Change and engagement, part one

The way we are changing is changing. The predominant approach to change has been to mandate it. An elite, at the top of the organisation, perceive a need for change and direct others to implement it. They will anticipate some resistance and have some strategies ready to overcome it. Often this change will involve some type of restructuring.

There is mounting evidence that this type of change doesn’t work very well and may actually deplete rather than add value. For some organisations, the frequency of this type of change results in a series of self-inflicted, debilitating injuries.

A recent Bain & Company study of 57 major reorganizations found that fewer than one third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Some actually destroyed value.

Mandated change, bold strokes and long marches

Twenty years ago, in her book The Challenge of Organizational Change, Rosabeth Moss Kanter and her co-authors identified two types of change, bold strokes and long marches. Bold strokes are big strategic moves, such as buying another company, generating a large capital investment, or developing a new product. Bold strokes are usually mandated by the actions of “one or a few people”.

(Tom Peters’ take on mergers)

Long marches are more operational initiatives such as merging departments, transforming quality or customer relationships. According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “they require the support of many people and cannot be mandated in practice”

Of course we will continue to need a degree of mandated change, and other stakeholders such as government will mandate external change. We just need to hope that the skill and ability to design and manage change will improve.

Too frequent use of restructuring will come to be seen as the  corporate equivalent of the old medical practice of blood-letting and a sure symptom of dysfunction.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, long march change will have more dependable long term results and is more likely to change culture and habits. She then elaborates on the enduring foundation of sustainable organisational change – decision making.

Every large and complex organisation has many thousands of people who have each day the opportunity, or are literally required, to take action on something. We think of these as “choice points.” For an organisation to succeed in any long-run sense, these millions of choices must be more or less appropriate and constructive day in and day out. But this is an immensely difficult problem, because it requires the ultimate in decentralisation – literally to the individual level – along with centralisation in the sense that those individual choices must be coordinated and coherent.[1]

This same theme is echoed two decades later by Marcia Blenko in the Harvard Business Review:

In reality, a company’s structure results in better performance only if it improves the organisation’s ability to make and execute decisions better and faster than its competitors.[2]

Her she is elaborating on the centrality of decision effectiveness in sustaining effective change.

The engagement connection

Marcia Blenko’s establishes a link between decision effectiveness and employee engagement. Rosabeth Moss Kanter emphasised the importance of “choice points” throughout the organisation. And while the focus is on big business, even small businesses manifest thousands of choice points if we consider all employees and stakeholders.

Embedding a stakeholder ethos (including employee engagement) throughout the organisation will build resilience and adaptive capacity. Over time, it is more likely that those highly engaged staff will be making decisions and choices aligned with the best interests of the company. And over time there will be less need for mandated change.


[1] Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Barry Stein and Tod Jick. The Challenge of Organizational Change: How Companies Experience It and Leaders Guide It. New York: Free Press, 1992, page 492, 495

[2] The Decision-Driven Organisation, by Marcia Blenko, Michael Mankins and Paul Rogers In Harvard Business Review June 2010, page 57

Advertisements

Engagement and community building – the White Dog Café

In 1983 Judy Wicks started the White Dog Café in Philadelphia. It has become an exemplar for a community-based enterprise.

Where I live, community enterprise is slowly but surely being eroded as an increasing number of national or international chain stores supplant local stores. While this typically provides benefits such as cheaper goods the longer-term impacts are not beneficial for the local community (more about this in a later blog).

The White Dog Café started off as a restaurant, and remains a restaurant, but it has become the centre of a local network of suppliers, customers, employees and community interests. In the early years of the restaurant, Judy became increasingly troubled that the meat on her menu came from industrial farms. She changed to free range pork and then other meat and chicken and free range eggs. If produce is available locally, and is preferably organic, the White Dog Café purchases it in preference to imported food.

Initially Judy regarded locally sourced production as a point of difference for her restaurant, but her thinking evolved to consider the greater good and she went about engaging other restaurateurs in the concept. Her engagement with local farmers and growers created momentum for the establishment of the Fair Food initiative. Farmers and growers benefit from having a larger market for their produce locally. This animal welfare aspect of the White Dog Café remains one of her strongest motivators.

Networks of services

A restaurant depends on a web of services to operate. As Judy sorted out the produce for her menu, she became aware of a series of expanding possibilities to make the restaurant more sustainable and support the local community. She sourced renewable electricity and created a solar-heated water supply. Organic waste is composted and other waste recycled where possible. Local products are used whenever possible – for example locally produced soap is purchased for hand washing. For those products not available locally, such as tea, sugar and coffee, Fair Trade sources are used.

The invisible had works when we live in the same community.[1]

Staff also benefit from the sustainability philosophy – Judy pays a “living wage”. The Restaurant also supports a number of local community service projects such as Crime Victim Services and many others.

Business philosophy and selling the business

The mission statement of the White Dog Café is “Serving our customers, serving each other, serving our community and serving the earth”. Business decisions are based on serving the greater good, growing consciousness and increasing happiness.

After 30 years in the restaurant business Judy decided to sell the restaurant to help her focus on the promotion of sustainability. She wanted to keep the mission of the White Dog Café alive, so she found a local purchaser and retained the rights to the name of the business. To perpetuate the sustainability agenda she set up a Social Contract that keeps the White Dog Café on the same trajectory. The purchaser is able to set up other branches as long as they have 51% local ownership. This video outlines Judy’s perspectives, the restaurant’s operations and the Social Contract.

Above all, Judy has show how one business can generate social good by building rich networks in its local community. Do you know of other examples?

image credit: Real People Eat Local

Leadership and engagement – keeping it simple

Some people say that you can’t teach leadership in a classroom. In some ways I agree, because learning leadership should be like learning to walk – something a baby finds difficult and scary, but evidently possible as there are so many role models doing it.

I have been teaching leadership for five years and one of the benefits of teaching, is that your “radar” is on continuously looking for real-life examples of theory. In my class I use two models from Dr Peter Cammock’s The Dance of Leadership. I love these models for their simplicity. My students have road-tested them and found them to be powerful and easy to use.

The heart of leadership

This model harmonises the two core fundamentals of leadership, knowledge of self and concern for others. Great leaders, from parents to more public examples of leadership are exemplify this. I think of Sir Peter Blake, who was so confident in his own ability, and so caring of his crew. Or my mum, who I never heard speak ill of anyone.

Surrounding the heart of leadership are four “qualities of character”. Peter Cammock has chosen integrity, faith, courage and passion. We could just as easily choose other qualities of character as I suspect that they all link to one another.

The envision, engage, enact model (3 Es)

While the “heart of leadership” models who we should be, the 3 Es model shows us how to lead.

At its simplest it is a three-step model: envision – engage – enact. This is easy to remember and relate to. Peter Cammock weaves these three core leadership roles into a prescription for leadership and change that is applicable to most human endeavour.

The three-step model elaborates to 10 steps. Good leaders follow this process naturally. They know when to talk, they know when to roll their sleeves up and get involved, and they can zoom out and zoom in to see the big picture as they need to. This is reminiscent of Ron Garan’s “orbital perspective” and Muhammad Yunus’s “worm’s eye view” from an earlier post.

The link to engagement

Engagement is at the heart of the model through the processes of connecting, listening and engaging, team building and networking and communicating.

Notice that Peter Cammock uses “envision”, rather than “vision”. This implies that the vision evolves through engaging and enacting. The vision may have originated with, or been adopted by the leader, but it is an organic vision that can grow an adapt as the engagement process happens. It is said that people own what they create, and if they have input into the vision, they are more likely to engage with it.

If you imagine “knowledge of self” as an aspect of an organisation’s engagement ethos, “concern for others” balances the organisation’s needs with stakeholder needs.

Leadership and change

The 3 Es model exemplifies leadership of change. The leader is in there helping people to create shared vision and working with the willing.

These models are simple and accessible. People understand them quickly and are able to implement them in simple leadership roles. It is preferable to quickly learn simple models such as these and put them into action, rather then take on lots of theory. The corollary of this is accepting that everyone can lead and the need for leadership is everywhere, from leading oneself to global change.

Do you know someone who exemplifies these models, or do you have an example of how they align with your leadership?

More reflections on blogging

I have been blogging now, consistently for most of this year. I am starting to see the fruits of my labour as the search engines seem now to have discovered my blog.

Blogging as exploration and inquiry

I have been a student for most of my life, completing my formal education just a few years ago. Some of my experiences as a student were intense learning experiences, and most of what I learned was relevant. Blogging has been at least as intense as any formal learning. Why is this so?

While blogging, the central themes of stakeholder engagement and sustainability dominate, but I reference back to other disciplines that underpin them, such as communication, organisational learning and leadership, and from this mix, explore the world laterally and align areas of inquiry with these central themes and disciplines. For me, it has created intellectual discipline and a space for creativity that has enabled the generation of new ideas. The Communication Spectrum is a good example of the fruit of this process. I also enjoyed exploration of relevant “big picture” stuff, such as The End of Empires.

I am a Tom Peters fan. He has sold millions of books and started blogging in August 2006. In this video with Seth Godin he raves (as only Tom can rave) about blogging:

No single thing in the past 15 years professionally, has been more important than blogging. It has changed my life; It has changed my perspective; It has changed my intellectual outlook; It has changed my emotional outlook… and its the best damn marketing tool I have ever had.

While I am yet to harvest the benefits of marketing, I thoroughly endorse Tom’s comments.

Finding voice

In the same video, Seth Godin identifies blogging as a “free micro-publishing tool” and stresses its importance as a platform for people to express their voice and join conversations. Thus blogging is an essential engagement tool.

Given blogging’s potential to support intellectual inquiry and to provide a ubiquitous platform for voice, imagine the impact it will have on our world as it becomes more common. I believe it will, alongside a host of other democratising influences, provide great impetus for beneficial social change and the development of more cohesive communities.

If you lead an organisation, or are in an influential senior position, I hope you are blogging – it can only improve engagement.

 

 

Leadership for our fragile oasis

Last week the NASA astronaut Ron Garan, and the great Muhammad Yunus addressed the Global Social Business Summit. They conveyed a similar message, but from totally different perspectives. Ron Garan is one of those elite who have seen the planet from the outside, and as with several of his peers, the experience had a transformational impact. They see things from a new perspective – the “orbital perspective”. Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to walk in space expressed it this way:

When in orbit, one thinks of the whole of the earth rather than one’s country, as one’s home.

At the conclusion of his talk, Ron Garan presented a spectacular video of the return to earth of his spacecraft, Soyez TMA-21 in September this year. Here is a short segment from YouTube. (The music is Peter Gabriel’s Down to Earth).

Soyez TMA-21 re-entry 

Muhummad Yunus connected back to Ron’s talk beautifully stating how it is an “unfortunate thing that we can’t keep this home as a home for a happy family”. He then spoke about the worm’s eye perspective. When he returned to Bangladesh from study in the United States, his country was experiencing warfare and famine. He found his economic theories hollow and impotent in the face of human tragedy. When he went to the neighbouring village he learned about life from the ground level – the worm’s eye view. Here he is explaining the concept.

The bigger you grow – the more distant you get away from the ground level.

Muhammad Yunus’s strength is his ability to operate from both perspectives.

Following Ron Garan’s space experiences he has dedicated his efforts to improving life back here on earth. He is a member of Engineers Without Borders, the founder of both the Manna Energy Foundation and Fragile Oasis.

Although Ron Garan adopted the posture of a student before the master (Muhammad Yunus), both men epitomise the quality of leadership required for our “fragile oasis”.

The higher ambition leader

On reading Harvard Business Review’s September 2011 article, The Higher Ambition Leader, I am struck with the parallels to the concepts championed by Muhammad Yunus and Ron Garan. The article extols the leadership by CEOs of companies such as Standard Chartered, an international bank. The bank’s vision is to be “the world’s best international bank” by “combining global reach with deep local knowledge to become the ‘right partner’ for its customers”.

The article is centred on studies of three companies whose CEOs manifest higher ambition:

to create long-term economic value, generate wider benefits for society, and build robust social capital within their organizations all at once.

These lofty ideals are achieved through creating powerful strategic visions, world class levels of engagement and a constant leadership focus on achieving the strategy.

The link to engagement

The examples of Ron Garan and Muhammad Yunus, alongside the three companies featured in the HBR article illustrate the importance of engagement. Campbell Soup’s CEO “relentlessly drove progress on two measures: total shareholder returns and the level of employee engagement”. Employee engagement levels at Campbell Soup exceeded Gallup’s benchmark of 10:1 for world-class engagement. By 2010 the company achieved “a ratio of 17 engaged employees for every actively disengaged one”. Is it a coincidence that, for the six years up to 2010 Campbell Soup achieved a cumulative total shareholder return of 64% (S&P packaged food index return is 38% and the S&P 500 return is 13%)? I don’t think so.

The leadership described here is becoming the default standard of leadership. We need leaders with both the worm’s eye view and the orbital perspective – those who can focus on the needs of their communities and companies, while also committing to sustaining our fragile oasis and its communities.

Pepsico, Ethiopia and chickpeas – a win-win-win

Pepsico are engaging with partners and the Ethiopian Government in an initiative to improve chickpea production. Chickpeas are an ideal crop – they grow well in Ethiopia, the have great nutritional values, including high protein and, being a legume, help build soil fertility.

Chickpeas – image credit and history of human use

The plight of the poor in Ethiopa rarely comes to our attention – it has to compete with our fixation on the economy and other more pressing news. Ethiopia is currently experiencing another drought and famine. And Ethopian resources are further stretched as refugees continue to flood in from its drought and war afflicted neighbour, Somalia,

Pepsico, in partnership with USAID, and the UN World Food Programme, will work with 10,000 farmers in Ethiopia to help them reap a twofold increase in sustainable chickpea production using irrigation and advanced agricultural practices. Other partners include the Stellenbosch University in South Africa. The increased volume of chickpeas will have three markets:

  • the World Food Programme will produce a locally sourced nutrient-rich, ready-to-use supplementary food to address malnutrition initially targeting 40,000 Ethiopian children
  • local commercial uses in Ethiopia
  • expansion of Pepsico’s hummus offerings.

This is a great example of the good that companies such as Pepsico can generate as they build their own internal awareness of the plight of the world and the interconnectedness of the systems that sustain us. The cynical might deny the element of altruism, that I believe, is undeniably manifest in Pepsico’s thinking. (This earlier post discusses altruism as a sustainability driver).

“With the ingenuity, power and reach of the private sector, we can make great strides in ending the malnutrition and hunger that is threatening the lives of millions,” said Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of WFP. “The world knows how to prevent malnutrition. The hunger we are witnessing today in the Horn of Africa is preventable with local solutions that support small farmers in being part of the solution. Enterprise EthioPEA will change the lives of tens of thousands of children and will chart the course for future partnerships to help stamp out hunger around the globe.” (from the Pepsico website)

Among the evidence of Pepsico’s intent is the partners it chooses to work with, and the people it employs to champion such projects. Here is a video featuring Derek Yach, the current the Senior Vice President, Global Health and Agricultural Policy, PepsiCo Inc. He was previously the Professor of Global Health at Yale School of Public Health, and Executive Director of the Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health cluster at the World Health Organization (WHO). In the video he elaborates on the project.

Pepsico are also aware of the health risks that many of their products pose back home. Their 2010 sustainability report includes goals to reduce the quantities of saturated fat, sugar and sodium in their products.

from the Pepsico Sustainability Report

Derek Yachs believes that the future of Africa depends initially on more effective and sustainable agriculture. This quality of thinking and effective engagement with partners will see corporates such as Pepsico transform the global economy and society.

Engaging stories: Fairtrade cotton

I mostly drink Fairtrade coffee, sometimes eat Fairtrade chocolate, but must confess, I don’t wear Fairtrade cotton. That will change now that I am reading Harriet Lamb’s Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles.

Struggling to stay above the poverty line

Harriet Lamb tells of cotton grower’s subsistence existence in Africa, where cotton supports about 10 million people. For countries such as Burkina Faso, cotton is the major export. Typically the growers live in villages that often don’t have direct access to drinking water, education and healthcare facilities – things we take for granted in the West.

African and other third-world cotton growers are enmeshed in the fabric of global trading dynamics. If they only had to contend with the vagaries of the weather and nature, and even the free market, they might be okay, but their problems are compounded by subsidies that wealthy countries pay their cotton growers. The U.S. Government subsidises their own cotton growers in response to falling cotton prices. When U.S. subsidies increased in 2001, U.S. growers responded by growing more cotton. Not, surprisingly, increased production saw the global price fall further. In 2005, the U.S. Government spent $4.7 billion on cotton subsidies, more than it spent on aid to Africa.

We also have spare a thought for the U.S. taxpayer here. The Government’s subsidies distort the market and impoverish parts of Africa, impelling Western governments to provide aid – so the U.S. taxpayer pays twice – through cotton subsidies and through aid. And it is even more crazy when the US subsidises Brazilian cotton farmers as part of a free trade deal. Unfortunately the Africans don’t have a free trade deal! The Fairtrade story, teaches us that aid is less necessary when factors influencing global markets are more carefully managed for all stakeholders.

Minimum prices

Fairtrade’s main mechanism for creating better returns for growers is a minimum price. This provides a buffer for growers and with the troughs in the market cycles eliminated, growers and their communities get the cash they need to raise living standards. Typically communities will invest additional income into clean and local water supplies and education.

As important as the material improvements, is the contribution the Fairtrade ethos brings to village life. For example, Fairtrade work to raise the status of women, through the agency of additional income and education. This video about Fairtrade cotton in Cameroon features the benefits to women. One of the women outlines the benefits:

The Fairtrade standards insist that women are in the group. The men had difficulty accepting this at first but slowly they realised that it could work. And now they own their own land… they are independent. They work their land, they go and receive their money alongside the men and this motivates others to get involved as well.

Commodity price increases

Recent spikes in commodity prices around the world have ameliorated the distortions created by subsidies. Demand for cotton has increased, as more people join the middle class, cotton production decreases and discerning consumers learn to favour natural textiles. This chart from the Index Mundi website, show the cotton price over the last fifteen years, revealing the sharp recent spike.

What I don’t know, is the impact this spike has had on third world growers. When commodity prices rise, growers don’t necessarily benefit. Has Fairtrade been able to ensure a fair share of the benefits get to those that need it most? And does it make you feel better about paying more money for a pair of jeans?