Delighted to see the CEO of an organisation, who have been using our TakeON! Management Matters programme for a number of years, saying that "Many of our team who experience it genuinely think of it as life changing".
We've heard this said many times before and we can never hear it enough. Thanks for the great feedback.
Development themes like Emotional Resilience, Taking Charge of Change, Connecting Vision and Purpose, Self Awareness and Courageous Conversations do change people lives and create leaders who are well set up to lead in a commercial world that is all about ambiguity and constant change.
If you are looking for a conversation based leadership development porgramme that has lasting impact, way beyond leaving a training room, then take a look at TakeON!
When most people think of corporate strategy, they usually think research, analysis and planning but at ON-Brand Partners we’re much more fascinated with what makes ‘organisations’ tick and how that allows strategy to actually be implemented as intended. Following many deep discussions with those successful (and some less successful) in business, we identified a dilemma that has continued to drive us ever since.
...the problem is not in the thinking, but in the doing!
Almost every significant organisation has a strategy, some brilliant, some good and admittedly, some which are ill-conceived. But regardless, the stark reality is that very few organisations ever achieve anything like the true potential their strategy promises. A vast amount of research certainly bears that out.
So, what is an organisation? There may be many relevant answers to that question, but we like to say the starting point is that ‘an organisation is simply a group of people who come together to create something of value for others’. Show us an organisation that doesn’t fit that criteria?
If that is true, then what really matters for sustained performance of an organisation, is the quality of both the connections that are made between the people on the inside, and the connections they then make to stakeholders on the outside (customers, suppliers, shareholders, communities).
Above all, everyone must be connected to that value which the organisation aims to create for others - It’s purpose. Organisations connected to their purpose ensure that everyone has a clear line of sight to the customer – no matter how far removed they are from interacting with them - and the importance of their individual roles have for the stakeholders, inside and out.
In today’s parlance, we talk about this as the need to both ‘align’ and ‘engage’ your employees around what really matters to the business. At ON-Brand Partners we’ve enjoyed a privileged journey in recent years working with some major organisations throughout the world, designing and implementing approaches that bridge this very gap.
We can proudly say that with our help, ‘they’ have delivered real results, often remarkable improvements in a range of performance measures – such as employee engagement, productivity, internal collaboration, customer loyalty, sales, revenues, and profit. In essence they were able to bring there strategy to fruition.
At times we have been staggered by the ‘positive momentum’ created and, most importantly, sustained. The ‘they’ I refer to is critical, because you should not expect that anyone on the ‘outside’ (such as consultants, coaches, trainers or advisors) can substitute for the effectiveness of leaders internally. But what ON-Brand has done is to have enabled the collective leadership of the organisations we have worked with to be more cohesive, focused and effective.
In essence, we’ve successfully ‘connected people through their work’. In doing so, it has made a difference – to organisations, to teams, and to individuals.
Many of the companies who have partnered with ON-Brand are large organisations, who were able to bring to bear substantial quantities of time, people resources and money to address their issues.
However, we knew an opportunity existed for smaller organisations (say 100-1000 people) or sub-groups of larger organisations, to be equipped with similar capability and opportunity.
And that’s why we offer TakeON!
TakeON! represents a blend of the best thinking, resources and tools that we have developed for a range of clients over the last decade. It cuts to the core of what is required to succeed in today’s fast paced and unpredictable world.
Fundamentally, it offers a platform for leaders at all levels of your organisation to create meaningful dialogue around what really matters to their business at any time. A platform that is embedded in ‘business as usual’ (not bolted alongside), which allows you to implement your strategy, or quickly shift the focus of your organisation in times of need. And it progressively builds a culture that supports your business performance.
TakeON! empowers teams and individuals to reshape what they are doing. It builds confidence into the organisation because it brings greater balance to looking at ‘what is already working’ (rather than what is not working) and how you can build upon that.
It unleashes potential by fostering collaboration, innovation, and a focus on the future.
TakeON! has been tried and tested, refined and retested across a range of organisations. It is designed to ensure an organisation becomes self-reliant as quickly as possible, but can always call on support where needed.
For us, our current and as yet unknown clients, it represents the best of what shapes culture, leadership and performance in today’s commercial world, giving them the means to adapt and compete where the ‘rules of the game’ no longer exist. We will continue to bring new thinking, provide new tools and always, be available to provide a sounding board and guidance such that your strategy comes to life and delivers what was intended.
Because the 'doing' matters as much as the thinking.
According to the Corporate Leadership Council's (CLC) study on High Performance, the conventional approaches to managing/leading performance have delivered gains of about 1% per annum since 2002. Yet on average, Executives and Managers estimate they will need to lift employee performance by a whopping 20% to meet their organisation's goals over the next few years!
