The truth about organisational restructuring

The start

The first time I experienced a restructure, was when I got a call to come into the CIO office. that was about six months after I joined the company as a team leader in IT. Not sure what the topic was, I got into his room and set down. The CIO wanted to hear my ideas about some other areas in IT. The conversation sounded valid, but I had this distinct feeling something was up. I got back to my desk to find everyone in IT were called to a meeting for an important announcement. In the meeting the CIO announced a new structure, many senior managers names had no box, and my name was there now responsible for these areas that I was asked about an hour ago

…it was my first job in a commercial business and I believed the CIO that it was about better service and clearer accountabilities for the new management team. In reality, it happened to be about cost-cutting and moving aside “opinionated” managers who disagreed with the CIO. Many months later we were still struggling to recover from the damage to trust that this restructure created.

The reality

Restructures as a way to deal with cost-cutting became particularly popular after the financial crisis of 2009.

Mckinsey, 2009 : “We suggest a better way: companies should start any cost-cutting initiative by thinking through whether they could restructure the business to take advantage of current and projected marketplace trends (for instance, by exiting relatively low-profit or low-growth businesses) or to mitigate threats, such as consolidating competitors” (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/a-better-way-to-cut-costs) and the recipe was clear:

  • Combine incidentals to gain a visible effect on the bottom line
  • While reducing the number of roles take personnel actions that were avoided before
  • Cut on management

Since, I myself led many restructures, some to accommodate new technology and changes to processes and roles responsibilities and some responding to a CEO demand to cut 10%, 20%, or even 30% of operational costs. Because of my experience in that first restructure, I committed to doing it differently. I believed that transparency, inclusion and opportunities for feedback and training made a difference even if at the end of the day some people lost their role. However, we now overused restructures and squeezed the lemon as much as possible.

Organisational restructuring motivated by cost cutting (and nowadays most are), achieves less and less sustainable long term benefits. It means that in the process, we are breaking the fundamental trust we need for a productive relationship between people and organisations. We embedded a cynical view, even on the few times a restructure was really about a new business model, new ways of working or strategic alignment.

The alternative

When we move forward we have to get away from this overused, usually ineffective method or improving business results. The answer should be in creating agility within an organisation in a way that allows an on-going evolution to teams purpose, roles and responsibilities and even to the size of the organisation. This agility is what is required as a dynamic response to fast-changing conditions.

There are many aspects organisations need to create to achieve agility. However, here are my favourite three ingredients:

Teams

With technologies and competition accelerating, companies plan on shifting to a more flexible organizational model. A popular approach is adopting the concept of agile teams. The idea is that when a new challenge arises, companies using the agile teams approach allow for small teams to form, with the necessary range of skills, to seize the opportunity. Agile teams manage themselves and are fully accountable for what they do. In the not very distant future merging artificial intelligence with real intelligence will allow these smart, dedicated, in-place, and flexible teams of generalists, to direct much larger teams of remote workers and digital humans. This combination of in-person, remote, and digital workers will allow the teams to react quickly to new opportunities and quickly retreat from failures. It is clear why this concept is so attractive. These teams can be the biggest winners in the digital era.

Learning organisation

Learning organisations and the people in them learn constantly from everything they do. Continuous learning is systemically built into the organisation’s DNA and infrastructure. Everyone gets that continuous learning is expected and will be rewarded. To achieve that, communication is open and widespread, people at all levels are included in most communications and it’s assumed everyone “needs to know.” Further, senior leaders show they are learning constantly by communicating what they are learning as they learn; people are rewarded for learning with recognition, growth jobs, promotions and even financial compensation. (most recent example https://www.microsoft.com successfully making the massive shift in mindset from desktop to cloud)

Holacratic governance

Rooted in methods like Holacracy an holacratic governance is a process to support distributed decision making replacing the current way in which decisions making are vested in a management hierarchy.  The principle of holacratic governance are:

  • roles purpose and boundaries are clear and transparent to all
  • a role is fully accountable to deliver to its purpose
  • everyone in the organisation has an equal voice to suggest changes to purpose or boundaries
  • no one has the power to overrule a suggestion unless they can prove certain and real damage to the business.

