The Official and the “Unofficial” Organization Chart

Hidden Agenda at home and work!

Everyone knows about the existence of the official agenda and the “hidden agenda”.  The hidden agenda being those issues which everyone knows about but are not willing to open up for honest discussion.  Instead, most hidden agenda gets surfaced behind closed doors, around the water cooler, or at the bar.  Places where lots of heat is generated but little light!

The Hidden Organization:

What is not so well-known is the existence of two organization charts; the official printed chart and the informal, or “unofficial” organization.  And it is often the unofficial organization that determines how (and whether) things get done.

Here’s a classic example.  A munitions plant had recently been awarded a major contract that required them to increase production to 50 units per day.  Industrial engineers were sent in to expand and configure the production line.  Additional staff were hired and given extensive training, but no matter what improvements were made, the most they produced was around 35 per day.  This situation went on for several months.  Senior management even replaced the Plant Manager. No improvement.

Finally a young engineer was sent in to find out “what was going on!” Instead of measuring and gathering data, he just observed.  For three days he hung around watching people, when they arrived, how they worked, what happened during breaks.  He even went to the same bars as the employees. And it soon became obvious that there was an “unofficial” organization chart and it was there that the real power to get things done existed.

An extremely well-respected woman who had worked at the plant for the past 30 years was unofficially “calling the shots”.  All the workers not only respected her, but feared her power as well.  And it seems that somewhere in the past she believed she had been treated unfairly by management and it was her intention not to let “management” push around her fellow employees.  Ramping up production was just another example of getting more for less from the workers, so she controlled, from behind the scenes, the pace of work.

As soon as this was recognized, the young engineer made it his job to befriend this woman, listen to her grievances, help her to realize the benefit to all employees of performing on the newly won production contract.

The result?  Production consistently exceeded 50 and even reached 80 per day at times.

Nortel and the Unofficial Organization

Another great example is the rise and collapse into bankruptcy of the telecoms giant, Nortel.  One a high-flying stock in the emerging private telecoms network space, Nortel had a core of long-term employees and executives who know who to call to get things accomplished quickly.  And speed to market with new products and services was a significant competitive advantage. But with a desire to grow fast, the company hired hundreds and hundreds of new managers, executives and employees who knew the official organization chart, but not the “unofficial” organization. As a result, decision-making slowed down, getting something through the system became more and more difficult until they began losing ground to more agile companies.  Then a significant number of experienced senior executives cashed in their stock options and retired. Nortel filled for bankruptcy.

What’s really going on in your organization?  Find the “unofficial” organization and you will see how, and why, things really get done, or not done!  A hint:  the unofficial organisation is your real corporate culture!

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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

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 leadership, corporate culture, strategy execution, the business of business, consulting, John's views on the world, Organization Behavior, John R Childress | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Greeks, Love and Employee Engagement

“What is the difference between like and love?”, the novice asked the Master.  The Master replied: “If you like a flower you pick it.  If you love a flower, you water and care for it daily.”

Love is a broad concept and has many interpretations.  The ancient Greeks had six different words to describe love.  There was Eros, or sexual passionate love.  Philia meaning deep friendship with another person. Ludus describes the playful affection between young people. Agape love was the willing or wishing of good on all mankind.  Pragma is the longstanding love that mature couples develop over time through commitment and compromise.  Philautia describes self-love and can take a positive form, self-esteem, or a negative form, narcissism.

Yep, we are pretty complex creatures and human emotions are many and varied, and the words for love tend to describe our various human relationships.  Love, however, is not usually a word used in business, yet since we spend a significant amount of time at work (something like 50% or more of our waking day), maybe we should look at our relationship with work and the concept of love.

Employee engagement is a much talked about and studied concept in business today, basically referring to the amount of discretionary effort a person puts into their job or work.  And there are many studies correlating high employee engagement with high business performance, such as strong earnings growth, innovation, change agility, and a high performance culture.

Employee engagement is more than just earning a paycheck and doing what is prescribed in your job description.  Engagement refers to the additional and voluntary emotional, physical and mental effort a person puts into their workplace efforts. The key word here is voluntary.

