This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.

Innovation

Why you need to master the art of segmentation

People and relationships are at the core of all organizational strategies.

This means an adequately thorough and complete stakeholder analysis is key. If the stakeholder analysis is weak then so too is the strategy. And stakeholder analysis starts with adequate segmentation.

Segmentation doesn’t start with a list of generic stakeholders. It starts with a deep understanding of who will be impacted by what you are planning, saying, doing?  And how they will be impacted.

Seems so obvious, and yet it’s not.  In the past few weeks I was asked to pull together work of several other consultants to create an integrated strategic framework that would help identify gaps and overlaps in the work and thinking that had been done so far.

Communication was just one of 6 strategic priorities but every other priority had a significant communication component. Three consultants had already prepared three separate plans – media relations, government relations and fund development.

Each plan referred to their own key stakeholder, but not one of them adequately developed the segmentation. Instead, they were almost generic.

It’s a government relations plan so the target is government. No differentiation between Federal, provincial though both could impact the outcomes for this organization. No reference to which specific ministries. No differentiation between elected and non-elected politicians, or bureaucrats [senior and junior]. Even though each of these segments would have different and important impact on the work of this organization.

None of the plans did any more than a superficial analysis of this already thin segmentation. Instead of really thinking about what the client organization was trying to achieve in relationship to each of the segmented stakeholders, again, plans fell back into generic descriptions and no real analysis.

Even cutting an orange into segments takes some thought and skill…

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And, the sad thing is, this failure to segment stakeholders and do some pretty fundamental analysis is not unusual.

The result. Bland planning and a focus on tools and tactics.

No strategy at all.

If you want to be strategic, then developing mastery in the art of segmentation is a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

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Deborah Hinton Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Permalink CEO, Communication, Management No Comments

Innovation. You gotta be a little bit crazy!

Looking back to an Apple ad from 1997 for a little inspiration.

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Where are the “crazy ones” in your world? “The misfits? The rebels? The trouble makers? The square pegs in round holes? The ones who see things differently?” Where are the people crazy enough to change the world in your organization?

What are you doing as an institution to support and encourage their crazy world changing ideas?  If you’re looking for innovation, this may just be what it takes.

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Deborah Hinton Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Permalink Change Management, Culture No Comments

Our preoccupation with innovation. Is it just “lipstick on a pig”?

I was walking through the McGill University campus the other day and noticed a poster that described the invention of the Kellogg cornflake. It reminded me  again of how chance has led to some of the most innovative creations of the past century: vulcanized rubber [think tires], Post-it notes, Teflon, mauve [yes, and a must read on this], the x-ray, superglue, stainless steel, and microwave ovens [for more]. But, there’s more than happenstance and chance or even serendipity, to these breakthrough events. There was the ‘accident’ and then there was insight.

Virtually every organization I know is trying to find ways to encourage and capitalize on innovation. Big and small, customer or operationally-focused innovation is the new ‘silver bullet'; a “key growth lever”.

What are they doing organizationally to increase the potential for ‘chance’ and insight? 

Well, they’re benchmarking.  They’re designing new workspaces to support innovation – atriums and agoras, open offices, whiteboard walls and basketball hoops. Mimicking the Google and Apple campuses in the hope that they will inspire new ways of thinking. They’re giving employees access to more and more collaborative tools and creating opportunities through internal innovation challenges.

But most of these same organizations – whether they are white collar knowledge workers or blue collar labourers – are designed to produce widgets. It’s the nature of the work and the day-to-day deliverables. The design of the overall business operation is more like a production line in a sausage factory than a research and development team in a laboratory.

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Are we just “putting lipstick on a pig”? Or are these changes – especially in older traditional businesses – really delivering the promise?

 

 

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Deborah Hinton Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Permalink Communication, Culture, Work, Workplace No Comments

Telecommuting. The promise and the reality.

“We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”  

What? With that short message to all employees last week Yahoo opened the door to some pretty strong feedback from the blogosphere. Immediate reaction from outside has been pretty negative. And, one can imagine even stronger negative reaction from affected employees.

I think we can safely assume Yahoo has strong business reasons – beyond what was stated in the employee memo – for making what is a very bold announcement. From the business side of things, we know we’re never going back to 40 hour work weeks so one might wonder how Yahoo is going to pull this off.  And in the coming days and weeks the implications of the decision on the business will be clearer.

