Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Company Lifespan - Why Do We Care?



A common slide in many change oriented presentations shows the declining lifespan of organisations. (I took this one from Dion Hinchcliffe's session at Digital Workplace Experience in Chicago, and comes originally from this.)

It's interesting data and does provide evidence of a VUCA world. But why why do we care?

Even if companies learn to survive for longer, they'll have:
  • Different shareholders
  • Different customers (usually)
  • Different brands (sometimes)
  • Different employees.

Take the current changes in car companies learning to compete with Tesla and Uber etc. Even if they move into the new digital world, they'll be employing designers and programmers in California, not engineers and machine operators in Detroit.

The only people who benefit from company longevity is the senior leaders and perhaps high potentials in the company, who may survive the complete transformation of the business.
Which is, of course, the wrong focus. We're got enough problems with leaders worrying about their own rewards rather than the long-term performance of their businesses without this further distraction.

For example, wouldn't a company actually be more successful if it managed the inevitable decline of its current activities, keeping and developing its people for the longer term as long as it can. Rather than getting rid of its people as quickly as it can, and recruiting a different set of people with more modern skills, just so its senior leaders can run the company that bit longer? Even if it means the company eventually goes to the wall?


A good example may be Royal Mail - eg I'm currenty watching the RSA's event on Good Work in the New Machine Age, kicking off their Future Work Centre.

Moya Greene, CEO at the Royal Mail Group, suggests their delivery business has lost 10,000 employees whilst a similar number have been created elsewhere. But these platform technology jobs are boring, low quality jobs. Deliveroo doesn't provide the same quality experience, pay or benefits as Royal Mail's delivery business.

They're doing this because Greene doesn't believe that people like change (I think that's debatable, but I can imagine why Royal Mail's experience will have suggested this to her). But isn't the Royal Mail doing the right thing anyway? They don't need to become Deliveroo, it's much easier for a start-up to do this. The best thing they can do is to be the best Royal Mail business for as long as they can. Isn't it?



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Thursday, 5 July 2018

SEBrexit18 - HR's Brexit Questions




I’m at Symposium’s Brexit and HR conference today. This is nearly really good timing as we’re approaching the crunch point in October when we have to agree the way forward with the EU, and the UK cabinet are meeting at Chequers tomorrow to agree our pitch for that.

However, I think the day after the Chequers meeting would have been even better (obviously everyone had hoped there would have been a bit more clarity by now). As it is, we’ve got lots of questions, and quite a bit of criticism, but few answers.


Tim Thomas, Director of Employment and Skills Policy at EEF, took us through various questions including:
  • What does this mean for worker mobility, UK to EU and EU to UK
  • What may be the impact on workforce planning and skills
  • How can we continue to attract EU workers
  • What is your wider business planning around Brexit
  • What are the legal implications for teak outside the EU.


And there’s also the additional, and for me, more important, question about developing the UK workforce to make up for falling numbers of EU workers but dealing with this will be long-term and difficult as we’re already close to reaching full employment. (Of course that doesn’t reflect the 40% of jobs some people think are going to be lost due to AI etc.)


Mark Stewart General Manager and HR Director at Airbus added to his company’s public criticism.

The clock is ticking and we still have no further clarity about what is going to happen so how do you run a business, especially a long-term one? Airbus in particular have integrated supply chains with 10,000 parts being shipped across EU, often crossing the channel two or three times. And they also have UK nationals in the EU and vice versa, as well as 80,000 people movements between EU and UK.

For him, Brexit provides a shocking and damning inditement of where we find ourselves as a country and of how not to do business. Customers are looking and laughing at us, and wondering what we are doing.

Key questions for him include what does Brexit mean for:
  • UK access and influence to the regulatory regime operation by the European Aviation Safety Agency
  • Continued access to the EU single market and any proposed new customs arrangement
  • Continued UK access to and influence in the collaborative R&D / Space programmes being run and funded by the EU
  • Access to skilled labour and continued free movement of labour
  • An agreed phase of transition.


Airbus is trying to engage their staff but this is difficult as there is nothing positive to say. However the next phase of their Brexit engagement plan is beginning tomorrow including a survey of employees who are being directly affected.


This is all true and Airbus' criticism is quite understandable. I don't think Boris Johnson's 'F*** Brexit' remark was an appropriate response to Airbus' comments. However, I do think business needs to understand Brexit is about the UK's people expressing what they want, rather than creating an easy environment for business.

Trust in business is still at quite a low point and so therefore is the belief that doing things for business will benefit the population. If Airbus had avoided paying bribes - sorry, that should say making unaccounted for payments - of £100 million Euros to sell Eurowings fighters, things may have been a bit different.

Actually, that's unfair. I don't mean to single out Airbus, and I appreciate them coming and speaking to us today. The point is a broader one. If many major firms had avoided all the major scandals they've been involved in, then people, including cabinet ministers, might have been more interested in listening to their case. 

So at least part of the answer for how business needs to respond to Brexit, as well as how business becomes more trusted in what it needs regarding Brexit, and how it progresses post Brexit, all boil down to the same thing - for businesses to become more responsive to people (including through the type of engagement planning Airbus is doing) and the societies they operate within.

Actually, that point sort of applies to the EU too.


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Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Organisation Design for the Digital Workplace Experience



These are my slides from my session on organisation design at Digital Workplace Experience in Chicago (DWX18):


I provide some explanations of the slides on Linkedin.





Also see my other posts on the conference:



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Monday, 2 July 2018

#DWX18 Brian Solis on Culture 2.0




Probably my most favourite presentation at Digital Workplace Experience was on Culture 2.0, delivered passionately by Brian Solis and also illustrated beautifully by Gaping Void.

Brian noted that 62% of participants in a survey he ran with CapGemini suggested that culture is the #1 hurdle to digital transformation. Culture is your biggest competitive advantage or your greatest disadvantage. It is the lifeblood of any organization and defines how people treat each other and how they relate to customers and stakeholders of all kinds. All of that aligns with my own experience too.

However, Brian also noted that culture is ephemeral and is defined by the experiences people have and share. This makes it one of the most talked about but least understood assets in any company.

In my own later session on the organisation design of digital transformation, I argued against using the term culture. For me this thing that we're talking about is so important that we need to break it down and focus on the parts we can understand. Nobody understands what culture means, or if they do, they have various different understandings. (They often don't understand digital either, so if you put the two together you've got real problems. For example, in Brian's survey 40% of leaders said they believe their organisation has a digital culture, but only 27% of employees said the same. That means nothing. Other than that nobody understood the question.)




But I do agree with Brian’s diagnosis of executive out-of -touchness. Eg he suggested that collaboration is one of the strongest aspects of digital cultures, but even here, although 85% of leaders said it is easy to collaborate in their organisations, only 41% of employee agree. There is a growing disparity between business agendas and employee needs. I agree that this is why focusing on employee experience is so important.

Experience is something you feel and interpret in the mind which lies behind how people feel and react. The digital workplace supports our focus on employee experience become new technologies work in modern ways. And this makes it possible to look at what's possible with work.

I also argued against talking about culture because from an organisation design perspective we focus on the elements we can control rather than the emergent outcome we can’t. (However, I mentioned that if I was invited back again to speak about organisation development and the digital workplace next year then I’d emphasise culture to much greater extent.)

For example Brian suggested the following attributes of a digital culture:





And these titles look fine, don’t they. But I’d still encourage organisations to work out what’s really important for them rather than following somebody else’s checklist. Then these things need to be cascaded through an organisation’s architecture, and taken on by the society of people who work there.




This last point is important. As Brian stressed, culture change isn’t simply a business initiative, it’s a social initiative. 80% of what we learn is done socially.

Brian suggested this new approach of human-centred cultured design focused on employee experience is what he means by Culture 2.0. I love this idea, with the exception of the word culture. So perhaps Organisation 2.0. Or The Social Organization?


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Friday, 29 June 2018

#SEBREXIT18 HR and Brexit, or really, Brexit. And a little nod to HR




I'll be attending Symposium's HR and Brexit summit on Thursday (5th July 2018) next week. They've put together a great list of speakers, and if you're able to, you should come.

There are lots of big issues for us to consider so I don't expect the event will be overly political. 

I also don't intend to make my more posting political either, but part of the reason I set up my blog 11 years ago was that I felt I'd colluded (in a very small way) with the broader dysfunctional behaviours in financial services that took us into the 2007 crash, and I wanted to be more open about my beliefs.

In addition, Brexit is an issue that it's hard not to be at least partly political about - eg economic forecasts depend upon what assumptions you choose to make about the future, which will themselves depend upon your politics. I'm also not sure I'll be able to post from a conference on Brexit without being fairly clear about my beliefs around the topic.

But if you're not interested in, or are perhaps vehemently opposed to, these views, and you just want strategic HR stuff from me, please just move on to my next post. (And I know about 48% of people in the UK and probably a higher proportion of people elsewhere will disagree with these suggestions.)