And why do people voluntarily give more than they are paid for?  Human psychology tells us that much of our voluntary behaviour is driven by either avoiding pain or gaining a positive benefit.  Let’s hope the world of work is more about benefit than pain!

But beyond a paycheck, what positive benefits do we get from work? And what would cause an employee to give additional, voluntary effort?

And here is where love comes into the workplace. As I see it, there are three types of love that drive employee engagement:

  • I love the work I do.  When work is intellectually stimulating, when you learn and grow as a person becasue of the work, when you learn something new about yourself and the world, then it is easy to give voluntary effort, to even think about it when you are not at work, to come up with new ideas to enhance your work.
  • I love the people I work with.  When you are surrounded by people who bring out the best in you, who support and challenge you, who help and coach you, who help you improve as an employee and a person, then voluntary engagement is easy.
  • I love this company.  In an organization where managers and senior leaders work hard to remove barriers to work, reduce bureaucracy, provide tools to make work easier and faster, where ideas are listened to with respect and thoughtfulness, where there exists a higher purpose than just profit or revenue, where products and services are of high quality, where the customer is at the heart of the business, where goals are challenging instead of punitive, where there are ample opportunities for self development and advancement, then it is easy to foster high employee engagement.

My challenge to business leaders: If you want greater employee engagement, bring more “love” into the workplace.

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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

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, Human Psychology, leadership, Organization Behavior, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death by Plastic . . .What Happened to My Holiday?

“Think about it. Why would you make something that you’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever, and you’re just going to throw it away. What’s up with that?”  ~Jeb Berrier,

After a flyfishing trip to the beautiful Caribbean country of Belize, I wrote a blog about the horrendously negative impact of plastics on the marine environment.

Everywhere I went I saw once pristine beaches pulled high with plastic; bottles, sacs, chips of styrofoam and containers, toothbrushes, bottle caps, toys and a plethora of other broken bits and pieces of plastic.  There were even plastic sacs floating in the water and caught in the aerial roots of mangrove trees.  Everywhere I looked, on every beach, on every small island, even on sandbars barely breaking the ocean surface, plastic litter everywhere.  The flotsam and jetsam of our careless, disposable economy.

And it’s not just unsightly, it is also dangerous for marine life.  As plastics break down into smaller and smaller bits of plastic, they begin to look more and more like food to unsuspecting animals. Food that kills. And now microscopic bits of plastic are showing up in the human food chain. Death by plastic?

It made me both angry and despondent.  Angry at the unknowing disregard we have for our convenient consumption lifestyle. Despondent at not knowing what to do. Not just how to clean up the beaches, but how to stop our society from producing single-consumption plastic items, and then casually discarding them, to wind up thousands of miles from where they were bought and used.

To make me even more angry and despondent I read about the great assemblages of plastic floating out in the Pacific Ocean, called The Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, composed of millions of discarded plastic items.  Some assemblages are twice the size of the state of Texas. And then I saw photos taken by friends of beaches in Hawaii, where I used to live, which were unrecognisable to me because they were buried under plastic washed up onto the shore.

One of the business skills my consulting team has is process mapping. Charting the various steps in the  production of a particular product or service from order to delivery into the hands of the customer.  By looking at this chain of activities it is often easy to find bottlenecks or excess costs.  Streamlining ( leaning ) the process means eliminating the wasteful steps, either excess costs or wasted time.

So where is the critical step in the plastic pollution process that can help stop the growing pollution of our lands and oceans?  You guessed it, at the purchase point in supermarkets and stores. It starts with us as the critical link in the plastic pollution chain.

I came across this TED video not too long ago and I want to share it with you because it not only tells the story of plastic pollution eloquently and visually, it also provides a solution.

The diagnosis and solution are clear, but will we act?

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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

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, ecosystems, flyfishing, John's views on the world, save the oceans | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rethinking the Board . . .

(Note:  the following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book: A Primer on Corporate Culture for Boards and Non-Executive Directors)

“In life and business, there are two cardinal sins. The first is to act precipitously without thought, and the second is to not act at all”. –   Carl Ichan

Perhaps the most difficult job in business today is that of non-executive director and member of the Board of Directors of a publicly traded company.  In this time of great economic uncertainty and business confusion it is easy for a member of the Board to feel like “neither fish nor fowl”.

