CUTTINGS archive…
These are the leading articles from Cuttings 51-100. For the text of the article, scroll down the page

Coaching - Some tips and observations for managers adopting a coaching style.
Reflections and Inspirations - some of my personal recollections from the presentations and workshops at the World AI conference.
Bring Back Solitude - Introverts of the world unite! Stand up for silence and being left alone to work.
Leading from a Distance - some best practices in leading remote project teams from online resource Projects@Work.
Lead with Purpose - some extracts from US leadership coach and writer John Baldoni's blogs and new book on the important subject of generating purpose in leadership.
10 Lessons for a Better Corporate Culture - organisations with a strong and adaptive culture enjoy cost advantages, employee and customer engagement and sustainability.
The Stagecraft of Steve Jobs - the narrative and dramatic techniques of Apple's CEO.
Not Control but Influence - project managers highlights need to build relationships to earn trust and respect as well as completing the task.
How do Managers Engage Employees - CIPD research to identify management competencies for employee engagement.
The 'Golden Thread' of Shared Purpose - a recent major study by the CIPD reveals one of the features of the most successful organisations.
Don't blame the culture... Use it... - an article by Kazenbach and Harshak provides the stimulus for this lead piece on implementing change successfully.
HOW TO... survive in the matrix - - six key principles for success in matrix and project based organisation structures
Pressure reduces project performance - if you increase performance pressure, a project team starts to ignore valid information from more customer focused and junior sources.
The line manager as coach - coaching is a prime method for improving performance and for development.
Can employee Engagement help us out of recession?: three reports from different countries combine to answer this question.
Nothing Works Without Integrity: the personal and organisational benefits of honouring your word
Bonuses need the right Measures: the problem with performance bonuses is the wrong measures
  • Engaging for Success: A recent report commissioned for the UK Government gives strong support for employee engagement
Crisis Leadership - leadership in a crisis should not underestimate establishing a positive working climate
Involving Staff in Difficult Decisions - using large group methods to engage and energise in the current downturn
The Coaching Conundrum - the practice does not match the rhetoric
Why Change Programmes Fail - Jim Clemmer updates the research on this phenomenon
What's Your Organisation Type? - Does your company's personality help or hinder results?
Being a Leader Doesn't Make You One - Leaders often have the technical but not the behavioural skills to lead
Moods and Narratives - a focus on human centred practices produces greater success in projects than traditional analytical tools
The Chickens are in Charge - why project managers can't manage projects
Feedforward instead of Feedback - some ideas on how to improve communication about performance improvement
Perceived Power - how equalising perceived power can help get win:win agreements
Jazz - The new metaphor - Jazz is increasingly replacing the symphony orchestra as a metaphor for management and leadership

I can't remember where I found the original of this article on coaching, so I cannot attribute it. My thanks and apologies to the original author who I quote from extensively in this piece below.

"Any instruction that lasts longer than ten seconds is coaching”

The quotation is a great comment that is attributed to the Mars Corporation and a view that I subscribe to, especially where the manager is doing the coaching. Too often line managers are put off coaching their staff because they have a picture of the more formal coaching sessions provided by internal and external professional coaches that last an hour or more. They believe that they don't have the time. Just consider the difference that could be created by asking your staff member what they would propose to do when they bring a problem to you to solve, instead of giving them your expert opinion. Often they have an idea in mind, but lack the confidence to carry it out without checking first. And often their solution is just as good (if not better) than yours. So you can affirm their analysis and give them praise for being so resourceful. The exchange has taken no longer than giving an instruction, and is often a lot shorter as it saves you explaining how to do it as well.

And there is an added knock on benefit that the staff member develops confidence to take decisions in the future and save you time by not needing to refer them to you.

Coaching is for everyone
Coaching is not a specialist occupation reserved for the very few, but a basic way of operating for everyone who is trying to get the best out of their people and get their people to be their best. It is a key skill which helps us to develop people.

The role of a coach
It doesn’t matter in what field the coach operates - sport, the arts, business… - their key role is to help someone improve what they are doing. They do this by giving the person they are coaching feedback about their performance. They also help them plan their development so that they can improve their skills and do the best they can. To be a good coach you don’t have to be an expert in the field, you just need to want to help someone achieve. In sport, many of the best coaches were only ever average performers and top sportspeople often don’t make it as coaches. In practice, the more expert you are, the harder it is to coach as there is a greater tendency to give an expert analysis and opinion.

Coaching in organisations
Good coaching is about focusing people on their own development goals and helping them to achieve them. You can do this by:
• Giving feedback, setting goals and tasks which will “stretch” people, linking these goals to the longer term aims of the individual and the organisation. Then supporting them through any difficulties so that they succeed.
• Setting up a climate which encourages people to take the risk to do things differently and to learn from their experience. You can do this by helping people to reflect on their experiences and draw learning out of those experiences, helping people learn from others, and by challenging people to continual learning.
• Actively setting up learning and development opportunities for individuals.
Being a coach requires a change of mindset from telling people to helping them find out. And as my earlier comment is very often true - they already know, so helping them find out is not difficult. If you are going to be an effective coach you need to get some skills in listening, reflecting and giving feedback and setting goals, and also get some practice in how to do it. It is not difficult, just different from our traditional view of how a manager should operate.

Reflections and Inspirations
Some of my learnings, memories, inspirations, provocations and observations from the four days of the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in Ghent, Belgium, in no particular order of importance or sequencing.

Leadership and sustainability
Strengths based leadership is closely linked with development of sustainable value. For some years, one of the largest AI initiatives has been Business as an Agent of World Benefit, BAWB, sponsored by the United Nations. One example of the action-research project is the annual conference held in Brazil since 2003 where business people gather and share stories about how they succeed in creating benefits for their society and their business. This has scaled up the societal efforts of business in Brazil.

UPS only makes right turns in cities
UPS only takes right turns in cities (if you are reading this in the UK or other countries where we drive on the left - then this headline reads UPS only makes left turns…) Their logic? If you turn left you wait for traffic and waste time and energy. So they programmed their GPS systems and route planning software to maximise right turns. They have been doing this across the network since 2004, following a pilot in New York.
The impact? They save over 28.5 million truck miles a year, and 3 million gallons of fuel. Not to mention less frustration for the drivers, less CO2 emissions and less holdups for other road users. A real example of the sustainability and environmental agenda having a massive business and societal benefit.

What do you do when you have 100% customer satisfaction?
You run an Appreciative Inquiry Summit involving all the company engineers, business partners and customers in the same room for 3 days to see where to go next… The company in the spotlight is Schuberg Philis is a Dutch IT company that runs outsourced services who attain a regular 100% customer recommendation score on an independent industry comparison survey. No-one else achieves this. How do they achieve this? They work in multidisciplinary teams focused on the customer. They do not have a help line number or help desk - all of their customers have the engineers name and direct phone number.
The outcome of the summit: valuing trust over control, putting true personal relationship before hierarchy. Making decisions with our kids in mind. Putting care for each other, care for families and care for customers in print. Basing the company on love.

The Macon Miracle
The largest AI Summit so far… 4500 people meeting over 2 individual days 6 weeks apart in Bibb County, Georgia in the USA. The purpose: to design a radically new strategy for education. The need was high - the district was ranked 174th out of the 179 districts in Georgia. It had only a 51% graduation rate. 20,000 of its 35,000 students live in poverty, with 632 being documented as homeless. To come up with this new plan, all 3500 employees plus a further 1000 participants comprising parents, community members, business, political leaders met to discuss and agree the strategic themes.
6 key focus areas were identified and worked on by self chosen groups to create 190 action steps on 20 goals. Some of the initiatives identified and started:
• Year round school.
• Making Mandarin Chinese mandatory from kindergarten.
• Having a system wide portfolio of school choice.
• Numeracy and literacy by 3rd grade.
• Improved teaching tools.
• Having a one stop shop to provide information and training for parents.
• Developing dormitory accommodation for homeless students.
By reassigning resources to stop spending money in some areas to invest in others. The first year of the plan only needed $32,000 dollars of extra money. Other initiatives identify an overall potential $27million savings.
And all of this was organised in just 3 weeks!

Bring Back Solitude
Susan Cain, the author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking raises some serious questions about the fashion in schools, companies and other organisations to group people together in teams, work groups, open plan offices and other collaborative frameworks. The assumption seems to be that we are more creative and productive in such situations. But Cain points out that research strongly suggests that people are often more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption, and the most creative people in many fields are often introverted. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and talk about their ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic..

Introversion fosters creativity by concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on matters unrelated. As Picasso said: “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” And Steve Wozniak, co-founder with Steve Jobs of Apple Computer offers this guidance: “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me—they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone.”
In the light of these comments and research evidence, Cain questions the drive towards more and more collaboration and to frown on solitude. She points to the fact that 70% of US workers are in open-plan offices, where the the average amount of space allotted to each employee has shrunk from 500 sq.ft. in the 1970s to 200 sq.ft. in 2010.

She points out that school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks to foster group learning. She even cites one elementary school she visited in New York City where children were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question.

As an Introvert myself, I associate with a lot of Cain’s messages. I know I work better when I am on my own and have the opportunity to concentrate on the task at hand. However, I know that I need teamwork as well. I have even written a book on the subject of team problem solving, and actively promote team working in organisations through my workshops and consultancy. I also point out that teams are not a panacea, and can be a positively dangerous way of organising. There is no point in being in a sharing, caring team when you just need to concentrate on your task. It is when you don’t have the answer and need to engage in problem solving that two (or more) heads are better than one. The idea that we need to work together on everything is wrong.

Similarly, Cain is not against teamwork. What she complains about is ‘being corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise of co-workers.’ Especially when studies show that these offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted; more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, flu and exhaustion; 50% more likely to make mistakes and take twice as long to finish their work.The new gaming industry is putting these ideas into practice. One company switched its open-plan to cubicles and found higher productivity and worker satisfaction. And in a study known as the Coding War Games, consultants compared the work of more than 600 programmers at 92 companies. They found that people from the same companies performed at roughly the same level — but that there was an enormous performance gap between organisations.

What distinguished the top-performing companies was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption their workers enjoyed. 62% of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19% of the worst performers. 76% of the worst programmers but only 38% of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and often succumb to peer pressure. When we need people to work in groups is when the collective result is more important than the individual. It is when we have a collective problem to solve, where no individual has the answer, how every hard they work on their own. Designing the Apple Macintosh was a collaborative team effort. Making the dream a reality was individual, private work. Most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.
The Rise of the New Groupthink, Susan Cain, NY Times 1.13.2012

Leading from a Distance
The most effective virtual team leaders are able to balance execution with interpersonal skills, according to a study of virtual teams by published on Projects@Work.
Leading a project team is hard enough. Scattering the team members across different geographic areas, making face-to-face contact difficult makes leading a virtual team one of the most difficult jobs in business today – so say the report writers. This study did not seek to compare virtual team leaders to co-located team leaders, but instead wanted to understand what differentiates the most best virtual team leaders from the worst. The study overwhelmingly identified communication as the most important skill required for success. Here are the five best practices that virtual team leaders need to master:

Learn to manage change.
Managing change and leading teams through transitions are particularly difficult when team members are geographically dispersed.
Just like with face-to-face change, one important step is to involve team members in decisions that affect them. With a dispersed team it is even more important to avoid issues of isolation and feeling ‘out of control’. Inclusive decision making increases the quality of the team's decisions and helps maintain high levels of enthusiasm and commitment.

Foster a collaboration atmosphere.
Effective virtual team leaders use a number of strategies to make up for the lack of human contact. Less effective leaders of virtual teams find it difficult to build relationships and develop collaboration among team members. Effective leaders find ways for team members to interact and communicate informally. For example, using 'same-time' technologies such as Instant Messaging to help spontaneous communication among team members. Another important way to promote collaboration is to manage the conflicts that emerge. Conflict can often go undetected in virtual environments; effective virtual team leaders proactively look for signs and take timely steps to resolve it.

Communicate goals and direction.
Successful virtual team leaders clearly articulate team goals and direction to ensure that everyone has a shared vision. They also revisit these factors regularly to reinforce their importance and make adjustments. Clearly communicated, shared team goals are especially crucial for virtual teams, because they give members a sense of purpose and meaning that sustains them when they are working alone or without regular direct contact with the team leader or other team members. Clear goals also help to unify the actions of a geographically dispersed team and keep members focused on execution.

Develop strong interpersonal communication skills.
Working virtually means people sometimes feel isolated and find it more difficult to tap into informal communication. This can negatively impact morale and productivity. Therefore, the most effective leaders establish informal and formal communication methods to ensure that people have the information they need to do their jobs and to feel "plugged in." Responsiveness and follow-up are critical elements. Top-performing virtual team leaders had higher ratings on responding effectively, providing timely feedback to team members, and sharing information in a timely manner. Effective virtual team leaders must create a two-way dialogue so members feel comfortable giving constructive feedback. Doing this over the phone is particularly challenging because members have no visual cues to gauge the reactions of others.

Empower team members.
People are often expected to work more independently in virtual teams, so delegating work, giving team members freedom to make decisions, and monitoring work are particularly important. The best leaders follow up frequently, but avoid micromanaging, overcoming any reluctance in team members to inform about problems, mistakes and delays. Effective leaders react to problems in a constructive and non-punitive way. If they shoot the messenger, they will get even less information.

These skills may seem fundamental, but many of the virtual team leaders in the study were not able to execute them. Leading from a distance is more challenging than leading co-located teams. Understanding this is the first step to building effective virtual team leaders.
Leading from a distance,

Lead with Purpose
Following on from the lead article in the last edition of Cuttings - 10 Lessons for a Better Corporate Culture - John Baldoni writes in his blogs on CNN and Forbes, and his new book about how to Lead With Purpose: Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself.

"Management is the discipline of getting things done right. Leadership is the art of doing what is right for good of the organization. In other words, management is execution; leadership is inspiration. Inspiration emerges from purpose, knowing what you do and why you do it. Organizational purpose emerges from the vision, mission and values of an organization."

"When you enter a place where people are purposeful it is palpable. Be it a hospital or a manufacturer, when people know what their job is and how it connects to the mission, they are engaged. They want to come to work and do their job, because they derive meaning from it." So - everyone at Apple is focused on producing well-designed products, easy to use as tools of productivity or means of entertainment. Everyone in the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain from managers to maids knows how to deliver a superior guest experience. According to the research conducted by John Baldoni for his latest book one of the ways leaders instil purpose in an organisation, is through communicating the vision, tying customer benefits to employee contributions, and linking work to results.

Purpose Begins With People
As John points out in his Forbes article: "Leaders instill purpose in people by putting them first. This means the entire organization is focused upon harnessing the talents and skills of the organization. A great example of this is Vineet Nayar, the CEO of HCL Technologies, a global IT service firm. Vineet told me he sees himself as responsible for helping his people innovate. He is a servant leader to his people and holds himself accountable as such."
"Behaviour matters. When employees see their leaders go out of their way to speak to employees, listen to them, invite their suggestions, and encourage them to think and do creatively, they come to believe that the leader has their best interests at heart. That is a form of purpose that resonates most clearly."
Purpose is especially necessary in tough times. As Roger Webb, President of the University of Central Oklahoma, told John in an interview: "If people don't feel the purpose, and don't feel the goal and [know] that they are accomplishing things and moving forward, then depressing news can really bring people down."

Purpose Provides Clarity
While purpose is the spark that sets up the vision and defines its mission, it becomes inert if not practiced. So a leader must "connect the dots" between what an employee does and why it matters.
John outlines a key example of this at Ford Motor Company. "Under the leadership of CEO Alan Mulally the organization has transformed itself from a struggling company to one that has become the most admired automaker. Key to this has been the One Ford plan, which is the relentless focus on creating cars and trucks that complement the Ford brand globally. The beauty of this imperative is not the words; it's the action steps."
"Employees throughout Ford understand the responsibility they have to deliver on One Ford. If you work in manufacturing you understand that decisions and actions you make complement Ford's ability to build world-class products. Or if you work in marketing, you know how your marketing plan for the Focus complement the strategic imperative. Put in other way, purpose becomes personal." People look to their leaders to provide a kind of clarity for our times. They look for someone to hold up the light so they can see to the end of the tunnel and know that it opens into someplace good.

Specificity is critical
John has developed two questions that managers can ask themselves to ensure that they are using purpose as a lever to effect positive results:
• Are you are teaching your staff about a purpose?
• Are you ensuring your staff follow through on the shared purpose?
Answers to these questions will enable the leader to provide his team with goals, but more importantly will generate conversations about what the team is doing and why it matters. Leaders also need to feel such purpose in themselves. A final thought from John: "Tom Draude, a retired Marine general and now head of the Marine Corps University Foundation, has what he calls the Sunday night test. Leaders should ask themselves, “Are you looking forward to Monday morning?” Leaders who can answer that in the affirmative are the ones who can lead themselves, their teams, and their organizations to good purpose."
Links to blogs and articles quoted in this article can be found at
Lead with Purpose: Giving Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself, John Baldoni, Amacom Books, ISBN 978-0814417386


10 Lessons for a Better Corporate Culture
Why is it that many of the same companies appear repeatedly on lists of the best places to work, the best providers of customer service, and the most profitable in their industries? Why is it that many companies continue to deliver, outlasting any individual charismatic leader? In their book, The Ownership Quotient, HBS professors Jim Heskett and Earl Sasser and co-author Joe Wheeler assert the answer lies in corporate cultures that foster innovation, productivity, and a sense of ownership among employees and customers. Organisations with strong, adaptive cultures enjoy cost advantages, great employee and customer loyalty, and a smoother leadership succession. They become better places to work. But how can you as a manager create and nurture that special culture? The following top 10 lessons of the best practitioners give an insight:
1 Leadership is critical. Leaders must set the example by living the elements of culture: values, behaviours, measures, and actions. Values are meaningless without the other elements.
2 Culture is something in which you invest. An organisation's norms and values aren't formed through speeches but through actions and team learning. Strong cultures are much more than slogans and promises. Some organisations choose to part ways with those who do not manage according to the values and behaviours that other employees embrace. Others accomplish the same objective more positively by constantly recognising and rewarding those whose actions exemplify its values, its behaviours, and its standards.
3 Employees at all levels in an notice and validate the elements of culture. They judge every management decision to hire, reward, promote, and fire colleagues. Their reactions often come through in comments about subjects such as the "fairness of my boss." The underlying theme in such conversations, though, is the strength and appropriateness of the organisation's culture.
4 Organisations with clear cultures enjoy labour cost advantages for the following reasons:
• They become better places to work.
• They become well known among prospective employees.
• Referral rates and ideas for improving the business from existing employee is high.
5 Organisations with clearly codified and enforced cultures enjoy great employee and customer loyalty, in large part because they are effective in either altering ineffective behaviours or disengaging from employees in a timely manner.
6 An operating strategy based on a strong, effective culture is selective of prospective customers. It also requires the periodic "firing" of customers, especially where there is evidence that customers "abuse" employees or make unreasonable demands on them.
7 The result of all this is to create a sense of "the best serving the best," or as Ritz-Carlton's mission states, "Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen."
8 This self-reinforcing source of operating leverage must be managed carefully to make sure that it does not result in the development of dogmatic cults with little capacity for change. Great organisations revisit and reaffirm their core values and associated behaviours regularly. Further, they often subscribe to constant benchmarking and a continual search for best practices both inside and outside the organisation. For example, at one example company, all employees are expected and encouraged "to search until they find 'the best of the best' in their area of expertise and benchmark against them in order to emulate them."
9 Organisations with strong and adaptive cultures foster effective succession in the leadership ranks. In large part, the culture both prepares successors and eases the transition.
10 Cultures can sour. Among the reasons for this are success itself, the loss of curiosity and interest in change, the triumph of culture over performance, the failure of leaders to reinforce desired behaviours, the breakdown of consistent communication, and leaders who are overcome by their own sense of importance. High performing organisations are aware of this and keep it under constant review.

The authors researched a range of different organisations across the industrial sectors, to identify the actions and activities involved in developing strong and adaptive cultures. When an organisation consistently and consciously builds and reinforces such a culture, it creates a competitive edge that is hard to replicate.
The Ownership Quotient: Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work for Unbeatable Competitive Advantage. Harvard Business School Press

The Stagecraft of Steve Jobs
When Steve Jobs, cofounder and CEO of Apple Inc., takes the stage during one of his much-watched public appearances, he’s doing more than merely introducing a new product or delivering a keynote speech. Through his carefully stage-managed appearances, Jobs uses narrative and dramatic techniques to help reinforce his identity as a charismatic leader and to frame the Apple story in his terms. The techniques Jobs uses offer lessons for other executives who need to manage the message about themselves and their companies.

It was not always a positive image for Jobs –in the 1970s and 1980s he was dogged by stories of his “narcissism, temper, tantrums, and bad behaviour.”
Since his return to Apple in 1997, Jobs and his closest aides have worked to suppress leaks and rumours. But Jobs’s view that “loose lips sink ships” doesn’t serve only to protect Apple’s commercial interests, it also serves a dramaturgical point. Apple relies on highly anticipated trade shows, conferences, and special events to interact with customers, shareholders, and media. As Jobs typically demonstrates new products and services, he also pushes his preferred narrative and reinforces his bond with Apple enthusiasts.

Abz Sharma and David Grant , the authors of this analysis of Jobs’s style, conducted a textual and visual analysis of Jobs’s speeches which highlight the ways that leadership can be generated through narrative and storytelling. The authors illustrate their thesis by focusing on three of Jobs’s performances from key moments in Apple’s history and his career. The first presentation was in 1997 at Macworld Expo. Jobs had just returned to Apple which was in dire financial straits. At the conference, he dropped a bombshell, announcing a US$150 million investment in Apple by archrival Microsoft. But when a guest appearance by Bill Gates was met with loud boos, Jobs departed from his planned script. He invoked a collective voice– using we and us – to appeal to his followers and frame the Apple–Microsoft rivalry as something in the past. He encouraged Apple’s followers to give up their feelings against Microsoft and take responsibility for Apple’s future. This ‘vision’ narrative turned the conference from antagonism to wholehearted support.

The second speech took place at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2002, where Jobs staged a mock funeral for the out-of-date OS9 operating system. The stage was brightly lit, giving it a “heavenly” feel, and a church interior with stained-glass windows was projected onto a backdrop. Fog billowed from smoke machines, while a black coffin rose from a trap door. As Bach’s Toccata and Fugue faded, Jobs – dressed in out-of-place turtleneck shirt and jeans – gave a humorous eulogy. The authors write, “the humour and symbolism of Jobs’s performance had exorcised years of developer frustration and anger.” Jobs’s wit and cleverness reflected Apple’s identity and that of its customers, who see themselves as good-humoured, goal-oriented, and willing to learn.

The third appearance was at the 2007 Macworld Expo, where rumours circulated about a new device called the iPhone. The rumours brought unprecedented attention to Apple, and raised the stakes for Jobs’s keynote address. Once again, the audience was facing a minimalist stage with a huge screen at the rear, its attention shifting back and forth from Jobs to the screen thanks to lighting effects. Wearing his familiar casual gear, Jobs began by alluding to the sense of occasion and invoking the collective identity: “We’re going to make history together today.” But not immediately: First he teased the audience with sales data. Then, after a pause, Jobs said, “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is.” The big screen showed a picture of an iPod with a rotary dial, sending waves of laughter through the audience. “No, actually here it is,” Jobs said as he removed a phone from his pocket to gasps from the audience.
The well-timed gag acknowledged the months-long anticipation of the audience; over the next hour, Jobs demonstrated all of the iPhone’s features. Finally, he revisited Apple’s organisational narrative, saying that the company had outgrown its name. Apple Computer would now be known as Apple Inc.. Once again, Jobs had managed to take the audience into the future with him.

The Bottom Line:
A study of Steve Jobs’s presentations demonstrates how to use narrative and storytelling. Not everyone has the stage presence or the storyline that Jobs has. But other leaders can apply his techniques and their emotional underpinnings — humour, spontaneity, a mix of self-deprecation and pride, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of community – to their own stages.
Abz Sharma and David Grant (University of Sydney) in Leadership, vol. 7, no. 1, quoted in strategy+business, March 2011

Not Control but Influence
Project managers rarely have direct control over anyone on their teams; they don’t rule by decree. Good project managers exert influence, which is more effective than making demands anyway. So say Dan Vickers and Curt Finch in a recent article in Projects at Work.
A common problem is the assumption that being given the authority to lead automatically translates to skill. But, being given the authority is much like being given the keys to a new car. The ability to drive it well is not included. Project managers operate through influence; they rarely have direct control over anyone in particular. While a boss or executive may be able to issue decrees and make demands, the project manager does not have quite the same powers of command. Many fail to understand this aspect and walk into project management assuming they have power of command. Team members are not the employees of the project manager, but are rather members of a collaborative, symbiotic team. Project managers need to exert influence by:
Communicating effectively
Communication will always top the list of vital qualities for effective project management. Developing relationships is critical, and project managers must work to gain the trust of all stakeholders. This is never achieved through emails, demands, or brief interactions. Relationships are developed slowly through consistent interaction and honest behaviour. The effective project manager doesn’t just talk; they listen, learn and earn respect by valuing input and giving credit where it is due.
Understanding when to delegate authority is an important aspect of leading teams. By knowing their team's strengths, the project manager will be able to pass on tasks and decisions to their team members and improve overall efficiency. Thus the project manager not only saves time but empowers those around him or her. When delegating, it's important to understand exactly when and to whom power can be entrusted. Some people are much happier with strict oversight than free reign; and just because someone is good at their task does not mean they are able to manage. Each act of delegation needs to be carefully designed to the individual’s capability. And, as the team member develops, they can be trusted with an increased task load and/or more complex assignments Delegating not only eases the work burden of the project manager, but also encourages team members to work toward a shared end goal and builds trust. A project manager who takes on every task personally is not trusted or respected as a leader.
Setting the Example
Acting in contradiction to one’s expectations of others. The authority of a project leader is earned and is given by the team followers. It is not something that can be relied on. If you want timeliness, consideration, efficiency, organisation and fairness then you have to demonstrate these traits yourself. To gain respect and enhance authority, one must have the knowledge and the capacity to be a true leader. If the team sees their project manager as ill-informed, they will be less likely to trust his or her judgment. Even such a thing as an organised, clean and aesthetically appealing office can provide a significant advantage to a project team. A recent study suggests that the productivity of employees increases dramatically by simply reorganising and cleaning their work environment. To be a great leader, it's important for one to believe in oneself, one’s actions and others. Projects will never go to plan and mistakes will be made. But, mistakes made with the correct intentions and in a climate of support can prevent feelings of personal incompetence or failure.
Focus on relationship and task
Ultimately, project management requires that the project manager maintains constant vigilance over his or her team regardless of prior success. And it is also important to realise the boundaries of the project manager’s authority. An effective leader is not a tyrant and does not just follow the plan. An effective leader builds trust and relationships through communicating with and inspiring others, not just focusing purely on task completion.
Under the Influence, by Dan Vickers and Curt Finch, Projects at Work, May 2011

How do Managers Engage Employees?
“The extent to which managers provide guidance, feedback and the appropriate level of autonomy for staff is key to whether employees go the extra mile for their organisation.” So concludes new research for the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. Research consistently highlights the critical role of line managers in supporting sustainable organisation performance. However there has been little research to identify the specific management behaviours relevant to enhancing and managing employee engagement. This new CIPD study builds on the scanty existing research by focusing on specific management behaviours important for enhancing and managing employee engagement – both positive behaviours to be adopted and negative behaviours to be avoided – and exploring these behaviours at two levels of management: first-level line managers and managers who manage other managers. 11 competencies for supporting engagement were identified, and an analysis of the comments showed the most frequently and positively mentioned ones as:
• reviewing and guiding
• feedback, praise and recognition
• autonomy and empowerment

The frequency analysis also identified three competencies that received more negative than positive mentions:
• availability
• following processes and procedures
• ethical

Despite expectations that first-line managers and more-senior managers might display different patterns of behaviours, the set of competencies was found to be consistent across descriptions of both first-line management and managers of managers. The framework, and the specific behavioural indicators, can help managers understand what they need to do to generate the environment for employee engagement in detail. The research suggests that there is no single behaviour that is the ‘magic solution’ to engaging employees. Rather, there is a complementary set of behaviours that combine to enhance engagement.
Research Insight: Management Competencies for Enhancing Employee Engagement, CIPD March 2011

The Golden Thread of Shared Purpose
Organisations whose employees share a sense of purpose outperform those who don’t, according to recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published in the report Shared purpose: the golden thread?

Most organisations do have a purpose and for many it tends to be ‘profit-based’. However, despite this being a common purpose, making profit for investors and owners does not ‘fire up’ the workforce, in fact those organisations with a profit base purpose tend to be out of sync with employees. Just having a purpose is not enough to generate performance. Whilst a high proportion of employees surveyed believe their organisations have a clear sense of purpose, far fewer believe it is a shared sense of purpose throughout the organisation.

Alignment is the key issue here. Alignment between an organisation’s purpose, its values and its goals is more important than the specific purpose of the organisation – as indeed is the alignment between an employee’s goals and the values of the organisation and ultimately understanding where they fit.
Organisations who achieve this sense of shared purpose outperform those with none on both soft and hard measures. In addition, the research indicates strong indications that if employees know and share what their organisation’s purpose is then they are more likely to be engaged and satisfied. This has been one of the questions in the Gallup Q12 survey ‘The mission/purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important’.

On the down side, a lack of understanding around purpose can lead to de-motivation and emotional detachment, which in turn lead to a disengaged and dissatisfied workforce. Despite the benefits, few organisations appear to achieve a sense of shared purpose: 35 per cent of the respondents identified that their organisations’ core purpose was detached from their day-to-day jobs. And, while 76 per cent of respondents said they knew clearly what their organisations’ core purposes were, just 28 per cent believed that purpose was shared throughout the whole organisation.

For those organisations whose purpose is fully shared by their staff, the benefits are clear:
• improved timeliness and efficiency of service delivery
• increased market share
• higher employee engagement: 84% of respondents were engaged, compared to 32% of respondents without a shared sense of purpose

Decision making
Having a sense of shared purpose not only affects satisfaction and engagement; the research indicates that it also affects how decisions are made. Employees who feel their organisation has a sense of shared purpose are more likely to see their organisation involving them from the outset in contributing to and shaping big decisions; those with no sense of shared purpose see decisions being made ‘behind closed doors’. A sense of shared purpose tends to produce a ‘co-creation’ atmosphere, while lack of purpose results in a ‘tell and sell’ approach. While the research identifies the importance of communications and leadership in developing a sense of shared purpose, just informing employees is not enough. The research clearly identifies that employees need to see their senior clearly demonstrating that they live the values and purpose they espouse. This ‘on board’ attitude from senior management also has the ability to improve job satisfaction – respondents who feel senior management keep the organisation purpose at the heart of their visions and strategies are more likely to be satisfied with their job than those who do not.

An organisation’s purpose is at the core of its very reason for being. Different organisations have different purposes that resonate differently with their employees. But whilst employees are more motivated by a non-profit-related purpose it is more important that purpose, values and goals are aligned.
Where there is alignment people not only understand the purpose and values of the organisation but also see where they fit into it – then levels of engagement and satisfaction are increased and the perception of the organisation as one that outperforms its rivals is tangible. A greater sense of purpose is achieved if their goals are aligned with the organisation’s values. The research also highlights the importance of communication and leadership. And whilst mechanisms such as appraisals and one-to-one meetings will help, leaders must demonstrate that they too ‘live’ the values. Many employees believe that this does not happen.

Shared purpose: the golden thread? CIPD report, December 2010
“Golden thread” of shared purpose highlighted by research, TJ January 2011

Three Strategies from the Best Companies for Leadership 2010
“Leading companies today are structured more like a neural network than a hierarchical machine,” so says Rick Lash, co-leader of the Hay Group Leadership study. They operate as a flattened matrix, where information and authority move in all directions and cross-functional teams are as important as formal vertical structures. Their managers facilitate diverse teams with members from different cultures and time zones who report to multiple bosses. These forward-looking organisations use three fundamental strategies.
1. Drive collaboration
The Best Companies for Leadership expect everyone, at all levels, to exercise leadership and create value. They seek out successful ideas and practices disseminate them throughout their organisations. In this environment, a collaborative approach is essential, and ninety per cent of the Top 20 Best Companies for Leadership reward collaboration with incentives.
2. Gain value from diversity
Leading companies have recognised that they can compete more effectively in markets around the globe when their leadership includes people native to them. All the Top 20 consider cultural diversity an enrichment rather than a threat. They develop local leaders rather than expatriates, and help all leaders develop the competencies to manage diverse workforces more effectively.
3. Build a sustainable workforce
In response to the values of a new generation of leaders, leading companies are adapting their approach to employees' work-life balance, and to social and environmental responsibility. Ninety-five per cent of the Top 20 have a family friendly culture and use their socially responsible practices in recruiting.
And there is a massive investment in development. Over the six years that Hay Group has conducted the Best Companies for Leadership study, leadership development at all companies has steadily increased. At the Best Companies, they stay ahead by investing more and doing more.

Hay Group newsletter February 2011
Hay Group Best Companies for Leadership study report 2010

Don't blame the culture... Use it..
Too often, according to booz&co’s Jon Katzenbach and Ashley Harshak, leaders blame their organisation’s culture for a lack of progress and change, rather than recognising that they are most likely to achieve change by working with and through the existing culture to get to the behaviours they want. Their premise, in an article published in strategy+business, is that leaders need to understand the value of an organisation’s culture – the set of deeply embedded, self-reinforcing behaviours, beliefs, and mind-sets that determine “how we do things around here.” People within an organisational culture share a tacit understanding of the way the world works, their place in it, the informal and formal dimensions of their workplace, and the value of their actions. Though it seems intangible, the culture has a substantial influence on everyday actions and on performance.

As a result, cultures don’t change very quickly. Therefore, if you are seeking change in your company or institution, you are most likely to succeed using your existing culture to help you change the behaviours that matter most. Bit by bit, as these new behaviours prove their value through business results, the culture you have can evolve into the culture you need.

Some leaders choose to work against a culture – removing key leaders and old practices, restructuring operations, and announcing across-the-board changes. This approach is costly, disruptive, risky and takes years to accomplish. Working in a culture that is under attack also reduces employees’ energy and de-motivates them. Worst of all, it is rarely successful; as we know from numerous studies, few major corporate transformations achieve their intended goals.
Other leaders may try to ignore their culture and act as if it isn’t important, only to find that whatever they try to do is thwarted, or only implemented without the emotional commitment and consistency needed.

Work with the culture not against it
The answer, say Katzenbach and Harshak, is to work with the existing culture. That’s not to say you don’t need to make some changes, and some organisations have more toxic cultures than others. The approach is to use the existing culture purpose-fully. View it as an asset: a source of energy, pride, and motivation. Learn to work with it and within it. Discern the elements of the culture that are congruent with your strategy. Figure out which of the old constructive behaviours embedded in your culture can be applied to accelerate the changes that you want. Find ways to counterbalance and diminish other elements of the culture that hinder you. In this way, you can initiate, accelerate, and sustain truly beneficial change — with far less effort, time, and expense, and with better results
As Ed Schein author of The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (rev. ed., Jossey-Bass, 2009) and a leading authority on organisational culture puts it, “Always think first of the culture as your source of strength.” Tapping into the emotionally gripping aspects of your existing culture can accelerate performance. For example, a deep commitment to customer service may exist, even in companies that are losing customers.

Using Appreciative Inquiry
Taking the ideas developed in the article, I can see an immediate link with the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organisation develop-ment. In Appreciative Inquiry, there is an underpinning principle that in any organisation, something works. The objective is to identify this and enlarge it, emphasise it, amplify it. That way people are working towards change through something that they appreciate, something seen as a positive, something they know works, rather than moving away from a difficulty or a negative situation to a future that is unknown.The Appreciative Inquiry process allows organisations to identify the strengths of their existing culture and put them to work. Employees engage in dialogue and discovery to identify the best of what exists now, then project that best into the future to create a new culture that has strong foundations in the existing culture.

Identify the enablers
Katzenbach and Harshak again: Every corporate culture has behaviours that will help you enable the change you want and others that will hinder it. Pick the enablers out and develop them, and this kind of adaptability will then become part of the new culture. Whatever happens in the outside world, keep the internal focus on the few critical behaviours that matter most — resist the temptation to attempt changes in the behaviours, attitudes, and values of the system all at once. ‘It is much easier to act your way into new thinking than to think your way into new actions.’

Stop blaming your culture, by Jon Katzenbach and Ashley Harshak, strategy+business, January 2010
Rapid & Inclusive Strategy, by Geof Cox, SAMI Consulting
Appreciative Inquiry – A Guide, by Geof Cox,


HOW TO — Survive in the matrix
The matrix is back. This is not a call to Neo to go and confront the agents again in the latest Wachowski brothers epic. The matrix organisation structure is back after some decline in popularity in favour of more hierarchical structures where there is easier communication and simplicity. It is back, along with its sister structure, the project based organisation, because it reflects the complexity of the business environment that demands organisations innovate faster and leverage their resources more effectively. But the matrix also brings frustrations and confusions caused by dual (and often multiple) reporting relationships.

Matrix organisations do work, but they need to be well structured and managed. And the people in them need to know how to make them work. They improve the quality and speed of business decisions. They focus cross-functional expertise in responsive, customer facing groupings that reflect the fluid and complex environment in which the organisation operates. They cause frustration when people have not been adequately trained in the different ways of working needed, or when it has been implemented badly. Too often managers waste their energy in a fight for control in a structure where confusion and conflict is inherent. If those managing do not understand how to get results in the structure, there is little hope for the rest of the staff.

There are six key strategies for survival in the matrix:
Conflicts of role and responsibility need to be resolved by negotiation in the context of the organisation’s goals. Replace territorial fights over who’s in charge with collaborative working to best achieve the overall goal.
Everyone seems to have an interest in the decision. This is only a problem if you have not identified the stakeholders and their interests. Ignoring their influence won’t make them go away, in fact it will probably intensify their interest. Be proactive – identify everyone who may have an interest in your project or objective, what their interest is, and their importance. Then draw up a strategic influence plan to build their support and make sure their interests are addressed in what you do.
Collaboration does not come easy. Hierarchies lead to competitive and individualist behaviour – competing for limited resources, fighting for control, individual performance targets and bonuses. Collaboration is not natural in this environment, and is often seen as a weakness and ‘soft’. The success of a matrix is based on a win:win approach which requires highly developed skills in listening, agreement building, collaboration, negotiation, strategic thinking, and self awareness.
Matrix working requires that you have skills in communicating effectively with people from different functions and cultures, and understand your impact on others. What do your matrix colleagues want? Do they like lots of detail, or are they happy with an overview? Do they like lots of contact or to be left on their own? We all have our different preferences – failure to adapt to others’ preferences means you can’t build a good relationship.
Not literally - though if your matrix is international, this will help enormously! Learn how the people in your matrix like to communicate. Learn a range of different communication and influencing styles to deploy in the range of situations you face in the complexity. The greater the range of your and flexibility in your approach, the more people you will be able to influence. And at the same time you will build trust and relationship.
There is no one right way in a matrix; if there is, then the situation is not complex enough for a matrix structure. With complexity come options. The matrix is no place to try to tell people what to do – this only leads to resistance, both active and passive, or a power struggle. You do not have the authority, so don’t try to use it. Instead, you need to grow your influence and negotiate mutually acceptable outcomes.

Surviving the Matrix: The Déjà Vu Challenge by Marybeth Tahar, Interaction Assoc. San Francisco, CA
Challenges and strategies of matrix organizations: top-level and mid-level managers' perspectives, by Laura Sue D'Annunzio, HR Planning magazine
Cracking the matrix code, The Hay Group
Getting Results Without Authority, Geof Cox, BookShaker 2010


Pressure reduces Project Performance
In work at Harvard Business School, Professor Heidi K. Gardner is uncovering some worrying outcomes to projects when performance pressure is applied.
It's a common problem: A work team tackles a high-pressure project, but along the way something goes wrong and the client ends up feeling short-changed. Even though team members initially recognise and value each other's potential, within a short time some people's inputs count more than their actual knowledge warrants, to the detriment of the project.

Although there is always performance pressure on a high-visibility project, it is when the pressure is significantly intensified that teams will engage in collective behaviours that diminish their ability to leverage their expertise and focus on the project. What happens is that team dynamics takes a hit, and team members start to listen more to high-status "generalist" experts in the group and unintentionally ignore members who know the client organisation best. As team members pay more attention to general expertise over customer-specific expertise, they miss out on key information that would improve how they customise and adapt the work for clients. You don't want to be responsible for getting it wrong, so it feels safe to rely on general experts and the established way of doing things.

Unfortunately, this undermines performance because these projects are typically the ones where customisation is most critical.
What Gardner also observes in her research is that teams under heightened pressure tend to shut out dissenting points of view and new information, focusing exclusively on completing the job rather than learning. They revert to behaviour consistent with their roles on the team (that is, junior experts reduce contributions and more senior members become increasingly directive).

Performance pressure is ubiquitous, so what can project managers do?
The team leader can manage, and even leverage, pressure by designing meetings with controls in place—built-in time for reflection, open discussion periods, and so on—to ensure that early comfort with challenging one another's ideas doesn't deteriorate to self-censoring and dismissing dissent, reinforcing this during episodes of heightened performance pressure. A second antidote involves opening up the team boundaries to include clients. Across industries, the very best teams actually include clients as members of the core team, giving them joint accountability for helping to develop the team's solution. After all, who has better knowledge of the client than someone who is working there?

HBS Working Knowledge: Customer Experts Lose Influence When Teams are Pressured, September 2010

The line manager as coach
There is no doubt that coaching is a preferred intervention for many employees. And it is becoming increasingly used by organisations. A CIPD survey identifies that a third of organisations give coaching to all employees, with fewer than 10% reserving it for executives.

Who is delivering all of this coaching? The same survey limits external coaches to about 15% of the activity, with a third reporting that they had and used specialist internal coaches. But fully 85% of respondents say that coaching is delivered by line managers.

What is coached? For fully 40% of organisations, the purpose is performance management, which makes it highly sensible that the line manager is the person responsible for and carrying out the coaching. Clearly, it is the line manager who is responsible for getting the best performance from staff, and coaching is one of the best ways to set people up for success and deliver it. But, one has to ask: What is the standard of the coaching being delivered? My experience suggests that there are two immediate issues with line manager coaching: time and quality.

Time for coaching
Many managers feel themselves under pressure with task objectives, and view coaching as an added burden on their time. They fail to see that coaching and performance management IS their job, not an additional task to carry out. We need to help line managers to view their role more strategically; recognising that their primary responsibility is to enable results through others. This means engaging with their staff to help them achieve the requirements of the job. This is not done in a formal, off the job, one hour long coaching interview as is practiced in a lot of the training courses. It is done in regular 5 minute on the job conversations, where the opportunity for some quick coaching allows the manager to make the links from day to day behaviour to strategic business goals and give immediate feedback on what people are doing to reinforce good practice. Coaching now becomes a way of managing, not an activity to be scheduled into a busy day.

Quality of coaching
The other key issue for line managers is the quality of their coaching. For many it is an alternative method of telling someone what to do.
There is an inherent difficulty here as well – there is a manager / subordinate relationship which is difficult to overcome. The line manager can never be a truly independent coach in the way an external one can be. But again, if the focus of most coaching is on performance management, there is a clear focus of attention where independence is not necessary. One of my mentors, Alistair Mant, introduced me to a concept of ternary communication some years ago, which takes away a lot of the conflict inherent in our typical binary communication system (parent-child, teacher-pupil, master-servant, boss-subordinate). The idea if to create a ‘third box’ which is the agreed ‘higher purpose’ of the relationship – e.g. ‘increase performance’, ‘develop the business’, ‘reduce costs’.
The focus on this higher purpose to the conversation moves the focus of our individual positions to one of joint responsibility and role – how can we work together to… This then reduces the potential conflict and feelings of hierarchy, without trying to ignore their existence.

Focus on strengths
A final helpful pointer to line managers who are trying to coach, is to focus more on coaching strengths not fixing weaknesses. Not only is it easier to focus on what people are doing well and getting them to do more of this, it also is more effective. A famous experiment with a bowling team identified that if you coached people on fixing their faults, you increased performance; but if you ignored the mistakes and coached them on doing more of what they did right, their performance increased substantially more.

Training line managers to coach
Managers need help to become effective coaches – and not just in the basic skills of listening, questioning, building rapport and giving feedback. Most managers can easily learn these skills, if they don’t already possess them. The main focus of development needs to be on ‘why’ and ‘what’ not ‘how’. Managers do not need a rigid framework, they need a clear strategic understanding of the role and purpose of coaching in performance and development so they can then allocate the priority and develop their approach.

Coaching at the sharp end, CIPD
Taking the temperature of coaching, CIPD
The line manager as coach, TJ, July 2010


Can Employee Engagement help us out of recession?
Three different reports from the UK, USA and Australia all combine to give the answer on this question. As with the analysis in the MacLeod Report, reported in Cuttings 82, the message is so clear, and the need so great, that managers who are not pursuing deliberate engagement strategies are causing positive harm to their organisations and should be dealt with accordingly.

Job satisfaction at an all-time low
The CIPD conducts a quarterly survey among UK employees on their opinions of and attitudes towards working life. The last survey, covering winter 2009-10 shows job satisfaction dipping to the lowest point ever with a net satisfaction score of just +35. There are some disturbing differences across job satisfaction by age groups. There has been a dramatic dip in job satisfaction for 18–24-year-old respondents, from +28 in the Autumn survey to just +5 this quarter. This adds weight to current concerns about the ‘lost generation’ of young people who are being disproportionately and negatively affected by the current economic climate, particularly worrying because this ‘lost generation’ is the future. Employees feel less secure in their jobs, are less likely to agree they are learning new skills or have opportunities to progress and are more likely to feel worried about the future. They are also more likely to agree there has been an increase in office politics and less likely to trust their immediate manager.

Alarm bells for senior managers
It is employees’ attitudes to senior managers that should ring most alarm bells. Only about a third of employees say they trust or have confidence in their senior managers and three-quarters report that their organisation’s directors do not consult them. Employees’ negative perceptions of consultation is likely to be one of the reasons for the lack of trust and confidence in leaders. Inadequate consultation needs to be tackled to improve employee engagement, motivation and retention in the long term.

Getting beyond money
The second comment comes from the a recent McKinsey Quarterly survey: non-financial motivators are more effective than extra cash in building long-term employee engagement in most sectors, job functions, and business contexts. Many financial rewards mainly generate short-term boosts of energy, which can have damaging consequences. McKinsey find that three non-cash motivators—praise from immediate managers, leadership attention, and a chance to lead projects or task forces—are more effective motivators than the three highest-rated financial incentives: cash bonuses, increased base pay, and stock or stock options. The survey’s top three non-financial motivators play critical roles in making employees feel that their companies value them, take their well-being seriously, and strive to create opportunities for career growth. These themes recur constantly in most studies on ways to motivate and engage employees, so it makes sense to utilise them, economically and motivationally.

Engagement and business
In Australia, one hotel company has made distinct links between engagement and business outcomes. After a number of years of static survey scores, they started to present and manage the data in a different way. They highlighted a 90% correlation of Employee Engagement to Profitability, Customer Satisfaction, Employee Turnover and Employee Absenteeism. By being able to demonstrate clear links between Employee Engagement and other business indicators, Engagement became central to business management and got treated in a similar way to Profit and Loss.

Not just a survey
The MacLeod Report makes the point that Employee Engagement is not about conducting surveys. As the Australian example shows, surveying alone does not make the change. There is a need to get management to implement very low cost, simple and easy actions: praise, attention, listening to feedback, involvement and providing opportunities. Low cost solutions when there is not much cash to use to motivate. A no-brainer.

CIPD Report – Employee Outlook Winter 2010
McKinsey Quarterly – Motivating People: Getting Beyond Money
Employee Engagement and Business Outcomes–PeopleStreme White


Nothing Works Without Integrity
What makes my editing job easier is that, invariably, when I publish an edition of Cuttings, something linked appears in the professional press. This time, following the last edition on bonuses, which was prompted by the headlines from the banking sector, my eye was caught by an article in Harvard’s Working Knowledge on integrity. In it, Professor Michael Jensen points out the personal and organisational benefits of integrity: a state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, in perfect condition. He states that an individual (or any human entity such as an organisation) is whole and complete when one’s word is whole and complete. Your word is whole and complete when you honour your word. He also differentiates integrity from morality and ethics. Integrity is a purely positive proposition. It has nothing to do with good vs. bad, or right vs. wrong behaviour. Like the law of gravity, the law of integrity just is, and if you violate the law of integrity you get hurt just as if you try to violate the law of gravity. Morality and ethics, on the other hand, are normative concepts in that they deal with matters of good or bad, right vs. wrong.

Honouring your word
You honour your word in one of two ways: first, by keeping your word, and on time as promised; or second, as soon as you know that you won’t keep your word, you inform all parties involved and clean up any mess that you cause in their lives. When you do this, you are honouring your word despite having not kept it, and you maintain your integrity. Integrity is important to individuals, groups, organisations and society because it creates what Jensen calls workability. Without integrity, workability declines; and as workability declines, the opportunity for performance declines. Therefore, he points out, integrity is a necessary condition for maximum performance. An added benefit is that honouring one’s word is also a pathway to building trust with others.

Integrity for objects and systems
Integrity can also be applied to objects and systems. If an object or system is to have maximum opportunity for performance, it must have integrity in its design, the implementation of the design and the use to which it is put. The design must be capable of fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed. The implementation of the design must be whole and complete; and the use of the object or system must have integrity. If any of these three aspects is not present, the object or system will be ‘out-of-integrity’, its workability will be compromised and its opportunity for performance will be reduced. For example, if a 300-pound man attempts to use a life jacket designed for a 50-pound child, he is in big trouble. This distinction between the integrity of design, the integrity of implementation and the integrity of use could be of enormous value in analysing system performance. Any large computer system is going to have issues, but thinking about the source of problems as due to potential failures of integrity of design, integrity of implementation or integrity of use can result in productivity increases.

Restoring trust
Recently, we have seen out-of-integrity behaviour become pervasive, both on an organisational and an individual basis. Looking at the banking crisis, each element of the system evolved in a way that left it out-of-integrity, and trust is lost. Putting the system back in order is, according to Professor Jensen, deceptively simple: people have to start honouring their word. If they do, trust will materialise almost instantly. He points out the interesting fact that you actually create trust more rapidly if you fail to keep your word but you honour it. If you’re straight with people – “I told you that I’d have this report done by the end of the month, but I know now that I’m not going to be able to. I apologise, and I’ll get it to you my the middle of next month. What I can do to clean up the mess I have caused for you?” If you then get the report done as promised, your relationship will be strengthened. If you simply don’t keep your original word, trust is lost.
This phenomenon is well known to people in the service industry, where there are numerous and great examples of higher loyalty emanating from a failure experience that was fixed well.

Honouring one’s word is another of those simple, but not easy, ideas which seems to have a massive payoff.
Integrity: Without It Nothing Works, HBS Working Knowledge Dec 2009. The full article can be downloaded at

Bonuses need the right Measures
There has been a lot of very negative press recently, especially in the UK, about performance bonuses. One of the regular rallying cries is that people should not be rewarded for failure. I agree, but the cries for there to be no bonuses is also flawed. Bonuses do work. OK, there is a lot of evidence that performance related pay does not work in the long term - the bonuses become regarded as an expectation and not an incentive. But in the short term, they do help to focus attention and reward performance. For me, the issue is about using the right measures, and goes to the heart of performance management, whether or not we give bonuses.

Peter Drucker coined the term "what gets measured gets managed", and he gets proved right every time. If we measure the wrong things we get the results we deserve: measure profit and we get people taking excessive risk; use internally focused measures and we get reward for financial failure.
We need to use the right measures. I saw some data recently where a major multinational was going bankrupt, yet the performance appraisal ratings of all of the management were skewed towards excellent. Something did not match between the corporate measure and the individual measures.
Another press item in the last month quoted a senior manager in the Student Loan Company defending their organisations' payment of bonuses when performance targets were not being met saying "we need to reward our hardworking staff". Performance bonuses should reward perform-ance, not hard work.

Working with a major bank in recent years (one that has faired better than most in the recent crisis), we spent a lot of time and effort making sure that performance measures were properly linked throughout the organisation to the strategic success criteria for the bank. The rallying cry of their then Chief Executive was that he wanted a 'clear line of sight' between what someone did on the front line with the key success criteria of the bank. The measures needed to be clearly linked, in the process that Drucker also envisaged: Managing by Objectives. Most organisations I work with pay lip service to the principles of MBO - they have performance management systems that have SMART objectives, but there is no participative, strategic link. As a result, one of the fundamental features of MBO is lost, and it becomes the bureaucratic exercise that most managers will recognise today. They set objectives in isolation of their impact on delivering real success, and focus on what can be measured easily not what would measure the achievement of the organisation goals. So the doctor's effectiveness is measured by the length of waiting list not the health of the patient; the sales branch is measured by the accuracy of the daily reports not by customer satisfaction and sales; the Student Loan Manager is measured by hard work not whether students have received their loans or whether the process is effective; the public sector worker is measured on the efficiency of the bureaucracy not on successful service delivery.

Instead of focusing on paying bonuses or not, we should focus more on making performance management effective, which means cascading objectives and measures through the organisation so that the sum of the individual parts adds up to total organisation success. This will help line managers see the benefit of the process as a whole and monitor measures that are relevant and important enough to be in focus for the whole year, not just for the performance appraisal interview. Then we can keep paying bonuses for exceeding targets, as it automatically means that the organisation will have exceeded its target. We will be rewarding success not failure. And we will have a performance management process that works.

Engaging for Success
Once again, the leading article in Cuttings is about employee engagement. I am not ashamed to keep plugging away at the same theme — the evidence in favour is growing but there are still a number of organisations who have not yet got the message. Never has there been a more appropriate time for considering the economic as well as the social impact of focusing workplace relations on getting the best out of people.
The catalyst for this article is the publishing of the report to government by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke. This is a comprehensive review of the practice of employee engagement in the UK and delivers an unequivocal conclusion that engagement delivers enormous benefits for both the organisation and the individual worker.

MacLeod and Clarke believe that if employee engagement and the principles that lie behind it were more widely understood, if good practice was more widely shared, if the potential that resides in the country’s workforce was more fully unleashed, there would be a step change in workplace performance and in employee well-being, for the considerable benefit of UK plc.. (and the same would go for Your country plc if you are not a UK resident reader!) Furthermore, MacLeod and Clarke assert that engagement, going to the heart of the workplace relationship between employee and employer, can be a key to unlocking productivity and to transforming the working lives of many people for whom Monday morning is an especially low point of the week. It should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager, and be placed at the heart of business strategy.

The business case
The report summarises a strong business case for employee engagement. They detail a number of studies that demonstrate that private sector organisations with higher levels of employee engagement have better financial performance, and high levels of engagement are associated with better outcomes in the public sector:
A global study by Towers Perrin-ISR compared the financial performance of 50 organisations some with a more engaged workforce, some with a less engaged workforce over a 12 month period:

High engagement

Low engagement

Operating income



Net income growth



The 2006 Meta-Analysis by Gallup analysed 23,910 business units comparing those with top quartile engagement scores in the with those who had bottom quartile scores. Those business units with the top scores had 27% higher profitability and lower levels of sickness absence (2.7 cf. 6.2 days per year).

In the public sector 78% of highly engaged employees say they can make an impact on service delivery, as against just 29 per cent of the disengaged, according to a 2007 Towers Perrin report. Two recent studies in the public sector found that one key engagement characteristic – staff advocacy (staff who would speak highly about the authority to others outside the organisation) – was strongly associated with better organisational performance: Ipsos Mori found that councils rated ‘excellent’ by the Audit Commission were more likely to have higher levels of staff advocacy than those rated ‘weak’.
None of this research is new, but what makes it so compelling in this report is how it is brought together from perspectives in a single summary of evidence.

Barriers to implementation
Despite the compelling case for employee engagement, the authors know that a significant percentage of the workforce feel disconnected from the work they do and the people they work for. Whilst accepting that all of us are capable of having a ‘bad day at work’ they do not accept the inevitability of work being just one bad day after another. MacLeod and Clarke identify 4 inhibitors to effective engagement:
1. Lack of awareness, or not fully understanding the concept and the benefits.
2. Not know how to address engagement.
3. Managers not sharing the belief of their leaders, or are ill-equipped to implement.
4. Seeing engagement as just an annual staff survey not an overall approach that places engagement at the core of the organisation’s strategy.
All of these barriers can be overcome – the first by wide readership of this report. Addressing the implementation is where we should be focusing attention.

Crisis Leadership
Don’t underestimate the power of a positive work climate… Tough economic times can set up vicious downward cycle of results and motivation: no matter how much extra effort is put in, the company continues downward. People focus on the things they can’t control and stop taking positive action.
So effective crisis leadership needs to create an engaging work climate despite the bad economic news and the fear it can generate. And as research shows that employees working in engaging climates outperform by as much as 30 per cent, there is a bottom line payoff which is really needed.
Here’s some practical advice on what leaders can do from Hay Group’s Mary Fontaine, managing director, leadership and talent:

Keep employees energised
Businesses that win in a downturn provide clear direction in the face of uncertainty, reassuring when necessary, all the while continuing to push for results. Leaders create the vision, provide the context and gain commitment. It’s important not to leave employees in the dark about the company’s strategy and as an information vacuum is immediately filled by rumour. Good leaders make decisions quickly and focus people on what they can do to help the company through the downturn. Effective leaders reach out to others for help and expertise, but do so only after they have framed the issue and established the parameters that provide clarity. Good leaders are supportive. People are scared. They’re worried about their jobs and their ability to pay bills. Their self-esteem is under attack. Sometimes the best leadership involves just getting out of the office, listening and understanding.
Crisis leaders continue to coach and develop people, often just taking only a few minutes to listen, to help, to provide a little feedback or impart some wisdom. Moments may be brief but can be profound. Effective downturn leaders become more visible, leading by example, demonstrating that they are there with–and for–employees.

Don’t rely on one style
Combining styles fosters a better work climate. It gives employees goals to focus on and room to innovate, while also encouraging them to work collaboratively. This is important because employees that are engaged by the right kind of leadership will go the extra mile.

Avoid bad habits
During a downturn it’s easy to fall into bad habits. Perhaps the biggest risk is adopting a command and control approach, which, at its worst, involves micromanaging.

Communicate, communicate, communicate
Get people looking at what they can do, so that they feel empowered and energised to help the company through the downturn. It’s important not to leave employees in the dark. Don’t cut down on meetings just to save costs, look for ways to keep people connected so they can collaborate and innovate.

Untapped energy
When leaders create the clarity, flexibility and the responsibility employees need to be effective they generate commitment through an engaging, empowering work climate that is a source of extra energy. In many cases tapping this source may be enough to offset the cuts that have to make elsewhere
Hay Group Leader, issue 10

Involving Staff in Difficult Decisions
Let your people take you higher! – this was the title of an article in People Management magazine that caught my eye – and the eyes of a lot of other people, to judge from my inbox! The core theme was that involving staff in difficult decisions can help weather the current financial storm. Not only that, but from my own – and others’ - experience, the solutions developed by involving staff are often much more cost effective, faster to implement, and generate higher levels of commitment than those developed through traditional processes.

At this time, organisations are faced with competing priorities. In the long term, they need to have good people in the right jobs, and develop and keep them. Yet in the short term, they need to cut costs. So an important task is to help everyone keep both a short- and long-term perspective.
Another important task is to maintain a positive organisational climate. Research has shown that open and transparent management; processes that give employees influence; allow them to contribute ideas; and giving opportunities to learn and grow, attract new talent and encourage existing people to be productive.

Employees want – and deserve – to be treated as adults. They want to know the difficulties, they want to understand the challenges, and they want to be able to offer their ideas and contribute to the solution. And, we know from research that over 60% of the good ideas for change come from employees, while only 6% come from the bosses’ office – so it is worth engaging! The article suggests the use of “large group methods”, practical processes created over the past 20 years, as having special promise in these difficult times because they can involve employees and management in working together on issues that affect the organisation.

Large group methods involve working with the whole system – getting stakeholders together in one place to deal with issues of importance. The methods invite people to express their views and join in developing solutions and planning implementation. Managers and leaders are still responsible for charting the way forward and drawing the boundaries. But the meetings engage the whole system in addressing the critical issues. Which means ideas are developed and implemented far more quickly than through the usual cascade process. One famous method, known as “work-out” was developed by GE to rapidly solve problems of quality, production and service delivery by inviting employees to share their observations and knowledge directly with decision makers.

Other methods have improved work design by involve employees and other stakeholders in analysing the whole production or service delivery process to identify where critical errors occur and redesign the process to remove them.

“Future search” is a method that helps stakeholder groups, often in conflict with each other, to find common ground and develop a viable future strategic vision that engages and inspires them all. IKEA redesigned its supply chain to increase quality, reduce costs and increase sales at the same time using this method (in just 18 working hours for the Ektorp sofa!)

“Open space” allows tens, even hundreds, of people to work simultaneously on a self-created agenda on a subject of mutual interest – whether it is generating ideas for the strategic focus of the company as the Rockport does every year, or just on how to do things better now.

Wanting to get people to focus on what works and promote high levels of employee engagement? Then “appreciative inquiry” might be the answer.
By focusing dialogue on what works and what energises, organisations can quickly develop a framework that everyone signs up to, and is known to work as it is based on reality. One department in a local authority in Scotland developed a leadership model in 3 hours. In another company an analysis of the total system was completed in less than two weeks And strengths based approaches which involve staff build engagement, which leads directly to increased productivity and talent motivation and retention, as we have seen in a number of the articles in recent Cuttings.

These are just some of the many large group methods for engaging stakeholders and large numbers (up to 5,000 at a time in some cases!) They replace slow, cascade systems with real time action – planning and implementing simultaneously.
These methods are not panaceas, but they give us a rapid, cost effective and positive response to the current depressing agendas in many organisations.
“Let your people take you higher” Billie Alban and Barbara Benedict Bunker

The Coaching Conundrum
A study by BlessingWhite Inc. found an unexpected ambivalence to coaching among companies across the world. According to the report, there are frequent claims in organisation mission statements and annual reports that managers’ coaching has an impact on the business as well as on employee engagement and talent management, but the truth is that very few have actually created a culture where the coaching of employees is a best practice that’s fully supported and rewarded.

BlessingWhite’s coaching practice leader Cathy Earley comments: “Our study presents a puzzling picture of good intentions, missed opportunities and conflicting messages about the importance of employees being coached by their managers.” Regionally, 65% of managers in the U.S.A. and Canada believe coaching leads to bottom line business results, with the U.K. and Ireland trailing the survey with 63%. This compares with 71% for their continental European colleagues, and 74% in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Some of the disparities identified between the objectives and reality of coaching by managers:
• Most managers say they love to coach and most employees like to be coached, but only half of respondents in North America and Asia and even fewer in Europe get coaching.
• Organisations, managers and employees believe in coaching’s contribution to their success, but managers say they do not spend enough time coaching.
• While managers are expected to coach, only one-quarter have compensation tied to coaching.
• While managers who coach regularly describe the tangible benefits, coaching is still viewed as supplementary to a manager’s core responsibilities.
• Managers worry about whether they have all the answers, while employees do not want advice but to be stretched and helped in sorting through problems.
• Organisations and managers talk a great deal about coaching skills or processes, but the essential contributor to effective coaching is a trusting and supportive relationship.

This report supports the belief that managers need to stop thinking of coaching as an event to be scheduled after one’s own work is done or as a means of dealing with a performance issue. Instead, managers need to adopt coaching as a daily leadership practice and focus on creating a supportive environment for their teams.

Why Change Programmes Fail
Ever wondered why most change programmes and improvement initiatives fail? Jim Clemmer gives some insights in a recent article. Decades of studies have consistently shown that 50–70 percent of initiatives fail. Some change and improvement efforts have been hugely successful. They've seen significant improvements in their measures of success. Others have been partially successful in some areas of their improvement activities. And some end up making things worse! Jim Clemmer’s research identifies a number of core execution problems or failure factors are common to all of the team, organisation, and individual improvement efforts. His Top Five Failure Factors:

Priority Overload
Many managers confuse motion with direction and "busywork" activity with meaningful results. A big part of the problem is that many measure effectiveness by volume (quantity) rather than real value added (quality). A management group of a struggling administrative section in a large bureaucratic organisation, was discussing how well they've done in moving dockets. They were proud of how much work they moved through their sector in the last yea, but they had a list of 37 urgent goals and objectives on which little meaningful progress was being made. How hard you
work is less important than how much you get done.

Partial and Piecemeal
The senior management team of a large national retailer that had enjoyed a dominant position in its markets, realised they had to make a number of radical changes to drive down their overhead costs while boosting customer service. They hired consultants and launched a series of projects in logistics, markets, stores, product lines, customer service, training, IT, etc. The efforts were not coordinated. Each group fiercely protected and isolated their own initiative or project. Political infighting and confusion ensued and the company failed. Like this example, many improvement efforts are too narrow and segmented. Broad, system-wide issues aren't addressed. Teams work with bits and pieces of processes and systems.

No Infrastructure or Process
As with New Year resolutions, a burst of energy and good intentions may get things started. But little time is often invested in developing ongoing improvement plans, habits, or approaches. Even less time is devoted to reviewing, assessing, and reflecting on successes, problems, and lessons learned. Opportunities are missed. Not involving those who will ultimately make the effort work in planning it (or sometimes even understanding why, how, what, and who) is another cardinal failing of process, often compounded by poor communication skills. As John Kotter put it: under-communicating by a factor of ten.

Fuzzy Focus
Too many improvement efforts are disconnected from the burning issues that keep senior managers awake at night. Improvement for the sake of "making things better," getting people involved, forming teams and fostering teamwork are noble but vague goals. A team or organisation's ultimate customers and external partners are often lost in the improvement haze. Their needs and expectations need to be the primary driver of all improvement activities. And the improvement work needs to be framed within the larger context of a picture of the preferred future.

Leadership Lip Service
For Clemmer, the single most critical variable to the success of an improvement effort is the behaviour of those leading it. Successful improvement efforts are led by people who are highly involved leaders. They model, use, and live the approaches they are asking their team or organisation to use.
Unsuccessful efforts are headed up by managers who've done little more than give permission and then delegated to others. They pay lip service, often passionate lip service, to the importance of the initiative. Their actions loudly shout, "you need to improve. But I am too busy, already skilled enough, or have more important things to do."
Jim Clemmer Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work

What’s Your Organisation Type?
Every company has a personality, according to Gary Neilson and Bruce Pasternak, authors of “Results: Keep What’s Good, Fix What’s Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance.” They identify seven common organisational types:

Passive Aggressive
Everyone Agrees, but Nothing Changes! In this type, building consensus to make major changes is not a problem; implementing these changes, however, is next to impossible. Everyone smiles and nods but nothing ever changes. Entrenched underground resistance is the norm and getting anything done is like nailing jelly to the wall.

Let 1,000 Flowers Bloom! These companies are filled with smart people with an entrepreneurial bent, but they often do not pull in the same direction at the same time. It’s an environment where you can take an idea and run with it, but where they can clash with another and either burn or simply peter out.

The Good Old Days Meet a Brave New World! This organisation is literally bursting at the seams, having expanded beyond its operational model. Because power is closely held at the top, it tends to react slowly to developments and often finds it cannot get out of its own way. It’s too hard to get ideas listened to and opportunities are missed.

We’re from Head Office and We’re Here to Help! This organisation is a study in “analysis paralysis.” More concerned with the trees than the forest, people check on their subordinates’ work so they can in turn report to their own boss. Everything moves slowly and reactively, frustrating any self-motivated and results-oriented people.

Succeeding by the Skin of Our Teeth! This organisation has an ability to move and change quickly when necessary, but, in doing so, it can burn out its best and brightest. In the absence of consistent, disciplined structures and process-es, occasional wins are not a reliable source of competitive advantage.

Military Precision
Flying in Formation! Everyone knows their role and implements it diligently in this hierarchical organisation, creating the overall effect of fluid and consistent execution. Because this organisation has prepared for every scenario in the manual, they can often conceive and execute brilliant strategies. But it does not typically deal well with unplanned events.

As Good as it Gets! Resilient organisations are flexible, forward-looking, and fun, and they attract team players. While it may hit a bump in the road, the resilient organisation bounces back, having learned from the experience. This is the healthiest of all the profiles, precisely because it doesn’t believe its own press; rather it is always scanning the horizon for the next competitive battle or market innovation.

So does your company’s personality help or hinder results? What makes it tick, what’s good and bad about it — and what can be done to improve it.

Being a Leader Doesn’t Make You One
Most leaders have the technical expertise to do their jobs effectively. In fact, that's usually the reason they were promoted in the first place. But it’s the ability to relate with and motivate people which is far more important. Research shows that when people can work in a climate of respect, caring, honesty, collaboration, cooperation and trust, they maximise their contributions to the organisation. The problem is that most leaders aren't born with the relationship skills they need. When it comes to dealing with people problems, newly promoted leaders too often feel like they're unprepared. And when inevitable problems and conflicts arise, they feel frustrated, even helpless. This is the case put by Brian Anderson writing in in January.
To Anderson, the characteristics of the most effective leaders are:
• They decrease the power differential between self and team members.
• They create conditions for distributing the leadership function throughout the group.
• They show respect for intrinsic worth of team members.
• They show respect for team members as individuals.
• They understand that people aren't there to be used, directed or influenced to accomplish only the leader's aims.
• They listen with empathy.
• They demonstrate acceptance.
• They express their own beliefs, needs and ideas honestly, clearly and without blame.
• They work to resolve conflicts in a way that creates mutual need satisfaction.
If you lead people, you owe it to them (and to yourself) to honestly and frankly assess the current conditions your team members are working under.

Do you really trust the capacity of the team and of the individuals in it to solve the problems facing them? Or do you basically trust only yourself? Do you create a climate in which your team can have creative discussions by being willing to hear, understand, accept and respect all input? Or do you find yourself trying to influence the outcome of discussions?

Do you honestly express your own beliefs and ideas without trying to control those of others? When there are problems and conflicts, do you make it possible for them to be brought out into the open, or do you subtly communicate that they should be kept hidden? These – and more – are proven, tested people skills. And they are just as learnable as technical skills. It takes training and practice, practice, practice, but the payoffs in morale, productivity and energy are both measurable and immeasurable.
Brian Anderson is the founder of BA Search Group an executive search, coaching and consulting practice in Naperville IL,


Moods and Narratives
Success in project management– the key process for managing change in organisations–lies with the soft skills (communicating, influencing, motivating, recognising and walking the talk). These are the conclusions of a study on project leadership undertaken in the USA, Canada and Australia. The results of the study strongly suggest that a focus on human-centred practices for project management produces higher rates of success than the more ‘normal’ mechanistic and analytical practices. For example, the intangible “culture” is cited nearly 6 times more often than project methodologies and tools. Some of the key results;
• Human-Centred factors were cited 3 to 1 relative to analytical factors.
• Culture overall accounted for 40% of the factors cited.
• Organisational culture is responsible for one quarter of factors cited.
• Individuals’ leadership skills were cited 3 to 1 over analytical skills.
• Meetings were cited 11% of the time.
• Organisation-wide standard practices were cited only 9% of the time.
• Facilities and Physical assets account for only 4% of the factors cited.
The individual skills and practices most often cited as reasons for success were about mobilising people to act autonomously, coordinating their action through constant conversation; purposefully influencing people’s moods and producing coherent embodied project narratives which continuously adapt to situations.

Organising success factors
The study grouped all the success factors into 4 groups. The first 3 are pretty standard:
• People – individuals with relevant embodied skills
• Practice (or Process) – a standardised way of producing some result ( e.g. methodology, process template, standard configuration etc.)
• Physical assets (Technology) – a physical object (e.g. material, hardware and software, facilities)

The final group is the one that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the context of project management, but was overwhelmingly cited as by far the most important for success:
• Intangibles – factors that impacted the success if the project but were difficult to crisply define (e.g. cultures, and human relationships)

The authors subdivided this Intangibles grouping into 2 major subgroups:
• Relationships How people felt about each other; that they knew who was doing what (roles): and the use of positional and social power.
• Culture as Moods and Narratives ‘Who we are and how we do things here.’ The mood that we ‘choose’ to be in at any give moment in time which filters our view of the world, dictates which emotions are available in the moment, and defines the range of actions ‘available’ to us. Narratives—the language we use— influences our moods and vice versa and are ‘contagious’. It is thus imperative that we learn to control and use our moods and narratives in a positive and successful manner.

What to do?
Most if not all of activity within companies today is run in project mode. Clearly an increase in the success rate of projects is perhaps THE key sustainable competitive advantage. Having people with strong human-centred skills with language, moods, coordination, and adaptation is therefore critical.

Culture: The research suggests that the culture of an organisation has a greater impact on project success that purely mechanical Project Management. So a focus on the correct ‘culture’ of both the project and the organisation will have an immense impact on the success of all projects. An unsupportive environment will thwart the most masterful project manager or team.

Leadership: While having analytical or technical competence was deemed relevant (4%), people’s ability to invent, embody and influence others’ moods and narratives, as well as connecting on a human level, seems to be 3 times as important. Put another way, creative, integral and positively influencing leaders are key to the success.

Conversations: In a human-centred organisation, the action taken to influence moods narratives and human relationships is conversations. Yet with meetings cited for success only 11% of the time; this suggests that meetings are poorly run. A re-focus onto conversations and less rigid and autocratic meetings will have a dramatic effect on project success.

Focus on Moods and Narratives: The prevailing themes for moods in successful projects were: Resolve, Support, Trust, and Autonomy. The predominant narratives were: Vision (corporate and project), Strategy and Goals. And it was also clear that these narratives were not documented – the predominant experience was that people embodied them.

Organisational Agility through Structures for Project Leadership. Kevin Suboski and Howard Renton, Suboski & Co, Inc, 2007.
Thanks to Learning Consortium member Jem Scanlan for his help with this article.


The Chickens are in Charge
Project managers can’t manage projects because of a little respected law called Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety. Ashby, a scientist who worked in the little-understood control theory field, concluded that control depends upon the controller having at least as much “variety” as the system he tries to control. Variety is one of those scientific terms with a very specific meaning, but it’s summed up nicely by the engineer who remarked of a complex project scope: “It’s like pulling a stagecoach with chickens. You can do it, but the reins management will kill you.” The controller has to have enough hands to hold onto the reins! Over time three strategies for dealing with not enough hands have developed:
1 Dumb down the system—allow no more reins than the number of hands. This approach can leave many chickens uncontrolled or take away so many chickens that the remaining birds can no longer pull the coach. Alternatively, it can require so many people to hold reins that the chickens can no longer pull the stage or shrink the stagecoach to where it can no longer carry anyone to hold the reins.
2 Train the chickens so that they don’t need anyone controlling their reins. Chickens are relatively easy to train, and this strategy doesn’t seem completely absurd, until the sponsor wonders why the stagecoach isn’t moving yet: this strategy can transform the effort into more training than stagecoaching.
3 Accept the unmanageability of the situation. This strategy doesn’t look very much like managing, and is the least acceptable of the three. Yet it is the only workable strategy among them.

The chickens are always in charge because they can generate more variety than any single controller. The chickens cannot be trained to operate autonomously from the controller without some unrealistically detailed foreseeing, training, and choreography beforehand. We can find resolution for this eternal dilemma in conversation, and the recognition that everyone, both the chickens and the poor fool tapped to handle the reins, have important things to say about the stagecoach.

When it comes to managing complex systems, the most we can say is that no one knows and everyone could be learning. Whether they learn or not seems to depend upon everyone more fully acknowledging that they don’t yet know. Control emerges not from the driver or the chickens. Control, if it is to be achieved, will appear in the space between the system and its so-called controller.

Projects are not scripted performances, they are conversations. Their purpose shifts, depending upon the meanings we make in conversation and the significances we acknowledge between us. When we can speak our truth—what’s true for us—without insisting that it be true for others, and when we can hear another’s truth without insisting that it must agree with ours, we are having a conversation. It’s not a conversation and it’s really not control unless we are prepared to be changed by whatever we hear. Ask the thermostat.

The reason project managers can’t manage projects is because projects are unmanageable. The project manager’s responsibilities, as written, describe a fool’s mission. The few who succeed resolve this eternal dilemma by more fully acknowledging it. They accept that, while their project is unmanageable, it might be capable of controlling itself. Not, however, by management command and control, but through conversation.
David A. Schmaltz

Feedforward instead of Feedback
Marshall Goldsmith proposes this idea for more effective performance development in organisations. He identifies a fundamental problem with all types of feedback: it focuses on a past, on what has already occurred—not on the opportunities that can happen in the future. As such, feedback is limited and static, rather than expansive and dynamic. In an experiment now covering more than ten thousand people, Goldsmith asks participants to provide and to accept feedforward—give someone else and listen to suggestions for the future and help or learn as much as they can. Participants one word answer that best describes their reaction to this experience are almost always extremely positive, with the most common word: "fun!"

Rightly or wrongly, feedback is associated with judgment. This can lead to very negative unintended consequences when applied to managers or peers. Feedforward does not imply superiority of judgment. It is more focused on being a helpful "fellow traveller" than an "expert". It is therefore easier to hear from a person who is not in a position of power or authority. Goldsmith’s intent with the idea of feedforward is not to imply that leaders should never give feedback or that appraisals should be abandoned but to show how it can often be preferable to feedback in day-to-day interactions.

Aside from its effectiveness and efficiency, feedforward can make life a lot more enjoyable. When managers are asked, "How did you feel the last time you received feedback?" their most common responses are very negative. When managers are asked how they felt after receiving feedforward, they reply that it was not only useful, it was also fun! Quality communication is the glue that holds organisations together. By using feedforward leaders can ensure that the right message is conveyed, and that those who receive it are receptive to its content. The result is a much more dynamic, much more open organisation—one whose employees focus on the promise of the future rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past.

10 Reasons to Try Feedforward
1. We can change the future. We can’t change the past.
2. It can be more productive to help people be "right," than prove they were "wrong."
3. Feedforward is especially suited to successful people.
4. Feedforward can come from anyone who knows about the task.
5. People do not take feedforward as personally as feedback.
6. Feedback can reinforce personal stereotyping and negative self-fulfilling prophecies.
7. Face it! Most of us hate getting negative feedback, and we don’t like to give it.
8. Feedforward can cover almost all of the same "material" as feedback.
9. Feedforward tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback.
10.Feedforward can be a useful tool to apply with managers, peers and team members.

Leader to Leader,
Marshall Goldsmith Partners LLC.


Harvard Professor Kathleen McGinn has uncovered some interesting features about power balance in negotiations in her work with Rebecca Wolfe of Princeton. We know that power at the bargaining table is rarely distributed evenly. And someone with greater power will usually get the best of the deal. Normally, we base our assessments of power balance on objective judgements, but what happens when you are perceived to have more power than these objective components would indicate. Can "perceived relative power" make a difference at the table?

According to the research done by Wolfe and McGinn, the answer is yes. They found that in negotiations where participants shared relatively equal perceived power, the outcome tended to address the needs of both parties, to be more win:win. It seems that in these situations where power is perceived to be equal, parties will share more information than would be the case in a relationship where a power imbalance produces a one-sided result. Pooling more information and resources creates a larger overall pie to be shared, making the opportunity of win:win more likely. Objectively, if you have more or better alternatives in a negotiation, you're very likely to get more of the pie, regardless of perceived relative power. The findings of this research confirms this. So once you understand that equalising the perceived power in the negotiation is not going to mess up your relative "take" in the negotiation, you can set up conditions where both parties feel an equal voice, feel there is relatively equal power, and can create as many resources as possible.

So. trying to position and push to show how much power you have in the negotiation is self-defeating. The objective alternatives that you have will determine the portion of the pie. If the other party sees themselves as less powerful, then they will close up, share less information, and the parties will be less likely to create a big pie. I might get more of the pie, but it’s more of a much smaller pie. A better strategy is to try to build the relative power of the other party, so that we both feel equal and can create a larger pie to share.

The lesson for negotiators is therefore to both try to increase their own power, and also to create an environment in which both parties feel powerful.
In training, we have always asserted that expertise and flexibility in influencing and negotiation style will shift the power balance. This research has confirmed that it is not just objective measures of best alternatives that are important. How I feel, my expertise as a negotiator, and my ability to plan and manage the negotiation process has significant weight. There is a clear distinction between what brings you the greater amount of the distribution and what increases the overall pie.

Perceived Relative Power and its Influence on Negotiations, Rebecca Wolfe and Kathleen McGinn, Group Decisions and Negotiation, 2005
What Perceived Power Brings to Negotiations, Harvard Management Update, September 2005


One of the Snippets that I have collected for this edition of Cuttings was from Warren Bennis: “I used to think that running an organisation was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvis-ation.” And as often happens when I am putting together an issue of Cuttings, a number of serendipitous ideas arrive on the same theme.

An article by Jeff Perry appears on which cites jazz as being America’s original diversity success story. A blog makes comparisons with playing live jazz and project management. Even an article in my wife’s Community Care magazine objects to the use of machine meta-phors in favour of jazz and gardening. My own archive came up with a number of articles including one from Frank Barrett (jazz pianist and professor of organisation behaviour) following a workshop with him that I attended in London, and one from Gary Burton, the renowned vibraphone player and composer. A Google search on the above title produced 15,200 references in 0.17 seconds. This seems to be a hot topic! So, putting on a Gary Burton CD, here is a summary of some of the key points from my analysis.

One of the repeating uses of the jazz metaphor is in its comparison to the symphony orchestra in terms of leadership style and behaviour, as Bennis uses it. Max Depree in his 1992 book Leadership Jazz explains it thus: “Jazz-band leaders must choose the music, find the right musicians, and perform – in public. But the effect of the performance depends on so many things – the environment, the volun-teers playing in the band, the need for everyone to perform as individuals and as a group, the absolute dependence of the leader on the members of the band, the need of the leader for the followers to play well. What a summary of an organisation"

As Frank Barrett says: “when the players get together they do what managers find themselves doing: fabricating and inventing novel responses without a prescripted plan and without certainty of outcomes; discovering the future that their action creates as it unfolds.” Gary Burton makes an observation from his experience of symphony orchestras – there is often a battle between the conductor and the members, with the members playing up and playing games to try to upset the conductor. The conductor has all of the control, the players are disempowered, so they abdicate. Exactly what goes on in corporate organisations – the orchestra conductor metaphor is not helpful. That is not to say that a jazz combo is a democratic or communistic organisation at the other end of the scale from the autocratic orchestra. As Gary Burton adds, there is always a strong leader in a jazz group – the difference is that the jazz leader wants strong players who can challenge each other, not yes-men/women – “but the vision is always mine.”
For organisations who have prided themselves on minimal risk-taking, the new world of fast cycle change is daunting. No longer do they have the luxury of long lead times, opportunities to pilot or engineer-out problems (or have lengthy rehearsals). They need to operate more in the here-and-now. Creating and implementing simultan-eously with its inherent risk taking, like a jazz band.

Here are some practical ideas from jazz improvisation:
Interrupt habits – One of the most significant impediments to an effective change is habit. By definition, improvisation aims to avoid the routine and safe by seeking something unique for each moment. Constantly challenge to do something different, stay alert and active.
Embrace errors – Miles Davis once said, "There are no mistakes in jazz." Yet in most businesses to make a mistake is often career-limiting. The best jazz – and the best learning – often comes from making a mistake then adjusting future actions as a result.
Minimal structure – Organisations tend to have policies, structures and reporting lines that inhibit flexibility and improvisation. Jazz bands operate on the minimal of structure to enhance flexibility.
Listen intently – A jazz band doesn’t know where they are going, so they need to continually listen, challenge and build the future that fits – just like organisations in a chaotic environment.
Everyone solos and supports – If you are not soloing, then support; and encourage everyone to take the lead, especially with customers or with novel situations.
Learn informally - Musicians hang out together informally, listen to recordings of great musicians, discuss them in great detail, memorise the great solos and jam together. [Arie de Geus makes the same point: Does Your Organisation Flock (Cuttings 29)]

Let’s make music…

Reforming Project Management,
All that jazz Michael Gold, The Chief Executive, August-Sept, 2002
Rage against the machine, Michael Pinnock, Community Care April 2004
Lessons on business from a jazz legend. Michael Schrage Fast Company, Dec 1996
Jazz: America's Original Diversity Success Story, Jeff Perry,, April 2004
Creativity and Improvisation in Jazz and Organizations, Frank Barrett, Organization Science 1998