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Marissa Mayer’s Office Hours at Google

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) For about 90 minutes a day, beginning at 4:00 pm, Mayer used to hold office hours at Google. She was a professor before she came to Google, and she kept office hours going. The much-vaunted “open office” for engineers, where bringing brownies increases a project’s chance of approval by 50%. Google’s Marissa Mayer cleared an hour and a half of her diary at the end of each day and staff could book an amount of that time by putting their name on a board in front of her office. This permitted her to supposedly fit a large number of very short meetings into a block of time where employees could come and talk to her about anything. Get-togethers which evidently emerged interesting product ideas counting Google News. A decent option perhaps than filling too much time up with the half hour/one hour blocks that managers tend to segment their calendars into, or to keeping an completely open door guidelines which might lead to excessively common interlude. Per this noteworthy anecdote from Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo by Nicholas Carlson:

Another Mayer habit that annoyed colleagues was one she picked up straight from academia. For many years at Google, Mayer insisted that if her colleagues wanted to meet with her, they had to do so during her “office hours.” Mayer would post a spreadsheet online and ask peopl~ to sign up for a five-minute window. When Mayer’s “office hours” rolled around in the afternoon, a line would start to form outside her office and spill over onto the nearby couches.

Office hours are socially-acceptable in an academic environment because the power dynamic is clear. The students are subordinate to the professor, who is usually their elder and mentor. But Mayer’s office hours were not just for her subordinates; they were also for her peers. So there, amid the associate product managers waiting to visit with Mayer to discuss their latest assignment or a class trip to Zurich, sat Google vice presidents—people who had been at the company as long as Mayer and in some cases held jobs as important as hers.

Posted in Management and Leadership

How to Build Lean and Agile Management

How to Build Lean and Agile Management

Hierarchical is out; horizontal is in.

There’s no room today for the multiple layers, slow decision making, and dependence on leaders. Successful organizations are characterized by consultation, collaboration, and cross-functional problem-solving, decision-making, and planning.

Why are horizontal organizations so much more nimble? Extended product development cycles are replaced by rapid movement from design to market; decision-making bottlenecks are eliminated; leaders empower and delegate; and the focus is on the success of the business, not individual functions.

Horizontal Leadership Success

Leaders intent on this transition must take four actions:

  1. Horizontal Leadership Success Look into the mirror. The top team sets the tone. Before expecting others to “go horizontal,” senior managers must ask, “What are the decision-making patterns on our team?” “To what extent do we see ourselves as accountable and responsible for one another’s success and for the outcomes of our team?” “Do we depersonalize conflict and confront one another honestly and openly?” If the president is still calling the shots; if team members are constantly lobbying for resources; or if internal conflict has brought decision making to a halt-it’s time to practice what we preach.
  2. Align all your teams-beginning at the top. Raising team performance and refraining team behavior begins with alignment. Ask seven questions to determine whether or not a team is aligned: Does the team have clear goals? Are those goals aligned with the strategy? Do all team members know who is responsible for what and how they will be held accountable? Are protocols or rules of engagement agreed upon so everyone knows how decisions will be made? Are rules in place for how conflict will be managed? Are relationships between and among team members healthy and transparent? Do people assert their point of view honestly and openly and treat disagreement not as a personal attack but as a business case?
  3. Shift from commanding to influencing. In the new paradigm, the one who wins isn’t the person with the most clout, but the one who possesses the right strategic instinct, content capability, rapport, and persuasion. When Susan Fullman was director of distribution for United Airlines, she was a cross-functional player in a hierarchical context. Her success hinged on her ability to influence rather than command: “I had to sell my vision to each director. And I couldn’t do that without learning to clearly articulate my ideas, depersonalize the way I made my case, develop my powers of persuasion-and learn to listen to each person and address their concerns.”
  4. Become a player-centered leader. The horizontal organization calls for a shift in the role of the leader to a new “player-centered” model. The question becomes: How prepared are the players to handle increased authority and responsibility? As teams proliferate and decision making becomes decentralized, people must step up. Managers must know each person’s capabilities and skills and adjust his or her “style” accordingly.

'Lead with Lean' by Michael Balle (ISBN 154480844) For example, when managing an inexperienced team leader, a senior manager needs to provide a high level of direction, structure, and support; but as team leaders become more competent, the senior manager can adopt a more hands-off style. The goal should be to inspire and empower, not prescribe or direct. Provide coaching and collaboration as each player requires.

Many leaders talk about decentralization, delayering, and empowerment. But decisions continue to be made by the CEO; functional heads are still vying for resources; and further down are vacationers and victims.

Horizontal organizations are more states of mind than states of matter. It’s not as much about titles and boxes as it is about every employee showing up, every day, as an energized, strategically focused team member.

Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees

Virtual Team Management

Virtual Team Management As managers seek ways to cut costs, increase revenue and spark innovation, and employees strive for a better work-life balance, a mutually beneficial solution—telecommuting—is on the rise. In the U.S. alone, there are 28 million telecommuters, expected to double to 50 million by 2005.

To benefit, remote workers need the right tools to connect with colleagues, applications, and information. When telecommuters feel isolated, they become disconnected from current priorities and miss opportunities to contribute to their highest potential.

Afore undergoing its last earthly transformation, the external covering of the virtual team management, from the moment of its conception as an virtual team, passes in turn, once more, through the phases of the several companies.

The solution that addresses the challenge is a virtual e-workplace that provides employees with access to information and a broad set of Internet-based collaborative technologies, such as e-meetings, e-learning, and instant messaging designed to make them more nimble.

