Tag Archives: management skills

Maintaining employee engagement in growing and large organisations


By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th November, 2018

Small SMEs, large organisations, and a “microenterprise” model

One of the aspects I enjoy so much about working with smaller Life Science or Biotech organisations* is the level of energy, enthusiasm and connection that every employee seems to have with their company’s purpose.  The people we encounter seem to demonstrate a level of autonomy and independent thinking that is sadly so often lacking in larger organisations.

[*Typically referred to as SMEs – Small or Medium Enterprises.]

When I’ve worked in and with larger organisations it’s been more common to encounter “us and them” mentalities, cynicism, a lack of connection with the company’s purpose and objectives, and a lot more bureaucracy.

So I always enjoy Gary Hamel’s articles in the Harvard Business Review when he describes organisations that have found other approaches to management that mitigate the disadvantages inherent to larger organisations.

In this latest article, co-authored with Michele Zanini, Hamel writes about a Chinese white goods company, Haier, that has achieved significant employee engagement for its 75,000 global workforce, by developing a “microenterprise” (ME) management model.

“Haier’s empowering, energizing management model is the product of a relentless quest to free human beings at work from the shackles of bureaucracy”.  Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini. The End of Bureaucracy, Harvard Business Review, November-December 2018, pp. 50-59.

The microenterprise model: autonomy instead of bureaucracy

Haier’s model is an extreme version of an approach that GSK trialled, whilst I was working there, with its Centres of Excellence (CoEs).  In that model, there were about half-a-dozen CoEs, each with about 350 people.  They set their own goals, and managed their own budgets.

In Haier’s model, there are about 4,000 MEs, most of them with 10-15 people.  There is a strong emphasis on autonomy, with the ME teams setting their own, very ambitious, goals, and managing their own budgets. The MEs also set their own pay rates and distribute bonuses, dividends and profits based on their performance against goals (or “lead targets”). Ultimately, employees behave and are treated more as owners and members of start-up organisations than as employees of a corporate organisation.

The MEs demonstrate a more autonomous approach in other ways:

  • Groups such as HR, Finance, IT, legal affairs etc. are set up as “node” MEs instead of the centralised or shared service model common to larger organisations.  These node MEs have to bid as suppliers to market-facing MEs who can choose between competing support services within or even outside the organisation. Contracts or agreements are then put in place to ensure that expected standards of service are maintained.
  • MEs can change their leaders if they are under-performing, can recruit new leaders in an internal selection process, and can accept take-over bids from leaders elsewhere in the organisation.

Collaboration, open innovation and intrapreneurship in the microenterprise model

There are risks as well as benefits from Haier’s microenterprise model.  The MEs form a sort of network which the authors compare to the internet, or the web.  They have evolved this model to ensure that it works to their advantage as follows:

  1. Collaboration.  Haier’s MEs were initially very competitive, and risked losing the benefits that could be gained from pooling their efforts and expertise.  Haier formed “platform” MEs to address this.  These platform MEs are somewhat akin to the “Communities of Practice” known to Knowledge Management practitioners.  The platform MEs are of two types, one type addresses categories of product or technologies, the other addresses capability development or competencies that might cross several products.
  2. Open Innovation. Haier adopts all the practices available to tap into sources of innovation beyond the boundaries of its organisation. It invites potential users to provide input on needs, preferences and problems.  It accesses a world-wide network of experts for creative problem solving and to support R&D and eventual sales and support.
  3. Intrapreneurship.  As the HBR authors point out, one of the consequences of  bureaucracy in large organisations is that the organisations can become very conservative.  Haier encourages a start-up culture whereby employees effectively act as intrapreneurs to pitch for and launch new MEs. These new MEs are often initially externally funded, to prove their viability,  before Haier pitches in with internal funds.

The results…

As Haier’s CEO, Zhang Ruimin told one of the authors on an earlier occasion: “We want to encourage employees to become entrepreneurs because people are not a means to an end but an end in themselves.  Our goal is to let everyone become their own CEO – to help everyone realize their potential.”

Apparently, Haier’s resultant growth in gross profits, revenue, and increase in market value are unmatched by any of its domestic or global competitors.

Zhang believes they have achieved this through their practice of rendanheyi – a tight association of “the value created for customers with the value received by employees”.

As the HBR authors point out, most companies have focused on optimising their operations, and, more recently, on digitising their business models.  Haier’s microenterprise approach would appear to be a unique route for achieving employee engagement in a large organisation.

There could be some interesting ideas here for managers and leaders to explore in growing Life Science SMEs:

Could finding ways to continue to work and think like a start-up mitigate against the otherwise inevitable increase in bureaucracy, and decrease in employee engagement inherent to large organisations?

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 member-to-member training provider 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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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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.

Developing your coaching skills as a manager


By Elisabeth Goodman, 18th January 2017

There are so many resources available to help managers perform at their best.

We teach coaching skills in  RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management  course and just one of several frameworks available for that.  We also apply these skills ourselves as coaches. The result is a double benefit: it enhance managers’ performance and it gives them a tool to develop their direct reports’ performance.

I’m always looking out for new resources to develop my own performance as well to pass these on to the scientists and managers that we work with.

I recently wrote about Appreciative Inquiry and how this could be applied to the GROW model of coaching.

I’ve been re-visiting Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work”, and it seemed a very good fit with the Discover phase in the 5-step model that I learnt about in Appreciative Inquiry. (This phase equates to the Options step in GROW.)  I tried some of this out with someone I was coaching and really liked the result.  This is how a couple of Stanier’s tools could be used in the Discover or Options steps.

Make sure you have helped the person you’re coaching articulate what it is they want to achieve

This the Define step in Appreciate Inquiry, or the Goal in GROW.  In particular, help them to articulate this in positive terms: what they want to move towards, rather than away from.

Ask them to think about what’s currently happening: find the great work and their values

They might dwell on the things that are going OK, or the things they are not happy about.  (This by the way equates to the Reality step in GROW).  What you’re after are the instances of great things that are happening, even if only once!

Getting them to jot down their thoughts can be a good aid to their reflection.

illustration-for-doing-more-great-work

Illustration of the tools in Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do More Great Work” for exploring great work.

Exploring why the individual has selected that or those examples of great work will reveal what they value most about their work, what motivates them, what their particular strengths are that they would like more of.

What to do once you’ve discovered what makes your work great!

I also like Stanier’s 4-box grid which compares and contrasts things the individual cares and does not care about, with those that their organisation do or don’t care about and thought it could be usefully super-imposed with the 5-Ds’ from the MindGym’s book “Give me time”.

So this becomes a useful tool for discussing what options the individual has in relation to their aspiration for doing more great work.

taking-action-on-great-work

Michael Bungay Stanier’s ‘caring’ 4-box matrix overlayed with the 5Ds (in blue text) from the MindGym

The ideal is of course the dream scenario, but the reality is that we tend to have a mix in our work – and we may need to decide what we want to do about that.

(The dream scenario fits nicely with the Dream step in Appreciative Inquiry.)

At this point, the person you are coaching may be ready to consider what they will do…

These are the Design / Deliver steps in Appreciative Inquiry or the Will step in the GROW model.

…as always, I’d be interested in hearing what readers think of these tools and approaches…

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 leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

 

 

Calibrating the mind to lead teams. Five tips for being an effective team leader.


Guest blog by John Hicks, 26th July 2016

Five tips for being an effective team leader

Editorial note from Elisabeth Goodman:

Many of the managers that we work with are transitioning from a scientist to a manager role.  John Hicks has joined our RiverRhee team to support us with our training, and also to provide coaching for scientists making this transition.  So I’m pleased to share some of his perspectives on how to be an effective team leader.

Introduction

Having been a scientist and a senior manager, I have come to learn some important lessons about managing people.

Use the following five tips to help you to be a more effective team leader.

Tip 1 – Be motivated to be a manager more than a scientist

To make the transition into management effectively, we must understand what being a manager is.

A popular definition of being a manager is someone who is responsible for administering or controlling an organisation or group of staff.

As a manager you create a larger positive (or negative) impact on an organisation because you are empowering a group of individuals within a team to work more effectively rather than simply empowering yourself.

If you want to be a manager, I challenge you to explore your motives for that move.  If you want to make a positive impact through orchestrating a team of people then you will have a positive management career moving forward.

If you recognise this then you are well on the way to exploring Tip 2.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Tip 2 – Get to know yourself more

Working with people often causes us to react in certain ways that are positive and negative emotionally.

Someone can easily say something that will trigger a memory of one of your previous experiences. This in turn might ‘colour’ the way you view, hear or feel about their comment and lead to an inappropriate reaction.

Allow yourself to create a distance between how you feel in the moment and what you need to do next to move the team forward.  Are there triggers that make you feel strongly enough to warp your thinking about what is important?  Then you need to understand what they are before you make the wrong decision based on strong emotions.

Being prepared in this way is important because you HAVE to listen to your team, otherwise you will fail at being a manager.

Tip 3 – listen to your team

There are three levels of listening to your team that will help you to make sound decisions on your way forward.

1) Listen to what your team members are telling you.

What words are you physically hearing and how useful are they to you for the decisions you need to make?  Don’t dismiss them out of hand as your team are your eyes and ears on processes currently taking place in the laboratory or the office.

2) Listen to and think about what is behind what your team members are telling you.

So you have been given some good information but something doesn’t feel right.  You need to dig deeper and understand what is behind what is being said to you.  Is someone struggling in their role and is their information to you compromised by a stressed perspective? What’s that stress about?

3) Listen to and observe what your team is feeling.

Have you ever walked into a room full of people and felt the excitement in the room?  No one is particularly doing anything ‘excitable’ but all the same, you can feel it.  Have you ever walked into a work place and felt that there is a grey cloud looming above it?  You can’t put your finger on what is wrong but you know that something is off?

This is an important skill for leading your team.  Being aware of those around you and how they feel enables you to come alongside your team and nurture them with what they need to be more successful. 

Tip 4 – Don’t get sabotaged by self-defeating beliefs

This is related to Tip 2, but deserves a mention on its own.

Have you ever given a presentation where you have felt nervous? Perhaps you are focusing on what could go wrong more than how positive your impact could be?

This is normal and is what is called a self-defeating belief or what I like to refer to as a saboteur thought.

They tend to happen when dealing with change or opportunity.

As a manager you need to spot these self-defeating beliefs and determine what is rational or not rational because you might be holding back your team.

Tip 5 – Be kind to yourself

This tip is easy to remember. 

Your next mistake might well be your next greatest discovery.  Don’t berate yourself for mistakes, this will mess up your thinking ability. Give yourself the chance to seize the next opportunity from your learning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Hicks is an Associate of RiverRhee Consulting.  He spent the first ten years of his career in science within academic, contract research and environmental laboratories specialising in Chemistry. John then worked with two of the leading scientific instrumentation companies providing technical sales support to large Pharmaceuticals and Biotech companies across the UK before moving into a senior leadership position within a Cambridge based technology company.  John now runs his own training and coaching company delivering performance coaching to scientists that are new to or working towards a career in management.

about the editor

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, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills 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 leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

The power of quiet questioning


By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th April 2016

2016-04-23 12.50.10.jpg

Taking time for some quiet reflection on Brighton beach, April 2016

Why quiet questioning?

Two of the most powerful resources available to us as managers, and as members of a team are questions and silence.

The ideal dynamic, when we are working with others, is to have a natural back and forth of conversation: each person comfortably expressing their views, their feelings, their ideas and listening, responding to, and building on the other’s.

That ideal to and fro of conversation occurs when each person is taking ownership for their part in whatever is being discussed, is fully motivated, and has no trouble being assertive; when there is good rapport.

But we know that this ideal scenario is just that, that there are times when it does not happen, when it is hard to know what to say, when emotions get in the way, when the other person cannot or will not play their part.

This is when asking questions, asking the right questions, and being comfortable with silence can really make a difference.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's management training course

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Asking the right question

We already know that open questions (those starting with Why, What, How, When, Where) are much more effective in engaging others in conversation than closed ones (that elicit only a Yes or No answer).  It’s so easy to slip up and ask a closed question such as:

“Are you feeling sad?” as opposed to, for example: “What are you feeling sad about?”

I’ve been learning about ‘clean’ questions: those that contain as little of the questioner’s bias as possible.  So for example the question:

“What are you feeling sad about?” includes our interpretation that the other person is sad.  It may be that they have told us this, in which case it may be an appropriate follow-up question.

But if they have not told us they are sad, we may be making a big assumption based on their facial expression or body language – but we don’t really know and we are not mind-readers.

So a clean question would be: “How are you feeling”?

And if they do say “I’m feeling sad”, then another suitable ‘clean’ follow-up question might be “What kind of sadness is that?”,  or “In what way are you feeling sad?”, or even just “Sad?”  So you are reflecting back on what the other person has said, rather than inserting your interpretation.

Caitlin Walker’s “From Contempt to Curiosity” has some terrific structures to help any manager or individual use questions to foster open dialogue and build rapport between individuals and within teams.

Rachel Alexander’s and Julia Russel’s “And the Next Question is – Powerful Questions for Sticky Moments” has a rich selection of different questions to use in different situations.

And we can learn so much from NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) too about spotting the assumptions that we and others make in our language, and how to ask questions to get past those.  For example if someone is saying to you: “This kind of situation always makes me sad”, we can ask “Always?”, or “What kind of situation is that?” or even “In what way?”

Using quietness, or silence

Even when we’ve developed the skill to ask the right questions, we can destroy the effect we’ve tried to create by jumping in with our own suggested answer!

Silence is so powerful: it gives the other person time to reflect and come up with their own answer.  It tells them that we care and want to listen to what they have to say.  It encourages them if they are feeling hesitant.

Silence can be companionable too.  Sometimes just working alongside the other person on something in which you are both involved, or going for a walk together, will create the conditions for the other person to open up and say what they have to say.  You may not even have to frame a question!

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Developing skills in quiet questioning

I’m still learning and practising the art of quiet questioning.  It’s something that we can not only apply at work, but in our interactions with people at home too.

I will continue to reflect upon and share my experiences in my work with managers and teams.  It would be great to hear about your experiences too.

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, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills 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 leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.