Monday, June 22, 2009

Obama and his Management Mantras.

Obama is one of the most radical management innovators in the world today. Obama's team built something truly world-changing: a new kind of political organization for the 21st century. It differs from yesterday's political organizations as much as Google and Threadless differ from yesterday's corporations: all are a tiny handful of truly new, 21st century institutions in the world today.

Obama presidential bid succeeded, in other words, as our research at the Lab has discussed for the past several years, through the power of new DNA: new rules for new kinds of institutions.

So let's discuss the new DNA Obama brought to the table, by outlining seven rules for tomorrow's radical innovators.

1. Have a self-organization design.
What was really different about Obama's organization? We're used to thinking about organizations in 20th century terms: do we design them to be tall, or flat?

But tall and flat are concepts built for an industrial era. They force us to think - spatially and literally - in two dimensions: tall organizations command unresponsively, and flat organizations respond uncontrollably.

Obama's organization blew past these orthodoxies: it was able to combine the virtues of both tall and flat organizations. How? By tapping the game-changing power of self-organization. Obama's organization was less tall or flat than spherical - a tightly controlled core, surrounded by self-organizing cells of volunteers, donors, contributors, and other participants at the fuzzy edges. The result? Obama's organization was able to reverse tremendous asymmetries in finance, marketing, and distribution - while McCain's organization was left trapped by a stifling command-and-control paradigm.

2. Seek elasticity of resilience.
Obama's 21st century organization was built for a 21st century goal - not to maximize outputs, or minimize inputs, but to, as Gary Hamel has discussed, remain resilient to turbulence. What happened when McCain attacked Obama with negative ads in September? Such attacks would have depleted the coffers of a 20th century organization, who would have been forced to retaliate quickly and decisively in kind. Yet, Obama's organization responded furiously in exactly the opposite way: with record-breaking fundraising. That's resilience: reflexively bouncing back to an existential threat by growing, augmenting, or strengthening resources.

3. Minimize strategy.
Obama's campaign dispensed almost entirely with strategy in its most naïve sense: strategy as gamesmanship or positioning. They didn't waste resources trying to dominate the news cycle, game the system, strong-arm the party, or out-triangulate competitors' positions. Rather, Obama's campaign took a scalpel to strategy - because they realized that strategy, too often, kills a deeply-lived sense of purpose, destroys credibility, and corrupts meaning.

4. Maximize purpose.
Change the game? That's 20th century thinking at its finest - and narrowest. The 21st century is about changing the world. What does "yes we can" really mean? Obama's goal wasn't simply to win an election, garner votes, or run a great campaign. It was larger and more urgent: to change the world.

Bigness of purpose is what separates 20th century and 21st century organizations: yesterday, we built huge corporations to do tiny, incremental things - tomorrow, we must build small organizations that can do tremendously massive things.

And to do that, you must strive to change the world radically for the better - and always believe that yes, you can. You must maximize, stretch, and utterly explode your sense of purpose.

5. Broaden unity.
What do marketers traditionally do? Segment and target, slice and dice. We've become great at dividing markets into tinier and tinier bits. But we're terrible at unifying them. Yet Obama succeeded not through division, but through unification: we are, he contended, "not a collection of Red States and Blue States -- We are the United States of America".

Obama intuitively understands a larger truth of next-generation economics. Unified markets are what a world driven to collapse by hyperconsumption is desperately going to need. We're going to need not a hundred different kinds of razors - and their spiralling costs of complexity and waste - but a single razor that everybody, from the slums of Rio to the lofts of Tribeca, is overjoyed to use.

6. Thicken power.
The power many corporations wield is thin power: the power to instill fear and inculcate greed. True power is what Obama has learned wield: the power to inspire, lead, and engender belief. You can beat people into subjugation - but you can never command their loyalty, creativity, or passion. Thick power is true power: it's radically more durable, less costly, and more intense.

7. Remember that there is nothing more asymmetrical than an ideal.
Obama ended his last speech before the election by saying: "let's go change the world." Why are those words important? Because the world needs changing. A world riven by economic meltdown, religious conflict, resource scarcity, and intractable poverty and violence - such a world demands fresh ideals. We must mold and shape a better world - or we will surely all suffer together. As Obama said: "we rise or fall ... as one people."

In such a world, forget about a short-lived, often meaningless "competitive advantage". It's a concept built for the 20th century. In the 21st century, there is nothing more asymmetrical - more disruptive, more revolutionary, or more innovative -- than the world-changing power of an ideal.

Where are the ideals in your organization? What ideals are missing - absent, bankrupt, stolen - from your economy, industry, or market? What ideals will you fight and struggle for - and live? Because the ultimate problem with industrial-era business was, as Wall Street has so convincingly demonstrated, this: there weren't any.

That seventh lesson is the starting point for tomorrow's radical innovators - because it's the thread that knits the others together. And it's where you should start if you want to use these seven rules to start building 21st century institutions - whether businesses, non-profits, social enterprises, or political campaigns.

As a young brown American, I couldn't be more deeply or powerfully inspired by the "defining moment" of an Obama presidency. Yet, the seeds of a new challenge have been planted by that victory: for us to harness the lessons of his quiet revolution.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Intrapreneurs Are What Dreams Are Made Of !!!

A new career development programme-learning intrapreneurial skills.