Ways to Successfully Manage Virtual Teams

Ways to Successfully Manage Virtual Teams An e-workplace provides users with a single point of access for the right technology tools to immediately access information, collaborate with colleagues, and participate in online training courses to improve skills. Virtual employees can streamline work by accessing information customized for their roles. For example, a salesperson might need access to information on products, customers, and competitors and connect with people who can address customer issues, provide expertise, or share best practices.

Another example is eHR. Integrating eHR capabilities into your e-workplace enables remote workers to attend to personal needs, such as understanding their health care benefit options, without having to speak with an HR professional. An e-workplace bolsters efficiencies and provides more flexibility. When they have left the countries to which their doctrines were unacceptable, and established themselves in a remote corner of the earth, this is neither possible nor desirable.

Building and Managing Virtual Teams that Work

Building and Managing Virtual Teams that Work Many organizations have an intranet in place. Large businesses can have as many as 300 to 10,000 intranet pages, each with their own look and feel and navigational construct. In this case, employees lose productivity searching for information. By consolidating these pages into one e-workplace and integrating team-based technology solutions, productivity and the quality of communication can skyrocket.

With team-based technologies, users, and remote workers can instantly form virtual teams and collaborate on the fly right from the intranet to respond to market changes. For example, if your intranet includes a corporate directory with connections into team-based technologies, users can rapidly find colleagues with a certain expertise and see where they fit. Aware of this context, the user can initiate contact through appropriate channels. These are not questions of liberty, and are connected with that subject only by remote tendencies; but they are questions of development.

For example, the user can see if the expert is online, click on the expert’s name, and instantly contact him or her via an instant message or in an e-meeting. The user could also create a virtual team room and invite the expert to comment on documents created and posted within the team room. Without an integrated e-workplace program, employees must navigate on their own to find expertise.

By giving people access to the information and experts they need at their fingertips, an e-workplace enables remote workers to be more productive, maintain their competitive edge, and respond quickly and accurately to demands from customers and partners.

IBM, for example, has achieved big benefits from its e-workplace program. The intranet has helped us to cut costs, saving an average of $10,000 per employee who goes “mobile,” meaning they give up their dedicated office space. In addition, employees conduct more than 8,000 e-meetings per month, saving us about $50 million per year in reclaimed travel and productivity costs.

Must-Know Strategies for Managing Virtual Teams

Must-Know Strategies for Managing Virtual Teams e-Workplaces increase collaboration among virtual teams. IBM’s e-workplace allows me to bring in the right expertise, regardless of their location.

As a manager of a remote team, you need to measure people based on their accomplishments and deliverables. Support their activities by ensuring that they have what they need to succeed.

Here are four guidelines:

  • Establish a purpose. Ensure that each virtual team member has a defined purpose and objectives against which they will be measured. When remote workers have goals and incentives for reaching those goals, they are more motivated and productive. Create a training schedule for your e-learning program, so that people are learning new skills.
  • Measure the output, not the process. Virtual teams are more structured than teams located in the same office. Since face-to-face meetings are not practical, you must adopt other ways to communicate and seek approvals. Managers of virtual teams should create a culture of trust, be available through instant messaging for quick questions, hold conference calls to identify when a project is off track, and make use of instant messaging, e-meetings, and team workspaces. Focus on output, not hours.
  • Balance between virtual and face-to-face meetings. While e-meetings are great for keeping up with progress, they are not so great for team building. Face-to-face meetings, for example, are important for brainstorming sessions, building trust, and getting to know each other. Schedule face-to-face gatherings quarterly to foster team building, rapport, and communication among team members.
  • Use presence awareness to show your virtual office door is open. Presence awareness technology embedded in an e-workplace will let your reports know when you are available to discuss progress, answer a quick question, or to chat about their concerns. It can also alert your staff if you are online via a mobile phone, so they know to keep messages short or call on the phone.

Managing the Virtual Team

Managing the Virtual Team Virtual teaming and telecommuting are necessary responses to our global economy. People are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. With an e-workplace, people can interact with more colleagues, break down barriers, respond more rapidly to customers, make decisions faster, and be more productive.

By placing the desired behavior along the path of least resistance, we turn it into the behavior we’re most likely to repeat. And the more we repeat it, the more likely it is to become a habit, and the less and less we need it to lie along the path of least resistance.

Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

When Leadership Styles Clash: Marissa Mayer at Google

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) Differences in leadership style can cause friction in a relationship. Two noteworthy anecdotes from Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo by Nicholas Carlson:

One peer Mayer’s style irked in particular was Salar Kamangar. Kamangar joined Google as its ninth employee. He drafted its original business plan and handled financing and legal early on. Younger than Mayer, he rose along with her at Google, though not as conspicuously. Mayer and Kamangar clashed often. The specific habit of Mayer’s that drove Kamangar nuts was her ability to speak incredibly fast, not allowing him to reenter the debate. The rivalry between Mayer and Kamangar was so intense that when Kamangar was made a vice president before her, she threatened to quit the company. She got her promotion months later. That kind of naked ambition was also hard for some people to take. Many early Google employees believed Mayer was too quick to take credit for successful products that were either first imagined by or built on the back end by others.


Starting in 2001, Mayer and a deeply respected Google search scientist named Krishna Bharat teamed up to build Google News. Bharat was one of the engineers who had followed Jeff Dean from DEC to Google. Bharat was renowned for his work in information processing and information retrieval-the real, gritty technical stuff that makes a search engine work. Bharat had an interest in news-and in doing semantic analysis of documents. Those interests led him to develop the underpinnings of the technology that would eventually become central to Google News. With Mayer, he worked to turn that technology into a product for normal users. To the equation, she brought a sense of how users would actually interact with Google News. It was a healthy relationship for a long time. Then Google News began to get very popular. It was one of Google’s first noncore search products to achieve escape velocity. Rightly, both Bharat and Mayer felt pride of parenthood. The difference was that Bharat, like many engineers, was the quiet, cerebral type. Mayer was more of a self-promoter with outward-facing responsibilities. In the press, at conferences, even in lectures at Stanford, she would casually discuss Google News as a product she had led to launch. Over time, it began to sound to Bharat that Mayer was claiming the idea as her own and taking all the public credit for the success of Google News. Their relationship soured.