That is to say they must act as advisors and coaches, not allowed on the playing field but still held accountable for the score, as well as being responsible for potential illegal acts committed by the company. Add to that the public outcry over executive compensation during times of business failure and bailout and it’s the wise individual who will think long and hard before accepting a Board position. And the current global financial crisis has added a significant challenge to the Board, one in which the solutions are anything but clear and obvious.

And the uncertainty and confusion at board level is beginning to show. According to a recent McKinsey & Co report, less than half of the 186 board members surveyed say their boards have reacted effectively to the global economic turmoil. Not knowing what to do, or how to do it, has kept many boards from being proactive in helping their companies deal with the current mega-crisis.

There are no cut and dried formulas and few black or white choices for boards to follow. There never were, but today’s pace of global business means boards have to respond quicker. The luxury of time to mull it over or decide next quarter is no longer available. So how can the CEO and Chairman guarantee that the board is fully functioning and effective?

Selection has been one of the key routes to building effective boards and will always remain important. But selecting the most experienced players doesn’t mean the team will be effective. Look at the poor record of national sports teams. English National Team football is just one example – the best players from individual teams come together to play for their nation. More often than not the fans are disappointed because their superstars can’t seem to play as a team, and when they get soundly defeated by a third rate country, the poor teamwork is clearly evident. We believe some of the same characteristics happen on the most “stellar” boards – great experience but poor teamwork.

Board Teamwork?

Why should teamwork among the board be important? We are not referring to the elements of teamwork that most people understand – collegial warmth, high spirits and group hugs! The real elements of teamwork that turn a collection of individuals into an effective team are much more hard edged – open and honest dialogue, continuously challenging ideas to arrive at the best solution, pressing each other to deliver their best, not yielding to the easy approach, breaking through deadlock to achieve alignment, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses so they can work together effectively. These are the “hard” skills of effective teams and we believe there is work to be done to help boards be even more effective.

No one of us is as smart as all of us.  ~Ken Blanchard

When was the last time your board had a Team Alignment Retreat? If you can’t get them to take the time out for a 2-day event, then you may have the wrong members.  Is their motivation to help the company be successful or collect board fees?  Board positions should be hard work, not the perks of elder statesman.  Board members should be passionate about the product, employees and the company.  And like a good team, the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts.

Quality starts in the Boardroom.  – 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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

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 leadership, the business of business | Leave a comment

Public Speaking and Match the Hatch

There are two kinds of speakers; those that are nervous and those that are liars. ~Mark Twain

I was at dinner last evening with a good friend of mine and his lovely wife.  He owns and runs a very special flyfishing lodge in the wilds of Patagonia, Argentina and I have fished with him and his father for the past 3 years.  It is one of the best monster trout fishing destinations in the world, which is why the lake has been given the nickname of Jurassic Lake. Take a peek at their website:  Estancia Laguna Verde.

He often has to give presentations about his lodge and the fishing program at various flyfishing shows and outdoor conferences in the US, UK and other places.  Like most people, speaking in front of a crowd is daunting and sometimes scary. So over dinner we talked about the basics of public speaking and he asked me for a few tips.

One of the ways I like to share information is through the use of an analogy, which is a comparison between one thing and another, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification. And for me the best analogies are those that the listener can personally relate with.  So, since he was an expert angler and flyfisherman, I used a flyfishing analogy to explain the fundamentals of effective public speaking.  After all, the purpose of a good presentation is to “hook the audience” (pun intended) on your ideas and message.

Match the Hatch

One of the basics of successful flyfishing is to match the hatch, which means to choose a fly pattern that most resembles whatever the fish are feeding on at the time.  Usually it refers to what type of aquatic insect is hatching from larvae to winged adult at any particular time.  Trout are very selective and when a mayfly hatch is on, they tend to gorge themselves, ignoring other insect food.  And to fish successfully during a mayfly hatch, choosing a fly pattern that most closely resembles the species hatching is critical.

So here is my list of fundamentals for effective public speaking:

  • Know your subject:  All good fishermen realizes that to be successful you have to master the cast as well as understand the performance characteristics of different lines, leaders and tippets.

