The Transformative Power of Classical Music in the South of France

Rehearsal in the south of France

July has a special meaning for my family.  For the past eight years my wife has organized a classical music festival in the South of France near the town of Limoux. While Limoux is famous for its sparkling wine, called Blanquette du Limoux, it is definitely not an international hub of classical music. And yet every year for nearly 2 weeks approximately 15 young classical musicians from all over the world come to the Young Virtuosi Summer Music Festival to perform the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Hayden, Handel, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Mendelsohn, Sarasate and other great composers in Medieval village churches.

And what’s not to like about great classical music in the south of France in the summer, with great wine, exquisite cheeses, vine ripened tomatoes, endless fields of Sunflowers and Lavender, tasty French bread and baguettes, strong coffee and wonderful people.

outdoor market

Imagine the Baroque classics of Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and Hayden performed under candlelight by enthusiastic young musicians, aged 15 to 30, in an 800 year old stone church in the middle of the vineyards of the Languedoc region of southern France. The effect is magical to say the least. And transformational for musicians and audiences alike.

One of the goals of the Young Virtuosi Summer Music Festival is to bring classical music to villagers in rural France, and the locals eagerly look forward to their dormant and decaying churches coming to life once a year.  This year we have a talented young soprano, Jennifer Coleman, trained at the Royal College of Music in London, singing operatic compositions, supported by our young ensemble.

The logistics of performing eight concerts in different churches over an 11-day period are challenging, and what can go wrong usually does. For example, this year we planned for a piano to be moved into one of the churches by a professional piano rental company, but the narrow steps leading up to the entrance of the church were too steep for the mover, and the burly local church caretakers wouldn’t help because of health and safety regulations! (And this is a modern world?)  So, flexibility is the order of the day. Revise the concert program and carry on.

At the Young Virtuosi Summer Music Festival, much like in many businesses, our aim is to never let a problem impact the audience (or customer).  We just deal with it.  The most important objective is to provide the audience with the best, most memorable experience of their year. And the young musicians feel very deeply about the quality of their performances, whether solos, quartets, quintets, or the full string and woodwind ensemble.

After a turbulent year of terrorist bombings and mass shootings all over the world, hatred, racism and non-accountability being preached by presidential candidates, not to mention a failing economy in Europe and the shocking departure of Britain from the European Union, topped off with major droughts in some areas, devastating floods in others and several massive natural disasters, it is a soul rejuvenating experience to see how ordinary people respond to the uplifting messages of classical music.

old-woman-hands-cane-senior-people-health-care-47264777

At the end of one of our evening performances, a slightly stooped elderly woman with a wooden cane came up and remarked,

“At this stage of my life I cry mostly out of sadness, but tonight I cried with joy.  Thank you.”

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

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The Civil War, Artificial Limbs, Innovation and Corporate Culture

 

civil war

The American Civil War (1861-1865) was one of the bloodiest in American history, with over 1,100,000 casualties and claimed more than 620,000 lives. Many of those wounded ended up as amputees.  And after a gruesome amputation operation of a damaged arm or leg with crude saws and no anaesthetics, for those that lived the prospects of a productive livelihood were slim. Standard army prosthetics consisted of a wooden peg leg or a stiff carved arm and hand.

J.E. Hanger

J.E. Hanger

James Edward Hanger was 18 years old and just three days into his role as a Confederate soldier when on June 3rd, 1861 he became the first casualty of the Civil War after a cannon ball smashed into his leg. Fitted with the standard army peg leg after the amputation operation, he eventually was released from a Union prison and returned home to Virginia, where he locked himself into his room for three months.

Hanger Patent

Hanger Patent

But unlike most amputees at the time, rather than being sidelined in life, he immediately began to develop the first articulated artificial limb and knee-joint. For Hanger this new prosthetic was a requirement to get back to a productive life as an engineer. It also became his livelihood. The newly designed artificial limb became in demand from other Civil War casualties, and later on casualties from WWI. Over the next several decades he built Hanger Prosthetics into a nationwide company that dramatically improved the lives of thousands of amputees.

