Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I also like to wait a bit between the detectives and the historic novels, from where you have an excellent but somewhat hidden view on the Business Charts to check out who is buying the management books (it is also the perfect place from where to take a quick picture with a digital camera -amateur results see below- without being noticed or reprimanded by smiling yet unforgiving young African store clerks). The results speak for themselves. Buyers of business books are male, male, male (I have never ever seen a woman buy a management book). The younger buyer is around his thirties and wears a smart costume. He is to become the next CEO of the company he works for. The older buyer is around his late forties, begin fifties and wears a shabby costume. He always dreamt of the CEO position in one of the companies he worked for. Recently he became self-employed because he was a victim of a rationalization round in his last company.
Friday, October 20, 2006
It is by all means a fantastic magazine, brilliantly targeted to high potentials with unearthly high incomes and spending habits.
Distribution in the heart of London to the worlds biggest financial conglomerates, grouped around Bishopsgate or Canary Wharf is an art on its own.
Magazines are transferred from dark underground loading docks protected by grim looking guards, via shabby elevators to marble led corridors and design lit reception area's, operated by stunning receptionists drawn from tv commercials.
I had the privilege of accompaning Jimmy and Diane, a couple that lives from distributing newspapers and magazines to this schizophrenic world day by day, never in bed before 4 AM, to be at work again before noon time. (They have 1 client they are really proud of, Downing Street 10, the house of the prime minister, who wants all major UK newspapers delivered to his door within 15 minutes after printing)
London, Canary Wharf, after work drink
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
"Business experts are fond of advising companies to "outsource" - i.e. have somebody else do - everything but their "core competencies." This has led to a global shake-out as various business functions get outsourced to countries (and companies in those countries) who are able to do it cheaper (and sometimes better).This leads to an intriguing proposition: all countries could outsource their warmaking efforts to the United States. After all, the US is clearly the leading military force in the world, with the latest technology and the most highly trained, expert fighters. No other country makes war as well as the US does. If all countries outsourced their warmaking to the US, they could be sure of getting the best operations for their money.
Where would this lead? For one thing, the country willing to put up the most money would always win, because both sides would be buying military operations of identical quality.The drawback, one might say, would be that Americans would be fighting against each other. But, if the best-funded side would always win, then Americans could simply scale down the battles to make sure the right sponsor won, but with minimum casualties - and higher profits. In the end, maybe the wars could be fought with computers, and the losing side would have to pay money to the winning side. Would this work?"
Monday, October 16, 2006
Karl Albrecht: "The best way is for the senior leaders of the organization to start thinking and talking about their enterprise as a potentially intelligent operation, and to undertake a never-ending assessment of its possibilities for advancement. There should be an ongoing conversation around the simple question: "How can we operate more intelligently?"
The second step is to start giving people the authority to think. When even the lowliest worker believes that his or her ideas, experiences, insights, and suggestions will be listened to and appreciated, we begin to liberate more of the tremendous brainpower that we've already hired - and that we're already paying for every payday.
The third step is a systematic, relentless, and never-ending attack on the causes of collective stupidity: organizational structures that don't make sense; "silos" that have grown up between departments or factions; policies, rules, and procedures that thwart the value-creation process; incompetent, ineffective, or failing managers; turf wars between managers and departments; union-management conflict; caste systems that have grown up in the organization; top-management behaviors that confuse, divide, or demotivate people; unfair or unjust
treatment of employees that destroys morale and the sense of shared fate; and, sometimes, even the lack of a clearly defined vision and mission.
The most intelligent organizations operate on the principle that 'good is never good enough'."
Friday, October 13, 2006
Thursday, October 12, 2006
An example of an organization that suffered from 'collective stupidity':
Karl Albrecht: "One of the most legendary episodes of collective stupidity was with Ford Motor Company in Detroit. In the early 1980s, they launched a new advertising program with the slogan "No unhappy owners." The TV ads promised that every Ford owner would have a car he or she was happy with, and if there was anything wrong, the company would make it right. The only problem was that they neglected to tell several thousand dealers about the ads. The dealers were swamped with unhappy owners, who became more unhappy when the dealers couldn't handle the volume of traffic.
This is the quintessential case of what I call "ballistic podiatry," otherwise known as shooting one's self in the foot."
An example of an organization that successfully utilized Organizational Intelligence:
Karl Albrecht: "On the opposite side, one of the legendary examples of collective intelligence, which has been going on for many years, is the remarkable orchestration of the daily experience of magic in the Disney theme parks. From the recruitment, indoctrination, training, placement, and supervision of the employees, all the way to the design and maintenance of the facilities, the delivery of customer value expresses the Disney business model, which is "fun and fantasy in a theatrical setting." Disney designers and managers are some of the world's best experts at eliminating the contradictions to the core proposition of value."
