Companies train people in their computer systems, HR policies, and more. They devote energy to optimizing production lines and supply chains. They invest in innovation workshops. Yet they seem to assume that the ability to effectively lead and participate in meetings is somehow embedded in the human genetic code. Perhaps it seems too basic a skill. However, if any organization adds up the amount of … [ Read more ]
Imagine you are a new CEO, looking at your company with fresh eyes. Ask yourself: What function or resource most constrains our progress? Where would the smallest improvement yield the biggest impact on our business? In other words, you need to identify your “Herbie-group.” Are you limited by how well field staff in sales, operations, or customer support translate new offerings, new markets, or improved … [ Read more ]
There are several tools you can use to develop perceptual acuity for yourself and your organization in this way. One of the most valuable is a simple exercise at the start of any staff meeting. Allocate the first 10 minutes to learn about and discuss anomalies in the external landscape. Ask a different staff member at each meeting to present to the team a structural … [ Read more ]
Every night, Marshall Goldsmith forces himself to do one of the most difficult things imaginable. He has a friend call him and ask the same 22 questions. These questions all start with the phrase, “Did I do my best [today] to,” and the endings may be strategic (“Did I do my best to set clear goals?”), professional (“…preserve all client relationships?”), philosophical (“…be grateful for … [ Read more ]
Collaborating effectively requires helping others. And helping others requires compassion, which in turn means learning about who they are and what they want. So in order to help my clients, at the start of each relationship, I devote two or three hours to asking the following questions:
- What are your proudest accomplishments and biggest disappointments?
- Which activities energize you and which drain you?
- How do other people
… [ Read more ]
Create a safe, open environment that gives employees the confidence to share ideas, failures, and the learning points in between. 3M holds formal meetings called “failure forums,” which gathers together staff who worked on unsuccessful projects to discuss barriers to success. When plastics company W.L. Gore & Associates kills a project, they host a celebration with beer or champagne, just as they would if the … [ Read more ]
Perhaps the biggest challenge for companies seeking to take advantage of its data resources is how few non-IT managers possess robust data skills. A consumer products company addressed this issue by requiring its MBA hires to go through an intensive orientation on data and its use, which includes placing recruits on the data team for some time. This program has enabled the company’s business side … [ Read more ]
At Honda, employees wear white pants and white shirts with their first names embroidered in red on the upper right side. It’s the uniform that every Honda Motor Company employee, whether pipe fitter or president, wears on the job at every factory or office. This is intended to diminish the influence of rank; in the moment-to-moment give-and-take of Honda workers’ daily responsibilities, all points of … [ Read more ]
Organizations can become obsessed with short-term results. But Harvard Business School professor emeritus Michael Beer believes that the intense focus on quarterly results can impair an organization’s ability to create long-term value both for investors and society. By asking about a longer time horizon, you can encourage someone to contemplate issues and unintended consequences that could result from trying only to satisfy one group of … [ Read more ]
Leaders can reduce the risk of losing good people for the wrong reasons by working with them to understand their passions and career goals and serving up challenging assignments that help them grow from where they are to where they would like to go.
Customizing opportunities to each employee requires understanding that person’s goals, motivations, and values. It’s a simple process, but very few … [ Read more ]
Two simple questions can help guide the process of eliminating or rewriting cumbersome policies. First, does the policy protect the organization from violating safety, legal, or regulatory standards? If the policy helps ensure compliance, leaders should still ask themselves if there is a better way to structure the policy to ensure compliance in the most efficient and effective way possible. Second, does the policy help … [ Read more ]
Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges make a strong argument for starting an initiative to kill initiatives in their April 2010 Harvard Business Review article “The Acceleration Trap.” Far too many “walking dead” projects clog capacity in most organizations. Once superfluous activities have been cut, leaders can allocate resources according to the priority of the remaining projects and initiatives. This requires the application of a … [ Read more ]
E. Tory Higgins, the Stanley Schachter Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, argues that one of two states tends to dominate the way we think: a promotion focus or a prevention focus. The basic distinction is really to do with when you’re pursuing goals or making decisions. The promotion state is when you think of your goal as something to accomplish, something to aspire to; … [ Read more ]
“Kill the Stupid Rules” is an exercise that focuses attention on non-essentials that get in everybody’s way. Most stupid rules are enshrined policies that, over time, become “how we do things around here” — that is, part of the culture. Often they’re minor but familiar irritations: expense documentation requirements, IT departments’ blocking of access to useful websites, monthly operating reports that eat up significant amounts … [ Read more ]
“Kill the Company” is an exercise which asks participants to step into their competitors’ shoes and think up a detailed strategy aimed at driving their own company out of business. This is achieved by encouraging people to identify weaknesses in their company — or their business unit or division — and show how a savvy competitor could exploit them. The most useful insights surface when … [ Read more ]
Global manufacturer 3M has collected thousands of reviews and comments from more than a dozen retail sites and mobile apps, as well as Facebook postings, using them to improve marketing campaigns or create new ones. In one case, the company’s Precision Ultra Edge nonstick scissors were selling below expectations. 3M changed its product copy, quoting the language consumers used online (“they’re great for cutting fabric … [ Read more ]
When Chip Bergh was made President and CEO of Levi Strauss, he spent the first month mostly listening. He came up with a set of standard questions: What three things must we preserve? What three things must we change? What do you most hope I will do? What are you most concerned I might do? What advice do you have for me? He sent the … [ Read more ]
HCL delivers detailed financial performance data broken out by business unit regularly to employees’ desktops. This has stimulated employees to ask more questions, volunteer more ideas, and challenge their managers more often. In turn, everyone is making better decisions — the kind of decisions that directly affect the customer’s experience. Similarly, in a bold twist on the 360-degree employee appraisal tool, all appraisals are posted … [ Read more ]
Formerly, when operational people in the business units at Devon Energy did a search for a new employee, HR would hand them a list of candidates. It would be their job to decide which candidates to see and to sell the candidates on Devon.
Now, we in HR sit down with the business leader and talk about the need, and the strategy to fill the need. … [ Read more ]
Several studies have shown that when groups fail to arrive at decisions, it’s often because they devote too much time to finding common ground rather than weighing the pros and cons of what each person is saying. Meetings are especially ineffective when attendees begin by disclosing which way they are leaning; upon voicing an opinion about a decision, people are more likely to ignore information … [ Read more ]