Posts Tagged ‘value’

Culture Counts

October 1, 2013

PopeFrancis

There’s no escaping an over weighted factor in organizations: culture. It drives and  limits the potency of any enterprise or community.

Culture reflects the prevailing norms and values of people. It’s that consistent vibe that permeates what people say and do. It can be authentic, cooperative, transparent, kind, innovative, and results-focused. Or, perhaps it is competitive, selfish, and false. Fostering culture is a leadership function.

Two examples of people in very different contexts offer some insights on this vital topic.

Ramon Nunez, CEO of LiveHive, a software maker identifies four principles he relies on in his company. First, trust. Second, interdependence. Third, integrity. Fourth, customer-focused value. His sequence of factors is important. He says, “If you can’t trust your team members, there’s something wrong…either the team has to change or how you work needs to change.” In a challenging performance context, Nunez intends to build strength and sustainability. He is one of 16 children in a Mexican family and migrated to the U.S. as a teen. His perspective and business success offer an exciting story.

Pope Francis, the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, has garnered notice for his explicit cultural messages through his words and actions. Instead of imperious and self-promoting, he’s gentle and modest. In contrast to single-minded and certain, he suggests an open mind and naiveté. In his critical role as a spiritual and institutional leader, authority seems to originate from sincerity and humbleness. Frank Bruni’s recent editorial in the New York Times captures a rich portrait of Pope Francis and contrasts it with prevailing American culture. Instead of commanding, Pope Francis invites. Bruni calls this a “radical whisper.”

While culture is often set from the top – it’s possible for anyone to contribute. Your example, on a big factor, can influence your colleagues in important ways.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Seeking Social Benefit

March 17, 2013

tape

How do we lead new, more effective ways to deliver social benefit? For many decades, private sector management has applied this lever to their parallel performance challenges. Bill Gates recently extolled its value. A reasonable answer to the question: measurement.

The Gates Foundation 2013 annual letter spells out accomplishments and an ambitious agenda. But, a key message is measuring for managing. “I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition,” wrote Gates. He cites the intent to eradicate polio. And, describes timely, local, accurate measurement is a prequel to “figure out what is wrong, and fix it.”

Performance Management
Measurement is intimately connected to performance management. Performance management relies on data collection, analysis and course correction. Increasingly, the public, stakeholders, funders and others ask:
• What value are we getting?
• What more can our work deliver?
• How are we changing lives and systems?
These are all fair questions that paid (and volunteer) manager-leaders are eager to answer, too.

In Michigan, measurement has had serious application in early childhood development efforts. First Steps, in partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools, has focused on what works under what conditions in high-risk neighborhoods with vulnerable children. For example, in less than a week, a pre-kindergarten “camp” positively affected the socio-emotional status of children along with adoption of routines. In addition, Play & Learn groups showed changes in children’s language and literacy skills. Because of measurement, it’s possible to demonstrate progress, thoughtfully adapt programs and identify the value interventions contribute to children, their families and the education system.

Funds for Results
In most contexts, funds are given for the promise of a desired change or intended result in the nonprofit sector. However, as resources are more scarce, connecting funding with proven success may become more common. New financing instruments called social impact bonds require explicit results to continue funding. The planned results and associated cost savings are built into the economic model. And, even the US government is exploring the idea of results-based resources in their programs that offer financial support for social challenges (called Pay for Success).

The discipline of measurement is underutilized, perhaps because of the distinct skills it requires. It also carries some risk, because it points out poor program design, plans and/or implementation. Measurement can certainly identify waste. Notably, not everyone has the same vibrant passion for efficiency and effectiveness.

Social Progress
The old adage goes: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. While “social engineering” has plenty of detractors and critical issues in it – much of our tax exempt or civil sector have huge caches of social, political and economic capital aimed at social change that can deliver more, better value.

Literacy and competencies in measurement are essential to both leapfrog and routine progress. These days, a noble cause is only a great start. Authentic claims about impact or serious change must be grounded in precise measurement. Ask Bill Gates.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

Avoid Strategy Sabotage

October 22, 2012

A primary challenge in strategy development is anticipating the future – correctly. It’s a tall order. Strategy creates public and private value. It’s central to every organization and team.

Determining the actions most likely to secure your intended results employs strategic planning. Creating strategy, for a program or entire organization, generally requires a series of explicit steps. While a routine function, the process of strategy development offers plenty of opportunity for error.

In this list, I’ve noted the most common “sins.” Consider these as you guard against missteps and improve the quality of your strategy development.

1. Failure to know where you are now. Clarity about your current situation is essential if you are pointing towards a new target. Strategy has everything to do with decisions about the optimal route for the outcome you intend. If you don’t know the current situation then you have no good data on how to create forward action. Shaky ground isn’t equal to a solid foundation – so it’s vital to get this part right.

2. Difficulty in detecting patterns. Your “read” of the context and forecast for the future is important to analysis, interpretation and application. Seeing patterns and anticipating new ones are vital to strategy development. Testing whether others “see” things the same or different and knowing why is a good idea.

3. Lack of choice points. A clear specification of issues and their perceived implications are vital in strategy development. Framing both the challenges which impede progress and the context which will catalyze motion are critical to decisions about forward actions.

4. Unwillingness to acknowledge bias. We all have opinions and perspectives based on prior experience and training. How deeply these are held and whether we can accommodate and explore new mental models affects the discussions and review of strategy. Being aware of bias can mitigate it.

5. Absence of actionable measures. A few and the right measures are important as touchstones for determining progress. To inform decisions or actions, measurement must be part of any strategy. It provides feedback data to confirm existing direction and to indicate necessary course corrections. Winston Churchill said it.” However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

6. Reluctance to review capacity. It’s possible to desire a new outcome, but the potential for achieving it relies heavily on what assets your program or organization has in hand for execution. Do you have the skillful talent integral to the work ahead as well along with the financial resources and time to make results a real possibility? An “internal audit” will surface both needs and assumptions about organization/team capacity that are key to strategy success.

7. Inadequate engagement. Who participates in strategy development matters a lot. It’s also vital to the subsequent socialization and implementation of strategy. Be sure dissent and minority opinions are aired to “kick” strategy. Careful consideration should be given to who participates and when in your process.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com.

Lessons From The Bread Guy

August 12, 2012

Whole grain or white ?

If you don’t eat there – it’s likely you’ve seen the Panera Bread name. Ron Shaich is the founder, chairman and co-CEO. He’s running an immensely popular chain of bakery-cafes. It’s a growing business and trend-setter in “quick casual” dining. I think he’s a fascinating manager-leader with lessons to share.

Why?

People: The Weighted Factor

While his first and early interest was profit — his primary one, now, is people. He believes how they are organized and work together mean everything to organization performance. This guy tells applicants in interviews they have a shared objective: value.  How can the individual and the employer provide mutual value to each other? He considers the interview an important chance to relax traditional exchanges and identify the intersection of an individual’s skills with their potential to make a contribution.

Key to the Panera Bread culture is a rule: no jerks.  Shaich says that his “no jerk” rule started out as a more precise anatomical reference but has been sanitized. As important, he focuses his team on  tangled, tough work with optimism and mastery. He welcomes complex challenges because tackling them yields a competitive advantage. He reasons:  if the work is simple, then any other organization can do it well, too.

Delivery & Discovery Muscles

In a recent New York Times interview, Shaich offers insights on an effective organization.  He says how work gets done is the “delivery muscle.’” Shaich calls improvement and innovation efforts the “discovery muscle.” While the delivery muscle is feels safe, analytic and rational, he believes it frequently overwhelms strategies and related decisions. He thinks this muscle can encourage disconnected roles and functions internally.

He believes companies and other organizations often err because the discovery muscle is under-developed . The discovery muscle sees new patterns and approaches. It represents getting ahead of current thinking and leaps of faith that trust instinct and pursue risk. The discovery muscle forces focus on the whole organization and responsive action with a forward view.

Learning Requires Inquiry

Shaich considers his style a combination of both directed and adaptive. He is consistently reflective. In his own words: “I am constantly asking about everything – what works and what doesn’t.”  The Panera recipe is successful. In short, it looks like this: great talent, mastery, lots of questions, and balanced muscles.

This leader is a learner who discovers and delivers.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

The Size and Speed of Change

May 24, 2011

 

Recently, a professor and a marketing consultant, suggested creating a $300 house. They punted it up publicly. The response has been overwhelming. Their target could transform the lives of millions of desperately poor children and families across the globe. If it happens – it is a breakthrough innovation.

This goal challenges what’s feasible, alters expectations and prompts innovation. These are vital levers for big, fast change. Name the intended result, assemble the case, articulate the implications. Then, gather the knowledge, skills, insights, experience, enthusiasm and possibilities for strategy and execution.

 Progress & Pace

Reflect for a moment on two dimensions of change – scale and time. A continuum of scale could cover polar ends: from none (simply preserving  the status quo) to boldly disruptive. A range for time can span from instant to perpetuity. What’s a “fair” expectation for progress and pace?

An insulated and isolated organization (or community) may not make much progress year after year. The adjacent possible is severely oppressed and any change comes grudgingly.  Even incremental, minor movement may be difficult. Although essential to growth and vitality, substantial change won’t happen until there are new people with different training, experience, expectations and habits. Moreover, disruptive change doesn’t occur until there’s a sudden tip point, often the result of a power shift.

 The Best Attitude

“Let’s go slow to go fast” is commonly said in organizations that must improve. This can translate to “I’m risk averse” or let’s quietly move the goal posts. Alternatively, it  may mean there needs to be more knowledge, skills and trust to do the work ahead. Sometimes it is appropriate – sometimes not. If for-profit organizations don’t change fast – it’s certain they will fail. Current and emerging marketplace competitors ensure that. Although far less sensitive to market forces, non-profits must adapt to perform, too.

Many organizations affect internal culture by clearly describing expected attitudes. For example, a “humility and a hunger to learn” is one of several Kellogg Company leadership values.  The San Diego Food Bank operates with an “acute sense of urgency.” ConAgra identifies simplicity, accountability and collaboration as key internal principles. Nestle wants a “willingness to learn” commitment among their employees. All of these declarations signal an environment which supports change.

 Target & Timing

If nearly anything is possible: What’s your stretch goal? What’s the deadline? Perhaps a 28% return on investment or no domestic violence for one month. Maybe, in six months, it’s a $25 toilet or no drunk driving in your county. By 2014, what about a 60% reduction in teen pregnancy, creating a $1,000 car, or every high school graduate in your town will be college-ready.

Thought leadership can be an essential prompt for the size and speed of change. We know most people are deeply motivated by satisfaction and results. By specifying an audacious goal and deadline, expectations for scale and pace are set. Why not start with these?

 –Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Intrigued? Tap this link for more information on a $300 house.

Staking A Claim

March 15, 2011

We need to “move the needle. “ It’s one of the most common clichés used to describe the need to generate change. It might be the best one but there are others, like: “bring home the bacon”, “beat the street”, “go gang-busters.” These translate to “help me show results.” They are about performance. As frequently said but not-so-original or interesting phrases they are often delivered with a tone of slight desperation as people try to validate their work.

Precious Feedback
The private sector learned a long time ago to incorporate metrics in their day-to-day work. Metrics and their use are also a key part of formal training that prepares you for the “world of business.” Sales, price–to-earnings, indexes, customer satisfaction scores, debt ratios, profit margins, projections, and efficiencies are all aspects central to performance in the private sector. They offer both guidance on progress as well as terminal performance ratings. They help us describe current status, aspirations and results. Metrics are essential feedback in operations, acquisitions, mergers and value. This is because they are integral factors in managing.

Many of the debates about the use, skills with and request for metrics in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector are puzzling. It’s vital, for sure, to recognize that social change is not a “controlled” space like a drug trial or cookie factory. In fact, I think the complexities of social change suggest an even greater value for the critical feedback metrics provide in managing and leading. Both evaluative thinking and evaluation are essential to all sectors.

Claims and Cause
While those who declare “move the needle” may not know it… the needle will move. Regardless of their efforts or lack of. Change is constant. There are external and internal dynamics that absolutely will influence the gauge reading or needle status. Frequently, when this phrase is used to inform/define an organization or program’s work, the construct in play is cause. It’s an intention to declare value or stake a claim. Can I declare contribution or attribution, neither or both?

The difference in contribution and attribution are relative proportion of cause. I hit the car when I ran a red light is an example of direct cause. The event is attributed to me. I gave $500 to the $4.8M capital campaign goal deems me a contributor. I am a small part of a big result. When seeking attribution it means particular protocols must be used to determine the portion of effect. It is a high standard.

For example, in determining the influence of a pre-literacy intervention for preschool children we compared children and teachers in Head Start with a Head Start control group. Those with the special intervention and preparation exceeded learning and performance measures many times greater than the control group. This allows the intervention program, with significant confidence, to claim attribution (or direct cause).

Determining contribution is not as difficult and it is more common. The role or sequence of factors in an intervention can be essential to understanding contribution. The strength of a plausible connection allows us to claim contribution. It is a part of cause. Specification of contribution should rely on multiple techniques. Models, plans and other items are useful tools in this determination.

Metrics Application
It is vital that independent and quality assessment occurs to assure credibility. There are big challenges in understanding the use and mis-use of evaluation. Evaluation is most certainly affected by politics. If not high quality, the metrics represented by evaluation can easily be “cover” or marketing. Capable professionals know this is why the field has quality standards. They also can spot shoddy quality, marketing and promotional or “lite” use of evaluation. People have anxiety about metrics because they are useful with accountability.

Individually and in our organizations, we all want to “make a difference.” We want our lives and our organizations to be relevant, have meaning and credibility. Whether the sole cause or a contributor, it’s vital to use metrics to set targets, review progress and determine influence on results. This makes evaluation an essential literacy for anyone managing and leading. The dangers and costs of mishandling are extraordinary. When done well, so is the value.

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also a W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. Contact her via: lisawk@pwkinc.com.

Ready, Set, Solve!

November 17, 2010

Henry Ford, of Ford Motor Company fame, was having challenges with a systems problem in his plant. After many efforts at resolution, Ford invited Nikola Tesla, a scientist and inventor, to spend some time reviewing the plant operations and advise him. Tesla visited the plant and was on site 30 minutes. He placed an “X” on a particular boilerplate with chalk and departed. Further examination by Ford engineers showed the boilerplate was faulty. Impressed, Ford told Tesla to send an invoice. The bill arrived for $10,000. Astonished and angry about the cost, Ford demanded a breakdown of the invoice. Tesla sent a second bill which read:

Marking the wall: $1
Knowing where to mark: $9,999

This story underscores several important points for managing and leading work.Foremost, it’s about problem-solving. It’s also about value.

Competency Specification
As the success of our work relies increasingly on the use of information as knowledge, we need to be able to understand how to solve problems. And, we also need to understand what to do with our learning. This means reasoning and knowledge capture are vital competencies for individuals and organizations. An emerging trend in job descriptions is the frequent call for “ability to cope with ambiguity.” This points to an implicit concern, but profiles the context not the requisite competency. The capacity to problem solve is far more accurate.

The Knowledge Economy
Consider how the opening parable applies to your workplace. Is problem-solving essential to generating value ? In a new economy – where knowledge is both a product and a tool – problem-solving and knowledge application are key to your organization’s success. Inquiry, or more simply problem-solving, has high value because it is a vital input for managing towards results. Without it, people and organizations can spend loads of time working on the wrong stuff at the wrong time. Waste is a certainty: both real dollars and opportunity costs. While it doesn’t solve all, the processes of inquiry and application can be critical stepping stones to efficiencies and effectiveness. Paying attention to inquiry and knowledge application can ensure the advantage you seek in a complex or highly competitive environment.

A Learn Fast Workplace
Tesla’s mark on the wall was done quickly. The work he did was less observable. In his mind, Tesla framed an inquiry, generated a hypothesis and tested it. From “cues” and past experience he was able to identify possible origins of the problem. We don’t know the precise sequence of steps, what he struggled with and how exactly he determined the faulty boilerplate. Understanding his thought processes would help us build an explicit map of action steps. In this example, the external advisor helped Ford solve an urgent operations problem. The “know-how” that Tesla had was an important contribution with real value. Ford’s underlying challenge was the one we all share today: building a workforce that’s solves problems, exchanges knowledge and learns fast!

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also a W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. For more information, see: http://www.pwkinc.com


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