams will stop doing. Organizationally, that might mean reviewing calendars and meeting schedules to make an honest assessment of which meetings support strategic goals, as opposed to update meetings slotted into the agenda out of habit or in deference to corporate tradition.
While many large companies create a master calendar for key meetings involving members of the senior team, few take the next step and use that calendar as a tool to root out corporate time wasting. There are exceptions, though: one global manufacturer, for example, avoids the duplication of travel time by always arranging key visits with foreign customers to coincide with quarterly business meetings held overseas.
In our experience, companies can make even more progress by identifying which meetings are for information only (reporting), for cross-unit collaboration (problem solving and coordination at the interfaces), for managing performance (course-correcting actions must be adopted at such meetings, or they are really just for reporting), or for making decisions (meetings where everything is approved 99 percent of the time don’t count, since they too are really for reporting). Executives at the highest-performing organizations we’ve seen typically spend at least 50 percent of their time in decision meetings and less than 10 percent in reporting or information meetings. But most companies allocate their leadership time in exactly the reverse order, often without knowing it: the way people spend their time can be taken for granted, like furniture that nobody notices anymore.

5. Provide high-quality administrative support
One of the biggest differences we saw in the survey involved the quality of support. Of those who deemed themselves effective time managers, 85 percent reported that they received strong support in scheduling and allocating time. Only 7 percent of ineffective time allocators said the same.
The most effective support we’ve seen is provided by a global chemical company, where the CEO’s administrative assistant takes it upon herself to ensure that the organization’s strategic objectives are reflected in the way she allocates the time of the CEO and the top team to specific issues and stakeholders. She regularly checks to ensure that calendared time matches the stated priorities. If it doesn’t, during priority-setting meetings (every two weeks) she’ll highlight gaps by asking questions such as, “We haven’t been to Latin America yet this year—is that an issue? Do you need to schedule a visit before the end of the year?” Or, “Are these the right things to focus on? Since you’re already going to Eastern Europe, what else should we schedule while you’re out there? Do we need to clear the decks to make more time for strategic priorities?”
In addition, the CEO’s administrative assistant “owns” the master calendar for corporate officers and uses it to ensure that the executive team meets on important topics, avoids redundant meetings, and capitalizes on occasions when key leaders are in the same place. Finally, to give senior leaders time to reflect on the big picture, she creates “quiet zones” of minimal activity two or three days ahead of significant events, such as quarterly earnings reports, strategy reviews with business units, and board meetings. Such approaches, which make the executives’ allocation of time dramatically more effective, underscore the importance of not being “penny-wise and pound-foolish” in providing administrative support.

The time pressures on senior leaders are intensifying, and the vast majority of them are frustrated by the difficulty of responding effectively. While executives cannot easily combat the external forces at work, they can treat time as a precious and increasingly scarce resource and tackle the institutional barriers to managing it well. The starting point is to get clear on organizational priorities—and to approach the challenge of aligning them with the way executives spend their time as a systemic organizational problem, not merely a personal one.

Source: McKinsey.com
Authors: Frankki Bevins is a consultant in McKinsey’s Washington, DC, office, and Aaron De Smet is a principal in the Houston office.

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: McKinsey.com, 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: McKinsey.com, August 2019

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: McKinsey.com, 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

How leaders kill meaning at work

Posted in Aktuellt, Executive Coaching, Leadership / Ledarskap on July 8th, 2019 by admin

Senior executives routinely undermine creativity, productivity, and commitment by damaging the inner work lives of their employees in four avoidable ways.

As a senior executive, you may think you know what Job Number 1 is: developing a killer strategy. In fact, this is only Job 1a. You have a second, equally important task. Call it Job 1b: enabling the ongoing engagement and everyday progress of the people in the trenches of your organization who strive to execute that strategy. A multiyear research project whose results we described in our recent book, The Progress Principle, found that of all the events that can deeply engage people in their jobs, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.

Even incremental steps forward—small wins—boost what we call “inner work life”: the constant flow of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that constitute a person’s reactions to the events of the work day. Beyond affecting the well-being of employees, inner work life affects the bottom line. People are more creative, productive, committed, and collegial in their jobs when they have positive inner work lives. But it’s not just any sort of progress in work that matters. The first, and fundamental, requirement is that the work be meaningful to the people doing it.

