Monday, June 25, 2012

The Empty Soap Box

One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the case of the empty soap box, which happened in one of Japan's biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soap box that was empty.

Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soap box went through the assembly line empty.

Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high- resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty.

No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent whoopee amount to do so. But when a workman was posed with the same problem, did not get into complications of X-rays, etc but instead came out with another solution.

He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soap box passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

Moral of the story: Always look for simple solutions. Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problem. So, learn to focus on solutions not on problems.

"If you look at what you do not have in life, you don't have anything; if you look at what you have in life, you have everything."

Don't Let Employees Reach Their Boiling Point

Yelling, abuse and disrespect - these behaviors are becoming more commonplace in the work environment, contributing to a culture of incivility, which may lead to decreased engagement and high turnover rates.

Thirty-eight percent of American workers say the workplace has become more uncivil and disrespectful compared to a few years ago, according to a June 2011 study by KRC Research titled "Civility in America."

"There's a real psychological depression out there that is impacting how people are responding to each other," said Jeff Cohen, executive coaching expert and founder of J M Cohen Associates. Discouragement and desperation that emerged as a byproduct of the unstable business environment combined with new trends in social interaction appear to be taking a toll on corporate communication.

Stress and unhappiness - much of it pertaining to the economy - are uncommonly high amongst workers today, and it is beginning to affect employee culture. "People are becoming more fearful for their jobs, even panicky, and when things go awry they do one of two things: They pull into their shell or they start lashing out at other folks," Cohen said.

Technology may also be partly to blame for the deteriorating state of communication today. Meg Clara, director of recruiting and human resources at Caiman Consulting, criticized the disruptiveness of electronic communication such as texts and emails in forming personal and professional relationships. By conducting conversations through devices, workers lose out on person-to-person interaction and the etiquette that goes with it.

As a society we are forgetting the importance of looking each other in the eye when we speak, and old-fashioned courtesy has all but become a thing of the past. This trend is resulting not just in more frequent occurrences of disrespect, yelling, underhandedness and abuse in the workplace, but also decreased productivity and higher turnover.

In January, Harvard Business Review reported that half of employees who encountered instances of incivility at work intentionally decreased their efforts. The article also showed more than a third of them decreased the quality of their work.

Competent workers who have suffered abuse or disrespect in the workplace don't feel the need to stick around, Cohen said.

Since employee engagement, performance and retention are at stake, talent managers ought to consider the following tips to defuse the situation lest things get out of hand.

1. Introduce consequences.

Disrespect amongst employees and even employers is often overlooked and typically goes unpunished. Treating incivility with aggressive discipline similar to the way sexual harassment is addressed will help workers realize that it is unacceptable, Cohen said.

2. Use training to change behavior.

"People need to realize that they are acting in an offensive way ... they feel very disconnected from their jobs; they feel anonymous, they become passive, and when things go off kilter they respond without thinking," Cohen said. When workers encounter high-tension situations, they may act in ways they've never acted before. Training, including workshops and one-on-one counseling sessions with executives, can go a long way toward creating behavioral change.

3. Preventing is better than curing.

Clara said Caiman Consulting deals with incivility by rooting it out from the start. The company's core value of courtesy plays a big role in deciding who gets a place in its ranks. In the same way, employers should consider their culture and values as early as the hiring stage.

The revival of courtesy in the workplace is still in its early stages, but it may go a long way to building a more engaged and productive workforce.

By Mohini Kundu - editorial intern at Talent Management magazine

Teach Employees to Set Life-Changing Goals

When people lose spirit, the cause can often be traced to a rootless sense of mission. They lack clear goals. They don't target opportunities. They can't decide on simple criteria for how they define their lives. And so they wander aimlessly, spin in circles or stand in place, which in a rapidly changing world actually amounts to falling behind.

Many of us, especially if we work for others rather than for ourselves, have forgotten that we have the choice to set our own goals. Instead, we operate under criteria handed to us by others that lure us into mindlessly running with the herd. When this happens, we rarely take the opportunity to set our own criteria.

The best thing about having criteria is that it forces you to be precise - in what you do and how you hold yourself accountable afterward. It's the difference between saying, "I'd be happier if I spent more time with my kids" and "I am going to spend at least four hours a week with each of my kids." The former statement is vague, and therefore meaningless. What's "more time" mean? One minute more than you're spending now? How will that tiny incremental improvement matter to your kids - or you?

On the other hand, "four hours" is specific and measurable. It creates accountability. You either hit the target or miss. And it you hit the target, you reward yourself with an invisible gold medal every week. That makes you feel good about yourself on the inside - and this quickly shows on the outside, especially to the people who really matter, namely your kids. That's how a renewed spirit happens. It's not magical; it only seems that way.

A few years ago I was working with a woman named Barbara, who appeared to be a highly motivated, high-achieving executive at a marketing firm - except she was miserable. She couldn't really pin down why. She liked most of her work, she liked her colleagues, she was good at her job, and she saw a clear growth path in her career.

"OK," I said, "If you don't know what's making you unhappy, what would make you happy?"

"That's easy," she said. "Happy would be not having to go to any meetings that I do not want to attend."

That was a breakthrough for Barbara, because suddenly she has articulated a very specific criterion for her working life. It was all about meetings. She hated them. But more than that, Barbara was chafing at a lack of autonomy and self-direction.

So she quit her job and set herself up as a consultant, working out of her home, which can be risky and stressful. But she was also completely in control of her time. Instead of endless meetings, she communicated with clients by email and phone, and when she needed a face-to-face with anyone, it was her choice. Acting on her simple criterion not only removed the forced attendance at pointless meetings, it cut out the daily commute into the office and her obligatory presence on equally fruitless conference calls - all of which helped to liberate three or four previously occupied hours from her day.

When I tracked her down 18 months later, she was no longer working at home. Her business had grown so quickly that she'd opened an office a few minutes away from home and now employed four people. "But still no unnecessary meetings," she said. "My staff is not complaining."

Barbara's story is neither unique nor extraordinary. There are, after all, millions of refugees from the corporate world who are working out of their homes or in small offices. What makes her special is the spark that initiated her new life change - namely, identifying a criterion that made a difference. When you articulate a criterion for leading your life, it dictates many of the major choices that follow, closing some doors but opening others.

By Marshall Goldsmith - author or co-editor of 31 books, including MOJO.]

Behaviors of Collaborative Leaders

In order to become a chief catalyst for collaboration, you will have to model behaviors that embody the way you'd like your employees to work. For 150 years, corporations, governments and militaries were built for up-and-down leadership, with incentives and rewards that discouraged cross-organization thinking and, in many cases, actually created or encouraged internal competition. Your challenge is to develop and model the behaviors required to inspire people and teams to genuinely break through organizational silos and make collaboration a competitive advantage.

How you lead your people has a direct impact on your ability to eliminate or mitigate the types of human behaviors that slow organizations down. In our experience, both inside Cisco and with our customers, highly collaborative leaders share four leadership traits. They:

1. Focus on authentic leadership and eschew passive aggressiveness

2. Relentlessly pursue transparent decision making

3. View resources as instruments of action, not as possessions

4. Codify the relationship between decision rights, accountability and rewards

Focus on authentic leadership and eschew passive aggressiveness. 

For collaboration to succeed, leaders need to be authentic. Cisco studied which characteristics of leaders on collaborative teams are most important, and we found that the most critical attribute was a leader's willingness to follow through on commitments. This involves two elements. 

First, as a leader of a team, department or business unit with people, budgets and resources under your control, you must follow through on organizational commitments. Unfortunately, people don't always do what they promise. Passive aggressiveness is a subtle, nuanced form of human behavior in which people find ways to undermine others. They often give tacit agreement in a meeting, for example, but then proceed to take counterproductive action once the meeting is over. Or they might agree to help another team, but then are slow to follow through or put an under-performer on the assignment. Think of how much organizational inertia is created because leaders don't always do what they say they will do.

Expert Tip on Perseverance:

"Leaders need resolve, resilience and determination to affect collaborative transformation. They need to 'walk the talk' for a sustained period of time."
-- Professor Tony O'Driscoll, Duke University Fuqua School of Business

Second, when there is disagreement about a decision­ -- one made by you or someone else -- fight the instinct to make it personal. Ultimately, most disagreements are not personal in nature, but rather result from differing approaches to making a decision. The more you focus on communicating what drives your decision making, the more time you can spend making good decisions instead of arguing a choice with a peer. This leads us to the next leadership trait.

Relentlessly pursue transparent decision making. 

Decisions are always about making choices; it's critical that you are clear about how you make them. Tell people your style and thought process for navigating tricky, or even every day, decisions. In our experience, and this is backed up by research, there's a direct relationship between the agility and resilience of a team and the transparency of its decision­ making processes. When you're open and transparent about the answers to three questions -- who made the decision, who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision, and is that accountability real -- people in organizations spend far less time questioning how or why a decision was made. Think of how much time is wasted ferreting out details when a decision is made and communicated because the people who are affected don't know who made the decision or who is accountable for its consequences.

Answer Three Questions to Foster Transparent Decision Making:

Transparent decision making requires that all stakeholders know the answers to these questions:

- Who is making the decision?

- Who is accountable for the outcomes of the decision?

