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Month: October 2008

Management crisis not credit crunch

If you watch one video this weekend, watch Henry Mintzberg on the “management crisis”.  He is not the only management guru talking about the management crisis – Hamel is too.  I was glad to see Mintzberg challenge the trite distinction between management and leadership.   I’ve long held we do too little to develop the organizational acumen of young people – a point amply made by R. Katz.

Do Mintzberg’s comments apply to firms in the UK?  What are the issues here?

Hat-tip to management futurist, Jon Husband, of Wirearchy.

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Innovation funnels: learning from marketing

Daisy Over Glass


Image by ccmerino via Flickr

You don’t have to be right all the time. . .

As a youngster, I joined an HR department as resident psychologist & systems manager.  In my first week there, the entire department was summoned by the CEO who had been away at long course at Harvard.  We got a royal bollocking, which as I was new, I could listen to quite dispassionately!

Apart from specifics, such as not controlling the headcount (“We’ve grown like Topsy!”), he had a lot to say about efficiency of delivery.  First, he has unimpressed by the absence of Plan B (flying off to give a presentation the same day rather than the night before).  Second, he wanted to hear an end to whinging.  “You don’t have to be right all the time. You only have to be right 60% of the time and you are winning.”

Contradictory?  Perhaps not.

I think of it like this.  Just as marketers have a sales funnel, an organization needs to an innovation funnel.

  • We think up ideas.
  • A certain proportion are worth following through.
  • Of those, only a proportion work (going on to the next one is Plan B).

Toby Moores of Sleepy Dog, budgets and resources 200 ideas in stage , to finish with 1 winning idea in stage 3.  He is a fascinating speaker and is crystal clear about the recruitment, training and management techniques used at Sleepy Dog to generate ideas at a rate of 200:1.

I have never heard Toby say how many ideas Sleepy Dog abandons after they have sunk a lot of money in them.  Would it shock you to know that flourishing companies expect 40% of ideas to flop?  Who wrote on that today?  Sorry I had to shut my computer down and lost the link.  I think you cited GE.  Anyway, it was not just my CEO of my formative years.

Gary Hamel published this little questionnaire on the state of innovation management in your company.

So what is your innovation policy?  This is ours at Rooi.

1.  Keep blogging.  Write down the good ideas so we can find them again.

2.  Keep reading blogs and conventional sources.

3.  Take part in online communities. The best ideas seem to come from where we least expect it.

4.  Start shaping up goals such as “how long does it take to get an online community humming?”

5.  Take lots of breaks.  Good ideas slow down when we are tired.

What are you yours?

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Confidence in bad times

in a blaze of glory

Image by Darwin Bell via Flickr

For the last two weekends, I ran a little poll here on your plans for beating the recession.  The full poll and results are at the end of the post.

Of the two score or so people who answered, this was the modal response.

I have only scenario planned the future INFORMALLY.  I am planning to 2010.  My business is YET to be affected by the recession.  I expect to grow 25% over a 2007 baseline.  I will find a RECESSION-BEATING strategy.

So are we confident or fool-hardy?

Let me add these three observations.

  • People who answer online polls are “geeks” or “geek-like”.  Maybe all of poll results are true.  We haven’t been badly affected and we understand what is going on sufficiently to improve our businesses.
  • A prudent economist friend of mine offers the following:  the stock market has dropped 50% since its peak of October 2007 (possibly more by today).  The average growth rate per year is 6%.  Assuming a good recovery, stock prices will recover their value in 50/6=8 years time (2016).  This simple arithmetic may be useful for people managing their portfolios or planning their retirement.  Notice that people in my survey (typically) assume 4x the average growth rate.  During coaching, some nudging towards practical plans might be necessary.
  • Before I left Zimbabwwe, and while it was already obvius that things were going wrong, my students ran a series of studies measuring and explaining “hopelessness” [not hope sadly but interesting nonetheless].  They measured “hopelessness” in various groups and NEVER EVER found clinical levels of hoplessness.

Explaining hope and resilience

Moreover, any one person’s sense of hopelessness could be explained by the level of social support they perceived from relevant others.  Here are some interesting results.

  • Wives of unemployed men looked to their churches for support.
  • Teenagers about to leave school after writing their O levels [school certificate/high school] felt more hopeful if they were supported by their families.

And feeling supported by their family was strongly linked to the number of family members having work or income

  • Working men in factories depended heavily on the social support of their supervisors. The mood of employees who were well educated and qualified was very much less affected by their managers

What did we take from these studies (and my little poll)?

  • People are naturally resilient.  They believe the best.
  • Social support is critical.

In hard times, it is very important for the management system to provide support.  This is likely to have a chain effect.  The CEO needs to show belief in his or her direct reports and they need to show belief in their direct reports.

  • Social support outside the firm is also critical and managers can help themselves by supporting external support systems.

Enourage people to remain within churches and sports clubs, help them stay in touch with their families and make it easy for them to do so.  Have we arranged for Hindu employers to have time off for Diwali?  Do we celebrate Eid?  Do we help people take time off for important events?

Collective efficacy, solidarity and business results

It is pretty likely that

  • collective efficacy (expressed belief in the importance and competence of our colleagues) and
  • solidarity (our willingness to support each other through thick-and-thin)

add a critical 5-10% onto our collective performance.

I wonder if there are any practitioners out there who are focussing on these ‘soft’ concepts and linking them to the ‘hard’ results of revenue in hard times?

Here is my original poll.  Thanks so much for contributing.  Despite my experience during other crises, I was still pleasantly surprised that we are so confident.

[polldaddy poll=1005163]

[polldaddy poll=1005175]

[polldaddy poll=1005188]

[polldaddy poll=1005210]

[polldaddy poll=1005254]

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Recession-beating plans

What is your plan for beating the recession?

Here is a short 5 question poll for the weekend.  I’ll post the results next week!

Survey sampling


Image via Wikipedia

PS If you tick Other, and you have another 30 seconds to spare, could you leave a comment saying what you have in mind?

[polldaddy poll=1005163] [polldaddy poll=1005175] [polldaddy poll=1005188] [polldaddy poll=1005254] [polldaddy poll=1005210]

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What’s your preferred corporate culture?

Cool 2×2 on organizational culture

While tutoring some very smart undergraduates, I bumped into  very nice 2×2 model that I haven’t seen for years.  Deal & Kennedy’s model is used primarily to explain corporate culture.  It also correlates nicely with two factor personality theory – so it’s pretty useful for helping people understand their preferences for various workplaces.  It’s easy to use and remember and what’s more reading political commentary, I had an insight about competency frameworks that is quite useful.

Get drawing!

Grab a pen.  WordPress is not up for 2×2 tables.  Across the page put feedback (slow on the left and fast on the right), and down the page put risk(high at the top and low at the bottom).

Live or die in the next 20 minutes!

Top left is the fast-feedback high risk quadrant.  This is the world of surgeons, American police, City traders.  Everything happens quickly, and losses and gains can be dramatic.  This is the world of extraverted, neurotics – loud, quick, aggressive and dramatic.  Game of choice: squash! A one-one-one tussle with points scored in a fast and furious contest.

Fast but not furious

Bottom left is slow-feedback low risk quadrant.  This is the world of the factory, the retail bank and even the supermarket cashier.  Good or bad, feedback is quick but no one event is of great consequence.  This is still the world of the extravert.  Sociable people are at a premium provided they are amiable and easily content.  Indeed, they wouldn’t know what to do with aggression.  Game of choice: soccer.  Great teamwork that goes on for an hour-and-a-half with only one or two goals.

Leave it with me

Bottom right is slow-feedback low risk quadrant.  This is the world of very low skilled or very high skilled.  The work is deceptively simple.  Take an accountant.   A piece of paper is processed and there is no sense of the world changing.   A better example is a lawyer who writes your will.  You rely entirely on it being correct when it is inspected many, many years later by other lawyers.   The essence of this work is this long delay and ability to do fine work with no feedback.  This is the world of stable, unemotional introverts.  Game of choice : jogging.  One foot after another!

He’s my brother, he ain’t heavy

Top right is slow-feedback high risk quadrant.  This is the world of civil engineers putting up buildings  which will only show that nasty shortcut many years later.  It is also the world of educators – all those hours put in to person who may or may not make good.  This is the world of neurotic introverts.  A mark of people in this quadrant is other people take them to be a fool and abuse their good will.  They are also prone to feeling disappointed with the world.  Game of choice: golf.  You can lose it all on the last hole.

So what is my observation for leadership competencies?

Generally, the most obvious leader is someone who is extraverted and unanxious.  Leaders like quick feedback and are neither too prone to hi risk (likely to be quick tempered) or too prone to lo risk (too amiable and unable to hold the line).

Listening to the commentary on political candidates, I suspect that this rule-of-thumb holds in the lower levels of leadership (Lieutenant to Colonel).  At higher levels, the willingness to reserve judgement and wait to see how events unfold might also be important.

