Organization Design Blog
Organization design blog
In 1992 The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism was published. In it author Robert Reich says that 'Essentially, three broad categories of work are emerging, corresponding to the three different competitive positions in which Americans find themselves. The same three categories are taking shape in other nations. Call them production services, in person services, and symbolic-analytic services'. (p 205)
In person services have been top of my mind this week: I'm increasingly noticing that what were in-person services are not now. What did Reich mean by in-person services? Twenty years ago he says that 'In-person servers are in direct contact with the ultimate beneficiaries of their work. ... included in this category are retail sales workers, waiters and waitresses, hotel workers, janitors, cashiers, hospital attendants and orderlies, nursing-home aides, child-care workers, house cleaners, home health-care aides, taxi drivers, secretaries, hairdressers, auto mechanics, sellers of residential real estate, flight attendants, physical therapists, and – amongst the fastest growing of all – security guards'.
Look at the list above. How many are still 'in-person services' in your experience? Last week I did the following:
- Checked in and checked out of two hotels
- Checked into flights
- Bought railway tickets
- Entered a country
- Got money from more than one bank
- Bought goods from supermarkets
Simulations are an experiential learning technique well used in a range of disciplines and I've experienced them myself. I once landed an aircraft at San Francisco Airport (in the British Airways flight simulator in case you're wondering). It was a tremendous thrill to land the aircraft safely with only the slightest judder – although following the San Francisco crash last month the words of my instructor/co-pilot came to mind. He'd said at the time that San Francisco was one of the most difficult airports to land in and you had to have hours of training before attempting it.
I've also participated in various games, role plays, and simulations that immerse the participants in various aspects of organizational behavior, operations, decision making, team effectiveness and so on. Choosing the something appropriate from the available range can be challenging. A challenge that is made more complex by the medium choices available: online, virtual world, physical world, with or without artefacts, etc.
However there's definitely a power to immersion in a situation that's as close to real life as possible and that's what I was involved in last week but this time I was an observer not a participant.
The health services center that I'm working with is moving to a new building. On two half days last week teams of health center staff and volunteer 'patients' (actually employees from a local manufacturing company) were working through 'a day in the life of the center' in the new building.
I'm wondering if there is any reliable information that assesses whether time spent developing organizational career ladders and lattices is worth the organizational investment. Do we really know that people's careers follow a plan along a path or is the reality much more chaotic? Would a free internal labor market work just as well and be much more cost/time/resource effective than having countless hours spent on succession planning, career/talent management discussions, and so on?
The last time I developed a fully-fledged career paths system was in 2002. I know it was that year as this week I looked at the employee guide we produced as part of the implementation because I was being interviewed by someone in an organization that is 'launching research into developing common career path frameworks (lateral and vertical) within organizations'. In return for giving my views I will be provided with 'a full copy of our research report'.
Looking at this 11 year old document it struck me as being hopelessly old-fashioned for now, even though it contains many of the design features of what is currently known as a 'lattice careers paths' that are individually determined. For example, in guide we said that career development is:
'About opening up options which enable you to progress in the business. Ultimately it will be about deciding and agreeing the path your career will take. It is a partnership between you and your line manager in which you have personal responsibility for driving your career and your personal development.
You will be supported with honest, realistic feedback on your performance and capability from your line manager and will be given access to relevant development opportunities. To career plan effectively you need to understand the potential career paths available.'
'The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new' – this was a useful quote, attributed to Socrates, (but see endnote to this blog) to get in my in-box this week as I've been asked to help design a half day workshop for a healthcare client.
They've had tidal waves of change during 2013: they've been preparing for a location move – happening next month, they have a new CEO and several new senior leadership team members, they have new business processes, their client base is changing, and they've had to keep the day to day operational. Through all this a lot of the staff have felt stressed and anxious.
However, things are not going to get less challenging and they might get even more challenging in the coming year(s). Immediately, they face implementing aspects of the US Affordable Care Act, switching their patients to a new records system, extending their range of services, contending with likely cuts in funding and managing the general scrimmage that comes from aiming to offer improved patient experience and better outcomes.
I've been consciously recalling coaching and mentoring experiences because early last week I got an email saying: 'We are seeing that internal coaching becoming very popular in China as a way to develop talent. I am wondering what the difference is between coaching and mentoring. I see in some companies they are both the same while in the others are quite different. Is there any clear definition of coaching, and mentoring?'
I know there is often confusion between the two and one of scenarios I rediscover I've used in some of training programs I've facilitated on coaching/mentoring is about this confusion: 'The training department has a very hard time helping people distinguish between 'coaching', 'executive coaching' and 'mentoring' - we offer various courses in all three. The terminology is much the same for both and they're all about helping people develop their skills and careers on the job. Maybe it's us who are confusing people. After all, does it matter what you call something? Surely getting the right results are what it's all about.'
I think that it does matter what something is called and how it is defined, because it helps shape participant expectations, and provides a framework for developing approaches that will get to the right results via a choice of possible routes. I see a clear distinction between coaching and mentoring.
In the way of things as soon as I started to think about self-designed jobs several relevant items flung themselves into my path. Once I read that this sort of event is called 'reticular activation', for example, when you read a word you haven't seen before and look it up you then see it constantly ever after and can't imagine why you didn't notice it before.
The topic of self-designed jobs came my way as I was working on my conference presentation – The Future of Work for The Economist Talent Management Summit and in particular the three types of work that Robert Reich talks about in his book The Work of Nations. He describes three types – routine, person to person, and symbolic analytic (knowledge work). Someone suggested a fourth category to me of 'artisan' which I go along with.
Here's a short survey I just made up: Do you:
- Attend a webinar?
- Participate in a webinar i.e. pose or answer a question, or comment?
- Log into a webinar and do something else while it's going on?
- Learn from a webinar?
Over the last two weeks I've logged into five webinars and participated in three and attended (i.e. didn't interact with the technology) two. Here's the list - some of them are available to replay:
I've also attended three presentations using Webex or Go-to Meeting, or Lync
- A session demonstrating some software
- A presentation about one US state's healthcare system
- A faculty briefing (I teach on-line) on 'Planning for the Future'
which might qualify as webinars (which I take to be formal informational/learning events) but they feel different. One I participated in but the other two I found myself multitasking i.e. logging in and doing something else.
Additionally, I participated in several operational meetings where people were just sharing a desktop as the meeting proceeded. These definitely do not qualify as webinars but would benefit from some of the disciplines of well run ones. Further, I've proposed a series of seven webinars to a client, and also discussed with a co-facilitator on a different client project the possibility of running action learning sessions via collaborative technologies, not quite webinars but on the same lines. So all reasons why I've got webinars on my mind,
Each week brings a whole host of new stuff that I can incorporate into my work. Hardly any of it comes from a formal learning environment like a course, or webinar, most of it comes from chatting with people who then say 'have you read this?', or 'you might be interested in this', or 'give this a go'. So my Amazon wish list (for books) gets longer each week, my toolbox of things to use on client assignments gets bigger, my list of movies (films) to watch grows, and the You Tube things people suggest make me realize if I did no work whatsoever and simply worked through what people suggested I still wouldn't be able to cope with the flood of new info. This week was no exception, so here's what I've added.
Problem seeking: an architectural programming primer, by William Pena with Steven Parshall and Kevin Kelly. Someone lent me the third edition (1987) but I see it is now in a fifth edition. I got this recommendation when I was sitting with a bunch of architects and asked why every meeting I went to with them they seized 23 x 14 cm cards with a grid on one side and plain on the other. They don't seem able to have a meeting without these cards. But I learned that they originate from a problem seeking methodology (outlined in the book). They are kind of a pre-post note method of putting ideas down and then being able to re-arrange them. I haven't started to use the cards yet as I'm still reading the 'how to', but maybe when and if I do I will be fully oriented to working with architects and designers. This is one I am now three-quarters of the way through and have ordered version 5 to have a copy myself
This past week I've been racing to learn new things: Salesforce's Chatter, Chaos theory, Google docs, sharing Dropbox folders, my new Livescribe pen, our move from Sametime to Webex, and how to follow the author guidelines including the Harvard referencing system for my new book.
So is this an unusual number of new things to learn in a week or a normal number for most people? I'm wondering if I've particularly noticed because so many of them are new technologies to me. Salesforce's Chatter is apparently just like Facebook, in fact one of our beta test group (we're trying it out before the rest of the organization gets it) asked if it was on a Facebook platform. It isn't but for those people who use Facebook it will be easy to make sense of Chatter. I'm not a friend of Facebook for various reasons - I'm hoping that Siva Vaidhyanathan author of a book I'm currently reading The Googlization of Everything and why we should worry will tackle Facebook as his next book. He's a professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia so it's a deep and thoughtful approach to a phenomenon that isn't quite what it might seem.
In my work I'm often having to choose a case study to illustrate points or practice on during workshops. FInding the right case study for a public program or an internal program can be difficult. A client asked for guidance notes on this. So here they are. They're adapted from The Art and Craft of Case Writing, William Naumes and Margaret J Naumes Good sites for buying case studies from are: Harvard Business Review, ecch, and Ivey.
People coming to an organization design program find it helpful to work with real examples and case studies. If participants are all from one organization then consider using a recent case study from their own. But remember there are pros and cons to this - particularly people may have a point of view on how it was handled v how it should have been handled. If you want to base the case on your own organization anther approach is to outline an OD project that is being thought about but not yet initiated. Then people can work with planning how it could be. Below are other points to consider when selecting a case.
What is the best method for presenting the case? Written report, video, slide presentation, webinar? Know why you are choosing this method?
I was asked to compile a 'recipe' for an organization design Subject Matter Expert (SME) the other day. Here it is for you to try out.
What is an SME? It's all too easy to assume a nebulous vision of a guru swanning around giving ad hoc but sage advice to hard-working organization design project team members and then seeing them act on it.
But a workable vision for SME value-add to a project is much harder edged than this. Envision an effective SME. He/she has in-depth, specialist or expert knowledge of a business area, work process, or system functionality. With this goes the ability to transmit and share his/her knowledge to the organization design project team in a way that helps them successfully meet, or even exceed, their goals and objectives.
So, for example, a measurement SME will be able to help the Measurement work team choose specifically, what to measure, why to measure it, and how to measure it.
There are several challenges to the SME role:
a) The SME brief is not clear so he/she doesn't know what the expectations are in terms of contribution and delivery.
b) The project team does not recognize the need for SME support in the tranches (or for a cross-cutting SME for example for change management).
c) The program lead does not have the skills or resources to select SMEs.
d) The team members do not know how or when to ask for SME support and assistance.
e) There is an inadequate match between what the team needs and what the team wants from the SME - are they looking for a trainer, peer-reviewer, approver, knowledge sharer or something else.
f) There is no point of contact for the SME to report or refer to for guidance and updates.
g) SMEs are not perceived as a 'real' contributor and are left off communications and out of meetings that could be relevant.
h) The SME has other organizational roles that take precedence over this one.
Last week was one of surveys and tests. I'm involved in a review of a telework pilot project involving a survey and also the implementation of a survey on work style and work practices. Plus that week a couple of the dissertation students I am working with are planning their research design which involves selecting a survey instrument and devising methods of using it effectively. Additionally I got an email saying I had to take a mandatory training and pass an end test on this. I found myself doing lots of thinking around getting the most from tests and surveys, and having some interesting discussions on this.
On the telework pilot project we're going to take multiple approaches to data gathering. So we spent a full day working out the time lines, the methods (including: survey, 1:1 interviews, focus groups with randomly selected participants, review of measurement data collected e.g. sickness and absenteeism rates, customer satisfaction scores, etc. and review of the communications strategies and materials) so it will be a labor intensive next few weeks on this. What we're hoping is that we will get information that we can use to develop best practice guides for others who want to introduce or extend teleworking practices.
Last week I participated in several mixed attendance meetings. That is some people were present in the room and some were dialing in. In my case I dialed in (sometimes as the sole person on the phone) to meetings where several people were present face to face in a room. None of these were great experiences or felt like being a productive use of time. Perhaps because the organization I was working with is not very disciplined in either meeting organization or in teleconf protocols.
Most meetings I've attended there do not have an agenda, the person calling the meeting does not usually act as a chairperson i.e. a control point, people shout over each other, they talk to each other on points - despite pleas for 'one meeting' a phrase that has just entered organizational vocabulary, and very few action points are recorded or picked up for action.
I was intrigued to read that "Creativity can be enhanced by experiencing cultures different from one's own, according to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin" particularly since I'd just had lunch with someone who'd returned to the US after living in Holland for seven years, whose daughter was just going off to live in Brazil, and whose son is trilingual - Dutch, Spanish, and English. Was this family, therefore, more creative than others who hadn't lived abroad? The research report suggested that it might be.
Researchers looked at students who had lived abroad and those who hadn't, testing them on different aspects of creativity. Relative to a control group, which hadn't experienced a different culture, participants in the different culture group provided more evidence of creativity in various standard tests of the trait. Those results suggest that multicultural learning is a critical component of the adaptation process, acting as a creativity catalyst. [The researchers made the suggestion that ]"it would be worthwhile to explore whether neurological changes occur within the creative process during intensive foreign culture experiences. [This would] help paint a more nuanced picture of how foreign culture experiences may not only enhance creativity but also, perhaps literally, as well as figuratively, broaden the mind.
Still thinking about the distractions of gadgetry (BlackBerries, cell phones, computers ...) that I wrote about the other day, I came across two methods of trying to deal with this. The first is mindfulness training
A paper from the University of Pennsylvania discussed a
study in which training was provided to a high-stress U.S. military group preparing for deployment to Iraq [and] has demonstrated a positive link between mindfulness training, or MT, and improvements in mood and working memory.
Remember working memory is the part that is impaired with the distraction of gadgetry.
The lead researcher, Amishi Jha, said that:
Yesterday I was talking to the UK office of a search firm who are looking for a UK Head of Organizational Design for "a highly successful global consumer lifestyle business". The company is a fast-growing FTSE 100 company with operations in Europe, the Americas and Asia (under 10,000 employees and turnover of around £2bn); they are in the market to recruit a Head of Organisational Design to be based at their head office in London. The recruiter said that this "is quite a meaty role that will have tremendous influence at the highest levels within the business."
Fleetingly I wondered if I should put my hat in the ring but instead offered a few pointers on where to look. Apart from naming individuals to contact there are several avenues:
One time I was talking to a leadership development specialist about the skills leaders needed to do well. His response was that the single thing they needed more than anything else was curiosity and it's a very difficult thing to develop in people. His remarks stuck in my mind so when someone emailed me the article The Power of Curiosity (adapted from a book Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan) I was interested to see what it said. (Sidebar: the article was printed in a magazine, Experience Life, that I'd not come across so I looked at the website - it has tabs for healthy eating, fit body, health and wellness, worthy goods. I see it is available in print version too so I'll look out for it.)
Yesterday I went cold turkey on my lovely IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad in favor of a MacBook Pro. Why? Because in the office I worked in the computer I was issued with was the Apple. For some time I have sat with both computers side by side, working on both but going back to the safety blanket of the ThinkPad when things got frustrating, time consuming, or just too difficult on the Mac. It had taken me ages to get my ThinkPad set up just the way I liked it. (Following the theft of my previous ThinkPad), and I felt adrift in the Mac world that has very different conventions from the Microsoft world.
Starting almost from computer scratch again even though my Apple is loaded with their version of Microsoft Office is hard work and time consuming. There are many, many things I am struggling with. My long-suffering computer expert brother (and Apple fan) is getting a stream of emails. Today's already include:
One of the learners on an organization theory program I am teaching said that he was interested in the course because "specifically I am trying to understand why some of the most grievous mistakes that I have seen made are being made by those who know better, but are overconfident and continue on in the face of issues that they normally would have taken as signals to stop the job."
The other day I mentioned Gary Klein's book Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. (See Toyota piece). Now he has come up on my radar again because he has also written a couple of other books more specifically on intuition and decision making, the most recent being Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making, and he also appears in the current issue of McKinsey Quarterly (that I was reading just before I saw the piece from the learner) where he and Daniel Kahneman 'debate the power and perils of intuition for senior executives'
Yesterday, in three separate conversations, with people from three different organizations I listened to the challenges these organizations are facing with their leadership. There were some common threads in the discussions:
- Leaders used to leading in a command and control way in a hierarchy with layers and spans are having a hard time changing their leadership style to one that is more collaborative, involving, and recognizes networks of expertise rather than positional power.
- Leaders are not skilled at managing, and excellent operational management is less valued than strategic leadership - to the detriment of a effectively functioning organization.
- Good leaders are few and far between, and even more scarce are leaders who can also manage well.
- Leaders effective in one context may not be effective in another context (which is costly to both the individual and the organization).
Successfully joining a new organization is often a challenge. It means getting to grips not just with the job content, the admin stuff - like where are the printer toner cartridges kept - but also with the 'way things are done round here'. At any level this is difficult but for senior people it seems to be even more problematic as they are expected to 'hit the ground running' in both job performance and socialization.
My doctoral research was on this topic and from it I wrote a series of checklists to help senior new hire integrate successful into a new organization. (Available from the UK's Chartered Institute of Management - numbers 202 - 210)
The role of an organization development consultant sometimes seems on a par with that of a marriage guidance counselor. Both are brought in sometimes as mediators, sometimes as advisors, sometimes as therapists (although this last requires specialist training), to help parties resolve issues that they cannot handle alone.
In organizational development work the interests center on power and politics - at an organizational, business unit, team and/or individual level. Tussles between head office and field offices are common, in departmental mergers or downsizing managers fight to protect their turf, personality clashes occur between individuals that get in the way of a smooth work flow, and so on.
Somewhere along the line I heard the word TRIZ. Always interested in new words I looked it up i.e. Googled it. (I don't think TRIZ appears in my print copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, but I'll check next time I'm near to it. To explain - my print copy of the OED is in a different location from where I currently am but Google is at my fingertips).
Once I'd looked up what it was I remembered that I'd been talking to someone about innovation and he had mentioned TRIZ, as it's a problem solving/creativity tool. Briefly, it works on the principle that someone, somewhere has solved a problem in an innovative way that is similar to the one you are trying to solve. I found a good beginner's article on the topic that explains this in much more detail but here's the headline explanation from that article.
"TRIZ is a problem solving method based on logic and data, not intuition, which accelerates the project team's ability to solve these problems creatively. TRIZ also provides repeatability, predictability, and reliability due to its structure and algorithmic approach".
I finally ordered one of the books on my Amazon wish list and it arrived yesterday. It's called How the way we talk can change the way we work. I haven't read it yet, so I can't comment in any detail on it. But the reason I had it on my list was because I read a review of it somewhere (although I don't remember where). It's part of the genre of work around the language people use to make themselves understood or get things done, or conversely the way the language they don't use gets them stuck in conflict or confusion.
Deborah Tannen (whose books I have read and find thoroughly recommendable) is another researcher/writer in this field, and then I also liked the book Change your questions change your life which has good, practical ideas in it.
A couple of years ago we had a group come to our office to run a session on improv. I hadn't known much about it and certainly hadn't experienced any of the techniques first hand, although I had done a programme once called Think on Your Feet which is somewhat similar - but it turned out to be a lot of fun and taking improv classes is now on my list to do at some stage. Improv is explained as "a positive form of theatre - performers don't know what they're going to do but they do have certain structures to make it work". It sounds very like the business world where improvisation is the order of the day but we don't often have the structures to make it work that well.
We're having a debate in my office about online learning that has led me to revisit the various online learning sites that I've used, tuned into/downloaded from. Simultaneously I'm noticing a sudden surge in interest in the possibilities of online access enabling an education for everyone. As an example in two recent issues Fast Company published articles on technology: the first How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education which made the point that, Suddenly, it is possible to imagine a new model of education using online resources to serve more students, more cheaply than ever before. and the second Cellphonometry: Can Kids Really Learn Math From Smartphones?