By analysing what the best performing organisations are achieving, they say this is possible. And the key to unlocking this 'Breakthrough' performance? Increase the 'Network Performance' of employees.
Network Performance is defined as...
"employees effectiveness at improving others performance and using others contributions to improve his or her own performance".
At this point you might note that this is quite a different approach to traditional organisational development programmes which have typically focused on 'Individual Task Performance' i.e. an employee's effectiveness at achieving his/her own tasks and assignments.
Network Performance is essentially about the ability of everyone to freely and willingly transfer knowledge to the benefit of everyone. It includes things like:
On a related note, this insightful article by Soren Gorhamer 5 New Paradigms for a Socially Engaged Company explores how "companies are realising that it is not enough to get people to show up to work; the real challenge is creating cultures that enhance creativity and innovation" and that's all about getting them working together better.
The article reinforces a number of really important points about why the concept of ‘Network performance’ is so important.
Soren finishes his article with this powerful statement...
"The old paradigm was individualistic and focused on thriving to be personally brilliant; the new one is much more social, and it involves creating cultures that enhance innovation in all those present".
Brilliantly said. It's clearly time for everyone in an organisation to be brilliant together.
If your company culture doesn't support an integrated network approach to work, the team at ON-Brand Partners would love to talk about how we can help you build a culture that does.
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If you'd like to talk to ON-Brand Partners about how we can help you build the 'right' culture then we're ready to listen. Contact Us
I think that many of us have seen that a lot of change programmes have a high rate of failure - I believe the commonly reported failure rate is somewhere around...
In most cases this is simply because people are naturally afraid of what that change might mean for them, so they actively resist it - even if in reality it may in fact be a very positive thing for them directly!
If your organisation is embarking on a transformation programme (and there is probably a 100% chance of that as the digital age turns current business models on their head) then the interview Overcoming the Fear of Change published on the Gallup Management Journal provides some really good insights into why so many change initiatives do fail.
The point it makes about the critical role of the change sponsor(s) is a very good one, as time and time again I think we have all seen change initiatives fail simply because it seemed like no-one really cared about them, and the sponsor (typically a senior manager) isn't visible in walking the talk on why the change makes sense, and why it is a good thing.
If, for example, the CEO isn't as visible as they need to be around an initiative, David says people look around at those managing the change process and think, "Well, I see you talking about this change, but I don't hear the CEO talking about it. Why isn't he/she out here? Why aren't leaders telling their people this is important? Why are you the face of this, and why have they gone quiet?". Sound familiar? If the sponsor is unwilling or unable to play their required role, that is a strong signal that the change has never been that important.
And then, as David rightly points out, many employees will simply think...
"I'm going to wait this change initiative out. I've seen these come and go. I've seen leaders come and go. I've heard these words and phrases before. I'm not going to get excited about this, because I know it's not going to last." That's the worst situation you can be in: when you desperately need to make a major change and nobody believes you because you've cried wolf too many times.
“We start change programs, but we never seem to finish them properly” is another common frustration voiced, and a big reason why there is so much cynicism about change programmes, and that the world of change management is sadly riddled with failure. Basically it been made into something that people should fear, rather than embrace knowing it will be good for everyone.
In many cases I think a lot of organisations also mistake change management for an 'org chart' restructuring instead of restructuring what’s in peoples heads - the mindsets that influence everything they do and whether they buy into, and support, change.
This article What’s so hard about managing change and becoming more agile? is also a nice read as it also shares many of the the reasons why change is so prone to failure. I like the authors summation of what is required to make change management work.
"To truly embed innovation and agility, we have to be able to collaborate, work across boundaries within and between organisations, to bring together disparate experiences and perspectives, and to properly empower people to come up with ideas and make change happen. In other words, we have to build different corporate cultures and ways of working."
Again, everything points to culture as the great regulator of success.
The article also has a great chart which looks at the drivers of real change and reinforces the point made in Overcoming the fear of change in that it is the things like the "lack of management commitment, passion and drive, feeling of involvement" that are the greatest barriers to change.
Working in the complex area of culture change, we have heard many times from a range of clients, about how past change initiatives have come and gone without a trace and staff are understandably wary of them. This is one of the reasons why senior leadership engagement and creating sustainability should be such a strong focus of any change programme i.e provide a framework, and build the competency within the organisation, to be able to allow all staff to successfully implement and manage change themselves going forward.
