Comments on Article about Trust & High-Performing Teams

blog_it's not fair

Recently a peer sent me an article by David Carboni called, “Activating High-Performing Teams: Connection eats control for breakfast“. 

I thought on this after reading the article. The wisdom is there and yet I was troubled by the primary quote in the article. I knew what I did not like but needed the words to articulate it even though it is a small differentiation and not elegant. The difference however is critical to show a more precise direction on how good leaders interact and why it matters. Here is how I would modify the quote:

“The contradiction of leadership is that people say ‘yes’ and feign cooperation because they do not feel safe in their relationship with leadership and/or with their ability to contribute. They do not feel safe to say, ‘That won’t work because…’ or in the more extreme of leadership missteps do not want to risk their job to say ‘No that unwise, because…’.”

The lack of safety comes from a deep form of management insincerity (and not necessarily an ignorant or abusive company) and the lack of a process that makes the contradictions between what we need to do on the market end of things versus with what we need internally to make that work and with individual employee needs. Oh, and let’s not forget the shareholder and the community.

  • These contradictions are multi-headed hydras
  • Many problems never get solved because we stop too soon.
  • Most companies do not have a process to transition from the board room to management and to interact to create a seamless strategy to tactical plan.
  • Many individuals feel fear because of lack of trust in management or in self.
  • We know we must be team and company oriented but companies generally ignore the needs for employees to protect their families and personal interests and many employees won’t go the extra mile at work.
  • Shareholders usually have a singular interest in financial growth.
  • The “because…” is critical to demonstrate trust that I, as an employee or leader, have a legitimate reason for saying “No”. I am collaborating in the highest sense of leaving an open for solving the next problem.

The original quote is pithy and conveys a deep meaning about the role of management and trust; however, feeling “safe” alone does not actually improve cooperation.

Within companies that provide a clear policy on the relationship between employees and management I have seen many abuses by both management and employees leveraging the rules of engagement because they know the margins of safety for their job. They do not cooperate and often sabotage each other. What they lack is: trust in the other’s desire to sincerely represent the interests of the other.

Of course, in the end, this is what I perceive to be the deepest meaning of the original quote.

Thus to make my final modification more elegant I would not modify it this way:

“The curse of leadership is that people say ‘Yes’ until they feel trust enough in management to say ‘No, because…’.”

I found the article useful. I hope these musing are helpful for you as well.

Do “skunkworks” create corporate silos?

Post Blog Silos

I just read an interesting article by John Winsor, a contributor to Forbes.com.  The title of the article is

Don’t Put The Word ‘Innovation’ On Business Cards.

Here’s the link to the article.

SUMMARY:

The idea of the article - as I understand it - is that innovation 
centers, special innovation units, or skunk works creates a silo in a
company's culture. It's unfavorable because it breeds demotivation, 
and could create serious brain-drain if the company hits hard times
and the unit is disbanded or scaled back or if someone leaves the 
company. Instead, embed innovation throughout the entire company; 
don't isolate it.

MY COMMENTS ON MR. WINSORS’ ARTICLE:

While isolation and silo-type of culture could develop as a result of having an innovation special unit, it’s not a direct correlation. If it is happening, more likely it is a red flag that the innovation program is not working correctly.

Let me create an analogy between an innovation special unit and the Navy Seals. Both are agile groups that focus in on missions that are too tough for others to complete. Maybe others have tried and failed or no wants to try. These SEALS carry out their assigned missions and in the process, develop special operational strategy and tactics. Over time, these proven strategies and tactics can be systematized and processes can be developed for use throughout the organization. The SEALS take on the toughest problems and they encounter obstacles that develop and test their stamina, leadership and ability to work as a team.
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Social Innovation and the Theory of Change

I just read an interesting article by Kathleen Kelly Janus on the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The title of the article is

Demystifying the Theory of Change Process: Why the process of creating a theory of change matters, and a five-step guide to success.

Here’s the link to the article.

