Tuesday, November 04, 2014

6th in a Series on Change: Economic vs. Organizational Approaches to Change by Beer & Nohria

Continuing my exploration of HBR’s Change Management Must Reads, I relished the taoistic a-ha of Beer & Nohria’s article, Cracking the Code of Change which introduces this idea of Theory (E)conomic and (O)rganizational approaches to change and a discussion of how to best manage this tension. 

Theory E change is hard approach driven by shareholder returns and characterized by economic incentives and organizational restructuring. 

Theory O change is a soft approach driven by cultural & capability development through learning, teamwork and communication. When this approach is used it is usually out of a long held commitment to employees. 

The US favors E while the EU and Asia tend to favor O, or so generalizes the authors. 

In the case of entrepreneurs, the authors suggest that entrepreneurs can be classified as driven by cash out (E) or culture building (O). 

You see the taoistic interplay of opposing forces here already, yes? You also discern the tension between the needs to be loyal to shareholders and employees.

In reality, all companies must use a mix of these approaches. The trick is to balance these to fit the context leadership teams finds themselves in, and to do so avoiding the confusing perception of being "nurturing cutthroats”. 

The authors suggests two approaches to E/O execution, sequencing and simultaneous

Sequencing is an approach for mixing these approaches over time, and with requisite storytelling to assure that all affected are aware of where in the E/O cycle the organizational culture is operating towards a longer term change objective. It seems that such sequencing would allow a critical mass of focus on one approach to another at any given time with out sacrificing the benefits of either approach over time. The authors suggest that E be sequenced before O as the reverse carries too great a price of employee disaffection. This said, sequencing has the disadvantages of taking a long time and possibly across multiple leadership regimes.

Given these disadvantages of sequencing, the authors offer a faster but riskier and potentially more successful, approach of simultaneous E/O action which requires:

1. embracing this paradox in goal setting
2. setting direction from above while engaging from below so that command and control play well with the grassroots. (Sounds like a Battle of the Bands.)
3. focusing simultaneously on the hard and soft elements of change though in proper sequence
4. allowing & rewarding experimentation & evolution
5. rewarding people to reinforce, not drive, change

These simultaneous dynamics, managed well, result in an environment of candor, listening, debating and learning which has a better chance of building trust & commitment to change. 

This article so resonated with me as it described this tension of opposites, and management of a middle way, which has often been hidden in plain sight throughout my career as a change leader. It provides an orderly paradigm to so many seemingly chaotic regimes I have witnessed and been a part of. Fortunately, such blindness has not killed all success and leave me looking forward to even more success in the future now I am educated. 

As an after note, I see how these approaches are applicable not only to organizations but also to individuals having applications for my leadership development as well as that of my leadership coaching. 

I hope this "taoistic" a-ha is as helpful to you and your ongoing change activities as it was for me. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Does Your Child Need A LinkedIn Profile?

I was recently talking with my wife about the topics that is easily among the top five we have discussed in our relationship, "children and how best to prepare them for life." In this discussion she told me about an initiative she heard Philadelphia is piloting to keep track of (high) school children's academic and community service activities from grades to awards to projects to extracurriculars. As she spoke, I replied, "sounds like LinkedIn for kids". Then I wondered, is LinkedIn for kids?! Yikes! No! Yes. I think maybe it is.
Leaving the debate of at what age a child should be exposed to LinkedIn aside, it seems to me that LinkedIn could be a nice substitute for those boxes of school, sports and activities memorabilia in the attic and basement, and a more orderly and presentable one at that. A child's LinkedIn profile would:

1. ease preparation and representation for life's various admissions gauntlets from private schools at various levels to scholarship programs to community service organizations to college to career.
2. remind us of what we, as a family, have invested in, and can be proud of, as we too often forget under the stress of life,
3. remind our children of their accomplishments over time inspiring their self confidence.

On the flip side, I fully expect the sentiment that this suggestion puts our children's privacy at risk, is inappropriate blatant exhibitionism and that LinkedIn is too advanced for children. I'd say all these arguments have merit for consideration.

In response to privacy and exhibitionism concerns, I'd advise keeping the profile private so that it's an orderly repository for you and your child until an appropriate time for future publication. In the meantime you don't lose those resume items to poor memory, and your child begins to get an education in how to use LinkedIn as a storytelling platform for their careers.

As to the "too advance" point, I'd say you do it for your child without exposing them if they'd are too young the same way you store away savings for their future when they are too young. The fact is that the experiences we afford our children are an experiential savings asset which they spend later to gain life's opportunities, so LinkedIn becomes an experience bank of sorts. 

In any case, I thought this an interesting idea, and wonder if it's not a new business opportunity for LinkedIn as parents tend to more readily part with money for their children's welfare than for their own. For many I know, their kid's LinkedIn will look better than theirs. :-)

I'm very much interested in your thoughts as to additional benefits and caveats regarding this approach.
Here are other reads I found on this topic: