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How to Address the Struggle for Self-Realization in Your Organization

At the dawn of the new millennium, two powerful factions are arrayed against each other. Each faction advocates an extensive list of reforms.

  1. those influenced to support the principle of equality of condition and to extend their progressive program of reforms
  2. those equally determined to reinstate equality of opportunity as the reigning principle.

Now, we need to tackle such concerns as the struggle for self-realization, the desire to find a deep-seated meaning in life than the endless accumulation of consumer durables and the pursuit of pleasure, education not only for careers but for spiritual values, methods of bankrolling an early and rewarding retirement, and increasing the quality time available for family activities.

The changing nature and distribution of work and leisure and changes in the structure of consumer demand are creating overabundance in some areas (such as the excessive consumption of calories and fat) and severe shortages in others (such as health services at all ages).

How to Address the Struggle for Self-Realization in Your Organization

To accomplish self-realization, we need to understand life’s opportunities and sense which ones are most attractive to us at each stage, and the requisite educational, material, and spiritual resources to pursue these opportunities. Currently fair access to spiritual resources is as much a benchmark as access to material resources was in the past.

  • Spiritual resources include a sense of purpose, a sense of opportunity, a sense of community, a strong family ethic, a strong work ethic, and high self-esteem.
  • Developments in physiology have contributed to the growth of the elderly population, giving rise to the problem of in, intergenerational equity—the assurance that one generation will not suffer a lop-sided share of the burden of financing a lifetime of self-realization.
  • Also pressing is the need to develop arrangements that permit prime-aged workers greater flexibility so that they can attend to their own and their family’s spiritual needs.
  • Lifelong learning is another new equity issue. It involves offering opportunities not only to upgrade skills to earn a living but also to extend knowledge in the arts and humanities.

For women, self-realization requires an end to glass ceilings and the creation of conditions that make careers and families fully compatible.

The new agenda is shaped by changes in structure that have reversed the trend toward economic concentration and the separation of work and home.

Today, 60 percent of our discretionary time is spent doing what we like (volwork). The abundance of leisure time promotes the search for a deeper understanding of the meaning of life.

Why this deep desire for volwork? Why do so many people want to forgo earnwork, which would allow them to buy more food, clothing, housing, and other goods? The answer turns partly on the extraordinary technological changes.

Food, housing, clothing, and other consumer durables have become so inexpensive in real terms that the totality of material consumption requires far fewer hours of labor today.

Indeed, we are approaching saturation in the consumption not only of necessities but also of goods that were in the recent past thought to be luxuries. The era of the household accumulation of consumer durables, which sparked the growth of manufacturing industries, is largely over. Most future purchases of consumer durables will be by those replacing items or establishing new households.

Quality of Life and Self-Realization

Today, ordinary people wish to use their liberated time to buy those amenities of life that only the rich could afford in abundance a century ago. These amenities broaden the mind, enrich the soul, and relieve the monotony of earnwork. They include travel, athletics, the performing arts, education, and shared time with family. The principal cost of these activities is often measured, not by cash outlays, but outlays of time.

Soon, the issue of life’s meaning, and other matters of self-realization, will take up the bulk of discretionary time.

'Rising Strong' by Brene Brown (ISBN 081298580X) New flexible work modes—such as a regular part-time work, blocks of work interrupted by blocks of released time, job sharing, flextime, telecommuting, hoteling, compressed work, early retirement, and postretirement earnwork arrangements—are desired by men and women who want a life that is not overwhelmed by earnwork. They do not measure success by income or position. They are content with a simpler lifestyle that places greater emphasis on family life, shared relationships, spiritual growth, religious faith, and good health.

Today, many corporations view alternative working arrangements as part of an inventory of personnel policies that increase corporate productivity and reduce absenteeism, labor turnover, and the cost of office space.

Today ordinary people must decide: What it the nature of the good life? Our world may be materially richer and contain fewer environmental risks, but its spiritual struggles are more complex.

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Excellence in Leadership Execution

Excellence in Leadership Execution

Just as the most dangerous part of a jet flight is going from cruise altitude to landing, making the transition from a lofty vision and innovative strategy to ground-level implementation requires great focus and flawless execution.

Having perspective and strategy is important; however, when we examine business plans that miss the mark, we find that the problem is rarely with the vision or strategy but rather with implementation and execution.

