Looking Under the Hood of Corporate Culture

corporate culture, ethics, society, businessCorporate culture has been coming up quite a lot lately in our #KaizenBiz conversations. When you look at ideas about leadership, marketing, strategy and other business ideas, culture is usually not far from the surface. There is a lot written about what a corporate culture ought to be like and how it should include social responsibility and foster positive human dynamics. For the most part, leaders want to see their organizations live out their most cherished values. Chick-Fil-A is often cited as an example of this as they close on Sundays. Toms Shoes is famous for its “one for one” model of buying their shoes, eyewear or apparel and helping someone in need. Zappos is another example where they hire for character and pay people who don’t fit their culture to leave.

Pixar’s lesson

There is a great book excerpt on the McKinsey and Company blog by Ed Catmull about how Pixar eventually developed a positive and creative culture. Catmull explains that he and John Lasseter consciously designed a culture that was respectful of everyone in the organization. By making themselves accessible and role modeling their expectations, they thought they had created a culture that mirrored their desire. Then they found that there was this huge rift between the production and creative departments. The people in the production department felt like second-class citizens and the people in the creative department felt micromanaged. Catmull’s lesson, he writes, was that “[b]eing on the lookout for problems, I realized, was not the same as seeing problems.”  Same culture, different experiences.

Just because it’s part of your business model…

Catmull and Lasseter set up a business model in which communicating with management was encouraged (or so they thought and report rectified). In an HBR post by Jim Dougherty, it is recommended that the business model and culture be seen as connected. In the way a company externally and internally communicates and behaves with one another reflects both the business model and culture. This makes culture more of a social construct. A group of people come together and form a mini-society. It might be a highly dysfunctional mini-society with backbiting and a hostile work environment but this is a social construct. There are rules, norms and ethics. As in, this is how we do things here. It is communicated overtly and subtly from the onboarding process all along an employee’s worklife with that company.Think of messages like “we hold information back, we take time to have fun playing foosball and drink beer, ask Jane because she knows where the skeletons are, we do anything and everything to satisfy a customer,” or ” we never talk to Them.”

Different lenses affects ethics

Aiming to be the best company is an admirable and understandable goal. I don’t think anyone founds a business and consciously chooses to make it a miserable, soul-sucking place. Some founders don’t think past “let’s get the work done” and set up an environment that later becomes unworkable and unlivable. For other leaders, hiring the best candidates may support a culture of excellence but it may leave other aspects unexamined. There is also the moment when a company has grown so large that it takes far more effort to communicate and exemplify the preferred culture. People may fill in the gaps with their own ethical code or create a separate code from the prevailing culture. As an example, it may be encouraged to meet a certain type of quota by a deadline. The way the quota is met can range from complying with the overall culture or it may deviate into a utilitarian sub-code. A company’s culture is often an expression of how the people in it view one another and the whole of humanity as well as the value of wealth and success. These various lenses become drivers in organizational decision-making

This is such a brief overview of corporate culture and brings up more questions than it answers. So many of us think we know what the perfect corporate culture looks like. The question is, is it the same idea for everyone? It may be that one leader of an organization goes around acting like some kind of chieftain while another leader may act as facilitator or collaborator. One employee might view it is the totality of a social life while another employee just wants to get the work done and go home. Corporate culture could very well be dynamic as an organization grows and people come and go.

What really makes up corporate culture? Is it a mini-society with complex relationships and mores? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 9, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

How relevant is the company culture to creating revenue?

How does corporate culture reflect society in general?

With so many competing agendas, how likely is it for companies to foster a common understanding of who they are internally?

What role do ethics play in the expression of corporate culture?

 

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Do Humans Get In the Way of Innovation?

innovation, execution, companies, human behaviorUnicorns, those wild magical beasts in folklore are sought for their healing properties and because they are so elusive. Rather like the quest some companies are on regarding innovation. Innovation is supposed to be the sustainer and life saver of companies. But there is something gumming up the works…there are humans in the way.

Why is innovation so hard?

A question with quite a few answers but we might be missing something crucial. People create innovation. People talk about innovation. We have talked about it on our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz many times.

Is the work of innovation too boring?

There are many possibilities here ranging from individual behavior to breakdowns in the process. According to Tom Agan, companies are spending too much time ideating. As in, spending a part of or even an whole day coming up with new ideas for the company. Agan’s point is that time would be better spent on looking at ideas the company already has and then identifying and clarifying the best ones for the company to implement.

Another perspective is put forth by David Hasell. He writes that “the secret  path to innovation” lies with the reticular activation system (also known as the extrathalamic control modulatory system). This structure in your brain, is believed to be involved in behavioral motivation, mediating the shift from sleep to wakefulness including periods of high attention plus managing the dampening of loud noises and other intense stimuli. Hasell’s premise – if you activate the RAS on a regular basis, people in the company will begin to build an awareness for certain activities and ideas.

Akin to Agan’s point,  have written The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Problem. They ask if the execution part is too “humdrum” and therefore people don’t expect it to be work. In the book, Govindarajan and Trimble posit that people forget and/or dampen their enthusiasm when it gets to the implementation part of of the innovation process.

What if it’s really about how we understand ourselves and the way organizations are collectively “us?”

On an individual basis, there are many reasons people don’t follow through. In a parallel fashion, implementing an idea is much like goal completion. Some possible theories why organizations don’t execute their ideas well:

  • Too busy fantasizing: Research has shown that people get so caught up in the fantasy of what the result of their efforts will be that they neglect to do the work. The team that held the ideation session were so excited and enthusiastic that they got caught up in the dream.
  • People may misunderstand the business goals and/or the process or not want to change the status quo: Poor communication can derail a project before it has started. It may even be that certain revenue streams are still performing well so there isn’t enough motivation to explore something new.
  • Fear of unknown: The process of innovation is experimental by nature. You don’t know if a new product, service or process improvement is really going to work or make money. Without high-level sponsorship, the idea will remain an idea.
  • Mistrust of leadership: Ideas may not get implemented because it is perceived as a fad or chasing a dream.
  • Too robotic: Psychological research has discovered that a lot of our everyday behavior is robotic. People in companies may get caught up in the everyday work and not connect it to the innovation process, thereby, losing motivation and meaning.

Stop chasing the unicorns

There are probably more reasons why companies fail in their efforts to innovate. It makes sense to learn more about human behavior and then prepare an implementation process that takes the idea beyond the talking stage. Given that it is hard to know when something is going to truly disrupt the marketplace, paying greater attention to how new ideas get transformed into tangible things…the human thinking, feeling and acting…will make the innovation process cleaner.

How does human behavior play a role in the innovation process? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 2, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

What are your top 3 reasons why innovation is working well in organizations?

How could ratcheting down the rhetoric about the necessity to be innovative actually encourage more innovation?

Ideas only become innovations when they are implemented. Could the day-to-day work of executing an idea be off putting as it is not as sexy or stimulating as ideating?

How would understanding how our brains work and human behavior help companies get over the hurdle of executing their great ideas?

What would you put in place to bring ideas into actual products or services?

 

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Do We Understand Power, Authority and Leadership?

Power, authority, leadership, Greg SatellPower is not simple. Yet, leadership and authority depend on it. Leadership and authority  would seem to go hand in hand. If you have a leadership position, you have authority, right? When you look at the definition of authority, Merriam-Webster describes it as “the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone or something.” That seems straightforward. If you look at the definition of leadership, it says, “the power or ability to lead other people.”

Power is in both definitions

Both leadership and authority use power to get things done. It is how power is defined and used that makes these concepts diverge. When we think of authority, we often associate it with a top-down use of power. As in, the formally identified leaders tell everyone what will change. Naturally, there are a variety of responses to this use of power, mainly variations of compliance and resistance.

 Less top-down, more leadership

In a post from the HBR Blog Network, Greg Satell writes about how the change process is encouraged or hampered by the use of authority or leadership. Satell uses the examples of Dr. Semelweiss and John Antioco to show how authority does not bring about a desired change in an organization and there are probably examples from our own experiences which are similar. In fact, there have been a quite few conversations with my own clients about not getting too far ahead of their teams and/or staff. It is important to note that not every leader in an organization is necessarily the CEO or part of the executive team. People in leadership roles may have the capacity to see future trends and patterns emerging before everyone else and this is when the exercise of authority can backfire. A leader can be right and wrong at the same time as was the case for both Dr. Semelweiss and John Antioco.

Change is the illuminator of power

Turnover, customer issues, organizational missteps, new products, discovering new markets or capitalizing on trends are commonly the beginning points for leaders. In Satell’s post, he describes an authoritarian approach to be counter-productive. A top-down, “do it my way” approach, regardless of how it is packaged, does not guarantee comformity or compliance. However, Satell might be using too narrow a definition of authority. There is a marked individualistic perspective underlying his premise. In his definition of authority, a leader (typically with a c-level title or equivalent) assumes a level of influence due to title and position and issues a new policy or procedure. Here is where one’s use of power in an organization is illuminated. The new policy or procedure may be followed or ignored and the leader is left feeling his/her power is diminished and wondering if more authority or more influence would have been effective.

Today’s leadership styles exercise power in less individualistic manner

Humans are used to hierarchies of one sort or another. Even in flat organizations, there are designated people who take on leadership roles and members of these organizations respond to their direction. An authoritative approach (one that encompasses talents, resources, personnel, time and readiness) may be used for specific initiatives or projects or the overall foundation. There is more of a give-and-take in an authoritative approach. Satell writes that, “Ideas take hold in small majorities; many stop there and never go any further, but some saturate those local clusters and move on to more reluctant groups through weak ties. Eventually, a cascading effect ensues.” Underlying his point of how the buy-in of the change process is accepted is how a leader used his/her authority to exercise power and have the message sent to the eventual small majorities.

Not clear you can divorce authority and leadership (or “Why should I listen to you?”)

Satell’s point that an authoritarian approach tends to backfire is well taken. On the other hand, it is reasonable to question if his definition of “authority” is oversimplified. Currently, it is considered that the most effective leaders are collaborative, humble, fair, open-minded, ethical, encouraging and emotionally intelligent. By setting this example, they establish themselves as authorities (having expertise and power) while not having to be the only one who takes or forces action. Employees want to know what direction to go in. This is how a leader can use authority. And…the leader then fosters the spread and adoption of the change process. The most crucial underpinning here is the leader’s understanding and willingness to exert and exercise power.

Are authority and leadership too dissimilar to co-exist as put forth by Greg Satell? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, April 25, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

How is power expressed by a leader?

What changes do you observe in how we understand power, authority and leadership?

How could power be exercised without leadership or authority?

Can you divorce authority from leadership as suggested by Greg Satell? Why/Why not?

Since command-and-control is now considered an ineffective leadership style, do current leadership styles use more influence or some other type of power?

 

 

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Building Business Resilience During Scarcity and Climate Change

Regardless if you believe that climate change is caused by human behaviors or caused by the natural warming and cooling of the planet. there are certain aspects to this topic that are bound to affect large and small businesses. There are intense weather patterns which are disruptive. Beyond climate change, there are questions about certain resources becoming more scarce such as oil, helium and some metals.

Certainty and uncertainty

The certainty is that particular parts of the world, specific countries even, are growing economically and therefore buying more stuff. This creates higher prices for commodities.

The uncertainty lies in how weather, costs and resources become unpredictable and affect the day to day operations of a business. The polar vortex experienced this winter in the US may have had a $5 billion effect. Natural disasters such as flooding, volcanic eruptions and typhoons can disrupt travel, supply lines and cause workers to slow down or stop production. While most businesses are looking at how the banks are functioning and other economic indicators, they may need to expand to include the environment(s) in which they operate.

Andrew Winston’s “Big Pivot”

Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World, advocates a more “…profound change in strategy, operations, and business philosophy that will make organizations more resilient and help them create new value in a hotter, resource-scarce world.” This is the “Big Pivot.”

In his Harvard Business Review article, “Resilience in a Hotter World,” he explains that there are three types of resilience that organizations must put in place:

  • Cost and risk resilience
  • Revenue resilience
  • Brand resilience

Pivot strategies: Vision, Valuation and Partners

These resiliencies are created when the pivot strategies are adhered to. According to Winston, companies who are more willing to make “…dramatic improvements in operational efficiency and cuts in material and energy use, waste, and carbon emissions, companies become much more flexible and, possibly, antifragile.” He also points out that this pivot is not based on corporate social responsibility. It is based on self-interest. As in, companies who uses renewable energy sources, seek ways to use less resources and increase trust in its relationships with consumers, competitors and communities are more likely to make a profit and thrive.

