Showing posts with label Structure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Structure. Show all posts

August 11, 2019

The Humanity of Routine

People are creatures of habit. 

They form routines and function with relative comfort and efficiency within that. 

And for the most part, we can recognize our own patterns in life. 

Get up, brush our teeth, dress, daven (pray), go to work and so on. 

After a while, you can do it mostly in your sleep. 

We sort of become like automatons. 

Flip the switch and we go.

When routine and structure become so rigid that we can no longer improvise or innovate then we have a big problem in higher order functioning. 

But also when we break people's structures and habits, we find that they can quickly lose their sh*t. 

People need to control their time and maintain their patterns of life. 

Therein lies a certain safety and comfort in that repetitive doing.

You know what you're doing--you've done it before, so you can do it again.

If you strip a person of their control over their time and the structure of their behavior, they are truly naked and in much more than a physical sense.  (They articulated this in The Punisher, Season One, on Netflix)

All of a sudden they don't know what to do or how to do it. 

Do they go crazy, breakdown, or tell you everything you want to know. 

Torture is not just physical, but also mental and emotional. 

It is not hard to take away something so simple and a person is no longer a full person anymore. 

People need solid coping as well as survival skills to deal with the unknown.

Finally, appreciate when everything is more or less under control, because that's truly a blessing.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 11, 2018

Teambuilding S-Cubed

Awesome day today with my team at work. 

We had a half-day team building. 

Started off with a Play-Doh exercise where we had to answer things like what we'd like to accomplish as a team in the new year. 

This was my representation with a S-cubed for the new program implementing process improvements and enterprise service management using:

- Strategy

- Structure

- (Customer) Service

We followed up with a great team luncheon and then a game of Monster Mini Golf.

We broke into two teams and one team came in "first place" and the other team were the "winners."

I suppose whenever we genuinely come together as a team to appreciate each other and work collaboratively as a unified whole--greater than the sum of our parts--then we truly all come out as first place winners! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 31, 2016

What Is The Creative Process and Success?


One of my colleagues at work had this hanging on his wall. 

It caught my eye and I thought it was worth sharing.

The creative process (ah, not my style of working, however--I am too much of a planner and worrier): 

1) Work Begins - It starts with, "I have a bright idea" or a "go do" from some other genius. 

2) F*ck Off - Then comes some procrastination and maybe thought process about what you are going to do, but in the meantime, everyone leave me alone to percolate and brew. 

3) Panic - Of sh*t, time is running out, and where the h*ck am I on this project, better get my a*s in gear. 

4) All the work while crying - Hurry, hurry, hurry and get it done. Wa, I feel like such a crybaby and wreck, but I'm going to finish it, I am. 

5) Deadline - Made it by a hair...uh, the whole thing was easy, for me, as pie!

Another thing that I heard this week is that "success is failing to fail."  

Think about that a minute.  ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Toothpaste for Dinner)
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March 3, 2014

Rejuvenate Like A Starfish


Good video on centralization vs. decentralization.

A spider is the model of a centralized organism or organization--cut of the head and the thing is dead. 

But a starfish is the epitome of one that is decentralized--if you cut off one of the arms (it doesn't have a head) of a Blue Linckia starfish, it just grows another one. And if you cut off all five arms, it grows five new starfish. 

So when it comes to organizations, do you want one like a spider, where all power, decision-making, and talent is concentrated at the top, and if you lose your senior executive(s), you've lost the innovation or operational effectiveness of the entire organization (think what happened when Apple lost Steve Jobs as an example)? 

Or do you want to be an organization that is more decentralized (less hierarchical) like the Starfish--where talent is widely dispersed and work is delegated to the many within. Here the organization's very survival is not threatened when something happens at the top or to somebody. 

In most cases, there is no perfect spider or starfish organization, but more of a hybrid model, where some functions (like HR, finance, communications) are centralized and others are decentralized (based on specific business expertise). 

To me the main point here is that an organization is made up of many individuals, and everyone in the organization is valuable; no one person can do everything and we should leverage each person according to their strengths and help them on their weaknesses. This gives each individual and the organization the best chance of rejuvenation and survival. ;-)
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November 15, 2013

Don't Send Parenting To The Cloud

So my youngest daughter is taking her SAT's.

Where did the years go?

As a parent, what's my role in helping her prepare?

With all the new technology out there, you'd think I was just a parental annoyance...yeah, in some ways I am. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, "parents are too tired, too busy--or too mystified to help" with homework. 

And now "digital tutors" are taking their place for about $24 to $45 per hour (and even prorated per minute).

