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Posts tagged ‘Resources for Organization Development’

Success – or not

“We want to be successful; we want to be the best,” is one of the most common responses when leaders are asked about organization goals. But as I watch those organizations and individuals who are outwardly and apparently successful, I wonder, “Is that what we really want? Or do we want to inspire mastery?”

Success is a peak moment in time, captured in a photograph or by the plaque on the wall. It might be captured in Monday morning data, now the recent past. It may be celebrated for a night or a few days. It might even be noted on the local television station or newspaper. But success is not lasting.

Mastery focuses on what there is to learn, where the growing edge might be, and the discipline to continue moving forward. Mastery demands endurance and courage. It is not motivated by success or perfection – which have more to do with how others view us and what we do.

Mastery is not the same as success – which is only a moment in time. It is a constant pursuit of improvement, growth, and creativity. It is resilience in times of less than desirable outcomes and even outright failure.

Leaders can act to promote the pursuit of mastery over success:

Analyze Failure. Intermountain Healthcare, a system of 23 hospitals in Utah and Idaho, routinely analyzes physicians’ deviations from medical protocols. The goal is growth and improvement. Actively tracking and analyzing deviations and sharing the outcome data encourage physicians to buy into this program. The goal is to motivate people to move beyond the surface: “procedures weren’t followed,” to identifying critical thinking skills and understanding outcomes and results.1

Promote creativity. Mayo Clinic created the “queasy eagle” award honoring near, but abandoned wins. The goal was to create change and transformation after realizing that years of intolerance of failure stopped medical breakthroughs. In the 18 years prior to this award, Mayo had created only 36 new ideas for patient care in a particular field. In the year following, 245 new ideas were created, some of which are now patented.2

Build a learning culture. A learning culture is one where failures of all types, large and small, are reported, analyzed, and used as opportunities for discovery and growth. It is a culture where experiments are encouraged over and over again. Some leaders worry that being sympathetic to failure will lead to “anything goes.” In our complex world, failure is certain. It is our response to it that will dictate whether positive change and transformation emerge.

Creating an organizational culture that seeks mastery over success is not magic. It must be fought for every day in a disciplined, intentional way. It requires leadership, not management. If you lose this battle, you may lose the battle for talent and sustainability.

Mastery invests in people not just tools. It encourages risk rather than punishing failure. It rewards contribution not competition. It accepts responsibility rather than assigning blame. It thinks of span of influence, not span of control. It focuses on “what” is right instead of “who” is right.

A master does not know a subject perfectly, from end-to-end. An organization that seeks mastery will not be a perfect place to work. Those who seek mastery know that there is more that they don’t know that what they do know. The learning organization knows that there will always be more to learn.

Those who lead toward mastery know that courage is not the absence of fear. How do you define success?

1Bohmer, R.M.M. (2010). “Fixing Health Care on the Front Lines,” Harvard Business Review, April 2010
2APQC. (2006) “Mayo Clinic Innovation: Putting Ideas into Action,” American Productivity & Quality Center, p. 139.

Resource: Meeting Matters

Read the entire article or browse the summary below. What are your meeting “pet peeves?”

Meeting after meeting after meeting quietly corrodes our spirits and our organizations. We are used to boring meetings, long meetings, meetings without a purpose. We are used to mediocre and downright bad meetings. We like to call them, but there are often limited benefits from attending.

Beyond the measurable wasted time, meetings matter. They matter because our organizations use them to make decisions, to have social interactions that create vital connections, and – most of all – they support change. Here are 10 “Golden Rules” that, when followed, can help to create more effective meetings:

  1. Avoid meetings.
  2. Limit invitations.
  3. Create and send an agenda in advance.
  4. Prepare and confirm.
  5. Begin and finish on time.
  6. Use meeting rules.
  7. Stick to the agenda.
  8. Create a space for each participant to air their ideas, thoughts, and opinions.
  9. Finish well.
  10. Follow up.

These “Golden Rules” sound like good ideas. Yet, we still go to ineffective meetings led by outside agencies, bosses, team members, and peers. Why? We feel obligated. But if you ask the meeting organizer, they will say that they feel obligated too. The meeting is a gathering called by someone who has no choice, attended by others who have no choice.