The principles of holacratic governance are counterintuitive to current management thinking however are critical as part of achieving agility. (most famous example https://www.zappos.com/)

 

If you feel you are constantly being restructured, you are probably right. This method of cost-cutting is overused in most organisations. It is about time to embed true agility for long term sustainable change.

 

@Hadas Wittenberg is a change maker and a Future of Work Enabler

Stop the waste of the latest management fad

When I came out of university in the 90s, it was TQM. Then we moved into BPM and Process Re engineering, followed by six sigma and lean and lately, graduated into scaled Agile. During these many years I learned how to work in and with top down and matrix management, management by objectives and by consensus.  I Experienced the cubical office, the open space hot desking and the mandatory bean bags. I refer to all of these as management fads.

What is a management fad?

I characterize a management fad by the following:

  • Easy to understand by using principles and visual concepts that come with a clear process for management on what to do and how to use
  • Is tailored to answer the current/ latest business world problem: diversification, globalisation, digitalisation, automation, etc.
  • Claims to be universal regardless the industry, culture, size etc. hence “easy” to copy from another company as “best practice”, so you can be as successful as they are.
  • And finally, it is promoted by well recognised management experts that make a lot of money out of it.

It is true, I have been part of that system. Every few years a new promise takes over as the favorite among management consultants and executives. These management fads are usually not “new” rather they wrap century old values of money and control into a “new” something. These fads also come with new jobs.  Like the ISO auditors, Process engineers, Six sigma black belt ninjas, Agile coaches and many others.  All, there to help management ensure the “cut and paste” is done correctly. Fads are not fundamentally wrong, some have profoundly changed companies, for better or for worse. Some even introduced useful ideas that stayed longer than the fad itself. However, fads over promise and under deliver, hence doomed to be replaced by the next ones.

Why do we have these fads?

When I reflect on how come we fall for these repeatedly, I think the answer is management laziness. I can explain. We all know that the world (and business) problems are becoming significantly faster and more complex.  We also know that in most cases it requires us to:

  • Enable multidisciplinary collaboration of passionate and capable people, wanting to achieve something bigger then themselves
  • Learning, course correcting and becoming better at, and staying with it, until the problem is solved
  • Focus on creating value and reducing waste with in context and adaptive approaches

But changing values and behavior, navigating the complexity and needing effort and courage to progress is hard so we go for the fad. Think about it, loosing weight is simple: eat less, exercise more – right? So, how come we have a massive industry, billions of dollars, millions of experts and similar number of books and we are still on a promising trend for obesity? Same with management, we know the principles, but we hope that by buying into the latest we can get a quick fix.

I say to senior management, stop it. There is no one size fit all, there is no method that is better than the other, there is no consultant that knows better than you what your vision is and how to motivate and keep you and your team on track to create,  there is no end date or a magic transformation, and there is no pink pill. There is only a purpose, a desire to learn, and care for the people around you. All with limited resources and hard work.

But…!

If you need external push or specific advice, absolutely, get help. Get a (real) expert, get a good coach, get a useful tool, get a process that works. But own it, cause the change. It is your job and your problem to solve.

 

Hadas is the founder of Adaptive Futures and a future of work enabler.

The secret for thriving organisations

 

 

Recently I discussed with an HR director about helping people to discover their passions and understand how they can use these effectively to create a meaningful and fulfilling work(places). The first reaction was “That sounds very interesting and great for the participants, I am sure we will be interested when we are not as busy as now”. Since busy is the new word for no, we did a bit more digging. So, the second reaction came “But what happens if they all decide that they should resign and do something else? It will be really confusing for the people and we can’t really afford that to happen”. I appreciated this comment, voicing an underlining assumption is a massive step forward. Subsequently, we continued the conversation.

The assumption

This director is not alone.  Centuries of hierarchy and control shaped this underlining assumption. For example, some leaders believe they should care and protect their teams from needing to make stressful decisions. Others assume that knowledge is power. Because they believe that if you want to hold the power you should be very selective about how you share knowledge, else anarchy will happen and you won’t be able to corral the people to do your will. Don’t go as far as the church or the king, look at the latest “transformation”/ “change” programme that you were involved in. What was the level of transparency, frequency and accuracy of information passing the organisation top down, sideways and bottom-up? How much effort was invested in editing the news to ensure work continues? How much time was invested in people creating value vs. waiting to see their fate?

The impact

Yuval Harary in his book, The 21 Lessons For The 21st Century, summarise it as:  “We are now creating tame humans that produce enormous amounts of data and function as very efficient chips in a huge data-processing mechanism, but these data-chips hardly maximise the human potential. Indeed we have no idea what the full human potential is, because we know so little about the human mind. And yet we hardly invest much in exploring the human mind, and instead focus on increasing the speed of our Internet connections and the efficiency of our Big Data algorithms ”

Transformation/change programmes are hard and often fail also because the few try to use their power to push forward the many. But what if we change our assumption about the power of knowledge and the direction of energy and we learn how to enable organisations that attract the energy of the many, their passions and their motivations and use it to thrive forward?.  There are great examples of organisations that already do that (for example Patagonia, Buutzorg and The morning star). The common for all is that all the people involved with these organisations are powerful to do the right things for their organisation to thrive, they are pulled by opportunities to create real value and they will go the extra mile to make that happen. For that, we have to reframe our assumptions about power and control. We have to make sure workers regain the ability to think for themselves, shape their own future and tap into their full potential. The secret for thriving organisations is a simple equation:  PASSIONS + POSITIVELY MOTIVATING CONTEXT = VALUE AND FULFILMENT

What’s next?

I already wrote about the need for individuals finding their Ikigai, organisational purpose, breakthrough values and a higher conscious culture. I think what is missing is a conversation about leaders’ shared accountability to create a better future for all (not just for themselves or their shareholders or the selective few). We have to start investing in creating an environment of self-learners, motivated and powerful individuals. It starts with investing in people and leaders self-awareness and a way to make sense of that awareness for a better future.  Yes of course, some people are comfortable where they are, and some will realise their future is somewhere else. But most with newly acquired awareness will be better equipped to direct their energy instead of wasting it, looking for the opportunities to create value instead of waiting for the instruction manual, channel their energy for thriving, not for power and control games, and help leaders to be clearer on what positively motivate vs what is not.

If you chose to be a leader, you have taken a care accountability. You have to ensure a better future for the people in your care, not by further taming them but rather by ensuring they thrive in the future regardless of the circumstances.

 

 

Note aside: The mentioned HR director agreed to feature in this blog J

 

 

Hadas Wittenberg is a Future of Work enabler and the founder of Adaptive Futures. Adaptive Futures is a sense-making framework for people and organisations reimagining WORK that works.

The reason you don’t recruit the best talents

I found it interesting to read an article on the NZ Herald talking about the industry of personality tests as a way used by organisations to reduce the risk of recruiting the wrong people. (p.s. as opposed to increasing the chance of hiring the best people). It’s unfortunately, supporting my view that the challenge we are facing in New Zealand and elsewhere is a problem of talent waste not shortage. Our fundamental assumptions about work are causing our economy to be stuck on no growth and less pay.

When I arrived in New Zealand 17 years ago I was lucky. I somehow landed an interview on the first week with a hiring manager who was open minded and inclusive. He had no issue to consider someone for a leadership position that had no New Zealand or industry experience and not the best English. If I was not that lucky then and try it today, I would have straggled to even pass the “sophisticated” screening tests.  When later, I asked that person why he thought to hire me, his answer was “ability to demonstrate positive attitude, overcoming hardship and a passion for the task at hand”.

I took that answer as a guiding principle when later looking for people’s potential. However, throughout the years I was surprised to learn what are the common hiring and talent growth strategies and the way it is limiting potential with a set of assumptions that haven’t been tested. The current economy in New Zealand is of very low unemployment rate. This is considered a good problem to have. However, in this economy many of the existing recruitment and talents growth strategies are making organisation’s talents challenges even worse.

Some examples:

Screen for average

Organisations screen based on past skills and personality traits out of a very limited and not in their control pool. Because organisations assume these can limit mistakes. Most organisations recruit the same way: post a job, screen resumes, interview some people, pick whom to hire.  This is hiring for average.  Most top performers are not looking for work precisely because they are top performers, so they won’t be in that pool anyway. Further to that we apply screening as if we had plenty of candidates to select from based on criteria that no one can prove or link to performance. For example, why do we assume that to be an awesome UX designer in a bank requires previous experience in precisely the same job in the banking industry???.

Entrenching biases

Existing practices like Job descriptions and hiring decisions are entrenching biases not just based on gender, age, ethnicity etc. It is now becoming worse by the flooding of personality tests and AI key words, proclaiming to identify a fit with the organisation and the job before you even talk to the person. Most organisations are not really aware of the culture they currently have, and even if they do, not always this is the one they wish to have.  What makes up a person is far more complex than a set of words or letters combination to describe their personality. With a year of research I found no evidence that anyone showed a validated, predictable link between common tests used and performance. All we do is screening out diversity. Even the approach of matching with a model persona designed based on your current top performers is problematic as it ensures more of the same. (There are decades  of validated research about human personality psychology and motivation that are very useful for people to increase self awareness, it is more our understanding of how to use these researches that is the problem).

Filling the gaps

Hiring managers usually compromise on appointments to fill gaps assuming they can fix potential shortcomings with some training. Designing effective training is hard. It has to be personalised, in context, and internalised over a long period of time. In most cases organisations don’t actually know what and how to cause sustained improvement in performance, particularly when considering that a big (even if unknown) part of high performance is influenced by the environment (i.e. the manager, the team, the organisation culture, and the leadership style).  Add to that the commonly held financial point of view of “we don’t expect to invest much in talent growth because we assume people move around anyway”. But what happens if you don’t? I passionately believe in expanding peoples strengths, ensuring every experience is a growth experience. This is a positive sum game, where everyone wins.  Current approach ensures no growth hence flat productivity at best and people do leave, particularly the top performers because they are motivated by personal growth.

No use of data

We would have been better if we actually used data sourced from personality tests and other screening and performance data points to reflect and improve. Currently we still use like/ dislike and personal intuition as the best predictor of future success. Even if data is available, it is used only as supporting material at the beginning. Organisations don’t usually go back to reflect and improve. With a new sense making model , there is a huge opportunity to create new insights and positive actions based on big data derived from knowing people, knowing organisations and knowing performance.

 

To summaries, in my view there is an ever growing industry that is trying to pull the short blanket to cover skills gaps. This industry made not much difference in recent decades to people’s fulfillment or productivity growth. We have to fundamentally challenge our assumptions about work and the relationship between people, organisations and performance and design new strategies for  a different future.

 

@Hadas Wittenberg is a future of work enabler and founder of Adaptive Futures.

Is it time to uncover your core values?

Background

What is motivating one person to jump into a burning building to save someone else’s life? What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late? Or, what is motivating a country to open its borders to global influence?

I was reflecting on these questions for a while, particularly in the context of growth and the challenges people face when trying to achieve personal breakthroughs or organisational culture transformation. I assume that if we can understand and explain these motivations, we can direct our effort to have more, as related to the above examples, selflessness and innovation and less arrogance and decline.

In this post, Inspired by Richard Barrett theory, I present the cultural tipping point via a focus on a set of Breakthrough Values. I use this term in the context of organisational culture transformation. However, I believe the approach is also valid for individuals who want to achieve a breakthrough in their career.

Needs and Values explained

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is probably one of the most popular motivational theories in psychology. Maslow argued that humans are motivated by a hierarchy of needs, organised in five levels from the most basics to the highest. Humans tend to focus on the lower level needs before higher ones. The first four levels are described as Lack needs or External motivators. They drive motivation when they are unmet. While at the fifth level, needs are described as Growth needs or Intrinsic motivators. Where motivation increases the more the needs are fulfilled.

 

Values are intimately linked to our needs. Whatever we currently need, whatever we feel is important to us or what is unmet from our past is what we value. Richard Barrett argues that there are two types of values – positive values that promote growth and create internal cohesion and limiting values that are driven by fears and anxieties and can lead to stress and isolation. He also suggests that it is critical to maintaining a balanced spread of positive values to ensure both growth and grounding capabilities.

An updated model

Going back to the question “What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late?”. It might sound like a counter-intuitive question, as we usually think about motivation as a positive concept. However, the story of Kodak is a famous example. Kodak actually saw the future of digital cameras and that photos could be shared online. However, motivated to continue being the best and dominating the printing market they failed to see that photos shared online ARE the future market. What Kodak was missing might have been valuing courage to change direction and adapting to a totally new world. All humans and organisations are motivated to fulfil the Lack Needs. And while as humans we also have the desire to reach full potential, many of us get stuck, spending excessive effort in a space, where reputation and success are a common concern.

In a previous post, I discussed the fact that the dominating culture across the western world is a culture obsessed with success, defined as “I am great and you are not”. This culture lacks focus on core values that create growth. Latest trends in management consultancy advice are highlighting the need for organisations to adopt values like teamwork, creativity and purpose. However, the move from fulfilling lack needs to growth needs require a breakthrough step to overcome our implicit assumptions and fears.

I suggest that to have a breakthrough toward achieving full potential, organisations should reach a cultural tipping point by adopting and focusing on breakthrough values. Values like Courage, perseverance, accountability, continues learning, and adaptability that enables overcoming fears hence opening the opportunities for growth. These values combined with a balanced set of positive values addressing both Lack and Growth needs will allow organisations to achieve their potential while maintaining feet on the ground and offer stability at times of real crisis.

The below diagram describes the cultural tipping point as an updated version of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

 

 

Nest steps for reaching a cultural tipping point

In order to get on the journey organisations can take the following steps:

  1. Understand the organisation’s actual core values and implicit assumptions using a validated framework or a model. Unfortunately, people are unaware of their culture until it is challenged, until they experience a new culture, or until it is made explicit through a framework or model.
  2. Acknowledge the implicit assumptions that are driving excessive focus on limiting values. Then, reframe to eliminate these from the organisation. Regardless what future culture leadership might want to create, reducing the negative effect of limiting values is critical.
  3. Prioritise focus on breakthrough values; define the set of behaviours that are demonstrated through these values;  and, take the first step in making decisions based on these values.
  4. Once an organisation is able to understand how values, implicit assumptions and culture are all linked together to enable performance and embedded its set breakthrough values, it can move to embrace a future set of values for continues growth.

 

@Hadas Wittenberg is a Future of Work enabler and founder of Adaptive-Futures. Hadas helps organisations and individuals’ growth through reimagining work.

References:

Kim S Cameron, Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, Third Edition: Based on the Competing Values Framework 3rd Edition

Richard Barrett, Values-driven organization, 2nd Edition

Saul Mclaud, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

“MasterChef” – 8 key lessons to take away

I don’t watch most “reality” shows.  I often find that these programmes exploit human weaknesses as a way to make cheap entertainment. However, I take an exception with MasterChef (the Australian version). I love good food and appreciate the creativity, innovation and mastery that go into making a master chef dish. Even more than that, I am inspired by how the show is able to create a space for ordinary cooks to bring their whole selves into this experience. It is a space where everyone is given an equal opportunity to show their skills, learn and grow. It is also a space that defines winning when someone is able to combine their passion and ongoing learning with giving it all to be better than their last dish.

So on that very serious note,  here is what I took from MasterChef that you might be to take out from the kitchen and into your work life.

Learning from the To be Chefs

1. The courage to experiment

The strong players of the show are the ones that have a passion and mastered some type of dishes and techniques and can use these strengths as often as possible. But the winners are the ones that also always take some risks and try new combinations or a new way of doing things. The great players know that taking a risk can be the difference between moving to the next phase or going into elimination.

2. Achieve growth by competing to be better than your last dish

The best players are the people who stay focus on their own dishes, learn from their own mistakes and push themselves further. It does not matter how good was your previous dish, you are always judged on your last dish. It is also interesting to see that when you play to outperform your own last dish, it is easy to show generosity toward others. Others being great, does not take away from your own amazing creations.

3. At the same time, be coachable and confident with your own abilities

The show has amazing coaches, people that stand near the competitors, push them almost to their breaking point, challenge them to think differently and never tell what or how to do things. The winners are the ones that listen, take on board what is relevant but are also able, at the same time, to stay focus on their original vision and own instincts.

4. The real winners emerge after the show ends

The winners of the show get a positive nudge into their career as chefs. But it seems that some of the other participants have equally taken the experience as an opportunity to propel their own passions.

Learning from the winning dishes

1. The Ingredients are the base for amazing dishes

The more variety and better quality these ingredients are the better chances you have to create multiple, unique and desirable dishes. The same ingredients can make multiple dishes, all taste and look different. It is critical though to know what combinations work and which will be a culinary disaster. Think about your individual knowledge, skills, abilities and style as the ingredients and the dishes as your unique multiple value propositions.

2. A vision for the final dish

Regardless if you are following a recipe, or creating something totally new, you have to have a vision of how the final dish is going to look and taste like. If you don’t, most likely you will lose too much time trying and failing, so you will run out of time to deliver any dish at all. When you offer your talents to deliver value, you have to be clear what it is that you are actually offering.

3. It’s a science and an art

While knowing the techniques and mastering the cooking is important, the key for the final result is testing and adjusting all the time. Your end results are only as good as your testing sense.
At work, it is not just your own talents and specific work that come into play, the organisation, the team and the customers are all impacting the end result. You have to strive for mastery but you equally need to have the ability to sense and adapt in real time.

4. Looks is important but the taste is the key

How the dish is plated is important because people eat with their eyes first. But it is not enough; if the taste is disappointing there won’t be a second spoon. Having a great CV, a polished pitch or rehearsed interview answers is important when first engaging but it is the true value you create that matter for a sustainable work future.

 

bon appétit

 

Hadas is a Future of Work Enabler

In retrospect – 3 lessons learned on being an Entrepreneur

“Being an entrepreneur is living a meaningful and adventurous life; it requires courage, commitment, and curiosity to learn” Hadas

It has been six months since I created this definition for myself. Many things happened that mixed work and personal life, I had to develop new skills and face new and sometimes uncomfortable realities. In retrospect, it’s definitely shaping to be one of the most interesting adventures I have taken in my career. Here are my top 3 takeaways

Focus

Most of us live a very busy and demanding life: wake up, go to work, deal with the politics, get paid, manage our personal life, go to sleep, wake up and start again. How much of that is really to do with your passion, with your purpose?. I thought I was making the most out of it, and then I got out of the formal job world for a bit and I discovered the power of being single-minded. Focus on one thing.

I spend my days only on the things that matter to me with no purposeless meetings, no meaningless PowerPoints, only work that has value. Being focus enables everything you do to be part of your purpose. This is regardless of whether you are investing your energy with a family member, helping a colleague or developing a product.

I am realistic that my work context may change, but the experience made it very clear to me that focusing only on the things that matter has to be my way of working from now.

Learning and reflection time

I remember a conversation a few years ago with a frustrated executive. Employee engagement results came back and one of the top areas of concerns for the employees was learning and development. It made no sense. The organisation had a sizable training budget and fast-changing work requirements meant people had lots of opportunities to learn something new. True. What people didn’t have was the time for retrospects and no time to embed new knowledge into useful skills before rushed to the next thing. Hence, no real learning and development.

In the last six months, I really got it. There are many hours where I am busy doing something (usually new), researching a new topic or meeting someone. But it is the ability to have the time in between, doing something different that allows for new insights to surface and new learning to become useful.

Grit 

By (my) definition as an Entrepreneur, you innovate to disrupt.  This means that in many cases people might intellectually engage with the need for your product but not for them as they don’t really want to be changed. When you are on your own or part of a small team, this can be daunting.

Grit is one of the qualities we will need more and more in the future. I, for example, am taking one pill of grit a day.  It contains the following ingredients: a reminder of the purpose and why I do what I do, a conviction that this is really going to make a positive difference in the world and a sprinkle of fun. 🙂

“If you want to change the world, start with yourself.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

@Hadas Wittenberg is a future of work enabler and founder of Adaptive-Futures.