Viewing entries in
communication

Comment

Year in Review in Learning - 2018

As I usually do at this time of year, I’ve selected five blog posts from the past year that seem to have had the most interest from readers. With the publication of my new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, I have continued to focus my blog posts on a manager’s role in supporting continuous learning for all employees in the workplace. And I have examined an employee’s responsibility for continuous learning in the Knowledge Economy. But I have also been influenced by current events and what a hostile work environment does to individuals, teams, and organizations. Here are the five blog posts I've selected with a short selection from each.

1) This Is What I Believe About Learning in Organizations

I wrote:

The Purpose of Business is Learning

Yes, the purpose of business is to make a profit, retain customers, be sustainable, satisfy shareholders, and, for some, make a difference in the community. But none of this is possible without learning. At its core, any high performing organization is about learning; continually using new information to become smarter, better, and more effective.

This post was selected by Jane Hart for her 30 Favorite Blog Posts and Articles of 2018. She published the list in her magazine, Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, under the title, “Jane Hart’s Pick of the Year”.

2) This Is What I Believe About Learning in Organizations

eLearningLearning featured another part of this post. eLearningLearning wrote: …let's revisit @sjgill's fascinating dive into the realities of modern #corporatetraining, and the essential nature of a #learningculture.

I wrote:

Work is No Longer Work. The nature of work is changing. This world is one in which humans no longer make things or fix things or sell things or provide basic services. Work has become mind-intensive instead of hand-intensive.

3) Learning in a Managing Minds Company

This post was selected for the “2018 eLearning Learning MVP Awards”. The post is a selection from our new book, Minds at Work. We wrote:

Learning independently. In a company that manages minds, people need to take responsibility for learning what they need to know and do. This means that they need to be aware of what they’re doing now and what they may be called upon to do in the future. They need to know what is relevant for them to learn and be empowered to learn what is necessary today and in preparation for tomorrow. They need to understand that what they learn will help the company meet its business goals. They must be able to develop and maintain their own learning plans and portfolios, and be prepared to act as teachers and mentors for other people in the company. Independent learners are capable of successfully meeting the requirements of learning projects they choose, whether it’s completion and a passing grade, measures of competency, or an actual project deliverable.

Badge-elearning-small

 

 

 

4) Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy – The Podcast

Listen to my conversation with David Grebow and Andi Simon as we explore changes in work, management, and learning. In the podcast, David says:

For the first time in history, in the last 50 years, most people have been using their minds to produce work. We no longer need to manage hands; we have no choice but to restructure our organizations and change our approach to management and learning to reflect this historic change. In this mind-intensive knowledge economy, we must learn to manage minds to get the smartest, most creative, and most innovative results.

Podcast: Stephen_Gill_and_David_Grebow_-_Edited (1)

 

5) Short Course on Evaluation of Training and Learning in Knowledge Economy

I was asked by LAD Global, in partnership with the Singapore Training and Development Association, to make a short course on evaluation of training and learning available online, for free. This blog post announces the course and provides the links.

I explain the purpose of the course:

My emphasis in this course is on using measurement and evaluation for learning. Much of evaluation in organizations today is still focused on formal training programs and limited to Kirkpatrick’s “level one”. LAD course on evaluation In other words, L&D professionals are using “smile sheets” that measure immediate reaction to classroom instruction, collected at the end of training. Of course, we all are curious about what participants think of our programs and us as trainers. Great to know for marketing purposes…But this information is not particularly helpful to the organization.

Comment

5 Comments

This Is What I Believe About Learning in Organizations

Work is No Longer Work 

The nature of work is changing. This world is one in which humans no longer make things or fix things or sell things or provide basic services. Work has become mind-intensive instead of hand-intensive. People are no longer being judged on the basis of how hard they work or how much they produce. Work is no longer about simply doing a job; it’s about becoming adapting to new jobs, new technology, new ways of
working with others, and anticipating the unanticipated. Automation, robotics, and AI are eliminating Brxxto-495156-unsplash tasks that had been mundane, routine, monotonous, and, in some cases, dangerous. Now tasks done by humans are being enhanced by the Internet, providing the collective knowledge of the world at their fingertips. This is a future in which workers are smarter, more agile, and more innovative. The skilled worker today wants a different kind of experience. People realize they need interpersonal skills, creativity, reasoning, and empathy. As globalization increases and communities become more diverse, the competitive advantage of any organization will be its collective knowledge and its expanded expertise. In the past, people tolerated poor work conditions and didn’t expect much from their leaders, but now people want to be treated fairly and respected for their contributions. People want meaningfulness and joyful workplaces.  For all of these reasons, the fundamental nature of work is being transformed. 

 

The Purpose of Business is Learning

Yes, the purpose of business is to make a profit, retain customers, be sustainable, satisfy shareholders, and, for some, make a difference in the community. But none of this is possible without learning. At its core, any high performing organization is about learning; continually using new information to become smarter, better, and more effective. Every industry is faced with disruption, whether it is aviation, health care, manufacturing, mobility, hospitality, retail, education, philanthropy, etc. To survive and thrive today, industries need innovation which is essentially about learning. Innovation is how to use products and services in new ways that rapidly respond to changing market demands and create new products and services. Companies must learn more deeply about their customers and markets. They must learn how to build an organization that becomes increasingly effective in achieving its goals, learn how to use new technology to improve efficiency and safety, and learn how to compete with every new technological and competitive threat. Whether learning how to operate a machine, learning how to make decisions in a team, learning how to function more effectively as an organization, the organization must learn continuously to adapt for success.

 

Training Is Not Learning

Training is not and never has been enough. Organizations waste billions of dollars per year on training. Data indicates that less than 20% of participants apply learning from formal training programs. Unfortunately, companies continue to spend most of their employee development budget and most of their time and effort on training programs and systems tracking training activities. Companies continue to emphasize training with little payoff while these programs are more costly and less effective than other kinds of learning interventions. We know that people learn most from their co-workers and from on-the-job experience, yet we invest the most in formal, training programs. Consider the alternatives: just-in-time e-learning (desktop and mobile), coaching, mentoring, simulations, on-demand video, and experiential-learning. And in some situations people might learn best from the workflow, through action-learning conversations, through self-directed experiences, or from apprentice and internship assignments. Traditional, formal training programs are often almost never the best solution to a performance deficit.

 

Manager’s Role is People

The biggest barrier to learning in organizations are the beliefs and attitudes of managers and leaders. If they have a fixed mindset, people are not likely to learn. And if they are not invested in people succeeding, if they worry that they will be “found out”, if they come to work in fear, then managers will prevent other people from learning. Managers are the catalysts and gatekeepers to learning, so if they don’t open that gate, employees will not have access to knowledge. To be effective gatekeepers, managers MUST set expectations for learning, show people how to learn, provide opportunities for learning in the workplace, structure opportunities for application of learning, and communicate feedback for improvement. Managers are key to employee engagement and retention. Managers must be committed to developing people and, in particular, growing future leaders. Managers must learn how to learn and help employees learn how to learn. Learning is always about managers creating an environment of openness and trust among relationships. The most important role of a manager (and leader) is the learning and development of its employees.

 

It’s the Culture

Learning is not the result of a program; it is ingrained in the culture of an organization. A learning culture is expressed in the assumptions, values, environment, and behaviors of the organization. To learn, people must have a growth mindset. Learning must be valued and advocated throughout the organization. Learning must be reflected in the routines and rituals of employees. The physical setting must create an environment that supports learning. Asking questions, giving feedback, and encouraging debate and alternate viewpoints, must be the routine activity of the organization. This is even more powerful when its leaders and managers ask questions, listen deeply, and follow-up with action. Sharing successes and failures are done openly and without disapproval. Employees tell stories to draw lessons and learn from their experiences. Action-learning is essentially part of how people do their work. Managers encourage their direct reports to acquire new knowledge and skills and apply that learning throughout the organization. They advocate for collaboration in teams that promote psychological safety. The work environment is one of respect and trust and transparency. People do not feel harassed, teased, and bullied. They are not ignored and marginalized.  Importantly, people are deeply listened to each other. Feedback is considered an opportunity to develop and grow; an occasion for learning. A learning culture is all of this and more. An organization that is creating and maintaining a learning culture, is truly ready to compete in the world today!