At ON-Brand Partners, our approach is all about helping you build a culture that overcomes the many barriers to successful change. We take into account your particular starting point and the issues and opportunities faced, to ensure the focus is tailored to the areas of greatest need. Each solution could include any of the following components of our Platform for Change, all brought together in our distinctive ON-Brand way.
With the ON-Brand approach, rather than your people saying "this isn't going to last”, instead you'll hear...
'This is good, I want this to last. I want to be part of this change - it makes sense and I'm behind it!'
That's the time when you know the fear and cynicism has gone, excitement for the future ahead begins, and transformation sticks.
A while back one of our online learning community members posted a link to a case study article on the HBR Blog site. The article summarised the experience of Aetna as it transformed itself after a number of failed attempts. The major theme, not surprisingly, is about how to (and how not to) embrace the culture challenge.
Here’s a short exert.
“All too often, leaders see cultural initiatives, like the one at Aetna, as a last resort, except for top-down exhortations to change. By the time they get around to culture, they’re convinced that a comprehensive overhaul of the culture is the only way to overcome the company’s resistance to major change. Culture thus becomes an excuse and a diversion, rather than an accelerator and an energizer.”
There is no doubt that the relationship between ‘change and culture’ has become an increasingly hot topic. For example, take a look at many of the articles in the Harvard Business Review and you’ll see there is some great stuff all around innovation, R&D and transformation. And woven through those articles – all compiled by different experts - is the consistently common theme that culture matters! If you're still not convinced have a read of McKinsey's piece Culture: 4 keys to why it matters. In it they reinforce that the 'right' culture is the one (and only) thing that will give an organisation the performance, unique point of difference and adaptability they constantly seek.
And at ON-Brand Partners we know this to be true, as we see it everyday in our clients as they work to create organisation's that can tackle a fast and unrelenting future. And the one thing that will support or hinder that change is whether their culture is right for the task.
Here’s our perspective on the key themes becoming undeniable when tackling organisational change:
1. ROI correlates first and foremost with ‘strategic alignment and culture’ and only then is there a clear causal relationship with the level of investment in innovation or change. Strategy&’s “The Global Innovation 1000” study is always strong on this point.
In effect, the pathway to maximise ROI should look like the chart here. Unless you get the alignment and culture right, you’ll waste a lot of time and money on change efforts.
In reality, many organisations are still not grasping this. We are often presented with ‘transformation journey’ diagrams that are completely the other way around. That is: Stage 1 - Systems and technology; Stage 2 - Operational processes, and finally; Stage 3 - Culture and people. With that sequencing, culture is much more likely to become ‘an excuse and a diversion’ (as described in the Aetna case study). Culture is only likely to be an 'accelerator and energizer' if you lead with hearts and minds, and build commitment to the future vision and the change agenda required to achieve it.
2. Transformation is being seen less and less as one-off ‘step change’ (i.e. it’s a project or a programme) and more as incremental change and ‘continuous improvement’. That’s not to say that programme management disciplines aren’t useful, but our view is one of the key limitations in the way organisations have approached this (particularly ‘culture change’), is that the activities run in parallel to BAU, rather than being embedded within it.
In essence (and this seems self evident), to sustain success over the long term, the prevailing mindset needs to be that we are constantly looking to improve, change and innovate. There’s an old management adage the ‘best time to change is before you need to’ (i.e. when you are doing well), because it is then that you have the resources and momentum to accommodate the change.
3. The culture required to maximise innovation is becoming increasingly clear, but paradoxically, it’s not one uniform culture. If we liken culture to company DNA, then the (ideal) ‘genome’ for innovation-focused companies may actually vary across different parts of the organisation, depending upon the emphasis of change or innovation required.
By combining all these insights, ON-Brand Partners have constructed this chart which we thinks represents a good ‘wireframe’ for the culture that innovation and change focused organisations need.
The key points from this are:
No matter what sort of change or innovation you are aiming for, the mandatory cultural attributes are:
Where the focus is on ‘continuous improvement’ in order to ‘optimise’ the core business, then:
Interestingly, when leaders of companies are talking with us about weaknesses in their culture, the ‘silo’ mentality is almost always near the top of the list of concerns. This cultural attribute goes beyond just people and departments being helpful to each other (although that’s critical). It’s also about a mindset of being ‘joined up’: understanding the entire value chain and where you sit within it.
Where the focus is also on ‘expanding’ into adjacent products or markets (i.e. a higher level of innovation), then:
This is about the openness to new ideas and the commitment to support them. ‘Agile’ (a methodology increasingly applied in the technology space), is an appropriately descriptive word. It suggests a nimbleness and ability to move at pace – step by step.
