Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’
This is the fifth in a series of articles that describe the unique traits of a corporate intrapreneur.
The next three habits, when practiced properly at a corporation, can often lead to the successful delivery of ideas. Idea delivery is characterized by the creation of a product or service that provides value to a customer.
These first stages of delivery occur as part of a technique known as 3-box time management, which is depicted below.
Vijay Govindarajan (VG) is a Professor of International Business at Dartmouth College. He is the author and evangelist of the 3-box strategic approach to corporate innovation. Three-box innovation strategy dictates that the majority of corporate resources should be invested in the Box 1 diagram listed below: Manage the Present. This box represents the continued development of existing products to yield most of a corporation’s revenue. Employees supporting this box focus on existing customers and processes, and they continue to leverage their existing competencies. In essence, this box “funds” the development of innovation within a corporation. Some companies fall into the trap of spending close to 100 percent of their resources in this box.
Vijay advises corporations to allocate portions of their resources to Box 2 and Box 3 as well as tried-and-true Box 1. Box 2 selectively abandons the past by “forgetting” most of what is known about the products built in Box 1, including why they were built and whom they were built to satisfy. This break from tradition enables an innovator to take existing products into completely different markets.
Box 3 is a more radical approach to innovation. It completely ignores current processes and products and prominently targets the future.
The figure below applies this 3-box corporate framework to an intrapreneur’s use of his or her own time (note that the box titles change when applied to an individual).
Intrapreneurs can be most effective when they are delivering products as part of a business unit (as opposed to being a member of a research team in an ivory tower). Why? They often prefer to be in the trenches, where they can be highly productive, visiting customers, and collaborating with others. They are respected within their organizations for doing those very things.
Perhaps their most significant contribution to their business unit’s product line is funding their employment and that of their collaborators. They are squarely positioned in Box 1.
Spending all of their time in one area of expertise does not enable intrapreneurs to achieve success. Their natural curiosity and passion will not allow them to stay in only one place. They practice the discipline of limiting the amount of time they spend in Box 1.
By limiting the amount of time they spend in Box 1, intrapreneurs make time for Box 2 and/or Box 3 activities. They set aside the time to learn about customer issues. They set aside the time to explore adjacent technologies. They regularly meet with experts in adjacent fields and collaborate to dream up ideas of what might be possible. Most importantly, they begin to build out their ideas.
It is worth pointing out the difference between Box 2 and Box 3 intrapreneurial behavior. Box 2 behavior is characterized by Venn diagram innovation. The intrapreneur collaborates in the context of a well-defined customer problem.
Box 3 behavior is characterized by blue sky innovation: taking the initiative to learn new technologies and collaborate without necessarily starting with the context of a defined customer problem. Blue sky innovators may ask themselves and others, “What might this capability be used to do?” Answers to this question can result in breakthrough innovation. It is often the case that breakthrough innovation can be applied to customer problems they don’t yet know they have!
It is a difficult balancing act to regularly spend time outside of Box 1. It takes passion and persistence. But it is the very first step that a new intrapreneur must take to prove his or her worth!
Subsequent steps build on the important ability to manage one’s time well. Please consider subscribing to this blog for a discussion of the next phase of idea delivery: managing one’s visibility.
This is the fourth in a series of articles that describe the unique traits of a corporate intrapreneur.
Productivity is the foundational attribute of an intrapreneur. Initiative is a required next step. Neither of these attributes necessarily results in new ideas, and new ideas are of course an essential part of innovation.
Breakthrough ideas are often generated during the third step, which is depicted below as collaboration.
Intrapreneurs are, by necessity, highly collaborative. The reason they practice Habit #2 (initiative) is because they fully recognize their need for new knowledge. They don’t know all of the problems their current (or future) customers are experiencing, and they lack comprehensive knowledge of an adjacent sphere of technology that just might light an innovative spark of how to solve a problem differently.
To overcome these limitations, intrapreneurs collaborate. Perhaps the best way to illustrate intrapreneurial collaboration is with an actual story.
The e-book Innovate With Influence describes a collaborative effort to produce an idea that translated into multiple billions of dollars of product revenue. The idea was instrumental in giving rise to the adoption of disk array technology by mid-range corporations (one notch below enterprise customers in terms of size).
The idea was originally motivated by the need to solve the most important customer requirement of an information storage system: data integrity. In the 1980s, a new technology known as RAID had arisen. RAID used mathematical techniques to re-create information from failed disk drives. If the math was wrong, the customer would receive corrupt data. Customers wanted RAID because it was faster than any disk technology previously available.
Thousands of lines of new software had to be written to implement RAID. Dozens of failure permutations could impact RAID systems.
How could this software be tested to prove that the math never failed? The intrapreneur in this case was highly productive and an expert in RAID. He had taken the initiative to understand the customer sphere. The diagram below highlights the need for an intrapreneur to find an adjacent technology and collaborate.
In this case, the adjacent technology was a very robust testing framework. This framework already verified data integrity, but it did not have a specific solution for verifying RAID disk arrays. Employees in the two technology spheres collaborated on new functionality that inserted tortuous fault events at every mathematical calculation point. This tool became internally known as the disk array qualifier (DAQ). The resulting disk array, known as CLARiiON®, achieved superior levels of quality that led to well over $12 billion of revenue generation in a 20-year period. The figure below depicts a Venn diagram of the DAQ solution.
These three circles represent the three basic habits of highly effective intrapreneurs. A highly productive employee becomes proficient in a particular expertise (in this case, RAID). The intrapreneur then takes the initiative to identify problems from the customer sphere (data integrity). Initiative spurs the search to find an applicable adjacent sphere (the test framework) and collaborate.
Collaboration between the two technologists yielded an innovative solution: the DAQ.
The next question becomes: how do you deliver upon these new ideas? The answer to this question will become apparent as we continue to work through the steps. Please consider subscribing to this blog for future updates.
“The most important capacity you possess is the capacity to influence other people to change their behavior.”—Joseph Grenny, addressing the 2010 World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall. According to Grenny, all leaders face two key problems:
- What should we do? (A problem of leadership or strategy)
- How do I get everyone to do it? (A problem of influence)
Making the point that most businesses tend to focus on the first point—the strategy—Grenny pointed out the need to spend more time on the second, and devoted the bulk of his address to it. He explained his rationale via a concept he calls Grenny’s Law of Leadership: “There is no strategy so brilliant that people can’t render it worthless.”
While it provided a lighthearted moment, the law also encapsulates a serious reality: that the real challenge for leaders is not in devising strategies, but in influencing people to execute on them. Grenny points out that most people faced with a challenge of influence believe that “one thing will propel change”—whether that’s an incentive, a persuasive argument or simply an order. Throughout his years studying influencers, however—during which he co-authored the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything—Grenny has identified six sources of influence that are crucial for anyone considering that question of how they can influence others to change their behavior. And he stresses that the best influencers manage to tap all six sources at some level:
- Make the undesirable desirable
- Surpass your limits
- Harness peer pressure
- Find strength in numbers
- Design rewards and demand accountability
- Change the environment
Unfortunately, Grenny had rather a lot of information to squeeze into the time allotted him, and he was only able to fully expand on a couple of the points above. Most notably, he suggested that a solution to overcoming the first influence is to “connect people with the human or moral consequences of their actions”—and to do so by “storytelling.” As an example, he pointed to New York uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer, whose focus on customer service is fast becoming the stuff of legend. But Meyer didn’t get his thousands of employees to buy into the concept simply by decree, says Grenny. Rather, he tells stories at company meetings of how exceptional service profoundly impacted the experience of customers at his restaurants, and encourages other employees to make a similar difference.
Grenny also made an illuminating point about the power of social influence. Illustrating this, he discussed an experiment to get more people to pay their taxes in Minnesota. That experiment saw three different messages printed on the top of tax forms, encouraging people to pay—one threatening punishment for non-payment, one telling people where their tax dollars were being spent, and the other thanking people for joining the 80 percent of the population paying their taxes. The message that had the greatest effect? The one that placed a social pressure on people, by suggesting that if they didn’t pay, they’d be in the minority.
While he didn’t have time to focus on any of the other points he raised, Grenny did leave the audience with one striking stat: that those who use six sources of influence to change personal habits (to stop smoking, for example) are four times more likely to succeed. In a business setting—when using the tactics to effect changes at an organizational level—the level of success rises to ten times more likely.
Jim Collins kicked off the 2010 World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall with an address that had the ability to inspire or frighten an audience in equal parts.
The source for both the inspiration and the fear is the same: his belief that we’re heading into a world where there will be “no new normal” but rather a series of unexpected changes. Depending on who you are, that presents either an opportunity or a reason to fear the future—a paradox that relates to one of Collins’ key messages for individual careerists and would-be leaders: that you should spend less time thinking about your career and more time asking how you can be useful.
Collins’ address took in much of his previous findings and research in titles such as Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall. As such, it was a wide-ranging and often fast-paced affair that carried no single takeaway–or at least none that can be condensed into a live blog—on what it takes for individuals and businesses to succeed and then avoid consequent failure. He did, however, offer his audience ten “to do” items that serve as a useful summary of most of his main points, and which have the added advantage of being—for the most part—actionable career items.
- Do your diagnostics: At Collins’ website, there is a free diagnostic tool to self assess how you’re doing against the traits he identified in “Good to Great.”
- Don’t focus on career: Instead, Collins advocates focusing on “building a pocket of greatness” at whatever level/area of the company you happen to be in. Doing that is the key to getting noticed and being given more responsibility.
- Ask if you have the right people in key positions: What percentage of people “on your bus” are the right ones, and what’s your plan for rigorously ensuring you can get it above 90 percent?
- Double the ratio of your questions to statements: Great leaders seek feedback, and don’t assume they know everything. On which note…
- Your first question is: How is our world changing and what are the brutal facts? Do a “brutal facts inventory” and come back to it often.
- Turn off your electronic gadget: Create at least one day of “white space” every 2 weeks. Build in the time to do some disciplined thinking.
- Have the discipline to stop doing things: It’s easy to add things to a To Do list. It’s also unproductive. One method of cutting out things that matter less: rank your priorities with no ties.
- Get inside your personal hedgehog: Collins’ equation for determining what you should be doing with your life involves three elements: finding something you’re passionate about, feel like you’re “genetically encoded” to do and that is “useful in a way society values.” Once you figure that out, you’re a long way towards having a rewarding career.
- Stop doing titles: The right people for key jobs understand that they do not have a job. They have responsibilities. One way to reinforce “job” is titles. One way to reinforce “responsibilities” is by having no titles.
- Spend more time asking how you can be useful
In 2007, when the financial industry was at the brink of collapse, one executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) saw opportunity. Shannon Schuyler, then a member of PwC’s recruitment team, wrote a white paper for company leadership emphasizing that the firm needed someone to reorganize and refine their community initiatives, and give their corporate responsibility a face.
Three months later the job was hers. How did she re-strategize the firm’s hiring policies and recruitment outreach to encompass PwC’s commitment to corporate responsibility?
- For one, having a background in experienced hiring and on campus recruitment helped. She has seen first-hand the gradual evolution of the hiring landscape, where candidate priorities shifted from the best-paid job offer to work/life balance, and today, to a company’s commitment to responsible corporate citizenship. Her experience assured peers that directives coming from the new Corporate Responsibility Leader would be balanced and realistic.
- Secondly, the message from campuses was loud and clear. According to Schuyler, candidates are increasingly asking what the firm is doing to give back to the community, who they donate to, what they do toward the environment, etc. “They want to know how they can get engaged when they start. They want to know what our strategies are,” she said.
- Finally, she noted, markedly changing business strategies and decision making processes can be a double-edged sword. As her team continues to work on ensuring that new hires are aware and receptive of the company’s commitment from day one, she is also responsible for inculcating a deeper cultural change among current employees. And that is where her real battle lies.
Her observations mirror findings of Vault’s recently concluded Job Hunting in CSR series, where four MBA candidates discussed business school, their career transitions and job hunting, all connected with a commitment to CSR and change management.
For now, Schuyler is focusing on the “life cycle of a student.” Her team is busy redefining the firm’s hiring strategy by shifting their focus from best practices to candidates’ personal journey. “Increasingly, we ask, what are the opportunities? What could we continue to build on as a continuum? Would that really change what their education experience is, and ultimately, their success? It’s not just how you do the equations, but how you’re taking that and making it part of their life.”
–Posted by Aman Singh, Vault’s CSR Editor
Does your company have an HR handbook? Chances are, you’re thinking yes, of course. What about a culture book for employees? Zappos does.
The company, which started by selling shoes a decade ago, is today an Amazon subsidiary and has expanded to a multitude of merchandising. It is also probably one of very few companies to grow its brand around an idea of transparency, ethics and collaborative culture. For Tony Hsieh, cofounder and current CEO of Zappos, this was intentional from Day 1. In his recently released book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose—which I will be reviewing in the coming days on Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company—Hsieh devotes a whole chapter to the Zappos Culture Book.
In short, the book contains employee interpretations of what their company’s culture is all about and how it is different to other companies. And this is no mere PR exercise, designed to make the company look good: all of the entries received were inserted with minimal editing, even when they were anonymously submitted. Of course, Hsieh took a risk; no company is perfect and since culture is perceptional, the initiative could have resulted in a mudslinging session directed at Zappos management.
But it didn’t. While the majority of the entries were positive, not every employee was thrilled with the company’s culture—and that was reflected in the book. Hsieh, as promised, inserted both the criticism and the positive feedback when creating Zappos’ first Culture Book. His aim: To show existing and new employees what working there is all about, including the good, the bad and the ugly. In fact, much to his delight, the book has been downloaded by people who don’t even work at Zappos.
The company produces a new Culture Book every year. For Hsieh it epitomizes the evolution of the company’s brand over its short existence. “We wanted to be as transparent as possible, so we decided that none of the entries would be censored or edited, except for typos. Every edition of our culture book includes both the good and the bad so that people reading the book can get a real sense of what our culture is like. With each edition, it would also be a way of documenting how our culture was evolving over time.”
The idea of a culture book isn’t unique; it is Zappos’ treatment of transparency and accountability as a priority that makes this worth noting. Most companies conduct some form of employee survey to gauge problem points and get feedback on what’s working. However, publishing it without censorship in a publicly available document is what makes Hsieh’s approach sustainable. Even if it isn’t popular in every C-suite.
As a manager, how open are you to engaging your team in positive criticism? With new generations stepping into the workforce every year, ideas are bound to constantly evolve, but are management styles redefining and realigning accordingly? Whether you call it corporate responsibility, sustainability, or something else entirely, it doesn’t need highly designed websites and ad campaigns to work. It can start small: like spearheading a collaborative and transparent workplace culture. But it has to start from the top.
Hsieh puts it succinctly, “Even today, our belief is that our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied.”
In today’s highly skilled work environment, dissent is a no brainer. As college graduation rates continue to climb, they are gradually also redefining work culture. Hierarchies and established ways of doing things are increasingly being tested by a new generation, adept in technology and much more in favor of a work/life balance. Call it the war between the millennials and baby boomers or just yet another realignment of the way we operate in corporate America, life in the cubicle is changing.
Learning to embrace opposition and maneuvering it toward resolution is no easy task. Even in the most modern and youth-centric offices, traditional rules and authority often end up becoming reasons for dissent and fraction. But sometimes all it takes is a different take on the process or eventual conclusion of a project. As an executive, then, how do you handle conflicting ideas from team members?
Keeping in mind that not all offices follow a democracy, here are five ways to ensure your team remains motivated, creative and purposeful.
1) Set the tone for the team and the project: When introducing the project, make the process, the expected conclusion and everyone’s role in it clear. By detailing personal targets as well as specifying individual roles, you will make participation easy as well as achievable and accountable. Also, by spelling out the process, you’re indicating how much participation, engagement and thinking outside the box you really want. Because let’s face it: not every project needs brain surgery and new processes. But what if you’re positive that your idea will succeed and you just need your staff to fall into line? Again, offices aren’t democracies, so just make your idea clear and ensure that everyone understands what you want. You might not receive the Favorite Boss of the Year award, but at least you won’t send mixed signals to the team
2) Talk it out: Despite making goals and the processes clear, sometimes team members–many of whom have been taught that creativity, engagement and leadership give birth to the best ideas–will still go ahead and put forth a proposal that might run counter to yours and propose a different set of outcomes.
You can handle this two ways: a) Invite the employee to present her idea to the team and get collaborative feedback. Hey, after all, two (or three) heads work better than one. Or b) you have a one on one conversation with the employee and demonstrate why you think your proposal has a higher rate of success. If there remains disagreement, chart out the pros and cons, connect the differences in the two proposals and invite dialogue instead of restraining thought. While debates don’t always lead to conclusions, they ensure active engagement and tell your team that their ownership in the project is equally valuable.
3) Test it: If an active debate doesn’t sort out the picture, give her the chance to test it out. Give the employee a fixed time span, the resources and the bandwidth to test out the proposal within a limited test area. By encouraging a practical solution, you’re ensuring engagement, encouraging creative thinking, leadership and respecting their input. As I said, the aim isn’t to prove someone wrong, but to find the most efficient and successful way of completion. Together.
4) Simulate a proposal: Simulation exercises can be useful in resolving team conflicts. Especially if the project is time-sensitive and you need to test out a new theory/proposal of a team member, and don’t have the resources to ensure a proper test. Give the team member a test environment to work with internally and use the results of the simulation, whether that be a closed network meeting, a survey of the contended parties, or a role play within the office, to decide the eventual process. Again, this will keep your team motivated and involved. And nothing breeds respect for the boss and commitment to the company’s success like active engagement.
5) Make it clear: Every executive has a different modus operandi. Make it clear if your prescribed methods are the only way. The autocratic management style still exists in many executive suites and if it is the way you swear by, the least you can do to ensure follow-up and diligent conclusion is to make it clear from the start. Again, no guarantees of team loyalty laurels, but at least you ensure attracting the right kind of talent for your team. Rest assured there remain many today who will kowtow to your ideas and orders without the tiniest objection, so if obedient and hard working employees are your goal, make it clear.