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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Don’t Hesitate Wait, or Debate; Instead, Innovate

blog+innovators

March through the Steps of Innovation

Global market
Need to compete
Outsource pressures
Slipping balance sheet.
 
Must differentiate
So, go innovate!
Innovate!
Innovate.
(Yeeeah, Innovate!)
 

This is today’s rallying cry. Businesses leaders intone it, government officials cantillate it, employees worry about it, and whole industries are moving to embrace it. We call it ‘innovation cheerleading’ because lots of people know innovation will help us compete, therefore they talk about it; but very few people know how to do it, so… they talk about it.

  • It is not enough to just speak about the importance of innovation.
  • It’s not enough to just generate lots and lots of ideas. Brainstorming is not the same as innovation.
  • And finally, it is not enough to just support innovation – this is critical to understand. Supporting innovation or creating an environment of innovation is nice to have but it is not necessary.

Innovation is produced by taking step-by-step action, by marching through a process that delivers results. Yes; there is a structured methodology for innovation, as counter-intuitive as that seems.

For some gifted few this process is instinctive and happens repeatably (Edison, G. Washington Carver, Eliza Murfey and Marion Donovan). For the vast majority, however, the act of innovation is like a lightning strike. It happens infrequently and below the surface of consciousness; therefore, there is no control and it is nearly impossible to manage.

As executives, we need innovation to become procedural within our organization. We need to schedule, track, and measure it. Once it is manageable it’s as useful as other business processes: cost reduction, Lean, optimization, new product development, inventory turns, and supply chain management. We need innovation to be repeatable, predictable, and positively impact our bottom line and align with our priorities.
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Tinkering is good; but it is not necessarily innovation

blogTinkering

Bruce Kasanoff (from Opportunity Shaper, Now Possible) just wrote a blog article called, “Why Tinkering Around is the Key to Success” It’s on linkedin.

He starts the article this way,

"Here is a quick way to judge whether your company will continue 
to be successful: can you tell your CEO that you spent the morning 
tinkering around with an idea? If the answer is yes, you are in 
good shape. If no, start looking for another job.

Successful companies know that the path to innovation isn't 
a straight line. Profitable growth is a messy, roller-coaster 
process that involves almost as many setbacks as victories. 
If you succeed in everything you do, you aren't aiming nearly 
high enough.

I get frustrated when companies talk and talk and talk about 
innovation, while simultaneously making it nearly impossible 
for their employees to tinker around. Tinkering is what drives 
innovation, not talking."

There is much that I agree with in Bruce Kasanoff’s article, but there are some big disagreements as well. In the spirit of lively conversation, here are my comments:

Bruce Kasanoff, you are correct. There are a few reasons why tinkering is so valuable: (1). You allow your brain to enter another state of being – it’s not linear, driven, goal-oriented. If you learn to recognize that “creative/tinkering” brain-state then you can enter it more easily and on-demand. The ability to move into and out of states-of-being is very valuable for serial innovators. You need to learn to develop that skill if you want to innovate reliably. (2). Developing your persistence ‘muscle’ is also vital to innovators because innovation generally takes effort and you cannot cave-in at the first obstacle. There are lots of reasons why innovators need to persist. It is a basic characteristic of great serial innovators.
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Innovator’s View of Best Practices 4

PART FOUR IN A SERIES – Important Points about Best Practices

As we said previously: Best Practices are solutions that have worked in the past and represent old knowledge. Best Practices have a context for success.

If you are looking to best practices, you had better understand the Psychological Inertia of your situation so you understand (before time, effort, and resources are expended) if their context for success will work within your context for success.
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Innovator’s View of Best Practices 3

blog_best practices post3

PART THREE IN A SERIES – The 2nd of Three Survival Tools

Previously, we mentioned that both humans and organizations have three main survival tools. The first was, Be Relevant. The second is, Be Efficient (Do what has worked before).

After you determine if you are relevant, you need to create a plan to retain relevance or increase relevant, as the case may be. The most efficient way to go about this is to figure out what has worked before and do that – use past best practices.
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Innovator’s View of Best Practices 1

blog_bestPrac1

PART ONE IN A SERIES – Let’s start with the basics.

Survival is a human’s main motivating force.

Note: Survival is an organization’s main motivating force, too. Like humans, organizations do what they must do to survive.

Because humans are social creatures, our most foundational survival tools revolve around interactions/relationships. It starts when we are born, helpless and weak. If other people didn’t meet our needs, we would die. As we develop competence, power and knowledge, we apply those skills within and against our social structure. This, in turn, causes our environment to adapt. The most foundational aspect (underlying process) of human survival is to interact in ways that are, overall, beneficial.
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