For 30 years, we have worked with senior executive teams on implementing sound strategies. We find that four key elements must be in place:

Operational Excellence for Execution

  1. Assessing and developing the knowledge and competency of the senior leaders. Assess the strengths and competencies of the senior management team and identify potential gaps that could impact implementation. You can learn what gaps in skills or knowledge exist through formal assessments conducted by an experienced third party to encourage candor and objectivity. In other instances, knowledge gaps become apparent through multiple interactions. Leaders must know their strengths and shortcomings and address the gaps, either by recruiting new members or developing the requisite skills or knowledge.
  2. 'Purpose Meets Execution' by Louis Efron (ISBN 1138049093) The senior leadership team must be fully aligned with the intent and direction of the strategic initiative. Although candor and cooperation among senior leaders are crucial, functional heads often pursue their own objectives to the detriment of the strategic initiative. The implementation of key initiatives requires the full alignment and shared accountability of senior leaders. A lack of cooperation is readily apparent. Passive-aggressive behavior in staff meetings, a “not invented here” attitude when presented with new ideas, or a reluctance to embrace change indicate something is amiss. Unless senior leaders embrace the strategic objective and commit to its implementation, the odds for success are low.
  3. The culture must support the initiative and adhere to the essential values set. Certain values are so vital that we refer to them as the Essential Values Set. Culture is largely determined by the values shared by its members. This Essential Values Set is a universal set of principles that govern how the organization defines acceptable behavior. The presence of the Essential Values Set explains why some companies excel in executing strategic initiatives.
  4. The reward and recognition system must be aligned with the outcomes of the strategy. The cash compensation plan, along with other rewards, needs to be aligned with the cross-functional goals of the strategic initiative. Leaders should be rewarded for accomplishments in their areas of responsibility and for their support of cross-organizational initiatives. How aligned is your rewards and recognition process with the strategic initiative?

High-performance Teams are Characterized by Six Healthy Values

  • Performance value. This “make it happen” value focuses on setting challenging expectations and achieving results with accountability. With a healthy performance value, people seek innovative ways to overcome obstacles, encourage teamwork, and accept prudent risk-taking. Without a healthy performance value, people engage in finger-pointing, passive-aggressive behavior, and blame-avoidance.
  • Collaborative value. Collaboration is built upon principles of trust, sharing, open and direct communication, and a belief in the positive intent of team members. Collaboration promotes teamwork, mutual support, and decisions made for the greater good.
  • 'Execution Getting Things Done' by Larry Bossidy (ISBN 0609610570) Change value. The successful execution of key initiatives requires innovation, openness, and positive support for new ideas. Leaders operating from a healthy change mindset act as coaches, as opposed to judges or critics of new ideas. They encourage innovation, risk, and growth, as opposed to dismissing new ideas or diverse points of view. They refuse to allow a rigid bureaucracy or current processes to kill innovatio .
  • Customer value. The customers’ experience is a barometer of overall health. This value can also be defined as how well the organization focuses on a greater purpose-something beyond itself. The best leaders are focused on better serving internal and external customers. Positive and productive initiatives are framed in the context of a customer-value perspective.
  • Integrity value. Integrity refers to the consistency between the senior leadership’s words and their actions. Integrity is crucial for effective strategy execution. Integrity goes beyond simple compliance. At its core, integrity goes to consistency between word and deed to walking the talk.
  • Health value. Senior leadership teams that execute well share a healthy climate characterized by openness, trust, mutual respect, optimism, and hopefulness. This health value enables leaders to generate positive energy, assume the best motives and intentions in others, be more present and listen to one another for different points of view.

These six values position senior leaders as positive role models. If there is mistrust, internal competition, or negative assumptions of motives among senior leaders, the implementation of the strategy will be impaired.

Case Study: Execution Excellence Framework

The new CEO of a cellular telephone company and his executive team grappled with many challenges—one being to determine a strategy for competing in markets dominated by better-financed competitors. The senior leaders concluded that excellence in customer service was the key. They believed that if they could endear themselves to their customers, they could reduce the erosion of their customer base and free up resources to attract new customers. Reducing turnover by improving its service could result in $400 million in additional annual profits.

Here’s how this firm used the Four Elements of Execution to achieve this goal.