Finally, where the focus is on the highest level, or true ‘breakthrough’ innovations, then:
“Well, of course!” you’re thinking. "Obviously we need to respect the value brought by people with deep specialist knowledge such as scientists". Yet, it’s often not the case as evident by the language used to describe these specialists - the ‘white-coats’, ‘tech-boffins’ and ‘cone heads’!
A key perspective from seminal analysis done by Nagji and Tuff on innovation is that breakthrough innovation should be clearly separated from the core business so that the activity is not encumbered, or pulled back by business as usual. This goes beyond physical location of the team, but includes different requirements for funding, performance metrics, and types of talent.
4. Dialogue based communication is the foundation for not only shaping the culture but also driving transformational change.
A global study by McKinsey done back in 2010, but still highly relevant today, that examined the common success drivers for large transformations identified three key factors that are directly pertinent to this point. And these are closely correlated with our core on-brand principles.
So back to the question we posed at the start. What should come first? Culture transformation or Transformation culture? In essence we believe organisations need to transform their culture into the 'right' culture first, such that it is then capable of transforming the overall business. The transformation process must start with culture, not end with it, as culture regulates the success of everything else. Culture transformation therefore leads to a Transformation culture.
Finally, to paraphrase a senior executive of a highly successful transformation process we have been involved in...
“Culture is the key to creating momentum in the change journey. The culture must align with what’s required from your transformation strategy. And the most important thing we did to shift the culture at was to ‘change the conversations’ happening across the business. That didn’t happen through emails or PowerPoint presentations, but through leader-led, dialogue-based communication at all levels, underpinned by on-brand stories and examples of the success we were seeking in action. And not just once or twice, but ensuring these conversations were happening week in, week out.”
Is your organisation serious about 'the Customer Experience' or paying lip service to it? "CX transformation is no longer a nice-to-have, it's a necessity" – according to Forrester and it’s predicted that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator when consumers make choices between brands.
If you are in Auckland on May 16th 2018, then come join ON-Brand Partners at our next Customer Experience Conversation where Paul Trotman will share his perspective on the organisational, attitudinal and technological barriers that can come between a business and their customers. And what to do about it!
Grab your entry ticket at www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/cx-conversations-the-customer-experience-are-we-serious-tickets-45051278587
When ON-Brand Partners created our online collaboration and learning community for clients, the ON2net, eight years ago, we wanted it to be ‘a place for people who want to create better organisations – organisations with renewed purpose where everyone is engaged, empowered and excited to deliver on it’s brand promise and improve performance’.
And to do that, we knew we needed to share a range of blogs and articles that got people thinking differently, and stepping out of their comfort zone. Think of the ON2net as a form of self learning that is less about downloading and being tested on resources, and more about exposure to new perspectives that generate real insight and related conversation. It's important, if not critical today, that managers are exposed to a diverse range of thinking, and not just from within their organisation because, as Gary Hamel says...
"My fundamental belief is that if a company wants to see the future, 80 percent of what it is going to have to learn will be from outside its own industry."
This related article, For Those Who Want to Lead, Read, originally shared with me by Suzi McAlpine from The Leaders Digest, talks a lot to the need for leaders to read about what others, outside their industry, are doing to create better organisations. In an age when most people are supposedly reading less, and at a shallower level because they are so "busy", the title says it all.
The article says that "broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness". All those things we are passionate about in our ON2net community.
I particularly like this recommendation...
"Apply your reading to your work. Are you struggling with a problem at work? Pick up a book on neuroscience or psychology and see if there are ways in which you can apply the lessons from those fields to your profession."
I have no doubt that successful businesses going forward will be the ones that understand critical concepts like the psychology of humans (those great regulators of success) and how to get the best out of them. And there is an absolute wealth of great, free, knowledge across the internet on subjects like this, so lack of access to other peoples insights and new ways of doing things can never be an excuse. Strangely, so many leaders seem to want to do it on their own, when so much insight off the back of what others have done, is already available to help shape their thinking.
And remember learning shouldn't be a nice to have in your job, it should be integral to your job. Try dedicating just 1% of your time to self development and you'll likely find the other 99% of your time is so much easier to manage. We encourage our community members to commit to spending just 1% of their time, looking beyond their "busy" day, to seek out better ways of doing things. Ways that will likely save them a lot more then the 1% of time they allocate to them.
It still surprises me how many senior leaders are sceptical of the value of investing in culture as a critical foundation for future success, but if they were to scan most of the publications that talk about what makes an organisation successful today (and tomorrow), there is again, an absolute wealth of information on this, and the critical value it is delivering. The evidence is profoundly strong so why are many senior leaders still not seeking out this information, and not looking to others who are doing things well and learning from them?