Photo by Brxxto on Unsplash

5 Comments

Comment

Creating a Culture for Learning

Following is an excerpt from our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy (Chapter Seven).

The culture that underpins a managing minds approach must support and encourage an ongoing and collective discovery, sharing, and appli­cation of knowledge and skills at the individual, team, and Minds-at-work-150organization levels. A culture that supports managing minds is a culture of inquiry; an environment in which people feel safe challenging the status quo, taking risks, and enhancing the quality of what they do for customers, themselves, shareholders, and other stakeholders. A company managing minds maintains a culture in which learning how to learn is valued and accepted, and the pursuit of learning is woven into the fabric of organi­zational life.

So how do you really know if you have a company that is manag­ing minds? What are the visible signs? What are the metrics? How do you know if your organization has the DNA that predisposes it to learning? Gary Neilson and Jaime Estupiñán have been studying and writing about organizational DNA for the past 10 years. They explain it this way: “We use the term organizational DNA as a metaphor for the underlying organizational and cultural design factors that define an organization’s personality and determine whether it is strong or weak in executing strategy.”

Using this DNA metaphor, here are 10 principles that determine whether a company is doing what needs to be done to promote and support managing minds. When people behave according to these prin­ciples, the enterprise is predisposed to learning at all levels. The condi­tions exist to be able to manage minds, not just hands. As you review the items, ask yourself if you are enabling or disabling these principles:

  1. Leaders support learning. The message from the CEO, senior executives, and other key thought leaders in the organization is that continuous learning by individuals, teams, and the organization is not only valued but expected. Leaders communicate that learning can happen in many different ways: face-to-face and online instruction, push training and pull learning, on-the-job activities, and social interaction. Leaders say and do things that are visibly aligned with this value.
  2. Managers take responsibility for managing minds. Managers encourage their direct reports to acquire new knowledge and skills and develop competencies that make them more valuable to the organization. They provide opportunities to learn, adopt, adapt, practice, and apply what their employees learned on the job. Managers hold people accountable for learning, and take responsibility for ensuring the growth and development of the people they manage.
  3. The organization hires and promotes learners. Recruiters, other HR staff, and hiring managers ask questions about what applicants have recently learned and look for people who are self-motivated learners. These individuals are always seeking opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills, learn from their successes and failures, take risks for the purpose of learning, and continue to develop themselves. The organization selects new hires and promotes current employees who demonstrate initiative in learning and growing.
  4. Learning is aligned with results. Managers can clearly explain how acquiring specific knowledge and skills will contribute to the success of the organization. It’s not learning for learning’s sake, or learning because “we’ve always done it that way,” but learning because that’s what will help the company achieve its strategic goals.
  5. People have a growth mindset. Executives, managers, and employees believe that they and others can learn and grow within the organization. They believe that this potential is in everyone and can be unleashed by actively giving people the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills. They believe that nobody is fixed in their abilities, that it is human nature to want to enhance competencies and improve performance.
  6. Organizational structure facilitates learning. Information flows freely throughout the organization. Leaders of work units don’t hesitate to communicate with one another, and they provide assistance and peer coaching as needed. People are connected across departments and geography and actively share successes, failures, and lessons learned. Other key stakeholders are brought into important decision-making situations and are respected for their input. Change can be a result of a top-down or bottom-up initiative.
  7. Knowledge management contributes to learning. Information is stored in an easily accessible place (hardcopy or in an LMS database) that can be accessed and used by people to acquire the knowledge they need to be successful in their work. Successes and failures are equally and openly described so people can learn from them. People are constantly creating, identifying, collecting, organizing, sharing, adopting, adapting, and using information to help the company become smarter.
  8. People take risks and experiment. Managers foster this behavior by recognizing the effort and new insights even if the results are unsatisfactory. People are not punished for trying something new. On the contrary, risk taking in the name of doing a better job is encouraged. Failures, as well as successes, are treated as opportunities for learning. People are fearless.
  9. Learning is rewarded. Individuals are recognized and applauded for acquiring new knowledge and skills. When new learning is applied and contributes to improving the performance of the organization, people are rewarded. This reward is not necessarily monetary. What’s important is that the reward is appreciated and reinforces this kind of behavior.
  10. Everyone is reflective. Everyone takes every opportunity to learn. Projects end with an after-action review. Client contacts are immediately examined with the intention of learning and improving those contacts in the future. Tasks, events, processes, and committees are all viewed as opportunities for learning from the past. Everyone actively participates in communities of learning and graduates to be involved in communities of practice. People are continually reflecting on what they can learn from what they are doing, what they did well, what could be done better, what was accomplished, and how it made the company a smarter organization. There are no giant egos that need to be the final arbiter for all important decisions and, regardless of outcomes or reality, must always be right, blaming everyone else for any failures. In a reflective environment, no one is ever thrown under the bus.

In a managing minds culture, these 10 principles are apparent in the stated values of the organization, and those stated values are aligned with the values in use. In other words, these values are not only written and spoken, but also evident in employees’ day-to-day behavior.

Comment

Comment

Reprise: Training Will Not Eliminate Racist Behavior in Starbucks

In a letter that Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of Starbucks, published in today's New York Times, he describes what his stores and offices will be doing this afternoon to address the problem of racial bias in the company:  

More than 175,000 Starbucks partners (that's what we call our employees) will be sharing life experiences, hearing from others, listening to experts, reflecting on the realities of bias in our society and talking about how all of us create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong - because they do. This conversation will continue at our company and become part of how we train all of our partners.

Again, I commend Starbucks for attacking the problem but I continue to have my doubts about the long term effects of their approach. On April 19, 2018, I wrote about these concerns. That blog post is repeated here:

 

In response to a racially charged incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia that resulted in the unnecessary Clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash arrests of two black males waiting for a friend, the company has announced that it will “…close more than 8,000 of its stores on May 29 to conduct anti-racial bias training for nearly 175,000 employees.”

While this response is commendable, if that’s all Starbucks does to eliminate racism among its staff, it will be a significant waste of time, money, and effort. I understand, putting all of their employees through training is good optics for the company and might provide some protection from lawsuits. But change in the culture requires so much more.

In the wake of the Starbucks incident, The New York Times asks the question, “Can Training Eliminate Biases?” The answer is “no”. Diversity and inclusion in companies is not achieved through a workshop. That’s not how people change behavior. Only culture change can eliminate biases. Training might be a good first step in raising awareness for some, but attitudes and actions must be supported consistently by the entire organization over time. Diversity and inclusion must be rooted in the processes and life of the organization.

As I wrote in a blog post on May 31, 2008 titled, From Diversity to Inclusion and Engagement:

Third Sector New England has, from its nearly five decades of experience, identified the following as key drivers of successful diversity initiatives:

  • A diversity committee/task force, representing all levels of the organization, that regularly communicates with the entire organization
  • Unflinching commitment by the CEO to convey the benefits of organizational diversity to the organization’s mission, vision and values
  • An organization-wide assessment or cultural audit to determine major challenges and barriers
  • Prioritizing those challenges
  • A clear designation of key participants, action steps and timelines to address challenges
  • Skill-building for moving beyond differences to develop an organizational language and culture of inclusiveness
  • Alignment of diversity planning with the organization’s strategic plan, so the former includes an assessment of funding and other resources needed to support the effort
  • A consultant to facilitate developing and implementing a diversity plan
  • Evaluation of progress at regular intervals
  • Reassessment of priorities as needed

In addition to these elements of comprehensive planning, an organizataion has to make some fundamental changes in how it works. Employees need to hear their senior managers talking frequently about diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough that the value of diversity and inclusion is listed on a laminated poster in the employee lounge. This value must be visible in the day-to-day actions of the company. Employees must see diversity in hiring and promotions, as well as among Board members and executives. The ability to accept differences must be in the criteria for hiring. Employees must see evidence that their company partners only with other companies that make a sincere effort at improving diversity and inclusion and eliminating racism. Managers need to step up and take responsibility for creating a welcoming and supportive culture in every part of the organization.  

Managers must recognize that not everyone has the same receptivity to change and act accordingly. Amber Madison has identified four archetypes of diversity and inclusion: the champion; the newbie; the bigot; and the bystander. She suggests that managers address each type differently. I recommend hiring "champions" and "newbies" and avoiding hiring "bigots" and "bystanders" as much as possible.

As we argue in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, managers must help to develop the people around them. And this means eliminating the discrimination that contributes to a hostile work environment. Racism is bad enough, but if there is racism, then there is sexism and antisemitism and antimuslimism and every other kind of discrimination. In addition to the immorality of that kind of workplace, that environment is not conducive to learning and people doing their best work, whether you’re a barista in a store or CEO of the company.

In fairness to Starbucks, a company that I admire, let me say that they are facing the same kind of racism that all companies face and is ingrained in our society. With over 27,000 locations worldwide, it's surprising more incidences of racial bias haven't been reported. But that's not an excuse and the company must do more to ensure that diversity and inclusion permeate its culture. However, training is not the answer.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Comment

Comment

Learning in a Managing Minds Company

Following is an excerpt from our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy (Chapter Two). Minds-at-work-150

The future of how we learn in our organizations is a popular topic. But unless you are responsible for developing, delivering, managing, and measuring training and learning, keeping up with the latest learning technologies can be overwhelming. It’s also irrelevant to the discussion of managing minds.

The training and learning technology discussions miss the point. Unless a company is making a basic change in the way it manages people, the tools will never have an impact on the way people think, act, and grow every day, and they won’t boost performance or drive business results. A company managing hands can buy and use every tool in the training and learning toolbox, but if the use is not mandated or pushed by the organization, if sharing knowledge is not a basic tenet for working, if the knowledge isn’t available anytime and anywhere, if collaboration and communication are absent, if there is no feedback, then the new tools and technologies will not make the company any smarter.

Our approach is to suggest new ways of facilitating learning that fit into managing minds. All L&D tools and technology can be utilized in this context. The three keys to successfully managing minds are essentially the competencies needed to move forward and succeed in the knowledge economy.

  1. Learning independently. In a company that manages minds, people need to take responsibility for learning what they need to know and do. This means that they need to be aware of what they’re doing now and what they may be called upon to do in the future. They need to know what is relevant for them to learn and be empowered to learn what is necessary today and in preparation for tomorrow. They need to understand that what they learn will help the company meet its business goals. They must be able to develop and maintain their own learning plans and portfolios, and be prepared to act as teachers and mentors for other people in the company. Independent learners are capable of successfully meeting the requirements of learning projects they choose, whether it’s completion and a passing grade, measures of competency, or an actual project deliverable.
  2. Learning interactively. Technology is and will continue to be an integral part of managing; people need to use the tools available today, and look for and be willing to adopt any tools developed in the future. This includes knowing the most efficient and effective way to use the technology to communicate and collaborate, as well as being confident enough to interact with the technology in ways that actively provide input to help others learn. For example, smartphones can provide workers with just-in-time information to solve a problem, operate a machine, or collaborate more effectively with an employee.
  3. Learning socially. Being part of the collective group, acting as a dynamic node in an interconnected web of people learning continuously, is also important. To be a successful social learner means being able to empathize and relate to others, communicate effectively, collaborate cooperatively, resolve conflicts, and balance different perspectives and opinions. Much of learning in organizations is social; therefore, it makes sense to be intentional about creating opportunities for people to connect.

These three competencies are how people learn in a company that is successfully managing minds. They differ dramatically from the ways people learned when they were in organizations that managed hands.

Differences Between Managing Hands and Minds:

Managing Hands

Managing Minds

Passive

Active

Dependent

Independent

Fearful

Fearless

Obeying

Challenging

Closed-Minded

Open-Minded

Rigid Roles

Fluid Roles

Conforming

Nonconforming

Not Curious

Curious

Thoughtless

Thoughtful

Unmotivated

Motivated

Following

Leading

Stupid

Smart

This last distinction is not unsupported. André Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, has spent years talking with hundreds of the best and brightest minds to graduate from some of the most prestigious universities. The eye-opening discovery in his 2017 book, The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity, co-authored with Mats Alvesson, was that when people with impressive educational credentials go to work for the most well-known companies in the world, they are asked to turn off their brains. Many of the companies surveyed in the book should be managing minds.

Yet the predominant environment supports—promotes, even—the traits listed on the left side of the list. This is perhaps a result of short-term thinking, in which following the rules, adding regulations without reason, not asking for justification for decisions (especially from self-appointed leaders), not asking questions, and essentially, not thinking for yourself. These managing hands traits can be found in an organization that is obedient, nice, agreeable, harmonious, and seemingly successful in the short term. The problem is the long term. Asking people not to use their minds is simply asking them to ignore personal growth and satisfaction; not pay attention to long-term organizational competitiveness, innovation, and success; and not participate in the improvement and development of society.

Comment

1 Comment

Command-And-Control Leadership is Stifling Your Company

 

Most companies (and governments) today are managed in a command-and-control style of leadership that prevents them from becoming high performing, sustainable organizations. Although command-and-control IMAG0188 is our natural tendency as leaders, we must resist this temptation for the sake of our companies and their employees.  

The command-and-control style of leadership is defined as:

…a style of leadership that uses standards, procedures, and output statistics to regulate the organization. A command and control approach to leadership is authoritative in nature and uses a top-down approach, which fits well in bureaucratic organizations in which privilege and power are vested in senior management. It is founded on, and emphasizes a distinction between, executives on the one hand and workers on the other. It stems from the principles of Frederick Winslow Taylor, and the applications of Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. As more empowered, flat organizations have come to the fore, command and control leaders have been increasingly criticized for stifling creativity and limiting flexibility.

Managers default to a command-and-control style of leadership because it gives them a sense of power and predictability in their organizations. It’s based on a fear that employees, if left unchecked, will make bad decisions and do something that will reflect badly on the company and management (e.g., customer complaints, safety violations, lawsuits) and block the company from being successful (e.g., not achieve sales goals, poor product/service quality, fail to reach revenue targets). Fearful managers believe that they have to tell employees both what to do and how to do their jobs. And they believe that if they create and codify policies and rules for every conceivable situation, they will prevent problems. This is all an illusion.

As we write in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy:

Command and control starts with the decision-making process. When work and workers were still connected to an actual space, lead­ers felt a need to control distributed decision making. When there are many decisions to be made and many hands to manage, command and control gives leaders a sense that they are in charge of decisions, which will not be made without their input and final say. This approach allows them to justify their importance and remind others of their value to the corporation. But the truth is that the people at the top cannot control everything that goes on in a complex organization.

Bosses who promote fear, who are cruel and mistreat employees, who micromanage and don’t allow employees to control their own work, who don’t support the team, who put up roadblocks that make work more difficult for everyone, who fail to recognize the value of the work that people are doing, who act impulsively and make changes without warning, who criticize and ridicule people who fail, who discourage transparency and information sharing across the organization, who give orders without explaining the reason…and, worst of all, don’t develop the people who report to them, will end up with fearful employees who are more worried about survival than doing what they need to do in order to contribute to the success of the company.

Even though much evidence points to the need for a different kind of leadership, managers are reluctant to change. As Ranjay Gulati puts it in an HBR article:

The freedom of the outside world is banging at the corporate door, demanding to come inside. Yet most leaders are still afraid to open it, because they continue to view freedom and frameworks as antagonists in an intense tug-of-war. And since a tug-of-war can have only one winner, they pour their resources into regulating employee behavior. 

Companies need a different kind of leadership. The Corporate Rebels, in a blog post titled “Why the Command-and-Control Mindset is Killing Your Company,” describe the kind of leadership that is needed:

In today’s world, the most engaging organizations are able to thrive because their engaged, empowered and happy employees make the real difference. People desire an inspiring workplace that brings them fulfillment beyond just a monthly salary. And in return they will reward organizations for it. When work is exciting and motivational, people will thrive and organizations will flourish. This is not just our belief, this is the new reality.

Francesca Pick describes the qualities of a leader who can create a work culture in which people thrive:

Stewarding and coordinating rather than commanding,
Holding space and supporting rather than controlling,
Empowering team members to do their best work,
and be their best selves. 

It’s risky to give up control and empower others, especially when we think we know the best way to do things. But the truth is, we don’t have the amount of control that we think we have and it’s not in the best interests of employees and the organization to try to control people’s work. Leaders need to learn how to give employees freedom to do their jobs while, as Gulati writes, “…trusting employees to think and act independently in behalf of the organization.”

Instead of directives, leaders should provide a framework that gives employees a structure that guides them without directives. According to Gulati, this is a framework consisting of purpose, priorities, and principles. As long as everyone in the organization shares the same purpose, priorities, and principles, there is no need for command-and-control leadership.

1 Comment

Comment

Training Will Not Eliminate Racist Behavior In Starbucks

In response to a racially charged incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia that resulted in the unnecessary arrests of two black males waiting for a friend, the company has announced that it will “…close more than Clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash 8,000 of its stores on May 29 to conduct anti-racial bias training for nearly 175,000 employees.”

While this response is commendable, if that’s all Starbucks does to eliminate racism among its staff, it will be a significant waste of time, money, and effort. I understand, putting all of their employees through training is good optics for the company and might provide some protection from lawsuits. But change in the culture requires so much more.

In the wake of the Starbucks incident, The New York Times asks the question, “Can Training Eliminate Biases?” The answer is “no”. Diversity and inclusion in companies is not achieved through a workshop. That’s not how people change behavior. Only culture change can eliminate biases. Training might be a good first step in raising awareness for some, but attitudes and actions must be supported consistently by the entire organization over time. Diversity and inclusion must be rooted in the processes and life of the organization.

As I wrote in a blog post on May 31, 2008 titled, From Diversity to Inclusion and Engagement:

Third Sector New England has, from its nearly five decades of experience, identified the following as key drivers of successful diversity initiatives:

  • A diversity committee/task force, representing all levels of the organization, that regularly communicates with the entire organization
  • Unflinching commitment by the CEO to convey the benefits of organizational diversity to the organization’s mission, vision and values
  • An organization-wide assessment or cultural audit to determine major challenges and barriers
  • Prioritizing those challenges
  • A clear designation of key participants, action steps and timelines to address challenges
  • Skill-building for moving beyond differences to develop an organizational language and culture of inclusiveness
  • Alignment of diversity planning with the organization’s strategic plan, so the former includes an assessment of funding and other resources needed to support the effort
  • A consultant to facilitate developing and implementing a diversity plan
  • Evaluation of progress at regular intervals
  • Reassessment of priorities as needed

In addition to these elements of comprehensive planning, an organizataion has to make some fundamental changes in how it works. Employees need to hear their senior managers talking frequently about diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough that the value of diversity and inclusion is listed on a laminated poster in the employee lounge. This value must be visible in the day-to-day actions of the company. Employees must see diversity in hiring and promotions, as well as among Board members and executives. The ability to accept differences must be in the criteria for hiring. Employees must see evidence that their company partners only with other companies that make a sincere effort at improving diversity and inclusion and eliminating racism. Managers need to step up and take responsibility for creating a welcoming and supportive culture in every part of the organization.  

Managers must recognize that not everyone has the same receptivity to change and act accordingly. Amber Madison has identified four archetypes of diversity and inclusion: the champion; the newbie; the bigot; and the bystander. She suggests that managers address each type differently. I recommend hiring "champions" and "newbies" and avoiding hiring "bigots" and "bystanders" as much as possible.

As we argue in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, managers must help to develop the people around them. And this means eliminating the discrimination that contributes to a hostile work environment. Racism is bad enough, but if there is racism, then there is sexism and antisemitism and antimuslimism and every other kind of discrimination. In addition to the immorality of that kind of workplace, that environment is not conducive to learning and people doing their best work, whether you’re a barista in a store or CEO of the company.

In fairness to Starbucks, a company that I admire, let me say that they are facing the same kind of racism that all companies face and is ingrained in our society. With over 27,000 locations worldwide, it's surprising more incidences of racial bias haven't been reported. But that's not an excuse and the company must do more to ensure that diversity and inclusion permeate its culture. However, training is not the answer.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Comment

Comment

Sexism and Harassment Are Rampant in the Workplace

BRUSSELS — For the first time, a Belgian criminal court has convicted a man of “sexism in the public space,” for verbally abusing a female police officer who tried to question him after he was seen jaywalking.

The New York Times article goes on to explain Belgium’s definition of “sexism” :

Sexism, according to the law, is defined as “every gesture or deed” that is “clearly meant to express contempt of a person based on sex,” or considers a person inferior based on sex, or reduces a person solely to a sexual dimension, and which “gravely affects the dignity of that person as a result.” Violation of the law can lead to a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to €10,000.

Can you imagine if that law was applied to U.S. workplaces. I’m afraid our prisons would be filled to capacity with sexist male managers and our courts would be rolling in fines. It’s my experience that sexism, as defined by Belgian law, is rampant in companies across America.

But don’t take my word for it. The Kapor Center for Social Impact, with the help of Harris Poll, surveyed people who had left jobs in the tech industry. They found that a workplace that tolerated sexual harassment, Kapor-header-logo-1 bullying, stereotyping, microaggressions, and other types of discriminatory behavior, contributed significantly to people leaving these companies. This was particularly true for men and women of color. They found that:

78% of employees reported experiencing some form of unfair behavior or treatment; Women from all backgrounds experienced/observed significantly more unfairness than men and unfairness was more pronounced in tech companies than non-tech companies.

CareerBuilder and The Harris Poll conducted a survey in which 12 percent of all workers (not only tech) reported sexual harassment in the workplace. Given that the percentage of people who actually report these incidents is quite low (28% according to this survey) and that “sexual harassment” is only one form of inappropriate and intimidating behavior, we can assume that the actual number of incidents of these kinds of behaviors is much higher.

The Kapor Center makes the case that discriminatory behavior in the workplace is costly for companies. The Kapor Center estimates that a culture of unfairness and mistreatment costs the tech industry 16 billion dollars per year. That’s just employee turnover costs. They argue that reputational costs should be considered, also. Once the word spreads that a company has a hostile work environment, it is harder to recruit new employees and that reputation affects business partners and customers.No doubt! The Weinstein Company, once a leader in Hollywood movie production, is now apparently in financial free fall, all starting with the revelation of allegations that suggest a culture within the company that tolerated sexual harassment, bullying, and worse.

However, we should also keep in mind that even in workplaces of low turnover, a hostile environment is just plain wrong. Everybody deserves respect. Nobody should come to work fearful. As Rich Sheridan, author of Joy, Inc., says,

...if fear is systematically removed, then people start to feel safe around each other and their leaders. Trust begins to form, and collaboration emerges and finally teamwork. True teamwork, not just an org chart with tee shirts. People gain productivity and quality through collaboration. Then innovation, imagination, invention and creativity emerge. 

The incidents and high profile firings that make the news, are not one-offs. As we can see from the research, discrimination, especially towards women and people of color, can be found in most companies and in every industry. All companies need to take a look in the mirror and take stock of the policies, activities, and manager behavior that could be contributing to a hostile workplace.

Comment

Comment

Managing Minds in the Workplace While Big Brother is Watching

I’m afraid some companies are regressing to the workplace Taylorism of the early 1900s, a time when efficiency became more important than humanity.  In an attempt to increase productivity and lower costs, companies are installing technology that monitors and controls employee behavior. An article in The New York Times describes a patent Amazon has for a wristband that…

…would emit ultrasonic sound pulses and radio transmissions to track where an employee’s hands were in relation to inventory bins, and provide “haptic feedback” to steer the worker toward the correct Mitch-nielsen-69438 bin…The aim, Amazon says in the patent, is to streamline “time consuming” tasks, like responding to  orders and packaging them for speedy delivery. With guidance from a wristband, workers could fill orders faster.

As with other Amazon inventions, this technology may never be used. However, the wristband is symptomatic of an attempt by companies to control employees under the guise of efficiency and safety while ignoring the potentially negative consequences of an Industrial Economy, managing-hands approach to business.

Technologies today can monitor our homes, our cars, our fitness, and our workplace. The security and health assistance they provide is unprecedented. I can know who is burgling my house in real time. I can know if my car is dangerously close to another car as I’m driving. I can know my heart rate and number of steps taken as I exercise. All useful information that can make my life easier, safer, and healthier.

The problem occurs when these same technologies are used to monitor and control behavior in the workplace. Companies will say that they are using these devices to improve work. However, the tools could also be used to spy on employees and collect data about them that violates their privacy. Even if a company has the best of intentions, employees will feel used and abused.

Using technology in this way sends a message to employees that managers don’t trust workers and that failure and mistakes will not be tolerated. The follow-on message, therefore, is that your learning and development are not a priority for the company. This all contributes to a culture in which hands become more important than minds. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it.

This big-brother culture, in addition to being degrading, is not sustainable in the 21rst Century. Employees will become more disengaged than they already are. They will be less likely to take responsibility for their own learning. They will be less likely to contribute significantly to the growth of the company. Instead, we need workers who are free of fear, who are willing to speak up, who are creative problem-solvers, who are committed to achieving the goals of the organization, and who are continuous learners.

In our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, we make a distinction between the managing hands approach to work, typical of the Industrial Economy, and a managing minds approach to work that has taken root in today’s Knowledge Economy. New technology for monitoring and controlling worker behavior, such as the wristband patented by Amazon, are literally about managing hands when workplaces everywhere are desperately in need of managers who manage minds.

Comment

Comment

Independent Learner in the Knowledge Economy

In the Knowledge Economy, people must take responsibility for their own learning. They need to learn how to learn independently and how to learn what they need to know when they need to know it. The world of IMG_2101 work is changing too fast for any worker to remain a passive learner. John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, leading thinkers in technology and learning, write in an article for HBR titled Help Employees Create Knowledge – Not Just Share It:

…when we recognize that the environment around us is rapidly changing, skills have a shorter and shorter half-life. While skills are still necessary for success, the focus should shift to cultivating the underlying capabilities that can accelerate learning so that new skills can be more rapidly acquired. These capabilities include curiosity, critical thinking, willingness to take risk, imagination, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence. If we can develop those learning capabilities, we should be able to rapidly evolve our skill sets in ways that keep us ahead of the game.

A good example of what they are saying is R&D. Not long ago, product prototypes took months to produce, often by an outside fabricator. Now, a skilled worker using a 3D printer can make that prototype in hours. The implications for a company’s innovation and competitiveness are profound. And 3D printers are only going to get better and better. Operators of these advanced 3D printers need to be curious, think critically, be willing to take risks, be creative, and work well with others.

Jane Hart calls this person the “Modern Professional Learner”. She writes:

For Modern Professional Learners, learning is not something that happens just in education or training, but happens in many different ways every day both at work and on the Web. Hence modern learning skills are not just about how to study or take a course online, but how to make the most of all the different experiences and opportunities they seek out and encounter.

However, employees can’t become “modern professional learners” unless their organizations are supportive of independent learning. Support from training and HR departments is necessary but insufficient. L&D professionals can’t keep up with the pace of learning that has to occur on-the-job and in the flow of work. And they can’t continue to support and reinforce that learning over time. The organization as a whole must have an environment that is conducive to independent learning. The major characteristics of that environment include:

  • Leaders and managers who communicate the value that they place on learning
  • Managers who prioritize employee development, i.e., they see this as an important part of their role (we call this "managing minds")
  • An accepted belief that it is okay to take risks and that failure is an opportunity to learn, that people aren’t criticized or punished for trying something that might not have a positive outcome
  • Open, honest, transparent communication throughout the organization
  • Knowledge isn’t hoarded by individuals and departments; knowledge is shared so that everyone is learning
  • All stakeholders are involved in identifying performance goals for individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole
  • Learning and performance feedback and reflection are part of the normal course of work so that everyone is continuously learning from what they do
  • Opportunities for social learning in-person and via social media are embedded in the workday; the physical environment facilitates co-workers connecting and sharing their knowledge and skills
  • Learning is considered work and work is considered learning; work and learning are not separated in the minds of employees and their managers.

Yes, workers today need to learn independently and continuously. However, even with individual ability, this won’t happen unless the culture of the organization removes barriers to learning and supports learning in every aspect of how the organization does its work.

For more on this topic, see our new book Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy published by ATD Press, available now on Amazon.

Comment

Comment

Managing to Learn, Learning to Manage in the Knowledge Economy

BrainHarness the power of employees’ minds! Although many companies pay lip service to the idea that employees are their most valuable asset, they remain stuck in a 20th century mindset in which employees are a liability. In our new book, MINDS AT WORK: Managing for Success in The Knowledge Economy, David Grebow and I lay the foundation for companies to compete in the 21st century knowledge economy by focusing on the incredible potential of empowering and enabling people’s minds.

Companies whose roots lay in the industrial economy in which we used our hands to make things learned to “manage hands,” where success was often measured by the number of widgets that can be cranked out in a set amount of time. Most current management practices, principles and methods for learning were developed in response to the needs of that previous economy. In the knowledge economy, we are working with our mind to produce work, to transform data into information and then into useful knowledge. 

Change happens more rapidly than ever before, and companies need to be agile and responsive to be successful. They need to learn to “manage minds,” where success is measured by employees’ ability to continuously learn, collaborate, communicate and innovate. “There is no way to become the smartest company on the block if you continue managing hands in a world that demands managing minds,” we write. “You can’t solve 21st-century problems using 20th-century solutions.” Grebow adds, “The knowledge economy that caused these problems also contains the solution if you know where to look.”

Continuous learning, and enabling learning anytime and anywhere, is one of the most important attributes of a knowledge economy company. These are the three competencies that are necessary to move forward and successfully compete:

  • Learning independently - In a company that manages minds, managers need to enable people to quickly and easily find the information they need to grow professionally and personally, and people need to take responsibility for learning what they need to know, when and where it is needed. 
  • Learning interactively - Technology is an integral part of managing minds; people need to use the tools available today to learn, communicate and collaborate, and look for and be willing to adopt any new tools developed in the future.
  • Learning socially - Almost all learning in the most successful organizations is social; that is especially true in a company managing minds.  It makes sense for management to be intentional about creating opportunities for people to connect, to enable, and not disable sharing and collaborating.

MINDS AT WORK illustrates these concepts through real-world examples of companies that have made the transition from managing hands to managing minds. It’s not only about small companies and startups, but also large, multi-national conglomerates. AT&T for example is a large company trying to go through the transition. With the first transcontinental line, rotary phone, transatlantic phone service, mobile phone, automated switchboard, and transatlantic phone cable, AT&T was an icon of a company that managed hands. Those hands literally built a telecommunications industry. 

Today, AT&T’s competitors include not only Verizon and Sprint, but Amazon, Netflix, and Google. These new competitors are all about the new digital and cellular technology, and are hard at work employing the minds of the best and brightest in these new fields. The change for AT&T is profound. Copper wires, phone lines, and switching equipment are becoming obsolete, along with the related work skills.

Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chairman and chief executive, knew he had to reinvent the company to compete, to move rapidly from the earlier management model of managing hands to the new approach of managing minds. In 2014, he asked 280,000 employees worldwide to start a retraining program. He had no choice. According to Stephenson, “If we can’t do it, mark my words, [by 2020] we’ll be managing decline.”

Oberg Industries is another example of a large company that is making the transition. Oberg manufactures precision components and tooling from a variety of materials used by Fortune 500 companies and other manufacturers. As the company began to automate and sell into a global market. Donald E. Oberg, the company’s founder, realized that simply managing hands would no longer be effective as the company evolved. He began an apprenticeship program that has become a model for other manufacturing companies worldwide. The values of the program, which has trained more than 1,000 employees, are straightforward and simple: establish a culture of continuous learning for employees, and introduce new employees to the learning culture.

Oberg’s story illustrates the key to this or any major organizational change: it starts at the top. As we say, “The key to success for all knowledge economy companies is whether the company’s leaders, managers and employees can successfully make the shift from managing hands to managing minds.”

Comment

Comment

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Sexual Harassment Has No Place In the Knowledge Economy

The explosion in sexual harassment charges against company executives is a symptom of the dramatic change that is going on in the workplace. This is about much more than a few courageous women standing up to a few misogynist men. We are witnessing a sea change in the way employees relate to their leaders and to each other. The command-and-control, hierarchical, do-as-I-say work environment of the 20th Century industrial economy is giving way to the communication and collaboration workplace of the 21rst Century knowledge economy. Companies will never be the same.

Rapid change due to technology, globalization, competition, and diversity is bringing to light the many failings of traditional workplaces. Disrespecting women—or anyone--has never been right, but the demands of the modern organization are now making this behavior intolerable. 

In our forthcoming book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, David Grebow and Cover 3D I contrast organizations stuck in the “managing hands” environment of the industrial economy with organizations that have a 21rst century, “managing minds” environment. We write:

Companies that are learning to manage minds are focused on being open, transparent organizations in which collaboration and communica­tion are basic operating principles. They believe that sharing knowledge is power, and continuous learning is the key to successfully meeting the challenges of the knowledge economy. Failures are to be learned from and not hidden. Opposing viewpoints and ideas are valued and listened to by everyone in the company. Conversations are open and honest. The hierarchy of roles, and the secrecy and compartmentalization that go with it, has been replaced by the hierarchy of ideas, in which openness is a prerequisite.

In the managing minds workplace, there is no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind — whether it’s based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion, or age.  You must insist that your employees live these values not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it creates a workplace that is happier, more collaborative, and more productive.

Creating and maintaining a harassment-free work culture is not easy given that the default behavior in most organizations is to marginalize and exclude women from power and from the central decision-making processes of the business. Requiring employees to complete a course in diversity does little to change that culture. Leaders (men and women) must model respectful behavior throughout each day, coach people in this behavior on a continuous basis, and discipline people who choose to be disrespectful. Managing for success in the modern workplace means creating and maintaining an environment of inclusion, collaboration, cooperation, and, most of all, mutual respect.

David Grebow and I have written Minds at Work to explain why organizations cannot succeed unless they commit to giving up behaviors that date back a hundred years with ones that are better suited to today’s business realities.

To succeed in the knowledge economy you need the intelligence, commitment, skills, and talents of every one of your employees. You cannot attain that goal if you have female employees working in an environment where they may be intimidated, embarrassed, shamed, or made to believe that their employment is conditional on providing sexual favors.

Comment

Comment

Reprise: Managing Minds, Winning Hearts

We are now in the "Knowledge Economy" which means that we must learn differently than we have in the past. As I wrote in a previous blog post titled, The Manager's Abridged History of Work and Learning

Today, work is more about having a keen mind than it is about having a strong back or skilled hands. This has profound implications for how we manage workers and how we facilitate learning in the workplace.

It no longer makes sense to use formal training as a solution to every performance problem nor to assume that workers will learn everything else they need to know on-the-job from the people around them. Brain-image-picture-clipart-4 Rather, employees need to know how to learn, how to get the knowledge they need when and where they need it, and be accountable for results, not for attending a training program. In a blog post that David Grebow and I wrote for ATD titled, Changing the Way We Manage Learning in the Knowledge Economy, we said:

In the 1920s, the average lifespan of leading U.S. companies was 67 years. By 2013, the average lifespan had dropped to 15 years. The new environment is increasingly aggressive, hypercompetitive, and constantly driven by surprises, innovation and technological changes. And it’s all happening at an unprecedented, increasingly faster pace. We have no choice. We need to stop managing hands and focus on managing minds. 

Human hands are being replaced by robotic hands. And managing robots is not a job that requires hands-on managers. This trend towards automation is not stopping. The book, Impact of Emerging Digital Technologies on Leadership in Global Business, reports that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are likely to be automated. This is will change the nature of work in all industries. Robot hands can now thread a needle. As the steel fingers of automation reach even further and grab more of the work once done by human hands, an almost unimaginable future begins to appear. 

This future is one in which humans no longer need to make things or fix things or sell things or provide basic services. It is a future in which workers will have to be smarter, more agile, and more innovative than ever. As automation and robotics improve, the demand for globalization increases, and communities become more diverse, any organization's competitive advantage will be in its collective knowledge and expertise. This means managing minds. The primary role of managers will be helping the people they supervise to become more competent, capable, and engaged in contributing to the success of the organization.

Comment

Comment

New Corporate Structure for New Economy

Companies are creating new structures that fit their needs and goals rather than falling back on traditional, hierarchical, bureaucratic, and command-and-control configurations. Like families, once dominated by a traditional, husband and wife and children structure and now outnumbered by non-traditional (one parent, extended, same sex parents, etc.) structures, companies are re-thinking how they do their work. Globalization, technology, competition, and a multi-generational and diverse workforce are causing companies to either build a different structure from the start (e.g., WordPress) or transform themselves (e.g., Zappos) from a traditional structure to something more effective for the new economy.

This trend away from a traditional corporate structure has been happening for some time. In his 2016 book, The Vanishing American Corporation, Gerald Davis says “…the number of publicly traded companies in the United States declined by half between 1997 and 2012.” He makes the case that the public corporation has become obsolete. Much of the work that these companies used to do by being vertically integrated can now be done by outsourcing and using contingent workers. And the advantages of staying privately held are now viewed as being greater than the advantages of going public.

Part of this trend is due to the internet and automation. The number of people needed to do the work of corporations has declined dramatically. WordPress, a billion dollar company, needs only 256 people to run the organization. Other internet companies that are more traditional in structure employ many more people. See the following table from a WordPress marketing document.

Wordpress

Companies are beginning to realize that being agile and innovative is more important than being hierarchical and bureaucratic. They are asking themselves, “Given the dynamic, diverse, and competitive environment, how can we structure ourselves to achieve our goals and be prepared for anything that might come at us?” Leaders are realizing that command-and-control, while easy and comforting and familiar, is not the way to develop an agile and innovative workforce.

So, the question becomes, “How can companies prepare people to work in this new environment?” First, they must change their mindset from “managing hands” to “managing minds.” David Grebow and I have written about this in our new book soon to be published by ATD Press titled, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy. We argue that, fundamentally, companies must shift from a pyramid to a circle in their structure.

The pyramid represents Industrial Economy thinking that dates back at least 150 years, when managing hands was the purpose of companies. Today, in this Knowledge Economy, we must be about developing smart people who can learn continuously and are ready for rapid change. So rather than create an organization that puts the CEO at the top, executives in the next layer, and people with less and less influence in layers beneath, we need to create organizations that facilitate communication, collaboration, and cooperation among everyone. This would be an organization that allows everyone to learn continuously and contribute, to the best of their ability, to the quality of the work environment and the success of the business.

Comment

7 Comments

Culture Eats Strategy

(This post is co-authored with David Grebow.)

Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else (New York Times)

To cut costs and boost collaboration, IBM forces some remote workers back into the office (TechRepublic)

Ford signals willingness to change to boost stock price (USA Today)

According to these news stories, three venerable companies are making major changes that they believe will help them move into the future and implement a winning business strategy. This reminds us of the At&twarning attributed to Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If these companies are making these changes to compete in today’s market, or cut costs now, or boost their stock price tomorrow, they are likely to be sadly disappointed in long-term results. Strategy is important, but given the kind of transformation that must happen in preparation for the future, creating an organization that fundamentally changes the way people are managed and learn must be the focus. It’s more about developing the right culture than implementing the right strategy.

One of the questions Corporate Rebels heard frequently from the many business leaders they interviewed is, How do we structure our organization in such a way that it is future proof? How do we create a culture that will be sustainable and successful?  This is the same question that AT&T, IBM, and Ford Motor must be asking themselves.

The answer is to create an organizational culture in which learning is the primary job. This means not only Ibm encouraging people to learn but rewarding them for learning. And rewarding them for working collaboratively, communicating openly, and cooperating with a high degree of trust. People must have access to the knowledge and skills needed when and where they are needed. People must be able to fearlessly practice and apply new knowledge and skills without being punished for failing.

Creating a culture that supports learning also means that management must remove barriers in order to enable and not disable learning. Command-and-control leadership, hierarchies, bureaucracies, secrecy and compartmentalization of information all stop the free flow of information and inhibit learning. There are managers and companies around the workd that are profitably and successfully moving in the direction of eliminating these barriers.

It’s the difference between a culture characterized by “managing hands”, an Industrial Economy mindset developed when we made things and managed hands, and a “managing minds” culture, developed in the Ford_Motor_Company_Logo.svgnew Knowledge Economy, in which we - especially those of you reading this - produce work using our minds. Most companies, like the three giants mentioned in the headlines, are still managing hands. Not surprising since they achieved greatness by making things – telephones, cars, computers - during the Industrial Economy. Their thinking and resources go toward control and efficiency that maximizes production and profits. Much like the automotive assembly line of 100 years ago, people are treated like cogs in a wheel, not respected or promoted for their ability to use their minds to successfully communicate, collaborate, innovate or create.

To compete and survive in today’s global, technological, multi-generational, and diverse marketplace, companies need to focus on helping people develop their minds, and find ways for people to continuously increase their knowledge and skills. Managers must take the lead to make sure that people can get the knowledge and know-how they need as products, services, regulations and business situations rapidly change. And people must learn how to learn in this new environment, and take responsibility for their own learning.

People who work in companies like AT&T, IBM, and Ford, as well as most other companies large and small, are not creating the kind of culture that will prepare them for a fast evolving future. They cannot solve the problems of the 21st century using 20th century solutions. They need to stop managing hands and start managing minds.

 [Look for our forthcoming book from ATD titled, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy.]

 

7 Comments

1 Comment

United Airlines Needs New Approach to Learning

Fly the friendly skies…unless they need your seat. The recent United Airlines debacle which resulted in 69-year-old Dr. David Dao being dragged off a plane to make room for United staff, could have been avoided if Unitedthe company saw its responsibility as “managing minds” instead of “managing hands.”

United, like many other airlines and many companies in other industries, has been stuck in the 20th Century’s industrial economy. This is a command-and-control, hierarchical, risk-avoidance way of working with people. In that world, it’s all about getting the job done, as in making something, fixing something, or moving something, and collecting money for it. In other words, managing hands.

In the current knowledge economy, organizations, especially those that are supposed to be about the comfort and safety of customers, need to focus on what employees think, how they can improve continuously, and what they can contribute to the success of the organization. Companies today need a high level of collaboration, communication, and cooperation. Employees need the freedom to make decisions and do the right thing for customers and for each other. No sense hiring smart employees and then telling them not to think.

United CEO Oscar Munoz’s initial response to the Dr. Dao situation was classic managing-hands. He blamed the customer and then he blamed individual employees. The focus was on following policies and procedures, not doing what’s best for customers. Fortunately for the company, Munoz seems to have come to his senses and now realizes that the culture of the organization is to blame. He has since taken responsibility and acknowledged that the incident was a result of how staff do their work. Washington Post reports:

In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Munoz called the incident “a system failure across the board.” He said outdated policies and procedures, which focused more on operations and logistics than customers put all those involved in “impossible situations.”

This acknowledgement by Munoz of a systems failure is a major step in the right direction. An operational mindset had taken over common sense. Employees believe that they must follow the rules even when the rules are not appropriate or ethical in a particular situation. The airline has the small-print right to remove a passenger to make room for staff who must arrive in another destination by a certain time. However, employees must feel free to ask themselves in each situation if that is the right thing to do.

The ten, policy and procedure changes that United said it will enact over the next year should help. One of those changes should go a long way toward United becoming a more customer-focused company. As reported in USA Today, flight attendants and gate agents will be given much greater authority to address customer problems. USA Today quoted the company:

Rolling out later this year, United will launch a new "in the moment" app for our employees to handle customer issues. This will enable flight attendants (by July) and gate agents (later this year) to compensate customers proactively (with mileage, credit for future flights or other forms of compensation) when a disservice occurs.

This is all well and good but the most important change that needs to occur in United is to shift from managing hands to managing minds. This means developing every employee, creating a trusting and empowering work environment, facilitating collaboration, communication, and cooperation among employees and with other stakeholders, encouraging risk-taking and experimenting as a way to improve, and continuously learning for the betterment of individuals, teams, and the whole organization.

[Look for our forthcoming book from ATD titled, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy]

1 Comment

5 Comments

Learning Ethical Behavior in the Workplace

“We’re no longer asking everybody to do the next thing right; but to do the next right thing.”                   -Dov Seidman

Ethical behavior in the workplace has never been more important, yet companies continue to act as if a workshop or elearning program during onboarding is all an employee needs in order to behave ethically. That Rightwrong might meet the requirements of a regulatory agency, but don’t expect your employees to learn “…to do the next right thing.” A training event, classroom or virtual, is no way to develop ethical behavior in a workforce.

BP’s oil spill. GM’s faulty ignition switches. Takata’s airbag ruptures. Volkswagen’s emissions fraud. Simplicity’s crib deaths. Samsung’s phone fires. Wells Fargo’s customer deception. In each of these cases, somebody knew about the ethical violations long before lives were affected significantly, but company culture at the time either discouraged those individuals from speaking up or motivated leaders to sell products even with the knowledge that the risk of failure and criminal negligence was high. They chose sales and profit over doing the right thing.

I’m sure all of those companies include ethics in their employee training programs and list ethical behavior among the values in their employee handbooks. The problem is not with training compliance; it’s with the way people learn about ethical behavior and the way that behavior is supported by the culture of their companies.

Companies that make ethics a priority, need to be managing minds, not hands. It’s not about getting the task done; it’s about doing the task with integrity. You don’t learn this in a training program, even a highly interactive and gamified program. This means that managers must become facilitators of that learning. People need to learn ethical behavior in the workplace, with all of its ambiguity, tension, pressures, and consequences. People need to be faced with an ethical dilemma and learn from working through that problem in a real life situation, and receive feedback from their managers during the process.

Doing “the next right thing” is also dependent on having a learning culture that supports development of an ethical employee. This is a culture in which managers have the support of corporate leaders who make ethics not only a marketing tag line but also model this value in everything that they do. If leaders are condoning behavior that crosses the line, whether explicitly stated or not, employees will interpret that as permission to behave badly. If the only measure of success is number and amount of sales at the end of the month, people will do whatever they can, ethical or not, to hit those targets. If employees see their male bosses treating women like second-class citizens, they are likely to do the same. We need managers to show employees that ethical behavior in what they say and do every day is an essential aspect of being a successful, respected, 21rst Century company.

5 Comments

1 Comment

Workplace as Learning Lab

Every worker learns differently given the task, content, and circumstances. Yet, we continue to try to educate, train, and develop everyone in the same way. Maybe it’s time to turn our workplaces Innovation lab into learning labs. By experimenting with different methods of learning and evaluating the process and outcomes of these methods in the workplace, we might discover what methods are best for which workers under what circumstances.

Michael Noble, in his post for “Chief Learning Officer” titled, How to Build a Learning and Innovation Performance Lab, suggests that learning professionals should start looking for workplace opportunities to try out new ways of learning. Of course, he recognizes the obstacles. He writes:

The biggest challenges may not be cost, time or talent, but corporate preference for transactional rather than consultative support. With some initiative and determination, both leaders and learning practitioners can move from being learning producers/providers to strategic advisors.

Noble argues that the day-to-day activities of an organization provide opportunities for innovation in learning. The workplace can be a lab for experimenting with new methods of learning and performance improvement. The key is to be intentional about learning from these experiences, to be willing to try new methods and to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.

