Lean Organisations

The Great Training Robbery

Robbery 123rf.com 53073401_sMuch as I would like to take credit for (what I think is) a catchy headline, it is actually inspired by an October 2016 Harvard Business Review article: “Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to Do About It.” The article justifies the phrase by saying that, globally, companies spent $356 billion on employee training and education in 2015 but are not getting a good return on their investment, as “learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old way of doing things.” If you contributed to that global figure, I suspect you already know that!  

Nevertheless, the “What to do about it” aspect makes the article worth reading. Beware, however, the “leadership training” focus. Its undoubted relevance to leaders ensures it inevitably applies to all organizational training. Any narrower focus, unfortunately, is limiting. As it is, I think it perhaps constrained the writers and led them to omit points that would increase the return on all training investment. Let me share some.  

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Addressing and Mastering “The Issue of Our Time”

It's happening. In the last three weeks alone, Foxconn announced it will replace 60,000 factory workers with robots, a former CEO of McDonald’s said given rising wages, the same would happen throughout their franchises, Walmart announced plans to start testing drones in its warehouses, and Elon Musk predicted fully autonomous car technology would arrive within two years.  

Artifical Intelligence 123rf.com 6383792_sWhether it's worker displacement, the skills gap, youth unemployment, or socio-economic stratification, the impact on society will be staggering. I’ve said it on multiple occasions and believe it even more so every day: creating economic opportunity will be the defining issue of our time.”

Those are the words of Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, taken from his publication of his email to all LinkedIn employees announcing the company’s acquisition by Microsoft. Like Weiner, I am concerned about the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications. Thus I am delighted by his recognition of the phenomenon and its impact. It is undoubtedly the defining issue of our time, not only because of the need to create economic opportunity but because of the dangers inherent in failing to do so effectively. 

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Tension vs. Stress and How to Eliminate One to Avoid the Other

Stress free zone 42646457_sI am reading Brian J Robertson's  book "Holacracy".  As I do it has dawned on me that the reason why command and control management has not been buried – despite longstanding claims that it is dead – is because we have not yet found a model that replaces our hierarchical structures. I know that is rather an embarrassing admission to have to make, but the truth is I had never consciously thought about it in such simple terms before, despite all my efforts to help inter it. I am therefore grateful for the opportunity to reflect on why that has been the case and to develop new ideas that will further the cause. 

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How You Overcome That Great Fear

PASS iStock_000001252419Medium“Fear is the expectation of evil.” I came across and was struck by that definition recently. It came strongly to mind this week when I read a research report about CEOs’ greatest fears. Apparently, for a whopping 64%, the single biggest fear is of disruptive ideas and the impact they might have on their business.   

Thus, according to that definition of fear, business leaders see new ideas as evil. You have to find that incredibly ironic if, like me, you believe:

  • Business exists for the purpose of meeting needs;
  • The more the business meets those needs the better the business will do;
  • Business leaders are responsible for shaping the way the organisation meets those needs.

With that attitude, you might even say that CEOs could be the biggest barriers to change in their organisations.  

If nothing else, that possibility should give you pause to think. As defence you may claim that there is a very big difference between “new ideas” and “disruptive ideas.” Maybe so, but where do you draw the line? How do you distinguish one from the other? More importantly, how do you know that you are not rejecting good ideas that could achieve wonders for your business?

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How the Learning Cycle Fits into Organisational Development

Apparently the achievement of learning induces a chemical reaction within the body that makes the learner feel happy and good about themselves. This past week-end I experienced this for myself. In fact, I got such a ‘buzz’ that I cannot resist sharing what I learned. I hope you experience a similar ‘high’!

It all began with an introduction into Max Boisot’s theories about the learning. Like most people, I was already aware of the distinction between data and information and so the differentiation between information and knowledge was only a small step. Likewise to understand that knowledge has no value until it is put into use. However, the discussion was around why knowledge isn’t always put to use and that is what was so enlightening. The following diagram is my interpretation and helps explain better.

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A misguided idea of leadership: could this be the ultimate leadership mistake?

“Imagine for a minute, a workplace where everyone is aligned with business objectives; where everyone understands the value they contribute; an environment where people actively seek to build mutually beneficial relationships across the organization.”  This invocative opening statement to a newsletter caught my attention because that is precisely the type of workplace that I aspire to help create - and would like to see as universal.  But the next sentence struck me like a blow to the solar plexus.

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Why Every Individual Matters


Representative picture of an engaged employeeMy wife and I love this picture. So much so that, when our son gave it to us after we acquired our ginger cat, we framed it and put it on display. We found it funny, but, more than that, it also seemed true to life, because, when the kitten wanted food, his vociferous demands indicated that he definitely saw himself as a lion!

Yet the picture has a deeper message too. It also conveys the idea that we all have grand aspirations. In fact you could say it is a graphic illustration of an engaged employee! Unfortunately we often seem to forget that – especially in our dealings with other people, and employees in particular. Nobody wants to do a bad job. We all want to be lions. So, are you giving all your employees the chance to be the lion they envisage, or do you keep them as kittens?

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Do You Really Want Contract Workers?

It started before the “Great Recession” but that period of economic history has seen it proliferate even more. Certainly reports suggest the trend of hiring contract workers is growing. Yet it is something you need to think about very carefully.

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What’s Accountability Got To Do With it?

Like most people I have been appalled by the recent report on child sex abuse in Rotherham where, for those that may not be aware of it, over 1400 mostly children, some as young as 11, had been sexually abused over a 16 year period. Shocking though that figure is for a single town, what I find even more shocking are the circumstances that enabled this to take place. What were those in authority doing?    

It seems there were 3 prevalent attitudes that enabled things to develop on the scale they did:-

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Redundancy: When will they ever learn?

It was Bob Dylan who asked the question “When will they ever learn?” Unfortunately, when it comes to redundancy, it seems to still apply: certainly when it comes to large organisations and what you can only call their “readiness for redundancy” – the speed with which they resort to redundancy as a solution to problems.  

This cartoon that I commissioned for “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” remains relevant.

People_as_costs_cartoon

As long as you continue to manage people as costs, rather than as assets, redundancy will always remain an attractive option. Even if redundancy is not a “knee-jerk” reaction to bad performance it certainly can seem like it. At best it reflects badly on management and calls into question their ability – and therefore their right – to oversee a large organisation. Why?

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