It’s difficult to change the leadership style and yet it’s easier to change the style than the system.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Core Challenges to Contextual Leadership

Core Challenges to Contextual Leadership

Leadership is a socially constructed phenomenon and that organizational members act to co-create leadership.

Leadership is a vibrant, contextual phenomenon that occurs in a multitude of different organizations or systems. Mostly, we can learn from them that leadership is more multifaceted than standard business contexts imply, and that precious lessons can be gained from the characteristics and foibles of leadership in many contexts.

On the one hand, contextualizing leadership in modern organizations, which are complex systems, is more than conventional approaches can encapsulate. On the other hand, leadership theory and research in nonstandard contexts are too vague and imprecise about their contributions to the general field of leadership.

  • Pressure and competition. Leaders are under high, individualized pressure to be successful, while they can only create empowering conditions for organizational effectiveness
  • High risk. Navigating the boundaries of “life or death” contexts, leaders’ actions have possibly devastating consequences for themselves and others
  • Creativity and innovation. Leaders are challenged with the paradox between basically striving for creativity and innovation, while eventually having to meet specified targets
  • Care and community. Contextual conditions hamper leaders’ attempts and responsibilities to take care of others’ wellbeing
  • Adaptability. Leaders who plot a course through complex contexts need to be flexible in their approach to leadership, tailoring it to the idiosyncrasies of each context
  • Perseverance. Leaders need persistence to surmount drawbacks and failure in order to ultimately grow and succeed. Organizations nurture this process by providing leaders with a supportive environment, while leaving room for personal growth
  • Handling paradox. In complex contexts, paradox may arise in many different forms. Leaders can handle it, perhaps, by using formal and informal structures, and managing internal processes and external views of an organization concurrently
  • Leading with values. For the sake of their own and others’ wellbeing as well as sustained organizational success, leaders need to reflect and act based on their fundamental beliefs and moral values
  • Inventing the future. Leaders nurture creativity through socially determined processes. New approaches such as play enable leaders to envision potentialities of the future
  • Sharing responsibility. The complexities of modern organizations require leadership in the collective, for example, in the form of shared values-based leadership in communities
Posted in Management and Leadership

Five Tools & Techniques for Performance Improvement

Five Tools & Techniques for Performance Improvement If you are witnessing unhappy customers, uninformed employees, and mounting chaos in your company, you are experiencing a performance gap—the difference between the outcomes you expect and what you are getting. With today’s pressure for results, you’ll need fast, simple tools to close your performance gap. By applying such tools, you can reap big paybacks in the form of steady gains.

By performance improvement, I mean more revenue, lower costs, and more done in less time with fewer resources. Flexibility is needed to adapt to changing demands and to devise innovative methods for improving productivity and service quality. Customers who get more than they expect then tell their friends, and keep coming back.

Key to performance improvement are people who produce more with better information, greater clarity, and less interference. A performance improvement project is a related group of tasks resulting in measurable improvement. Most successful changes “bubble up” from the bottom. Building one by one may be more effective than a large-scale, top-down strategy. Investing in employee education is an important signal that the organization is committed to the personal growth of everyone on the team.

Already energetic characters on any large scale are becoming merely traditional. Improvement in the means of communication promotes it, by bringing the inhabitants of distant places into personal contact, and keeping up a rapid flow of changes of residence between one place and another. Not only that, but the best answer often changes over time.

Five Tools to Improve Employee Engagement and Performance

So here are five tips for how to accelerate your performance and reach your own peak sooner. Five tools will lead to desirable results and help you get to the right place:

  1. Measurable outcomes. This involves reliable measures such as revenue, cost, time, quality, and customer satisfaction. By documenting measures before, during, and after the project, you can gauge success. Qualitative measures must translate into observable behavior. Develop clear statements of what that measure means and specific actions needed to attain the goal. Know who will be affected and how, as well as what will improve, and by how much.
  2. Your plan. Write an airtight description of your project’s boundaries, benefits, costs, and risks—then name those accountable for results. For each task, you’ll perform five actions: complete, approve, support, consult with, and inform. Specify the person associated with each action. The faster you produce your desired outcome, the easier you will build momentum.

Measurable outcomes Improve Employee Engagement and Performance

  • Effective problem analysis of the selected performance. Break the problem down into smaller, simpler pieces, looking for a pattern. Formulate and test theories. Observe and collect data until you figure out what is going on and why. Don’t throw resources at your problem in a vain attempt to solve it by sheer luck. Avoid wasteful spending on training, software, and experts—the three sinkholes. A problem well defined is 75 percent solved! In some cases you are not dealing with a problem, but an unrealized opportunity to impact the organization.
  1. A reliable feedback system. People want to know what and how well they are doing. You could set up simple charts, one for each success indicator. Depict progress and downplay minor setbacks. Cumulative measures, for instance, may be better than daily, weekly, or monthly ones. Exchange feedback during one-on-one conversations, informal chats, and small-group meetings. Inspire confidence early and adjust as you go along.
  2. A system for collecting and applying what you learn about performance improvement. Know-how (in-house talent) is far better than “show-how” (pricey experts). Conduct an after-action review to convert real-time learning into practical knowledge. Work through answers to questions about what should and did happen during an event.

