Learning – requirement or a pre-requisite?
Yes, this is the right place. The notes from the May discussion on Management 2.0 are indeed here. In my work as an independent strategy consultant, my first rule is to listen and observe. I need to transform what I’m being told and reconcile it with what I’m observing. The norms or environmental conditions within an organization often give the first clues about what holds them back. It’s rare that I meet people within the organization who haven’t figured out what’s wrong, or maybe even what needs to be done. Often the monthly strategy discussions take o the same paradox. The articles are sensible or seem to suggest the obvious but doing is much harder than it looks.
The process of writing up the notes from the monthly strategy discussion struck me as a classic exercise in management 1.0. The summary of what happened, the points discussed, conclusions reached and the infamous next steps are generally recorded and distributed. The minutes function primarily to keep everyone’s focus on the same play book, and put into wider distribution clear summaries of collective thinking. Given the strategic management practices and issues group discussion’s intention, I’m skeptical that collective thinking is the sensible approach.
As the frequent facilitator of the discussion, I seek to elicit deeper connections to the articles. Volunteering to simultaneously take and write-up the discussion is an interesting challenge. So I’ve opted to skip the loyal regurgitation of the bulk or the gist of the ideas that flow. Besides, it’s impossible to capture the real flow of ideas, as they filter though my own thoughts and conceptions of the material and equally impossible to note comment and the questioning , outrage, delight or even surety of a comment’s inflection. In blogging, the scribbled notes come to life but also unconsciously reconnect the circling back conversation in a different sequence. For example, when the conversation on one sub topic takes a twist only to later come back to that sub topic, I naturally try to connect the book-ended remarks and extract the distraction.
Why does all this process talk matter? It relates to how we, as humans naturally work. Reflection, when actively invoked, naturally evokes new thoughts and new learning. These blog posts try to share the self-reported learning captured in my notes, but they also do something else. They are my attempt to capture the continued learning on the topic that happens in my ongoing interactions. In these posts I take the opportunity to try to share my new understanding of the topic, or insights into a given position’s advocacy. For example, this past month I wonder why a group, primarily comprising mid to late-career Chicago trained MBAs, find solace in the verity of finance while the idea of management 2.0 remains a bit fuzzy?
Thoughts on Management 2.0
That said, time to share the discussion notes that I have indeed struggled to bring alive. (Find additional learning in the next post entitled Management 2.0–can you shift)
Notes or recorded observations and reactions from discussion participants to the articles and topic entitled Management 2.0.
Adaptable , innovation style cultures, aka management 2.0 have long been advocated and these principles characterized by three key academics who study Leadership*. Largely prescriptive, discussion participants had no question that managers should follow this advice. The paradox however lies in reconciling a culture bent on innovation with obligations to support the existing business model—, the one generating returns and is the source, if not majority basis of compensation. In a lean environment, it becomes more challenging to find the time and energy to innovate. Cost cutting for many firms in the recent downturn led to the innovation group being sacked and outsourced. In some cases, operating strategy groups followed the same route.
Regardless of whether the firm chooses situational strategy or an adaptive strategy, an inherent conflict in the self-preservation of the organization naturally ensues. The management philosophy and tone of the CEO generally dictates the culture but does not necessarily lead to pervasive behavior. After all if the average lifespan of a CEO is a few years, it’s hard for the organization to have fully integrated a particular CEO’s philosophy within their culture.
Effectively communicating financial goals makes it easier to balance the respective balcony and dance floor perspectives. Numbers make things tangible, and connect actions to overall changes in the balance sheet. Connecting people, their responsibilities as well as opportunities, to the components that deliver EBITDA the better chance at achieving overall performance
Adaptive management means adapting your customers too, helping them to understand the changes being tried and the positive impact on them. In a manufacturing firm, making changes that tweak the system or fine tune the results are easier than in a service firm where the resources are primarily labor
Management 2.0 conceptually still a little fuzzy. Sounds like and may even look a little like an innovation culture, but is it? Can one create a culture that values innovation and risk-taking that doesn’t cost you your career?
Easy to understand preponderance of management 2.0 in small start-up companies. Being nimble, fewer layers of management also mean fewer chances to mix-up signals. Turnaround specialists typically find that small companies have a larger disconnect with finance.. letting ideas get ahead of prudent financial management. All investments need to generate payback and understanding the firm’s cash flow parameters is critical.
Finance often has a second role, facilitating a strategy’s execution. If day-to-day operations and management face the disconnect between ideas and cashflow, where can they get the clear support needed? Is it only executive management’s responsibility to reconcile the balcony perspectives and incentives around a culture of innovation and the realities of the positions of dance floor management or dancer struggling to meet a variety of standards and goals? Understanding the timing and relationship of unbounded customer service handle times with future customer receipts due to customer satisfaction is challenging for everyone. In a small business, there’s more transparency, as in everyone knows the good customers by name.
Measured latitude is the language used by 3M’s historic approach that requires everyone to spend and account for a small proportion of their time to learn something new. Rather than hiring clones, even in the face of the current environment where fewer resources do more, adaptive organizations hire alternative experiences to broaden their internal learning. Innovation, when under-financed, can bring a well-managed company to its knees; EBITDA is real and important contributor to your business survival.
Inspiration doesn’t happen predictably on a timeline ; but the culture 3M instilled ties innovation to compensation. Don’t underestimate the power of a good story to inspire and in grain experimental cultures.. The failed glue gave rise to the Post-It Note encourages people to experiment, and learn from failures. It also helps get everyone from top to bottom in an organization to pull the same way.
Getting the commitment from the top down, in larger organizations differentiate successful transmission of this innovation or looser adaptive culture that works well in smaller organizations. A CEO’s daily voice mail is inspiring, but a collaborative commitment in which staff concerns and worries are both heard and effort concerted to work them through goes that much farther. . This is the suggestion that Ron Heifetz describes in adaptive leadership.
Alternatively, an organization can step their way up to change by giving staff assignments outside their normal duty. Having the tools and putting out the thinking is not the same as the heavy workout of the issues or obstacles. How much do client comments impact an employee’s compensation? When training, the indirect rewards are insufficient, the short-term pressures means it may delay getting long-term results.In the end, management still has to be serious, committed and clearly express what results they want and when.
An organization’s culture bred on innovation are willing to experiment, routinely challenge norms, share knowledge and use measurement and scorecards to track progress.
The existence of an innovation culture, not clear evidence of management 2.0?
More learnings will follow, and I invite all readers to challenge those listed or add their own. This is a great place to test and try out ideas. I hope you will continue the conversation.
*If you are looking for the articles and references that were the basis of the May discussion see the next post for a complete listing and links.