In the meanwhile, let’s take this opportunity to think about telecommuting – the promise and the reality of telecommuting from an employee point of view.

Social technologies have made it easier and easier to work where, when and how we want.  And that can be a very good thing.

But, is the choice of where, when and how to work really our choice? When you’re accessible 24/7/52, are you expected to be available 24/7/52? I certainly know of organizations where that is the expectation no matter what any handbooks say.

Are your human relationships – work, family and friends – enriched or diminished by the technology? 

Is it easier or harder to get/be part of teams working to create meaningful outcomes for yourself, your organization, your community?

The Yahoo! policy, opens up the opportunity to think about the kind of places, choices and ways of working employees really want.

It’s just not as black and white as the initial reaction would have it.  What do you think?

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Deborah Hinton Monday, February 25th, 2013
Permalink Culture, Work, Workplace No Comments

The fall of the cubicle wall

First it was the Berlin wall.   Now it’s the cubicle wall.  Workspaces even in the most traditional environments – banks, insurance companies and law offices are changing. And they are changing in pretty radical ways.  Shared work stations, open space and windows, tables, couches and banquettes instead of cubicles and enclosed offices.  Even though the initial motivation of these organizations is cost cutting, according to an article in today’s Globe and Mail employees report an overwhelmingly positive experience and increased productivity.

Perhaps even more interesting, given the focus of this blog, is the implication for communication and change management.  One would hope that there would be something equally inventive, but when faced with some issues “10% of negative comments are about noise and work behaviours that become distractions, the bank is doing training and distributing tip sheets about having consideration for others.”  Good grief! I think the walls just went back up.

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Burst your bubble

It’s time to burst your bubble.  Getting out of your office or cubicle is a good thing.  Getting out of your organizational silo is a good thing. Getting out of your profession is a good thing.  Breaking out of your bubble is a good thing.  Different perspectives bring rich insight and potentially innovative new ideas.

I was struck by this again when I heard an episode of “White coat. Black arts” on CBC where Captain Scully – you know the one whose emergency “landing” in the Hudson saved all passengers and crew! – was talking about work he’s doing to bring the discipline of the airline industry to the medical profession.  It’s a fascinating conversation. And a great example of breaking out of our bubbles and learning from each other is a really good thing. Check it out here.

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Deborah Hinton Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
Permalink Culture, Work No Comments

Grey zones are costing your organization big time

There’s a lot of focus in organizations on moving fast to meet customer needs and shifting market conditions.  We’re encouraging employees to be more involved in defining and delivering organizational success. People from all levels and all functions of the organization are getting together to ‘hack’ solutions to important business problems. Collaboration is our mantra. Innovation our goal.

When the formal structures and systems of the organization aren’t supporting what we’re trying to do we’re finding ways around them. And this is a good thing. But, in our rush to collaborate and democratize our organizations we’re losing clarity.  While we’re busy crowd sourcing hacks: Who’s got the responsibility? Who’s got the authority?  And, how do we know?  Will we only find out once whoever it is pops out of the wood work to disagree with what we’ve been working on/towards?

This lesson came crashing home last summer when I discovered that, on a not-for-profit project I’d been working on for several years, I had all the responsibility and no authority.  Since, I’m in the business of clarifying, helping make the grey zones black and white, this was a shocking revelation. But it was an informal volunteer thing, so… “These thing happen”.

Now I’m noticing grey zones places where I would never have expected. In a high growth, high success organization that completed a major restructuring and failed to make accountabilities clear for over a year. In a 500 year old institution where lack of clarity on roles and relationships and responsibility and authority is somehow seen as a good thing. And, in a global company where decentralization of decision taking was taken to such an extreme that their shareholders are now threatening to sue them due to lack of oversight.

The grey zones we create, intentionally or not, are costing organizations time, energy, and money.  They are increasing politics. It’s more and more about who you know rather than what you know or how well you do it.

Grey zones are decreasing transparency to the point where it’s virtually impossible for anyone to figure out who’s doing what, why, when and how decisions are being taken.

And, they are decreasing trust in the offering, the leadership, the institutions and, if you’re on the inside, in each other.