The good news: you can choose. The meeting system can change. Act. You are too effective and competent to put up with meetings that don’t work. Choose to change your own meeting behavior. Choose to make your own assessment of which meetings are worth your time, energy, and budget dollars. Change happens when each leader and manager chooses to transform themselves and their organization. The opportunity is presented. Game on.

Meetings and other wrecks
Overheard conversation

Habits for organizations and individuals

Charles Duhigg’s new book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, uses case studies and stories along with descriptions of current research on habits and change to demonstrate the power of habits. Habits of individuals, successful organizations, and societies are held up as examples.

I discovered this book after reading the recent New York Times article: How Companies Learn Your Secrets. I was intrigued by the way companies use data analytics to market to consumers before the consumer knows what they want. The key is using the data to not only discover and support existing habits, but to target consumers who are at life-change-points. Change points disrupt routine, allowing the company to attempt to create new habits through marketing schemes. Perhaps scheme is too strong or too British a word, but the changed habits result in a big jump in the bottom line. For example: Target’s sales grew from $44 billion to $65 billion after they began a “heightened focus” on “specific guest segments” (p. 210).

Duhigg writes about organizations from Starbucks to the Indianapolis Colts to Saddleback church. He details how these diverse organizations make use of individual and community habits to create change and transformation. He looks at how leaders alter existing habits and create new ones through accident and design. He tells stories about leaders using change, crisis, and disruption to introduce new habits and behaviors into organizations.

My favorite case study is the story of Paul O’Neill, CEO at Alcoa. O’Neill focused on changing one habit across a multi-national organization: safety, . Through focusing on changing one habit, everything about Alcoa’s culture shifted. Priorities, goals, and ways of thinking changed. The focus on safety “created a climate in which all kinds of new ideas bubbled up” (p. 118).

There are three essential points on the neurological loop: the cue, the routine, and the reward – supported by belief. The opportunity to change happens when we identify a cue, routine, reward cycle. The simplest transformation happens when we simply change the routine we use, the center of the cycle. For example: cue – I’m tired, routine – surfing the web, reward – idea stimulation. Replace the routine with taking a walk around the office or around the block. The reward is the same, but the physical activity can offer even more rewards.

This is not a self-help book or an organizational blueprint for change. But if you are interested in case studies and stories of how habits influence organizational and individual change, I recommend this book.

What are the habits that influence your organization’s priorities and behaviors?

Great by Choice

Return on Luck

I continue to be intrigued by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen’s ideas on “Return on Luck.” Now comes a longer piece in the New York Times: What’s Luck Got to Do With It? If you haven’t already begun reading their new book, Great by Choice,  you can read further about their idea in the article.

My summary in a earlier post focused on the importance of the “who” in luck. I continue to value my trusted advisors who have helped me make important decisions.

What is your perception on what luck has to do with it? Is luck important or do other factors weigh more heavily? Do you make the most of the chances you’ve been given?

Great by Choice

“I love the straightforward title,” said a friend about Great by Choice. And, like Collins’ previous work, the book is as straightforward as the title. Collins and Hansen seek to answer their question, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?”

Their research uses their standard research method: compare matched pairs of companies using market data and original documents. These companies were chosen for achieving spectacular results, while navigating uncertainty and chaos in their industry, and for being vulnerable early in the time window as young, small, entrepreneurial companies.

The value I found in this book is that it adds detail to Collins’ idea that great results are driven by disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Through stories drawn from their research and stories of explorers and adventurers who demonstrate the traits, Collins and Hansen make the case for what discipline looks like:

  • 20 Mile March – the discipline to have understandable and rigorous performance mechanisms.
  • Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs – the discipline to blend creative methods with the ability to amplify its value.
  • Leading above the Death Line – prepare when things go well, manage risk, ask the tough questions.
  • SMaC – Specific, Methodical, and Consistent – make operating practices visible and replicable.
  • Return on Luck – Luck happened, both good and bad; the question is what return did you get on it? But the most important kind is “Who Luck” – the luck of finding the right “mentor, partner, teammate, leader, friend.”