  1. Assessing and developing the knowledge mid competency of the senior leaders. They assessed the strengths and capabilities of staff to ensure that those charged with leading the initiative had the requisite skills. Their analysis revealed some gaps in knowledge that would be difficult to develop internally. So, they recruited several new executives with these capabilities.
  2. 'The Art of Execution' by Lee Freeman-Shor (ISBN 085719495X) Senior feeders must be fully aligned with the intent mid direction of the strategic initiative. The success of the initiative hinged on everyone becoming committed to improved customer service. Knowing that employees would be looking to them, senior managers resolved their differences behind closed doors. While dissent and alternative points of view were welcomed in staff meetings, a unified front was required after the meetings.
  3. The culture must support the initiative and live the essential values. Presenting a positive and unified front reinforced the desire to better serve the customer. Although the leaders came from different business units, they put aside their individual needs and collaborated to identify innovative methods for serving the customer. Their ability to coach others and maintain focus on the customer’s experience contributed to the success. Senior leaders held each other accountable to “walk the talk.” They faced many setbacks and obstacles but maintained a healthy climate with an optimistic view of the future and cast a positive shadow.
  4. The reward and recognition system must be aligned with outcomes of the strategy. Senior leaders realigned their executive compensation reward and recognition system to support the collaborative measures necessary to implement the strategic plan.

Improve Your Execution

After two years, the company moved from 7th place to 1st in the JD Powers ranking of Cellular Customer Service and Loyalty. Customer turnover levels were 67 percent lower than national competitors. This resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits.

The behaviors of leaders cast long shadows and dictate success in implementing major initiatives. Senior leaders must embrace and model the four key elements of superior execution.

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Organizational Subcultures

It is important to recognize that even an organization’s unified culture is not entirely homogenous; subcultures subsist and each division or unit in the organization sees things from a somewhat diverse standpoint.

'Administrative Behavior' by Herbert Simon (ISBN 0684835827) DeWitt Dearborn and his colleague, the Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon, had executives from a single company read a case study that was to be discussed as part of a training program. Before the discussion began, they asked the executives to write down what they each saw as the primary problem facing the organization described in the case. As you may expect, the head of marketing saw the problem as a marketing problem, the head of finance saw it as a finance problem, and the head of production saw it as a production problem, and so on.

That is, the different heads of the different divisions in the company tended to perceive the world in a way that was congruent with their own division’s function, and in terms of the culture that their division had developed. This is not to say that they did not share parts of each other’s culture, but they did have views exclusive to their own parts of the organization.

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What is Organizational Culture?

What is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is the essence of what is important to the organization. For itself, it stipulates and proscribes undertakings, and it defines the “dos and don’ts” that oversee the behavior of its members.

An organization’s culture serves at least seven important functions:

  • Specifies what is of principal importance to the organization, the standards against which its successes and failures should be gaged.
  • Determines how the organization’s resources are to be used, and to what ends.
  • Establishes what the organization and its members can expect from each other.
  • Makes some methods of controlling behavior within the organization legitimate and makes others illegitimate—specifically, it defines where power lies within the organization and how it is to be used.
  • Selects the behaviors in which members should or should not engage and prescribes how these are to be rewarded and punished.
  • Sets the tone for how members should treat each other and how they should treat nonmembers: competitively, collaboratively, honestly, distantly, or hostilely.
  • Instructs organizational members about how to handle the external environment: aggressively, exploitatively, responsibly, or proactively.
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How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently

How Leaders Can Motivate People to Think and Act Differently Will the induction of new technology present any menace to traditionalists? Of course it will. Innovation, by definition, is a undermining force. That is why we will need real leaders to champion the innovations. Leaders motivate people to think and act differently. We need to make sure that we are on the winning side of new technologies.

We must choose anything that will bring greater urgency and velocity to the search for new products, or advancements of existing ones, that are truly innovative. We can find some clues on how to act by studying the history of innovation. Here are some lessons learned.

  1. The instinct to create or innovate can be encouraged. We can systemize innovation by encouraging bright people with a real diversity of talent to work together in teams.
  2. Nothing stimulates innovation more than the rapid exchange of information, knowledge, and ideas. Faster transmission begets greater discovery. We see this in e-commerce. Amazon.com may constitute the greatest innovation in the distribution of the written word since the printing press.
  3. There must be obvious financial incentives for successful innovations. Undoubtedly, financial incentives add fuel to the fire for high-tech companies in the business-related world. But there is still a dearth of attractive financial incentives in defense procurement. Many leading companies have turned their backs on military R&D and defense contracting as a result of poor profit margins and red tape.
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Seven Employee Engagement Practices

Seven Employee Engagement Practices

Use these seven engagement practices to engage or re-engage your people:

