Saturday, February 27, 2010

How CEOs See Themselves

On the main OD Network listserv, someone shared an article from the NY Times where CEO Vineet Nayar talks about how he sees his role as the head of his company:

"If you see your job as the guy who is obsessed with enabling employees to create value, I think you will succeed."

What a great leadership philosophy. An OD team in his organization would be working for a CEO who "gets it."

Nayar acknowledges that other CEOs see themselves differently. Some think they are the Strategy Guy, or the Deal Maker Guy, or the Guy With All the Ideas.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to support a number of chief executives. One, who I'll call "B," was CEO of a telecom company born in the 1980's following the break-up of Ma Bell. In the early years (roughly 1984 to 1993) of building the company, he and the other founders, senior leaders, and early employees put their personal stamp on it.

B was smart: he could smell and seize opportunity, based on his years of experience in the telecom industry. He was hard-working, customer-focused, innovative, competitive, fast-moving, team-oriented, and entreprenuerial.

As the 1990's unfolded, the company grew fast, expanding both its product offerings and its footprint, going nation-wide through new branch offices as well as acquisitions of other local telcos.

With this growth, he recognized that the company's success had been based on his people and their performance. They had a "secret weapon" in their way of operating, a culture, that he wanted to capture and teach to new employees. With the help of a consultant, he did just that.

The culture statement reflected the history of the company, the values of the founders, and the mark of the CEO, highlighting such elements as
- ownership attitude
- growth
- learning
- initiative
- teamwork
- being close to the customer
- providing solutions
- speed
- quality
- continuous improvement

The culture statement was integrated with the Mission and Vision and strategic plan, becoming legendary within the company.

Once on a plane ride with B, I asked him, What keeps you up at night? His answer: People and Systems.

I'm curious about what sorts of CEOs you all have worked for, how they saw their role in the organization, and how you were able to use that insight to deliver OD solutions.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Feb 27, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CORE Training

What should be covered in a company's CORE training curriculum? My answer:

C - Communication, Continuous Improvement and Customer service skills

O - Ownership Thinking and how to improve Operating Processes & Systems

R - Relationship training for strong EQ in sales, management, interpersonal relations, and effective teams

E - Engaging & Empowering courses that teach employees to think and act like business persons

So, if you use CORE as your acrostic (or is it an acronym?), what would your ingredients be for the training in your organization?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Feb 23, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Colloquium, Anyone?

My wife had a church music colloquium to attend in Washington D.C. a few days ago, and needing a driver, I had the pleasure of driving her there and back.

On the drive, she and her friend studied their homework --a difficult paper on the thinking of Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope) about the role and importance of music in liturgy, potentially a game-changing point-of-view for Directors of Music-- and we had a rollicking conversation about some of the words, such as musification, habilitation, and...colloquium.

Colloquium = a conference at which scholars or other experts present papers on, analyze, and discuss a specific topic. (From Latin: to speak together)

In this case, it was for the most experienced church music directors, and it was by-invitation only. A team selected the focal topic, and a moderator sent out the pre-work and facilitated the discussions. They gathered at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where they met, ate meals, and stayed overnight.

My wife enjoyed the meeting very much. And on our ride back to NJ, we debriefed it in detail.

I started to think that every experienced professional should attend a colloquium in their field at least once per year. But how many fields have them? In thinking about my own, I realized we don't have them!

So here is a thought for experienced Training & Organization Development folk in the greater New Jersey, New York & Philadelphia area: Let's start an annual colloquium.

What makes a colloquium work?
- a challenging, specific, and timely topic, relevant to experienced practitioners
- a moderator to orchestrate and facilitate the conversations
- a venue where the attendees can meet, stay, and eat

Anybody interested in forming a team?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Feb 7, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Does OD Have a Role in the Recovery?

At the ODNet discussion list, there is a conversation going on about whether or not Organization Development can play a useful role in the economic recovery.

What do you think?

From where I sit, I believe we are still in the crisis. It's not over by a longshot.

So what do we, practitioners in the field of OD, do? Here's an analogy.

Just as helpers in disaster situations like Haiti or Katrina engage in Search, Rescue, Recovery, & Reconstruction, perhaps we can take a page and apply it to working with our clients.

Search - Our expertise in sense-making may be particularly valuable for organizations that are disoriented and groping their way toward some meaning and some balance. Can OD help them to find opportunity amidst the problems?

Rescue - Our expertise in coaching may be particularly valuable for those individuals and teams that desire to attain a high level of performance. Can OD step in and help motivate leaders to re-engage their workforces?

Recovery - Our expertise in managing change may be particularly valuable for those organizations that need to harness the power of the Change Formula. Can OD help leaders to re-vision their future and begin to chart the steps forward?

Reconstruction - Our experience in designing organizations may be particularly valuable for those who are standing in the rubble, starting from scratch. Can OD facilitate the emergence of new ideas, and new teams?

I think the answer is Yes. I believe that OD is about building and sustaining healthy and productive workplaces. Positive, innovative workplaces. OD is about overcoming adversity and strengthening resilience. It's about adaptability and learning. We have much to offer to organizations that are rising from the ashes.

What do you think?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Feb 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dash! Do You Have It?

Years ago, in a Human Resources certification program that I completed, one of the professors told us the story of the OSS, the original "secret agents" who were dropped into enemy territory during World War II, their mission to blend in and gather intelligence.

You may be asking yourself, Why was this story part of an HR program? The answer: the selection angle.

~ How did the OSS select the best candidates for the job of spy?

Before you read further, ask yourself that question, and see if you can come up with the critical criteria. OK? Ready to read on?

One of the intangible but vitally necessary qualities, the OSS discovered, was something the Brits called "dash."

Dash: spirited action; élan; vigor in action or style: "The dancer performed with spirit and dash."

The agents that had this thing called dash were the most daring risk takers. The ones who sized up a situation, almost always with limited information, and took action.

Do you have dash?

While mulling this over yesterday, I came across a recent blog entry by consultant Alan Weiss, called "Dash." What a coincidence!

Though he is talking about sprinting as a metaphor for effective consulting, he is quite close in spirit to what the OSS found. Weiss says that best sprinters are "ready for the gun." When opportunity comes along, they strike!

Do you have dash? There's an old saying that "He who hesitates is lost." Do you get snared by over-analyzing? By your own fears? The OSS agents who succeeded in their mission did gather info. They did feel fear. But they moved quickly when they sensed opportunity, knowing that this might be their only chance.

Does your organization's culture have dash? Does it value:
- a bias toward action to take initiative and seize opportunity?
- a closeness to the customer to sense needs early?
- a preference for collaboration and synergy?
- an open communication style so that everyone is engaged and in the know?
- a ceaseless search for learning and improvement that maintains a competitive edge?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Feb 3, 2010