I voted leave. And I still support that decision. As I tweeted at the time, the EU is dysfunctional, self serving and overly bureaucratic, and we'll be best off outside it.

This dysfunction and self serving is shown was shown best in the Greek financial crisis where the EU cracked down on the Greek people rather than supporting them. That is, it was more concerned about itself rather than the population it is supposed to be serving.

However the issue came to the fore as far as the UK is concerned when David Cameron tried to negotiate some tailored approaches which better suited the UK. Once again the EU showed it was more concerned about itself than our population.

One of these areas was immigration. I don't think that this was the issue that led to Brexit but it's clearly a particularly significant challenge for the UK given the small size of the British isles (particularly the sunny bits where most people want to live) and the fact that so many people speak English, and know they can come and live in the UK. That's got nothing to do with any individual who has or wants to come and live here but just recognises the strain which a huge rate of population growth has put on housing, transportation, health and many other areas. An effective and representative government would have recognised these factors and should have wanted to do something about them. Instead, the EU basically said no.

I voted leave mainly on an organisation design perspective - if the EU was a client I'd tell them their top level structure wasn't effective or sustainable and needed to be sorted out. The UK government isn't perfect either and once we've sorted out Brexit I'd like to see us taking action about our head of state (moving from being a monarchy to something closer to a republic) and the house of lords as well. But at least these issues are within our own control to change.

I also think it's important to take action on issues rather than to let them fester because they're too difficult to be dealt with. For example, if someone is living in a bad marriage, and they have tried to improve it, and it's still dysfunctional, I believe that in most cases, they should get out, rather than stay in it for the sake of the kids. This may not be the ideal time to exit the EU, but there never will be an ideal time. If we can't tackle the issue now we never will and we'll be tied to an ineffective supernational government for ever.

We needed to bite the bullet and have the issue resolved now.

So I'm really proud that the UK made the decision it did. I'm absolutely not comparing the EU to the conflictual relationships in the world wars, but I do think our unwillingness to put up with the EU resembled in some ways our being unprepared to ignore tyranny in WW2. Sometimes you need to confront a problem, regardless of the consequence, because it's the right thing to do.  (This is linked, once again, in a very minor way, to the reason that I started blogging, and why I'm posting this now.)

The withdrawal process since the referendum clearly hasn't gone that well, but at least a significant part of that has been down to the EU being the EU, more interested in protecting itself than supporting a member country and its population that has already paid nearly £200 billion net to the EU over the last 45 years. We deserve better, but the EU was never going to deliver it. The difficulties we've experienced in the negotiations are the same ones which lie behind us leaving.

And whatever difficulties we face in leaving the EU, these will be balanced longer-term by having a government that works for us, rather than for itself.

This has got nothing to do with our attitudes to Europe. We're in Europe, want to be in Europe, and will always be in Europe. We want as close a connection with other European countries as we can have. We just don't want to be governed by the dysfunctional bureaucratic machinery other countries seem prepared to accept.

That leaves the issue of the single market and customs union. I think we should be leaving these too. We don't want to be in the EU but we don't want to be shadowing the EU in something which is like the EU but not quite as good. That means we need to be able to do our own thing, including to strike our own trade deals, which means we need to be out of the whole enterprise.

My hope therefore is that the UK cabinet's meeting at Chequers on Friday continues to push for a relatively hard Brexit, and to retain the option of a no deal if the EU doesn't want to negotiate appropriately, which should include reviewing what monies we owe in our separation agreement. Importantly, all of this needs to be dealt with now, rather than left over to the transition period.

I also hope HR focuses on the opportunities of Brexit. -The fairly limitless supply of cheap and well qualified labour from the rest of Europe and elsewhere has, I think, meant that firms here haven't invested in their people or their people supply chains in the way they should have. We've now got no choice, we do need to invest, rapidly, smartly and creatively. Or we won't have all the people we need. That's going to be hugely challenging but it will still basically be a good thing to happen to us.

I look forward to more, and I hope you'll follow my blog posts and tweets, next Thursday. I'll be writing them as apolitically as I can manage!



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Thursday, 28 June 2018

#DWX18 - Tony Byrne on Digital Workplace Technology Selection




I'd seen Tony Byrne from Real Story Group present at an Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara eight years ago (this was my presentation there) and remember it was an excellent session so I was really looking forward to an update at Digital Workplace Experience in Chicago. Especially as Dion Hinchcliffe talked about the accidental digital workplace canvas no longer being sustainable.

For Tony, the future digital workplace will probably consist of major platforms supplemented with best of breed point solutions. I agree, though for me, this is about the limitations of cloud. Ie that now so much of our technology is only open to configuration rather than customisation it can constrain our needs for best fit. The optimal solution is therefore often best practice cloud for the bulk of our functionality, and best of breed solutions for the things which really matter for us and for which we therefore need best fit. Tony suggested that fit in this context needs to include scenario fit, technology fit, vendor fit and value fit.

I also liked Tony's mall metaphor, where there are anchor stores includes the capabilities which are critical for employees such as collaboration, the enterprise social network and HR, and then additional boutiques. If one boutique goes down the mall doesn't change. If an anchor store does the mall is in trouble.

This means we need to be smarter about our technology selection decisions, understanding how we can help employees work better through design thinking and the use of personas, journey mapping and top tasks analysis, etc, as well as employee stories illustrating these employee journeys or use cases.

We also need to put more focus on applications rather than sites or content, eg by thinking more deeply about the specific functions a particular system can provide, rather than assuming that because we can use something for x, we can use it for y - with Office 365 providing a good example of this.

I particularly liked Tony's arc of participation model linking features to outcomes. Which of these will move the needle often depends on the employee journey. I particularly liked this model as I think the horizontal scale maps to the work done by people (eg collaboration) - people doing work (eg networking) scale in my own categorisation model.




However I don't want to share too many of Tony's proprietary models, and will finish with one more of his less analytical but still very valid suggestions, which is to avoid the following four traps:
  • A one horse race - selecting a vendor just because it is placed in the magic quadrant (particularly if this really indicates the size of the vendor or its marketing and sales spend)
  • Love at first sight - overlay fast decision making rather than proceeding through something like Tony's filtering process
  • My cousin Vinnie - assuming that because a system worked well for them it must also work for us
  • 'Happiness is a stack of warm binders' documenting features - rather than understanding real requirements





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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

#EntDigi #DWX18 Dion Hinchcliffe on Digital Workplace Experience




I've seen Dion Hinchliffe present four times over the last week weeks - at London's Enterprise Digital and then Chicago's Digital Workplace Experience - all great, insight-ful sessions. Here are some notes and reflections - keep in mind that these come from four sessions, so please forgive the length of the post!

One interesting point was an acknowledgement that IT tends to be in charge of digital but is least prepared to deal with the core aspect of all of this which is the people side, especially in the digital workplace's collaboration systems. Which is why I suggest HR needs to take a leading role in digital transformation.

However, Dion also suggested that the social organisation is great but digital has to be about business outcomes and how work gets done as this designs adoption in from the start. Which I disagree on - focusing on lead outcomes vs just lag impacts provide a much greater basis for adding and creating value. The Social Organization is a core opportunity to create a digital workplace.




The platform doesn't matter that much. We have over-invested in technology which tends to become a religion. And makes it likely that we have not been designing for the employee experience. If you are implementing ERP or CRM solution you get 100% adoption from day 1. This does not happen with the digital workplace - you need usability too.

And even adoption doesn't matter that much. Any good HR officer will say 10% of the organisation delivers 90% of the benefits. Many of them do, but it's nonsense. Or if it's the case, you've got a rubbish organisation design and your organisation need to be 10% of the size and use a lot more outsourcing. But it is generally nonsense, and misses the role of social talent who help other people contribute, as well as the importance of the overall social fabric of the organisation which is so central to digital business.

It is who you have involved and what they do that matters. We try and do everything ourselves vs letting the network do the work. Yes, we need to be much better at using networks, and yes, a small number of people can be particularly significant within a network (eg Innovisor's 3% rule). But that still doesn't mean you only want 3 or 10% of people to adopt your digital platform.

Workforce engagement is the real opportunity and there is lots of evidence that technology can improve engagement. Key opportunities include getting paid, industrial scale manageability, a great environment, voice, and autonomy. However, organisations tend to focus on the technology rather than focusing on the harder factors - people, culture etc. We've learned that putting employee experience at the centre leads to success. For example Bosch have totally overhauled 25 core business practices around social networks, providing a 25% time saving.




I also liked Dion's example from Accenture where the CEO sees his main job as enabling the top 100 moments for 500 thousand workers by providing light weight experiences for them.

With this perspective, the digital workplace is leading to new ways to manage and work, such as Holocracy (although hopefully not this itself, as I explained in my own session).