Techniques Used to Improve Employee Performance

Tips for Employee Performance Improvement Quickly build and transfer skills, so participants can see benefits right away. The tasks that find their way to the bottom are the ones that you should eliminate altogether. But too often we say it with a sigh, like it’s a sentence—or we’re a victim. It can easily become pessimistic, and nothing will kill your creativity, job performance, or relationships like going negative.

If the diagnosis of performance anxiety is correct, it’s astonishing how often paradoxical intervention works. This, even knowing as most of us do that facts and figures about past performance are often flawed indicators of future performance. With that kind of visibility and transparency in performance, it’s easy to call it the way you see it. Again, the combination of competitive insight and cost understanding drives efforts to reduce costs.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Participative Leadership to Reduce Resistance to Change

Participative Leadership to Reduce Resistance to Change Resistance to change is observed by many as their biggest problem today. Why? Because change is constant, and yet most people get stuck. People resist changes done to them, but they develop a sense of ownership on the ideas they generate. So, I share a simple approach to reducing resistance to change by generating participative involvement and team support for new initiatives. Many teams and organizations tend to operate like the team below:

  • The person in front symbolizes leadership or management—anyone focused forward. Leaders get insulated by their rope to the bumps and thumps of many realities of the journey. They work hard to pull the organization ahead. Their intentions are positive.
  • The people in back represent frontline employees and supervisors who can’t see far ahead and feel every bump in the road. They push but have to trust the leadership to steer. They have no “big picture” of where they (or the wagon) are headed, but do what is expected of them. They lack perception and vision. Intentions are positive.
  • The body of the wagon is well made and sturdy, much like the basic core of any organization. It will do the job for which it was designed. Its nature makes changing direction quite difficult, but it works like it always has. We find that identifying and celebrating early adopters of the behaviors a company wants to instill can create positive infectivity.
  • The Square Wheels represent the traditions, the way things have always been done, systems and techniques to respond to quality and service initiatives, or other relevant issues to the group. They may also represent interdepartmental conflicts. They increase costs of doing business and are inefficient and ineffective.
  • The Round Wheels represent new ideas for innovation or improvement, coming from within the organization. Top management makes public the factors on which it will judge the team’s performance and how that evaluation fits into the company’s regular appraisal process.
  • Customers generally ride on the wagon, being aware of the thumps and bumps of the journey forward but often unaware of the specific causes. Often, they encounter policies and procedures that are not customer oriented. Occasionally, they may feel like they are under the wheels!

Companies make the mistake of worrying mostly about the time it will take to implement change programs. They assume that the longer an proposal carries on, the more likely it is to fail.

Nothing Happens Without a Readiness to Change

Nothing Happens Without a Readiness to Change A great deal has been said about middle managers who want to block change. We find that most middle managers are prepared to support change efforts even if doing so involves additional work and uncertainty and puts their jobs at risk.

On the whole, the visions about the journey forward are difficult to communicate effectively to everyone, and changing direction is hard. Yet continued motivation is necessary to keep pushing forward, and people must trust the leadership to lead the way. After approaching for a long time, however, people in the back may lose interest in where the organization is going or needs to go and become resigned to the Square Wheels. The organization crashes along, and most know it. In the process, we exposed a provocative lens and language to help change managers better understand their mission and methods. When I share this illustration with people, I hear such comments as:

  • Communication between pullers and pushers is difficult. The process of exploring one’s communication styles, behavior and fundamental aims in life is a overwhelming task for most people.
  • Shared vision is crucial. It is very interesting to observe that the essential role of a leader when progressing a shared vision is one of unselfish motives.
  • It’s difficult to change direction. It suggests that the configuration established by cooperation is an effective way to accomplish our goals on a fast-paced world.
  • Teamwork, trust, motivation, and collaboration are needed. Leaders can help people throughout the organization expound systemic comprehensions.
  • Measuring progress is part of individual and team motivation. Progress that is observable tends to be explicit, teachable, autonomous, attachable, it also easy for challengers to reproduce.
  • Issues of cost, productivity and quality are always present. A shared vision is fundamental on the productivity of any business where a leader has so many individuals and groups to attend to in a transparent and selfless manner.
  • Progress is generally not about people—it is about systems and processes. Every organization creates and uses this information. The dispute is that few seem to essentially learn how to manage it, apply it, mature through it and use it successfully.
  • Poor systems are like bumps that demotivate those trying to move ahead. On the other hand, when regarded in systems terms immediate improvements often comprise very substantial long-term costs.
  • Ideas for improvement always exist already within the wagon. Those actions comforted employees that the organization would challenge the layoffs in a professional and humanitarian fashion.

Another reality is that the round wheels of today become the square wheels of tomorrow. Improvement is about continuous improvement, since change is a continuous event—you can’t complete a change initiative.

Probability of Leadership Change Management

Probability of Leadership Change Management There are four things that successful change leaders do well. The probability of change is related to four factors:

  1. The current level of discomfort with the way things are now. This is all about people feeling that things could be different. If they are not satisfied, they are likely to change. If something gets acknowledged as a Square Wheel and not working properly, a Round Wheel possibility likely exists for making an improvement.
  2. The attractiveness of the vision of the future. This one is all about motivation and teamwork. The view from the front of the wagon is different than the view from the back; and apprehending goals and expectations will reduce resistance to change. If the vision is engaging, it is attracting. Making the vision more attractive is straightforward.
  3. The person’s or group’s previous success with change. If the last time people tried to change they felt successful and rewarded, they will repeat the behavior. What gets rewarded gets repeated. But if the most recent attempt was met with criticism and negative comments, they likely won’t be interested in trying again. The same thing happens with team-based initiatives.
  4. The peer or workgroup support for the change. Obviously, if others are supportive, it puts positive peer pressure on an individual to change. But, sadly, most organizations have a tendency to add “mud” to the journey of most teams, bogging things down and making progress even harder for teams struggling forward. The mud can be the bureaucracy, politics, measurement systems that don’t support the goals and expectations—any form of glop that hampers people and clogs systems.