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Karl Albrecht: In all of the developed economies, organisations are shifting from "thing-work" to "think-work." This applies to government and the non-profit sector as well as the corporate sector. In the knowledge economy, fewer and fewer people make their living by making things, and more of them make their living by working with data, information, and knowledge. This means that practical thinking skills - including imagination, but certainly not limited to that - will be ever more in demand.
HR experts predict an increasingly severe "smart gap," meaning that we'll have a tougher time finding employees who can think beyond their noses. Inasmuch as the public education systems are failing miserably to provide us with the smart people we need, we will find it necessary to grow our own smart people. I believe more and more organisations will take up the role of educator of last resort, and invest more heavily in the mental competence of their workers.
At a time when companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on information technology - the machine software - they've so far not seen fit to spend a few tens of thousands of dollars on improving the mental skills of their employees - the human software. As we begin to realize how much of the IT investment is being wasted or misdirected, I believe we'll be spending less on the machine software and more on the human software.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
According to the training manual of a restaurant chain that espoused the WASM, the manager should first explain to the employee what a WASM is and why it is important to be able to give one. Then the manager should say, "Now I'm going to demonstrate a WASM," after which he would WASM the employee. "Now it's your turn. Please demonstrate a WASM for me" after which the employee should WASM the manager.
Now that your curiosity is piqued, a "WASM" is "a warm and sincere smile."
As long as we give employees the impression that thinking of any sort is not allowed, Organizational Intelligence (OI) is not a possibility. Albrecht arguments that management needs to think of and treat employees as the self-motivated adults they are. And that's what the 7 components of OI spell out. Strategic vision is the sense of purpose and direction of the organization. Performance pressure includes the basics to get there: performance goals, clear roles and responsibilities, and feedback. Alignment and congruence are structural in nature and include structures that are appropriate to the mission and priorities, yet empowering and enabling employees to get their jobs done. Shared fate is the "we're all in this together" feeling--that everyone is treated as and feels as a valued member of the organization. Knowledge deployment is the flow of information into and around the organization. It includes cultural and structural elements to encourage and allow this to happen. Appetite for change is the culture of continuous improvement. With these pieces in place, then the valued and valuable employees who have a clear understanding of the direction, who understand their role in achieving that goal and feel that they have the freedom to get their job done, who can get the information they need, and even change the organization if needed, can provide the heart. Heart is commitment to the organization accompanied by the motivation to move the entire company ahead. It goes beyond just doing one's own job (or even doing it well).
Monday, October 09, 2006
- strategic vision
- appetite for change
- alignment and congruence
- performance pressure
- knowledge deployment
- shared fate
Many managers have an unconscious belief about workers or employees as being separate from, and maybe not quite as good as, "the organization." To this day, many of our OI practices and assumptions, and many management practices, may still be based on the assumption that employees are basically interchangeable parts of a production machine.
Albrecht thinks this belief impacts OI. He suggests that this belief can be traced back to Taylor, the Father of Scientific Management (Frederick Winslow Taylor 1856 - 1915) who concluded two things from his studies. First, that work procedures were inefficiently designed and second, that the fundamental motivation of hired workers was to do the least amount of work as possible. Further, Taylor is quoted as saying, "Most executives want workers who are house-broken. They talk a good game about wanting highly motivated employees who can add value, but when it comes down to particulars they really value obedience. Many executives are threatened by smart people below them."
Albrecht argues that these believes are somehow still to be found in companies today. He gives many examples of this happening in businesses that he is consulting with currently. It occurs on many different levels. It can be just the way management refers to employees as "a resource" (which according to Albrecht is patronizing and trite). At its worst, Albrecht calls it the "rabble hypothesis" or the view of employees as the "great unwashed: unintelligent, unmotivated, socially naive, and incapable of original thought."
Friday, October 06, 2006
Albrecht's Law: “Intelligent people, when assembled into an organization, will tend toward collective stupidity.” (1)
In his book “The Power of Minds at Work”, Karl Albrecht (picture) cites this case as an example for what is been known now as Albrecht’s law: “Intelligent people, when assembled into an organization, will tend toward collective stupidity.”
Arguing that in organizations, the sum of all individual minds only rarely equals the level of organizational intelligence, he identifies several factors that may contribute to this dysfunction. Based on more than 25 years’ experience as a consultant, Albrecht contends that organizational “entropy” (that is, the energy of a system that remains unavailable for conversion to work), ineffective decision-making processes, and cultural clashes arise in every organization. With employees working in separate departments, each department protecting its turf and often not knowing what the others are doing, “collective brain power gets wasted,” Albrecht says, thus compromising the mission of the enterprise. Collaboration and knowledge management, the two major buzzwords of today’s enterprise, may work on academic paper but are far from being effectively applied in practice.