  1. Give realistic job previews to ensure the expectations of new hires match on-the-job reality. This involves giving a candid description of difficult challenges or conditions, touring the plant, allowing candidates to discuss job challenges with current employees, or portraying actual work situations.
  2. Take more time in hiring to avoid person-job mismatches. Analyze the critical success factors required for all jobs, screen candidates via personality assessments, ask behavior-based questions, use multiple interviewers, and check references. Don’t over-prescribe how jobs are to be done, but communicate clearly what results are expected.
  3. Provide managers with training in performance management and coaching. This should include the art of giving performance feedback and dealing with situations of potential conflict. Leaders of engaged workforces teach an adult-to-adult partnership model that allows more input from the employee in performance goal-setting, and features more frequent discussions.
  4. Provide self-assessment workshops and train managers how to be career coaches. Require all employees to complete an annual Individual Development Plan and update it with managers after six months. Some CEOs state that managers do not “own” the talent and that “talent-hoarding” won’t be tolerated. Employees will not be prevented from moving laterally when they are ready.
  5. 'The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave' by Leigh Branham (ISBN 0814408516) Create a culture that acknowledges all improvements and contributions. Assure that people receive the message that they are valued. Request employee input about matters that impact them, keep them informed, provide the right resources at the right time, and discipline or fire managers who abuse and disrespect people. Hire great people and pay above-market wages.
  6. Maintain reasonable workloads. Help people to have a decent life outside work. Survey your people and find out what they need. Companies with many female workers with children might start flex-time and subsidized child care or trade some pay for increased vacation time.
  7. Gain and maintain the trust and confidence of employees. Convey a clear and compelling vision that inspires confidence and gives people hope that they can grow as the organization grows. Convince workers that you care as much about them as you care about shareholders and customers. Back up your words with actions and maintain high standards of ethics and integrity.
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How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

How to Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

The workforce is changing dramatically. For the first time in modern society, four generations—Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and Matures—are working side-by-side. The fastest growing segment is comprised of employees age 27 and under. In the past four years, they became 21 percent of the workforce. About 50 percent of the workforce is age 40 and under. A larger proportion is past traditional retirement age as Baby Boomers continue to redefine retirement and Matures continue to work.

These generational differences can cause friction, mistrust, and communication breakdowns; prevent effective teamwork and collaboration; and impact job satisfaction, retention, and productivity.

To manage a multi-generational workforce, leaders must first understand each generation, and the common experiences that connect its members. This enables them to align all employees with goals and create an inclusive culture in which age differences are recognized and leveraged.

Multi-Generational Workforce: Where Are You Coming From?

Knowing more about each generation affords a better way for managing and motivating employees of all ages. The common experiences of a generation, along with age and life stage, drive the attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles of its members. Each generation has a different perspective. Each brings unique attitudes and expectations to work, and each influences the manager-employee relationship. We need to understand other generations so we can build relationships that lead to cooperation and job satisfaction.

Millennials: Age 27 and Younger

Raised by Baby Boomer parents, Millennials want responsibility, recognition, and opportunities for high engagement. Many have a friend-friend relationship with their parents and expect to be treated as equals. At work, they are adaptable, open, and comfortable with ethnic diversity. To Millennials, a leader is a guide and mentor, not an autocrat. Their work style is independent, but they need feedback. Their solutions are often technology-oriented. They have a strong sense of social responsibility, and carefully select the organizations they work for. Millennials thrive on short-term goals and deadlines, and want frequent feedback and reinforcement.

Generation X: Ages 28 to 40

Gen-Xers were raised when many women worked outside the home, and so they learned to be self-reliant, resourceful, and independent. They bring work-life balance to the workplace. Gen-Xers are strategi, altruistic, tech-savvy, and impatient with Boomers’ emphasis on meetings and relationships. Though they are collaborative, they prefer to work independently with minimal supervision. They focus results and are masters at multi-tasking. With their focus on work-life balance, many Gen-X women are giving up high-powered careers or cutting back on work hours in order to raise their children. Finding ways to retain high-performing Gen-Xers as they start their families is a challenge. Gen-Xers are motivated by independence, growth opportunities, and managers who trust them.

Baby Boomers: Ages 41 to 59

Often called the “Me” generation, Boomers were raised in a time of economic prosperity and civil rights upheaval that fostered individualism and a sense of entitlement. Work is a high priority, which translates into 12-hour workdays and stressful lives. They are innovative, and tend to challenge the rules. As managers, Boomers pay attention to relationship building and expect others to work the same long hours. Boomers look for new challenges that leverage their experience, and recognition for their contribution.

Matures: Ages 60 to 80

Matures were influenced by the Great Depression and World War II. As children, they were “seen and not heard.” Their values of hard work, honesty, and dedication became America’s values. They respect authority and seniority, and prefer a formal relationship with their manager. Matures are comfortable with hierarchy and a top-down management style. Matures desire to contribute and want respect for their experience.

Multi-Generational Workforce: Aligning the Generations

You can manage all four generations by recognizing and valuing differences and by creating a culture of inclusion in which every employee can thrive.

We have developed three action steps for greater engagement:

  1. Understand your workforce. Develop a deep understanding of your workforce-demographics, skill sets, personality traits, and perspectives on the culture.
  2. Build and maintain a balanced workforce. This requires recruiting strategies that appeal to diverse ages. Online job boards may have more appeal for Millennials than Matures. In contrast, newspaper ads that feature employees with 20-plus years of experience connect with Matures. Each generation expects and needs something different from work, and retention strategies should be tailored to those needs. For example, Gen-Xers may value a flextime program, while Baby Boomers will want recognition.
  3. Create an accepting culture. A culture that accepts and values each person can make a positive difference for everyone involved. Incorporating multi-generational workforce management into business goals is one effective way to develop an accepting culture. Facilitate interaction by including development programs geared to managers, leaders, and employees at other levels; mentoring and reverse mentoring; participation on committees; and informal social activities. Foster relationships among employees of all ages.

Manage a Multi-Generational Workforce

A workforce comprised of all generations offers flexibility, a range of skill sets, different approaches to problem solving, and the ability to attract and retain high-performing people.

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10 Characteristics and Competencies of an Effective Trainer

10 Characteristics and Competencies of an Effective Trainer

  1. Know what you want to accomplish within the learners and measure it. Provide an exercise that simulates the behavior or action you are teaching in the second half of your training session. Now you have a way to estimate if the learners understand what you are teaching. If not, you have more time to get your point across as you discuss the results of the exercise. If the learners did get it, you can instill confidence by telling them they got it right! They will feel successful and be more likely to apply their new learning at work. Leader-trainers gain respect among participants just by saying, “Yes! You’ve got it!”
  2. Use PowerPoint slides as a learner-aid, not a trainer-aid. Learners need a few key graphics or words to help them focus. For words, use the 3×3 to 6×6 rule (no more than 3 to 6 words per line; no more than 3 to 6 lines). For graphics, use representations of your words, or use graphs, charts, and models to organize concepts. Don’t stand behind a podium or hold your notes in front of you when present. Nothing should come between you and your learners. Use body language to indicate that you are open to them.
  3. Tell them what they can do as a result of your training, not what you will do. Paint the picture of what the learner will accomplish during training and after it. Speak their praises, not your own. Use interactive, active words for which any observer could see the result. You cannot see if a person “understands,” “learns,” or “knows.” You can see if a person “applies,” “improves,” “uses,” “describes,” or “creates”.
  4. 'The Trainer's Handbook' by Garry Mitchell (ISBN 0814403417) Plan an interaction every 10 minutes. The interaction can be an exercise, or question to the learners with a chance to respond to you, their fellow participants, or on paper. Communications help learners process the information. Try asking each person to tell their neighbor one significant thing they heard in the last 10 minutes.
  5. Put the learner to work, instead of you, during the training. Give learners opportunities to try out new information and make new connections with carefully designed exercises. Direct them as they practice new skills or ideas. Tell them when they are on the right path, and when they are off. Learners look for both your assurance that they are correct, as well as your supervision if they are off-target.
  6. Provide Purpose, Action, and Limit (PAL) for every activity. Tell the learners why they are doing the activity and what they will do. Often, this is a list of steps to complete the assigned activity. And, give them limits—such as a time limit, a limit on resources, or a limit on location, such as in the room or at their table. If your activity is multifaceted, consider trying it out first on a few friends to hone your directions, avoid misunderstandings, and save face-to-face time at the training event.
  7. Use the magic numbers—3 and 6—for group work. I find that teams of 3 or 6 people is optimal group size for any activity or exercise. Three people bring diverse thinking to a problem and help each other learn complex tasks or skills. Groups of six provide a critical mass to assure a high level of energy.
  8. 'What Great Trainers Do' by Robert Bolton (ISBN 0814420060) Know your audience. Learn what they care about and what interests them. Are they energized by stories and examples? By doing it themselves with guidance? By cooperating or discussing with others? By having time to reflect? Learn how participants are responding.
  9. You are responsible for the energy in the room. You may have a tough group, but you should never have a quiet, nonresponsive, low-energy group. If the energy is low, you need to be more vigorous. If their energy is too high, you can take your energy level higher still in order to gain control; then bring the energy level back to a good level. Your passion for the subject can boost energy.
  10. If you are concerned about the learners’ success, they will value you. Your attitude matters. If you sincerely care about the learners and their success, learners respond more positively. People learn more from someone they respect and value. You need to be that someone, so members will learn and apply their learning.
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Turn Knowledge Workers into Knowledge Warriors