- What are the consequences -- positive or negative -- of that accountability?

In a later chapter, we discuss the importance of establishing a common vocabulary for decision making, especially as a communications platform that can scale an organization's collaborative processes. As a leader, your responsibility is to document the key decision paths of your organization and communicate them to your team as often as you can. There was a time in business when hoarding information was a source of organizational power. Today, the inverse is true if you want to motivate a team that is increasingly mobile, global and socially driven.

Explain the guiding principles of your decision-making style at each stage of your organization's decision paths. Share your biases and tell war stories of how your successes and failures shaped these biases. We often hear the phrase "intelligent risk taking" -- nothing empowers people to take good risks more than understanding the conditions for taking the risk in the first place. Transparent decision making is critical to empowering your people.

View resources as instruments of action, not as possessions. 

The promise of flexibility and agility as an organization, inspired by establishing shared goals across organizational boundaries, is only attainable if you back it up by sharing resources as well.

It's hardly a new observation that people sometimes stockpile resources around their business unit or department, or are slow -- perhaps even hesitant -- to share those resources with other departments. There might even be incentives in place that discourage sharing. For as long as companies have pursued profits, the size of one's organization has defined the size of one's financial opportunity. But are your resources truly applied as optimally as possible to your market opportunities in a way that best serves the total business? By unlocking these trapped resources, organizations can more quickly and successfully pursue emerging market opportunities.

Having a common approach to assess and communicate resource decisions is critical to creating a transparent environment among leaders. The more transparent the envi­ronment the more willing leaders will be to share resources in support of the shared goals of the entire business, and the harder it will be for resisters to hoard them. This shift in approach is not an easy one for leaders to make and requires a balancing act between clear expectations, patience and follow through. Ultimately, it's as much a mindset as it is a process. The fundamental enablers of collaborative leadership are viewing resources as instruments of action rather than as possessions and aligning your company's larger shared goals to an accountability system that includes rewards and incentives for working together effectively.

Codify the relationship between decision rights, accountability and rewards. 

Modeling the desired collaborative behaviors -- showing your employees that you walk the talk -- is the goal. But what happens when you're not around? The more these behaviors are codified into an end-to-end system across your organization, the greater the odds of collaboration succeeding when you're not there to reinforce cultural norms. As you define the decision paths of your organization and build a common vocabulary to make those decision paths as transparent as possible, take the time to establish clear parameters. Who gets to make decisions? Are all decisions tied to funding? These are the types of questions to which everyone must know the answers. Publish the parameters for these decision rights and tell people which leaders have these rights -- that information is crucial to breaking through any consensus logjam; decision-rights holders should have 51 percent of the vote when collaborative teams can't reach natural agreement.

Having published decision rights is just one element of an accountability system. While it's never pleasant to talk about the consequences of poor decisions, the reality is that to succeed, collaboration demands more distributed and empowered actions across your organization. With that empowerment comes not only more good outcomes but also the increased potential for bad ones. You will need to consider new ways of gaining input from teams on the quality of collaborative decision making and reward people who consistently make good decisions in a collaborative environment.

As part of their overall performance management, every Cisco employee is measured by peers and their managers on their collaboration factor, the result of which directly impacts how their performance is rated and, ultimately, the size of their total compensation. Other factors that determine the size of bonuses are tied to how well employees collectively perform in achieving certain shared goals that Cisco establishes annually, such as customer-satisfaction metrics and financial results. Collaborative cultures not only foster teamwork, they also reward it. Performance measures must strike a balance between how well employees carry out their individual roles and how much they contribute to collective outcomes. 

Legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski knows a thing or two about working together to reach shared goals. He reminds team members -- and business leaders -- that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back of the jersey.

Author Bios:
Ron Ricci, co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, is the vice president of corporate positioning and has spent the last decade helping Cisco develop and nurture a culture of sharing and collaborative processes. In addition, he has spent countless hours with hundreds of different organizations discussing the impact of collaboration. He is also the co-author of the business best-seller Momentum: How Companies Become Unstoppable Market Forces (Harvard Business School Press, 2002).

Carl Wiese, co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, is senior vice president of Cisco's collaboration sales -- a multi-billion global business. He has presented on the importance of collaboration to business audiences in dozens of countries, including Australia, China, Dubai, India, Mexico and all across Europe and the United States. With more than 25 years of sales, marketing, services and product-management experience with Cisco, Apple, Lucent, Avaya and Texas Instruments, Wiese has spent his career working with companies worldwide to advance their business goals with technology. 

Guest post by By Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese

AIDS in IOrganisation

Appraisal & Increment Deficiency Syndrome

Our Corporate Employees Across The World Are Now Suffering From This AIDS,

But It Is True!