daily dispatches from the management vanguard
We Want Your Vote—And Your Ideas!
As we close out the semifinal round of the HCI Human Capital M-Prize, we wanted to offer up a quick take on each of the entries in the running—and encourage all of you to rate the entries, add your ideas and questions in the comments field.
These contributions are rich with ideas and insights around unleashing passion, inspiring extraordinary contribution, promoting freedom, inviting participation (even from the most unlikely sources), and subverting hierarchal power and control. Dig into these and offer up your own. This is just the beginning of our collective journey in creating organizations that are truly fit for human beings. We want to hear your voice!
The semifinal round ends on February 20th—winners will be announced at the HCI Human Capital Summit in Atlanta on March 8th and here on the MIX.
How to Start a Movement in Your Company
Story by David Choe
An inspiring 3-part narrative of real-world transformation led by an in-the-trenches innovator who unleashed a “swarm of initiative” around an urgent business challenge. Choe, a director of strategy at the $1 billion-firm Tyco Electronics, tells the story of taking on the company’s gridlocked supply chain and the resulting rampant dissatisfaction among customers, the sales team, and operational employees with wave after wave of small-scale experiments focused on bold decision making, fast action, positive recognition, minimal dollar investment—and zero consultants. The result? Remarkable leaps in performance and customer satisfaction—and an awakening of initiative, autonomy, and audacity among employees.
Start with a better question to create a better talent management system: the Talent Management Cloud
Hack by Lisa Haneberg
Management blogger Lisa Haneberg’s ambitious hack takes on conventional talent management systems and sketches out a broad and emergent model for creating the conditions that make people want to stay in an organization and best help them to develop and grow. While most talent management systems focus on retention and development, Haneberg argues they’re trapped in the HR function paradigm and require a fundamental reframing. Her “talent management cloud” offers up a vision of a custom-built, ever-evolving support system.
A Company Run by Self-Managed Teams
Story by Alyson Huntington-Jones
Huntington-Jones, a senior continuous improvement consultant for Masco, a 40,000-person manufacturer of home improvement products, turned an assignment of migrating a business unit toward a “lean culture” into an experiment in overthrowing the traditional hierarchy to unleash democracy and innovation. She recounts in detail a systematic process for transforming a “20th-century hierarchy” into an “accountability-based organization comprised of self-managed teams.” Step one: immerse the team in the best insights and approaches from the world’s most progressive practitioners (including Semco, Whole Foods Market, W.L. Gore).
“Soft” R&D: You don’t have to be a geeky engineer to experience the thrill of inventing
Story by Erika Ilves
As crucial as it is to continually invent and stay ahead of the curve on products and technology, the most sustainable advantage might just derive from relentlessly rethinking and redesigning how we work. Erika Ilves and her former colleagues at Tanberg (the $1 billion Norwegian video conferencing company acquired by Cisco last year) call this “soft R&D.” She recounts the story of a five-year effort to turn work into a “martial art” and employees into “players” with the freedom and responsibility to continually plot new “moves” in sync with an ever-evolving business context. Ilves and her team created a robust process—from a workshop dedicated to developing the “player mindset” to clearly articulating the state-of-the-art for each role inside the company to creating a “lab” for re-inventing how the company leads, sells, partners, and grows—that offers powerful lessons for leaders intent on breaking their people out of the two most limiting “boxes” in business: “my job” and “this is how we do things here.”
Atlassian’s Big Experiment with Performance Reviews
Story by Joris Luijke
Joris Luijke, head of global HR at Australian software company Atlassian, unpacks the company’s ongoing experiment in putting the performance review on review. Luijke and his colleagues not only decided to “rip apart” the obligatory annual time-sink with its dreaded distribution curve, forced rankings, and underwhelming impact—they committed to running their experiment openly and sharing their learnings with the world. Just six months into the process, Luijke offers up a compelling blueprint for a lightweight performance review model built on continuous coaching with a strong basis in the science of motivation and engagement—and signature idiosyncratic flourishes (Atlassian’s leading value is “open company, no bullshit”), including monthly one-on-one conversations built around such topics as “Love & Loathe” and “Removing Barriers”).
A True Learning company—free of management
Story by Andres Roberts
Kessels & Smit is a small firm (a 60-person services firm focused on learning and development) with big ideas about organizations and work. Founded on the twin ideas that “management blocks development” while passion is the most powerful motivator, the company is a 30-year experiment in designing work to fit human beings (rather than the other way around). K&S is an organization with no organizational structure, no procedures or policies, no hierarchy, and no job descriptions. Individuals are free to pick their own projects, set their own fees, work when and how they want. How does this work? Roberts and his colleagues are constantly evolving new approaches based on three core principles: individual responsibility, self-organization, and high-quality relationships. This story is full of richly-developed, homegrown practices around supporting and developing colleagues when there is no boss (they call it “apple trees”), taking care of critical organizational functions when there are no functional roles (“round tables”), balancing the need to do the work that needs to get done and doing the work you love (“guideline of thirds”), and creating a culture of cooperation and collaboration among independent individuals (K&S Days). Roberts doesn’t present a recipe for revolution so much as a set of powerful principles for building organizations that are fundamentally fit for human beings.