In terms of public speaking, it is critical to understand your subject matter so that you can draw from a wealth of examples and feel comfortable talking about the subject. To give a public presentation on something you know very little about is a design to fail.

He who knows why will always win over those who just know how!

  • Know your audience:  Each fish species is different in their behaviour and ecology.  Rainbow trout like fast flowing, highly oxygenated water, while Brown trout tend to prefer slower moving water with lots of weeds for cover. Small bonefish tend to school while larger ones are more solitary.

What type of audience are you speaking to? Business executives, middle managers, supervisors, a mixed audience from the South, a young audience?  Each audience group is interested in different things and the language you use, the stories you tell, the examples, must match the interests of your audience.  My tutor, Tom Willhite, used to say that to be a successful speaker you most start at the level of your audience, then move them you can actively engage them in your messages.

  • Talk from an outline, not a script: Flyfishermen understand that having a basic plan when fishing is important, since it allows you to bring the right types of flies, the right rods, reels and clothing.  But no fishing expedition ever goes according to the original plan, there are always unexpected events, like weather or broken equipment that must be dealt with. Flexibility and creativity are the keys to a successful fishing trip.

The same is true for a public presentation. If you memorize a script you may deliver all the words in the right order, but it can easily lack emotion and authenticity for the audience and your audience can easily tune out.

Every boxer has a plan, until they get punched in the face.  ~Mohammed Ali

  • Speak slowly:  Flyfishing is not a hurried sport.  The best casts and the best fly presentations are usually made with slow, smooth casting strokes that allow the physics of the rod and line to do its work.  Rushing a cast often results in the line crumpling at your feet instead of shooting out across the stream. And most fishing must be done slowly, especially when swinging a streamer. Moving the fly too fast makes it look artificial rather than like a tasty morsel moving along with the current.

When speaking to an audience, your words can have more inflection and more impact when spoken slowly, rather than trying to rush to get through all the material.  And it is more impactful to pause often so that the message can sink in, rather than spraying out the words in machine gun fashion.

  • Move and make eye contact: When flyfishing it is important to keep scanning the water and the area for clues as to where fish might be or where there is a low branch or log that could snag your fly.  The worst fishing technique is to flog the same water over and over again, instead keep moving around, trying different pools and pockets of water.

The speaker that stands absolutely still and doesn’t make eye contact with members of the audience or move across the stage will find his message falling on deaf ears.  And making eye contact is critical since you can then not only read the reaction to your message on the faces of people, but it makes your message more personal to each individual you make eye contact with.  “Wow, it was as if she was speaking just to me!”

  • Care:  Flyfishermen tend to care about the fish, the environment and sustaining the sport for the next generation.  They often practice catch and release, which has been proven to promote a sustainable fishery.  They also care about the environment and many a flyfisherman comes home with trash picked up along the river and the roadside.

It is pretty apparent during a public speech whether or not the speaker really cares about the material, the ideas and his audience.  The caring speaker is enthusiastic, genuine, smiles a lot, and the real emotion shows through.  The audience feels the caring.

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Okay, enough of that, I’m going fishing!

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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

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, ecosystems, flyfishing, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Self-improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

World Class Tennis and Strategy Execution

There is no strategy without execution, and there is no execution without leadership.

Several decades ago the wooden Dunlop Maxply racket was the only racket to have. A famous squash player said in an advertisement: “Without my Dunlop Maxply, I might as well use a flyswatter”.  The Maxply dominated in tennis as well.  The wooden Dunlop Maxply accompanied Borg and McEnroe to Finals Day at Wimbledon many times.

But times have changed. Today’s graphite and composite rackets have taken racket sports to unprecedented levels. Like never before, pinpoint control, flaming power and gentle finesse are possible with these new technology rackets. And the players are different as well.  They are much fitter, follow rigorous scientific training regimes and adhere to nutrition plans formulated by sports physicians. Their shoes and clothes have been developed by leading scientists and engineers.

In the world of business, things have also changed, especially the pace of technology and
the rapid increase in global competition, all demanding the very best from the company and the leadership team. And strategic planning, once just an exercise of gathering last year’s numbers and adding 10%, is now highly rigorous with SWOT analysis, Porter’s Five-forces, scenario planning, emerging market analytics, pricing theories, Emergent and Disruptive strategies, and numerous other analytical and systematic approaches to developing the best strategy.