Each chapter ends with a summary and a list of questions. Even if you find yourself arguing with Collins and Hansen’s methods or opinions, the questions are worth asking about your business and your self.

Who is your best luck?

Uncertainty as Opportunity
A vision is not a destination

Resource: The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work

Tony Schwartz recently wrote a post worth reading on the HBR blog site: The Twelve Attributes of A Truly Great Place to Work. Since I’ve been teaching leadership and facilitation courses this fall, #9 stands out to me:

Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care, all of the time, and encourage them to regularly recognize those they supervise for the positive contributions they make.

People who choose to lead positively are what make a place somewhere other people want to work. Respect and care are attributes that have made Kouzes and Posner’s top 20 characteristics of the best leaders since their survey began in 1987. Perhaps it is because genuine respect and caring are critical ingredients of trust – a requirement for a successful organization.

Which of these attributes speak to you?

Resource: 40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest

Resource: 40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest

I discovered this list of lessons from Southwest Airlines while reading Bill Taylor’s post on the HBR blogs: How do you know a great person when you see one? Both are worth a read.

One of my favorite Southwest lessons is #32 – set and renew noble expectations, which has me thinking about adding to my allowed list.

40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest

Resource: Oblique Strategies

Leading volunteers

“If we don’t find enough volunteers, we’re going to have to close. It will be a hardship for our community. I’m angry that we can’t find the resources we need.”

“It always feels like there’s a crunch to find volunteers, but they come through at the last-minute. I wish I didn’t have to worry about finding volunteers.”

Often non-profit organizations look to the corporate world for models of organization development and strategy. Yet non-profits are fundamentally different. While they have passion and vision, and deliver excellent service, the resources required differ from the business world. These resources may include charitable donations, grants, corporate sponsorships, and sometimes business revenues.

Non-profits rely on volunteers. Leading a team of volunteers is inherently different from leading paid employees. Volunteers commit their time, energy, money, and other resources because they want to make a difference, belong to a group with a common goal, and have pride in being a contributing member. Volunteers commit on their own terms. Leaders are the glue, attracting others to join and directing activities.

I have written a longer article about a 2-year study by Deloitte that looks at the characteristics of volunteers and suggests a list of questions that non-profit leaders can use to develop a strategy for leading and attracting volunteers. For more in-depth reading, I recommend Jim Collins’ monograph Good to Great for the Social Sectors and Baghai and Quigley’s As One: Individual Action and Collective Power.

There are encouraging statistics for those seeking to attract volunteers – from the overwhelming numbers of college students applying to Teach for America to the spontaneously organizing groups on the Internet such as the Linux users group, who jointly develop an operating system, and Wikipedia contributors. People envision helping their communities, learning new skills, and making a difference.

A community organizer is someone who uncovers [volunteers’] self-interest. They give [volunteers] an opportunity to work in their own self-interest and address problems in the community that they could not address by themselves.
Jane Addams

Resource: Oblique Strategies


In one of those journeys that can only happen on the web, where link-leads-to-link, I discovered Oblique Strategies. The idea of Oblique Strategies is that disruption increases creativity. Disrupting the patterns we live and work by, allows our brains to take notice and generate something different. To break the pattern or shift your brainstorming session, try one of the prompts: “Emphasize differences” – “Use an old idea” – “What mistakes did you make the last time?” – “A line has two sides”- “What are you really thinking about just now?”

The original Oblique Strategies appeared on a card deck. These have since been translated to the web, iPod, etc. Try a prompt today!

Resource: Organization Development Processes

Resource: More design thinking from the d.school

The Stanford d.school has released a new toolkit for organizations involved in design thinking. As Tim Brown says in Change by Design, “You have to start with observation because it’s the only way to illuminate the subtle nuances about how people actually get things done (or don’t get things done), and it’s these deep insights that lead to powerful new ideas.”

Here are some of the focus areas addressed in the new toolkit:

  1. problem finding and framing
  2. multi-disciplinary team building
  3. ideation/brainstorming
  4. prototyping/testing
  5. storytelling

Download the new d.school toolkit; explore and research!

Previous d.school Bootcamp Bootleg

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