Collaboration , not as easy as it seems

24 10 2011

I have just recently run a session on a strategic leadership programme for a collection of government departments. I can’t say which ones but recent changes in funding, threat and resources have meant they really do need to collaborate much more. The programme is breaking ground, in that it’s been set up across departments, the first of its kind. Well that seems a bit obvious to me and to many of readers I assume to share training and development opportunities . However to the UK government, working together is policy; creating the forums for collaboration is, it seems, not.

So what makes good collaborative working at the senior level? Well its more than an edict or policy saying they must. Good collaboration starts with individuals deciding they should, then acting. No amount of policy or direction from the top will break down years of individualization and socialization into strong cultures. What it takes is for individuals to become emotionally engaged in the process, through a shared need, a realisation that there is real benefit in a collaborative approach, and the courage to act on that thought.

We ran a simulation, a game, unfortunately human instinct kicked in and the default settings of competitive behaviour ensued. What was interesting was the debriefing  discussion and how difficult it seems to be  to establish enough trust to collaborate in the first place. Well  ladies and gentlemen servants of the government, we really can’t wait for you to love each other, the economic crisis and the state of threat currently enjoyed by our country from those that wish us harm is too high for you to delay. Collaboration is the future of really effective performance, particularly where special talents are scares and consequences of failure so high.

I really do hope the programme works in the long-term, but currently it is one of the few forums for real inter government agency interaction, it’s a small but vital step in the right direction.


Talent and Performance – how strategic does it need to get ?

7 06 2010

Again I am thinking how easy it must be to select the wrong people for strategic roles. Why do I say so? Well it seems to happen so often or more often we allow people to be promoted into strategic roles whilst they are not capable of doing them.  Is this sooooo important? It seems not in many organisations where the rush to fill the gap is more important than the effort put into getting the right person to do the role.  I find this ‘talent sabotage’ process a real issue in many client organizations, either because of pressure from line to fill roles or because of lack of foresight and insight into the damage this does. We are damaging our own companies success by not addressing the issue.

Imagine if you will a sales and marketing dominated company ( say a fmcg or a consumer facing company)  appointing / recently or sometime in the past  – a person of average ability into their sales and marketing head role. So a strategically important role being filled by an average player. Their business success depends on getting more market share, better margins and more awareness of their offer than their competitors but they fill it, for convenience, misplaced loyalty to some long time-server, or just plain inability to select, with an average performer. When their business suffers they look for structural or product or marketplace solutions. Wrong !! Talent in organizations drives performance – right person, right role , right time. Get this wrong and you can spend a fortune on consultants telling you how to change your offer and re-engineer your processes etc, when the problem is the people.

Would you like to undergo a major piece of surgery and be told (or find out later) , that the surgeon is the best they could get, not the best there was? I would like to think that business is the same – minimise the risk of failure – it’s not life or death but the  principle applies all the same.

Talent – the missing generation?

20 01 2010

Recently talking to one of my clients I found an interesting attitude relating to talent and particularly graduates. It seems earlier in the year when graduate recruitment was discussed there was a clear indication from the business, that they needed top quality graduates. Being an engineering company they were normally in tough competition with the other top companies for the dwindling supply of really good engineering gradutes. So all good for this last year with a mandate from the business heads to recruit and a potentially eager pool of graduates to select from, and some really being realistic about their employers offer – all was good in the world.

So what happened? Well it seems lots of internal politics, some over estimation of the ease of doing the process themselves,  lack of understanding of the graduate market place and possibly some apathy from staff. So the company will not recruit this year for the first time in many year- and NOT because of lack of need but lack of focus ! The people tasked with the process dropped the ball, missed the boat, lost the plot and failed to get a scheme together in time to recruit even when the go was given in August.

Why the missing generation? Well not only will there be no 2010 cohort to fill existing needs, but there will be a follow on effect in the university’s they recruit from, the lack of 2010 intake means less presence in the minds of the campus, less word of mouth contact as graduates go through the process of gettting a job they talk about it to friends, mainly others on their course or in their discipline… free PR.  Also internally the lack of graduates can send a signal to others in the professional ranks, thin end of the wedge… not taking on the talent for the first time in years… should I jump before I am pushed?

