How well managed is your company?

The median answer to that question is 7 in the World Management Survey. The results on that particular item demonstrate how false perceptions come into play when we are evaluating our own company and our abilities.

As discussed in the article, Why do we undervalue competent management,  false perceptions undermines our ability to evaluate how well (or bad) or company is run. The fact that 80% of drivers rate themselves above average – I am part of those – is an illustration of the kind of biases we are dealing with.

A glimpse into the most influential management practices on the results of an organization can already give you an idea of what could be discussed or improve in your own company.

Below are the 18 core management practices reproduced from the article:

Operations Management
  • Use of lean techniques
  • Reasons for adopting lean processes
Performance Monitoring
  • Process documentation
  • Use of key performance indicators
  • KPI reviews
  • Discussion of results
  • Consequences for missing targets
Target Setting
  • Choice of targetsConnection to strategy, extent to which targets cascade down to individual workers
  • Time horizon
  • Level of challenge
  • Clarity of goals and measurement
Talent Management
  • Talent mindset at the highest levels
  • Stretch goals
  • Management of low performance
  • Talent development
  • Employee value proposition
  • Talent retention

Is it enough to give you the will to read the article mentioned above or to benchmark your company?

How do I know my opinion is right?

In a meritocracy, the best idea wins. So, how can we design an organization that will enable that?  Ray Dalio propose to use radical transparency, radical truthfulness, and algorithmic decision-making to create the conditions where people can speak up and say what they really think.

He shares an example of feedback email he receives after a meeting: “Ray you deserve a D for your performance in the meeting…”.

After a dramatic failure, he decided to change his thinking from “I am right” to “How do I know that I am right”.  To grasp that knowledge, you need to know what the others are thinking and how believable they are.

The dot collector is the tool they use in Ray’s company to gather the instant feedback and to evaluate the believability of people. In some office environment in which you never truly know if people say or don’t say something to advance their personal agenda, this kind of approach looks like Sci-Fi.

 

 

Grow your questioning skills

We tend to want to solve the problems, even when we know that it is much better to help people to find their own solutions. I received several questions about the need to listen, and the need to ask better questions. Looking for a simple way to explain how it works, I used the GROW model developed by Graham Alexander.

GROW stands for Goal setting, Reality, Options, Way forward. Let’s examine a few example of questions you could ask for each step.

Be careful not to make the questions sound as a judgment call. The goal is to explore what are the real goals of a person for the current conversation, or for a more long term time frame, and then to find their solution to get there. The questions could also be used in a group setting situation. In both cases, you need to get first an agreement from the person or the group to provide your help.

Goal setting, what the person wants to achieve:

  • What does success look like?
  • What would need to happen for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?
  • What would be a milestone on the way?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change?
  • How much personal control or influence do you have over your goal?
  • How will measure it? (the goal is not the measure, just to foster the conversation and to check that you have the same understanding of the goal)

Reality, assess the reality (and the awareness of the person that the reality is a very subjective thing):

  • What is happening now?
    • You will need to use descriptor questions to help the person to think more precisely about the situation: Tell me more about, help me understand, I am curious about, could you describe further…
  • How do you know that this is really happening?
  • What other factors are relevant?
  • How the other stakeholders perceived the situation?
  • What are the results of your previous actions?

Options and Obstacles, explore the different options possible to get the desired results, and examine the obstacles that prevent to get the results:

  • What could you do to change the situation?
  • What have you done or see other do in similar situations?
  • What are the options for action?
  • What are the benefits and costs of your different options?
  • What are the external and internal factors that could prevent you in taking actions?
  • What will you do to eliminate these external and internal factors?

Way forward, is when we convert options into actions:

  • What option do you choose?
  • What will you do and when?
  • What support do you need and from whom?
  • How will you get that support?

I hope that will help your next conversations. Feedback welcome!

Learning from the neuroscience of trust

Trust is the foundation of the human relationship and the foundation of an effective team. I recently shared how our behavior will create or destroy trust in the article The Evolution of Trust, and more about trust as the foundation of a team in the article The Five Dysfunction of a Team.

Paul J. Zak, the author of Trust Factor, shares in The Neuroscience of Trust the 8 management behaviors that will foster trust.

We could use the 8 behaviors as discussion points with teams to improve our way of working. The question could be, How are we doing on:

  1. Recognize excellence: personal public recognition from peers that occurs immediately after the fact, tangible and unexpected has the largest effect on trust.
  2. Induce “challenge stress”: stretch goal, but a still achievable goal, assigned to a team will intensify focus and strengthen the social connection.
  3. Give people discretion in how they do their work: autonomy and self-organization, is another important contributor, being trusted creates trust.
  4. Enable job crafting: trusting people to choose what they will work will ensure focus and motivation. The author gives the example of Valve, the gaming software company, I recommend their employee handbook to have an idea of how they work, and inspire the conversation with your teams.
  5. Share information broadly: uncertainty and stress undermine teamwork, openness, transparency and daily synchronization are the proposed antidotes.
  6. Intentionally build relationships: encourage people to care for each other will make them happier and more productive.
  7. Facilitate whole-person growth: meet frequently and give constant feedback on personal and professional growth.
  8. Show vulnerability: asking for help, and acknowledging what we don’t know, help to build credibility.

