Tag Archives: Organizational Change

Organizational Change

Followers’ Role in Enabling Bad Leaders

Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman

Seven types of ineffective and unethical leaders can be enabled by followers, according to Harvard’s Barbara Kellerman, in research that precedes the current U.S. political climate by more than a decade.

She categorized bad leaders as:

Incompetent – Failing to create positive change;
Rigid – Not adaptable to new ideas, conditions;
Intemperate – Lacking self-control;
Callous – Uncaring and unkind, discounting needs and wishes of group members, especially subordinates;
Corrupt – Advancing self-interest ahead of public interest, through “lying, cheating, and stealing”;
Insular – Disregarding health and welfare of outsiders;
Evil – Committing atrocities, use pain as an instrument of power, exert severe physical, psychological harm to men, women, children.

Kellerman’s earlier work focused on Hitler’s leadership, and asserted that his power wouldn’t have existed without followership.
She acknowledged that uninvolved bystanders who do not speak up enable bad leaders to continue their practices.

John Darley

John Darley

This effect was documented in social science research more than forty years ago by NYU’s John Darley and Bibb Latané of Columbia, labeled “Bystander Apathy” or the “Genovese syndrome.”

Bibb Latane

Bibb Latane

Given status differentials between leaders and subordinates, followers can break out of complacent observership only if organizational structures are in place to call attention to ineffective and unethical leadership practices — without negative repercussions.

Kellerman highlighted an intuitively-understood phenomenon, but extend her work by identifying implementable practices for various organizational structures.

-*What “bad leader” roles have you observed in your organization?
-*What seem to be effective ways to interact with a “bad” organizational leader?

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Career “Planning” = Career “Improvisation”

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Planning is most suited to relatively certain circumstances in which processes and decisions are typically linear, argued Stanford’s Kathleen Eisenhardt and Behnam Tabrizi in their analysis of global computer product innovation.

In contrast, frequently-changing or uncertain conditions with many iterative modifications require improvisation coupled with frequent testing.

Behnam Tabrizi

In “VUCA world,” described by the U.S. Army War College as volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environments, current career “planning” occurs under rapidly-shifting conditions more appropriate for an agile strategy.
As a result, it is increasingly difficult to meaningfully respond to the frequently-asked interview question: “What are your career plans for the next five years?

Iterative exploration, rapid prototyping/experimentation, and testing characteristic of agile development and design thinking are more suited for rapid changes in economic, political, and technology changes that affect known career paths.

Alison Maitland

Alison Maitland

Possible Futures of Work are investigated in three thought-provoking books:

-*When have you found it more useful to “improvise” instead of “plan” your career?
-*What are the benefits and drawbacks of career “improvisation”?

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Performance Excellence linked to Preventing Failures, Corrective Coaching

Atul Gawande

Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can avert medical care disasters attributed to poor care, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.

He noted that people who effectively improved their performance recognized fallibility in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.

Three elements of better performance can be applied to fields outside of medicine:

  • Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
    Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids.
  • Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
  • IngenuityDeliberate monitoring of potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.

All of these elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:

  • Know enough (ignorance),
  • Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).

Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude due to wide availability of relevant information, Gawande noted.
He argued that both types of omission errors can be improved by systematic analysis and disciplined use of tools like checklists.

Geoffrey Smart

Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,

He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Since selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:

  • The Art Critic is the most frequently-used approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
  • The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, researching and assimilating information, then decides based on intuition,
  • The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
  • The Suitor woos the candidate to accept the leadership role instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
  • The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture is funded for the best ideas, not the originators, who are replaced,
  • The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
  • The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
    This approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
    In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.

Venture Capitalists said that two of their most significant mistakes were:

  • Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
  • Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.

Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.

-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

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Doonesbury Celebrates Women’s Contributions to Work Groups via Thought Diversity and Emotional Intelligence

Doonesbury Celebrates Women’s Contributions to Work Groups via Thought Diversity and Emotional Intelligence

-* How have you seen women’s Emotional Intelligence applied in the workplace?

Consequences of “Facades of Conformity”

Patricia Hewlin

Patricia Hewlin

Patricia Hewlin proposed that employees, especially those with minority status in the workplace, adopt “Façades of conformity (FOC)” when they “act as if” they embrace an organization’s values to remain employed or to succeed in that organization.

Her article in The Academy of Management Review was followed by Flora Stormer and Kay Devine’s study in The Journal of Management Inquiry, “Acting at Work: Façades of Conformity.”

Earlier research indicates that one negative consequence of Facades of Conformity is that employees develop “rationalizations” that enable them to carry out work assignments, even if these seem distasteful or unethical.

Jerome Kerviel

Jerome Kerviel

This paradigm may explain Jerome Kerviel’s experience at Societe General. He was branded as a “rogue trader,” though he was thought not to have benefitted personally from unauthorized trades.

He and others explain his motivation to please his managers and to earn a bonus based on his trades, in the context of his outsider status as someone who had not attended elite universities and was not considered a “star.”

-*In what organizational contexts have you observed “Facades of Conformity” and their consequences?

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Ways to Reduce Unemployment among African-American, Latino, Female Workforces

Lucy Sanders

Lucy Sanders

Lucy Sanders of National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) reports the organization’s research, underscoring the value of encouraging today’s students in pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers:

• The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 7.9%, but for computing-related occupations it’s less than half of that (3.5%)

• The number of African Americans and Latinos employed in computing-related jobs should be double what it is today, given their proportional participation in the US workforce

• Across all STEM careers, tech jobs are growing fastest and have the second-highest starting salaries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020, there will be nearly 1.4 million computing-related jobs added to the U.S. workforce.

With the existing pipeline of students, however, we’ll be able to fill only 30% of these jobs with computing graduates.

NCWIT offers the following tools:

Counselors for Computing (C4C) Pathway Cards help connect students’ interest with next steps toward IT and computing careers. C4C is a project of the NCWIT K-12 Alliance, made possible by the Merck Company Foundation and Google.

• A job-search tool at the NCWIT website, powered by Indeed.com, lets people search for computing-related jobs within NCWIT member organizations — including large companies, startups, universities, and non-profits all around the country.

Top 10 Ways Successful Technical Women Increase Their Visibility includes ten things that highly successful women say they do in order to increase their visibility throughout the company, industry, and technical community.

-* What “best practices” have you seen to increase professional employment among diverse employees?

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“Smart Failure” to Manage in a Fast-Changing World

Eddie Obeng

Eddie Obeng

Eddie Obeng’s dizzyingly rapid-fire TED talk asserts that we live in a “New World” in which “the local environment of individuals, organizations and governments changes faster than we can learn.”

As a result, he contends that most commonly-used concepts, best practices and assumptions to plan, manage and lead, organizations are obsolete.

He refers to this “New World” as the “World After Midnight” and shares discussion and observations.

To offer a forum to discuss and advance this approach with a “continuous link between learning and implementation”, he established Pentacle (The Virtual Business School), which offers tools and courses, with an emphasis on executing strategy through project management best practices.

Obeng draws on his experience as an engineer at Royal Dutch Shell, then Professor at the School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Henley Business School, and a Council Member at the UK Design Council in his books:

Like the Silicon Valley mantra “Fail Fast” to capture relevant learning experiences, Obeng urges “Smart Failure” through multiple experiments or trials, and rapid prototyping.

-*Where have you seen “Fast Failure” aid workplace innovation?

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