Improve HR with a Rotational Onboarding Program and Peer-to-Peer Hiring

One important initiative at ING has been a new three-week onboarding program, also inspired by Zappos, that involves every employee spending at least one full week at the new Customer Loyalty Team operations call center taking customer calls. As they move around the key areas of the bank, new employees quickly establish their own informal networks and gain a deeper understanding of the business.

We have … [ Read more ]

“Rule of Two” for Promotions

When George Halvorson was chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, he instituted a “rule of two” to encourage diversity and help avoid the “just like me” bias that’s prevalent in many promotion decisions. For appointments at the VP level and above, Halvorson encouraged leaders to bring three candidates, and no more than two of them could have a similar demographic profile—for example, sex or race. … [ Read more ]

Have Senior Management Work in Customer Service at Least One Day a Year

Kaizen and the whole process of continuous improvement was, and continues to be, a powerful tool at Amazon. That’s partly because for a long time Jeff Bezos has had all of senior management work in customer service at least one day a year. This allowed executives to see events on the front line, to understand the problems that came up, and to help find solutions. … [ Read more ]

Identifying and Bounding Innovation Opportunity Spaces

Fresh, creative insights are invaluable, but in our experience many companies run into difficulty less from a scarcity of new ideas than from the struggle to determine which ideas to support and scale. At bigger companies, this can be particularly problematic during market discontinuities, when supporting the next wave of growth may seem too risky, at least until competitive dynamics force painful changes.

Innovation is inherently … [ Read more ]

Analyze Your Firm’s Jobs and Activities

McKinsey has been investigating the future impact of automation on the workplace. The firm structures its analysis around roughly 2,000 individual work activities and assesses the requirements for each of these activities against 18 different capabilities (see below) that potentially could be automated. Analyzing your own firm’s jobs and activities with a similar framework would not only help plan for future disruptions, but also could … [ Read more ]

Private-Equity Exercise

A useful exercise is to think about the value agenda as though a private-equity firm had just bought your company. What would you be working on if you were trying to triple your value in five years? Answering that question in a really finite way, with dollar values next to ideas and initiatives, is a really good thing to do.

Build Greater Agility Into Your Investment System

One multinational company built greater agility into its incentive system by keeping some investment funds in reserve until the middle of the year, then releasing them for successful initiatives requiring more resources in order to grow. In return for the funding, initiative leaders had to agree to raise their performance targets.

Improve Your Hiring Process

In hiring, what most leaders do is they have a set of criteria, they evaluate a bunch of candidates through interviews and resumes and other information available, and then they make decisions based on their gut. You could actually turn that process into a much more scientific approach, where you lose none of your experience but you add a lot of data.

The way I would … [ Read more ]

Whisper Courses

This reminds me of something our leadership-development team launched last year with behavioral nudging. We created what we call “whisper courses,” which were based on the premise that, as leaders, we have the best intentions yet get so busy and forget to do the many little things that matter so much. I recall us talking about how nice it would be to have this invisible … [ Read more ]

Create a Sales War Room for Better Post-Merger Integration

After a merger, it is a mistake to expect sales reps on their own to address all of the inevitable questions from customers and tactics of competitors. Unfortunately, sales managers are often too preoccupied with integration issues, so the front line is left to its own devices.

To resolve this problem, successful acquirers create a temporary sales war room, or interim leadership group. Led by two … [ Read more ]

New Leader Tip: Learn What Is and Isn’t Working

One of the first things I did when I joined [Philips], in late 2010, was to write an open letter to about 700 people—basically, the group we call the Consumer Lifestyle leadership and a layer below them. I invited them to tell me what they thought was working well in the business and what wasn’t. This gave me a pretty good idea of what was … [ Read more ]

Snowball Sampling: Identifying People with Informal Influence

Employee resistance is the most common reason executives cite for the failure of big organizational-change efforts. Companies need to develop strong change leaders employees know and respect—in other words, people with informal influence. But there’s one problem: finding them. How can company leaders identify those people beforehand to better harness their energy, creativity, and goodwill—and thereby increase the odds of success?

One way we’ve found … [ Read more ]

A Premortem for Contrarian Thinking

“The premortem technique is a sneaky way to get people to do contrarian, devil’s advocate thinking,” explains psychologist Gary Klein. “Before a project starts, say, ‘We’re looking in a crystal ball, and this project has failed; it’s a fiasco. Now, everybody, take two minutes and write down all the reasons why you think the project has failed.”

Take the Pulse of the Room

Ask participants to write down their initial positions, use voting devices, or ask participants for their “balance sheets” of pros and cons. “Frankly, I’m surprised that when you have a reasonably well-informed group it isn’t more common to begin by having everyone write their conclusions on a slip of paper,” remarks Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. “If you don’t do that, the discussion will create an … [ Read more ]

Making Better Investment Decisions

Always ask people making an investment recommendation to present their second-best choice. It’s rarely better than the first. But both might actually be good, and both recommendations of another business unit might not be. Considering just one recommendation from every business unit will deprive you of many investment opportunities you’d get if you asked for two.

Tell Five Stories at Once

We typically see organizational leaders tell two types of stories to inspire their teams. The first, the turnaround story, runs along the lines of “We’re performing below industry standard and must change dramatically to survive—incremental change is not sufficient to attract investors to our underperforming company.” The second, the good-to-great story, goes something like this: “We are capable of far more, given our assets, market … [ Read more ]

Taking a Realistic Approach to Budgeting

Executives at Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil were looking for ways to make it more nimble and more realistic about its goals. So they adopted a new approach to year-end budgeting, which breaks it out into three different sets of numbers. These included targets (“what we want to happen”), forecasting (“what we think will happen, whether we like what we see or not”), and … [ Read more ]

Letting Employees Choose Their Next Assignment

Managers of a product team at Microsoft offered employees the chance to pick their next assignment, rather than having the leaders hand down those decisions. In this case, to retain top talent in a competitive market and to boost employee satisfaction, team leaders pitched their projects to employees, allowing them to evaluate the opportunities and chart their own course. Some managers worried that participants would … [ Read more ]

Adopt Simple Rules to Break the Resource Allocation Status Quo

Simple resource allocation decision rules can help minimize political infighting because they change the burden of proof from the typical default allocation (“what we did last year”) to one that makes it impossible to maintain the status quo. For example, a simple harvesting rule might involve putting a certain percentage of an organization’s portfolio up for sale each year to maintain vibrancy and to cull … [ Read more ]

Avoiding Decision Bias with “Next-Best” Ideas

A technique for avoiding decision bias is to request that managers show more of their cards: some companies, for instance, demand that investment recommendations include alternatives, or “next-best” ideas. This approach is useful not only to calibrate the level of a manager’s risk aversion but also to spot opportunities that a manager might otherwise consider insufficiently safe to present to senior management.