Organisations are also starting to use communities and networks rather than centres of excellence to break down silos (in The Social organization, I call these communities and networks of performance). Eg centres of excellence tend to get bogged down after about a year.

Communities and networks can take a new thing, eg collaboration, analytics, etc, and bring together relevant experts to provide a highly concentrated  set of capabilities and make the organisation go faster.  They can then capture what's been learnt and spread more broadly through resources, frameworks, etc. These are better than the project model for many different things. Over time, these capabilities can become a shared service.

Digital workplace is a good example as it often lies at the bottom of a CIO's priorities and it can't cut in line. The line of business will see it as just another tool. So a community of excellence provides a new model for getting it introduced.

However this model often breaks for the same reason that other things break which is that it's not open to inclusion, eg vs open sources etc. When something is open, more people can participate. So instead, some organisations are introducing global solution networks to unite sometimes thousands of digital change agents achieve the same task through the network. 






This above shift also requires new management capabilities, including community and complexity management.

And it provides a balance between a typical and uncontrolled approach to technology with the prevalence of shadow IT. An optimal, dynamic design for digital workplace technology allows the business / employees to experiment openly and for the organisation's collaborative technology to compete with new and different systems, with everyone sharing in important discoveries.

But all of this requires a better focus on what we're trying to accomplish - employee journey mapping does not have technology in it. This is about developing the employee experience, using approaches like design thinking to understand common pain points, of late as well as early adopters,  and develop an integrated digital experience based on outcomes.




I think that's correct, though once again I think social outcomes rather than what I'd call business impacts should be a focus of digital workplace. In fact in my own session, I suggested that we should focus on organisational strategy / outcomes in preference to business strategy / impacts.

I also suggest if we're really interested in developing empathic approaches to meeting employee needs and building a positive employee experience that actually the whole design process needs to start with the employee needs. Ie we should design our digital workplaces (as part of the broader organisation) based on these two equally important starting points - the organisation's desired outcomes, and the employees' needs as well.




(See my presentation at the Chicago conference)


I also think that's how you get to Dion's suggestion that the business and employee experience / the digital workplace need to be one and the same:



Eg our KPIs should matter to the business, and relate to capabilities employees want.


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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

#EntDigi #EDS18 Categorising social / digital technologies




The above tweets were triggered by Dion Hinchcliffe's keynote this morning which I still want to post on. But I also think the issue they describe provides an interesting issue in its own right.

I agree the technology isn't vitally important. The behaviour is. But the right technology will make it more likely you will get the right behaviour and a good level of adoption.

And 'right' has to be about a relative fit for purpose in your own organisation, not just an absolute perspective on quality.

There are two key inputs to this decision. The first is your organisation principles. The second is an understanding of what outcomes you want to achieve. And the third is your approach to do this, eg what type of behaviour you trying to encourage.

This third question can be answered by identifying the right category of technology to fit your needs. And this requires some sort of categorisation of technologies.

I liked this graphic from the Bank of England that also shows the complex technological environment in many firms.



I've also been interested in Isabel De Clercq's emerging graphic on synchronous / asynchronous collaborative technologies.



The comments on Isabel's article point to some of the difficulties in doing this, eg people consider S and A in different ways, and most tools can do some of both depending on how you use them.

Collaboration is even more difficult - there are very different views about what we mean by this and alternative names for different types of communication. And also once again, there's a lot of overlap between them.

However, I do think most models make the mistake of defining the territory from the perspective of the tools and what it can do rather than how people are going to use it.

My own model comes from this last perspective, looking at the groups working in an organisation and the type of technology which can best enable the type of work they need to do:
  • If you're focused more on tasks than on people, and on your own internal activities, eg in a simple, functional (Isabel's hierarchical) environment, you may want to use traditional / social intranets eg Sharepoint
  • If you're focused on tasks but more externally focused, eg in a customer focused, cross-functional team and need to be able to chat (synchronous) and collaborate, you'd probably be best of with Slack or Microsoft Teams, etc
  • If you're more interested on the people doing the work, eg you're operating in broader networks spanning across the organisation you'll need something like Jive
  • And if you want to provide people a home, you'll need a community system like Telligent, or at least one in which people find it very natural to form communities like Workplace by Facebook.


You'll probably notice my definition of collaboration is different to Isabel's but aligns with eg the one provided by Mike Blair at Charles Taylor this afternoon: "Two or more people working on the same task to the same outcomes". 

I also talk about many of the above points in my book launch interview conducted with Workplace. And you can find out more in The Social Organization.


Also see my other post from #EntDigi: Organisation principles for a Gig Mindset

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