In our book and a recent Harvard Business Review article, we argue that managers at all levels routinely—and unwittingly—undermine the meaningfulness of work for their direct subordinates through everyday words and actions. These include dismissing the importance of subordinates’ work or ideas, destroying a sense of ownership by switching people off project teams before work is finalized, shifting goals so frequently that people despair that their work will ever see the light of day, and neglecting to keep subordinates up to date on changing priorities for customers.

But what about a company’s most senior leaders? What is their role in making—or killing—meaning at work? To be sure, as a high-level leader, you have fewer opportunities to directly affect the inner work lives of employees than do frontline supervisors. Yet your smallest actions pack a wallop because what you say and do is intensely observed by people down the line. A sense of purpose in the work, and consistent action to reinforce it, has to come from the top.

Four traps

To better understand the role of upper-level managers, we recently dug back into our data: nearly 12,000 daily electronic diaries from dozens of professionals working on important innovation projects at seven North American companies. We selected those entries in which diarists mentioned upper- or top-level managers—868 narratives in all.

Qualitative analysis of the narratives highlighted four traps that lie in wait for senior executives. Most of these pitfalls showed up in several companies. Six of the seven suffered from one or more of the traps, and in only a single company did leaders avoid them. The existence of this outlier suggests that it is possible for senior executives to sustain meaning consistently, but that’s difficult and requires vigilance.

This article should help you determine whether you risk falling into some of these traps yourself—and unknowingly dragging your organization into the abyss with you. We also offer a few thoughts on avoiding the problems, advice inspired by the actions and words of a senior leader at the one company that did so.

We don’t claim to have all the answers. But we are convinced that executives who sidestep these traps reduce their risk of inadvertently draining meaning from the work of the people in their organizations. Those leaders also will boost the odds of tapping into the motivational power of progress—something surprisingly few do.

We surveyed 669 managers at all levels of management, from dozens of companies and various industries around the world. We asked them to rank the importance of five employee motivators: incentives, recognition, clear goals, interpersonal support, and progress in the work. Only 8 percent of senior executives ranked progress as the most important motivator. Had they chosen randomly, 20 percent would have done so. In short, our survey showed that most executives don’t understand the power of progress in meaningful work.4 And the traps revealed by the diaries suggest that most executives don’t act as though progress matters. You can do better.

Trap 1: Mediocrity signals

Most likely, your company aspires to greatness, articulating a high purpose for the organization in its corporate mission statement. But are you inadvertently signaling the opposite through your words and actions?

We saw this dynamic repeatedly at a well-known consumer products company we’ll call Karpenter Corporation, which was experiencing a rapid deterioration in the inner work lives of its employees as a result of the actions of a new top-management team. Within three years of our studying Karpenter, it had become unprofitable and was acquired by a smaller rival.

Karpenter’s top-management team espoused a vision of entrepreneurial cross-functional business teams. In theory, each team would operate autonomously, managing its share of the company’s resources to back its own new-product innovations. During the year we collected data from Karpenter teams, the annual report was full of references to the company’s innovation focus; in the first five sentences, “innovation” appeared three times.

In practice, however, those top managers were so focused on cost savings that they repeatedly negated the teams’ autonomy, dictated cost reduction goals that had to be met before any other priorities were, and—as a result—drove new-product innovation into the ground. This unintended, de facto hypocrisy took its toll, as a diary excerpt from a longtime Karpenter product engineer emphasizes:

Today I found out that our team will be concentrating on [cost savings] for the next several months instead of any new products. . . . It is getting very difficult to concentrate on removing pennies from the standard cost of an item. That is the only place that we have control over. Most of the time, quality suffers. It seems that our competition is putting out new products at a faster rate. . . . We are no longer the leader in innovation. We are the followers.

This employee’s work had begun to lose its meaning, and he wasn’t alone. Many of the other 65 Karpenter professionals in our study felt that they were doing mediocre work for a mediocre company—one for which they had previously felt fierce pride. By the end of our time collecting data at Karpenter, many of these employees were completely disengaged. Some of the very best had left.

The mediocrity trap was not unique to Karpenter. We saw it revealed in different guises in several of the companies we studied. At a chemicals firm, it stemmed from the top managers’ risk aversion. Consider these words from one researcher there:

A proposal for liquid/medical filtration using our new technology was tabled for the second time by the Gate 1 committee (five directors that screen new ideas). Although we had plenty of info for this stage of the game, the committee is uncomfortable with the risk and liability. The team, and myself, are frustrated about hurdles that we don’t know how to answer.

This company’s leaders also inadvertently signaled that, despite their rhetoric about being innovative and cutting edge, they were really more comfortable being ordinary.

Trap 2: Strategic ‘attention deficit disorder’

As an experienced leader, you probably scan your company’s external environment constantly for guidance in making your next strategic moves. What are competitors planning? Where are new ones popping up? What’s happening in the global economy, and what might the implications be for financing or future market priorities? You are probably brimming with ideas on where you’d like to take the company next. All of that is good, in theory.

In practice, we see too many top managers start and abandon initiatives so frequently that they appear to display a kind of attention deficit disorder (ADD) when it comes to strategy and tactics. They don’t allow sufficient time to discover whether initiatives are working, and they communicate insufficient rationales to their employees when they make strategic shifts.

Karpenter’s strategic ADD seemed to stem from its leaders’ short attention span, perhaps fueled by the CEO’s desire to embrace the latest management trends. The problem was evident in decisions at the level of product lines and extended all the way up to corporate strategy. If you blinked, you could miss the next strategic shift. In one employee’s words:

A quarterly product review was held with members of the [top team] and the general manager and president. Primary outcome from the meeting was a change in direction away from spray jet mops to revitalization of existing window squeegees. Four priorities were defined for product development, none of which were identified as priorities at our last quarterly update. The needle still points north, but we’ve turned the compass again.

At another company we studied, strategic ADD appeared to stem from a top team warring with itself. Corporate executives spent many months trying to nail down a new market strategy. Meanwhile, different vice presidents were pushing in different directions, rendering each of the leaders incapable of giving consistent direction to their people. This wreaked havoc in the trenches. One diarist, a project manager, felt that rather than committing herself to doing something great for particular customers, she needed to hedge her bets:

The VP gave us his opinion of which target candidates [for new products] may fit with overall company strategy—but, in reality, neither he nor anyone in our management structure knows what the strategy is. It makes this project a real balancing act—we need to go forward, but need to weigh commitments very carefully.

If high-level leaders don’t appear to have their act together on exactly where the organization should be heading, it’s awfully difficult for the troops to maintain a strong sense of purpose.

Trap 3: Corporate Keystone Kops

In the early decades of cinema, a popular series of silent-film comedies featured the Keystone Kops—fictional policemen so incompetent that they ran around in circles, mistakenly bashed each other on the head, and fumbled one case after another. The title of that series became synonymous with miscoordination. Our research found that many executives who think everything is going smoothly in the everyday workings of their organizations are blithely unaware that they preside over their own corporate version of the Keystone Kops. Some contribute to the farce through their actions, others by failing to act. At Karpenter, for example, top managers set up overly complex matrix reporting structures, repeatedly failed to hold support functions (such as purchasing and sales) accountable for coordinated action, and displayed a chronic indecisiveness that bred rushed analyses. In the words of one diarist:

Last-minute changes continue on [an important customer’s] assortments. Rather than think through the whole process and logically decide which assortments we want to show [the customer], we are instead using a shotgun approach of trying multiple assortments until we find one that works. In the meantime, we are expending a lot of time and effort on potential assortments only to find out later that an assortment has been dropped.

Although Karpenter’s example was egregious, the company was far from alone in creating chaotic situations for its workers. In one high-tech company we studied, for example, Keystone Kop–like scenarios played out around the actions of a rogue marketing function. As described in one engineer’s diary, the attempts of many teams to move forward with their projects were continually thwarted by signals from marketing that conflicted with those coming from R&D and other key functions. Marketers even failed to show up for many key meetings:

At a meeting with Pierce, Clay, and Joseph, I was told that someone from marketing would be attending our team meetings (finally). The meeting also gave me a chance to demonstrate to Joseph that we were getting mixed signals from marketing.