Successful change leaders embrace these tensions even though they make the challenge more complex. This meant nothing short of building new organizational capabilities based upon collaboration and client-first thinking, which not only meant developing new systems and processes but building a collective mindset that would make aspiring to being a one-company culture a reality.

Enlisting People in Change Initiatives

Enlisting People in Change Initiatives So what do we do? Well, let me suggest a couple of simple scenarios.

The first idea is this: Get out of the ditch and get up on the road. This is simpler than you might think. I ask people what things get in the way of making progress, let them brainstorm, perhaps even vent a little, then I ask if there are any incomparable Mud Managers out there. This reframe causes people to consider what others in the workplace are already doing differently and what underlies high performance in an environment where there are two feet of ditch for every foot of road. Invariably, people can generate ideas that are already proven to work. It is not about inventing new ways of doing things as much as it is about identifying ideas and then doing something differently. This increased managers’ understanding of business conditions and boosted employee engagement—and sales rose.

Where you can go from here is a bit surprising: Roll your wagon backwards! Because you have begun to generate a little partner support, you increase the likelihood of change. Now, you should work with the group to generate a list of possible Square Wheels—things that work but that do not work smoothly.

After playing with these themes and asking about “mud,” generate a list of possible issues to address: things that do not work smoothly. Set the stage for some possibility thinking. Get a long list, but resist the tendency to straightaway start fixing things. A week or so later, select one of the Square Wheels and generate some possible Round Wheels to try.

The Hard Aspects of Change Management

The Hard Aspects of Change Management Let your team do the thinking—you focus on maintaining the focus. Paint a picture of what will be different if a few Round Wheels are implemented. You are creating some uneasiness with the way things are now as people discuss the things that can be improved and suggest ideas that they could try to make things work more smoothly. Corporations will always require a hierarchy, but peer role models can successfully lead projects within a change initiative.

You create a higher likelihood of change because people become less comfortable with the way things are and create an alternative shared vision of the future. They build on some feelings of previous success and they work together, as a group, to make things better. Celebrating the reversal of a relapse can help desired behaviors regain momentum.

Participative leadership can reduce opposition to change. Managing change is tough, but part of the problem is that there is little agreement on what factors most influence transformation initiatives. Visionary leadership is often vital for change projects, but not always.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines

Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines In meeting deadlines, top performers apply seven key principles. This change management is not intended simply to permit the company to endure a few more years—it is proposed to set the company on a path to greater success and thus virtuous jobs for those who remain.

Another is that a blindly optimistic self-explanatory style of deadlines might actually promote a reduction in effort as we might not try as hard if we believe our ability eliminates the need. For the following reasons, I consider this behavior neither compassionate nor moral.

Principle #1 for Meeting Deadlines: Schedules are Sacrosanct

Task teams express a reverence for “the schedule” as the single most important deadline management tool, even though people search for more colorful, personality-driven keys to victory. But it is precisely its implacability that makes a schedule so stable, incorruptible, and enforceable. Amendments to schedule can’t be made capriciously. Changes should be rare, even agonizing, since each adjustment threatens to compress the final stages. Schedules become impersonal enforcement tools, because they do not respond to appeal. The manager can say, “It’s not me—it’s the schedule that’s pushing us all, and we need to keep pace.”

Schedules are not dreamed up by distant executives who then hand them down to task teams, along with deadline dates. All long-term projects are guided by realistic, believable, timelines that benefit from the insight and input of those doing the work. Schedules codify the ambition and enable synergy.

Within each timeline, milestones are set—and celebrated as they are met. These mini-deadlines make the program more manageable, attainable, and comprehensible those who are focused on their part. When milestones are in jeopardy of not being met, alarm bells go off in the minds of project managers and team leaders. All are affected by slippage along the critical path. A milestone won’t be “bumped” unless, and until, the team knows why it is in jeopardy. Allowing more time won’t necessarily correct the process. Margins of time and budget are factored into each schedule and managed by the teams.

Principle #2 for Meeting Deadlines: Partnering

Deadlines involving major, long-term projects are met jointly; the distance between customer and those who serve are bridged in the interest of expediency. Leaders see that their races against time must be run in unison.

While companies discover many rewards in the closer relationships and find that the doors of communication, once opened, are difficult to close, their original motivation is often to save time. “Business as usual” won’t suffice under the conditions of a major deadline. Competitive companies need each other to win. Deadlines are often joint ventures, since few organizations can go it alone. Even global industrial leaders depend on the unstinting cooperation of customers and suppliers to bring their projects in on time. Conversely, much is expected of them. Reciprocation is possible by modifying billing and payment practices, or by waving long-standing bureaucratic requirements, or by re-routing time-consuming communication paths, or by modeling teams to reflect those of the partner. Customers and contractors like feeling part of the delivery process.

Principle #3 for Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Accept Risk

Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Accept Risk Deadlines involve risk. The risks inherent in these projects are not accepted by swashbucklers who revel in danger but by serious professionals who seek ways to reduce the risk—by preparing backup plans, brainstorming creative solutions, and even taking out insurance policies. The risk is accepted, then reduced, to improve the odds to succeed, to make a profit, or to reduce casualties. The willingness to take a chance defines an organization in ways a thousand ads cannot. Word gets around. Companies and individuals who take on risk, and prevail, develop reputations as giant killers.

