A marathon, not a sprint.

A marathon, not a sprint.

The world changed for all of us in the first quarter of this year. All of the plans we had in place for 2020 were disrupted as the coronavirus spread around the world. Our well-thought-out goals to grow and develop were quickly set aside as we switched gears to simply get through the day. We all became agile, adaptive, and reactive, changing strategies as the situation demanded.

“Now that we have a better sense of what we are up against, that this will be a marathon and not a sprint, we need to take a look at where we stand. What are our goals for moving forward into the next 18 months?”

When setting goals, Blanchard suggests a three-step formula:

  1. Assess your current situation.
  2. Decide where you want to be, keeping in mind your new reality.
  3. Outline a clear first step that’s achievable.

Assessing your current situation

“COVID has put a lot of pressure on us. And when pressure is applied, cracks form along fault lines. It’s likely that frailties you may have had before this have flared up. Many of us are familiar with the typical coping strategies of overeating, overdrinking, or binge-watching TV shows. But other, more subtle tendencies, especially those connected to core personal needs—such as the need to control or the need to judge—can rear their heads when life is disrupted. It is really important to pay attention to these tendencies so that they don’t inadvertently run the show.  

“Do you know where your fault lines are? Have you noticed your frailties? Addressing them starts with naming them and claiming them. Bring your limiting coping mechanisms under control and shore up those frailties. If a coping strategy is getting the best of you, get some support from a friend, a significant other, or your manager. Find small ways to get your needs met that don’t cause you to alienate others.”

Decide where you want to be

Next, get back to your original vision of who you wanted to be, says Blanchard.

“We can’t do everything at the same time, so it is important to use your values—what you say is important to you—to decide which part of your vision is most significant right now. If you have never done purpose work (often referred to by Simon Sinek as finding your “WHY”), now is the perfect time to give it some thought.

“When creating a vision for your team, or possibly reclaiming it after being knocked off course, you might think about asking team members: What is our purpose? What have we lost in the last few months that we should try to get back? What have we never had that, if we had it, would make us stronger and more likely to achieve our purpose? 

“Asking questions like these will do two things: (1) generate feedback you may need to hear; and (2) help your team members to reconnect with the powerful basics that will drive the changes needed to get moving in the right direction.”

Outline a clear first step

This is where you turn the vision into action, says Blanchard.

“Think: What is the first thing I can do that is a manageable task and has a beginning, middle, and end? An example might be to complete a ten-minute workout on a free workout app between ending your workday and getting dinner started. Your first task should be small and completely doable.

“The best way to ensure that you will actually take your first step is to find a buddy who will also do it, or who will do something else they commit to during that same ten-minute period. You can easily sabotage yourself by making the task too big or too involved. The key is to choose something you can succeed at right away—because there is nothing quite so compelling as success.”

Take action now

In any case, it’s getting started that counts says Blanchard.

“It has been a challenging year—but perhaps the time has come to commit to our own growth and development.”

That’s great advice. Abraham Maslow famously said, “You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” To the degree that each of us can see the road before us, let’s take that step forward by rediscovering our purpose, taking a realistic view of our current situation, and committing to action!

By David Witt, based on the work of Ken and Madelaine Blanchard.

Organizational structure in the age of unpredictability.

Organizational structure in the age of unpredictability.

In a perfectly predictable world, what’s the best way of organising a business? My guess is that it would be run like a perfect machine. Or like a big, monolithic computer. Programmed in best in class business processes. In a world with no surprises, you could build the perfect machine, program it perfectly by complex business processes, hire only the ‘resources’ that fit perfectly into those existing processes, and hone the whole organisation to deliver the ideal input/output ratio.

In fact, this is the way most businesses are set up. At least it’s the target state of most traditional companies. This is because the world used to be much more predictable and therefore better suited to such ‘Tayloristic’ models. The underlying goal was to distribute known packages of work in the most efficient manner. Today, however, things are increasingly unpredictable and fast. And this has some fundamental impacts. In such an environment, it’s impossible to plan the perfect organisational machine.

So, rather than planning for efficiency, forward-looking businesses are rebuilding their organisational structures around agility, robustness and innovation. And as businesses adapt to this new normal, the top-down management structures of old are coming under pressure. It’s easy to see why: the centralised decision-making, business siloes and organisational hierarchies of old put barriers in the way of adaptable operations.

Organising around adaptability

What does the future-fit organisation look like? For me, the answer’s simple: businesses need to put in place a structure which gives their people the freedom to act autonomously and quickly. It’s a simple idea, but one which demands profound change.

The first step is to enable employees to accept ownership over things, again. Interestingly enough many engaged leaders are caught by surprise, how difficult this is for many of their employees. Many experiences and traditional ‘tayloristic’ principles have to be ‘unlearned’ to accept ownership. Decision ownership has to be pushed out to every single employee and allows to think and decide for themselves. Step two goes further; creating an organisation in which employees are encouraged to seek out the most important and immediate challenges for the company, and to solve them.

At Siemens, we call this ‘ownership culture’: employees are empowered to make decisions for themselves and proactively drive change. We know that we can’t “switch it on” from one day to the other. But we implement it as an increasingly fundamental guiding principle across the company. The model is like that used in Open Source software development, where developers work in loosely organised networks to solve challenges. And it’s an approach makes perfect sense in a wider business context; after all, who’s better placed to understand how to improve the business and adapt to change than the people on the front line?

Here, the role of the manager changes. Rather than telling employees what they should work on, managers act as coach and guide their teams through their work. Their role is to ask those important ‘why’ questions to help employees stay on track. It’s an incredibly rewarding role and one that we know managers embrace once they’ve made the initial adjustment from linear management processes.

Self-organised networks

At Siemens, we’ve gone further and encouraged self-organised, bottom-up communities to flourish. These are entirely created and run by employees, with absolutely no functional management oversight. Indeed, they spring up in response to challenges that are often not even on managements’ radar and earn their legitimacy through their value-creation, purpose and passion of the employees that participate in them. There is no filtering process for the best initiatives, but it is evolutionary and the best will survive.

One such initiative is Grow2Glow (G2G). The aim of G2G at Siemens is to help women unlock their potential through coaching and find the inner strength to strike out for new horizons. The programme helps match trained coaches within the Siemens family with women who request coaching. Today, some 140 qualified coaches across all areas and disciplines respond to the needs throughout the company. The role of management in this success has been limited: all we’ve done is give the network the space it needed to grow.

I still rememeber the initial days when it was not mere than the initial idea of some engaged people, who wrer not beeing completely sure whether they’d be ‘allowed’ to start this at that time. Absolutely amazing what it has grown into in less than 2 years, globally.

Another great example of the power of self-guiding networks can be seen in the development of some of our most visible internal tools at Siemens. One of the tools was intended to be a simple way of showing employees our organisational structure. Traditionally, we would have briefed a group of designers to build it based on our specification. Instead we opened the project up to our employees and told them to create the solution they wanted. As a result, we now benefit from a far more user-centric AND feature-rich tool than everything we would have imagined. And it’s not finished: through our social page employees are still contributing new ideas to make the tool ever-more relevant and useful for them — at an amazing speed!

Unlearning the past

As professionals, we’re taught to be efficient. To work only on the jobs we’ve been tasked with. To play our roles as cogs in a well-defined machine. As managers our task was to program this ‘monolithic computer’ with best in class business processes. Ideally with business processes that treat people as anonymous resources rather than individuals. But this approach is no longer fit-for-purpose. Instead, as employees we must take ownership of our work and focus change and innovation on those areas where we know it needs to be focused. And as managers, we must give employees the space and freedom to innovate while providing coaching and support to ensure their innovations thrive. We must, in short, unlearn Tayloristic approaches and embrace flatter and more fluid organisational structures. This is not easy, especially for people who are long trained in such an environment. But the result will speak for itself: even more rewarding careers and better business outcomes.

By Robert Neuhauser, EVP and Global Head of Siemens People and Leadership