SUMMARY:

The idea is that nonprofits should develop a theory of change 
articulation because they powerfully and efficiently explain why 
programs will lead to strong, measurable results. Developing a 
theory of change really is a means of assuring that your 
organization is actually doing the right things in the right ways
and actually making a difference. The problem is that many 
organizations don’t do it well and many leaders struggle with the 
process. She gives five steps to help ensure that the process is 
successful.

MY COMMENTS ON MS. JANUS’ ARTICLE:

Your five points will be useful for social innovators because those five points help “grease the skids” of change and because humans resist change for many reasons.

Social innovation is mostly about doing things differently – disrupting the status quo – creating change to make things better. But big change means big resistance to the social innovator’s plan. That’s why a theory of change process is useful. It may help the social innovator grasp the reality of the resistance they will face.

Many social innovators cannot tolerate this backlash and so they compromise their plans to make small changes – incremental changes over time to disrupt the resistance to their goals. The bad news is there will be a corresponding small benefit to be garnered. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the dangers of gradualism, especially for social change.
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Innovation can be mapped to any culture

Innovation can happen anywhere

I just read a blog by Pearl Zhu at at her blog . She says

Maintaining a culture of innovation in an ongoing and sustainable way requires: Openness because innovation comes from a combination of need and culture of being open to new things; and Playfulness  because innovation comes from the environment in which thinking & experimenting is stimulated, and Adaptability because innovation is the collective capability to adapt to changes and Adaptability is key; and Flexibility because healthy process for innovation goes between flexibility and hard process; and finally, Agility because innovation efforts work best when focused through fast, rapid cycles to shape and test solutions.

Here is my response to this list:

I like what Ms. Zhu says about “innovation involves the collective capability to adapt to changes – adaptability is key.” The ability to continuously assess the situation is vital. Persistence, resilience, courage: these are all important characteristics. Also, cross-pollination is critical.

But I have to argue quite strenuously with several ideas.
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How to handle situations when employees resist to improve a process

blog_resistance to change
Recently a Quality Analyst asked what method or tool could she use during a team project to handle resistance to change. “Some team members will oppose the changes and some will embrace the changes. How to can you get those oppose on board?” She asked.

There were some thoughtful, powerful, and insightful responses. My answer was as follows:

First: It sounds like you know there is going to be resistance and who those people will be. That means you have not solved the whole problem yet. Put in a little more time, find out why they won’t like the change and incorporate that important information into the final solution. Resistance is vital information
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Hidden Resources – Your Problem or ‘The Ace Up Your Sleeve’

Ace up your sleeve for social or business innovation

One of the tools professional innovators use is the idea of resources. There are always hidden resources within a system (social system, financial systems, and technological system, etc.). Finding those resources and using them in new ways will allow change to take place.

Having said that, there is still a problem – the resources are hidden – as previously stated. The reason they stay hidden is
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In large & fragmented orgs how can you embed an innovation culture?

Recently the question went out: In large organisations (i.e., with more than 10,000 employees working in a wide range of departments and functions) how can you truly embed an innovation culture?

The best answer I read was by Richard Campbell (Business Innovation Consultant at Jekkub Design Management, London, United Kingdom). (My responses to his ideas are in brown.) He said, “There are as many authorities on innovation as there are ways to foster such cultures. Which of these that will work for your company depends on the existing culture…” This is absolutely true. Because innovation must be useful to the company, it must be ‘customized’ (for lack of a better word) to that culture. To miss out on this important concept means the solution will probably not stick.  Then he said, “who is the innovation champion, how engaged are your staff currently (have they seen lots of pointless change recently)…” This I partially agree with. People are willing to engage if they feel their opinions are heard and if the new idea fits with their understanding of the situation. The reason pointless change is pointless is because it fights the existing culture.  (All of what Richard said is powerful, but I’m just going to focus on this starting idea.) When you understand your company’s culture, you will understand why the company is stagnating in certain areas, which will be the areas that need innovation and will give the best ROI.
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