Innovation

So where does this type of innovation come from?

Innovation begins with a dissatisfaction with the way things are and then grows into a burning passion to make things better.

Two things are critical for real innovation to occur.  A deep dissatisfaction with the current situation coupled with an internal belief that you can make a difference.

Dissatisfaction without accountability leads to loud complaining, but little change.

Today, the Hanger Group is a collection of R&D, prosthetics and rehabilitation companies that has nearly 25% of the global prosthetics market and remains a leader in prosthetics innovation.

And if you ever interact with one of the Hanger companies, you will hear the story of James Edward Hanger at least a thousand times. The belief and the purpose that drove young Hanger to make a difference are still very much alive within the Hanger organizations.  The company purpose and a culture of accountability drives them to continuously innovate, to help people lead better lives, to make a difference, not just make a profit.

Kennedy difference quote

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Organization Behavior, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome to the Hand-Off Zone . . .

Hand off zone

In most organizations, On-Boarding is about HR administration and an overview of the company,  your department and function. After the required few hours, it’s into the workplace.  And may the force be with you! Very little is learned about other departments, the overall business model, and how work flows through the organization

Departments and functions are not standalone businesses, but a link in a long value chain that ends when the product is shipped (or the service is performed) and the customer pays the bill.  However, most departments focus more on their own goals and budgets than the customer. And in most cases, such an inward focus drives work behaviours.  When the focus is on meeting departmental or functional budgets, it is easy to create strong silos and ignore the overall business value chain, the customer, and revenue.

Silos are great for missiles, but not for organizations.

At one company a few years ago, the results of a silo-focus mindset was made painfully clear when the new CEO asked why the company was performing so badly:

Bill Catucci, new CEO of Canada AT&T, asked senior executives why the company was losing C$1 million per day. He heard the same reply wherever he went.  “My department is performing fine. If there’s a problem, it must be caused by someone else.”

The Enterprise Value Chain and the Hand-Off Zone

While the concept of the Enterprise Value Chain was first put forth by Michael Porter with the intent of using it to help better define business strategy, it was soon taken over by technology and used in building ERP and Salesforce automation systems.  The real value is to understand that an organization is a connected system and not a collection of separate departments and functions, each with their own internal goals and budgets. The benefit of having an “enterprise value chain” view of a company is in the ability to add value at each step, eliminate waste (usually rework or waiting time), and ensure quick and complete handoff along the chain from department to department. Get the right product to the right customer at the right time and collect payment on time.

And here is where things usually break down. The Hand-Off Zone!

When the handoff is fumbled, incomplete, or not taken seriously, mistakes happen in quality, extra time for waiting and rework is added, and business value is destroyed. It’s as simple as dropping the baton in a relay race. The baton represents the product or service and the runners the various departments or functions in the chain.

How many department leaders or function heads make communications and hand-offs with other departments a priority?

And we wonder why EBITDA is so low! Often it’s the hidden costs of lost time, rework, waiting time, and lack of communication about forecasting that are the real hidden costs incurred by a silo culture.

When was the last time you stressed the importance of the Hand-Off Zone to all employees and then mapped the value chains and the departmental hand-offs?

Want to grow EBITDA?  Focus on the Hand-Off Zone!

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

 

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Newspapers, Company Policies and Corporate Culture

papers on the train

Several years ago a relatively new employee at a large British newspaper was curious why the papers were so big, so he asked one of the older executives. The reply came quickly. “All quality newspapers are big; customers would not want it any other way.”

A few years later, a rival company – the Independent – halved the size of its newspaper, and saw a surge in circulation. Subsequently, many competitors followed, to similar effect. Yes, customers did want it.

The practice of large format newspapers began in London in 1712 because the English government started taxing newspapers by the number of pages they printed. So,  news publishers responded by printing their stories on so-called broadsheets, to minimize the number of sheets required and reduce their tax liability.  This tax law was abolished in 1855 but newspapers just continued printing on the impractically large sheets of paper for the next 150 years.

