Useful Procrastination, Satya Nadella and Holacracy

Twitter, Twitter chat, KaizenBizIt is time for “Bring Your Own Headline” on our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this coming Friday. It is always fun to see what community members bring for discussion. If you would like to bring something for us to talk about, simply bring the link and a question. Here are three topics, procratination, Satya Nadella and holacracy, to get us started…

Procrastination is good?

Most of us probably squirm a bit when we think of tasks we are avoiding.However, according to a two books reviewed in Fast Company, we would be much better off if we did procrastinate more. There is a catch to this though. If you are just procrastinating without a purpose, the books’ authors agree that this is laziness. Both Frank Partnoy and John Perry recommend “structure procrastination.” Here are their reasons why procrastination can be useful:

  • Structured procrastinators get more done. While they put off one task, they complete others.
  • Procrastinator make better decisions. During the delay, there is more time to think through the options and gather information.
  • Procrastination leads to creativity. A task that is too hard to complete might need a different process.
  • Unnecessary tasks disappear. Busy work is pointless and avoiding it allows for space to take on the important tasks.
  • Procrastination leads to better apologies. Again, time to think is built into the delay and then the best words can be found.
  • Procrastination gives you insight. Sometimes we put things off because we have an unconscious reason driving our behavior. The delay can illuminate this unconscious reason.

When do you see procrastination as being useful?

How is procrastination connected to decision fatigue and difficulty maintaining self-control?

With procrastination, are we really seeking time to think with putting off tasks?

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO

With Steve Ballmer stepping down this month, there is a new CEO for Microsoft. Satya Nadella. Before Ballmer stepped down, he had announced that Microsoft would go in a new direction. Ballmer is certainly noted for his ebullient personality With the choice of Satya Nadella,  Nadella is known as a quiet but business-savvy person with a strong engineering background. Quite a number of people describe Nadella as inclusive and able to get people engaged and excited in their work. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft not only responds to the current market but introduces its own new ideas.

Why do you suppose Microsoft chose to go with Satya Nadella rather than someone similar to Steve Ballmer?

What’s next for Microsoft?

And just what is holacracy?

Just when you thought you had a good grasp of the latest business structure terms, here comes a new one. Holacracy is “a self-governing, purpose-driven business structure that reassigns authority and responsibility based on the task at hand.” Companies that are able to respond positively to the current marketplace need to be agile and use collaboration among other tools.

This business structure has no CEO or managers. Each person is a partner with complete autonomy and authority. On Holacracy One, they write, “Everyone becomes a leader of their roles and a follower of others’, processing tensions with real authority and real responsibility, through dynamic governance and transparent operations.” This is to encourage project ownership and accountability instead of keeping people limited to their departments or skill set. Governance of organizations that use holacracy have a more democratic approach to make decisions, respond to “tension” and design rules to contain certain personalities from dominating the whole. Data is used actively in strategic planning and decision-making.

What size organization could benefit the most from using holacracy as their business structure?

What sorts of advantages do  you see for organizations that do use holacracy?

What could be the disadvantages?

Now it’s your turn

Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, this Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT with a post that caught your attention this week. Connect with Elli St.George Godfrey (@3keyscoach) jas the chat starts and let her know your link and your question. She will add your topic to the discussion.


Smart Simplicity-6 Rules For Over-Complicated Organizations

Six Simple Rules, Yves Morieux, complexity, managementYves Morieux has an intriguing idea….6 simple rules for managing complex organizations. Morieux is a senior partner and managing director in the Boston Consulting Group and so has studied organizations and how they stumble. In his TED talk, he explains that it all started with a question regarding why productivity levels are disappointing and workers are so disengaged. Morieux points out that these conditions persist despite all the programs, events and training that is provided to employees at all levels of the organization.

Some background information

According to Morieux, there are “two pillars of management” and they are obsolete.

  • Hard: structure, process, systems, matrices
  • Soft: feelings, interpersonal relationships, traits

Morieux explains that the more complexity a business encounters, the more it creates “complicatedness in the organization.” Simply put, a new “rule”  or requirement is encountered in the business environment adding to the existing complexity. The organization responds by creating a new person who then creates a new system. Thus, everyone is more removed from see how the organization might respond more effectively in the future.


The answer put forth by Morieux is that people within organizations should cooperate more. In a 2011 Harvard Business Review article, he wrote,…

it entails creating an environment in which employees can work with one another to develop creative solutions to complex challenges. This approach leads to organizations that ably address numerous fluid and contradictory requirements without structural and procedural complicatedness.

To reduce or eliminate disengagement, there must be more cooperation

Morieux states that the hard approach (adding more matrices, systems and employees to respond to changes) creates more problems than it solves. He also places a greater emphasis on why the soft approach to management fails to engage workers. He states the “more we like each other, the more we avoid cooperation” so we don’t have to deal with uncomfortable “trade-offs.” These trade-offs might be having one set of resources rather than duplicate resources, requiring different sections of the organization to swap personnel and tolerating poor performance or mistakes.

 6 Simple Rules

Morieux derived these rules from game theory and organizational sociology. He advocates that we stop over-complicating our companies and still respond skillfully to the complex business environment.

  1. Understand what others do – Take the time to find out what is the real work, not the job description
  2. Reinforce integrators – Give managers (these are the integrators) discretionary power and interest to make others cooperate
  3. Increase total quantity of power – Empower everyone to use their judgement, intelligence and skills
  4. Extend the shadow of the future – Create a feedback loop for people to directly experience the consequences of their actions; how my real work affects customers and the company
  5. Increase reciprocity by removing buffers of self-sufficiency – Eliminate systems and processes that support and maintain silos
  6. Reward those who cooperate and blame those who don’t – Morieux quotes Jorgen Vig Knudstorp of The Lego Group as saying blame is for failing to help or for not asking for help; not for failing

Using these rules will reduce creating redundant systems which prevent cross-disciplinary communication and positive effect both financial and human resource policies. Basically, these rules create improved performance, more work satisfaction and lower costs.

Are these rules that different than in other management theories?

Much of what goes on in today’s organizations seems to echo an early 20th century management philosophy put forth by F.W. Taylor (and even has been revived as neo-Taylorism) We may have gussied up the terms but there is still a pervasive idea that workers are supposed to be the “best and the brightest,” fit into a mold, stick with linear processes and systems and be motivated by reward and punishment (there is more in this fascinating critique of Taylorism and neo-Taylorism). Morieux’ simple rules seem to step away from Taylorism in any form and offer a different way of viewing both management, development and management of systems and how employees both interact and perform.

In past discussions, Morieux has acknowledged that pieces of the rules resemble Six Sigma, Lean and other management theories. It certainly seems like it could incorporate the concept of kaizen (continuous and incremental improvement). Curiously, he has not gotten more specific about what type of leader or management style would complement his rules.

What do you think about these rules? A new way of thinking? A rehash of current ideas? Join us this Friday, January 31, 2014 on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and share your thoughts and insights. 

Would  you say that today’s larger organizations are complex or over-complicated? Why?

As you read through the Morieux’ rules, what did you find most intriguing?

How practical are these rules in the day-to-day operation?

Although Morieux claims the 2 pillars of managment are obsolete, how do his rules use them?

What management style would best support execution of these rules?


Are We Too Cowardly Or Too Nice To Give Negative Feedback?

negative feedback, corrective feedback, managersYou have probably heard or witnessed colleagues who don’t seem to meet deadlines or are just unpleasant to work with. They might complain about how bad the company is, often have a reason why they just couldn’t get the job done, spend more time doing personal stuff than working, engage in bullying or a variety of other obnoxious behaviours.  On the other hand, sometimes a person just underperforms. This can be due to personal distractions, a lack of understanding, workload overwhelm, a skill mismatch.or some other issue.

Things do need to be said

Performance reviews are often when feedback, positive and negative, are expressed. While this seems like a logical time to discuss an employee’s performance, it might be too late to be of real help. As Josh Leibner writes in, “being direct and open should originate from a desire to improve each other and the organization as a whole.”

We say we want to hear how to improve

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman have been collecting responses from 889 individuals (49% from US and 51% from outside the US) who report they do want to hear negative feedback. Interestingly, they have not used the term “negative feedback” in the work but are using “corrective feedback.” They define this as “suggestions for improvement, explorations of new and better ways to do things, or pointing out something that was done in a less that optimal way.” Some of their other findings include:
  • People prefer to avoid giving negative feedback
  • 52% preferred corrective feedback
  • 72% reported that their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback
  • 92% agreed “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

That seems like a good practice so what gets in the way?

Many organizations use some sort of warning or disciplinary system when employees are underperforming. Despite this, many managers are not getting the job done adequately. This leaves the potential for dishonesty, nice-ness or cowardice to limit or even eliminate the conversations entirely.


Accusing someone of cowardice seems old-fashioned but we still think in those terms more often than you may imagine. When we talk about someone having the guts to do something or “man up,” we are talking about avoiding cowardice.. Yet, certain scenarios happen everyday in which managers do not provide negative or corrective feedback.
  • Employee X should already know what to do, even with little to no direction or resources
  • Firing and hiring are a hassle
  • Employee X might get defensive or emotional
  • The work is getting done so no need to make waves


Some managers want to be liked by their employees more than making sure the work gets done. With all of the leadership thought recently about being more empathetic and relational, it may be tempting to not tell a struggling employee they are underperforming. Some possible signs of this are:

  • Employee X is having personal issues and I don’t want to burden him/her
  • Employee X is still new so he/she will learn
  • I don’t want to ruin his/her career
  • I don’t want to hurt Employee X’s feelings

Whether the situation is a mistake or a downward pattern, managers demonstrate how a bad performance is tolerated or rectified. Looking to be liked more than encouraging and facilitating that everyone gets the work done is going to backfire.

People don’t always perform well

It happens and it is uncomfortable to tell someone that he/she is performing poorly. It raises fears about job security and the sense of belonging in the workplace. Are we more invested in being too nice or too cowardly rather than helping someone improve? Join us on Friday, January 24, 2014 on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

Who is most responsible for giving negative feedback in the workplace?

How does reframing “negative feedback” into positive feedback or corrective feedback enable others to listen?

How does reframing “negative feedback” into a positive dilute it?

How can we avoid being too “nice” or too “cowardly” when giving negative feedback?

How could working with a diverse team or across cultures affect how negative feedback is delivered?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.


Transparency Is More Than a Policy; It’s a Value

Transparency, value, businessIn the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, we often take a look at ideas that have become the idée du jour. Transparency has been gaining steam for the last couple of years due to the influence of social platforms.It is so easy for information to get out publicly about nearly everything and everyone. But transparency seems to be more than simply a way for a business or organization to appear ethical and engaging. There is a quality to it that makes it akin to a value, much like honesty or freedom. With this lens, it is deeper than a set of policies or even a practice.

Please join us Friday, January 17, at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss “Goal Setting.” Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

Beyond good ethics

In a recent post on, Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market is quoted as saying, “customers want transparency.” (Whole Foods Market is a grocery store that focuses on organic, sustainable and ethical food and health products). For a company like Whole Foods Market, transparency can be a selling point for customers. This goes beyond simply ethics as companies have to pay attention to revenue and profits. When a company appears consistent in its behavior and message, customers want to do business with it.

Support for being more than ethics

Transparency has to be more than being an open book. Customers want to know that their information is protected. In “Privacy in the Age of Transparency,” Jeffrey Rothfeder writes, “the companies that are open and honest in their communications, adopt privacy policies, and are very clear about how they use collected data discreetly to further corporate growth, efficiency, and performance will benefit from wider consumer acceptance in international markets. This…is what leads to increased revenue, less litigation from the aggrieved, enhanced reputations for their brands, and more prospective partners willing to enter into lucrative cooperative ventures that require a deep well of trust.”

But it isn’t just consumers who are wary…

In a 2013 study by Tiny Pulse, it was noted that employees are have higher happiness levels with greater levels of management transparency. This points to organizational culture requiring real adherence to the stated mission, values and management practices. This includes managers clearly stating expectations and duties of employees, there are abundant conversations about the company’s mission and values and even day to day interactions support the authenticity and commitment to transparency.

Combination of relationships with consumers and employees

The digital age has made it easier for people find all kinds of information. Glen Llopis writes that “We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect and at times a bit vulnerable – regardless of hierarchy or rank.” This affects both the way a business conducts itself which, as you know, is actually people. Consumers and employees want their companies to be transparent. This requires the people of the company to not view transparency as a policy but as a way of being; the same way we live by our other values.

What do you think? Has transparency become a value? Join us Friday, January 17, 2014 on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

What benefits do you see when a company embraces policy of transparency?

How does transparency get articulated as part of a value system?

Can “true transparency” ever be a realistic objective or are there acceptable limits?

When does transparency go too far for a business?

What types of behaviors demonstrate transparency?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach, trainer and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.



Goal Setting, Goal Achievement and the Influence of Emotions

The curious thing about goals is that they are both easy and hard to set. On one hand, you goals, goal setting, goal achievement, emotionsknow you want something more, different, better or inspirational. On the other hand, there is the day-in, day-out dedication that sometimes seems to bear little fruit or seems futile in the face of obstacles. Emotions do play a role in what goals we set and what motivates us to achieve them.

Please join us Friday, January 10, at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT for the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss “Goal Setting.” Not sure how to participate? Please click here for tips and advice.

Quick review of popular models

Anyone who has spent any time with goal setting is probably familiar with the SMART model. This goal model was first mentioned by George T. Doran in 1981 so it has been around for some time. If you need a quick refresher:

S: specific

M: measurable

A: attainable

R: relevant

T: time-bound

In 2010, another model was presented by Mark Murphy in his book, HARD Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want To Be. Murphy contends that people don’t succeed with their goals because most goal setting systems lack an emotional component which brings investment and commitment. In his model, the elements include:

Heartfelt:  purpose, meaning and emotional investment

Animated: spark imagination and images of what the goal looks like

Required: there is a need to meet the goal

Difficult: brings you out of your comfort zone and requires significant effort

Do you remember when all goals were supposed to be BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)? Murphy’s model and Jim Collins’ model both invoke an emotional aspect. In each model, there is the underlying question of “what is most important to you and why?.”

Meanwhile, another conversation is going on at the same time

Jim Clear writes in Forget Setting Goals. Focus On This Instead. that goals are messages to ourselves that we are “not good enough”. There may be something to this as people are much more attuned to problems. Goals often focus on how we want to improve, increase or decrease something. This unspoken negative message, according to Clear, reduces our happiness and sets up an “if…then” emotional context for us. As in, “if I had 10% more revenue, then I would be happy with my business.”

But what if the underlying conversation isn’t really about how bad we are?

The underlying conversation in goal setting is often one of values. When you sit down with a strategic plan for your business or a self-development plan for yourself, you are identifying what is most important to you. There may be a value around wealth, power, community, intellectual challenge, competition, health and so much more that you are really trying to manifest in your behavior. The goal is the vehicle for this value and bringing us closer to our own internal alignment.

Goal setting is not goal achievement

It is a fairly straight forward process to set a goal. You identify what you want to be different and that’s it. The goal is probably more clear when it  includes specificity and a time frame. After all, saying you want more customers is a goal but saying you want 15% more customers in 3 months makes that goal much easier to focus your efforts and monitor progress.

Regardless of what model you use when setting a goal, it is really about the work of the goal that brings positive or negative experiences. It is often overlooked that goal setting is really a plan for change and change is uncomfortable. Even if you are someone who seeks new experiences and tolerates change well, there are moments when you realize you don’t know what you are doing or it is more involved than you expected. This moment of tension can slow or interrupt progress.

But it isn’t all about managing your response to crises. Many goals include new ways of behaving which essentially creates new habits. As Art Markman (past guest on #KaizenBiz) reminds us, our brains have preferred pathways that use less energy so we have to “fight our brains” to do new things. This includes our assumptions and cognitive biases. Ways of thinking can be just as much a habit as ways of behaving. The challenge here would be noticing emotional responses like “ugh…I’m too busy to do X today” and noting what thinking pattern is accompanying this. It cannot be denied that people are far more likely to set and achieve a goal that has a deeper meaning and purpose to it. This level of emotional investment could even provide a buffer for any difficulties we might encounter. Perhaps emotions are a tool for successful goal setting and achievement

What do you think? Does the emotional quality of our goals inspire us to achieve? Join us Friday, January 10, 2014 for our annual Goal Setting discussion on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

What did you achieve in 2013?

What makes one goal more engaging than another?

What role does emotion play in goal setting?

What messages do we send ourselves when we choose certain goals?

How necessary is it to have a system or a process  to maintain focus and/or motivation for goal achievement?

To what degree do you believe that goals must invoke an emotional response to facilitate achievement?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, small business coach and executive coach, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.


Global Growth, Emotional Awareness & Productivity

KaizenBiz , Twitter chat, One of the recent introductions to the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz in 2013 has been the “Bring Your Own Headline” discussion. This conversation is usually much more wide ranging and even better when someone from the KaizenBiz community shares something that caught their attention. Have you come across any interesting posts or new stories that make you stop and think? This week, we are going to move from topic to topic and see what big ideas are popping up. So, check out these stories and bring your own this Friday to the live Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am.

Better global economy?

There have been glimmers from regional economies that growth is occurring. Ireland exited the bailout last week and other parts of the Eurozone are showing fractional improvement. The Japanese economy is looking better. While economists are more positive, they are not saying it’s entirely bullish.

What observations have you made regarding the economy where you are located?

How are different sectors responding to the economic news?

What is same/different about this economic recovery?

 Being able to read organization’s emotions can improve odds of success?

There are probably leaders all over the world who just don’t get “it.” In the US, President Obama’s approval rating and the exit of Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft are good examples of how that emotional stuff can interfere with any strategic plan, no matter how well thought out or designed it might be. As Quy Huy, INSEAD Associate Professor of Strategy and Director of the Strategy Execution Programme, wrote in his post,  many executives “fail to…take into account the hidden traps related to soft human factors, including the collective emotions of middle managers and others who influence the process of strategy execution and have a critical impact on the outcomes.”

Steve Tobak recommends in his Inc post that we should ignore emotional intelligence because it is a business fad. (Although this fad seems to be going on for decades now) He cites a list of leaders who are not known for being kind or compassionate but their companies are successful. Tobak and many others show an oversimplification in their understanding of emotional intelligence. It still doesn’t answer why leaders ignore the zeigeist of their company while following the strategic plan. Quy Huy’s point about ignoring emotions reminds us that people will express in their behavior their willingness to execute or derail any plan.

What fosters the disconnect between upper management, middle management and the workers?

While models like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are touted as successful examples, why do people continue to fail to execute strategic plans?

Does an emotionally intelligent leader have to seem “nice” or can there be other expressions of awareness?


We all have lots to do. As my good friend, Kneale Mann reminds me, we all have the same 24 hours each day as everyone else (including all those famous people). There are always posts telling us what highly successful (read “highly productive”) people do with their day. There are reports that our productivity rises or falls depending on where, when and how we do our work. However, it seems to boil down to our daily choices and habits.

One of these habits has to do with email. In an interesting post on Fast Company, Laura Vanderkam discusses the pros and cons of checking email first thing in the morning. Reading and responding to email can certainly use up time we meant for other activities. MIndset certainly plays a role in this. Seth Godin suggests that we become productive when we are “non-productivity and deciding to do something that matters, right now.”

How is productivity different from efficiency?

What expectations do people have about their workload or daily schedule?

How do we buy into the idea that we are so busy that our productivity is hampered?

Please join us Friday, December 20, 2013 on the Twittter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT as we take a look at these and other topics. Bring your own suggestions and a question.






Where Is Business Going in 2014?

Business trends of 2014, robotics, video, social business, KaizenBizAs one year ends, it is always interesting to see what people anticipate coming in the next year. On LinkedIn, there is an interesting group of posts from business thinkers and leaders giving their suggestions about what we might see. As you might expect, some of the trends are built on technology or ideas started in earlier years while others are potentially new ways of engaging with the world. The interesting thing to discover over 2014 will whether these trends are more like an unfolding or truly transformative.

What is coming next?

On our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz and elsewhere, there has been so much talk about the uncertainty and rapid change which has made many business owners and executives reluctant to invest, hire or embark on growth projects. There is always that optimism that somehow things will be more understandable or predictable in a new year. It may be that 2014 might be an interesting year as people and companies decide to take action because sitting still will leave them too far behind.

Here are some of the trends and ideas that could gain traction in 2014:

  • 3D Printing- This one seems pretty obvious since there is a great deal of excitement around 3D printing. Mike Michalowicz, CEO of the Provendus Group writes in OPEN Forum that these printers will come down in price and make it easier for companies to produce on demand. There are some thinkers who believe that this will change manufacturing and even allow for greater customizing of products.
  • Robotics- This has been an interesting area over the years and as Verne Harnish writes on CNN Money that more widespread use of robots will reduce headcount in manufacturing and increase productivity.
  • Video- This trend seemed to emerge in 2013 but is becoming more favored. Interesting statistics about how and what people view. Google and search engines appear to be giving more weight to video content
  • Emerging markets- While the BRIC nations and other emerging markets are slowing, an EY report and Barron’s suggest that these might be places of growth later in 2014. In fact, there is some discussion that people should watch Indonesia and Africa.
  • Social business- With the IPO of Twitter in late 2013 and the ongoing public performance of Facebook, social business has shown it can be more than a fad. According to Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay and author of The Facebook Era, social business will cement itself as a tool that all companies use and support the relational trend in marketing and sales.

 Where do you think business is going in 2014?

Whether you agree with the writers of the LinkedIn 2014 predictions or the other posts cited here, it is always interesting to stop and see what is emerging (or even lurking) in the months ahead. And there are lots more predictions about the future of marketing, leadership, the workplace, the global economy and many other aspects of business.

What do you see staying the same? Changing? Or simply being brand new? Join us this Friday, December 6, 2013 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we peer into the future of 2014.

What trends of 2013 surprised you?

What didn’t happen in 2013?

Which 2014 business trends are expanding on ideas or trends from 2013?

What is the most unusual 2014 business trend that you have heard?

What business trends for 2014 do you see gaining traction?



Using Big Data Without Harming Your Corporate Culture

Big Data, corporate culture, Jean Ross, There is a tendency to look at certain things as if they are the Answer. Big Data has that temptation with its flood of details about customers, competition, industry and even employees. But there is that flood which makes evaluating and using the data a challenge for most organizations. In a MIT Sloan Management Review post, Michael Fitzgerald noted that “there is 2.5 exabytes of data every two days.” With so much available to actually see behaviors, trends and other information , Big Data is part of the everyday practice for many managers and employees to use. The corporate culture is expressed through how questions are asked, who uses the data and the source(s) of the data.

Jean Ross’ perspective

In an interview in MIT Sloan Management Review, Jean Ross (director and principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research), outlined 3 possible cultures that organizations adopt.

  • Culture of heroics- This is described as responding to an unhappy customer or taking on extra tasks by doing above and beyond what is expected to satisfy someone.
  • Emphasis of discipline around processes- This culture uses “template approaches to data — with common processes, reuse of components, and a single face presented to customers and the general public alike.”
  • Data smart culture- Uses evidenced-based management and decentralizes decision-making

These models seem benevolent enough.  After all, it is very satisfying to working with organizations who respond well and are predictable.

But worth a closer look and maybe some deeper reflection

The different cultures put forth by Ross are attractive on the surface. Like may tools, it’s all about application. In a post on the HBR Blog Network, Herminia Ibarra wrote about how Big Data might skew finding the best talent for employment. Much like the Moneyball statistics used in baseball for finding the right player for a team, there is a lot of “people statistics” that can be used to determine if a candidate is right for an organization. Between mining for information including who might be enrolled in online courses to how people perform while playing video games, many organizations believe they can identify the most promising high-potential employees and leaders. However, there are things that may be missed. According to Ibarra, many women and minorities do not engage with gaming or online courses and this could lead to unintended exclusion. This example brings up the question that there may be other variables or even intangibles (a human quality that is not easily measured) that Big Data simply cannot report. This creates a potential trap that the data is actually flawed and therefore potentially useless.

Even unintended exclusions can weaken a culture

There are a couple of possible missed opportunities when evaluating Big Data. The first one is that there is tendency to look only at information that fits our mindset. This is known as confirmation bias. The second is that analysts might not have the information they think they have. Ibarra’s post certainly points out how segments of the greater society may not even be represented or marginally represented in the data. And there is also the fact that there is a lot of data that needs to be analyzed, disseminated and fit into both strategic and operational plans. These missed opportunities are not necessarily borne of malevolence but they create harm by limiting how an organization’s culture can nurture people’s development or serve their customers.

Corporate cultures are created by the leaders and the people who inhabit the organization

Big Data is a useful tool and needs to be used thoughtfully, even intentionally. With Ross’ three cultural models, there are frameworks which could support an organization’s culture. Take the “heroic” one…going above and beyond could very well be reflective of how a business wants to embed a philosophy of emphasizing human relationships. Or the data smart culture with its decentralized decision-making could treat all of its people as intelligent and professional and encourage agile responses to a rapidly-changing or turbulent marketplace. But, first and foremost, the leaders must set the tone for how Big Data is used and evaluated so that it doesn’t harm the corporate culture.

Join us this Friday, December 6, 2013 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz to discuss “Using Big Data Without Harming Your Culture.”

Who is most likely to engage with Big Data?

How do organizations relate to the information gathered?

When could Big Data be misleading?

What could help users of Big Data avoid cognitive biases that might “infect” information?

How could “intangibles” about customers/employees/society be added to the information gathered in Big Data?



Will Current Employee Engagement Trends Continue Into Next Year?

employee engagement, organizationsThere is a scene from the movie, “Office Space” where a co-worker asks Peter if he has a case of the Mondays. If you have ever seen the movie, you know that Peter is far from engaged in his work. In real life, it isn’t exactly news that productivity depends on employee engagement either.

Some companies get it right

There are probably a large number of companies who have engaged employees but we tend to see more examples such as shown in the comic, Dilbert Two examples that have been highlighted in the news are Diamond Pet Foods in the US and Dah Sing Banking Group Limited in Hong Kong.

The Diamond Pet Group, featured in this Inc article,  enable higher levels of employee engagement because they believe in ROB (return on benefits). Their health insurance is paid for, emergency leave is granted without questions as well as receiving bonuses and profit sharing. Their pay is not substantially better but the benefits are. According to the example set by Diamond Pet Group, employees who aren’t worrying about their insurance costs or other financial concerns are more likely to stay longer with the company, offer ideas about how the company could operate better and maintain higher productivity levels.

In the case of Dah Sing Banking Group Limited, they were recognized by The Best Practice Management Group and received  “The Best Practice Award 2013 in Employee Engagement.” They believe that providing an environment where the employees are stakeholders and participants in strategy formation, implementation, accepting responsibility for their behavior and emphasizing alignment, transparency and communication.

Current global employee engagement trends

An interesting study by Aon Hewitt which looked at employee engagement around the world from 2008 to 2010. They surveyed 6.7 million employees in 2, 900 organizations. Overall there is a mixed picture geographically. Employee engagement is down in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific and yet no change in Latin America. Globally, employee engagement is beginning to improve and as was noted in the report,

While organizations acknowledge the power of engagement, many struggle to make progress in this area. Our research shows that employee loyalty and engagement is waning, especially in Europe. At a time when organizations are looking to employees to help them reduce costs, identify areas for growth, streamline processes, and innovate faster than their competitors, employees in many organizations are showing fatigue in response to the lengthy period of stress, uncertainty, and confusion of the economic downturn.
As long as employers do not offer (or offer on a limited basis) professional development or career opportunities, there is little to motivate employees from re-engaging or engaging more deeply.

Some of the current trends being noted in research by both Aon Hewitt, McKinsey and Company and BlessingWhite:

1. Career opportunities
2. Constant distraction and demanding workloads
3. Financial rewards matter
4. It helps if you are higher up in the organization
5. Companies with higher profits have better levels of engagement
6. Millenials are moving into leadership positions
7. Remote work is becoming norm
8. Intrapreneurship is encouraged to spur innovation
9. Women are gaining momentum

Employee engagement is an ongoing process of change and adaptation

The goals of attracting and retaining talent haven’t changed. However, employees are looking for more. As we’ve discussed on #KaizenBiz before, work and lifestyle choices are being integrated more frequently as the people are connected via smartphones and other devices. This changes how employees engage and what they want to make the engagement more enticing. Even employees with lower level positions are looking for their organizations to invest in them as well.

Do you have some thoughts on employee engagement? What are the trends telling us? Join us on Twitter and use the hastag #KaizenBiz to join the conversation on Friday, November 23, 2013 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT.

How is employee engagement defined by different generations?

What 2013 employee engagement trends will continue into 2014?

What do these trends have in common?

In real terms, how do you link employee engagement with accomplishing an organization’s business goals?

How could redefining management as facilitation rather than order-giver affect levels of employee engagement?


So Twitter Has Gone Public, What’s Next?

Twitter, IPO, futureSocial media is a fascinating phenomenon. It can create careers, destroy careers, help you live newsworthy stories as they happen, spark new startups, make friends and open your eyes to alternative perspectives that you didn’t see before. Perhaps one of the most amazing sites is Twitter. This real-time platform is ever-changing as an amusement and tool among other things.

So, Twitter went public

Startups all have different reasons for going public. Some of it is more about ego than necessarily business. Some have to pay their investors. Some want to be acquired. Some want money for bigger plans. It seems that Twitter is is the latter category.

It’s a business. It has to make money.

Clearly, Twitter has to find ways to make money. So far, it has between sponsored tweets, data licensing and promoting certain accounts. If you’ve noticed certain brands, new releases of movies or names showing up in your stream when you don’t follow them, you’ve seen how Twitter gets its revenues.

It has changed the world

Twitter has changed the world in a number of ways. People witnessed (and continue to witness) historical events. Remember how people’s experience of the Arab Spring was tweeted in real-time? Aside from the news stories, there are countless stories of how people have connected with one another for any number of reasons. Connecting people was something Jack Dorsey wanted to do An interesting post in Fast Company notes how storytelling has been changed despite the brief moment that each message lasts in front of someone’s eyes. For myself, I’ve seen business and personal opportunities crop up simply because I had a conversation with someone. This very post exists because a group of people on Twitter want to go a bit further than the soundbite and look at business ideas while still communicating in 140 characters.


This is the challenge Twitter faces now. There is an unknown future and lots of possibilities. Perhaps part of the future lies in the custom timelines. There are an assortment  of predictions in this Mashable post ranging from advertisement to selling hashtags. In a New York magazine post by Kevin Roose, the suggestion is that Twitter get into massification. Simply, make Twitter more attractive and usable to more people. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Twitter will be looking for more acquisitions. And then there are the Twitter cards, app installations or greater use of paid related content or links.

It’s early days

At the moment, it is uncertain what could be next for Twitter and its users. It may be that Twitter loses some of its character as it tries to be more attractive to more people. There are risks involved with devising new revenue streams. The users may be stakeholders in Twitter but their importance may dim in view of making shareholders happy.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with us on the Twitter chat, #Kaizenbiz on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT as we look at what is next for Twitter now that it has gone public.

Why did Twitter go public?

To what degree could innovation decline at Twitter since going public?

What other ways could Twitter grow revenue?

How can Twitter maintain a positive relationship with its users when it has to make money for its shareholders?

What is your forecast for Twitter’s future?