Now I am not saying recruit in all cases regardless of the economy… not at all… but when the buisness ok’s a  budget for it, analysed the need and agreed they had one, when the market is already tough ( engineers are hard to recruit normally) and when the buisines is doing well !! Now that is madness and there will be a missed generation of future talent who have gone to the competition..hey ho.

T maps in practice

15 01 2010

Just some more thoughts on the positives of using T maps, whilst they are in the front of my mind. I have recently used them with two senior groups looking at strategy for a large international organistion. In both cases the time it takes to create one, even with a willing and able group, was under estimated. I think that the real value comes from the necessary diallogue and explanations, which means that the concensus is high in the group. However, that means the mapping takes longer.

For a senior team think about 2 x 2 day workshops, one to get the draft and directions right, and a second one a few week a later to get the gain on the picture sharpened up, more dates, more cost, more names, more interdependencies mapped out.

A great tool which people get … no selling really needed as the output clarifies complexity better than most change management tools or techniques.

Future Proofing your organization

27 07 2007

Wouldn’t it be great if we could future proof our organizations – keep them safe from change and competition and worst of all the changes we see in society. Well we can only have two real reactions to the inevitability of change, reduce it or produce it. Given reduction techniques have been sold to buisness for the last 30 or so years, re organizing, re structuring, re engineering, re sizing,  and mostly with dibilitating effects,  then it seems to us both, that some thing more proactive is needed, something that produces rather than reduces change.

You get a lot of free software when you hire the hardware of your employees. Free with every pair of hands is approx 1.3 kg of supercomputer, but one that unlike the Cray version,  constantly adapts to changes – in nanoseconds. Why don’t we use this network of super creative computing power on a more regular basis? Our experience is that many managers don’t know how to ask for input, or don’t have the confidence to have the input when it’s offered, or don’t know what to do with it when they get it. This is a criminal waste of human resources and resourcefulness.  As leaders we need to Envision as a collective process, team dreaming and defining destiny. We need to gain Engagement from the team, our peers and our bosses, to ensure when we start to Execute, that nothing is unforeseen or left to chance. Good ideas always start out as someones dream, turning it into reality means getting it into enough heads with enough passion that they want to build it with you.  We think this is what makes leaders different from managers, more passion, more confidence, more output and more inspiring.

If you agree with us, great… if you don’t you are probably caught in the efficiency trap, trying to become even better at things that don’t matter in terms of long term survival. Only people are the source of true competitive advantage. Become great at releasing discrecionary effort and building talent and you have future proofed the organization.

If YOU have stories or examples of really effective techniques or approaches to re energizing the corporation, then share them with the readers of this blog, and get yourself into print in the field book that will come out post January’s release of the book ReEnergizing the Corporation, How leaders make change happen.

Being different, being better

25 07 2007

If you look at most successful organistions they have something unique about them. Sometimes it easy to describe or put your finger on, sometimes its not. However, we argue you cannot become great by being the same as the rest of the industry or crowd  – staning out in some way is necessary – you need to be different and better – being better is not sufficient.

There are we think 5 areas you can really be different in business :

  • Purpose – you have a different calling, Medicine san Frontiers for example, its about more than money !
  • Portfolios – you have a service or product that can deliver integration, such as Ericsson’s mobile suite of tools.
  • Products – something unique or a series of unique ( for a time) products, such as iMac, iPod, iPhone etc.
  • Process – where you are positively different in the way you manage your process, see Dell, Walmart or Toyota.
  • People – you just have the best people in the field,  see McKinsey, Harvard and St Lukes ( media house)

So think about how your organization currently is different and better than the rest – if you struggle to articulate it maybe it’s time to think about how to Re Energize  your Corporation,  as only the sexiest or fittest survive and if you don’t look sexy as a business beast and are not lean, agile and fitter than the rest , then good old Darwins laws  still apply.