Leaders can gain competitive advantage by giving every knowledge worker the tools they need to become knowledge warriors. The learner is positioned-and willing-to takes charge of the learning process. Leaders can capture inherent knowledge, blend it with vetted knowledge, and make it available a bit at a time, on demand as required.

The technologies are now on hand, for the strategic deployment of knowledge assets, but a new way of thinking about learning is required-a real-time system that offers an integrated blend of human and digital content to provide knowledge workers with the required new skills and knowledge daily.

Turn Knowledge Workers into Knowledge Warriors

Knowledge Warriors

Knowledge workers are victims of greatly increased demand arising from new information sources, channels, and beneficiaries because those same technologies promise them extraordinary advantage and performance support.

The enterprise needs to capture its own collective knowledge and enhance its collective awareness. The technology that powers this new model of knowing exists, but we need to use the technology differently. Traditional courses and delivery methods are making way for more robust and performance related learning strategies: not degrees, but “dynamic competencies”; not just in case, but also just in time; not mass product, but personalized, on-the-spot knowledge. The new focus is on the learner.

'How Knowledge Workers Get Things Done' by Keith Swenson (ISBN 0984976442) The difference is profound. The required knowledge solution does not exist until the learner presents himself; and the solution is “tailored” for each individual on the spot. This is the end of eLearning, as we know it. Our brief experience with eLearning has propelled us to High Performance Learning. We are positioned to crack the code.

There are three sides to the learning proposition: learner, knowledge, and means or process of gaining knowledge. Clearly the most important element is the learner-the one for whom the process of learning exists. Until recently, however, all formal education has focused on the knowledge (the subject matter expert and content), and the means of gaining knowledge. However, all that is changing. As leaders recognize that many important knowledge assets are stored in their people’s heads, their focus is shifting from the knowledge as a commodity to the learner as a key resource.

Virtual capability is now driving the creation of networks to identify, channel, and integrate a company’s collective knowledge for those who need it.

The new focus centers on human consciousness in a powerful integrated solution that is less focused on content and technology and more on the recipient.

Three Characteristics of Knowledge Warriors and Knowledge Workers

Since knowledge, rapidly changes we need to leverage it in service of performance in real time. Imagine a knowledge system with these traits:

  1. Leverage collective intelligence identifying, capturing, transparently linking the knowledge that people carry in their heads with vetted sources of knowledge, and delivering it in the right context to the right people in the right amount at the right time.
  2. Embedding carbon in the silicon combining potential human coaches/advisors with personalized learning objects within the same platform at the time they are needed.
  3. Real-time change management aligning corporate data with information from the knowledge management system and learning resources from the learning management system; and using the combined data in a dashboard that increases agility and helps management through change in real time.

Cracking the code is not about technology; it is about agility. Upgrading technology without upgrading the strategy can be an empty investment.

Quality of Knowledge Warriors and Knowledge Workers

Five Measures of Quality of Knowledge Warriors and Knowledge Workers

Five principles guide the application of technology to learning:

  1. Learning is about the learner, not the provider. “Best” generation solutions will always be simple, natural, and life supporting for the user, addressing the demands of time and context.
  2. The solution leverages both the knowledge of the learner and the knowledge of colleagues. Is the knowledge worker driving his own solution? Is the knowledge in the enterprise acquired, encoded, and available on the same platform with other learning objects?
  3. 'Rise of the Knowledge Worker' by James Cortada (ISBN 0750670584) The solution is a business solution, not an academic one. A business solution provides people with the knowledge they need for that moment. Expertise is not something that one has; it is something that one uses-the result of a creative interface of individual knowledge and supportive knowledge.
  4. The knowledge solution is a critical component of strategy and a powerful tool for achieving the vision. If your corporate “university” is behaving like a traditional university, blow it up. You need expertise and performance.
  5. The solution addresses unpredictable circumstances. The quality of such a system is proportional to its flexibility, the degree to which changing requirements can be detected and solutions made available in real time.