To me there is no question that For Those Who Want to Lead, Read. It's critical to keeping us all excited about the possibilities ahead, and how we tackle them.
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”
Such sweet words to any leader who is trying to transform their business into something better and who needs their people to collectively tackle the big challenges that are coming thick and fast.
Yes, people perform much better when they feel that they have a voice and are actually being heard.
So we were delighted (but not surprised) when team members from a UK client shared the following feedback after their latest ON-Brand TeamTalk session.
There is truly nothing better that everyone speaking up, sharing their ideas on how to make the business better, and then seeing them come to fruition. This is how you build a culture of innovation and collaboration that has the customer at the heart of everything it does.
Does this happen in your organisation?
Forward thinking organisations are now achieving outstanding results and unlocking their ability to transform in areas which had previously confounded them. Frustrated with disappointing results, they realise that transforming the way people think and therefore act requires unconventional thinking to augment the conventional training, communication and engagement programmes most organisations already have in place.
Their starting point for success is reframing how they think about the nature of their transformation challenge, viewing it as a social challenge, as well as a technical and organisational one.
With this in mind, they apply approaches and tools which are able to shift the mindsets and behaviour of the organisational ‘society’ – leading edge practices which are specifically designed to shift the way people think and therefore act.
This article shares how successfully transforming organisations are thinking about how they can achieve the social change they require.
A safety critical infrastructure operator needed to transform the way performance is managed across 13,000 colleagues to enable accelerated delivery of their scope of work and a new operating model, in a complex and highly unionized environment.
Previous attempts to change practices had floundered, even though they applied recognized industry best practices, strong communications approaches and technological enablers. Employees strongly – and successfully – resisted the imposition of change, undermining the ability of the organisation to transform.
Viewing their challenge in a different way, leaders were encouraged to think: “What might we do to start to shift the behaviours of a close-knit society the size of Whitby?”.
This led to the adoption of a radically different system of ‘subjective’ approaches to augment the conventional ‘objective’ organisational systems they already had in place. Some of these approaches were:
Outcomes achieved in the first six months of adopting the approach were:
1 - Transformation is a complex process of social change – and it happens over time.
The process isn’t linear or predictable – it defies most GAANT charts! A key approach is to generate positive momentum, make sense of what is changing for the better and why, then do more of it. Core to this is the involvement of networked informal leaders from within the operation – those who really know where the bodies are buried.
Often the greatest change momentum is generated by those who are seemingly most vocal against change and outspoken against management initiatives. At ON-Brand Partners, we focus much of our efforts with clients on identifying, then equipping these networked leaders to drive transformation from within, through building a real community within a community. This produces a formidable internal force for sustainable change.
2 - Appreciate what’s already working and build upon those strong foundations.
Most people react badly to criticism, and it impairs their ability to focus on solving problems. This is a challenge to the conventional consulting approach of gap analysis, whereby the primary focus is on the problems which need to be fixed.
The complimentary ‘subjective’ approach augments this by using organisational narrative approaches to surface what’s already working well, to understand why, and to focus on the cultural attributes of the organisation which are in place when they are at their most successful. Then we help clients to find ways to apply what already makes them successful to the areas which need to change. The outcome is very high engagement, as people enjoy applying their strengths to solve new challenges.
As the CEO of one leading Financial services organisation put it:
“If we are serious about changing our culture, we need to change the conversations which are happening right across our business”.
4 - Leaders at all levels need to walk the talk.
Those who are seen as leaders need to send clear, consistent and enduring signals about who we are and how we need to behave. Transformation efforts commonly fail when leaders’ up- front sponsorship of the new direction isn’t matched by on-going and active involvement over time. Leaders need to live it.
Successful transformations include in-depth and on-going work with influential and senior leaders, educating them about how to steer and guide complex change, and equipping them with new tools with which to do this. This requires leaders to augment their strengths in ‘download, direction and deliverables’ with the new transformational leadership skills of ‘dialogue, guiding and creating momentum’ which are required to shift the social system.
Bottom line: transforming organisations need to build approaches into their programmes which are specifically designed to shift thinking and behaviours
These approaches augment, and powerfully accelerate the benefits of conventional best practice, through creating a self-sustaining ‘pull’ from within the social fabric of the organisation. The experience of deploying them feels different to traditional change management practices. This can challenge some in the organisation, but the benefits are both observable and measurable, providing reassurance and evidence for decision makers.
If the transformation your organisation is facing into feels challenging and the outcomes uncertain, perhaps it’s time to look at it anew from the ‘social’ perspective?