Corporate Culture, Habits and Company Policies

One of the most sacrosanct elements of corporate life is the “company policy”. Usually established early in the formation of an organization, these policies, which govern “how things should be done around here”, impact every aspect of employee life, from the timing and content of expense reports and time cards, to pay scales and promotion requirements, to working times and vacation allotments, to the allocation of costs on the P&L. And company policy manuals are usually housed in multiple large binders.

And these are just the formal policies.  In most companies the number of formal policies are dwarfed by the informal policies; the amount of openness and transparency of data shared, the power of a middle manager or supervisor, whether or not bad behaviour is confronted or tolerated. The list goes on and on and in many ways determines the quality of work, employee engagement levels and the ultimate ability of the company to deliver on its strategic objectives.

The example of the British newspapers above is just one of many where a policy formed in the 1700’s to reduce printing costs because of government taxation policies carried on long after the government policy was abolished in 1855. No one asked the key question: “Why don’t we change our internal printing policy?”

5whyCorporate culture is mostly invisible and only really shows up in how people behave and conduct their work. To those interested in competitive advantage and company performance, culture can be either an enabler or a barrier. While it may be interesting to describe cultural behaviours, as most culture consultants do, the more effective and useful discussions focus on “Why”.  Why do we still print broadsheet papers 150 years after the tax law was abolished? Is there any real data for the preference of broadsheets over smaller paper sizes? How much could we reduce costa by going to a smaller format? Are you sure readers only want broadsheets?

In many cases, like the change in newspaper formats described above, we only ask these questions after a competitor makes a successful change.

Corporate culture is not just physical work behaviours, but also company mindsets and habitual ways of thinking. And in most companies, challenging “company policy” is definitely frowned upon. Until the competition starts eating your lunch!

In my work as an advisor to CEOs and senior executive teams on performance improvement, I see it as my job to question everything about how the company does things, from its yearly planning cycles to staff meetings to new employee on-boarding to hiring profiles, to their approach to strategy execution.  What I have come to realize is that company policies, written or unwritten, drive employee behaviour and company performance much more than people realize.

The luxury of being a paid outsider is that  I can ask the “Why” questions and people will listen.  Too often those inside who ask why are gently (and sometimes not so gently) told to mind their own business.

He who knows why will always win over he who just knows how.  ~Thomas D. Willhite

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You Want to Talk or Fish?

One day a Game Warden drove up to a large pond and saw a man in a fishing boat out in the middle.  He stopped the car and decided to watch for a few minutes.  Just then the man in the boat lit a stick of dynamite and threw it into the water.

Boom!! Suddenly there were dozens of fish floating at the surface and the man proceeded to scoop them up with a net.

Outraged at this highly illegal act, the Warden jumped into an empty boat and rowed out to the man, shouting as he approached.  “What do you think you are doing? Are you nuts or something? Don’t you know that’s illegal?”

The old man in the boat looked at the approaching Game Warden with disinterest and reached down into his boat. When the Warden came along side the man calmly handed him a lit stick of dynamite and said: “You want to talk or fish?”

As a dedicated flyfisherman, this story goes against all my values, ethics and practices of fishing, but it is a good laugh.  And it has a point as well.

As we look at the state of things around the world; economic stagnation, rising national debts in many once strong nations, the failure of the Arab Spring to bring about any fundamental improvements, the long drawn-out wars where peace and prosperity are faint visions on a smoky horizon, the weakness of politicians to do the “right thing” instead of the “easy thing”.

It’s time to fix things and stop talking about them.  The solutions are available. The studies have been made and confirmed.  The improvements are possible.  What is lacking is action! And in the world of  societies this translates into personal and political will. In many countries the only opportunity for change is revolution in the streets.  In the US, UK and other democratic countries we can affect change through the ballot box. If we move from talk to action. An d it is not just action at the ballot box that is important, but action by our elected officials, action by the millions who can volunteer their time, energy and expertise to bringing about sustainable improvements, action by global businesses who can shift from a singular focus on profits to a balanced focus of doing well and doing good for the communities they serve and for the planet we all live on.

 Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty. – Thomas Jefferson

You want to talk or fish?

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in flyfishing, Human Psychology, John R Childress, John's views on the world, leadership | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

English Football (soccer) and Executive Development

Note:  This was written and posted in 2014 but is still very appropriate, especially with the UEFA European Championships under way.

England-Football-Fans

For the past 20 years  I have been living in London and to say that the English are football crazy would be an understatement.  There are multiple football leagues, as well as club teams in almost every village.  The latest statistics show there are more than 140 individual leagues, containing more than 480 divisions, with an estimated average of 15 clubs per division, giving this tiny country more than 7,000 teams in the English men’s football league system.

The leagues are structured in a hierarchical format, with the Premier League being the top 20 clubs, which include such globally recognised names as Manchester United, 170px-England_crest_2009.svgChelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City, among others. And then there is the English National Football Team, The Three Lions, made up of the best English national players, including such global superstars as Wayne Rooney and David Beckham (now retired).

England compete in the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship, which alternate biennially. England won the World Cup in 1966. Their best performance since has been a semi-final appearance in 1990. England have never won the UEFA European Football Championship – their best performances being semi-final appearances in  1968 and 1996.

What’s interesting is that England league football attracts many of the very best players wayne-rooneyfrom around the world, often for huge salaries (upwards of £40M). In the 2013 Top 10 Premier league players, only 2 (Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge) are English, the others are from Uruguay (Luis Suarez), Holland (Robin van Persie), Germany (Mesut Ozil), the Ivory Coast (Yaya Toure), Belgium (Vincent Kompany), Argentina (Sergio Aguer0),  Spain (Juan Mata), and Denmark (Christian Eriksen).  Polls may differ as to who are the top 10, but the small ratio of English to other world players remains about the same.

So here is what is interesting to me.  The best place to play serious league football is England, who also pay the highest salaries, and who tend to have great fan support, but the English National team routinely shows up extremely poorly in the World Cup and the European Championships. This year’s 2014 world Cup performance is no exception, despite all the marketing hype and social media frenzy. England lost 2 games, tied one, finished last in Group D, and was sent home early.

Why the perennial poor showing by England?

Simple really, rather than spend millions on youth soccer and developing the next generation of superstars, they go out and pay millions for players from outside of England, because they have neglected to focus on developing local talent. So when it comes time for the World Cup, these foreign players go back to play for their home countries, leaving a weak England national team.

Executive Development

There is a similar trend happening in most large global businesses today.

Rather than build world-class management training and executive development programs internally to train and develop the next generation of leaders, most Board of Directors hire one of the large global executive search firms (Korn-Ferry, Russell Reynolds, Spencer Stuart, Heidrick and Struggles, Egon Zehnder) and pay for expensive searches to find expensive talent from outside the company.  And there are a very large number of middle market search firms who are hired by HR to find new managers and mid-level executives for their companies. The global executive search industry is estimated at over $10 billion. But do these outsiders really perform? Many have a hard time fitting in to the culture of the new company and the executive failure rate after 18 months is about 40% and has held steady for the past 15 years.

A rare exception to the “go outside for talent” mantra was General Electric under the jackwelchreign of CEO Jack Welch.  GE spent millions of dollars and hundreds of top executive man-hours training and developing leaders to deploy into key roles in their global organisation. Many great CEOs came up through the GE Executive Development system. They even had their own global training campus at Crotonville in upstate New York.

“My main job was developing talent. I was a gardener providing water and other nourishment to our top 750 people. Of course, I had to pull out some weeds, too.”  ~Jack Welch

In my view the only real approach to sustainable business success is an internal “grow your own” management and leadership program.

Why don’t more organisations focus on grow your own?  Two reasons probably. The first being the habitual focus on reducing costs in order to post good Quarterly figures for the Wall Street Analysts.  Training is a current cost with a long-term payback.

