Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Bad meetings no more

strategy+business, April 30, 2019

by Theodore Kinni

Aldous Huxley had it wrong. Bad meetings — not mescaline — open the doors of perception. They lull me into a trance. I occasionally surface (did I snore?), murmur agreement (to who knows what), surreptitiously check my phone, and nod off again. If the deep breathing I often hear on conference calls is any clue, I’m not the only one who achieves spiritual transcendence in bad meetings.

The authors of how-to books about meetings never consider the salutary effects of bad ones. Instead, they typically start with an adrenalin-like shot of statistics. Steven Rogelberg, Chancellor’s Professor at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and author of The Surprising Science of Meetings, is no exception to the rule. He offers the usual litany of dismay. There are about 55 million meetings per day in the U.S. alone, and they cost US$1.4 trillion annually, not counting indirect costs such as employee frustration. “Too many meetings” is cited as the top time-waster by 47 percent of U.S. workers.

Nevertheless, Rogelberg doesn’t think that companies should eliminate meetings. “Was the great management guru Peter Drucker correct when he said, ‘Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings, the better’?” Rogelberg asks. “The answer is an emphatic ‘no.’ Abolishing meetings is a false solution. Schedules with too few meetings are associated with substantial risks for employees, leaders, teams, and organizations.” Instead, the author advises breaking the cycle of bad meetings with the application of meeting science.

If anybody has a claim on the role of meeting scientist, it’s Rogelberg. He has been researching meetings using field surveys, laboratory studies, and experiments incorporating planted accomplices for 15 years. In this book, he weaves his findings and the research of others into an evidence-based approach to meetings that is sometimes eye-opening. Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Does your rewards strategy identify and address employee stressors?

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Inside HR, April 23, 2019

by Pete DeBellis

What is the basis for your company’s rewards offerings? For too many companies, it is purely benchmarks – that is, they make rewards decisions based on the rewards being offered by other companies with whom they believe they compete for talent. The problem: companies that follow this approach are left guessing about the desires and stressors of their actual workforce rather than knowing definitively what they want or need. In fact, based on Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of organisations do not feel they know what rewards their employees value.

There’s nothing wrong with benchmarking per se: You should know what rewards your competitors are offering their employees. But that’s only one piece of the rewards puzzle. To optimise a rewards offering, you need to know a lot more about your rewards customers, that is, your company’s employees. Our research at Bersin finds that companies with mature, high-performing rewards functions achieve this by adopting some version of the following 4-step process, which uses the same kinds of surveys that marketers use to understand customers. Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

In praise of the purposeless company

strategy+business, April 18, 2019

by Theodore Kinni

Photograph by Avalon_Studio

These days, my vote for the most misunderstood and misused management concept goes to “corporate purpose.” Back in 1973, the concept was crystal clear to Peter Drucker, who declared with admirable concision in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices: “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.” Since then, however, the definition of corporate purpose has mutated into pretty much any reason for being in business that isn’t explicitly connected to making money.

Business professors Sumantra Ghoshal and Christopher A. Bartlett unbottled this genie in a 1994 article in Harvard Business Review, in which they argued that strategy (“an amoral plan for exploiting commercial opportunity”) wasn’t enough: “A company today is more than just a business. As important repositories of resources and knowledge, companies shoulder a huge responsibility for generating wealth by continuously improving their productivity and competitiveness. Furthermore, their responsibility for defining, creating, and distributing value makes corporations one of society’s principal agents of social change. At the micro level, companies are important forums for social interaction and personal fulfillment.”

Why was a highfalutin corporate purpose seen as such a big deal? IGhoshal, who passed away in 2004, and Bartlett, who is now professor emeritus of business administration at Harvard Business School, concluded that companies had to transform themselves from economic entities to social institutions. They added that the “definition and articulation [of purpose] must be top management’s first responsibility.” Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

We Lead People, Not Cardboard Cutouts

Learned a lot lending an editorial hand here:

Forbes, April 11, 2019

by Michael Gretczko


My wife and I just took our 5-year-old fraternal twins on a skiing vacation. Our daughter is caution incarnate. She likes to ski in a familial caravan — one parent ahead and one behind — and she wants constant feedback about her performance. Our son likes to get a rough idea of the conditions — icy here, snowboarders there — and push off. He doesn’t mind falling and doesn’t particularly care what we think of his performance. It’s astounding how different twins can be.

I’m constantly amazed how my children can uncover insights that allow me to see my role as a leader in a new light. I’m always seeking new ways to create engaged, high-performing teams, and typically, that devolves to some type of employee segmentation, by generation, job description or personality. We’re told that millennials often prefer to work this way, programmers want to work that way, and that Driver and Pioneer Business Chemistry styles want to work yet another way. But if my twins respond best to radically different conditions and parenting styles, can any type of segmentation be granular enough to respond to the individual needs of employees?

I suspect that it can’t. To engage with people on a truly human level — that is, to get beyond the employees-as-interchangeable-assets mindset — we need to be far more responsive to employees as individuals. Read the rest here.

Large businesses don’t have to be lousy innovators

strategy+business, April 11, 2019

by Theodore Kinni

Photograph by Kanchisa Thitisukthanapong

Gary Pisano, author of Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation, doesn’t buy the idea that large enterprises are inherently lousy innovators. Back in 2006, Pisano, the Harry E. Figgie Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, traced the origin of every drug approved by the FDA over a 20-year period to either one of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies or one of the 250 smaller, supposedly more innovative biotechs. When he compared the two groups, he discovered a “statistical dead heat” — R&D productivity was no better in the smaller biotechs than in big pharma.

Pisano also points to anecdotal evidence to support his opposition to the conventional wisdom about innovation in large enterprises. For every big, established company that failed at transformational innovation (think Blockbuster, Kodak, and Polaroid), he points to another that has succeeded. In 1964, when IBM announced its revolutionary 360 mainframe computers, it was already the largest computer company in the world and ranked 18th on the Fortune 500. In 1982, when Monsanto scientists invented the foundational technology for GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the company was 81 years old and number 50 on the Fortune 500. And in 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone, it had sales of US$24 billion and already stood at 123rd on the Fortune 500.

Pisano says that the difference between a Blockbuster and an IBM is the ability of leaders to sustain and rejuvenate the innovation capacity of their companies. It’s an ability he calls “creative construction,” and he writes that it “requires a delicate balance of exploiting existing resources and capabilities without becoming imprisoned by them.”

Walking that tightrope is a challenge for large companies. It’s tough to move the needle with innovation when the needle’s scale is measured in billions of dollars. “For J&J [Johnson & Johnson] to maintain its historical rate of top-line growth,” reports Pisano, “it must generate about $3 billion–$4 billion of new revenue per year.” The complexity of managing innovation in large organizations can also be daunting. “When you get to be the scale of a J&J, you have a lot of moving parts,” he explains. “You now have a system with serious frictions. Friction impedes mobility. Lack of mobility means lack of innovation.”

But large companies also have some advantages that can give them a leg up in innovation. “Larger enterprises like J&J have massive financial resources to explore new opportunities,” says Pisano. They can hedge their bets, tap deep reservoirs of talent, navigate regulatory agencies, and use their huge distribution networks and strong brands to roll out new products to millions of existing customers. Read the rest here.