At high speeds, when we’re all moving fast to meet customer needs and shifting market conditions, new ways of working are imperative but grey zones may be costing us big time.  Are they worth the risk? 

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Deborah Hinton Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
Permalink Communication, Corporate communication, Workplace 2 Comments

Innovation & collaboration: Strategic priorities or not?

For all the talk in Canadian business about innovation and collaboration, I just read a startling and rather disappointing fact from a talk given by BDC late in 2011:  Canadian “businesses invest $2,400 less per employee, per year, in computers, software and training than American companies do.”

A few years ago that amount spent on information and communication technology wouldn’t have bought you much. Today it could set an employee up with enough technology and applications to be able to connect the way they want, when they want, with colleagues virtually anywhere in the world. It could create the opportunity for innovation and collaboration that we believe is so vital.

The United States have been hit harder by the recession than we in Canada have and yet they invest $2,400 more in the stuff that will make it easier for their employees to create new and more efficient ways of doing things; new products and services that better meet the needs of their customers; and a competitive advantage.  This doesn’t seem right.

When we as leaders are out talking about the importance of innovation and collaboration to the future of our organizations and our country are we making it a priority?  The numbers say we aren’t.

If innovation and collaboration are key strategic priorities, then we need to invest in them. If they aren’t, then we probably shouldn’t keep saying that they are.  

 

 

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Deborah Hinton Thursday, March 1st, 2012
Permalink CEO, Culture, Work No Comments

Connecting for big business benefits

This morning I came across three articles. Three different perspectives. Same conclusion. The more connected we are as leaders and as organizations the better.

Perspective 1 – CEOs. A study of 65 chief executives from around the world discovered that CEOs spend an average of 6 hours out of their 55-hour work week alone. The remainder of the time is spent in business meetings [virtual and face-to-face] and lunches and on the phone. CEOs may not like it, but it is how their work gets done and confirms Henry Mintzberg‘s seminal study “The nature of managerial work”  [1973].

Perspective 2: Leadership teams. In their new book Strategy & Business, Rob Cross and Jon Katzenbach describe how: “In most companies, the phrase top team is a misnomer…” Instead, they go on to say:  [P]ower comes from … members’ informal and social networks, their determination to make the most of those connections, and their ability to work well in subgroups formed to address specific issues… [A]s much as 90 per cent of the information that most senior executives receive and take action on comes throughout their informal networks – not formal reports or databases.” The conclusion: Enriching networks enriches organizations.

Perspective 3: Organizations. “Web 2.0 … promote[s] significantly more flexible processes at internally networked organizations: respondents say that information is shared more readily and less hierarchically, collaboration across organizational silos is more common, and tasks are more often tackled in a project-based fashion.” This study goes on to demonstrate that the more networked an organization the more business benefits. If you, or your leadership team, ever had any doubts it’s worth taking a look.

Connecting is what we as human beings do. We’re social creatures. Our organizational work gets done with, and through, other people.

Helping your employees connect. A little idea with huge potential business benefits.

It’s a potentially beautiful thing.

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“How easy is it for me to do great work?”

I’ve been a fan of Bill Jensen‘s work since I read his first book, Simplicity. But, the book that really made me sit-up and take notice was “Work 2.0: Rewriting the contract“. In it he asks leaders to think about how their employees would answer this question – “How easy is it for me to do great work?” 

“Work 2.0 is not for the faint of heart… it is for those who are not afraid to stretch their thinking about work and the new contract every employer must make to keep their talent.”

Jane Harper, Director , IBM Extreme Blue

In the 10 years since it was first published the pressure to find and keep the right talent has increased.  The employer – employee relationship has changed. But, organizations have not. Or not well or fast enough.

Enter “Hacking Work“, Bill’s most recent project. The idea is simple. As employees we have a choice.  We can sit and wait for our organizations to make it easy for us to do great work or we can take action on our own behalf, something Bill calls benevolent hacks, and make it easier for us  to do great work. 

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As a leader ask yourself what you’re doing to make it easier for employees to do great work.

As an employee, don’t wait for your organization to catch up to your needs on the job.

Ask: What can you do to make it easy for you to do great work? 

 

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Deborah Hinton Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Permalink Management, Work, Workplace No Comments