The Tube: IDEO Builds a Collaboration System that Inspires Through Passion
Story by Doug Solomon
Doug Solomon, CTO of celebrated design and innovation firm IDEO, shares the company’s two-year journey to develop a knowledge-sharing system that stimulates and supports collaboration and generates pioneering work. The result: “The Tube”, a system-wide intranet that combines social technologies (blogs, wikis, real-time screen sharing) with HR databases, email, and asset management systems. But more than a collection of technologies, the Tube represents a set of design principles for developing a space in which people are motivated to share their passions and expertise, where they come together in productive communities of passion, and in which teams can learn from each other and build on new themes and directions for the company. Still a work in progress, the Tube represents a state-of-the art collaboration platform that has already yielded real results for IDEO: from the production of thousands of “project pages” sharing all the details and lessons learned from the firm’s client work to 55,000 wiki pages on diverse topics to more than 40 special-interest blogs to the development of an important new direction for the company via an employee-formed “social impact” group. In a landscape littered with failed corporate intranets and flavor-of-the-month technology, how do you build a system that people not only use but leverage in unexpected ways? Solomon offers one simple (but not easy) lesson: “balance technological possibilities with behavioral realities.”
Bonus Fund: Empower Employees to fund initiatives with company-matched bonus money
Hack by Kartik Subbarao
The practice of sanctioned “free time” to devote to passion projects on company time might be one of the most compelling hacks of the traditional job in the last few decades. From 3M’s original PostIt-producing “15% time” to Google’s celebrated 20% time to Atlassian’s “FedEx Days”, organizations of all stripes are responding to the overwhelming demand to carve out what Dan Pink calls “islands of autonomy” for creative, motivated people to work on what moves them. As inspiring and productive as these practices are, the rush to embrace them often leaves out a critical question: how do you fund this development time—and more importantly, create a system for evaluating and supporting the experiments and projects that often emerge? Subbarao’s hack offers a clever answer to that question that addresses crucial motivational and operational issues. His twist? Employees ante up a small contribution out of their annual bonus toward a project they and a requisite number of colleagues are passionate to pursue and the company matches the total contribution. The approach de-politicizes resource allocation, boosts employee engagement—and potentially produces new products, technologies, and directions for the company.
Hack by Steve Todd
Steve Todd, distinguished engineer at EMC, outlines the beginning of a guidebook for incubating intrapreneurs and offers up an ingenious twist on the age-old practice of mentoring. The problem: the standard mentoring scenario pairs a young “hi-pot” with a model corporate citizen with limited time and interest to impart the bad habits and stale assumptions he or she learned climbing the ladder. But what if, instead of learning the ropes, young hires learned to disrupt the status quo? That’s the question at the heart of Todd’s proposal for “innovation mentoring.” He suggests pairing new hires with an organization’s successful intrapreneurs—the individuals who think and work like entrepreneurs, who have earned respect by successfully shepherding dangerous ideas through the corporate maze and inventing new directions for the company, and who could use some hungry, free labor. For companies with a low intrapreneur quotient, Todd introduces his “seven habits of highly effective intrapreneurs” and describes the 27-month pilot program now underway at EMC to test this approach with the company’s engineering new hires.
Restoring Faith in the Institution: How Mission Shaped Communities Revitalized St. Andrews
Story by Drew Williams
Former corporate litigator-turned pastor Drew Williams launches a bold experiment to rethink how to “do church”—and makes real progress in addressing one of the crucial questions of our time: how do you make a once-powerful institution relevant and engaging again? In this story, that institution is the Church of England and Williams approach involved pioneering a radical new management model: replacing hierarchy with communities of passion and unleashing the capabilities of the congregation to make a powerful impact beyond the church walls. Williams’ St. Andrews parish just outside of London suffered from a “back door wider than the front,” with a strong pulpit but disengaged pews.
Williams saw his challenge as one of turning passive followers into active leaders and reframed the church’s mission as one of bringing hope to those outside the building and beyond the congregation. His original “go to them” model of church put Sunday worship and the physical church in the background while foregrounding the creation of small “mission-shaped communities” (MSCs) to unite congregation members in serving people in need outside of the church walls. Williams’ mantra: “low control, high accountability.” The only rule for mission-shaped communities was they must subdivide after growing beyond 50 members—and the expectation was that each would make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Williams’ experiment grew from 12 eager volunteers in December 2003 to 32 full-fledged active MSCs in 2008. Church membership grew from 500 to 1600 in that same period, with 72% of church members serve in an MSC (ranging from after-school clubs for kids to programs for the elderly and homeless to prison services). In the process, Williams has codified some powerful lesson on how to “disorganize” without sacrificing unity, how to stand at the front and lead from the rear, how to sustain morale and momentum during an untested experiment—and how to transform passive followers into active leaders.