0 comments on “There are no “generations” at the workplace – only people.”

There are no “generations” at the workplace – only people.

A TED talk I watched over lunchtime today inspired me to write this article. In the talk, Leah Georges talks about her take on how generational stereotypes hold us back at work.

I’ve embedded the video at the bottom of the page.

Assuming a “generational” divide is misleading.

When I started my journey in internal digitalisation, the field was heavily driven by the “the millennials are coming” theme. The fear of a new, digitally savvy generation at the workplace drove companies to introduce all sorts of modern technology tools.

Only occasionally, the workforce and future users were part of the process and asked for what they struggle with or where they believed to benefit from new digital support potentially. One fundamental assumption of all initiatives was the affinity of all young people to digital and in particular social tools.

This assumption has two main issues:

  • It creates the hypothesis that young people don’t need proper support when it comes to “digital at the workplace”.
  • It creates the impression that today’s talent, which is clearly older than 25, isn’t equipped to adapt or – god forbid – teach the use of modern digital tools.

Lack of purpose and change management

Frankly, if there is one generation, that will respond poorly to a lack of purpose and a proper framework to work in, it’s the digital generation. If there is one thing literature, trivia, TED.com and Simon Sinek teach us about the youngsters, then it’s the new emphasis on a sense in life as well as work life.

It’s not just the work-life-balance anymore that Generation X (= me) was/is striving for. Work has to have more purpose than just a monthly paycheck.

This need for purpose is particularly relevant in times of change, globalisation and internationalisation. The more geographically and culturally cluttered teams are, the stronger the common foundation needs to be.

Leaving out the mighty silver surfers

I can honestly say: I’ve met more mid-50s with great curiosity and will to learn than early-30s. If someone tells me that it’s the new generations that are solely driven by digital, I happily refer to my cousin (end 20s) who needs approx. two weeks to answer a WhatsApp text.

If we leave out the “older” generations in the change process, we don’t tap into two paramount pre-conditions for success:

  • Substantial knowledge on how business is happening in real life and the shop floor and what’s needed to unlock hidden potential #
  • A truly connected and experienced crew that knows their way around and can open doors we didn’t even know existed

So, let’s no longer base change and change management on generational stereotypes and assumptions. Let’s address the humans behind the age of birth and build a sustainable and robust feeling of belonging and “we”.

Enjoy Leah’s TED Talk, which inspired me to write this…

3 comments on “Why ’digital empowerment of people’ still is a paradox in today’s world”

Why ’digital empowerment of people’ still is a paradox in today’s world

We primarily work in analogue ways, using digital tools,” is what a client just recently told me. It was part of the reflection on the current situation and the question of why things haven’t gotten better with the availability of new ’tools’.

In another mandate, I could observe how people struggled with the adoption of ’new ways of working’. It didn’t matter that the level of commitment was (or better, is) incredibly high and that everyone had agreed beforehand, that the cautiously evaluated way forward was the most promising option.

In a third instance (the initiation of a new project) I asked the question “what does internal communication mean in your place?”. The answers of the core team quickly tipped towards information overflow, a cc-culture for email driven by fear and uncertainty and the lack of clarity for standards, practices and a common denominator.

The limits to individual bandwidth

All of the above made me realise, that the result of digitalisation combined with a globalised business world is pushing the limits of an individual worker’s bandwidth to the absolute limit. If there were a particular focus and limit to things people could do 20 years back, there seems to be the expectation that digital tools extend that ability x-fold – which they don’t.

The circle of individual attention and the outer ring of common value and culture
Click for a larger version

Today’s business world puts so much on the individual’s plate that the day doesn’t have enough hours to cope with everything. The attempt to limit email use to business hours and stop people from burning out by being “always on” is only a symptom of that problem.

If there weren’t an insane communication overkill, there wouldn’t be the need to cut it off deliberately.

We need a different mindset to benefit from the digital promises:

Before we can indeed access what digital can offer us at the workplace, we need to change something…or better some things:

  • The way we use digital tools in the day to day work needs to be better agreed on a team level – we need to be more conscious for the common denominator for how to do things
  • Moving stuff to the next in line cannot be about ’getting rid of it’ anymore – we need to develop a more recipient focussed work and communication culture
  • Managers must accept that people don’t scale indefinitely, just because they are available – we need a culture that creates room for a life outside the email rat race (and no: enterprise social networks or persistent chat tools aren’t the answer)
  • The “weneeds to have room in corporate culture beyond mission statements and HR values – we need a more explicit emphasis on how we can drive things together (and no: a knowledge management tool or innovation community aren’t the answer)

Tools need to be part of the solution – not the answer.

Being asked, what my most successful project was so far, I had the answer straight at hand: a project, in which I was able to support a program team in developing a new way of staying coordinated and create transparency for what’s going on and what’s lying ahead.

Digital tools only played an enabling role. The success factors were a common language (terminology and structure) and a shared commitment to exchange and ’togetherness’ in the program. It was a human-driven solution that was only connected by tools.

  • Tools can create transparency for interested people.
  • Tools can scale capacities if people make sure that no one is left behind
  • Tools can bring people together, that care about being one team
  • Tools can make knowledge accessible and usable if people have the bandwidth to share and consume

Tools are never the answer.

Directives and functional training are not the answer either.

It’s a conscious agreement on how we will be doing things in the future, not just that we will be doing them. That agreement needs to be established, led, managed and be part of the future of work as much as all the digital nuts and bolts will be part of it.

0 comments on “How Leadership Drives Change. Concretely.”

How Leadership Drives Change. Concretely.

This week, I spent a lot of time with a group of sales leaders for a large industrial manufacturing firm. In the context of a large digitalisation initiative we discussed the role and specific tasks for leaders to drive and motivate sustainable change

In this post I want to share the essence of the discussion with one of the Senior Leaders in the aftermath of group work with the team.

We discussed using the model below, which is based on Simon Sinek’s hierarchy of Why, How and What, when it comes to leadership:

Leadership hierarchy model
A model based on Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”

With this model I tried to visualise, where and how leaders “take action”, when it comes to driving change.

Keep your hands away from the “what”

If you have hired the right people, and if you have managed to put them in the right role, your job is done. If you have to tell people what they are supposed to do, you have got the wrong people on board.

The “operational” level of “how”

Providing guidance for operational work through processes, frameworks or templates still is managerial. Even though some people might be asking for clear instruction and guidance for how they are supposed to apply their skills, I don’t perceive this particular element as “leadership”.

To motivate people and make them believe in the value of applying the standards, might be a leadership aspect of this part of “how”.

The “leadership” level of “how”

This is where real change kicks in. To motivate change and lead by example when it comes to fundamental change for i.e. the ways of working, is what is expected from leaders.

Thinking with the recipient in mind, turning personal experience into corporate knowledge or adopting new digital opportunities isn’t something that can be ordered. It is where leadership meets operations, because leaders will have to show the same attitude and act as a role model.

This applies to ways of working, not giving up on adapting new technologies as well as helping others to feel comfortable in the new world. There is no reason, why a SVP shouldn’t be the key user of a new collaboration environment.

Excellent leadership in this level will have the effect of empowerment. People will be equipped with the right mindset to put their competence and abilities to full play.

The purpose level of “Why”

Well…I’ll let Simon Sinek pick this one up. This entire post is inspired by his TED talk anyway…

Simon Sinek at TEDx: Start with Why (Source: YouTube)
1 comment on “Sharing my executive briefing on motivation, challenges & leadership for internal digitalisation”

Sharing my executive briefing on motivation, challenges & leadership for internal digitalisation

A couple of weeks ago, I’ve worked on an executive briefing on my experience with internal digitalisation in large corporations. Based on my work in industrial manufacturing, insurance, pharmaceutical and professional services environments, this is my collection of

  • Motivation for internal digitalisation
  • Challenges that companies experience along the way
  • The role leadership & management has to place in digital transformation

It’s important to say, that not all aspects apply to each company but it’s quite striking how many aspects of motivation & challenges a lot of companies have in common…

Change Management (Executive Briefing)
(click for larger version)

Download a PDF of the image here.

0 comments on “Have we forgotten about middle management?”

Have we forgotten about middle management?

While working on a series of articles for a client (<— #braggingmoment), I’ve stumbled across an intriguing question: who’s actually in charge of keeping an eye on middle management and their needs and role in digital transformation?

Bam! You’re now a coach.

Flat hierarchies, agile teams and distributed accountability – the new world of organising information and knowledge work. Leadership doesn’t get tired of preaching a “new togetherness” and how the own network of expertise and experience will blow the competition out of the water. More and more employees ask for flexibility and freedom to do their job whenever, from wherever and with whatever – and that’s not exclusive to Digital Natives or Generation Z.

The middle (or operations) management, however, only finds itself in foot notes and at the bottom of a bullet point list. From there they learn that task based management is out of date and how too much control & conquer will suffocate creativity and corporate culture.

They find their new roles described as coaches and guides to their teams. Most of the time description ends on exactly that level, though. But what does it mean to be a coach? What will they be guiding people through and how will good guidance be determined?

Change management must not be exclusive to the employee level

To give change a positive and long lasting effect on corporate and collaboration culture, middle managers need help with their role transformation as well. It’s not fair to expect that they just adapt to a completely upside-down environment and adjust their style of working and managing based on gut feeling and best effort.

No matter how non-hierarchical or flat a company structure is, there will always be a certain group of people who are accountable for overseeing performance and results. Leadership cannot be at the stern and at the same time have an eye on every functional crew member of the ship. At least that’s my humble opinion, and I am aware that there are a lot of other voices out there.

Middle management has to be part of the active change management in an organisation –  in the role of recipient and as shapers.

  • Their WHY needs to be adjusted to the new system and provide them with motivation and means to transform their purpose
  • Their HOW might require a change of skills and perspective, when it comes to rather leading than managing people and objectives – even if they are very operational
  • Their WHAT will probably be determined in a more dialogue fashion – with both, leadership and employees

Additional thoughts on this, anyone?


*** Promotion ***

Interested in my checklist for change? Check out my recent blog post or go directly to the Digital Sherpa checklist here


0 comments on “How “corporate personality” might influence the effectiveness of motivation…”

How “corporate personality” might influence the effectiveness of motivation…

Today I might have found the answer to why motivation away from something (e.g.  a concrete constraint) seems to work better than the motivation towards something (e.g. a vision or new idea)…

I’ve recently decided to get certified as a trainer for mimic resonance (English introduction to the concept on the MDI training website) and attend a course at the Eilert Academy. As part of my studies, I came across some findings on motivation in the context of  personality types.

The section in Dirk’s book immediately reminded me of an idea, that I wrote about in my 2012 article on motivation.

Change and Motivation
(A pretty old sketch I created to illustrate the idea)

What I never had really figured out, was the root cause for why one seems to be more effective than the other. Now: in his book, Dirk uses a model to describe certain personality types in the context of the attempt to decipher mimics:

Personality Types
(based on Dirk W. Eilert “Mimikresonanz”, p. 122 + 129)

Comment: My reference to the conditioning of people as preservers or thinkers is based on my experience how people act at the work place. It’s not a generalisation in terms of personality types and of course influenced by the cultural environments I’ve worked in.

Later on, Dirk then elaborates on “motivational direction” (Orig. “Motivationsausrichtung”) of the four personality types:

  • Entertainers & Doers are primarily motivated TOWARDS something.
  • Preservers & Thinkers are primarily motivated AWAY from something.

(Translated from source: Dirk W. Eilert, “Mimikresonanz”, p. 154)

That’s when it clicked for me…

My experience with the effectiveness of motivation and leadership might be rooted in the personality structure of most organisations.

Today’s hierarchies and operational structures have prevented the development of Entertainers (yes, we need those!) and Doers (no, we don’t have enough of them). Too many people are pushed into Preserver and Thinker roles and act accordingly.

That’s why motivation for change and progress has to point in the right direction to take effect: AWAY from challenges, hurdles, constraints and disfunction. Vision statements, promises of a bright future and the outline of “new ways of working” simply don’t resonate with the target group. At least not yet…

Do you share this finding?

0 comments on “The Power of Purpose and the Balance of Goal, Value & Leadership”

The Power of Purpose and the Balance of Goal, Value & Leadership

Intro: Two colleagues of mine started working on a model for the “power of purpose”. Purpose is one of the key subjects at the moment when it comes to change, leadership & management. One of the most famous talkers about the power of purpose might be Simon Sinek. You can see his TED Talk here. My colleagues point out the need that goal, value and leadership need to be in harmony in order to create an effective sense of purpose. I’ve fallen in love with the idea straight away so I capture my take & interpretation on the early stage of their model on my blog, you can find their publication here on LinkedIn.

The power of purpose.

“Why” is what you need to answer if you want to determine the purpose for “how” you are intending to do “what. From a leadership angle the “reason-why” might be the most important answer to give anyway. In particular in times of change, when the awareness for a need for change is charged with the urgency created by markets, competition or overall eco system. You need to move and you need to move fairly fast.

Commitment, dedication and intrinsic motivation is what leaders and managers should seek in their organisation. They are strong pillars for a stable environment in which trust can grow and distribution of accountability and responsibility is possible.

Goal. Value. Leadership.

In their model, Christian Heraty and Kevin Hansen, imply that a harmony or balance of the three core elements

  • Goal (What are we trying to achieve?)
  • Value (What benefit will derive from achieving the goal for whom?)
  • Leadership (How is a common understanding for the journey ahead created and sustained?)

are essential for an effective purpose. This is essential if you perceive “purpose” as a key resource to success and you required the maximum effect and impact of it on organisation and culture.

Read their description on the model here. The following text is my personal perspective on their angle:

Where we fall short in so many instances…

1. Setting Goals

If communication is only successful when sender and recipient are aligned, I believe the majority of goals – or better the way they are delivered to the affected audience – are far from “clear”. Yes, our goal can be to “increase net sales by 20 million”, but as long as your not the highest person in charge of sales, it’s not really “concrete”. Set aside the fact that motivation is definitely not driven by such a statement.

There are various ways of setting goals. SMART is probably one of my favourites:
<S> specific
<M> measurable
<A> achievable
<R> realistic
<T> timely

In our day to day work at Infocentric we for example use a structure called “PO3” to frame meetings, initiatives or projects.
<P> purpose (why)
<O> objective (what)
<O> outcome (result)
<O> output (deliverables)

I believe there are even more way of driving a common understanding and alignment across teams, departments of even companies. They all have one things in common: it requires time, thinking and recipient orientated communications to get it right…all three not necessarily the strongest pieces in goal setting processes.

2. Make value understood

One of my key learnings in my time at Tieto was “Industrial Buying Center Management (IBCM)”. As part of a development program obviously focussed on empowering us to drive business. Over time and in particular in my work as a consultant one concept of IBCM has proven to be extremely valuable: the resonating value proposition (read the original Harvard Business Review article here).

Essentially the concept is simple: the more a value proposition resonates with the actual recipient, the more powerful it is.

In practice it means that the value for e.g. digital transformation is substantially different for HR, CFO department, Sales or Engineering. If you want to make sure that your initiative or change program get broad acceptance you need to cater to all relevant (or affected) parties.

In the context of purpose it is essential to convey “value” in a way that people can understand it and thereby buy into it as a core element. And just for the sake of mentioning it: people ain’t stupid. Whatever companies do, has one some level a commercial or otherwise business orientated sense – even for an NGO. I can only urge leaders and managers to not beat around the bush and show how “this is your value – and this is how it connects to the value for our company” transparently.

3. Leading purpose

For this one I have a very, very tangible example. The past 8 years I’ve spent in the field of Advanced Intranets and the Digital Workplace. I had to learn the hard way that the C-Suite “we need to function as one tree hugging and super productive family” efficiency story sounds different when the board room doors are closed. Suddenly efficiency isn’t much of a topic anymore. If work gets done in 8 or 11 hours is…well…a working level issue. And unfortunately past experience proves that they are right. People get stuff done…no matter what obstacles you throw in their way. That’s what makes us human.

In the board room “effectiveness” is like magic: grown in additional regions without growing staff at the same ratio. Sell more without more sales staff. Ensure that the resource applied to achieve a goal has it’s maximum effect.

Why I am telling this story? Because if there is a dissonance between message and reality, then conveying purpose will be almost impossible. It disables operations to create tangible and resonating value propositions to the board room. Because, in the example above, they think efficiency (= value) to reach growth (= the goal). For the recipients, however, effectiveness is the real budget magnet. This immediately puts value & goal out of synch and a potential purpose is dead in the water.

Together it all makes sense…

If you think about it carefully: it actually makes sense. You cannot make purpose up. You have to mean it. In order to be able to mean it Goal, Value and the means of implementing both through authentic and coherent Leadership have to be in place. Otherwise “purpose” is another way of “marketing” whatever message you want to bring across.

0 comments on “#leadership for the upcoming generation of employees #nofearbook”

#leadership for the upcoming generation of employees #nofearbook

The No Fear Community (and will be a book) is supposed to support experience exchange amongst business professionals, managers and executives with regards to leadership practice and the change happening therein due to the shift in a lot of the employee's mindset. The question 'what's in for me' seems to become more and more eminent. It's similar to the dynamics in the online world: if you cannot offer real value and intuitive user experience user will abandon your offering. So leaders will – in a mid and long term – have to understand that followers won't be only defined by reporting lines anymore but by passion and belief in the shared vision, mission and goals. That of course doesn't mean that formal organizations will be replaced with solely crowd sourced businesses. There will be a new balance between the formal guidelines/structure keeping things in order and the network-oriented operations that will create value and unleash new potential in the field of information and knowledge work. It will be a continuous process not a one off change and it will be a challenge for everyone involved – the ones that seek to lead and the ones that seek to be led authentically. Check out the new website now at http://www.nofear-community.com/pre or at http://www.nofear-community.com as of March 1st.