Something in the nature of “risky” operations binds teammates together. The “sink or swim” mentality of great teams is responsible for innovations that bring their projects in on time. Participating in these deadlines is not simply another day at the office for those involved; these are adventures. Those who pass through the whitewater of a serous deadline can look back on the “nervous time” with a nostalgic pride. “Risk” creates common cause, even more than “reward.” Lackadaisical groups will suddenly become focused and serous once risk is introduced.

Principle #4 for Meeting Deadlines: Company Men and Women

Challenging deadlines are met most successfully by “company men and women” whose most obvious credential is tenure (average of 25 years of service). No one looks forward to retirement (in fact, they seem to dread the day), and all seem to thrive on the formidable tasks assigned to them. While those people are ambitious, success seems to be measured less by personal recognition and more by participation on a job well done. None of them are coy about their futures with the company. “I love it here,” and other expressions of affection and loyalty are heard frequently. Company men and women are usually portrayed as obstacles to bold, forward-thinking newcomers, but they are precisely the people you want tasked with a significant deadline. They are less likely to look on a project as a feather in their caps and more likely to factor in the long-term interests of the company and of the customer (which are complementary).

If you don’t have tried-and-true employees with years of service, entrust deadlines to employees who are sincerely interested in a career with the company. Team players who distinguish themselves by helping others are prime candidates, as are those who demonstrate a real concern for customer satisfaction. Managers must take an active role with a team of fresh faces and lead by example, in creating a sense of mission so compelling that the team will be carried in their wake.

Wise managers assume that peak performers are always being courted by the competition, and could, without proper attention, be gone in the blink of an eye.

Principle #5 for Meeting Deadlines: Family Outreach

The popular stereotype of an executive who sacrifices family for career is somewhat of a contradiction, because, clearly, business success is not sustainable without a strong emotional base. A hard-driving executive plagued by personal problems, distracted by divorce proceedings or custody battles, can’t focus on the job at hand—and may even exacerbate his or her situation by finding a comfort of sorts in alcohol or drugs.

The wise manager recognizes the importance of family and finds ways to involve the “other half” of the deadline team and to enlist their support in the pursuit of the deadline.

When George H. Bush announced the beginning of the first Gulf War in 1990 a cheer was reported at a professional basketball game, and it was to enter into it with anything other than a heavy heart. I know now why that cheer went up, though. The spirit of abstraction.

Leverage the tasks you want to do by withholding them until your more odious tasks are completed first. That way, desirable tasks become a motivating reward.

Principle #6 for Meeting Deadlines: Making it Easy for the Customer

Legal and human resources constrictions counteract names from being released until the selection is complete and the official communications and severance packages are ready. Employees know the moment is coming, but little else.

Meeting Deadlines: Making it Easy for the Customer Thinking in terms of the customer’s deadline and of ways to facilitate the up-line obligations to yet another level of customers or end users is characteristic of great companies. Great organizations never lose sight of the big picture, which includes the customer meeting its own deadline. Great conversations are like anything. Success is usually not an accident. It’s planned. Each company has a reputation as a dependable azlly who will not let the customer fail. That’s true, but letting people go is far easier from a legal standpoint if you’ve established and documented a strong case for why a particular employee doesn’t fit with your culture—and exactly what that means.

Principle #7 for Meeting Deadlines: Willingness to Ramp Up

Most teams have to ramp up to meet their deadlines. It isn’t as if they can meet their challenges the way they are. The challenges they accept are complicated by the steps that need to be taken to meet each deadline—and yet they are not intimidated by the deadlines, nor by the requirements to meet them.

Definitely, we can imagine naysayers. But, the decisions of senior management to accept the challenges have positive repercussions. Organizations are transformed by the requirements to meet the challenges they willingly accept.

Authorize them to communicate and lead, not to just passively watch their departments be clipped without a rationale.

Conclusion: Seven Principles for Meeting Deadlines

Meeting deadlines strongly influences our ability to be happy Those involved in setting the deadline feel driven by the schedule, but they are not emotionally overwhelmed. That’s not strong enough, and it’s not quantifiable. By most quantitative standards, the employee is doing great work. In fact, enforced schsedules offer a sense of relief: You then know exactly what must be done daily to be victorious, and even when “off schedule,” you know what must be done to get back on track. Deadline busters willingly bow to the Schedule God, obeying the truest guide to victory in the race against time.

What it is, therefore, matters a great deal, for studies show that what we choose to meet deadlines strongly influences our ability to be happy. Pursuing meeting deadlines, for example, actually tends to decrease our happiness in the long run. Pursuing altruistic goals, on the other hand, is one of the few things that actually increases it.

Posted in Life Hacks and Productivity Management and Leadership

John Paul Kotter and Psychological Contract

The celebrated leadership authority and educator John Paul Kotter argued in opposition to the anthropomorphizing of the organization, insisting that it was not organizations which embraced perceptions but rather individuals within those organizations.

'Leading Change' by John Kotter (ISBN 1422186431) Kotter discussed the psychological contract as a coordinating of expectations, where matched expectations lead to higher employee contentment and less turnover. He explained misaligned expectations in terms of a “psychological contract.” He described this as “an implicit contract between an individual and the organization which specifies what each expects to give and receive from each other in a relationship.”

The notion of the psychological contract refers to the perceptions of reciprocal obligations to each other held by the two parties in the employment relationship—the organization and the employee. Such discernments may be the result of proper contracts, or they may be suggested by the hopes and beliefs which each holds of the other and which are communicated in a variety of subtle or not-so-subtle ways.

Allstate Insurance’s Written ‘Psychological Contract’

Allstate Insurance's Psychological Contract for Employment Relationship Some employers, such as Allstate Insurance have created official statements delineating what employee and employer can expect from each other. They believe employee loyalty develops when the company and employees unambiguously know what is expected.