In separating what is useful from what is traditional, we will crack the code to discover true quality.

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Best Practices for Corporate Boards & Governance

Best Practices for Corporate Boards & Governance

In the wake of many business failures, we have criticized every player in the system except the one charged with insuring that these failures do not occur: the board of directors. They are elected by the shareholders as the ultimate governing body and charged with preserving the company and building it long term.

Many boards have abandoned the legal and fiduciary responsibilities. They have become more responsive to the CEO and the management than to the shareholders. In so doing, they abandon their governance role to get the company’s stock price up. They stop asking the hard questions about how the company achieves its numbers, whether it makes adequate investments to build for the long-term and whether its strategies are still valid and effectively implemented.

Our systems of governance must be reformed. This begins with having a “bright line” between governance and management. Boards have ceded their governance responsibilities to the CEO. Now they must reclaim it.

Here is a 10-step program to improve board governance:

  1. Create principles of governance. The independent directors of the board need to establish principles of governance that describe the functions of the board and how the board will conduct itself. The principles should be published for all shareholders to see, and each year the board should report to the shareholders, evaluating the effectiveness of these principles.
  2. Have truly independent directors. This is essential to effective governance. Boards need directors who have had no prior association with the company. To measure their independence, no director should receive any compensation other than standard board fees. Nor should any interlocking directorates be permitted between the CEO and any member.
  3. Select board members more for their values than their titles. Too often we choose directors for the positions they hold, rather than their commitment, availability, and competence as board the many member. Let’s take advantage of executives who have the time and inclination to serve on boards. Let’s also assess the diversity of backgrounds and experience we need on the board to provide sound guidance.
  4. Establish a Governance and Nominating Committee composed solely of outside directors. This committee maintains the principles of governance, nominates people for election to the board, evaluates existing directors, conducts the evaluation of the chairperson and the CEO, and develops a succession plan for the CEO, including the selection of new CEOs. This committee is charged with organizing the board and its committees, identifying independent directors to chair them.
  5. Elect a Lead Director. If one person is both chair and CEO, the independent directors must elect a lead director to organize them, insure their independence, and advise the CEO. I prefer that the lead director be the chair of the governance committee, as these functions are closely aligned.
  6. Corporate Boards oversee governance and management Qualify members of the Audit and Finance Committees to insure the veracity of the financial statements. These committees should meet privately with external auditors, the CFO, and internal auditors. Outside auditors should not receive any additional consulting fees from the company.
  7. Hire an independent compensation consultant. Neither the CEO nor any member of management should be involved in setting the CEO’s compensation, or board fees. My big concern with executive compensation is the grants made by compensation committees to executives who do not perform or who are terminated. These moves destroy the integrity of incentive systems. At the executive level, it should be “pay for performance.” Period.
  8. Meet regularly in executive sessions. This works best if the board meeting begins in executive session with the CEO, and concludes with an executive session without the CEO present. These sessions are much more open and often lead to rich discussions of the most vital issues. Of course, the lead director must convey the essence of the discussion to the CEO.
  9. Seek the right Board chemistry. Board members should respect each other, but not hesitate to challenge each other, the CEO, and members of management. At times, a single director must stand against management and the rest of the board if he or she feels that the company is headed in the wrong direction. Board knowledge and chemistry can be enhanced with off site visits to company locations and one extended meeting per year, preferably off-site, to review the company’s strategies in depth. These longer sessions give independent directors deeper insights into the business, and build relationships that are vital in crises.
  10. Reestablish the bright line between governance and management. Directors must step up to their responsibilities and establish that bright line between governance and management. Will this reduce the power of the CEO to manage the company? No. The best CEOs want to have a strong, independent board, and look to the board for advice and counsel, not just approval, on important matters. Having a clear line between will keep the board from usurping the CEO’s prerogatives just as it will constrain management. This will help restore the balance to decision-making and ensure stability.

To transform our systems of government, businesses, and non-profits, we need courageous, authentic, and visionary leaders and directors, not just people who react to events.

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