Could this discussion be the Retrospective on Trust for your team?

Hierarchy and Decision Making

Erin Meyer covers how cultural differences in leadership styles create unexpected misunderstandings [Being the Boss in Brussels, Boston, and Beijing of the last issue of Harvard Business Review].

Looking at how people behave towards hierarchy is not enough to understand what kind of leadership style they will expect. A second dimension needs to be taken into account: attitude towards decision making.

Coming from France, I was making a simplistic association of hierarchy with the top-down decision making and was puzzled by the Japanese who were clearly experts in getting to a consensus while they were still hierarchical.

Of course, generalizing the expected behavior for an entire country is not fine grained enough, and you could expect different behavior from people of those countries.

The key is to understand that hierarchy and decision making are 2 different dimensions to discuss when you are building the team agreement on how you work. And when you are working with teams that are made with team members coming from all over the world, this is key to the success of the team.

For example, my understanding of Self-organization is egalitarian and consensual, and it’s for me the opposite of the top-down and hierarchical approach. The managers and team members, involved in a transformation towards a self-organization model, could struggle with defining their roles, especially if they are more comfortable in the 3 other quadrants.

Do you have your team agreements written down?

 

The Advantage of a book discussion club

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business is a book by Patrick Lencioni. This one is not a business novel, like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (you may have read that previous post).

The book purpose is to explain a model to bring organizational health.

I will not enter into the details of the book itself as you can read a summary here. The goal of that post is to explain how we used that book with a leadership team I work with.

I like to read books, so I usually recommend books to read to others. I am using some books as the theme for retreat meetings for teams. I used the Five Dysfunction of a Team for the first meeting of that leadership team.

A few weeks later, one other reader in the group, shared his reading notes on The Practice of Management by Peter Druker and proposed actions based on what he learned in the book. The results were good, and this fosters the idea to organize a book discussion club. The first book we chose: The Advantage. The book club was organized the day before the quarterly meeting of the leadership team.

And so we used the book as an introduction to our meeting, as a warm up for the retrospective. And also decided to answer the 6 questions below as a way to prepare our review of our Objectives and Key Results.

1. Why do we exist? The answer to this question will yield a core purpose or the fundamental reason the company is in business.
2. How do we behave? This question examines behaviors and values required for success.
3. What do we do? This answer provides a simple, direct explanation of the business.
4. How will we succeed? This question requires the team members to develop a strategy.
5. What is most important, right now? The answer to this question is the establishment of a unifying thematic goal and action plan.
6. Who must do what? This question addresses roles and responsibilities.

A few weeks later, I can say that this was a really effective meeting, and we already chose the next book: Competing Against Luck from Clayton Christensen.

Something to try with your team?

 

Organization Maturity Model

The publication of the Open Organization Maturity Model reminded me that we had the goal to use a similar approach.

Why do we want to use a maturity model?

A maturity model is, as said on Wikipedia, “a measurement of the ability of an organization for continuous improvement in a particular discipline”.

So, our goal in defining such a model is to help a part of the organization to identify improvement opportunities. For that organization, we defined a specific organizational structure to serve it needs to curate and build technology in the open and to deliver a tested and trusted product to serve the needs of customers.

The organization is composed of cross functional groups, with an emphasis on self-organization, and continuous improvement. The transition to that model shows different levels of understanding and adoption.

For example, retrospectives were strongly encouraged from the beginning. Some groups are sticking to 2 weeks scheduled retrospective enjoying the benefits, while other groups did not grasp how the practice could help them in improving their way of working.

Introducing a maturity model could help to focus on a limited set of characteristics, and could help the different teams to identify the one thing they want to focus on improving during their next cycle.

The maturity model is meant to be used by the team itself to self-assess where they are. It is not a measurement tool, and there’s no need to look shinier than you are. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. The results and the actions that you will take to work on one thing are specific to your group.

The main categories of the maturity model will need to be specific to our organization. And, for each group in our organization, the position they will find will be specific to them, and to what they are delivering in the organization.

If I take the example of cars, main characteristics could be:

  • speed
  • safety
  • reliability
  • efficiency
  • comfort

If one car is reaching a top speed of 20 miles per hour, we could want to improve it. But when it reaches 90 miles per hour, it is definitely not the area where the focus should be. It that case, I should probably have start with safety 🙂

So, introducing a maturity model, we are looking at conversations that will lead to improvements.

The language used in the maturity model should reflect outcome and not practices we would like to encourage. Looking a few paragraphs above, you will get why it’s important: if we are encouraging retrospective, we are pushing a practice and we could never get to the outcome we are looking at.

Thoughts on that? Recommendations to make?

Please comment, tweet, email…

 

The header picture is from Ryan McGuire.