Terms of from Allstate’s Psychological Contract to the Employee

  • Offer work that is meaningful and challenging.
  • Promote an environment that encourages open and constructive dialogue.
  • Advise the employee of performance through regular feedback.
  • Create learning opportunities through education and job assignments.

Terms of from the Employee’s Psychological Contract to Allstate

  • Perform at levels that significantly increase the company’s ability to outperform the competition.
  • Take on assignments critical to meeting business objectives.
  • Willingly listen to and act upon feedback.
  • Take personal responsibility for each transaction with customers and for fostering their trust.

Psychological Contract and Open Communication

The psychological contract changes over time as the expectations of the employee and the organization change. With each change in expectations, open communication assists to keep both parties in alignment, or may lead to a common concurrence to renegotiate or break the contract.

The concept of the psychological contract has lately achieved significant notoriety in popular managerial texts in human resources discourse. This is for the reason that it offers an narrative of the reasons for the difficulties in the employment relationship presently being experienced by many organizations.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Six Attitudes of Change

To let an old identity die requires clarity about what has to change, candor about the need for change, and courage to make the change happen. When people internalize a new change, they take ownership for it. It becomes part of who they are. To make the shift from actions to patterns, from actions to individuality, or from checklists to leadership transformation, you need to learn and apply six attitudes:

  1. Focus,
  2. Explore,
  3. Claim,
  4. Decide,
  5. Act, and
  6. Learn.

Leaders observe events, see patterns, think critically and creatively about problems, are self-aware about strengths and weaknesses, try new things, and adjust and improve what they do and how they do it. These six leadership attitudes help you move from the tyranny of to-do lists, events, and programs to the absorption of a new identity.

Culture’s Critical Role in Change Management

Culture's Critical Role in Change Management In recent years, I have lost a lot of weight. People ask me how. Most assume that the weight loss, or change, is tied to a diet and that I will return to my former size. In addition, it means choosing to embark on an enormously costly venture, before a crisis makes it necessary.

Most changes, even those that we know are good and right, do not endure. Best intentions to change performance fall short when diets or programs that we depend on to cause change are not assimilated. Persistent change requires a new identity.

Leaders bow to an innumerable of short-term pressures: intense demands for quarterly earnings, risk aversion, discomfort with ambiguity, and resistance to change, linear extrapolation from experience, and leadership unwillingness to cannibalize established businesses.

We need to change the way we think about change. Sustained change may begin with actions, checklists, and tools, but must evolve to adopting a different identity and assimilating a new way of thinking and acting. Assimilation requires a shift in thoughts and behaving. It becomes a new identity where being and acting occur without thinking.

Making change, an identity shift is simple but not easy. It is simple to say “we have to lose weight” and we need to eat less, eat right, and exercise more. However, it is not easy to do it. To assure sustained change, weight loss must come from a change in identity-letting go of an old identity, admitting personal ownership for the new identity, and turning the actions into patterns, routines, and habits.

To let an old identity die requires leadership clarity about what has to change, candor about the need for change, and courage to make the change happen. When people internalize a new change, they take ownership for it. It becomes part of who they are. Identity shift means that we internalize new attitudes and associated practices so that actions come naturally. Back in 2009, Jim Collins warned in How the Mighty Fall that the greatest risk to companies was no longer complacency but overreach; frenetic, undisciplined change that goes beyond what leaders can manage effectively.

To make the shift from events to patterns, from actions to identity, or from checklists to leadership transformation, you need to learn and apply six attitudes. Each one aligns with a question you need to ask of yourself and your team:

Attitude #1: Focus—Question 1: What do I want?

Focus on Change Management Focus on the desired new identity. A focus sorts, prioritizes, and highlights what matters most. In change, not everything worth doing is worth doing well. Some things that are important to do may simply not be priorities. Some things are so important to do they are worth doing poorly. Having a focus requires that a leader may only have limited priorities that they personally champion; they can sponsor others, but can only own one or two. The key is training. The key understands how to think and look for solutions. It is better to do a few things well than try to do too many things and do them poorly. Good is the enemy of great. Leaders need to address conundrums; they will not always make hard decisions correctly. Moving up in leadership denotes moving on, trusting others to do the detail leadership work, culling the right priorities, and fixating on what distributes the most value.

To determine the focus or priority, ask the simple question, “What do I want?” Knowing what is wanted requires reflecting on what could be done, but then getting clear about what is wanted in the situation. You pass the focus test by reflecting on these questions: Do I know what matters most to: investors, customers, and employees? Can I define what matters most to me? Do I communicate the same priorities in leadership public presentations and my private conversations? Do the agendas I follow for meetings reflect those priorities? Am I clear about what I can do that no one else can do? Am I clear about what I want to be known for? What percent of my time do I spend on things that matter most? Am I easily distracted? Without focus, you try to be all things to all people. Then what matters most happens least.

Attitude #2: Explore—Question #2: What are my options?

Once you know what is wanted, you need to figure out options to get it done. Exploring options means looking for alternatives; seeking people who have counter-intuitive ideas; having forums for dialogue, innovation, and breakthrough thinking; not being locked into conventional ways; exploring what others have done; and investigating with new ideas and learning from those experiments.

Adopt the mantra: Cerebrate sizably voluminous, start minuscule, fail expeditious, learn always. Explore the options for engendering that incipient leadership identity and examining each option.

These questions will help you to explore options: Have I looked inside and outside my industry for best practices and new ideas? Have I tapped into the expertise to accomplish what I desire? Have I assigned creative and talented people to explore leadership options that might work and given them resources and support to generate ideas?

With focus and exploration, you know what you want and explore alternative paths to make it happen.

Attitude #3: Claim—Question #3: What do I think?