The second reason is because overall the management development and leadership training industry (HR and Training Consultants) does a lousy job.  Most training programs are long on platitudes and generalities and short on real-world business issues, hard-hitting case studies and extremely lacking in honest feedback, confronting lazy attendees and weak on effective coaching. And most executives don’t really support internal training and development, being “too busy” with their day jobs.

No wonder executive search is a multi-billion dollar industry. No wonder English national football fails to show on the world stage.

You can either spend money on outside people and tick the box, or solve the problem for the long term.

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

 

Posted in consulting, corporate culture, Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, Personal Development, Self-improvement, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Always Drink Upstream From the Herd . . .

Upstream from Herd

When a herd of cattle enter a stream to drink, not only do they stir up the mud and silt, but use it as a toilet as well.  So you can imagine the water is much cleaner and healthier upstream than down.

Will Rogers was an American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, newspaper columnist, social commentator, and stage and motion picture actor. Born in 1879 in Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma), he was known for his

will rogers foolfancy rope tricks and wicked humor. He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 “talkies”), and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns. By the mid-1930s, the American people adored Rogers. He was the leading political wit of his time, and was the highest paid Hollywood movie star. Rogers died in 1935 at age 55 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.

I am a great fan of Will Rogers and his honest views of politics, human behaviour and life in general.  I am also a big fan of Value Chain Analysis for understanding Corporate Culture, and here is where Will Rogers and culture change intersect. (I’ll bet you were wondering where this blog was going!)

Understanding the Corporate Culture Value Chain

Culture is evidenced in the habitual ways that people inside organizations behave when solving business problems, interacting with each other, and dealing with customers and clients. But the cause of either a functional or dysfunctional corporate culture is not how people behave, that is a symptom, and we need to move “upstream” in the culture value chain to understand the drivers of cultural behaviours, and by finding the drivers we can also find the levers for reshaping culture to better support the business strategy and employee engagement.

not my faultSuppose we have a culture that is characterised by a “lack of accountability”, with people not going the extra mile to make something work out right. With this type of culture people are constantly justifying poor results using such phrases as “that’s not my job” or “I wanted to but he (usually a boss or supervisor) wouldn’t let me” or “If we had better equipment we could turn out better quality” or “I sent him an email about the problem, it’s not my fault he didn’t see it”.  A plethora of excuses, all with the same poor outcome.

On face value, maybe the problem is our hiring profile.  We tend to hire unaccountable people. Fix the hiring profile. That’s about as good a solution as asking the cattle not to urinate in the river! Yes we could have a better hiring profile, but very few employees come into a new job with a mission to blame others and be unaccountable.

So, let’s move up-stream. When we do, we find that there are several “causal factors” that tend to drive our current culture of accountability. First of all, managers tend to blame senior management when things go wrong as a natural defense mechanism because senior management is blaming them, the market, government regulations, each other.

Bad behaviour flows downstream, and picks up passengers along the way.

knockon effect

Another link in this unaccountable culture value chain is that people inside the company from top to bottom avoid confronting poor performance and don’t take the time to coach and develop people. And their excuse? “I’m too busy with my own job”.  Or, “that’s just the way he is, it’s too much trouble to deal with him/her”.  As a result, you get the culture you ignore.

Even further up the value chain we find several internal company policies that actually foster internal competition and blaming others. Some are formal policies, others informal. Such as sales and supply chain people have conflicting goals and budgets, and they are never in the same meeting to discuss customer problems. As a result they each attack the problem from their own silo thinking and budget constraints. Thus the constant blaming between Field Sales and Supply Chain when there is a customer problem.

By looking upstream we can begin to better understand the down-stream symptoms.

In my work with clients I often develop a Culture Landscape Map which is in essence a value chain with causal factors on the left that link to various behaviours, beliefs and actions that move from left to right with final outcomes.

Here’s an example of a culture value chain map:

Culture Landscape Map

By going upstream on the culture value chain, the levers for sustainable change become more and more obvious.

What’s really driving your culture?  Look upstream!

Fix the processes, not the people!  ~W. Edwards Deming

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Website: www.johnrchildress.com

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

Posted in corporate culture, John R Childress, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment