BY: ERIC SCHMIDT & JONATHAN ROSENBERG
28-MINUTE AUDIO / 3,500 WORDS (12 PAGES)
What management tactics should you follow to not only survive but thrive like Google? Infinite information, connectivity, and computing power have fundamentally disrupted the business landscape, and old rules no longer work in the Internet Century.
In this book, Google Executive Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt and former Senior Vice-President Jonathan Rosenberg reveal the management principles that powered the rise of Google from a dorm room startup to a tech giant. Read this book summary to learn proven ways that Smart Creatives and help you build a circle of innovation and achieve 10X growth.
TOP 20 INSIGHTS
With vast information and infinite consumer choices, selling a mediocre product has become nearly impossible. Product excellence is the only pathway to success. As Jeff Bezos says, “In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”
Traditional command-and-control management structures were designed for the 20th century when information was scarce and mistakes were costly. At a time of fast-paced acceleration, however, this architecture actually works against businesses. The primary focus of businesses today must be accelerating the speed and quality of product development.
Business plans can’t help you achieve continuous product excellence. Companies must attract top-notch talent and give them the freedom to create. This is the era of self-driven Smart Creatives who have technical knowledge, creativity, business savviness, and a hands-on approach. Management has to create an environment where they want to work, but not to tell them how to think.
With the democratization of information, computing, connectivity, and manufacturing, global scale is within everyone’s reach. To stand out in the Internet Century, leaders have to create and grow platforms that connect users and create multi-sided markets.
While conventional management thinking values competitive advantage, the Internet Century rewards open sharing of intellectual property, using open standards, and giving customers the freedom to exit. Openness can be a powerful way to dislodge entrenched incumbents as it drives innovation and reduces the costs of complementary products.
Hire for intelligence and learnability rather than specialized knowledge. In a world of rapid change, today’s skills will become obsolete tomorrow. Once you hire, consistently create new opportunities for learning new skills, even those not directly related to work. Those who don’t respond well to this are probably not good hires.
Recruiters merely manage the process and can therefore be tempted to hire average talent just to meet targets. It is then the company that bears the consequences. Finding talents should be everyone’s job and one way to encourage this is to make recruitment part of the performance appraisals.
Google’s internal research found that after four interviews, the cost of an additional interview outweighs the extra value created. Limit interviews to 30 minutes to enhance focus. No-hire calls can be easily made within that duration. If a candidate is good, you can always schedule another interview.
Hiring decisions must be based on data and left to committees, not managers. The manager only has veto power. Five-member committees with diversity across seniority, skills, strengths, and background is a suggested composition. Similarly, promotion decisions are decided by committees, while the manager can only make recommendations.
The right decision is the best one, not the lowest common denominator that everyone agrees with. Encourage Smart Creatives to voice strong opinions through solution-oriented open debates.
CEO’s should make very few decisions. These should center on core issues like product launches, acquisitions, and public policy issues. On other matters allow leaders to arrive at decisions and intervene only when it’s a very poor call. For critical issues, leaders can use their convening power to hold regular meetings, even daily ones if necessary.
Spend 80% of time on the products that generate 80% of the revenue. While it’s tempting to focus on innovations, an organization can take a fatal hit if the core business is neglected.
The business should always outrun the processes. So when things look smooth and organized, it means that processes have overtaken the business. Since the steady state of the Internet Century is chaos, leaders must understand their employees and earn their trust.
To create platforms, companies will have to work with partners who may be competing with them in certain markets. These relationships should be managed pragmatically by clearly acknowledging differences. For key partnerships, create roles that can keep both the external partner satisfied and your company interests furthered.
500 incremental improvements to Google search in a year can be just as radical as a team that works on a self-driving car. This inclusive outlook on innovation gives the entire organization – not just the R&D department – the possibility to innovate.
Google uses three criteria to decide whether to pursue an idea or not. First, it must address a challenge affecting hundreds of millions. Second, it must be radically different from existing market solutions. Finally, the technologies required have to be achievable in the near future.
Innovation resists traditional management as it cannot be owned, mandated, or scheduled. It has to evolve organically. The company should therefore create a favorable environment that encourages risk-taking innovators and also the risk-averse employees to participate.
Allocate 70% of resources to the core business, 20% to emerging products, and 10% to completely new initiatives. This ratio retains focus on the core business while protecting promising new initiatives from budget cuts. Overinvesting can be problematic as million-dollar bets are harder to kill than smaller initiatives.
The job of management is not to reduce risks or prevent failures, but to create an environment resilient enough to take these risks and handle the missteps.
Studies show that extrinsic rewards, such as extra money, do not improve creativity. In fact, they inhibit it by making people see an inherently rewarding endeavor as a money-earning chore. This is why that while Google engineers can spend 20% of their time working on anything they choose, they’re not explicitly rewarded when these projects succeed.
With a plethora of information and infinite consumer choices, continuous product excellence focusing on the user is the only path to industry disruption. Traditional management structures were designed for the 20th century when information was scarce and mistakes costly. At a time of fast-paced acceleration, this architecture actually works against businesses. Management needs to be reimagined ground-up for the Internet Century.
THE ERA OF SMART CREATIVES
In a world of abundant data and computing power, cheap failures and effortless collaboration, individual employees can have an outsized impact. This is the era of Smart Creatives who have technical knowledge, creativity, business savviness, and a hands-on approach. Here are some qualities of Smart Creatives:
In-depth, hands-on technical knowledge to be able to both design and prototype
Understands the complete process from technology to business success
Competitive and willing to go beyond 9-to-5 in pursuit of excellence
A power user who understands the industry from the consumer perspective
Questioning status-quo, seeking new problems to solve and willing to risk failure to address them
Self-driven and takes action based on their initiative. Does not wait to be told what to do.
Openly collaborates and analyses ideas on merit, not status
The right culture encourages high-performing Smart Creatives to work with your organization. Therefore, it’s essential to think of what culture you wish to create right from the start.
Be Authentic: Many companies focus on being successful and then seek to formalize their culture. This usually leads to a set of bland corporate sayings that mean very little to the employees. The mission statement has to be authentic and reflect what matters most to the company. The ideal way to do that is to ask the Smart Creatives working for you about what they think the organization stands for, cares about, and seeks to achieve. Their responses contain the founder’s values along with their own practical insights.
Keep Desks Crowded: Smart Creatives thrive on interactions. Office spaces must maximize interactions by keeping desks crowded, interactive, and brimming with energy. There should also be some options for quiet spaces to do focused work.
Live and work with Smart Creatives: Teams must be functionally integrated. Product managers must work with teams to design, engineer, and develop great products. They must work and live with their Smart Creatives to understand technical insights, user behavior, and technology trends of the future.
Be messy: Messiness is usually the by-product of creative expression. Curtailing it can have a powerful negative effect.
Be generous: Be generous with the resources that Smart Creatives need to do their work. In Google’s case, this means access to near-infinite computing power. However, it is equally important to be frugal with things that do not matter like upscale office spaces.
An obligation to dissent: Creating a meritocracy requires effort from the senior executives not to force their opinions on others and give Smart Creatives the space and freedom to disagree. There must be an “obligation to dissent” if employees feel that an idea is mediocre. Meritocracy creates an environment where the best ideas win, biases are removed, and employees feel valued.
Keep it flat: Google managers must have a minimum of seven direct reports. This creates a flatter organization with greater employee freedom as managers have no time to micromanage. Organizations must be built on small teams as they are tightly knit and get more work done. Jeff Bezos advocates a “Two Pizza Rule” that states that teams must be small enough to be fed by two pizzas.
Bad Apples and Divas: The character of a company is the sum of the character of its people. Managers should reduce the responsibility of bad apples or even fire them if required. However, exceptional performers may have unusual quirks. As long as others can find a way to work with these Divas and their performance outweighs the damage caused, defend them.
Encourage vacations: If employees try to make themselves indispensable, make sure they take a nice vacation and ensure that their next-in-line fills their role in the meanwhile. They will come back refreshed, and the next-in-line grows in confidence too.
Avoid procedure overkill: Excessive procedures can dampen the spirit of Smart Creatives who thrive in startup-like environments. Avoid introducing a new process unless when absolutely necessary.
Bet on Technical Insights, not Market Research: Technical insights apply technology or design to reduce costs or significantly increase functionality and usability. Unlike products based on market research, the result is a far superior product compared to existing competition.
Platforms not Products: With the democratization of information, computing, connectivity, and manufacturing, global scale is within everyone’s reach. To succeed in the Internet Century, leaders have to create and grow platforms that connect users and create multi-sided markets.
Default to Open: While conventional management thinking privileges competitive advantage, the Internet Century rewards open sharing of intellectual property, using open standards and giving customers the freedom to exit. Openness gives your organization scale and innovation. It can become a powerful way to dislodge entrenched incumbents as it drives innovation and reduces the costs of complementary products.
Don’t Follow Competition: Obsession with competition leads to a siege mentality and a focus on mere incremental innovation. The job of a disruptive organization is to create things that don’t even exist yet.
Preparing for Disruption: It’s crucial to ask what would be true five years ahead based on disruptive trends and opportunities. During disruption, incumbents can acquire competitors or build the same products in-house. To do either of these, it is vital to have a deep understanding of the technical insights that the competitor is leveraging. Challengers need to invent products, build businesses, and understand the obstacles incumbents will create including regulations and lawsuits. Your strategy must have ways for outsiders with aligned incentives to collaborate with your organization.
Set the bar high: A workplace with Smart Creatives attracts more Smart Creatives creating an environment of innovation and creativity. The bar has to be set high from the very beginning.
Hire for intelligence and learnability: In a world of rapid change, today’s skills will become obsolete tomorrow. Once you hire, consistently create new opportunities for learning new skills, even those not directly related to their work.
Hire for talent: Hire great talent who may not match your ideal qualifications, titles, and experience, and challenge them to do new things. They will join you as you are willing to bet on them. This applies in the case of hiring senior candidates as well.
Recruiting is everyone’s job: Recruiters can be tempted to hire average talent to meet targets. It’s the company that bears the consequences. An excellent way to make recruiting everyone’s job is to measure their performance in recruiting and include it in performance appraisals.
Keep interviews short: Limit interviews to 30 minutes to enhance focus. Interviewers can easily make no-hire decisions within that duration. If a candidate is good, you can always schedule another interview . Google’s internal research found that after four interviews, the cost of an additional interview outweighs the extra value created.
Use hiring committees: Hiring decisions must be made by committees, not managers. To hire someone, the committee needs to approve based on data. The manager only has veto power. Similarly, promotion decisions are decided by committees with the manager having only the ability to recommend.
Disproportionately reward excellence: Exceptional people possess rare skills that can create exponential impact. Their work needs to be recognized and rewarded disproportionately.
Individuals over constraints: Prioritize the interests of highly capable individuals over organizational constraints. Enable job shifts within the organization and provide newer opportunities to retain your best Smart Creatives.
Elevator pitches: When people want to quit to start their own venture, don’t discourage them. Instead, ask for their elevator pitch. If they aren’t clear, then request them to continue with their jobs until their venture is genuinely ready to launch. This has helped Google retain numerous people.
The decision-making process, the timing, and its implementation are crucial as they can set precedents.
Use data to drive decisions: Slides should just contain data required to run the meeting. Data is best understood by those working with the issue, so trust the insights of Smart Creatives who are working on that issue.
Consensus is not unanimous agreement: Consensus is about rallying people around the best idea for the company. Encourage Smart Creatives to voice strong opinions through solution-oriented open debates. The right decision is the best one, not the lowest common denominator everyone agrees on.
Manage the conflict: This conflict-based approach must be managed by a decision-maker who sets a deadline, runs the process, and breaks ties. End debates when they are no longer valuable and shift towards building a consensus over the decision.
Make fewer decisions: CEO’s must make very few decisions. These should focus on core issues like product launches, acquisitions, and public policy issues. On other matters allow leaders to arrive at conclusions and intervene only when it’s a very bad call.
Use convening power: For critical decisions, leaders can use their convening power to hold regular meetings, even daily ones if necessary. This signals the importance of the issues and makes decisions happen.
80% time on 80% revenue: While it is tempting to focus on new innovations, making mistakes in the core business can be fatal to an organization. Spend 80% of time focusing on products that generate 80% of the revenue.
Effective leaders in the Internet Century do not hoard information. They share it. Leadership should optimize the flow of information across the company every day.
Default to open: At Google, the quarterly board report is again presented to employees in a company-wide meeting. The company intranet has upcoming product information and the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) of each employee. This makes it easy for employees to find out what others are working on.
Ask Hard Questions: It must be safe to ask hard questions. This requires a culture of open, transparent, and honest communication. Google encourages this by following up product launches with “postmortem” sessions to discuss what went right and what went wrong. The findings are shared publicly.
Conversations Still Matter: Conversation remains the most valuable form of communication in the Internet Century. As a leader, it is vital to break the ice and begin conversations.
Chant your Organizational Mantras: Leaders must learn to over-communicate habitually. Here are some guidelines to do this well:
Communication must reinforce a few core themes that everyone must understand. If something is repeated multiple times and people don’t get it, the problem is with the theme and not communication.
Repetition must be done in a fresh way periodically to not induce fatigue.
You cannot fully outsource communication. To sound authentic, it has to be based on your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
Set a tone of honesty and humility in your communication. Create goodwill by acknowledging mistakes openly.
Create Your Playbooks: Create effective communication playbooks for key stakeholders.
Board Meetings: Google Executive Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt would start quarterly board meetings with an overview of both Google’s highlights and lowlights. This usually led to an animated board discussion. Board meetings must focus primarily on strategy and products, and the discussion must generate valuable insights. The legal and governance issues can be handled in subcommittees and summarized to the board.
Partners: Partnerships should be managed pragmatically by clearly acknowledging differences. For key partnerships, roles must be created with the objective of keeping both the external partner satisfied and furthering company interests.
Press Interviews: Don’t use press interviews for bland, scripted marketing speeches. These are unimpressive. Instead, focus on having an engaged conversation by answering questions with insights and stories.
Innovation is characterized by being new, surprising, and radically useful. 500 small increments in a year to the Google search engine makes for a radical improvement as much as a team working on a self-driving car.
Three criteria: Google uses three criteria to decide whether to pursue an idea or not. First, it must address a challenge affecting hundreds of millions. Second, it must be radically different from existing market solutions. Finally, the technologies required have to be achievable in the near future.
Innovation resists management: Innovation resists MBA-style management as it cannot be owned, mandated, or scheduled. It has to evolve organically. The company can only create a favorable environment for the creative churn of ideas, give these the time and freedom to grow or in some cases, die.
Think 10X, not 10%: Thinking Big gives Smart Creatives more freedom by removing constraints and empowering creativity. Further, it leads to a higher likelihood of success as the company cannot afford to fail. Big challenges can attract and retain the best talent. Finally, thinking and doing big inspires a culture of excellence across the entire organization.
Use the 70/20/10 Rule: Allocate 70% resources to the core business, 20% to emerging products, and 10% to completely new initiatives. This ratio retains focus on the core business while ensuring that promising new initiatives are protected from budget cuts. Overinvesting is as problematic as underinvesting as million-dollar bets are harder to kill than smaller initiatives.
20% time: Google engineers can spend 20% of their time working on anything they choose. This has led to a host of innovations ranging from Google News to transit information in Google Maps. However, the value of 20% time comes more from skills people learn and the collaboration across teams that happens while doing their projects than the projects themselves.
Real artists ship: Don’t wait to perfect your new idea. Create a product, ship it, learn from data, and improve through iterations. Management must be ruthless in feeding the projects that gather momentum and starving the ones that don’t.
Fail well: If projects are ambitious enough, they will yield valuable technical and user insights even when they fail. Give good jobs to teams that fail. Failure should be a badge of honor to encourage future efforts. The role of management is not to reduce risks or prevent failures, but to create an environment resilient enough to take these risks and handle the missteps.
Success is the reward: Google doesn’t reward people for successful 20% projects. Studies show that extrinsic rewards like extra money do not improve creativity. They inhibit it by turning an inherently rewarding endeavor into a money-earning chore.
In the Internet Century, incumbent businesses can either use technology as a tool of radical transformation and exponential growth, or continue thinking of it as a mere means to improve efficiency. Those who choose the latter will be rendered irrelevant by the upcoming waves of disruption.
Preface .. Hmmmm
I’m in a reflective mood right now .. as I sit at my desk in the early hours of dawn about to start another day of fasting (its Ramadan 2019).
I find myself again at a crossroads .. the past few years have been tough. The IT (“tech”) industry is moving fast and evolving daily. Digital Transformation and emerging trends such as AI, ML, RPA, IoT, Blochain, etc. are constantly disrupting people and businesses everywhere leading to an i creased frenzied approach to remaining profitable, competitve and, dare I say it, innovative.
“IT” seems to be rapidly more about infrastructure and ‘keeping the lights on’ than supporting innovation and new business models. People choosing to be on the ‘business’ side of a company are leveraging SaaS and Cloud solutions to stand up ‘shadow IT’ capabilities without following any type of due process resulting in potential data breaches, cyber security hacks and other potentials compliance issues which could ultimately affect the brand and reputation of a company .. within seconds .. due to the urge to be seemingly entrepreneurial but probably more likely reckless at the expense of fame and fortune.
The past few years have been a rollercoaster but I sincerely believe that 2019 will be the start of renewal for me and an opportunity to build upon and bring to light all my life experiences, consulting & transformation & coaching skills to become what I believe I need to be – a tour de force.
Funny how few people (especially today’s recruiters, head hunters, and hiring managers) actually understand or value experience built up over many years. We seem to be in an era where we want everything NOW but without giving time to engineering, design and thought. Project delivery persons believe they are the ones to engage with Boards and orchestrate change but forget the need for those who have all the while come from a place which involved creating, assuring and packaging qood quality products and solutions that afford businesses the services that attract customers and therefore the revenue / profit that everyone is chasing.
So, I find myself at a cross roads .. having worked hard to be an effective interim (an independent consultant NOT a money hungry contractor), I am considering the option of going permanent and returning to some semblance of stability, regularity and security that a ‘career’ might give me and reducing / dropping extra-curricular stuff I have engaged in for too long. And in doing so, I question whether I am reducing my value going forward by accepting the ‘regular’ pathway that many people tread due to financial pressures and obligations that result from having a family and big aspirations to be successful – whatever that means.
Why is it that our options actually reduce significantly while we wrestle with the lack of control to have freedom to express ourselves and evolve with the times – as we grow older, become parents and heads of family and take on the responsibility of parenthood seeking to nurture and support our young children who need everything they can get in order to survive a whole new world – which is at times superficial, ultra judgemental, scorecard / league table basedand fixated on what we appear outwardly to others .. rather than being celebrated and rewarded for what we have (and hold) within.
Anyway, these reflections and constant questions lead me to re-evaluationg my goals – specificially underlined by my next ‘gig’ – I hope I choose wisely and I pray that my choices lead me to be content and fulfilled .. in the hope that I am also respected and admired by my peers for doing a good job and adding value. Tick Tock.. only time will tell!
Career Evaluation Tips
Rather than regurgitate stuff, I thought I would simply include an original article from 2014 which is still relevant today and sums up great advices for everyone who may be taking time to evaluate their next career move.
Extract from ‘Tips for creating a Career Path’ (https://www.michaelpage.com.au/advice/career-advice/career-progression/tips-creating-career-plan)
Hello everyone ..
I have been absent for some time and switched focus to other platforms and media for sharing news, ideas and general thoughts .. forgetting that I was originally on the right track having set up my Blog site, invested in my own domain and expended lots of effort to build and establish my brand.
It’s truly ironic how one’s life takes you in different directions and how, in our rush to get on with things, we often forget about what truly drives us and what we should be focussing our energy on.
Well, those are the types of things that have been running through my mind for the past two years and, with the rollercoaster ride I engaged in, I am determined to rediscover my passion and make 2019 the start of ‘me’ returning to my r’roots’ .. rediscovering and celebrating my core interests.
I invested 5 years of my life developing my interests while moving from being an undergraduate to a postgraduate student. That was over 25 years ago … a quarter of a century. Wow .. time really doesn’t wait for any person (man and/or woman!).
I hope to return to a time where I had boundless energy and enthusiasm for knowledge with the expectation of breaking new ground augmenting machines and systems to make human lives less monotonous.
With that in mind, I will return to my interests in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and ‘Thinking Systems’ .. topics which are now mainstream and an active part of everyday vocabulary.
This should me my time .. given my personal history and aspiration to be useful and add value to others both in academia and the professional workplace.
So … (note to self) .. remember the words of the wise old men & women of the past.
Bring on 2019 .. and be congruent with your conscious and unconscious self.
Really love the emails & advices I receive from Victor Cheng – he’s like my virtual mentor / coach!
Take time to ‘pay forward’ to others … and help YOUrself (and OTHERs) develop the right skills to be successful – both at work and in life. Read on …
I am taking a much needed rest this week .. after having worked hard over the past few months without a break.
I have started to experience “burn out” symptoms yet I struggle to “unplug” and keep away from my mobile & tablet – which appear to be increasingly attached to my core .. an essential part of my everyday routine. Or am I just deluding myself?
Earlier today, I watched a documentary featuring Mike Tyson – talking about his autobiography .. he talked about his youth and how, with age, he is becoming increasingly humbled .. by life .. by family .. by reflecting on what ‘greatness’ really means. Having achieved many trophies (or more correctly, ‘belts’ in the sport of boxing), he now discards them and refers to them as ‘trash’ with little real value or worth. The man previously known as ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson is now like malleable, softly spoken, tender and considerate who chooses every word carefully as he engaging in discussion .. Today, he prefers instead to focus energy on his wife and children … his family and lives – simpler life free from the shackles that almost destroyed him .. money, fame, vices and women.
This got me thinking .. why is it many of us strive so hard every day at work?
We constantly feel that we need to prove our self-worth, our value .. often seeking approval and recognition of our ‘output’ and ‘contribution’ to those around us – our team, our manager, our company .. others who hold some form of power and control over us.
We work ‘for the man’ (and perhaps, in today’s world, ‘for the woman’) striving to provide for our families, pay off mortgages and other debts which continually mount up because this is what is expected of us who live in a capitalist society (in the West) .. where time with family is sacrificed for the love of money and therefore the excuse of work .. whatever that means. Sadly, by the time we figure things out, we are either too old to enjoy the fruits of our labour, or are busy handing down to our children and worrying about setting them up for their future .. which hopefully will be nothing like the lives we have lived and endured .. in this ‘dog eat dog’ world.
This is made harder still by our ever changing world continuously disrupted by technology wizardry .. surrounding and engulfing us .. in digital make belief .. while there is devastation (man made and natural) around us .. viewed through our TVs, web browsers, mobiles and tablets .. increasingly connected as we begin to embrace IoT, IIoT, AI and all other fascinating technology led revolutions.
Depending on our own definition of ‘greatness’, we can either achieve success through demonstrating ‘goodness’, by ‘walking the walking’, by showing the way to those around us .. sadly, many of us are in a rush to achieve ‘greatness’ quickly opting to take short cuts, to cheat the system, to somehow fast track success.
Without becoming embroiled in philosophy or religion, many of us are unable to combine ‘greatness’ with ‘goodness’ as we somehow fail ourselves or others or a combination of the two …
Ofcourse, throughout this article, I am (ofcourse!) speaking about myself .. while, at the same time, hoping that there are many others out there who are experiencing the same torment, equivalent pressure, similar desires and aspirations – to be able to live our lives with a balance that affords us time with our loved ones while also being considered success amongst our peers in the workplace.
So how do we achieve ‘greatness’ AND ‘goodness’ .. are these mutually exclusive or is there a way to attain both?
I continue to reflect .. hoping that I will learn of answers that work for and help me find some form of harmony .. and peace.
If you are reading this, I hope you find your answers too .. assuming any of the above resonates with you.
If not (its probably me, overthinking everything!?!), I wish you continued success – whatever that may mean for you.
The last few days have been particularly inspirational .. why?
Simple. Because of the everyday people I have met who each have unique experiences they shared about their lives, changing responsibilities and .. in my view, real life wisdom gained from hard times and changing circumstances.
I have my own challenges .. and conscious that my troubles, though they may appear to be large and difficult, pale into insignificance when I hear the stories of others.
I’m a father who is keen to provide stability and a good foundation to my wife and family. Thanks to God, I am in the process of establishing my own business (an alternate Management Consultancy – my 3rd company) with some very experienced colleagues with whom I hope to do some great things. Each day brings new challenges which I most often am able to deal with .. but there are days when life is overwhelming. However, perhaps because I am edging ever closer to the grand old age of 50, every so often I am able to reflect on how beautiful my life is .. despite several low points, there are opportunities in front of me that are beckoning me to just believe .. in myself, my loved ones and a few colleagues .. all of whom need me .. all of whom I am lost without.
So .. while I continue to reflect on what lies ahead for me .. I am slowly letting go of my worries, choosing instead to focus on small steps .. small victories .. each giving me renewed confidence and small bursts of self-belief.
This leads me to some interesting encounters, over the past few days, which reminds me how we all need to take a step back, remember why we do things and take pleasure in knowing that life will always present opportunities .. to succeed .. keeping in mind that we should ALL ask ourselves WHAT SUCCESS MEANS .. and .. KEEP CLOSE WATCH OF WHEN WE HAVE ACHIEVED SUCCESS. Questions, only we can answers ourselves without the hang ups of “keeping up with the Joneses” and feeling like we need to compete with or measure ourselves against others.
After all, how much do we really know about what others around us and what they have had to endure to achieve (their) success?
Encounter One (Taxi Driver, mid 30s, young wife & 3 children)
Returning home from a busines trip, I meet a taxi driver who tells me his story. White male who was once a passionate footballer who had his faor share of fights and squabbles .. his girlfriend, a childhood sweetheart, falls pregnant and presents an ultimatum. “He needs to choose her or his friends”. He thinks carefully, realising what each choice may lead to .. and choose the girl.
10 years on .. they have THREE children (2boys, 1 girl) and he has turned his life around. Deciding to put his family first, enjoy his children, devote himself to his wife and live with honour. Today, he coaches a football team (for one of his boys who has promising talent), has changed jobs (a cabbie for 7 weeks) and now has a work/life balance that gives him, his wife and children joy and happiness. Amazing!
For me, this is a real life story of a Briton who has made tough choices .. which, thank God, have proven to be the right ones – for him (and therefore his young family). This man has wisdom and lives each day, working to build a bright future for his children. Amen. Who says miracles and the signs of God are absent from our lives in the 21st century? Praise be to God.
Encounter Two (Two young boys, Jehovah Witnesses)
So .. I am doing way too much .. at the expense of my own family .. mostly my Mum and my sisters who I love dearly. I am constantly working .. trying to build something for my wife and children .. hoping that one day, their lives will be full of whatever it is they choose to do .. ideally, with dignity, grace and success (whatever that means to them individually).
The doorbell rings .. two boys present a Watch Tower magazine about “How we use out Time .. Are we doing too much”. I smile and accept their gift .. and laugh to myself .. God really does work in mysterious ways .. and does talk to me!
Encounter Three (Elderly Lady, 60s)
I have stupidly neglected my health and by way of encouragement and support my dear wife has got behind me to support my new fitness regime. Most Sundays, when I am home (I work abroad), we now go for a 8-10K walk through the neighbouring woodland of Epping Forest. At the end of the 1st leg of our walk, we normally stop off at a lovely Pub / Restaurant where we have a delicious Sunday meal together (as some families still do!).
This weekend, while eating a small meal, an elderly lady is looking for some salt to start (and enjoy) a lovely Sunday roast. I clamber over tables and reach for the salt and present it to her. She rewards me with a beaming smile and thanks me .. apologising for any inconvenience. I remember my dear Father (who passed away in 2012) who would be radiant with a boyish smile offering this type of assistance to any older person, especially the ladies (!) and I offer a prayer – hoping that he is proud of his son who tries always to keep his memory alive by doing small gestures like this .. keeping alive the ideals of yester-year .. where we ALL respected our elders (including our beloved parents).
Encounter Four (Taxi Driver, Lates 50s, wife and 4 children (all girls!))
Back in the teaxi, on my way to the airport .. back to work.
My taxi driver shares some lovely stories about his family. One thing that sticks in my mind is the idea of material objects becoming OBSOLETE (words of his 15 year old daughter). We boh laugh at how, we both used to collect CDs, Videos and DVDs of classic albums and movies .. only to find we can give them away today because they are antiques .. of NO INTEREST whatsoever to the younger generation who live in the world where everything is streamed by virtue of the Internet and increasingly sophisticated digital technologies which the millenials and Generation Z expect to just work (!) and be available regardless of where they are .. at home, in the car, on public transport .. and, yes, even in the skies above us when travelling on an aeroplane.
I remind the taxi driver that there was a time where our parents, grandparents and others of the “older” generation would reminisce about the “good old days” and wonder at how life “used to be”.
Alas, as I approach 50, I am getting closer to becoming the “older generation” ..
Thinking back to my childhood when life appeared simpler, happier, etc. I wonder .. was it really? Or is this just life teaching us all valuable lessons about growing up .. urging us to learn lessons .. turn our experiences and everyday encounters into pearls of wisdom for those we come into contact with .. reminding those we meet to keep strong, believe in the collective human spirit and remember that regardless of our colour, creed or income levels, that we are afterall flesh and bone .. with the same wants, desires, troubles and aspirations like the person next to us, behind us and in front of us.
We are all becoming scarily obsessive about our mobiles, tablets, gadgets .. that keep us hostage to the digital world around us.
Let’s remember to unplug every now and again .. look up and around us .. gaze into the eyes of our loved ones and connect with them in normal, human and, perhaps, “old fashioned ways”.
Whatever you are doing today, this week and long after, keep healthy and embrace every encounter – at work, at home, at play.
Remember to listen to everyone around you .. young and old .. male or female .. perhaps you too may be inspired an encounter!
(Original article available here)
At the start of 2016 Google announced that it had discovered the secret ingredients for the perfect team. After years of analyzing interviews and data from more than 100 teams, it found that the drivers of effective team performance are the group’s average level of emotional intelligence and a high degree of communication between members. Google’s recipe of being nice and joining in makes perfect sense (and is hardly counterintuitive).
Perhaps more surprising, Google’s research implies that the kinds of people in the team are not so relevant. While that may be true at Google, a company where people are preselected on the basis of their personality (or “Googliness”), this finding is inconsistent with the wider scientific evidence, which indicates quite clearly that individuals’ personalities play a significant role in determining team performance. In particular, personality affects:
- What role you have within the team
- How you interact with the rest of the team
- Whether your values (core beliefs) align with the team’s
Importantly, the above processes concern the psychological factors (rather than the technical skills) underlying both individual and team performance. These psychological factors are the main determinants of whether people work together well. If team fit were only about skills and experience, Donald Trump might invite Bernie Sanders to serve in his administration — yet it is unlikely that they would work together well. Likewise, there are often substantial compatibility differences between you and your colleagues, regardless of how similar your expertise and technical backgrounds are.
YOU AND YOUR TEAM SERIES
For example, a study of 133 factory teams found that higher levels of interpersonal sensitivity, curiosity, and emotional stability resulted in more-cohesive teams and increased prosocial behavior among team members. More-effective teams were composed of a higher number of cool-headed, inquisitive, and altruistic people. Along the same lines, a large meta-analysis showed that team members’ personalities influence cooperation, shared cognition, information sharing, and overall team performance. In other words, who you are affects how you behave and how you interact with other people, so team members’ personalities operate like the different functions of a single organism.
Consider the crew that will one day (soon?) travel to Mars, perhaps working for Elon Musk or one of the government space agencies. Simulations of such voyages put astronauts in cramped quarters for hundreds of days. They show that different cliques form in the crew based on values similarity and that higher agreeableness and lower neuroticism predict better team cohesion and cooperation.
A useful way to think about teams with the right mix of skills and personalities is to consider the two roles every person plays in a working group: a functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are. Too often, organizations focus merely on the functional role and hope that good team performance somehow follows. This is why even the most expensive professional sports teams often fail to perform according to the individual talents of each player: There is no psychological synergy. A more effective approach (like the mission to Mars example) focuses as much on people’s personalities as on their skills.
In our own work we found that psychological team roles are largely a product of people’s personalities. For example, consider team members who are:
- Results-oriented. Team members who naturally organize work and take charge tend to be socially self-confident, competitive, and energetic.
- Relationship-focused. Team members who naturally focus on relationships, are attuned to others’ feelings, and are good at building cohesion tend to be warm, diplomatic, and approachable.
- Process and rule followers. Team members who pay attention to details, processes, and rules tend to be reliable, organized, and conscientious.
- Innovative and disruptive thinkers. Team members who naturally focus on innovation, anticipate problems, and recognize when the team needs to change tend to be imaginative, curious, and open to new experiences.
- Pragmatic. Team members who are practical, hard-headed challengers of ideas and theories tend to be prudent, emotionally stable, and level-headed.
Observing the balance of roles in a team offers an extraordinary insight into its dynamics. It also indicates the likelihood of success or failure for an assigned task. For instance, we worked with a finance team charged with rolling out a novel business reporting product for transforming the culture of a staid government agency. But the percentage of players in each role showed the team was doomed from its inception:
- 17% of team members were considered results-oriented
- 100% of team members were considered pragmatic
- 0% of team members were considered innovative
- 50% of team members were considered process-oriented
- 0% of team members were considered good relationship builders
Since no one played the relationship-building role, the team lacked internal cohesion and failed to establish any connection with the frontline leaders who were required to take on the team’s new accounting process. Similarly, with only a few playing a results-oriented role (and a leader who wasn’t one of them), the team struggled to drive itself forward.
Conversely, when too many people play the relationship-building role, it can produce a nice, almost saccharine environment, with too little challenge or contention, as in the leadership team of this social work organization:
- 0% of team members were considered results-oriented
- 0% of team members were considered pragmatic
- 29% of team members were considered innovative
- 29% of team members were considered process-oriented
- 86% of team members were considered good relationship builders
In this example, the team spent too much time ensuring harmony and cohesion and too little achieving results. When you focus too much on getting along (with your teammates), you probably will not have much time or energy left for getting ahead (of other teams or organizations).
It is informative to use these kinds of profiles to assess how an incoming team member will impact team performance and dynamics. As the renowned teams researcher Suzanne Bell, who is working on the Mars project for NASA, put it: “…We assume that astronauts are intelligent, that they’re experts in their technical areas, and that they have at least some teamwork skills. What’s tricky is how well individuals combine.”
Thus, evaluating the whole person can offer pivotal insights into how people are likely to work together, and can help flag areas of conflict and affinity. Anything of value happens as the result of team effort, where people set aside their selfish interests to achieve something collectively that they could not achieve by themselves. The most successful teams get this mix of personalities right.
Advices to Programme Directors, Change Agents & Business Sponsors
When embarking on delivering business and/or technology transformation, Business leaders need a plan to mobilise. In most cases, businesses will endeavour to develop a “roadmap” that enables everyone to clearly understand each activity and what decisions need to be made, who needs to make them and when. The roadmap is translated into a project plan, specifying the nature of work in each of the associated phases of definition, construction, implementation and beyond.
There are many steps to go through in order to create a solid executable plan. This is sometimes lost on business leaders and managers who need to determine where the organisation, department or team needs to go. With the rise of disruptive digital technology and the pressure to remain competitive and customer centric, timelines are increasingly being compressed and there is a rush to get new products and solutions delivered in accelerated ways. Unfortunately a quick planning fix is not always the best solution. There are times when you need to step back and do proper planning and implementation in order to create greater business success. Otherwise, there are huge risks that will hinder and hamper success.
No plan will work without a clear and understandable approach. Before attempting to raceahead to the finishing line, take time to think before you act. Having thousands of lines in a gantt chart or project plan may present the perception that you are in control but this may cause confusion leading resources unable to see the wood from the trees and, worse, work harder rather than smarter.
Planning with an Approach
With this in mind, an approach will typically enable you to
- Align goals of the organisation
- Provide focus and direction for employees
- Communicate a single company vision from top to bottom
- Identify areas of common interest and synergy
- Present a direction to suppliers, partners and customers
- Outline key objectives for managers
- Identify key interdependencies (and potential risks/issues)
- Promote cross functional integration and alignment
- Improve communication
- Provide management control
- Help to identify short cuts i.e. areas which maybe fast tracked, de-prioritised or deferred
- Project a common vision about changes to people, processes and technology
All of the above are not reflecting in project plans and will allow the transformation journey to come to life for all participants.
An 8-step Plan for Transformation
Once a consensus has been agreed and the approach finalised, it will be important to focus on EIGHT (8) key activities
- Identify a visionary i.e. a high level respected sponsor
- Establish a key leadership group (i.e a ‘war cabinet’) to develop actionable plans and support good communication
- Agree the timeline for executing the approach and achieving the transformation vision
- Build an experienced and high powered team capable of planning/architecting and implementing change (this may include key individuals from 3rd party suppliers and agencies)
- Select appropriate technologies and services (e.g. Testing, Integration, etc.)
- Develop visual roadmaps and establish strategic, tactical and operational plans (leveraging waterfall/agile/hybrid techniques)
- Ensure there are mechanisms in place to win ‘hearts and minds’
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!!!
Going the Distance
While making sure the senior management team is prepared is important, you must make sure all of the people are prepared for the implementation of the strategic, tactical and operational plans.
You need to continue to implement your plan and use it on a regular basis (as you agreed in your execution planning). You made it this far, so go the distance. Make it work. Make the investment that will keep your plan alive. Use it in your meetings, reference it, test your people on it and make adjustments as needed. No business leader or champion stops at the starting gate — they take what they’ve learned, agreed to, and developed, and they put it into real life practice. You need to do the same.
Enjoy the ride .. it may have its ups and downs and dark moments but getting to the finishing line is definitely worth it.