When coordination and support are absent within an organization, people stop believing that they can produce something of high quality. This makes it extremely difficult to maintain a sense of purpose.

Trap 4: Misbegotten ‘big, hairy, audacious goals’

Management gurus Jim Collins and Jerry Porras encourage organizations to develop a “big, hairy, audacious goal” (BHAG, pronounced bee-hag)—a bold strategic vision statement that has powerful emotional appeal.5 BHAGs help infuse work with meaning by articulating the goals of the organization in a way that connects emotionally with peoples’ values. (Think of Google’s stated mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”)

At some companies, however, such statements are grandiose, containing little relevance or meaning for people in the trenches. They can be so extreme as to seem unattainable and so vague as to seem empty. The result is a meaning vacuum. Cynicism rises and drive plummets. Although we saw this trap clearly in only one of the seven companies we studied, we think it is sufficiently seductive and dangerous to warrant consideration.

That company, a chemicals firm, set a BHAG that all projects had to be innovative blockbusters that would yield a minimum of $100 million in revenue annually, within five years of a project’s initiation. This goal did not infuse the work with meaning, because it had little to do with the day-to-day activities of people in the organization. It did not articulate milestones toward the goal; it did not provide for a range of experiments and outcomes to meet it; worst of all, it did not connect with anything the employees valued. Most of them wanted to provide something of value to their customers; an aggressive revenue target told them only about the value to the organization, not to the customer. Far from what Collins and Porras intended, this misbegotten BHAG was helping to destroy the employees’ sense of purpose.

Avoiding the traps

Spotting the traps from the executive suite is difficult enough; sidestepping them is harder still—and wasn’t the focus of our research. Nonetheless, it’s instructive to look at the one company in our study that avoided the traps, a creator of coated fabrics for weatherproof clothing and other applications. We recently interviewed its head, whom we’ll call Mark Hamilton. That conversation generated a few ideas that we hope will spark a lively discussion in your own C-suite. For example:

When you communicate with employees, do you provide strategic clarity that’s consistent with your organization’s capabilities and an understanding of where it can add the most value? Hamilton and his top team believed that innovating in processes, rather than products, was the key to creating the right combination of quality and value for customers. So he talked about process innovation at every all-company meeting, and he steadfastly supported it throughout the organization. This consistency helped everyone understand the strategy and even become jazzed about it.

Can you keep sight of the individual employee’s perspective? The best executives we studied internalize their early experiences and use them as reference points for gauging the signals that their own behavior will send to the troops. “Try hard to remember when you were working in the trenches,” Hamilton says. “If somebody asked you to do a bunch of work on something they hadn’t thought through, how meaningful could it be for you? How committed could you be?”

Do you have any early-warning systems that indicate when your view from the top doesn’t match the reality on the ground? Regular audits to gauge the effectiveness of coordination and support processes in areas such as marketing, sales, and purchasing can highlight pain points that demand senior management’s attention because they are starting to sap meaning from your people’s work. In Hamilton’s view, senior executives bear the responsibility for identifying and clearing away systemic impediments that prevent quality work from getting done.

Hamilton’s company was doing very well. But we believe that senior executives can provide a sense of purpose and progress even in bad economic times. Consider the situation that then–newly appointed Xerox head Anne Mulcahy faced in 2000, when the company verged on bankruptcy. Mulcahy refused her advisers’ recommendation to file for bankruptcy (unless all other options were exhausted) because of the demoralizing signal it would send to frontline employees. “What we have going for us,” she said, “is that our people believe we are in a war that we can win.”6 She was right, and her conviction helped carry Xerox through four years of arduous struggle to later success.

As an executive, you are in a better position than anyone to identify and articulate the higher purpose of what people do within your organization. Make that purpose real, support its achievement through consistent everyday actions, and you will create the meaning that motivates people toward greatness. Along the way, you may find greater meaning in your own work as a leader.

Source: McKinsey.com
About the authors: Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Steven Kramer is an independent researcher and writer.