Any thoughts?  What is your preferred culture?

UPDATE:  Anyone from any quadrant can lead and be a good politician. Generally though, we will be happy in our basic trade depending on its match with our personality.    We will also learn to use all quadrants with practice, though under pressure, we are likely to revert to our preferred choice.

Knowing your preferences helps you understand why you dislike some tasks and how you can recraft them to make them more comfortable. It also helps you understand other people’s styles.

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Wooo! social media does work!

Image representing Upcoming as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Abrupt change, relocation and HR/OD/Psychologists

Those of us in the HR/OD/Psych trades know absolutely, for sure, that in the next year, we will be helping many people regain their bearings after abrupt changes brought about by house losses, job losses and relocation.  I’ve had some practice at abrupt change because political issues at home have led to relocation first to another country, then to another city, and then again to a third country.

Thank heaven for social media

I arrived in UK 1 year and 5 months ago.  You can always spot a migrant.  We can tell you how long we have been somewhere in months.  This is my third major move and yes, as with all things, we improve with practice.

My last moves were to relatively small places where to all intents and purposes it should have been easy to meet people.  You know, walk down the street and shake hands with each one of them. It didn’t work though.

Coming to the UK was quite different.  There are 60 million people here.  Brits work long hours (50-60 hour weeks) and compute long distances.  I commute  5 hours a day.  One neighbour makes a 100 mile round trip each day in one direction and another goes the same distance in the other direction.  Who has time or energy to say hello?  The commute trains are eerily silent as people sag on well worn seats reading their horoscope in freebe newspapers, playing with their ipod, or just sliding into a fatigue induced sleep.

Yet, is has been easier to meet people here.  And this is why: social media.

What is social media?

Social media is the read-write, two-way web, like Facebook and Twitter.  Social Media is the web we are a little frightened of because we can sit at home and talk to a stranger in a way we might not on that train of exhausted commuters.

So how does it work?  In the ordinary world, to meet people I go along to some semi-public event – like the Christmas party hosted by the gym.  I have nothing in common with anyone else at the party except that we use the same gym.  I hope the gym makes a profit from a party but it is after all a slightly forced and odd social occasion.

Social media has many more applications than Facebook.  A very important one for people who are relocated is Yahoo! Events Upcoming.  By scanning for events within 100 miles of your home  (Brits travel long distances very routinely), you can find events that you are genuinely interested in.  You indicate you will be going and you can look down the attendance list and see not only who else is going but where else they are going.  In that way, you are able to converge very quickly into groups of people who share your interests.

Moreover, the people who use social media understand networking and are more likely to talk to you and introduce you to people at the event.

My experience

I found the inimitable Chris Hambly, guitarist, rugby player, media camp organizer, online education guru and general connector via Yahoo! Events Upcoming.  He kindly referred a journalist to me for an opinion on the media camp he organised, and though my name is spelt wrong, here I am, 17 months after arriving in a new country, quoted in a leading daily!  Thanks Chris.  Thanks, the Guardian.

Social media and HR/OD/Psychology/Coaching

And remember coaches, of all descriptions, when helping people cope with radical transitions, think social media.

And any one interested in the psychology and sociology of social media, please do contact me.  I am also interested in other rapid community building applications which will be important as we deal with the pressures and stresses of the next year to year-and-a-half.

PS The Guardian Link works erratically and often redirects readers to a jobs page.  To get to the article follow [Careers Advice] [Life & Work] [and look for the story on Media Camps]

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Poll: our plans for beating the recession

Survey sampling


Image via Wikipedia

UPDATE:  This poll was in October 2008.  We couldn’t decide whether we were in a recession or not!  That is a good takeaway!  Remember for future downturns how long it takes for people to decide that there is a situation that requires their attention!

Possibly also take note that few people see the economy as something that operates despite our good intentions. It is not enough to tell politicians to do something.  We all have to do something more than just hope for the best.


Thanks for dropping in.

Two days ago hopes rose that the ‘fever had broken’ and that we were on the mend, if slowly.  Today, hopes blurred again.

Many firms have been engaged in active scenario planning and have established how they are going to approach what may be a long and difficult economic period.
Would you like to share your experience of the planning process?  Polls on WordPress are new and these are  little untidy.  Do feel free to comment on the questions you think I should be asking in the comments section.

And perhaps bookmark the page so you can check back easily on Monday to see the results.  Have a delicious weekend!