But in terms of strategy execution, most organizations are still playing with the wooden Dunlop Maxply.  The statistics are alarming; most strategies fail, not because of poor strategy, but because of poor execution.  When a CEO is fired, 70% of the time it is for failing to deliver on the strategic objectives they promised the board and the market.  And most execution failures are the result of executives and managers spending more time focusing on their functional objectives than the overall strategic objectives.  An organizatinal disease commonly called “heavy silo focus”.

For the past several years we have been introducing our clients to a new, integrated strategy execution process that breaks down the silo-based culture by organizing and focusing the entire company on the successful delivery of strategic objectives. This robust process helps build a culture of execution and accountability and represents the best chance  organizations have of executing at pace against their strategy. The process is detailed in a book called: FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution.

Those of us of a certain age probably have a soft spot for the original Dunlop Maxply. Maybe one day we’ll have a sentimental attachment to the old silo-based ways of business planning and execution. But in today’s changing and competitive global marketplace, unless you have a robust business process in place that focuses on execution, you really might as well play with a flyswatter!

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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

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, leadership, Organization Behavior, strategy execution | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farming, Weeds and Corporate Culture

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If you don’t understand your corporate culture, you don’t understand your business.

One of my current consulting clients is a large global agriculture equipment manufacturer. Farming is becoming more and more mechanised, not only in the developed countries, but in the emerging economies as well, resulting in increased productivity and harvests, making the life of the farmer more sustainable and greatly contributing to the growing global demand for food.

Not having any background in agriculture or farming equipment myself, it has been interesting to learn about the many modern advances in agriculture. On a recent trip to Australia for a client engagement I was talking to one of the brand managers and he told me of a new and innovative bit of farming technology.  Spot weed spraying.

The old method of spraying a field for weeds was to just spray the entire field. The result was a massive amount of chemicals being used, which eventually ended up in the soil and the water table. Costly in terms of purchasing large quantities of weed killer, and also costly to the environment in the long run. And with such massive spraying on a repeated basis, weeds tend to evolve quickly with spray resistant mutations tending to survive and thrive, calling for more severe chemical treatment. A vicious cycle.

One of the breakthroughs is Spot Weed Spraying. Early in the crop cycle, before the entire crop begins to emerge, a special weed spraying system equipped with digital sensors is pulled over the field with a tractor. The sensors detect the emerging weeds and put a small amount of chemical weed killer right on the exact post.  Pinpoint spraying instead of having to spray the entire fields. Efficient and cost-effective as well.

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Corporate Culture and “Subculture Weeds”

It immediately came clear to me that this is a perfect analogy for how leaders can maintain a strong and effective corporate culture that supports both the business strategy and employee engagement.

Corporate culture is not really one homogeneous element across the entire organisation, but instead is a collection of many subcultures.  Each subculture is developed and sustained by one or more influential, informal leaders who establish the groundrules for the group and decide what behaviours and attitudes are acceptable or not. Some of these subcultures are perfectly aligned with the overall vision, values and strategy of the company. And some are not.

subcultures

And when subcultures that are not aligned with the values or vision of the company are allowed to thrive, it creates an invisible operational risk that could lead to significant business risk.

One of the important roles of senior leaders is to locate the various subcultures within their organisation, to support those that are aligned with the overall values and strategy, and to intervene where the subculture is out of alignment.

You get the culture you support, and you get the culture you ignore.

In farming, eliminating the weeds when they are young and with shallow roots is a lot easier and more effective than waiting till they are strong with deep roots. Building and sustaining a high performance corporate culture means keeping a constant eye out for subcultures that begin to develop resistant or negative attitudes about fellow workers, other departments, the company or other toxic attitudes, and to intervene early with coaching, open dialogues, effective communication, listening and understanding, and even coaching or replacing the subculture leader.

Organisations are shadows of their leaders; that’s the good new and the bad news!

Do you know where the subcultures are in your organization? Are they aligned with the vision, values and strategy of the organization?

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

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

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, ecosystems, Organization Behavior | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment