Thursday, December 24, 2009

Leadershift: Five Leadership Lessons

The analysis of leadership is a topic of interest for countries, organizations and individuals. Largely discussed whether a leader is born or made, contemporary authors have analyzed the topic under a practical perspective, offering advice, and lessons learned to develop key leadership skills.

The following blog extracts five key leadership lessons from “Leadershift” a video produced by Joel Baker.

If you are interested to use a learning video to increase leadership skills in your organization, you should explore this learning resource. Below is a summary of the video.

Leadership lesson 1: Focus on the future

Joel Baker introduces the importance for 21st century leaders to focus on the future: “leaders build bridges between today and the future”. Baker explains that the difference between a leader and a follower is the breadth of responsibility to focus on the future. While a leader spend most of their time on the future, followers focus on day to day activities. According to Baker, effective 21st century leaders dedicate a significant time creating new scenarios, helping people to see links and connections with a strategy, and building bridges that connect the present with the future. Baker considers that “a leader is someone that you chose to follow to a place you would not go by yourself”. This leadership lesson challenges us to avoid routine work, and to dedicate a significant amount of our time to build future states, anticipating the unexpected and creating new conditions. By practicing this lesson, we will develop a powerful habit, and the ability to create bridges that connect the present with the future. As Baker states it, the rule is simple: if you can not see, you can not lead.

Leadership lesson 2: Understand the nature of change

21st century leaders must be open to new paradigm shifts. The video presents two cases where new ideas, brought new changes and broke existing paradigms.
The first case shows as an example the invention of the Internet. In the 80’s the Internet did not have the success that it has nowadays. It took nearly a decade to massively utilized the Internet, due business leaders did not see its potential –including Bill Gates.
The second case was the creation of solar energy by Leslie Danzinger of Lightpath Technologies of Albuquerque, new Mexico. Leslie integrated a team, and built something that was considered impossible: create a lens that had the capacity to capture solar energy in a small cell.
These two examples help us to better understand the nature of paradigm shifts. In both cases, changes are brought by people with little or no credibility, and they come before they were actually needed or expected.
Another element to consider is the need to break comfort zones. Current success may affect the possibility to see new opportunities. Multiple changes occur every day, requiring us to be open to new ideas. These changes may seem crazy in the beginning, and may be challenging comfort zones, but they may also represent our future success.

Leadership lesson 3: Appreciate complex systems and how they work

The video help us to analyze the impact of our decisions on the system as a whole. The two examples presented in the video are a bridge that collapses and the millennium bug.
These examples showed that small actions have a major, and sometimes unexpected impact. For example, in the 70’s when computers started, programmers decided to use only two digits to represent the year. The decision was made to save precious processing memory, nevertheless, no one thought on the major impact of that small decision will have in the year 2000. Computers would read 2000 as 1900 representing a major risk for organizations worldwide. Fortunately, organizations prepared emergent strategies and properly managed the issue without major consequences, nevertheless, the economic impact, and attention dedicated was significant. This lessons reveals that leaders have to think systemically; make decisions and actions with a clear understanding of the system as a whole.
Other authors also reinforce the importance of systemic thinking, Peter Senge (1990) for example, considers systems thinking as one of the five disciplines of a learning organization. He urges to see the forest and the trees “systems thinking encompasses a large and fairly amorphous body of methods, tools, and principles, all oriented to looking at the interrelatedness of forces and seeing them as part of a common process”. (p. 89).
Leaders must develop critical skills to analyze complex systems, and make informed decisions. Additionally, leaders have to anticipate, prevent and mitigate non-desired effects or consequences.

Leadership lesson 4: Leaders have a profound impact on productivity based on his/her style of leadership
What is the impact of a charismatic leader on productivity? According to Joel Baker a charismatic leader can increase their people’s productivity by more than twenty times.
The video shows what charismatic leaders do to create positive and productive work environments. Successful leaders exercise the following six strategies: enthusiasm, positive control, excitement, setting high standards, expecting the very best from their people, and sharing the decision making process.
The analysis of own leadership style is required to increase awareness of oneself and to identify the impact oo our actions on others. Furthermore, as Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey recommend with their Situational Leadership theory developed in the late 1960’s, leaders have to analyze situations, and adopt the most convenient leadership style -directing, coaching, supporting, or delegating, depending on the level of maturity of their people.

Leadership lesson 5: Leaders create a shared vision of the future
The fifth leadership lesson presented by Joel Baker reinforces the importance of a shared vision. The video presents two cases where a powerful vision helped to achieve outstanding results. The first case is the story of Delancy Street in San Francisco in 1971, where people –ex cons, create a visionary future, applying business work ethics and human values to lead a rehabilitation program and make “winners” out of a “loser” society.
The second example, is applied to the world business environment. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Build to Last examine how visionary companies obtain six times higher returns than their nonvisionary competitors. Additionally, visionary companies obtain fifteen times higher returns than the overall companies from the stock market.
A shared vision is developed collectively, and nurtures the team to achieve outstanding results. The role of a leader is create the conditions to unleash the potential, and focus staff on a collectively desired future.
A good reflection for us is to analyze how much time do we dedicate to develop a shared vision for the future. The answer will define if we are leaders or managers.

Baker, Joel. Leadershift: Five Lessons for Leaders in the 21st Century.

Senge P. (1990). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

The Blanchard and Hershey Model. Retrieved on April 11, 2006 from:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The effective implementation of multi-source feedback processes (360-degree reviews)

Multi-source feedback (360-degree review) is a useful mechanism to give feedback to an employee from multiple sources, including subordinates, peers, supervisors, as well as a self-assessment, and in some cases customers and suppliers.

Giving feedback consists of providing information about the impact of staff behavior on other people and / or the completion of a task. The importance of timely and accurate feedback is critical to increase staff performance. A quantitative study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council (2002) revealed that fairness and accuracy of informal feedback increase staff performance by 39.1%. The same study revealed that the presence of 360-degree review (multi-source feedback) increases individual performance by 8.1%.

Multi-source feedback was initially instrumented for development purposes to increase the cognitive process of self-reflection among participants, and increase self-awareness. As multi-source feedback evolved, it has been linked to performance.

Bracken, Timmreck, & Church (2001) traced back the origins of multi-source feedback processes to the beginning of the 20 century when psychologists started exploring new methods for measuring performance and selecting employees. In the foreword of the textbook, David Campbell explains how MSF processes were implemented in organizations. The following paragraphs provide a brief synopsis.

In 1922 Walter Dill Scott, the director of the Committee on Classification of Personnel in the US Army, invented the man-to-man comparative scale to replace the traditional seniority system with a merit-based system. He started using the man-to-man comparison scale to measure and reward individual performance. Further improvements to this method included the use of “behaviorgrams” to better anchor evaluation scales.

Years later, the evaluations for supervisors included new dimensions such as personality, originality, leadership, organizational ability, cooperativeness, ability to develop workers, and technical ability. After the war, the application of standardized tests was commonly used by organizations to measure intelligence, mathematical and mechanical abilities, personal inventories and career surveys. These tests were scored by hand and results were only provided to organizations, never to individuals.

A study conducted with Marine officers in 1947 revealed that peer ratings were more accurate that several objective tests. Furthermore, peer ratings were more valid predictors of future performance than supervisor ratings. The critical incident technique developed by Flanagan was particularly useful because described examples of effective and ineffective job performance

In the 1960’s the National Computer Systems (NCS) automated the processing of psychological assessments. Despite the increased use of psychological assessments with the automation process, people’s resistance also increased because the tests included discriminating questions and were continuing being used unilaterally by organizations.

The Peace Corps, a government initiative created by President John F. Kennedy implemented the use of psychological tests, based on the premise that a better understanding of themselves would help individuals adapt to cultural change. This was the first time that results were provided to individuals.

In 1970 Robert Dorn who worked in the Peace Corps leadership training joined the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and introduced the practice of providing results of the assessment to the individual. Years later, Robert Bailey an economist that worked for Dorn, had the idea of including others in the assessment process and initiated the multi-source assessment process.

Multi-source feedback: Current trends
Research conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council (2006) revealed that over 80% of their member organizations use multi-source feedback. Moreover, 90% of Fortune 1000 companies use multi-source feedback. The frequency reported by organizations varies: nearly two-thirds of 56 surveyed organizations conduct once a year reviews or every two years, 31 percent of organizations apply multi-source feedback as needed, and 25 percent of organizations offer these reviews every other year.

Common applications
Most of organizations use multi-source feedback for development purposes mainly, however, some organizations use them for measuring performance as well. Most common applications are the following:
* Upward Feedback. Some organizations use multi-source feedback to assess their leaders’ strengths and identify development opportunities. Additionally, the process can detect organization-wide problems, and measure the alignment of leaders with key organizational priorities. The CLC reinforces the importance of using 360-degree reviews for leaders. CLC’s research “Voice of the Leader” (2001) reveals that companies with stronger leadership benches are four times more likely to outperform their industry peers in revenue growth over a 36-month period.
­* Development of staff. According to the CLC (2006) nearly 70% of organizations use multi-source feedback for development purposes only. The CLC suggests to concentrate on qualitative feedback on competencies and behavioral attributes.
* Succession planning. Some organizations use 360-degree reviews to identify employees with the necessary attributes to fulfill future leadership roles (high potential employees). In addition, these organizations target leadership development programs around their key talent to prepare them for future leadership positions.
­* Review staff performance. The review of staff performance should concentrate in at least two elements: the measurement of tangible results in terms of outputs and outcomes, and the actions that led to those results measured with multi-source feedback. The use of competencies with behaviors provides clarity of required performance criteria, allowing a consistent and transparent evaluation process.
* Compensation. Literature research indicates that few organizations use multi-source feedback for compensation decisions (salary increases and bonuses) because of potentially biased ratings. Additionally, when multi-source feedback is linked to compensation decisions, feedback provided loses its power as a developmental tool.

Multi-source feedback provides a comprehensive insight into facets of employee performance and behavior by compiling feedback from multiple perspectives, and enhancing individuals’ understanding of how their colleagues perceive them and their work. Among the most important benefits are the following:
* Align performance with strategy. Competencies should be aligned with the organization’s mission and priorities. Furthermore defined behaviours should focus staff on specific results required for achieving current and future organizational goals.
* Increase transparency in the review process. The use of multiple feedback sources increases validity and acceptance from staff on the findings of the evaluation process. Additionally, the information includes valuable and complementary perspectives, for example, supervisors tend to base feedback on bottom line results and technical competence, while direct reports value factors such as their supervisor’s commitment to their development, and peers tend to focus on technical competence, teamwork, and collaboration.
* Reinforce desirable behaviors. The standardization of behaviors and competencies throughout the organization brings all employees to the same standard and allows them to focus on developing only essential skills.
* Identify and develop key talent. Multi-source feedback provides a transparent mechanism to identify staff with attributes and competencies necessary to fulfill key positions. In addition, the information helps to articulate targeted training and development programs to increase staff’s strengths.

Key Success Factors for Implementation
Many organizations fail to administer multi-source feedback effectively because they ignore essential supportive components such as proper alignment with strategy, linking feedback to training, and being aware of the influence of rater bias.

The effective implementation of multi-source feedback requires a proper alignment with the organizational goals, preparatory actions and follow-up support. The following four actions should be taken into consideration:

1) Increase alignment with the organizational priorities and objectives: Competencies and behaviors measured with multi-source feedback processes must be linked to business objectives, facilitate organizational strategy, and/or cultivate leadership characteristics
2) Eliminate biases by selecting raters that are familiar with the employee
3) Ensure a shared understanding of rating standards and criteria to prevent confusion among raters and prevent error. Raters should receive preparatory training to ensure a proper understanding of competencies, rating criteria and typical rating errors
4) Support employees during and after the process with coaching or mentoring activities to facilitate full understanding of the process, deal with strong emotions that may occur, and prioritize learning actions.

Bracken, D., Timmreck, C., and Church, A. (2001) emphasized the importance of enhancing rating ability and motivation to improve rating performance. The authors included a list of seventeen specific recommendations grouped in three categories: planning and development, implementation, and rater training.

The value of multi-source feedback is accurate feedback, therefore the 17 listed recommendations are a valuable checklist. Among other, the actions included a 2-3 hours of preparatory training to ensure a proper understanding of the multi-source feedback process, its objectives, competencies and behaviors, rating criteria, number and selection of raters, management commitments and allocated resources to improve on specific areas. Preparatory training is critical to help raters understand and avoid typical rating errors, such as leniency, harshness, central tendency, and halo error, ensuring a consistent criteria between raters.

Multi-Rater Feedback Processes in Development Institutions

In March 2007 an online survey was sent to 21 international organizations to identify multi-source feedback experiences and best practices. 10 organizations (48%) submitted responses. 7 of the 10 organizations reported using multi-rater feedback processes. Key findings are summarized below:
Surveyed organizations reported strengthening supervisory skills as the main objective for their multi-source feedback process. The second most common application reported was staff development/training.
* Managers and supervisors are the most frequent recipients.
­* Most organizations conduct multi-rater feedback processes on an as-needed basis.
* The majority of the organizations rely on customized multi-rater feedback processes.
­* Six of the seven organizations that reported using multi-source feedback incorporate competencies, typically 6-10 competencies.
­* All the organizations that reported using competencies include leadership competencies. They reported that the best sources of feedback for assessing leadership competencies are supervisors and subordinates.
­* Five of the six organizations (83%) that use competencies utilize interpersonal competencies. Survey results revealed that subordinates and supervisors are the best sources of feedback for interpersonal competencies.
­* Three of the six organizations (50%) using competencies include technical competencies. They reported that the best source for feedback are supervisors, followed by internal and/or external clients.

Activities reported to ensure an effective implementation
* The international organizations surveyed reported three activities to support the implementation of multi-source feedback processes: 1) the involvement of the employee’s supervisor, 2) training and learning resources, and 3) the use of external consultants as coaches.
* In addition, most of these organizations provide training sessions to explain the results to feedback recipients, following the application of a multi-source feedback process.
* Most organizations reported that targeted communication/training was critical to increase understanding and acceptance.
* To ensure an effective implementation, organizations reported starting the implementation with a top-down strategy. Additionally, organizations reported the need to assign a dedicated group to manage the implementation. The organizations also rely on technology providers to facilitate information gathering and report generation.

* Bracken, D., Timmreck, C., and Church, A. (2001). The handbook of Multisource Feedback: The comprehensive resource for designing and implementing MSF processes”, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.
* Corporate Leadership Council. (2006). Considerations for implementing 360-degree reviews: secondary research findings, Washington, DC: Corporate Executive Board.
* Corporate Leadership Council. (2003). Trends in 360-degree reviews: literature key findings, Washington, DC: Corporate Executive Board.
* Corporate Leadership Council. (2001). “Voice of the Leader”, Washington, DC: Corporate Executive Board.
* Corporate Leadership Council. (2002). “Building the High-Performance Workforce: A Quantitative analysis of the Effectiveness of Performance Management Strategies”, Washington, DC: Corporate Executive Board.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Learning from Einstein: Teachable lessons using the constructivism learning theory

Albert Einstein is synonymous with creativity and genius. His research opened ground to new discoveries in physics, overthrowing classical Newtonian concepts and providing solid basis for the understanding of space, time, energy, matter, and light. Einstein is considered the most important scientific person of the 21st century. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Einstein died at the age of 76 in April 18, 1955 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Einstein’s personal life

Albert Einstein was born in March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany. He was the son of Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch. Einstein had a sister named Maja, who eventually became his most intimate soul mate. Since early childhood, Einstein demonstrated his uniqueness personality. He started talking late –at about 3 years old. His parents were concerned of a possible deficiency. He was a shy boy that preferred to play alone; he was trying to find answers to his never ending questions. He enjoyed solving puzzles and building large buildings with cards. Thanks to his mother -who played the piano, Einstein received violin classes. This may have increased his mathematical skills. When he was 16, he imagined traveling along with a beam of light; later this vision helped him articulate his famous theory of relativity.

Einstein was a non- conformant individual who challenged authority and eventually became an authority himself

Albert Einstein was non-conformant individual who challenged authority, conventional wisdom, and all types of dogmas. When he was studying at the Zurich Polytechnic in Switzerland had trouble relating with his professors because, despite his superior abilities in physics, his teachers never approved his unconventional approaches. As a consequence, he did not get a job as assistant professor, although he was constantly looking to get one. Those years were not easy for Einstein; he was making very few money and was desperate –he survived by teaching private classes of physics and math. He even thought of drastic measures -such as quitting his scientific career and getting a “practical” job in a company. Thanks to one of his few, long-life friends -Marcel Grossman, whose father extended a recommendation, Einstein got a job as a third class examiner in a patent office.

A genius working with inventors

The work at the patent office fitted his personality; he analyzed inventions and selected those with potential for commercialization. Einstein saw how these brilliant people were incapable to describe their products. Einstein helped them writing the characteristics of their inventions and at the same time, was honing his abilities to simplify things. The years at the patent office were the most productive for Albert Einstein, he produced four papers considered the most important work of his life: - on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, the special theory of relativity, and equivalence of matter and energy (E=mc2). In addition he obtained his Ph.D., an accomplishment that helped him get a promotion from a third grade to a second grade patent examiner.

In his years at the University, Einstein got madly in love with Mileva Maric, a Serbian -and the only woman in his physics class. They had an illegitimate daughter -named Lieserl –that probably died or was given in adoption. Later they married and had two sons: Hans Albert and Eduard. Mileva was never accepted by Einstein’s mother, Pauline, and finally they got divorced. Later in 1919, Einstein married his cousin Elsa Löwenthal with whom he lived until her death in 1936. Einstein had an aloof personality. Notwithstanding, his detached relationships with others –including his sons, Einstein had the capacity to empathize and nurture long life relationships.

Against all odds, Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics

Einstein was nominated 10 times for the Nobel Prize in Physics but for some reason, his nomination was continuously rejected. His revolutionary theories were difficult to be tested at the time, and the Nobel Prize commission did not want to provide him the famous prize -fearing of making a mistake. In 1919 the British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington decided to test his relativity theory. Eddington´s expeditions took pictures of the solar eclipse from two places: Brazil and Principe, an island in Africa. Eddington proved Einstein´s theory that light “bends” but later critics declared the method inaccurate and Einstein was not awarded. Finally, in 1921 after so much pressure from renowned physics, Einstein was awarded in 1921 the Nobel Prize in Physics, not for his relativity theory, but "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect."
At that time Einstein was worldwide famous. He later moved to America where he lived until his death in 1955. In 1939 Leo Szilárd an Hungarian émigré approached Einstein to get his support to develop an atomic bomb. Fearing that Germany win the race to develop the bomb, Einstein wrote a letter to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and in 1942 the US started the Manhattan Project with the mission to develop the bomb. Einstein did not work in the Manhattan Project, although the bomb was developed under the basis of his famous paper “Equivalence of matter and energy (E=mc2)”

The creative mind of a genius

On April 17, 1955 Albert Einstein died by the rupture of an
abdominal aortic aneurysm. After his death, the analysis of his brain did not revealed significant differences from other brains. The difference was his mind, and creativity was the basis for his genius. Einstein considered that freedom was the lifeblood of creativity. “The development of science and of the creative activities of the mind requires of freedom of the spirit: the independence of thought from the restriction of authoritarian and social prejudice. Nurturing that, should be the fundamental role of government and the mission of education”.

What teachable lessons can we learn from Albert Einstein?

The analysis of Einstein as an OD practitioner allows the exploration of the mental models and behaviors of a non-conformant genius that broke physics paradigms and challenged conventional wisdom. Einstein is the symbol for creativity and learning. The basis for his genius was his capacity to make the connection of complex things in his mind and provide a simple, yet profound explanation.
“Life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance, you must keep moving”
I am a firm advocate of the constructivism learning theory and I strongly believe that the development of key competencies and behaviors leads to the integral transformation of individuals.

Einstein exercised the principles of the
constructivism learning theory. This theory states that people gain knowledge and meaning from experiences, following an internal reflection process. This theory places the responsibility of learning on the individual and his ability to interact with other knowledgeable members. In his young years when he was working at the Patent Office, Einstein started “The Olympia Academy” that consisted of weekly meetings with his friends to discuss philosophy and physics. The Olympia Academy was the social media tool that he used to increase his learning.

Einstein placed special importance to creativity: “creativity requires being willing not to conform, and nurturing free minds and free spirits, which in turn requires a spirit of tolerance. The underpinning of tolerance is humility: the belief that no one has the right to impose ideas or beliefs on others”.

In one of his trips to America he was asked one of the famous questions from the test that
Thomas Alva Edison used to apply to his employees. What is the speed of sound? Einstein was asked. He replied: “I do not know it offhand” “I do not carry information in my mind that is ready available in books”. He explained that the value of a college education was to train the mind to think.

What are we doing as parents, educators, government officials, and leaders in organizations to foster creativity and innovation?

As Einstein said, “creativity is more important than knowledge”.

· Brian. D,
Einstein: A Life, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1996. NY
· Isaacson. W (performed by Hermann E.),
Einstein: His life and Universe, Unabridged Books, 2007, Frederick, MD.
· Robinson, A.,
Einstein: A hundred years of relativity, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005, NY.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

OD Models to Support the Transformational Change Process

This literature review examines various OD methodologies to select the most appropriate given the characteristics of the change process, the organization’s culture, and the strengths and areas of opportunity identified. The analysis reviews different OD models and tools for the entire OD process, starting with the entry and contracting phase, to continue with the organizational diagnosis phase, later, the selection of the OD intervention, and lastly the evaluation of impact and results phase.

Organizational development
OD aims at improving the results at the organization, group and individual levels. Robbins (2003), states that OD should increase performance at organizational and individual levels “OD… it’s a term used to encompass a collection of planned-change interventions built on humanistic-democratic values that seek to improve organizational effectiveness and employee well being” (p. 566).

French and Bell (1999), provide a more comprehensive definition that includes the role of top management, and the use of applied behavioral science methodologies and tools to improve the organization’s ability to visioning, empowering, learning and solving problems. “Organizational development is a long-term effort, led and supported by top management, to improve an organization’s visioning, empowerment, learning, and problem-solving processes, through an ongoing, collaborative management of organizational culture –with special emphasis on the culture of intact work teams and other team configurations –using the consultant-facilitator role and the theory and technology of applied behavioral science, including action research” (p. 25-26).

Another important consideration when implementing OD interventions is to attend two important, yet complementary perspectives: the task and the process. French and Bell examine three different models for managing OD interventions: Burke’s seven phase model which includes activities for the entry, contracting, and diagnosis, feedback, planning change, intervention, and evaluation phases.

Cummins and Worley emphasize the identification of key ingredients of successful change efforts, and describe a five phases model to effectively managing change processes “1) motivating change, 2) creating a vision, 3) developing political support, 4) managing the transition, and 5) sustaining momentum. Lastly, the authors analyzed the change management handbook developed by Berger, Sikora, and Berger for better aligning the organization’s socio-technical elements. The authors consider the process of managing change as the continuous alignment of the organization with the market to be more effective than competitors: “Aligning is the continuous synchronization of four key management levers –strategy, operations, culture, and reward” (p. 124).

Entry and contracting
Any OD intervention should clearly define the intervention’s goals, scope, and main expectations of key stakeholders. Lippitt and Lippitt (1986) describe six phases to effectively manage the entry and contracting phase in a consultant-client working relationship; “1) Engaging in initial contact and entry, 2) formulating a contract and establishing a helping relationship, 3) Identifying problems through diagnostic analysis, 4) setting goals and planning for action, 5) taking action and cycling feedback, and 6) competing the contract (continuity, support, and termination)” (p.11). Instead of offering a step-by step process,

French and Bell (1999) emphasize that contracting is repetitive, continually renewable, and should cover the psychological and financial aspects. Moreover, the authors suggest clarifying and agreeing on the intervention’s conditions, ground rules, deliverables, and price. Additionally, to ensure a successful consultant-client relationship, the authors suggest paying particular attention to trust issues, and five ethical dilemmas: “(1) Misrepresentation and collusion, (2) misuse of data, (3) manipulation and coercion, (4) value and goal conflicts, and (5) technical ineptness”. (p. 266). The analysis of information suggests paying special attention to the clarification of goals, and expectation in any OD intervention, furthermore, given the high visibility of the client, and the recent public scandals, any consultant-client relationship must address trust issues and ethical dilemmas.

Organizational diagnosis and assessment
Literature suggests identifying the most appropriate models and tools to conduct the organizational diagnosis and assessment. Harrison and Shirom (1999) propose the use of the sharp-image diagnosis to examine the organization as a whole, and later focusing on specific areas or issues. “…practitioners of sharp-image diagnosis start with a broad scan of an organization but then select core problems and organizational challenges for a close up examination” (p. 18).

Additionally, the authors emphasize on the need to use the open systems (OS) framework to guide the initial phases of the organizational diagnosis, and then move to a specific areas of analysis. The OS frame which includes various components -inputs, outputs, systems processing, the environment, structure, culture, and systems dynamics, may be applied at organization, group and individual levels. “The OS framework can help practitioners of diagnosis develop a broad overview of the focal organization and its challenges” (p. 48). Furthermore, Harrison and Shirom (1999) encourage the need to conduct targeted assessments to further findings of the organizational diagnosis. “…the term assessment refers to more narrowly focused examinations, whereas diagnosis is reserved for the preliminary stage of diagnosing basic problems and challenges” (p. 183).

OD interventions
An articulated OD intervention should address key issues identified during the diagnosis phase, and should be consistent with the organization’s culture and objectives. Schein (1992) sustains that the analysis of organizational culture is a prerequisite to implement successful OD interventions “Organizational learning, development, and planned change cannot be understood without considering culture as the primary source of resistance to change” (p.xiv).

Moreover, Schein emphasizes that planned change processes must be managed by the top, highlighting the attention of power issues, and the management of the organizational subcultures. “Much of the work of organizational development practitioners deals with knitting together diverse and sometimes warring subcultures, helping leaders, the dominant coalition, or the whole managerial subculture client figure out how to integrate constructively the multiple agendas of different groups” (p. 316). Additionally, the author mentions that leaders play an important role to embed their assumptions on a work group, and therefore in the creation of a new culture. He sustains that in mature organizations, people start reflecting on what has worked in the past instead of the primary agenda of the leader.

Furthermore, to effectively manage a cultural change, Schein suggests working on six mechanisms to embed the leader’s assumptions on the organizational culture. These six elements are: 1) the areas where leaders pay attention to and reward, 2) how the leader allocate resources, 3) the modeling behavior, 4) how the leader deals with critical incidents, 5) the criteria the leader use for recruitment, selection, promotion, and 6) the way a leader communicates.

Additionally, and contrary to common organizational practices, Schein suggests to focus on secondary mechanisms to reinforce the desired culture, among them the following: 1) the organization design, and structure, 2) the organizational systems and procedures, 3) the organizational rites and rituals, 4) the design of physical space, facades, 5) the stories, legends, and myths about people and events, and 6) the formal statements of organizational philosophy, values, and creed. Additionally, to the understanding of organizational culture, OD interventions should use specific OD models and tools to manage resistance, engage key stakeholders, and develop internal capabilities.

Bridges (1991, 2003) provides useful advice to manage the period of uncertainty in any change process. He advocates the management of the transition process, the “three-phased process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about” (p. 3). Strebel (1996) considers that most change initiatives lack the attention of personal compacts: the reciprocal obligations and commitments made by employees and organizations.

The author classify personal compacts in three dimensions: formal dimension, which relates to the understanding of new functions and responsibilities, the psychological dimension, which addresses elements of mutual expectation and reciprocal commitment, and the social dimension which relates to the alignment of stated values and mission and the company’s practices and management’s attitudes towards them.

Literature analysis for OD interventions at organizational and group levels, also indicate the need to implement a collaborative and participative approach. French & Bell (1999) examine large scale, group, and individual OD interventions, emphasizing that confrontation meeting and strategic management activities are better suited for management groups, while future search conferences are better suited for a wide spectrum of organizational stakeholders.

Additionally, French and Bell advocate the appreciative inquiry (AI) method to focus on the strengths of the organization and future things that are valued by its members. Furthermore, Hammond (1996) promotes the use of AI to look into the future while accentuating positive aspects of the organization, “Appreciative inquiry suggests that we look for what works in an organization. The tangible results of the inquiry process are a series of statements that describes where the organization wants to be, based on the high moments of where they have been. Statements are grounded in real experience and history, people know how to repeat their success” (p.7).

AI uses a summit to engage participants in a collaborative process to discover what the organization has done to be successful in the past; subsequently participants collectively dream about the new future, and later design the specific strategies and objectives to achieve the organization’s destiny.

Additionally, AI helps to gain the commitment of people to advance the implementation phase, “Through a workshop format, the participants stir up memories of energizing moments of success creating a new energy that is positive and synergistic. Participants walk away with a sense of commitment, confidence, and affirmation that they have been successful” (p.7) Marquardt (1999) propose action learning, a methodology to find practical solutions for problems, while enhancing the team’s ability to learn. “Simply described, action learning is both a process and a powerful program that involves a small group of people solving real problems while at the same time focusing on what they are learning and how their learning can benefit each group member and the organization as a whole” (p. 4)

Contrary to the collective and provocative AI method, Kotter & Cohen (2002) advocate a 8 step methodology to manage organizational change: “Increase urgency, build the guiding team, get the vision right, communicate for buy-in, empower action, create short term wins, don’t let up, make changes stick” (p. 7).

Senge (1990) promotes a systemic and interrelated approach to manage change in organizations, while transforming them into learning organizations. Senge explains that organizations face learning disabilities that affect their capacity to continually learn, and transform. These learning disabilities result in lack of flexibility to adapt to new demands, incompetence to critically analyze internal performance, failure to correct behavior, and ineffectiveness to implement deep and sustained changes. To correct those learning disabilities, Senge proposes the use and practice of five disciplines: personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning, and systems thinking. According to Senge (1990) a learning organization is “an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future” (p. 14). Furthermore, Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross & Smith (1992) provide practical examples and case studies to guide companies in their transformation to learning organizations.

Another important element for consideration in the implementation of OD interventions is the definition of a dedicated team to work full time in the implementation with specific roles, and objectives. Moss Kanter, Stein & Jick (1992), define three key roles in a change intervention: a) the strategist, a role reserved for visionary leaders, whose main function is to identify the need for change and create the conditions to make it happen, b) the change implementer who will develop the required strategies and plans to execute change initiatives, manage resistances and make changes happen, and c) the role of change recipients that represent the vast variety of individuals that must adapt and adopt new changes. As literature suggests OD interventions vary from a large-scale, group, and individual approaches.

Therefore, any change intervention should employ a combination of OD models and tools best suited for the culture of the organization, the characteristics of the change process, and past experiences. Additionally, the intervention should pay attention to the psychological and emotional elements that people go through as they internalize the change process. Furthermore, the use of Kotter & Cohen’s 8 step change management process model will provide an effective framework to target deliberate change efforts to effectively alter individual, group and organizational performance.

Measuring results and impact of OD interventions
Processes utilized for measuring results and impact of OD interventions range from the analysis of qualitative elements such as the adherence to a company’s policies and processes, to more elaborated approaches, such as cost-benefits analysis, and the use of quantitative and qualitative metrics, balanced scorecards, and sophisticated models to determine the return of investment.

Herman, and Renz (1998) examine approaches used by nonprofit organizations to measure their results. They identified the adherence to policies and procedures to measure the achievement of the nonprofit organization’s outcomes. “Institutional theory predicts that when outcomes are difficult to measure, organizations are likely to emphasize following approved procedures to achieve or maintain their legitimacy (p. 29). The authors conducted a study to determine the relationship between board effectiveness and organizational effectiveness. Among the effectiveness measures cited by senior executives of nonprofit organizations were the following: its mission statement, the use of a form to measure client satisfaction, organization’s planning documents, the use of a performance appraisal form, by-laws containing a statement of purpose, etc.

Sawhill, J. & Williamson D. (2001) reviewed the model for measuring performance in the nature conservancy consisting of three broad areas: impact, activity and capacity. The authors conclude the importance of strategic alignment for the nature conservancy “An integrated system of performance measures is no substitute for a compelling mission, uplifting vision, clear goals, and innovative strategies. It would be a serious error to imagine that a nonprofit can develop effective measures in the absence of strategic alignment” (p. 385)

Berry, Fisk, and Zimmerman (1997) suggest the use of a more objective measurement approach to identify the value of a defined program and make a decision: a cost-benefits analysis. “Cost-benefit analysis consists of three steps: calculate costs, calculate benefits, and compare results….In short, cost-benefits analysis helps trainers and managers decide what to do..” (p. 143).

Kaplan and Norton D. (1996) propose the use of quantitative and qualitative elements in the evaluation process. They advocate the use of the balanced scorecard to translate strategy into action. The authors state that the balanced scorecard is a management system to channel the energies, abilities, and specific knowledge held by people throughout the organization toward achieving long-term strategic goals. Furthermore, Kaplan (2001) reveals that nonprofit organizations lack financial measures to track their performance.

After an elaborated literature review on the topic, Kaplan recommends the use of balanced scorecard for managing nonprofit organizations “Thus, the literature concurs with the need to articulate a multidimensional framework for measuring and managing nonprofit effectiveness. This scorecard would seem to provide just such a framework”. (p. 357).

Additionally, Kaplan emphasizes the importance of aligning strategy with performance measurement “Strategy and performance measurement should focus on what output and outcomes the organization intends to achieve, not what programs and initiatives are being implemented” (p. 357). He sustains that the use of the balanced scorecard in nonprofit organizations helps align staff’s day-to-day activities with the organization’s mission and key initiatives “The balanced scorecard has enabled the nonprofit organizations to bridge the gap between vague mission and strategy statements and day-to-day operational actions” (p.369) The model uses 4 key perspectives with specific objectives, metrics, targets, and initiatives.

The financial perspective includes examples applicable to nonprofit organizations, such as net amount of funds raised, or the improvement in net asset and liquidity to support new service development. The customer perspective includes satisfaction and retention of clients, and market growth. The learning and growth perspective has objectives and metrics to improve training, career development, and employee retention. The internal perspective contains research and development activities to support the achievement of the organization’s mission, and to improve client satisfaction and retention.

Following the line of sophisticated measurement systems, Phillips (1994) declares that although top management requires more sophisticated calculations such as return of investment (ROI), only a few programs should be measured using ROI because of complexity of the evaluation. “In the ROI formula the costs of a program are subtracted from the total benefits to produce the net benefits, which are then divided by the costs” (p. 12). Additionally, the author sustains that OD programs are among the most difficult HRD programs to evaluate, because the several factors included.

Berry, K., Fisk, C.& Zimmerman, P. (1997). How to Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis. ASTD (9007), 143-158.
Bridges, W., (1991, 2003). Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Cooperrider, D. & Whitney, D. (2005). Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishing Inc.
French, W., & Bell, C. (1999). Organization development: Behavioral science interventions for organization improvement. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Hammond, S. A. (1998). Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry (2nd edition). Thin Book Publishing Co.
Harrison, M.I. & Shirom, A. (1999) Organizational Diagnosis and Assessment: Bridging Theory and Practice, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Harvard Business Review. (1996), Harvard Business Review on Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review School Press.
Kaplan, R.S. (Spring, 2001). Strategic performance measurement and management in nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, (11) 3, 353-370.
Kaplan, R.S. & Norton, D. P. (1996), The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action, Harvard Business School Publishing.
Sawhill, J.C. & Williamson, D. (Spring, 2001). Mission impossible? Measuring success in nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, (11) 3, 371-386.
Kotter, J. & Cohen, D., (2002), The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change their Organizations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Marquardt, M. Action Learning in Action: Transforming Problems and people for World-Class Organizational Learning. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing.
Moss Kanter, R, Stein B. & Jick T., (1992). The Challenge of Organizational Change: How Companies Experience it and Leaders Guide It. New York: Free Press. Phillips, J. (1994), In Action: Measuring Return on Investment. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).
Robbins, S. (2003), Organizational Behavior (10th, Ed.). Patparganj, Delhi, India: Pearson Education (Singapore) Pte.Ltd.
Schein, E. (1992), Organizational Culture and Leadership (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Senge P. (1990). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.
Senge P, Kleiner A., Roberts C., Ross R., & Smith B. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to survive and thrive in a matrix management organizational structure?

In an effort to succeed and thrive in an increasingly competitive global business environment, organizations commonly make changes to their organizational structures, making them flatter, customer-driven, and product-centered. Several organizations have implemented a matrix management approach to leverage economies of scale, increase product development capabilities, and augment customer satisfaction levels (Corporate Leadership Council [CLC], 2002). The CLC emphasizes that matrix organizations combine functional and product expertise to keep pace with short product development cycles. The CLC also indicates the strategies employed by organizations to successfully implement a matrix management reporting relationship. These include a common understanding of the company vision and strategy, formalizing reporting relationships, managing matrix issues upfront, and aligning functionally.

Additionally, the CLC identified that strong communication skills, teamwork, adaptability, and shared goal and rewards systems play a critical role for the success of matrix management.
Kochansky and Donnolo (2005) note experiences gained from organizations like GM in the use of matrix organizational structures, and offers valuable suggestions to making them more effective by including a clear definition of roles, development of key competencies such as collaboration and teamwork, the development of supervisors within the structure, and a redefinition of the company’s operational model.

Despite the benefits reported by some organizations with the use of matrix organization structures, the CLC (2002) also notes that organizations frequently abandon this organizational arrangement because of two main reasons: duplication of efforts and inefficiencies. Other important issues reported by the CLC around matrix management are the lack of accountability, and frequent conflicts over allocation of resources and division of authority.

As literature indicates, the use of a matrix organizational structure may provide important benefits to global organizations; however, its implementation requires new organizational arrangements, and increased focus on measurable results, giving up power, and the development of new competencies such as teamwork and collaboration.

Corporate Leadership Council. (2002). Matrix management (CLC1UR1UD): Fact brief, Corporate Executive Board, Washington, DC.
Kochansky, J. & Donnolo, M. (2005). Enter the matrix GM: The general manager for today’s markets. Sibson Consulting. Retrieved on October 5, 2006 from:,b1vhTtNh,ww

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Future employability: The business case for competencies

The world is moving and evolving. Global competition, technological changes, leaner production cycles, and younger generations are driving change and innovation in the workplace. Product development cycles are being constantly shortened, bringing new products and services cheaper, faster, and with higher quality.

Despite the significant progress and advancement in all fields, the business environment faces major challenges: ethical issues are on the rise, resulting in crisis of the human, financial, and social systems. The world’s natural resources are gradually diminishing, and most countries struggle to improve democracy, and reduce poverty and inequalities.

Are the labor markets easily adapting to the current business environment?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. There is a lack of talent to respond to current and future business needs. Governments and organizations make a great effort to maintain a competent workforce but the labor markets fall behind. Leading organizations have understood the importance of having a competent workforce, and heavily invest in training and education, but even those organizations struggle to develop and maintain key competencies for their staff.

The 2008 ASTD’s State of the Industry report revealed that organizations are incorporating important efficiency gains, technology innovations, and maintain a sustained financial support to the workplace learning and performance function. The average direct learning expenditure per employee increased from $1,040 in 2006 to $1,103 in 2007, and the average number of training hours per employee increased from 35.1 in 2006 to 37.4 in 2007.

Furthermore, benchmarking organizations –a group of large Fortune 500 companies and public sector organizations, increased their proportion of their payroll to learning and performance activities, augmenting from 2.20 percent in 2006 to 2.70 percent in 2007. Despite the financial commitment and support, the education and training efforts prove to be ineffective to keep the pace with technology and process innovations.

Lack of preparation and obsolescence is present, and gradually restrains the organizations’ capability to change and renew. How to change this equation? Without any doubt governments, organizations, and individuals have to find new mechanisms to accelerate the adoption of new and critical competencies, fostering a culture for lifelong learning and performance; where individuals take an active role for increasing not only the skills required for today’s work, but also maximizing their ability to learn, to adapt to new situations, and to renew their personal, interpersonal, and technical competencies in order to achieve higher levels of performance and future employability.

Achieving employability by developing competencies

Individuals and organizations have gradually replaced the traditional paradigm of employment –especially new generations; instead of looking for a solid and stable place to work, young individuals focus on work that expose them to challenging work experiences and key learning that guarantee their future employability.

The new paradigm of employment relates job security with the acquisition of new competencies. The term employability aspires to create the conditions where people have the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to have a decent work that provides income to cover basic needs. Employability will ensure that individuals keep up with the accelerated pace of change and innovation.

Rather than focusing on acquiring tacit knowledge or narrowed skills, the competency approach shift the gear toward a more holistic and multidimensional model that effectively link personal, interpersonal, and technical skills to produce higher levels of performance.

Simply described, competencies are the combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities that when effectively applied, produce a successful performance in a defined function or activity. Competencies are observable, measurable, and can be developed to reinforce competitive advantages and future performance.

Dubois, D. & Rothwell, W. (2004) define competencies as the multi-dimensional characteristics linked to the desired level of performance “Competencies.. are the characteristics that individuals have and use in appropriate, consistent ways in order to achieve desired performance. These characteristics include knowledge, skills, aspects of self-image, social motives, traits, though patterns, mind-sets, and ways of thinking, feeling, and acting”. (p.16).

Mulder’s definition of competency (Brockmann, M. 2008) expands the term capability to the personal, interpersonal, functional, and organizational arenas: “Competence is the capability of a person or an organization to reach specific achievements. Personal competencies comprise: integrated performance-oriented capabilities, which consist of clusters of knowledge structures and also cognitive, interactive, affective and where necessary psychomotor capabilities, and attitudes and values, which are conditional for carrying out tasks, solving problems and more generally, effectively functioning in a certain profession, organization, position or role” (p.564)

The competency approach includes a multi-dimensional analysis at the individual, interpersonal, role, and industry levels; analyzing both, the competencies required to successfully perform on today’s environment, and also the competencies requires to successfully perform in the future.

The exercise requires visioning and anticipation; furthermore, it requires an active role of employees in the learning process. For example if a teacher sees his/her work as the process to transfer knowledge to students, the objective will be to be an effective, energetic and motivational speaker. Nonetheless, when we analyze this function in the future, probably there will not be teachers anymore, students will be learning by themselves from a wide variety of sources of information, changing the role from recipients to active learners. The functions and required competencies are completely different.

This example is a reality in today’s learning arena, where students are active learners and teachers are knowledge facilitators, whose main function is helping students learn, find solutions to problems, successfully adapt to changes, and effectively respond to unexpected situations.

Competencies are expressed in behaviors. For Green (1999) a behavior can be observed, described and measured. Dubois, D. & Rothwell, W. (2004) defined the term behavior as an observable and purposeful action: “A behavior is an observable action that is taken to achieve results or that contribute to an accomplishment” (p. 20).

When competencies are described in specific behaviors, they can be measured, allowing the identification of strengths and gaps at the individual, group, and organizational levels. If the process for measuring competencies is reliable and transparent, the information may support critical acquire/buy decisions to reinforce the organization’s competitive advantages.

Furthermore, when competencies are integrated into the human resources management processes –workforce planning, recruitment, selection, integration, onboarding, performance management, learning and development, compensation, succession planning, leadership development, etc., there’s a better connection and alignment of the organization’s strategy and objectives with day-to-day work performed by staff.

A study prepared by the Corporate Leadership Council (2006) demonstrated the link of competencies with business results. The study revealed that the top 20 organizations –measured in financial terms, had leadership competencies; furthermore, most of those organizations reported having aligned those competencies with key HR processes, such as succession planning, training and development, performance management, and long-term and short-term incentives. From the remaining companies, 73% reported having leadership competencies, and a fewer percentage reported the alignment of those competencies with key HR processes.

2008 ASTD State of the Industry Report. (November 2008). American Society for Training and Development. USA
Brockmann Michaela, Clarke Linda & Winch Christopher (2008). Knowledge, skills, competence: European divergences in vocational education and training (VET): The English, German and Dutch cases. Oxford Review of Education, vol. 34, n° 5, p. 547–567.
Corporate Leadership Council. (February 2006). Literature Key Findings: Transitioning to a Competency-based workforce. Washington, DC: Corporate Leadership Council. Dubois, D. & Rothwell, W. (2004).
Competency-Based Human Resources Management. Palo Alto, CA: Davies Black Publishing.
Green, P. (1999). Building Robust Competencies: Linking human resource systems to organizational strategies. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The five elements to foster leadership

What is required to provoke and sustain organizational development in an increasingly complex and challenging environment? Organizations are trying a wide variety of formulas to succeed, such as the diversification of products and markets, outsourcing, business process reengineering, the strategic use of technology, and, the development of a unique and competent workforce. Today’s organizations need leaders to help them succeed in an ever changing and complex environment. This literature review, examines how to transform --if that is possible, ordinary individuals into visionary, ethical, and courageous leaders.

How to transform into a leader?
Is a leader born or can a leader be formed? That question has been debated for centuries, and still, there is no agreement. While some authors consider that leadership is a born trait, there are others who think that leadership skills can be developed. If this is true, what conditions/elements foster the development of leaders?

1) Developing a “leadership mindset”
Most authors consider that a personal transformation is required to become an effective leader. Koestenbaum (1991) mentions that “Leadership requires a change in how you act, preceded by a conversion-like transformation in how you think” (p. 6). Furthermore, he sustains that leadership can not be taught, no school, professor or coach can teach you how to be a good leader; leadership has to be learned by own experience. Koestenbaum proposes the development of a “leadership mindset” which implies thinking big and new, realism to see things as they are, strong ethical values, and courage to make decisions and to accept responsibility of own actions and inactions.

2) Exercising humanistic and ethical values
The quantitative analysis of leadership characteristics conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council (2001) revealed ten top values and behaviors to effective leadership: “honesty and integrity, communication of expectations, recognition and value achievement, adaptation to changing circumstances, inspiring others, putting the right people in the right roles at the right time, passion to succeed, identify and articulate long-term vision for the future, persuade and encourage others to move in desired direction, and accept responsibility for successes and failures” (p. 10b). Furthermore, the study identified two interesting findings; the first revealed that current leadership teams lack the ability to see the big picture, thus, losing sight of the future. The second is a call for attention for human resources; the approximately 8,000 leaders that participated in the study reported that their organizations commonly failed to provide them with the training programs required to develop key leadership skills.

3) Understanding people’s motivations and engaging collaboration and commitment
Strebel (1996) considers that leaders must understand people’s inner motivations and engage them with the use of personal compacts that are the reciprocal obligations and commitments made by employees and organizations. Personal compacts could be classified in three dimensions: formal dimension, which relates to the understanding of functions and responsibilities, the psychological dimension, which addresses elements of mutual expectation and reciprocal commitment, and the social dimension which relates to the alignment of stated values and mission and the company’s practices and management’s attitudes towards them.

4) Managing uncertainty, paradoxes, and resistance
Is the future intriguing and threatening for you? For most of the people it is, but not for leaders, leaders need to effectively manage uncertainty, paradoxes, and natural resistances from people. Handy in the Age of Unreason (1989, 1990) keenly observes that leaders delight with the unknown, and have the ability to identify new opportunities, and create new paradigms.
The relationship between leadership and change is intrinsic. Leaders provoke changes and assist the creation of new conditions. According to Moss Kanter, Stein & Jick (1992), “Deliberate change is a matter of grabbing hold of some aspect of the motion and steering it in a particular direction that will be perceived by key players as a new method of operating or as a reason to reorient one’s relationship and responsibility to the organization itself, while creating conditions that facilitate and assists that reorientation” (p. 10). Mc Laghan (2001, 2002) reinforces the notion that leaders must be active learners to effectively guide their teams into the new ventures, joggling their own personal change challenges.

5) Understanding how change occurs and how to sustain changes
Kanter, Stein & Jick (1992) emphasize the need for leaders to understand and manage change in organizations. The authors describe how difficult is to find practical examples of focused, innovative, and flexible organizations, since change is not so easy to understand, and difficult to replicate successful change initiatives. Kanter at all, emphasize the need for leaders to address the following five barriers to change: (i) the difficulty to make changes stick, (ii) the limitations of managerial action in making change, (iii) the attempts to carry out programmatic continuing change through isolated single efforts, (iv) the lack of resources to implement change, and (v) the uniqueness of change initiatives (there is no recipe for successful change, some change initiatives are successful and others fail).

Since ancient times, leaders have played a strategic role helping individuals, groups and organizations to transform, adapt to new conditions, and break traditional paradigms. With an increasingly faster pace of change in today’s environment, people are more prepared to adapt to new situations, nevertheless, adaptation is no longer the key for achieving success. We are living in the age of knowledge, characterized by faster changes, where the value of an organization is not given by their assets, but by their capacity to create and deliver innovative products and services. Organizations, as an effort to improve and maintain their position in the market implement a wide variety of change initiatives: diversification of markets and products, new technology, business process reengineering, outsourcing, among others, but there’s one key initiative that remains as a constant since ancient times; the need to attract, retain and develop visionary, courageous and ethical leaders. There are fashions that fade with the time, flavors of the month, but there’s something that remains constant: the search for leadership. The characteristics of leadership remain the same as of ancient times, a great vision which implies the ability to see what others do not see, the courage to pursue higher goals, humanistic and ethical values, ability to understand people’s motivations, and how change occurs, and competence to manage uncertainty, paradoxes and natural resistance. Today’s organizations face new challenges, and leadership provides solutions to solve today’s complex problems to take advantage of new developments and create competitive advantages. Only the organizations that effectively implement plans to attract, retain and develop new leaders will provoke and sustain organizational development. Those organizations will be leading the era of knowledge.

Question for readers:
What conditions/elements foster the development of leaders? (Please drop a comment and share with us your insights!)

Corporate Leadership Council. (2001). Voice of the Leader: A Quantitative Analysis of Leadership Bench Strength and Development Strategies. Washington, DC: Corporate Executive Board. Pag. 10b.
Handy, C. (1989, 1990), The Age of Unreason. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Kanter, R, Stein B. & Jick T., (1992). The Challenge of Organizational Change: How Companies Experience it and Leaders Guide It. New York: Free Press.

Koestenbaum, P. (1991), Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness: A Philosophy for Leaders by Peter Koestenbaum. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
McLagan, P. (2001, 2002), Change is Everybody’s Business. San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler Publiser Inc.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Six leadership lessons from Abraham Lincoln

I finished two audiobooks with wonderful leadership teachings: “Team of Rivals” by Doris K. Goodwin and “Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua W. Shenk

Both books provide excellent leadership lessons from one of the best US presidents: Abraham Lincoln. Since early childhood, Lincoln, the son of two uneducated farmers, demonstrated superior intellectual ability, in the rural area of New Salem, Illinois. Lincoln a self-educated person started his political and professional career in his early twenties. He became lawyer, and later in 1860 Lincoln was elected as the 16th US President. During his presidency (1861-1865), Abraham Lincoln successfully managed one of the most difficult times in US history: the American civil war. He did so, preserving unity in the nation, and ending slavery.

Lincoln had an inclination to arts and poetry. He was a sensible man that suffered from melancholy. In his youth, Lincoln learned about his melancholic condition, later in his early adulthood he learned mechanisms to cope with his disease, and during his adulthood, he put those mechanisms in practice to manage not only his depressive moods, but the critical situation that was present in the country. Rather than a weakness, Lincoln’ melancholy harnessed his best human qualities and helped him become a great leader.

The six leadership lessons from Abraham Lincoln:

  1. Solid values and the genuine desire to improve conditions in the world.
    Lincoln was guided by solid values, his actions were ruled by what was correct to do, not by what he liked or disliked. His word and his reputation were his most important assets.

  2. Political savvy.
    Lincoln saw the “business case” for ending slavery. His views for ending slavery helped him won the US Presidency and the
    Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves from southern states and helped to put an end to the civil war.

  3. Ability to manage a group of high performers toward a single purpose.
    Lincoln integrated his government with the best people, even if they had different political views. Lincoln had superior empathy skills that allowed him to understand other’s point of view and engage them in a purposeful and meaningful agenda.

  4. Realism to see things as they were.
    Lincoln’s melancholy helped him to develop a sense of realism. He was exposed to constant personal suffering that gave him clarity to see things as they were, with no make up, and to be prepared for the worst.

  5. Ability to learn and renew.
    Lincoln was a self-educated person. Reading gave him important knowledge. Additionally, his melancholy helped him to learn mechanisms to manage his depressive moods and quickly recover from pain and frustration. People are frequently conditioned to avoid pain and frustration, but by doing that people also miss key learning. Rather than run from painful or uncomfortable situations, we have to learn from them --like Lincoln did with his melancholy.

  6. Courage to carry-out his agenda.
    Lincoln never feared for his personal safety. He knew that he had something important to achieve in his life. He made it, although he was shot in his last year of President.

Does leadership pay?
Yes, leadership pays, and history rewards true leaders.

A word of caution, leadership is not a comfortable state. Leadership is dangerous, because leadership stands for better conditions and frequently confronts status-quo. Leadership is not an easy solution either; leadership is a long-term objective. Leadership requires solid values, commitment, and courage.
The world needs true leaders. Leaders with ethical values, able to understand and put in practice the essence of democracy, leaders that commit to higher causes, and work to improve social, economic, political, and environmental conditions in the world.
What is the purpose of your life? Can you improve conditions in the world? What will be your legacy?

Listen to your inner voice and let the leader inside of you emerge!

Wolf, S.J.; Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Unabrigued (Audiobook); 2005.

Kearns G. D.; Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Simon & Schuster; Unabrigued (Audiobook), NY; 2005

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The leadership role in organizations: Improving organizational effectiveness and employee well-being

This research study uses the People Value Cycle to analyze leadership behaviors in organizations involved in transformational change processes. The study revealed that visionary, innovative, ethical, risk taking, and results oriented leadership improve organizational effectiveness and employee well-being.

Since ancient times, leaders have played a pivotal role helping individuals, groups and organizations to transform, and adapt to new conditions. With an increasingly faster pace of change in today’s business environment, there is a need for true leaders. The question here is, how to develop leadership?

The people value cycle

The people value cycle is an organizational development (OD) methodology composed of two dimensions: the organizational dimension and the employee dimension. The organizational dimension includes four phases to plan, renew, leverage, and reward talent. It is supported by dialogue and double-loop learning practices to enhance organizational learning, and promote continuous innovation and change. The employee dimension includes four phases to guide individuals in planning their work and career objectives, performing to deliver results, connect one’s work with key initiatives and network with stakeholders, and renew own skills, mental models and behaviors. The employee dimension is supported by leadership; an individual quest for depth, freedom and free will. The People Value Cycle sustains that organizations can not sustain a value-oriented culture without committed individuals that support this effort. At the same time, these individuals do not produce value without a value-oriented organization. The people value cycle has its full potential when both dimensions are combined and connected.

What is leadership?
The Oxford Dictionary provides the simplest definition of a leader “the person followed by others” (p.450), thus leadership implies the ability to influence others. Koestenbaum (1991) considers that leadership is an act of will “Leading requires changing not only the way you think and the way you act, but also the way you will. Leading is taking charge of your will –the innermost core of your humanity”. (p. 2). Furthermore, Koestenbaum considers that leadership has the strategic and the personal sides. “The strategic side may deal with leadership practices and behaviors, but the personal side deals with the free decisions that human beings make about values and how to treat one another and themselves” (p. 5). Goleman (1995) considers that leadership requires the ability to persuade, not dominate others “Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal” (p.149 ).

Bennis and Nannus (1985) consider that leaders must establish a deep relationship with the group, to identify and represent the group’s interests “It is collective, there is a symbiotic relationship between leaders and followers, and what makes it collective is the subtle interplay between the followers’ needs and wants and the leader’s capacity to understand, one way or another, this collective aspirations…Leadership can move followers to higher degrees of consciousness, such as liberty, freedom, justice and self actualization” (p. 202-203). The authors made a clear difference between leadership and management, for them management means to be in charge of something, to have the responsibility, while leadership is the ability to influence others, to guide them in a defined course, direction, or action. Other authors present different perspectives that challenge the traditional mental models of leadership, Greenleaf (1996) for example, introduced the concept of leader as a servant “The servant leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first”. (p.13). Furthermore, Block (1993, 1996) introduces an interesting and alternative concept: Stewardship, where he challenges traditional lines of command and control, organizational structures and the distribution of power. He proposes a new order fostering democracy, service, responsibility and partnership. “Stewardship holds the possibility of shifting our expectations of people in power. Part of the meaning of Stewardship is to hold in trust the well being of some larger entity –our organization, our community, the earth itself”. (p. 41)

What are the necessary attributes of a leader?
Koestenbaum considers that a leader is a combination of competence and authenticity. Competence is the level of mastery in the job, a person that achieves superior results, and authenticity is a person with character, someone who can be trusted. A common ability identified by all authors on effective leaders is the ability to influence others, in this regard, Schein considers that leaders make a big influence in their groups “In growing organizations leaders externalize their own assumptions and embed them gradually and consistently in the mission, goals, structures, and working procedures of the group” (p. 375). One important attribute of leaders is their capacity to learn, to adapt and make a difference. What is learning?, and most important, how can we use learning to develop our leadership skills? Marquardt & Reynolds (1994) consider that “Learning is generally defined as a process by which individuals gain new knowledge and insights to change their behavior and actions. It is traditionally divided into the cognitive (intellectual), affective (emotional) and Psychomotor (physical) domains” (p. 35).

Data collection
This leadership research project included a web-based survey, and the analysis of company-related information. A sample of seven employees completed the web-based survey --four middle-level leaders and three senior-level leaders. The survey questionnaire included nine appreciative inquiry (AI) questions to identify the leadership behaviors required to instigate planned-change interventions that improve organizational effectiveness and employee well-being. I decided to use AI because I see leadership as a major goal, as an ideal for everybody. Frequently, in research projects, we use a deficit approach method to identify gaps. I disagree with this approach when analyzing leadership, because leadership presents endless opportunities. Measuring leadership would limit its opportunities, therefore I decided to identify key leadership characteristics and behaviors. French and Bell (1999) mention the four principles of AI on organizations: “research should begin with appreciation, should be applicable, should be provocative, and should be collaborative” (p. 139).

The organizational dimension
Effective leaders develop plans that support organizational business priorities and objectives. Survey responses revealed three leadership behaviors required to effectively plan, even on unpredictable circumstances: business savvy, good listening skills, and the ability to build strong teams.
Leaders must create a positive environment to allow others to learn, experiment, and take risks. Survey responses evidenced the need for leaders to alter the organizational culture, and reinforce continuous change and renewal. Survey participants considered the following behaviors paramount: coaching and mentoring, building trust, empowering others, and providing continuous feedback.
Survey respondents reinforced the importance to partner and leverage business strategies, and bridge boundaries to bring multiple parties together. The leadership characteristics required to effectively leverage business strategies are: flexibility, openness, listening skills, and the ability to build networks.
Survey responses revealed that competent leaders appreciate their staff, noticing those moments when someone is acting at his/her best, and recognizing accordingly. The leadership characteristics that promote these behaviors are those associated with the characteristics of servant leadership: humility, empathy, fairness, impartiality, and providing opportunities to tackle new challenges.

The employee dimension
Survey responses evidenced the importance for leaders to develop a shared vision of the future. This requires the ability to truly listen to the ideas of others without judging, criticizing or attacking these ideas, asking "soul-searching" questions, and leveraging on others' views. Planning is a team game, not an individual activity.
Survey results revealed the importance to develop innovative and thorough solutions for today’s complex problems. Main leadership behaviors described to effectively perform are the following: commitment to results, thinking out of the box, while developing a pragmatic, analytical and rational mindset (innovative and realistic at the same time!), taking into account both technical aspects, and group and organizational processes.
Survey respondents evidenced the need to build and maintain effective networks. Respondents mentioned the following leadership behaviors: empathy, humility, expressing disagreements tactfully, and, valuing and allowing others to contribute (everyone analyzes, everyone considers ways to improve, streamline, reduce costs, etc.).
Survey respondents evidenced the need for continuous change and renewal. They consider that leaders build bridges for the future. Respondents imagined a positive work environment with true collaboration, continuous learning, and new opportunities for everyone.

Additionally, survey respondents were asked to identify what three things they would do to heighten the overall health and vitality of their organization. The responses? Orientation to results, more delegation and empowerment, continuous learning and growth, and a more ethical and social responsible culture.

After reading these behaviors you may ask, why these behaviors and not others? -- the same question I have, however, I find these behaviors useful. Do you want to build up on your strengths? Try Koestenbaum's formula to develop leadership: competence plus authenticity (you have to be very good in what you do, and a human being with strenghts, weaknesses, and a unique personality!).

Do you have another formula? Please, share it with us. The business world is looking for true leaders!

Argyris, C., Schön D. (1974). Theory in Practice: Increasing professional effectiveness, New York, Jossey-Bass PublishersBennis, W.& Nannus, B. (1985), Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge (2nd Ed.). New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.Block, P. (1993, 1996), Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self-Interest. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.Covey, S. (1996), The Leader of the Future. New York: The Peter Drucker Foundation.Goleman, D. (1995), Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.French, W., & Bell, C. (1999). Organization development: Behavioral science interventions for organization improvement. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Greenleaf, R. (1996), On Becoming a Servant Leader. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Handy, C. (1989, 1990), The Age of Unreason. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.Harvard Business Review. (1996), Harvard Business Review on Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review School Press.Heifetz R., Linsky M. (2002), Leadership on the line: staying alive through the dangers of leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.Koestenbaum, P. (1991), Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness: A Philosophy for Leaders by Peter Koestenbaum. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Moss Kanter, R, Stein B. & Jick T., (1992). The Challenge of Organizational Change: How Companies Experience it and Leaders Guide It. New York: Free Press.Schein, E. (1992), Organizational Culture and Leadership (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Senge P, Kleiner A., Roberts C., Ross R., & Smith B. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.Koestenbaum P. (2003). The philosophic consultant: revolutionizing organizations with ideas. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Senge P., Kleiner A., Roberts C., Ross R., & Smith B. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.Senge P. (1990). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.Schein, E. (1992), Organizational Culture and Leadership (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Ulrich, D., Zenger, J. & Smallwood N. (1999), Results-Based Leadership: How leaders build the business and improve the bottom line. Boston MA: Harvard Business School Press