Social media at work – 4 years on!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 28th November 2017

Four years ago, in 2013, I wrote a blog on the ROI for social media for SMEs based on a seminar that I delivered for the Cambridge Network [Social Media – What’s the ROI? Cambridge Network Breakfast Meeting for SMEs].

I conducted a poll before the event, the results of which suggested 3 main benefits of using social media for SMEs:

  • Building ones reputation
  • Making connections
  • Developing knowledge

Three years before that, in 2010 I wrote about the wider relevance of social media to organisations, with a strong emphasis on facilitating knowledge sharing and creating a sense of community. (I referenced communities of practice, and communities of interest.)

This year’s November-December issue of Harvard Business Review carries an article by Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley.  They reference a McKinsey Global Institute study of 4,200 companies of which 72% reported using social media for employee communication.  They also carried out their own research across a range of sectors.  (See reference under the illustration below.)

What managers need to know about social media_HBR Nov-Dec 2017

Illustration from: What managers need to know about social media. Paul Leonardi and Tsedal Neeley. Harvard Business Review November-December 2017, pp. 118-126

Social media tools cited include Yammer, Slack, Chatter, Microsoft Teams, JIRA..

The benefits of social media for organisations

Leonardi and Neeley’s research came up with some additional angles on the benefits of social media:

  • Greater collaboration and sharing of knowledge across silos in an organisation
  • The ability to make faster decisions, and the ability to develop more innovative ideas
  • Enabling employees to become more engaged in work and in the company

The results of their 6-month study with a large financial firm also indicated the value of social media in identifying and being able to get in touch with people with the necessary expertise to meet a business goal.

So, the value of social media still seems to be based around connections, reputation and knowledge, along with feeling part of a community.

It was interesting that the main reasons the authors found for organisations adopting social media were: “other companies are so we should” and “we want to attract young talent”.  Few used a solid business case as their rationale!

Traps and guidelines for social media in the workplace

Finding the right balance of informality / formality in using social media within organisations

Leonardi and Neeley’s research suggests that “millenials” find it harder to adopt social media within organisations than older people do, whereas the assumption is often the other way around.

The reason given for these different levels of comfort is that “millenials” use tools externally for personal reasons – and so can struggle to adopt the right level of informality for use of the tools internally.

However, it is often the informal conversations (around outside interests for example) that can help people to relate to each other – and so open the way to asking for help and sharing knowledge.

Leonardi and Neeley suggest that managers “spell out the rules of conduct”, encouraging and role modelling informal conversations and steering clear of any formal postings.  These rules of conduct would include protecting confidentiality and any regulatory or legally related information.

Clarifying and communicating the purpose of social media in the organisation

Because conversing through social media can be a somewhat gradual process, people might not always recognise that they are gaining new knowledge and learning through it.  The authors suggest that people can gain “meta knowledge” about the go-to people with expertise.

There is also a risk that the knowledge gained may be misleading.  Just because someone is sharing knowledge over social media does not mean that they are necessarily the go-to expert, or that their knowledge is comprehensive.

Leonardi and Neeley suggest that managers make the purpose of using the social media clear – which of the benefits would their organisation like to emphasise? The authors also suggest that people build their “ambient awareness” of how the social media are being used by their colleagues, so that they can draw more informed conclusions about the quality of the knowledge shared.

How do these findings relate to your experiences of using social media within organisations?

What are people’s level of comfort with social media?

RiverRhee

RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams includes topics relating to knowledge sharing and collaboration.  Click here to find out more.

Is it helping to build engagement, collaboration and knowledge sharing?

Is it leading to better decision making and innovation?

NOTES

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) 

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

 

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Competency frameworks – a management tool for recruitment, development and knowledge sharing


By Elisabeth Goodman, 15th November 2017

Competency frameworks have been very much in my mind at the moment as they are core to the recruitment and interview skills course that my RiverRhee Associate, Alison Proffitt and I recently delivered for a client as an in-house course.

They are also an excellent foundation for discussions about development and career progression that might be taking place at this time as part of annual performance reviews and appraisals.

Leadership competencies - HBR Nov-Dec 2017

Levels of [leadership] competence.  Harvard Business Review November-December 2017, p. 89

The November-December issue of Harvard Business Review also carries an excellent article on using competency frameworks as a basis for leadership development (see note 1.)

Last but not least, competency frameworks can be a useful tool to underpin the sharing of knowledge and expertise across an organisation.

Using competency frameworks for recruitment and interviewing

When recruiting candidates, we’re looking for as good a predictor of what their performance will be on the job as possible.  So it’s a good idea to have a clear idea of what we are looking for in the first place, and to make sure that everyone involved in the interview process has the same understanding.

Defining the competencies – both the technical and softer or behavioural skills – that we want is a way to do this. Examples of the softer skills include problem solving, communication, decision making. Technical skills will include scientific, legal, regulatory – depending on the nature of the job.

Job advertisements can then be framed to reflect essential or desirable competencies.

Interview questions can be structured so that the interviewees are asked to share examples of how they have demonstrated the competencies in their previous work.  Questions could use a ‘STAR” approach for example:

  • “Give me an example of when…” (Situation or Task)
  • “What action did you take?” (Action)
  • “What was the outcome?” (Result)

Competency frameworks for development and career progression

Organisations usually have some form of career ladder, through which individuals can progress as a result of their technical and/or behavioural or leadership skills.

Ideally, they will have different job titles, and accompanying job descriptions, the contents of which could form the basis of a competency framework along the lines shown in the illustration from the HBR article above.   There is also an excellent example of competency levels for the analysis and use of information in this UK government document: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/214008/competency-framework.pdf

A competency framework provides individuals and their managers with a concrete foundation for discussions about what the individual needs to do, and to demonstrate, in order to support their role and progress in their career.

Identifying and developing the leaders within your organisation

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz et al, in the HBR November-December 2017 article, share some excellent insights from Egon Zehnder’s collection of 30 years’ worth of data as global executive leadership recruiters.  They state that 72% of the managers within their database demonstrate the potential to grow into executive leadership roles, and 9% of these into CEO roles.

There is tremendous potential to develop managers within organisations to fulfil leadership roles.  Yet the authors’ findings suggest that internal leadership development programmes are typically weak at doing this, and that organisations either fail to use, or lose their best talent as a result.

The authors have identified 7 to 8 core competencies that can be used to evaluate senior managers on their leadership capability, and a further 4 to 5 predictors of their potential as leaders.  With the right match, and effective internal development activities such as stretch assignments, secondments, coaching and mentoring, can then shape the individuals for a leadership role.

Using competency frameworks to support knowledge sharing

There is another potentially powerful way to use competency frameworks to encourage and support sharing knowledge and expertise across an organisation.  I have seen this done in a workshop setting at a NetIKX seminar led by Chris Collison.

Although Chris uses different terminology, participants in a workshop identify different competencies present within the group.  They then use this as a starting point to agree areas to focus on for sharing their expertise.

This kind of approach could be used within an organisation, to foster a climate of sharing and collaboration.  Teams or departments could create a map of the type of competencies, and different levels of proficiency present within or across groups.

Individuals with greater proficiency in a particular area could then act as mentors to others wanting to develop their knowledge or skills in that area.  Mentors would thus develop their own management skills, as well as the knowledge and skills of their ‘mentee’.

Notes

  1. Claudio Fernández-Aráoz et al.  Turning potential to success.  The missing link in leadership development.  Harvard Business Review, November – December 2017, pp.86-93
  2. About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Dealing with the dark side of our personalities!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th November 2017

Current approaches to management put emphasis on identifying and developing our strengths.  And rightly so.  Our individual strengths give us the opportunity to make significant contributions in our home and work lives.  The diversity of strengths within a team contribute to the success of organisations.

Personality tools such as Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and others likewise put an emphasis on understanding and developing our strengths.

However, we also have a “dark side” to our personalities!

In Belbin language these are our “allowable weaknesses”, in MBTI language it is our “blind spots”.  The Hogan Development Survey (HDS), described by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the September-October 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (see note 1 below), focuses entirely on eleven of these “dark side” traits.

From weaknesses and blind spots to the dark side…

The HDS survey is based on the work of Robert and Joyce Hogan, two psychologists who, about 20 years ago, identified aspects of personality that, if unchecked, can derail interactions at work, individual careers, and the effectiveness of teams and organisations.

Dark side traits taken from the Hogan Development Survey

The eleven traits are categorised under three headings:

  • Distancing traits – ones that push people away by making it hard to build trust
  • Seductive traits – ones that pull people in but, if overdone, can then have negative or destructive consequences
  • Ingratiating traits – that can impress others, but result in self-harm through being too submissive

It can be difficult to know where to focus our attention with so many personality tools out there.  The HDS traits have some echoes of the Belbin Type Roles and their “allowable weaknesses”, and of the MBTI personality types and the “blind spots” that people might experience.

Word cloud generated from words used to describe Belbin “allowable weaknesses”

But the most important take-home lessons from all of this are probably to:

  1. Be aware of when the “dark side” of your strengths may be having a negative impact on yourself or on others
  2. Develop some strategies for minimising these negative effects

Strategies for minimising the negative effects of our “dark side”

The Harvard Business Review article references a few strategies which could apply to any definition of personality weaknesses.

The first thing is to be aware of our actual or potential negative traits and the impact it may be having on others.

Resources available to us are:

  • Reflection on situations that did not work out as well as we would have liked and whether our own behaviour triggered that
  • Ad-hoc feedback from others
  • More formal feedback e.g.
    • 360 degree questionnaires
    • Observer input available through Belbin questionnaires
    • The HDS survey

The MBTI personality type descriptions also provide a rich source of information about some negative characteristics that might emerge when we are feeling mildly stressed or severely so (“in the grip”).

All of these are ways to build your emotional intelligence (self and social awareness) about yourself and your interactions with others.

Identify and practise some new strategies to help you deal with your “dark side”

As with all endeavours to do something new or different, it’s a good idea to start small and build from there.

Pick something you feel most motivated to do something about, and something you can relatively easily put in place.

So, for example, using some of the words above, if you have a tendency to:

  • Be overly sceptical (an HDS trait, the allowable weakness of a “Monitor Evaluator” in Belbin Team Roles and a characteristic of MBTI “extraverted thinking” types). The impact of that on others is that they may feel discouraged or defensive about sharing ideas with you.  You may want to choose an area of your work, or a specific occasion, to deliberately demonstrate greater openness to others’ views.
  • Lose touch with reality (Belbin “Plant”, HDS “Imaginative” trait), MBTI “extraverted intuition”).  The impact of that on others is that they may get impatient with you, or not pay attention to you. You could identify a typical situation when this might happen, perhaps a weekly team meeting, and focus on demonstrating greater collaboration with others.

You could also ask a helpful colleague or friend to alert you when they see you demonstrating one of your negative traits, and support you in whatever corrective action (“self-management” or “relationship management”  in emotional intelligence terms) you’ve identified.

Don’t be shy about asking for help from others

There are a few suggestions above about how feedback and support from others could help you detect and address your “dark side”.

Coaching is also an option.  The MBTI coaching and emotional intelligence resources are rich with tips on how to deal with “blind spots” and developmental challenges associated with the MBTI Types.

Notes

  1. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.  Could you personality derail your career?  Harvard Business Review, September-October 2017, pp.138-141
  2. About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

    She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Telling stories at work


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th October 2017

Why tell stories at work?

I first heard about the power of using stories at work, in the context of sharing knowledge and building learning and understanding, in the 1990s.

Stories are a powerful way to share knowledge and build learning and understanding.

David Snowden, who was then a Director at the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, was a chief exponent of the use of narrative to convey complex messages.  (Snowden’s work has since evolved, and there is an informative and somewhat entertaining account of David Snowden on David Gurteen’s website.  Gurteen is himself somewhat of a guru of Knowledge Management.)

what makes stories so powerful?

Paul McGee tells us why stories are so powerful in his article “The power of telling stories” for the April 2017 issue of the Training Journal.  He reminds us that we have been using stories since the cave paintings 20,000 years ago, and we continue to engage with stories through books, TV programmes, film and in our day-to-day conversations.

And the reason, he tells us, why good stories are so engaging, is that they activate every part of the brain.  Not only the language processing parts, but every other part of the brain.  The more sensory and action words we include: how things look, smell, feel, and the actions involved – the more we engage the parts of the brain that would be activated if the listener was actually experiencing the event themselves.  They don’t actually need to be experiencing it for this to happen..

The result of telling a good story in this way is that it engages the emotions as well as the intellect.  Emotions make a story more memorable, more inspiring, and so are more likely to lead to commitment and to action.

When and How to tell a good story?

1.  Choose your opportunity and your topic

Stories can be shared about just about anything – but they do need to have a point to be effective!

Here are some situations I can think of – and that I have experimented with in my work with RiverRhee:

In a one-to-one mentoring or coaching situation to give a verbal example of how to do something, or not to do something based on your own experience of doing so.

In a training course or workshop, to convey some key principles, a framework or a methodology.

During a presentation, to get people’s attention and/or to illustrate some key points that you want to get across

2.  Think of a main character or characters, an event, and an outcome

As McGee says, in the Training Journal article, artistic licence is fine.  The story does not have to be true, although you might find it easier to create it, and to be convincing, if it has some basis on reality.

Christopher Booker, in “The Seven Basic Plots” (Bloomsbury, 2014), argues that these different plots (including comedy, tragedy, quests, rags to riches, encounters with monsters, voyages, rebirths) actually resolve themselves into some basic common denominators.

So, as he says, a typical story unfolds as follows: “once upon a time there was such and such a person, living in such and such a place… then, one day, something happened”.  That happening leads the main character (hero or heroine) into some experience that changes their lives.  There is conflict and uncertainty.  Ultimately there is some form of resolution.

One of my most powerful stories of this type illustrates how people can react to changes that they initially perceive as positive.  The words used in the change curve below mirror, to some extent, those for Booker’s story plot above.

Positive change curve – from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RIverRhee Publishing, 2013

Although I can’t share the details of the change here, it was a family event that we had instigated, thinking that it was the right thing to do (uninformed certainty).  No sooner had we initiated it, than I literally felt like I had gone cold with shock (informed doubt!).  We persevered for a while, but eventually realised that the solution was not going to be as easy as we had thought, and that we had to start exploring other options (realistic concern).  Eventually we did find a way forward and are in a much better place (emotionally and intellectually!) now (informed certainty).

3.  Add some sensory detail – and try some metaphors

I learnt, in my NLP Practitioner training, about the wide range of words we can use when we talk to bring our own experiences alive, and to communicate more effectively with others.  We use some of these words automatically when we speak, and often neglect the wide array available to us.

So if we deliberately think about appealing to all of our senses, the results would be something like this:

  1. For visual language use: see, look, picture, blue, yellow, light, bright, dark, transparent etc.
  2. For auditory language use: hear, sound, loud, quiet, clank, click, tinkle, shrill etc.
  3. For kinesthetic language use: touch, feel, damp, dry, wet, sharp, hot, cold etc.
  4. For auditory digital (inner dialogue, or self-talk – this is more language based) use: understand, think, explain, process etc.

In fact, in our NLP course, we also used the power of metaphors as an aid to communication: telling a story that does not even have to directly mention the principle or method that you are trying to get across.  People draw their own inferences from the story – and the fact that they have to ‘work it out’ can make the final message even more powerful.

It can take a little courage to trust your audience to make the right inferences, and I generally err on the side of telling them – as with the ‘urban myth’ I use for explaining the importance of finding root causes to address sources of waste in Lean and Six Sigma and process improvement!

when and how will you try out stories at work?

As McGee suggests in his article, and as my own experiences show, it takes some courage to have a go with story-telling, to share perhaps personal stories, and to embellish the stories with sensory detail.

Choose a situation to begin: a one-to-one conversation, a course or workshop, a presentation.

Develop a story that you are comfortable with.

Write a list of prompts to remind you of the key points.

Test it out on a friendly audience.    Rehearse.

Remember the very long tried and tested history we have of the effectiveness of stories.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

 

 

Addressing the challenges of “multi-teaming” in project management


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th September 2017

The nature of “multi-teaming” in project management

Many of the organisations that I work with manage projects as the essence of their way of working.  The complexity of this approach is compounded in two ways:

  1. Operating a matrix model of management – where individuals have a line manager who is not necessarily their project manager
  2. Assigning team members and leaders to multiple teams – so that they dip in and out of projects according to when their time and expertise is most needed.

Benefits

There are tremendous benefits to this way of working – such as:

  • ensuring that team members’ expertise is used to the full across the organisation
  • sharing knowledge and good practices between teams
  • fostering learning and development
  • providing opportunities for continuous improvement
  • minimising downtime and associated costs.

Risks and costs

There are also risks and costs – such as:

  • increased employee stress
  • reduced quality of team interactions (or group identity / cohesion)
  • knock-on effects from issues in one project impacting on resource availability for others.

Facts and data

The overcommitted organization_HBR Sept Oct 2017

Mark Mortensen and Heidi K. Gardner.  The overcommitted organization.  HBR Sept-Oct 2017, pp. 58-65

Mark Mortensen and Heidi Gardner’s article “The overcommitted organization” in the September – October issue of Harvard Business Review (pages 58-65) has some facts and data about the extent of “multi-teaming” in organisations.

 

They have studied hundreds of teams in a range of sectors (including professional services, oil and gas, high tech, consumer goods) over a period of 15 years.

Apparently at least 81% of more than 500 managers in global companies reported “multi-teaming” as a way of life, with people involved in as many as 6 to 15 projects in a week.

My own empirical observation in working with teams in the Life Sciences, and in Library and Information Management, is that “multi-teaming” is also a way of life, although the number of projects that people are juggling is generally not quite as high!

Tips for addressing the challenges of “multi-teaming”

Mortensen and Gardner provide some very useful tips on how to address the associated challenges of “multi-tasking”, which also reinforce the points we share in RiverRhee’s training on team and project management.

Building the team

We know that the most effective teams are those that not only have a clear idea of their purpose and individual members’ roles, but have spent time developing the relationships with the team.

Our experience that the most effective way to set the team on the right path is to have a kick-off meeting or launch, and ideally face-to-face.  This enables people to start to get to know each other, and from there, as emphasize Mortensen and Gardner, comes trust and accountability.

In fact, they maintain that having a team launch can improve performance by up to 30%.

An emphasis on building the team also helps people to feel that they “belong” to each team that they are working on – something that we know can be a very strong motivator for many people.   For team leaders, understanding what motivates each person will help them to boost and maintain motivation.

Making the most of everyone’s skills

Mortensen and Gardner also say that it is worth doing a team launch even with team members who are already familiar with each other as every new project is likely to bring new requirements and skills into play.

They advocate mapping everyone’s skills – both technical and soft, along with wider areas of knowledge.  This ensures that everyone is aware of who can bring what skills to bear, that they consult each other accordingly, and also hold each other accountable for quality.

This also builds on what we know from using personality tools such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and Belbin Team Roles to understand and optimise the interactions between team members.

Managing time and priorities

This is probably the most important issue for many team members and leaders.  We often hear of people’s frustration as the time they thought they had for one project gets squeezed by demands from another.

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 10.33.50

In a RiverRhee newsletter on Project Management, we shared our advice for using explicit project charters for agreeing the time that each person would spend on each project.  This is very much a starting point but it opens up the conversation, and many organisations then use portfolio review meetings to further address changes in priorities and requirements on people’s time.

Mortensen and Gardner have some other great suggestions:

  • schedule mandatory full team meetings at key milestones – making these dates clear with other teams
  • use sub-team meetings at other times to reduce the number of commitments on the rest of the team members – and supplement these with brief check-ins with other individuals
  • use electronic tools to share updates on project status, and consider using short videos as alternative to long memos
  • visual tools such as the video on Skype or Facetime for individual one-to-one check-ins can help to pick up body language cues for instance around stress, motivation, understanding etc.

Fostering learning

We put a big emphasis on the importance and benefits of sharing learning and how to do it for creating excellence in project management, so it was good to see the HBR authors highlight this too.

As they say, learning is something that can suffer when people are pushed for time.  It is also an important motivator for many people.

We stress the importance of scheduling a close-out meeting as part of the project plan to ensure that learnings are reflected upon and actions agreed for sharing and addressing them.

Mortensen and Gardner also suggest that team leaders:

  • give and encourage feedback
  • designate co-leaders for different aspects of the project to enhance the amount of contact between team members
  • pair people up (perhaps with different levels of expertise) so that they can learn from each other
  • pose “what if” questions and re-direct questions to team members to also foster cross-tutoring

What can be done to reduce risk and boost innovation at an organisational level

The HBR authors have some additional, perhaps less commonly identified, organisational strategies for addressing the challenges of “multi-teaming”, and so decrease risk, and increase innovation.

These strategies focus on ensuring a good understanding of and actively managing the spread of people across teams.

Many organisations use some form of FTE or resource management system to understand who is working on what project, and how much time they are devoting to each.  They mainly use this for accounting purposes – for example so that costs to clients can be more accurately calculated.

Mortensen and Gardner suggest that this mapping of resources should also be used to understand and manage the associated risks and opportunities from “multi-teaming”.

Anticipating shock-waves between projects

So for instance if the overlap of members between teams is large, there is a greater risk of knock-on shocks from one project to another.  With an accurate mapping of team membership, project or senior managers could anticipate these risks and develop mitigation plans.

Optimising knowledge sharing and learning

If the overlap between members of projects is small, and the organisation values knowledge sharing between projects, then the expectation (or culture) and approaches for the transfer of learnings and good practices could be made more explicit.

Enhancing team building

The authors also suggest that, if the nature of the tasks or the culture between different project teams is very different, it will be harder for members to transition from one to the other.  Understanding the overall map of resources to teams would therefore alert project, line and senior managers in these situations to put a greater emphasis on the on-boarding and team building activities.

Using dedicated resources

Organisations who have designated portfolio managers, or project management offices (PMOs) could take on many of the recommendations listed above.  However, many of the smaller Life Science organisations, and Library and Information Management services that we deal with do not have this luxury.

The HBR authors’ recommendations could be an alternative to these.  So for example there could be:

  • designated “fire-fighters” to watch-out for any of the risks identified above
  • spare resources that could be moved between teams
  • “protected” or designated resources whose role and time on specific teams could not be jeopardised

Individuals in HR or IT could also have designated roles to monitor the various aspects of “multi-teaming”.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Operational excellence can give you the competitive edge!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th September 2017

According to Sadun, Bloom and Van Reenen, writing in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, a disproportionate amount of emphasis is put on the competitive advantage of strategic planning, to the detriment of operational excellence.

Competitive advantage of operational excellence_HBR Sept-Oct 2017

From: Why do we undervalue competent management? Neither great leadership nor brilliant strategy matters without operational excellence. Raffael Sadun, Nicholas Bloom and John Van Reenen. HBR Sept-Oct 2017, pp. 120 – 127

What is operational excellence?

Their definition of operational excellence, or good management practice, goes beyond a more traditional focus on Lean and Six Sigma process improvement techniques.  It covers four broad dimensions, and 18 specific aspects.  The four dimensions are:

  1. Operational management – which includes Lean process management
  2. Performance monitoring – which includes the use of key performance indicators (KPIs)
  3. Target setting – which includes a clear link between organisational strategy, and individual goals (aka. a clear top-to-bottom cascade of objectives)
  4. Talent management – which includes setting stretch goals, employee development and retention

What is the evidence for the competitive advantage of operational excellence?

As Sadun et al say, MBAs and management experts such as Michael Porter distinguish between strategy and operational effectiveness, and put greater emphasis on CEOs’ priority being on strategy for competitive advantage.

The authors of this HBR article have been carrying out in-depth research since 2002 on more than 12,000 organisations in 34 countries, in conjunction with the London School of Economics.

They have found that operational excellence is a massive challenge for organisations and that the large persistent gaps in these practices are associated with large persistent differences in organisational performance.

The better managed organisations are more profitable, grow faster, are less likely to die, focus on innovation as well as efficiency, attract talent and foster employee well-being.  All in all they demonstrate sustained competitive advantage.

Achieving operational excellence boils down to three things

Erroneous self-assessment, a blame culture, overestimating the costs involved and underestimating the potential benefits can all get in the way of adopting good management practices.

Managers, especially in family businesses, can worry about potential loss of control if they bring in others with greater expertise in operational management.

The workforce may not have the numeric, analytical and other skills to implement operational excellence.

And it requires a shift from working in silos, to collaborating across teams; reassurance that greater process efficiency won’t lead to redundancies; and “walking-the-talk” by management (CEOs included).

So achieving operational excellence boils down to three things:

  1. Commitment from the top: with a clear vision, visibility and role modelling by senior leaders (i.e. all key approaches for managing change)
  2. Understanding and ensuring availability of the required skills i.e. those associated with all four broad dimensions of operational excellence, as described above
  3. A shift in mentality at all levels to adopt these management practices as a way of working

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Motivation – a refresher..eight years on..


By Elisabeth Goodman, 28th July 2017

Motivation – a refresher

Eight years ago, in July 2009, Dan Pink gave an impassioned TED talk on “The puzzle of motivation”.  It was a rallying call to business to stop using a scientifically proven outmoded method for incentivising high performance – the “carrot and stick”, “if…then”, “extrinsic reward” model.  The concept is that: if you pay people more, they will perform better!  He argued that it does not work, and yet we are still using it!

Dan Pink – The puzzle of motivation. 2009 TED talk 

More recently, the June issue of The Training Journal, carried an article by Pierre Casse and Artem Konstandian on “The art of motivating”.  They state that “The ability to motivate is the beating heart of powerful, effective leadership.”

As motivation is one of the most popular topics in my management training courses with RiverRhee, this seemed like a perfect moment for a refresher on the topic.

Extrinsic vs intrinsic motivators

Dan Pink used two different scenarios for the candle problem to illustrate how paying people more (an extrinsic motivator) does not necessarily lead to better performance.

In the first scenario, candidates are given a candle, matches, and a box filled with drawing pins.  As the solution to the problem is to use the box, solving it requires, quite literally, “out of the box” thinking: cognitive skills.

 

In the second scenario, the drawing pins have been taken out of the box, so using it is a lot more obvious.  The task is more mechanistic: a simple question of using the materials as they have been laid out to solve the problem.

Offering money as an extrinsic motivator for solving the problem more quickly proves more effective in the second, more mechanistic scenario, than in the first, more cognitive one.

Dan Pink reminds us that most of the work that we do, in science, in business, in service organisations, requires more cognitive skills.  Once people have been paid enough to take this issue ‘off the table’, then paying people more has been shown to lead to poorer performance!  It dulls thinking and blocks creativity. And yet we keep on using this ‘carrot and stick’ extrinsic reward model to incentivise people.

The intrinsic motivators that Dan Pink describes so graphically, here and elsewhere, are those of autonomy, mastery and purpose.  People are motivated to do things “because they matter”.  They can direct their own work, can get better at what they do, and are doing something for a reason that is greater than themselves.

To what extent can, and do organisations provide the environment for people to tap into these intrinsic motivators?

Which brings me to the second key message for this refresher on motivation…

“One does not motivate people, people motivate themselves”

Pierre Casse and Artem Konstandian’s article in The Training Journal emphasises the role of leaders in creating the environment in which people can motivate themselves.

They suggest that leaders can create this environment in a number of ways, for instance by:

  • Making the reason why they require people to perform at a certain level: “what’s in it for me (or them)”
  • Highlighting what level of performance is expected
  • Providing the right amount and medium for recognition
  • Showing that they genuinely care about and are sensitive to their team members’ personal lives.  (Empathy is a theme I’ve explored before..)

They also put a big emphasis on trust as a motivator.  Leaders build trust through their behaviour: humility rather than egocentricity, acknowledging their mistakes and turning them into opportunities, standing up for their team, creating a pride in belonging.

Although Casse and Konstandian do not mention Pink’s intrinsic motivators (autonomy, mastery, purpose) by name, they are certainly implied by their call to leaders to give employees the space and conditions to develop and be at their best.

What are you and your leaders doing to promote trust, and to create the space and conditions for people to motivate themselves?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.