Saul Kaplan writes about the urgency to focus on learning from innovation in the workplace in his book, The Business Model Innovation Factory: How to Stay Relevant When the World is Changing. He writes:

The real trick is creating a business model innovation factory where technologies and capabilities can be remixed in new combinations to deliver value. The imperative is to do R&D for new business models. Not just concepts on a whiteboard or in a consulting deck, but R&D in the real world to explore the viability of a new business model in real market conditions. Not just tweaks of the current business model, but entirely new ways to create, deliver, and capture value. Organizations need a business model innovation factory to explore new business models unconstrained by the current one.

Substitute “learning model” for “business model” and you can see how you can make the workplace a learning lab. Kaplan recommends experimenting with innovation projects separate from the main business activities but close enough organizationally that effective changes can be easily and quickly adopted by the whole business, government agency, nonprofit, or educational institution. We need to do more of this with learning. That is, create experiments in the workplace to try out new ways of learning fast and learning well.

1 Comment

Comment

Know the Hidden Curriculum of Work

Do you know what you really need to know to be successful in your job? You won’t find it in company training programs, or in an MBA program, or your professional association’s certification workshops. But this learning is more important for survival and success in the workplace over the long term.  

Jesse Sostrin calls this the “hidden curriculum”. In a post titled, The Hidden Curriculum of Work, he writes:

Nobody told you this, but the day you were hired you actually accepted two jobs. The first was the position you interviewed for, including all of the tasks outlined in that job description. The second IMG_1327
“job-within-the-job” included the unspoken, unwritten work that, among other challenges, requires you to manage constant change, collaborate well with others, navigate workplace politics, and get your best work done in an environment of shrinking resources and increasing demands. Nobody trained you to succeed in this hidden work, and you have to learn how to confront its everyday pitfalls. And although you can reach out to trusted colleagues for input, the pace of work and pressure to perform often limit our willingness to reflect, formulate questions, and take the time to seek guidance.

These two elements combined — the challenges of your job-within-the-job plus the need to add value to your organization through continuous learning and performance — represent what I call the hidden curriculum of work.

I think that learning from this "hidden curriculum" requires knowing how to learn. The ability to “reflect, formulate questions, and…seek guidance” has to be developed in people. We shouldn’t assume that employees already know how to learn in this way. Managers need to help their direct reports learn how to learn from the "hidden curriculum." That is, how to receive feedback, how to inquire, how to ask for help, and how to judge the quality and accuracy of information. Being reflective, in the sense of being open and honest about your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to learn, is not something we all do well but is essential to learning in the workplace.

A critical element of learning the hidden curriculum is co-worker and manager involvement. Much of what people need to learn in the workplace they cannot learn alone. They need to share their learning with others and they need feedback to help them assess how well they are doing, what they should keep doing, and what needs to change. You might not need this kind of social learning with the visible curriculum, but it is essential to the "hidden curriculum."

Awareness of the "hidden curriculum" is all that much more important as the rate of change in technology increases, especially artificial intelligence. Alexandra Levit, in an article for The New York Times titled, Thriving in the Robot Workplace, writes:

I think the only way forward is to look at artificial intelligence developments as an opportunity rather than a threat. We need the mind-set that success is no longer about our level of knowledge but about our level of creative intelligence. If we accept the process of lifelong learning, in which we adapt to new ways of working as technology improves, we’ll always find roles that take advantage of our best qualities.

Both Sostrin and Levit are making the point that the workplace is constantly changing from social interactions and technology and, therefore, to be successful in the workplace we need to be continually learning and adapting to the environment around us. And we need leaders that recognize the “hidden curriculum” and this need for life-long learning and provide the conditions and resources to support continuous learning in the workplace.

Comment

Comment

Assessing Your Organizational Learning Culture

To what extent does your organization have a learning culture? Before you take your first step on your journey, know where you are starting. Look around your organization. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What is your current culture?

Using Edgar Schein’s definition of organizational culture, you’ll want to know to what extent:

  • Underlying beliefs and assumptions support learning in your organization
  • Values and principles drive learning in your organization
  • Employees and other stakeholders (suppliers, Board of Directors, customers) see the symbols and artifacts of learning and performance improvement.

Do employees, their teams, and the organization as-a-whole know what they need to learn to be successful? Do they know how to develop these competencies? Do they know how to sustain this learning over time? Do they know how to ensure that learning is applied and makes a difference for the organization?

Tools currently exist that might be helpful in this analysis. Each of these tools is designed according to the Survey images (1) authors’ definition of a learning culture. For example, David Garvin and Amy Edmondson created an assessment tool to look for: a supportive learning environment, concrete learning processes and practices, and leadership behavior that provides reinforcement. I wrote this in a previous blog post about the tool:

As the authors say, the tool should be used for learning, not to judge the quality of an organization. The survey provides feedback for organizational reflection. By collecting the data and then discussing the findings, people must confront critical questions: Does our culture support learning? Do we have every day processes and procedures in place to ensure that learning and change are embedded in the way we work together? Do our top leaders make continuous learning a priority and communicate this throughout the organization? And then, hopefully, leaders will use the answers to these questions to motivate further learning and performance improvement and contribute to developing a learning culture in the process.

Another assessment tool is one created by Marcia Conner which she calls a “learning culture audit”. This tool is used to determine the extent to which an organization is oriented towards learning. She writes:

One way to begin the process of creating a learning culture and to enroll others in the effort is to conduct a learning culture audit. A simple diagnostic can help you assess your organization and your management team’s orientation to learning. An assessment describes the characteristics of cultures that encourage learning and those that block learning.

The dichotomous variables that Conner presents, comparing a “pro-learning culture” to an “anti-learning culture”, are certainly grist for discussion within your organization. For example, one set contrasts the item, “People at all levels ask questions and share stories about successes, failures, and what they have learned”, with the item, “Managers share information on a need-to-know basis…People keep secrets and don’t describe how events really happened.” Responses should stimulate a rich discussion about information sharing in an organization.

Learning to be Great™ has also created a learning-culture assessment tool. This tool is based on a framework that consists of five key elements of learning in organizations: 1) Alignment; 2) Anticipation; 3) Alliance; 4) Application; and 5) Accountability. These are the 5As of a learning culture. Each element is measured by four items in the survey. To fill out the survey and find out how your organization is doing on each “A”, go to the Learning to be Great website.

Whichever assessment tool you use, what’s important is to follow a stakeholder-focused process that results in organizational learning. Jim Stilwell outlines this process in his post titled, “How to Use Feedback from Employee Surveys to Change Organizations.” He writes that the organization survey process..

…works best if senior leadership communicates a compelling need for the survey in advance of sending questionnaires to all or a sample of employees.  As a part of this communication, leaders should clearly define the entire data gathering and feedback process emphasizing the role of employees.  Secondly, the findings from the survey would benefit from validation by key stakeholders – namely those who have provided the survey responses. The data from a survey can always be interpreted in many different ways given organizational circumstances, response rates, respondent demographics, the wording of questions and design of the survey. Thirdly, discussing the findings with groups throughout the organization and at all levels for their interpretation and recommendations leads to a deeper understanding, greater alignment, and vastly better solutions. A fourth important step in the process is for leaders to communicate back to the entire organization what it is that will be done as a result of the insights gained through the survey and all of the group discussions. This communication should clearly define what leaders know now that they didn't know before? What will be changed that will improve the work environment and increase organizational success? Who will be responsible and when will it happen? How will follow-up happen to ensure the success of the changes? 

The data from a survey is only meaningful if it generates a conversation in your organization that contributes to discovering of where you are starting your journey. Any survey of your organization should have as its purpose to learn from each other, to learn about your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and to learn what will improve performance.

Organizational assessment is the GPS of your journey towards a learning culture. It tells you where you are at a point in time. Then you’ll be able to select the best route to your destination: a work environment that supports and encourages the continuous and collective discovery, sharing, and application of knowledge and skills at the individual, team, and whole organization levels in order to achieve the goals of the organization. 

Comment