Some leaders get lost in the options game. They can see so many ways to do a project that they never get around to doing it. They do not claim a choice or decide on a solution. At some point, leaders need to claim the option that will achieve the focus. Leaders stake, claim, own, and are accountable for their culls. They agnize things that could be done, but claim the unique amalgamation that works best. They take a stand and become kenned for something. The way inhibiting credences kept sales clerks in one industry from engendering incipient leads. They talk publicly and privately about the direction they are headed and the path to get there; they put energy and passion into these paths; they monitor leadership progress; and they gain or lose credibility by the extent to which they accomplish their claim. With a focus, options, and ownership, leaders pass a calendar test of their time, an emotional test of their passion and energy, and a resource test of the investments required to deliver on the option.

To pass these tests, leaders should ensure that the option is congruent with personal values. They must explain not only why the company wants to do something, but also why they personally want to do it.

To claim an option requires personalizing the change and answering the question, “What do I think?” This leadership question internalizes an identity. It makes the identity something that the leader petitions and claims. Ponder these questions: Am I dear about the path I will take to reach my goals? Have I passed the calendar test? Have I dedicated 20 percent of my time in the next 90 days on the option I have chosen? Have I passed the rhetoric test? In every speech, do I find ways to talk about the option and imbue the message with new metaphors, symbols, and images? Have I passed the passion test? Do I put my energy into the path I have chosen? Is my leadership direction and path consistent with what I believe? Do I feel passion for it?

When leaders assert their desires with a focus, explore their options with insight, and claim their path with boldness, they lead. They set an agenda, define a path, and engage others. They forge a new identity for themselves and their organization.

Attitude #4: Decide—Question #4: What decisions do I need to make?

Clarity of Decisions The leader must now decide to make things happen. Clarity of decisions leads to lucent actions, while ambiguity leads to delayed or random acts.

In the absence of decision, clarity, and rigor, actions may be delayed or misguided. A pattern of decisions shapes an identity. A leader chooses how to spend time, who to spend time with, what information to process, what meetings to hold, and what issues to address. Through this pattern of decisions, she creates an identity.

Being clear about decisions and protocols enables leaders to shape an identity. Decisions protocols also turn a direction and path into a set of choices. Just as leadership is a choice, so is the identity that follows from what and how leaders make decisions.

Not all the transmutation that you estimated turned out to be great—meaning every vicissitude did not result in an ecstatic ending. Thoughtful bellwethers ask four questions:

  1. What decisions do I need to make? Leaders focus on the few key decisions they need to make.
  2. Who will make the decision—and who is accountable for the decision?
  3. When will the decision be made? Work expands to fill the time provided. Deadlines generate commitment to action.
  4. How will we make a good decision? This involves knowing the quality level the decision requires, accessing the right information, asking the right people for input, finding out what others have done, testing alternatives, and involving key people.

When people feel heard, they more likely accept the decision. When people know the why they accept the what. However, most other changes later in life had external dependencies. Discretion is an imperative.

As you follow this protocol, you pass the decisiveness and decision test. You not only know what you want, you know the options, which leadership option works best, and the key decisions that will move the change along and shape a new pattern or identity.

Attitude #5: Act—Question #5: What actions do I need to take?

An incipient identity requires incipient actions. We often judge ourselves by our intent, but others judge our identity by our actions. Make actions part of the new identity.

  • Start small. Seek small, first steps. Look for lead customers who might engage in a new project. Look for early adopters of a new idea. Seek many people making small changes.
  • Let go. New identity requires letting go of old actions consistent with an old identity. As old actions are replaced with new ones, others begin to expect the new identity and its actions. As actions accumulate, they become patterns, and a new identity is forged.
  • Involve others. Change requires a social support network. Leaders who act to sustain change will need to surround themselves with those who model the desired changes.

Sustained Change Takes Time

Sustained Change Takes Time Once new directions and opportunities make sense, have the team participate in creating or revising their vision, goals, and milestones, so everyone knows how they connect to the mission. Try this “four 3s” methodology:

  1. 3 hours: What can I do in the next three hours to make progress?
  2. 3 days: What can I do in the next three days to make progress?
  3. 3 weeks: What can I do in the next three weeks to sustain progress?
  4. 3 months: What can I do in the next three months to show progress?

In three months, old patterns may be replaced by new patterns.

Attitude #6: Learn—Question #6: How will I know and grow?

Sustained change requires follow-up, monitoring, and learning. Without indicators to track progress, learning cannot occur. You must weigh in and figure out what helps or hinders your goal. In change, you should probe for early denotements of prosperity by identifying lead designators of what is or is not working. The tracking indicators should lead to insights, improvements, and upgrades.

Leaders observe events, see patterns, think critically and creatively about problems, are self-aware about strengths and weaknesses, try new things, and adapt and improve what they do and how they do it.

Thorough cultural diagnostics can assess organizational readiness to change, bring major problems to the surface, identify conflicts, and define factors that can recognize and influence sources of leadership and resistance.

Six Attitudes of Change

Six Attitudes of Change Management These six attitudes and questions help you move from the tyranny of to-do lists, events, and programs to the leadership assimilation of a new identity.

Trying to execute faster and struggling with the reality that change takes time. Our techniques are too often informed by what worked in the engineering age. We treat humans like machines and expect things to work properly if we just engineer the change properly. The problem, of course, is that people are not machines. More of what you have suggested is necessary for helping people move through the very human process of change.

A worthwhile challenge can be prodigiously incentivizing, as long as it is a veracious description of the leadership situation.

Make use of management techniques that have been shown to reduce threats during tough times, when boardroom conflicts are more likely to arise because of differing perspectives.

Posted in Management and Leadership