PS If you tick Other, and you have another 30 seconds to spare, could you leave a comment saying what you have in mind?  Fascinating so far!  I hope to invite another 1000 people from various networks to respond over the weekend.  Thanks so much for participating!

[polldaddy poll=1005163] [polldaddy poll=1005175] [polldaddy poll=1005188] [polldaddy poll=1005254] [polldaddy poll=1005210]

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Will you join us in our Contribution to the Recovery?

I am pleased to announce the formation of


Psychologists working with Social Media

Our mission is to put social media at the service of businesses, colleges and communities to help focus on “the good and the true, the better and the possible”.

We have a clear goal.  As the clock strikes twelve on the 1 January 2010, we will will be looking forward to a year of work and study that is more vital and connected than we had ever thought possible.  I hope you will be there with us!

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Feeling good in the credit crunch and bank bailout

Harvard on the credit crunch and bank bailout

Two weeks ago or so, Harvard staged a panel discussion on the “credit crunch” and the “bank bailout”.  SocialMediaToday have video which is longish (1:36) but worth watching.

Many people will not watch the video fearing they will not understand it or because they think, so what – I can’t influence the politicians anyway.

First, the video is accessible.

Harvard professors are where they are because they are informed and communicate clearly.  They are refreshingly clear about how the mess developed and what might be done about it.  I found I developed a clear idea of the discussions I want to take place and the parts of the system I would be happy to see disappear.

Second, understanding leads to a sense of control.

When all is said and done, happy people exercise control.  By understanding what can and cannot be done, we figure out where to act and then we act.  Not understanding makes us feel anxious.  Saying “I cannot influence politicians” is “learned helplessness”.  It makes us feel awful!

Happiness is taking part

I am certainly going to trot down to the pub to meet my local politician on his rounds and ask him clearly what he will be doing.  I have a rough idea of the questions I will ask and I will watch the video again so I can summarize my ideas and keep it short.  Nonetheless,  I’d better be prepared to buy him a stiff whisky!

Once I start the conversation in the village in which I live, I am sure I will be educated further not only about what can and cannot be done, but also about other people’s hopes and fears.

Thereafter I hope we move to a positive consideration of what are we going to do about the impending changes in our lives.  I don’t want just to hunker down and hold my breath.  I want to be part of a conversation which looks at ways of taking the community to a better place for everyone – a place where we thrive in the increasingly competitive global knowledge economy.  I’ll let you know if I gain any insights.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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Dream jobs during the slow recovery

Auckland waterfront at night


Image via Wikipedia

During the last general election in New Zealand, the National Party (conservatives) made a spirited move for power by offering sizeable tax cuts. So keen we all were to find out our share, we crashed the Nats’ site within hours of their announcement.

My share was considerable: NZD2000 or in purchasing power parity terms, twice what I spent on clothes per year. The Nats didn’t win though. And the big question was why not? We were obviously interested. And the amount was significant.

So why didn’t the Nats win? And is this story relevant to the UK as we climb out of the credit crunch and the threatened recession in a slow recovery?

People don’t like the bashing of people who are unemployed or on the benefit

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. There but for the grace of God, etc. etc. Both NZ and UK are individualistic, masculine cultures (each to his own) but both countries dislike power differentials and huge disparities of wealth. We knew full well what would pay for those tax cuts and in my case, NZD2K was not enough to persuade me to take bread off the table of someone who is unemployed.

Voters understand that our economic policy requires a million or so people to be out-of-work

Voters are not economics experts but most of us know the basics. We know that if everyone has a job, inflation would take off. Both NZ and UK have policies of keeping inflation down to around 3%. Our economic prosperity depends on several percentage of the population being out-of-work.  So how can we take a blaming tone?

We have new attitudes to work and employment

Jane McGonigal, alternate reality games designer described games as “happiness engines”. And she asks an important question: why don’t we design work that is as compelling, engaging and as fun as games?

We do know how to design jobs that are enjoyable. Indeed the basic techniques have been in the textbooks on management and psychology for over 30 years. And games designers use these principles every day.

We want work that is so much fun we have to pay people NOT to work and to go home and play games! That is the doable demand from the citizenry of the 21st century!

Can politicians rise to the challenge of work that is more fun than games?

I think the first step is a social media solution: set up happiness surveys on the internet. When we feel so moved, we log on and say “I love this job”.

Then we will know which sectors are getting the thumbs-up from their employees, and as the saying goes, what gets measured gets done!

And we can worry about how much to pay people to stay at home!

What do you think?

Hat-tip to Sirona recruitment consultants  who inspired this post.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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