Winston’s perspective (in a nutshell)

Vision: Rather than simply looking at quarterly reports, companies need to take on a more long-term perspective that looks at years and not months. To do this, it is important to ask “heretical questions” regarding operational, manufacturing and/or economic growth.

Valuation: Not only should companies look at what will maximize their earnings by calculating what will create value. Winston points out that there are things that are much harder to assign a value to such as pollution or job creation. Valuation has to also include natural capital (things in the natural environment).

Partners: This is another area that Winston calls for radical differences. The partners seem like the natural go-to’s…governments, competitors and customers. The radical differences could be teaming up with competitors to lobby for certain environmental policies or partnering with suppliers and consumers to change potential or real systemic problems.

There are changes in the environment

There are still concerns about certain resources decreasing and natural disasters affecting business resilience. It is likely that most companies would say they desire sustainability. However, there is still a mindset that profit and making stockholders happy are more important. There may even be resistance from companies following through on the “Big Pivot” because it may seem too costly or counter-intuitive to source materials differently or advocate for certain environmental policies. Many countries look to their governments to make the necessary changes and individuals (companies or people) do not see how they can be part of that process.

What do you think? Is Andrew Winston advocating some kind of “pie in the sky” behavior or is his “Big Pivot” actually necessary for long term resilience and sustainability? Join us on the Twitter chat #KaizenBiz Friday, April 11, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and add your insights, opinions and expertise to the conversation.

To what degree have organizations had to change how they evaluate environmental events/storms?

Winston states that incremental changes are not enough. How would an organization make the radical thinking/behavioral leaps he is advocates?

If commodities are increasing in price and certain resources are dwindling, how would a manufacturer change consumer behavior?

Some of what Winston advocates seem high cost changes. How would you make the business case that the “Big Pivot” is smart move?

 

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A Deeper Dive into What #SocialMedia Trends Mean: Innovation & Biz Disruption

Technology social media the internetI’m Cathy Larkin, @CathyWebSavvyPR, a part of the team that supports Kaizenbiz chat. This week on Kaizenbiz I’m hosting, while Elli, @3Keyscoach, is not available. We’ll take a dive into the deeper waters of social media trends. Bring your favorite or least favorite social media trend to discuss. But let’s not just make it a love/hate complaining fest, but take a look into the whys and how it affects larger issues, or how they affect your business or industry. Join us Friday April 5th, 2014, 5 pm GMT/12pm ET/9am on Twitter, follow the #Kaizenbiz hashtag.

To bring us deeper into the topic – check out this video (and written transcript) from @McKinsey (McKinsey and Company)

Why every leader should care about digitization and disruptive innovation:

“For the first time we now have technology effecting every single sector of the economy….” Their post is about more than social media, but provides a strong context for our discussion… also from the video & @amcafee: “Lots of things are being digitized…our social interactions are being digitized largely thanks to all the different social networks and the social media that we have…,” “There’s good news and challenges here…”

To put this in perspective – here’s a reminder of how far we’ve come since the early days of the internet. We’ve come a long way from this news story in 1981 when cutting-edge folks took 2 hours to download the news paper to their computers  via dial-up modem (at $5/hour): http://www.wimp.com/theinternet/.

socialmediamap-1-MotherJones-com

A map from mother Jones 3/28/14 story: MAP: Here Are the Countries That Block Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – click to see article

Social media has been key in helping people around the world connect with one another and organize. This has caused some countries to block access to these sites.  This post shows a map of the various countries that as of March, 2014 have blocked these services; click to see the full story: MAP: Here Are the Countries That Block Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

On the up side: social media has also been used to help people around the world connect to information during disasters and other world events. Here’s a short post on how social media and other technology tricks worked to help save lives during the recent Chilean Earthquake: Chile Uses Earthquake Communication Technology To Saves Lives

Facebook Bait and Switch – How’s That for a Trend?

Facebook convinced many businesses, large & small to get lots of likes to their pages, with the assumption that when their customers were online, they would see the biz updates. Now with Facebook’s new proposed algorithm change – a tiny percentage of a business’s fans will see the posts – unless they PAY to promote it.

This is not the first major change made to make things better for Facebook, and often worse for their users. Did Facebook break a brand promise? Are they so big they can do what they want? How might setting a trend like this at Facebook, make Twitter and Google rethink their own pricing models. How will this affect your business?

And What About Twitter’s new Gambit – they are Considering Simplifying to Entice New Users to Stay or One-time Users to Return

Twitter is talking about doing away with two if their earlier innovations – the @ sign and  the #hashtag that was started by customers. They are trying to simplify or “dumb down” to regain 1billion lost users…great idea or alienate main user base?

Will new pressures to raise money after they went public drive users away?

On the Other Hand…LinkedIn Seems to be Gaining Traction, Yet Making Missteps Too

LinkedIn plans on adding blogs for members, but on the other hand has given the power to group owners to block people from commenting and posting in groups without being moderated…across the entire site – not just that group.

So How Disruptive ARE Social Sites to Business?

So many businesses and individuals build connections on these platforms to then have the rules change again and again – sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. Yes it is a business like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn’s right to change their options and terms of service, but the disruptive nature of innovation has consequences in the short and long term.

#Kaizenbiz Chat Questions

**QUEST 1 How do you think technology or #socialmedia trends have had positive effects in the world?

**QUEST 2 How have recent technology trends promoted #socialmedia to disrupt business strategy?

**QUEST 3 Are social sites making progress, alienating users or going all 1984/big brother?

**QUEST 4 How might FBk’s setting a trend of paying to access yr fans make Twitter, Google & LinkedIn rethink their pricing

**QUEST 5 What effect might Twitter’s potential simplifying to cater to new users have on your existing biz?

Next week, Elli St. George Godfrey will be back and we’re talking about business resilience in the current business climate

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Could “Living” Quality Be The Route To Sustainability?

culture of quality, corporate culture, Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan KureyA colleague and I were recently discussing whether there was truly an increase in the speed of technological change and turbulence in the business world now versus any other time in history. The twentieth century certainly saw huge leaps in technology and you could even argue the the Industrial Revolution (approximately 1760 to about 1840) was a time of change and turbulence. But one thing is true. When there is great change,  there are philosophical shifts that accompany technological changes. Corporate culture is certainly an expression of those philosophical shifts.

Philosophical shifts change how companies produce

The current workplace trends are showing how these philosophical changes are taking place. Assumptions about customers have been challenged by social media and Big Data. Leadership and the ways companies are organized are focused on ways to increase employee engagement. There is more movement to remote working, flatter organizations and fostering more ownership by everyone in the company. Still, there is tension between seeing world as potentially open and constraining.

In all of these trends is the pursuit of quality

Seeking differentiation in the marketplace in the short term and sustainability for the long term, companies are looking to define quality.  According to Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan Kurey, consistent quality may be elusive at times because

“…the likelihood of error has risen. In many industries, cycle times are compressing. During the recovery from the Great Recession, output gains have outpaced employment growth, and employees report straining to keep up with demands.

Due to these factors, Srinivasan and Kurey say that a new approach to quality is necessary.

So what is a “true culture of quality?”

Srinivasan and Kurey wriite in their Harvard Business Review article that when employees “live” quality as a personal value rather than being told to comply, companies create an environment where there are fewer mistakes and a healthier bottom line. While it is tempting to see this through a lens of kaizen or other total quality management, it is more than this. There are four factors that support quality as an overall cultural value.

  • leadership emphasis
  • message credibility
  • peer involvement
  • employee ownership of quality issues

Moving towards sustainability

It seems that making quality a part of the corporate culture would naturally lead to sustainablity. Yet, it is clear from the research done by Srinivasan and Kurey that the corporate culture has to be part of everyday behavior, a living reality. One thing that is less clear is how quality is defined. Is it like kaizen and involves incremental steps towards making things better? Or is it more about taking pride in one’s work? But perhaps creating a culture of quality is both and more. According to Jim Dougherty, corporate culture has to be part of the business model. The emphasis on quality seems akin to the search for excellence. It takes all levels of the organization to make the four factors work on a daily basis. This is how corporate culture is expressed anyway. If this alignment is complete, it is more likely for a company to be sustainable.

This is merely the beginning of this conversation so please join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 4pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. We welcome your thoughts and insights about how “living” quality could be the route to sustainability.

 

How would you define a “culture of quality?”

Who is best suited to define what is quality? Why?

What types of obstacles might prevent a “culture of quality” from developing?

How would you hire to create a “culture of quality”?

What relationship do you see between “culture of quality” and sustainability?

 

 

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Headline Convo – Gender Pay Gaps, Resume is Dead and CEO Pay

KaizenBiz , Twitter chat,This week is our monthly “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. What are you reading or viewing that made 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 4pm GMT/12pm ET/9am.

Women entrepreneurs pay themselves less?

We often think of how entrepreneurship can be totally designed by the individual entrepreneur. He or she can designate their hours, their rate of pay and the products and services that are offered. Arecent Babson College study discovered that women entrepreneurs pay themselves approximately 80% of their male counterparts. While the study does not explain why this occurs, it seems rather interesting that there is a gap.

It is easy to focus on the US since this conversation about salary gaps has been going on for some time. It even made a mention in the 2014 State of the Union address by President Obama. However, there is a bigger picture. There is gender wage gap all over the world (here is an infographic from Time). While there are some who will argue that it has everything to do with the types of businesses women found. After all, some work is valued more than other work. There is always the argument that women take time off from work due to family obligations. Still, there are questions about what the disparities mean in real life.

What are the possible business reasons women entrepreneurs pay themselves less?

How does looking at men’s pay as the standard skew our perceptions of what are appropriate salaries?

If we make the picture more global, what sorts of socioeconomic reasons exist for women entrepreneurs to pay themselves less?

Just when you thought job hunting could not get more complicated

There are always reports that something is “dead.” Now it is the resume (or the CV, curriculum vitae) that is passe. With the global economy growing (albeit sluggishly), many companies are hiring new staff. While this Forbes post is self-serving the author, he does point out how different things have become in the job hunt. With potential employers looking at social media, search engines and in-person networking, the resume simply confirms information about you. This certainly puts the resume fairly low in importance. Interestingly, in a post by BlueGlue (a managed recruitment service firm based in the UK), the cv is described as less important than the online information and digital portfolios. If the resume and the cv are being phased out, this may become a stumbling block for many job seekers.

How much weight do recruiters and human resources professionals put on resumes/ cv’s versus online information?

If resumes and cv’s are less important, what social ramifications are there for job seekers?

LinkedIn is mentioned as a resource for both job seekers and recruiters. To what degree is this social media site used around the world?

 The relationship between CEO pay and performance

Periodically, there is a conversation about CEO pay. There are often huge gaps between what the CEO is paid compared to others in the company. Another area that gets people talking is how CEOs are never really punished for failing as they get golden parachutes. The connection between these two conversations is whether or not there really is a relationship between CEO pay and performance.

It certainly seems that CEOs of large companies are much like the manager or head coach of a sports team. When things are going well, the CEO is praised and when things are going badly, well, the CEO is at fault. They are paid very high salaries which makes one wonder if they truly have the skills to merit such a reward and do they really matter that much to their organizations.

Gilles Hilary, INSEAD Associate Professor of Accounting & Control, states that CEOs do bring quite a lot of value to their organizations. In a HKUST Business School study, they discovered that if there is good governance and strong shareholder rights, CEO compensation is a good predictor of success. But as Rick Wartzmann asked in his Forbes post, how do you define performance? There is a temptation to aim for increased revenues and profits but that could result in undermining the long term health of the company, discouraging innovation or weakening the overall vision and strategy of the company.

What criteria must a CEO meet in order to be described as performing well?

How is the pay of CEOs of smaller organizations tied to performance?

To what degree are CEOs involved with the actual performance of the company?

 Time for your suggestions

The above topics are my suggestions for our lighting roundtable discussion on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. If something caught your attention this week, bring it the discussion on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 4pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. Remember to include the link and even  one or two discussion questions

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Is Freelancing Becoming More Permanent Way of Working?

Are you entrepreneurial in your career? Do you work for yourself? Both of these questions have become more common over recent years. There is a sense of both disillusionment and frustration with the traditional 40 hour a week job model. For knowledge workers, in particular, this job model does not reflect how work gets done. For others, shift work has changed or extended unemployment has made it necessary to find alternative sources of income. Frankly, there are a number of workplace trends that add to how freelancing has become much more common.

So, what’s going on?

There is some interesting information globally about freelancing. According to a Elance survey, the top freelancing countries are

  • United States
  • Indiana
  • Ukraine
  • Pakistan
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • Philippines
  • Romania
  • China

So this is not just a US phenomenon, according to Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, freelancing is disrupting the workplace. He writes that the trends for 2014 are

  • Freelancers will gain recognition as part of the workforce
  • Teams will be like movie crews
  • Voluntary job quitters will abound
  • Reinvesting in being people-focused rather than tech-focused
  • Careers will launch virtually

In a CNBC article, Elaine Pofeldt writes that the unemployment rate is dropping despite the slow job growth rate. Although she focuses on the US experience of freelancing, there are similar reasons across countries as to why people choose freelancing over a traditional job. According to “How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth“, there are strong attractors. In our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz, we’ve talked about how people are seeking more meaning and autonomy in their work lives.

So perhaps success is being redefined?

With the recent movie, The Wolf of Wall Street,  we are reminded of how success has been defined (and may be still defined). Traditionally, people who became successful are wealthy, connected and have a certain level of power. Freelancers could certainly have connections since networking is a key part of their marketing plan. But what about wealth or power? It seems “value” is more about work/life balance. Although wealth, power and fame are desires for some people, these often are also accompanied by working excessive hours, health issues and complicated personal relationships. This way of life is being rejected with more frequency.

More permanent way of working?

This is a curious question. Most people think that working for an organization is a more secure way of working due to regular pay and benefits. However, the last several years of economic turbulence has combined to make organizations more skiittish about hiring and employees less certain that they have job security or even that they want the day to day of workplace politics and a lack control over their time and energy.  Yet, it’s not all a bed of roses for freelancers. It is difficult to clock out when you are your own boss, there is often a feeling of feast or famine regarding work load and clients as well as difficult making sure that there is enough income to pay for health insurance, taxes or other financial obligations.

What do you think? Is freelancing the next trend in how people work? How will it change employment or even unemployment? Join us Friday, March 14, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

What does “freelancing” mean to you?

As freelancing becomes more permanent way of working, is it a variation of small business or something separate? 

How does freelancing change how work gets done?

Freelancing is often touted as positive way to manage & live life. What are downsides?

How does freelancing affect how we define success? 

 

 

 

 

 

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Connecting Profit and Doing Good – Possible?

Which is more important – profit or doing good? For most corporations, profit has been everything. “Doing good” has been charitable donations, programs or other community engagement has been the window dressing for many companies so they can say they are socially responsible. And yet, there are so many times we hear of questionable or unethical practices such as credit card companies are charging fees even when you have a zero balance, manufacturing processes that release dangerous (even lethal) substances into water systems or mistreating their employees. Often these behaviors stem from people in a particular company seeking to save money and increase profits so they can expand, pay bonuses and/or dividends.

 Harish Marwani’s perspective

In his TED talk, Harish Marwani, CEO of Unilever, proposes that corporate social responsibility is a standard part of any 21st century business. He proposes that there is a fourth G in his growth philosophy:

  • Consistent
  • Competitive
  • Profitable
  • Responsible

Marwani explains that:

Companies cannot afford to be just innocent bystanders in what’s happening around in society. They have to begin to play their role in terms of serving the communities which actually sustain them. And we have to move to a model of an and/and model which is how do we make money and do good? How do we make sure that we have a great business but we also have a great environment around us? And that model is all about doing well and doing good.

It is more than making the product or service you are known for. In Marwani’s case, Unilever is known for making soap. He spoke about the programs sponsored by Unilever as part of their sustainability model. He also said Unilever was also looking for sustainable sources for ingredients in their products. For Marwani and Unilever, doing good is about finding sustainable sources for their products and sponsoring programs.

John Paluszek, Pioneer of Corporate Social Responsibility

It has been the practice of companies, particularly larger companies, to focus on increasing profit as well as value for shareholders. More recently, there has been a trend for companies to ask if there is some sort of relationship they should have with the community in which they are based and maybe even beyond with vendors and charitable groups. John Paluszek is one of the drivers of this conversation.

In a  Forbes interview, Paluszek explains five areas of corporate responsibility:

  1. “Natural” accounting dilemma and environmental impact
  2. Noticing which framework(s) provide the best way of accounting and set the tipping point for corporate social responsibliity to become mainstream
  3. “Business for peace” (UN Nations Global Compact)
  4. Inequality will be a driving force for new thinking about a greater commitment to ethics, morality in business decisions and capitalism
  5. The next generation of leaders will be more committed personally and professionally

Not entirely clear yet

It is difficult for some people to adjust to the idea that business can be a force for good. There are people who are willing to buy from companies who actively engage in sourcing sustainable ingredients, attend vigorously to environmental concerns and sponsor charitable programs. But other questions arise. The very definition of “doing good” is fraught with the history of one group coming in and telling others what is good for them without regard to what might already be in place. There is also the question if mainstream consumers care more about price or the reputation of the company. And maybe most of all, there are serious questions about capitalism and how it influences human behavior.

What do you think? Could a company be more sustainable if profit and doing good are connected?  Join us Friday, March 7, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

What differences exist between smaller organizations and large corporations embracing corporate social responsibility ?

Who defines what is “doing good”?

What sort of definition(s) are we giving to “sustainability”?

How is the desire for meaning and purpose of the individual employee influencing organizations engaging in corporate social responsibility?

How would you measure how companies make a profit and do good?

 

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Similiarities, Differences and Co-Existence of Kaizen and Innovation

When KaizenBiz community members suggest a post or topic, I listen and find a way to include it in our weekly chat. So, when Bernd Nurnberger (@CoCreatr) suggested a post on how Amazon is using kaizen, it seemed interesting to look at kaizen. Companies of all sizes are often looking for ways to be better, more efficient but there is also a desire to innovate products and services so they can capture more of the market. Where are the similarities and differences between kaizen and innovation? And can they co-exist in the same organization?

Kaizen – quick review

Kaizen is a Japanese concept of continuous and incremental improvement of a process. This process might be a manufacturing process, an accounting process or a customer service and the continuous improvements make the process more effective and efficient. Toyota is the most famous example of a company that uses kaizen although a number of companies also use it.

Innovation

We’ve talked about innovation a few times on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz because it is somewhat elusive and much desired by nearly every company that exists. In “What’s All the Fuss About Innovation?“, I used this definition, “the process of translating an idea or invention to a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay.” Curiously, for this framing post, I ran across another definition from an Australian govemment initiative which described innovation as “…renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things.” With the Australian government’s definition, it might seem that there is little difference between kaizen and innovation.

Other overlaps

Here are some other overlaps that spring to mind:

  • Both kaizen and innovation rely on someone identifying that there is another (and better) way to do something.
  • Organizational leaders must be sponsors and/or supporters for the changes to be explored and implemented
  • They both depend on ideas
  • Iteration is often part of the process
  • Use creativity in problem solving

However there are differences

Even with a number of overlaps, there are ways that kaizen and innovation are not the same:

  • Kaizen is a continous process that uses incremental steps and can be rigorous in its application across the organization
  • Innovation can range from being small adjustments or changes or radical new things
  • Innovation can seem chaotic or without structure due to the creative process
  • Kaizen is typically anyone’s job in an organization while innovation tends to be assigned to a particular group of people
  • Kaizen focuses on what is and how it can better and more efficient
  • Innovation focuses on what could be and how it is new and/or disruptive

 But can they co-exist?

There are a few dynamics swirling around organizations. One is the memory of the experience of the Great Recession is still very fresh so there are policies, business goals and expectations created in response. This is certainly prudent as companies are rebuilding and adjusting to the current circumstances. Another dynamic is the rapid progression of technological advancements. One of the other dynamics is this mindset that unless a company is innovative, it is unsustainable and will fail. In a Forbes post, Vijay Govindarajan is quoted saying,

“The more you hardwire a company on total quality management, [the more] it is going to hurt breakthrough innovation. The mindset that is needed, the capabilities that are needed, the metrics that are needed, the whole culture that is needed for discontinuous innovation, are fundamentally different.”

That seems to indicate that they cannot co-exist. This opens a number of questions. Not all organizations are designed to pursue radical changes. There may even be a lack of understanding of both kaizen and innovation.

What do you think? Is there a place for kaizen alongside innovation? What similarities and differences do you believe exist?  Join us Friday, February 28, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

Is there any chance that something is missing or missed as systems are tweaked and refined?

What is the difference between change and improvement?

In what ways could kaizen prevent innovation in an organization?

How could kaizen could co-exist with innovation? Are any adaptations necessary?

 

 

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