For example, on Tutor.com you can get on-demand tutoring to text chat and do calculations on a shared screen with your kid. 

Tutor.com has about 1,200 tutors, 95% from Bangalore, India staffed by "moonlighting or retired teachers, college professors, or [other] professionals."

Other online resources include Khan Academy with educational videos, Chegg.com with answers to homework problems from 2,500+ textbooks, and StudyBlue.com for sharing "study guides, notes, and flashcards."

While these online tutoring resources can be a huge help for students, I think that parents can still play an important role. 

Recently, my daughter and I have carved out some time every night to sit down at the dining room table with books, scrap papers, and our own flash cards to study, together. 

What I am finding is that this is a really special time for us to bond and sort of be in this SAT rite of passage together, where I can provide emotional support and some structure for the studying.

We also have signed her up for a more formal review class as well as some online resources, but I am glad to be a parent to my children and not rely only on canned cloud solutions.

While I don't know most of the answers and she does--I take that as a good thing. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 5, 2010

Reorganization Best Practices

Sometimes a leader has to consider and implement a reorganization (“reorg”) as this can benefit a organization.

Organizations are not a static environment, but rather are dynamic systems. To survive, organizations must adapt to changes in the external environment and from changing forces within, by reorganizing in ways that improve the organization’s ability to perform.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has a couple of important articles on this topic (the articles are actually in reverse order in the issue):

1) “Change For Change’s Sake” by Vermeulen, Puranam, and Gulati

2) “The Decision-Driven Organization” by Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers

In the first article, the authors assert that “even successful corporations have to shake things up to stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Sometimes, this can be driven by changes in the competitive landscape necessitating that we adapt to meet these head on.
  • At other times, it is because of internal organization dysfunctions such as where: routines are stifling innovation, silos are hampering collaboration, and resources have become entrenched with the powerful few—these will hamper performance and potentially destroy the organization if not disrupted.

In the second article, the authors recommend that reorganizations should focus on better decision-making, i.e. on structures that “improves the organization’s ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors.”

  • Reorgs are seen as necessary for creating the right structure to perform: “Like Generals, they [CEO’s] see their job as putting the right collection of troops in the right place…Nearly half of all CEOs launch a reorg during their first two years on the job.”
  • Results of reorgs are generally poor: According to a Bain and Company study of 57 reorganizations, “fewer than one-third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Most had no affect, and some actually destroyed value.”
  • Start with a “decision audit”: “Instead of beginning a reorg with an analysis of Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats [SWOT], structural changes need to start with what we call a decision audit. The goals of the audit are to understand the set of decisions that are critical to the success of your company’s strategy and to determine the organizational level at which those decision should be made and executed to create the most value.”
  • Align organizational elements to optimize decision-making: Organize assets, capabilities, and structures to “make the essential decisions and get those decisions right more often than not.” Similarly, align “incentives, information flows, and processes with those related to decision-making.”
  • Avoid conducting reorgs that degenerate into turf battles and horse-trading: “Powerful managers grad decision rights they shouldn’t really own while weak ones surrender rights they really should own. [Further,] people end up with responsibilities hat are defined too broadly or too narrowly, given the decision they need to make…without a focus on decisions, these power struggles too often lead too creeping complexity in an organization’s infrastructure.”

In my opinion, reorganizations are likely to be most successful when they have specific goals such as adapting to changes, creating new opportunities, closing gaps, and fixing misalignments. Simply “shaking things up” is not enough reason.

Secondly, aligning the organization around execution is as important as better planning/decision-making. Therefore, we should restructure around two areas—strategy (i.e. planning and decision-making) and operations. For example, in Information Technology, we could restructure and align the organization to improve:

1) Strategy formulation: This involves reorganizing to improve architecture and planning, investment decision-making, project management oversight, customer relationship management, and performance measurement. (Reference: The CIO Support Services Framework)

2) Operational execution: This involves reorganizing to improve IT execution of network and operations, systems lifecycle, information management, and information assurance.

Thirdly, success depends on implementing the reorg with people, funding, and other tangible changes that will help the reorg to meet its goals. This advances it from “redrawing the map” to giving it “the legs” to work on the ground, and is the most exciting stage in seeing the vision be fulfilled.

By reorganizing with specific goals, focusing on better decision-making and execution, and on fully implementing the reorganization with enabling structural and process changes, executives can broadly and deeply impact the performance of the organization for the better.


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February 10, 2010

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Frequently employees face double-bind message in the workplace and these not only impair morale, but also can result in poor decision-making.

One example has to do with whether we should apply tried and true, best practices or be creative and innovative. This manifests when employees bring innovative approaches to the table to solve problems are told, “there’s no reason to recreate the wheel on this.” And then when the employees take the opposing track and try to bring established best practices to bear on problems, they are told disparagingly “ah, that’s just a cookie cutter approach.”

Another example has to do with when and how much to analyze and when to decide, such that when employees are evaluating solutions and they hustle to get a proposal on the table, only to be told they haven’t done enough work or its superficial and they need to go back, “do due diligence, and conduct a more thorough evaluation.” Then when the employees go back to conduct a thorough analysis of alternatives, business case, concept of operations and so on, only to be told, “what is taking you so long? You’re just getting bogged down in analysis paralysis—move on!”

I am sure there are many more examples of this where employees feel like they are in a catch 22, between a rock and a hard place, damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The point is that creating contradictions, throwing nifty clichés at employees, and using that to win points or get your way in the decision process, hurts the organization and the employees that work there.

What the organization needs is not arbitrary decision-making and double-bind messages that shut employees down. Rather, organizations need clearly defined, authoritative, and accountable governance structure, policy, process and roles and responsibilities that open it up to healthy and informed debate and timely decisions. When everyone is working off of the “same sheet of music” and they know what is professionally expected and appropriate to the decision-making process, then using clichés arbitrarily and manipulating the decision-process no longer has a place or is organizationally acceptable.

We can’t rush through decisions just to get what we want, and we can’t bog down decisions with obstacles, just because we’re looking for a different answer.

Sound governance will help resolve this, but also necessary is a leadership committed to changing the game from the traditional power politics and subjective management whim to an organization driven by integrity, truth, and genuine progress based on objective facts, figures, and reason. Of course, changing an organization is not easy and doesn’t happen overnight, but think how proud we can be of our organizations that make this leap to well-founded governance.


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November 8, 2009

Building High Performance Teams

At work, there is almost no greater feeling than being part of a high-performing team, and no worse than being part of a dysfunctional one.

Teams are not, by definition, destined to succeed. In fact more often then not, they will fail unless they have the right mix of people, purpose, process, commitment, training, and of course, leadership—along with the time for it all to jell.

I remember being on a team in one special law enforcement agency that had the “right mix.” The project was both very successful and was written up as a case study, and everything in the project was really fulfilling personally and professionally: from gathering around the whiteboard for creative strategy sessions to the execution of each phase of the project. Now, that is not to say that there were not challenges on the project and on the team—there always are—or you are probably just dreaming rather than really in the office working. But the overall, in the experience, the health of the team was conducive to doing some really cool stuff. When the team is healthy and the project successful, you feel good about getting up in the morning and going to work—an almost priceless experience.

Unfortunately, this team experience was probably more the exception than the rule—as many teams are dysfunctional for one or more reasons. In fact, at the positive team experience that I was described above, my boss used to say, “the stars are all aligned for us.”

The challenge of putting together high-performance teams is described in Harvard Business Review, May 2009, in an article, “Why Teams Don’t Work,” by Diane Coutu.

She states: “Research consistently shows that teams underperform their potential.”

But Coutu explains that this phenomenon of underperformance by teams can be overcome, by following “five basic conditions” as described in “Leading Teams” by J. Richard Hackman (the descriptions of these are my thoughts):

“Teams must be real”—you need the right mix of people: who’s in and who’s out.

“Compelling direction”—teams need a clear purpose: “what they’re supposed to be doing” and is it meaningful.

“Enabling structures”—teams need process: how are things going to get done and by whom.

“Supportive organization”—teams need the commitment of the organization and its leadership: who is championing and sponsoring the team.

“Expert coaching”—you need training: how teams are supposed to behave and produce.

While leadership is not called out specifically, to me it is the “secret sauce” or the glue that holds all the other team enablers together. The skilled leader knows who to put on the team, how to motivate its members to want to succeed, how to structure the group to be productive and effective, how to build and maintain commitment, and how to coach, counsel, mentor, and ensure adequate training and tools for the team members.

One other critical element that Coutu spells out is courage. Team leaders and members need to have the courage to innovate, “ask difficult questions,” to counter various forms of active or passive resistance, and to experiment.

In short, harnessing the strength of a team means bringing out the best in everyone, making sure that the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals offset each other—there is true synergy in working together. In failing teams, everyone might as well stay home. In high-performance teams, the whole team is greater than the sum of its individual members.


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