Bill Gates said, “I want to put a PC on every desk, in every home and in every office.” Ford said, “I want to put a car in every garage, in every home.” It is these dreams that led to great achievements. Dreams are what help people move ahead. Narayan Murthy never let go of his Infosys dream.

In a random survey of young executives, especially those in the IT industry were asked what they wanted from their careers. The good news is that most of them were happy doing what they were- but only right now! The rejoinder to their response would alarm any HR department. After all, hiring the right candidate is a Herculean task!

The story unfolds!

Well, the inevitable is that these employees will move on to pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. But organisations can take advantage of the fact that while three-quarters harbour dreams of their own enterprise, most of them are unaware of how to get there! Once organisations recognise this entrepreneurial drive amongst their employees, they should also recognise the gold mine in it. Unfortunately, most consider this drive as a major obstacle in workforce stability.

Organisations don’t have to lose top performers to the desire of nurturing entrepreneurial dreams. Smart organisations should realise that in such dreams lies an untapped pool of initiatives. When given the opportunity within the organisation itself to realise a sense of ownership and satisfaction these individuals are bound to stick around allaying HR fears of high turnover.

In addition creating an environment in which creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills can be exercised would fan the individuals’ aspirations bringing out the best in them. This would reflect in their ability to perform better thereby impacting the organisation positively. Some smart managers pay attention to maintaining good relations with such individuals for future references. After all, history has it that entrepreneurs are celebrated the world over.

What next?

Having identified individuals with an entrepreneurial drive, the organisation would now have to give them the ‘ownership and satisfaction’ opportunity. How does an organisation cater to this need? It does so by developing intrepreneuring skills in such employees.

What’s the good word?

“Intrapreneuring is the process of encouraging employees to initiate and manage new ventures or improvements within the organisation.” Intrapreneurs closely resemble entrepreneurs. They are the hands-on doers who turn ideas into realities inside the organisation. The intrepreneurial process synergises individual aspirations with organisational objectives. When organisations create a culture, which allows individuals to satisfy their entrepreneurial itch without leaving the organisation intrapreneurs are born!

The lamenting lot!

Common exit interview remarks and retirement announcements are, “I’m leaving in search of something more.” “I’m leaving to start my own business.” The underlying message is rather clear. These individuals look for more than a paycheque at the end of their workday. They desire for opportunities where they can establish, nurture and hold responsibility for their work. When the HR department develops intrapreneurial skills in such individuals it provides them:

  • Reasons to stay on
  • Challenges that helps tap their potential
  • Autonomy and leadership opportunities

The key to the success of any intraprenuerial initiative is to see that the new idea or an improvement venture fits into the organisational framework. While allowing employees to exhibit their entrepreneurial talent, organisations must ensure that the ‘new division’ complements its functioning.

The other angle

Not all employees desire to branch out and do something on their own. Infact most of them are not even ready for such opportunities within the organisation, leave alone their own enterprises. Managers should nevertheless remember that while these individuals are not ready to take on responsibilities they are ready to leave the organisation when denied the opportunity! Therefore, intrapreneuring is the safest way out!

Intrapreneurs at work

IHS Support Solutions started of as IHS Helpdesk Services company. It provided on-site services. A young employee whom the management had already identified as one with great potential suggested, “Why not provide 24/7 phone service as well? That way people looking for help at their client companies would call us and speak to an HIS staff member who would be the first to see if the problem can be resolved. This staffer can then determine whether the person on call should disturb the client.

This new division can be hired by clients to be their on-call persons".

The management promoted the idea. IHS has now diversified to providing help desk staffers both on-site and to various clients and organisations. The young employee stayed on to head the new division. This illustrates how the entrepreneurial desires of individuals can be successfully teamed with existing organisational framework. Texas Instruments is another organisation that is running high on its intrapreneurial successes.

A study of fifty of its new products revealed that:

  • Intrapreneurs persisted despite obstacles
  • Every failure lacked a dedicated intrapreneur
  • Innovations were on the decline till someone donned the intrapreneurial role

Training intrapreneurs

Most training managers believe that intraprenuers are born not made. But a marked improvement in individuals post intrapreneurial training tells a different story!

Most organisations provide training in intrapreneurship only to those who volunteer! The assumption is that only those who are courageous enough to volunteer can succeed as intrapreneurs. Training success is partly because these individuals look around the training room and realise, “My goodness, there are other people like me in this world and it seems that the corporation is really serious now about wanting this aspect of me employed.” In other words, training allows these individuals to use a part of their potential that they failed to recognise. Training boosts their drive and vision.

An intrapreneur possesses complementary skills. He needs to be knowledgeable HRD, finance, sales, marketing and quality control. Training is crucial if these skills are missing.

Getting started

An organisation needs to develop an environment, which supports individuals with new ideas. To encourage intrapreneurial initiatives organisations should:

  • Identify individuals with new ideas and risk taking abilities
  • Look for ways to retain then from the start as such people are most likely to leave
  • Provide opportunities to develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses
  • Align individual goals with organisational objectives
  • Ask the most-likely-to-leave employee what would make him stay- he might take on the ownership of his idea and stay on!
  • Implement and support ideas whenever possible

Career development opportunities is one of the first ‘carrots’ organisations offer bright employees. Developing intrapreneurial skills in employees not only keeps talent in the organisation, it also keeps them satisfied and happy.

The ManageMentor