Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

The Upside of Addressing the Downside of Technology

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Digital and mobile technologies give – but they also take away. Leaders of organisations need to play an active role in designing workplaces that encourage the adoption of healthy technology habits. Such is the thrust of a recent paper entitle ‘Positive Technology’ (read it here) by Deloitte.

This paper alerts leaders to the down-side of technology, warning about the potential perils of workplace digital technology. Some of the key dangers identified include:

  • Constant streams of messages resulting in a deteriorating of the individual’s ability to adequately process information;
  • The ease of creating virtual meetings making it too easy to include more people, and thus create opportunities for days of endless meetings; and
  • The unhealthy use of workplace technology which has seen increasing instances of poor sleep, anxiety and depression amoung employees; and

A very positive aspect of this report is the inclusion of suggestions for employers to address these issues. A few examples of these include:

  • Using available data of employee usage patterns to help individuals better understand and regulate their use of technology;
  • Incorporating ‘nudge’ strategies into workflow processes and applications to help break technology addiction;
  • Ensuring that the organisations leaders openly display healthy and balanced technology habits.

The article is an important contribution to current discussions on the role of technology in the workplace, where the speed of technology adoption and change is outpacing effective workplace practices and culture. By being reminded of this issue, we are now in a position to choose to care for our employees more than we care about technology.

You can contact the Avondale Business School if you would like more information on how we can help you with this, or any other business issue. ABS@avondale.edu.au

The Importance of Urgency

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

How do you become and maintain leadership in your industry when your industry is changing so constantly? McKinsey&Company report that the average large firm reorganizes every two to three years, and the average reorganization takes more than 18 months to implement! How can an organisation focus on strategy when reorganization seems to dominate?

In their article entitled ‘Organising for the age of Urgency’ (click here to read), Aaron De Smet and Chris Gagnon of McKinsey&Company report that companies still need to change, but argue there is another way than to enter the endless cycle of reorganisations. They identify that companies that are successful adopt more radical approaches, and become more responsive, more flexible, and shift decision-making to the front-line, (or “edge”). Based on their observations, they have developed an organisational outline of what the most successful organisations have adopted, and shown in the following diagram:

The key areas identified is that urgency must become the single biggest imperative for the company. The default for organisations is to fall behind competitors, and to succeed, companies must move qui8ckly. Jeff Bezos of Amazon asserts that companies need to adopt high-velocity thinking, using 70% of the information they wish they had to make decisions. It is also important to use emergent strategy and leadership, which the authors compare to improvisational jazz, where all the players improvise and are empowered to adapt. Successful companies also try new things, accept failure, learn from that, and try again.

Agility is the second component of the model, which means being willing and able to shift quickly to reshape the business. This includes creating a flatter organisation and moving away from title/rank having total control. Decisions are instead made in real-time by those that are in the moment at the front-line.

Capability is the third element, and includes creating a workforce who are able to adapt and integrate with new technology. It also embraces and continual learning, which includes learning being personalized for employees so they can act more urgently and improve effectiveness. The leadership model is also transformed by being less about control and more about influence, decreasing the need for many positions of formal authority.

The last of the model components is identity. Successful organisations need to have stable processes, tasks and roles. This includes having a simple but consistent series of process across the entire organisation. It is also important to have a purpose that inspires employees, one which leaders model. Employees thrive where they are part of an organisation that creates real value.

Creating an organisation that embraces urgency, coupled with agility, capability and identity does away with the need for constant reorganization and reactive strategies. Instead, as noted I the article, “you’ve got an organisation that can play fast and long”. A highly recommended read for people who really want their organisation to succeed.

Open Offices and Closed Minds?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It is hard to remain objective on issues when all our technology is geared towards filtering the information we receive so that it reinforces our existing views. I became very aware of this when a recent article on the issues associated with open office plans came across my feeds. I eagerly read the article and felt a sense of satisfaction that it supported my own personal view that open office plans do not deliver on all that they promise. My introverted self felt comforted that I wasn’t an outlier in an extroverted world.

However, given that so many organisations are moving towards open plan offices, and that the financial investment is too big for them to not have considered the risk of getting it wrong, I felt I needed to consider the (uncomfortable) option that open office plans may actually work.

The advantages of open offices are typically noted as:

  • Encouraging spontaneous epiphanies amongst colleagues
  • Enhanced collaboration
  • Greater flexibility
  • More engaged and productive workforce

There are also challenges, as identified in a number of research studies about employee dissatisfaction with open office plans:

  • Noise and other distractions reduce productivity
  • Lack of personal space
  • Decreased team cohesion and satisfaction
  • Increased levels of sick leave

My search yielded a number of articles supporting the open office design, usually with the caveat that the organisation needs to be very strategic in how it is implemented, designed and the culture that grows from it. Other articles were tentative in their support, noting that it worked in limited circumstances, for example, for connected team projects. Other articles were clearly not supportive.

Interestingly, a number of articles noted that the decisions to move to open office designs were frequently made by leaders who retained private offices and were not aware of the issues and impacts of them.

So in the interests of fair play, listed below are a series of references to articles that discuss open office designs, some supportive and some not. Embedded in the articles are links to various research projects and reports that explore the consequences of open offices. But as for me, the idea of working in the midst of a crowd of extroverts causes me to break out in a cold sweat.

https://hbr.org/2018/01/sgc-research-when-moving-to-an-open-office-plan-pay-attention-to-how-your-employees-feel

https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-open-office-trap

https://theconversation.com/open-plan-offices-can-actually-work-under-certain-conditions-89452

https://www.archdaily.com/884192/why-open-plan-offices-dont-work-and-some-alternatives-that-do

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/313034

https://www.oxfordeconomics.com/when-the-walls-come-down

By: Warrick Long, Lecturer, Avondale Business School

Avondale Business School collaborates with Business

Monday, May 15, 2017

Business and College collaboration is a wonderful way to enhance student learning. A recent excursion organised by the Avondale Business School to Sydney saw students visit 3 business to get insights into risk management, marketing, human resources and accounting.

The first business to open its doors was the Mascot Air Base facility. Manager of Airline safety lead them into the emergency procedures training facility which demonstrated the approach to risk management, in particular in relation to the evacuation of passengers in the event of an emergency. Students were privileged to be shown the various different aeroplane doors used to deploy passengers, rafts and survival kits. They were also shown the pool used for ocean training, in both the dark and in the rain.

Students were then put into the emergency procedure training simulator, where they experienced a crash landing in which the cabin lights turned off and the cabin filled with smoke. Students followed the orders of the cabin staff in relation to “evacuate, evacuate” and were led safely out of the simulator. Some students also were given life vests to deploy, and shown the various safety features such as the water activated light. Students had a better appreciation for flight crew and risk management procedures, after this confronting experience.

Students then headed out to Allianz stadium, for a tour of the facility. Students were taken down the ramp into the stadium, and the logistics of running the stadium that is shared by three different codes of sport (NRL, Rugby Union and Football) was explained. The marketing of the stadium signs, the sponsorship of the different codes and general keeping of the grounds were explained. Students asked questions such as who are the sponsors and what are the benefits of sponsorship from a marketing perspective.

Student then headed into the Sydney Roosters facility where they were led into the boardroom for an “Apprentice” style session (yes Mark Bouris is on the Board of the Sydney Roosters), by the Chief Financial Controller Mr Manuel Vlandis. Students were presented with financial information about the club and the challenges of running a rugby leagues club from a financial perspective. Questions were asked of the salary cap, costs of injured players, and how the model works in relation to revenue streams such as memberships, gate takings and sponsorship. The CFO was happy to answer the questions, and speak of his relationship with the Board and the new strategic plan they are currently developing.

Students then headed next door to the NSW Waratahs headquarters. There the player development manager Lachie McBain explained the complexities of running a rugby club, including issues such as preparing players for life after sport. He talked about the initiatives the club has in place for players such as further education and financial planning. He discussed the available careers in a rugby association, and his role in relation to his employer being RUPA (Rugby Union Players Association), formed to prepare players for life after sport. The club facilities were shown to the students, including the training areas, technology viewing areas and player lounge. Students asked questions in relation to membership numbers, revenue from Foxtel, sponsorship and player wages.

Feedback from the day included the following:

“It gave us insights into jobs where we do not see what happens behind the scenes”

“It was awesome to see business applied in a sporting context”

Avondale Business School will continue working with these businesses in the future, turning textbook learning into the reality of business. As the late Wallaby and Lawyer Ross Turnbull stated “There is nothing that I learnt in SPORT that doesn’t apply to BUSINESS, or LIFE” (2014). This excursion came from research done previously into the education of current sports people for their career after sport, a paper to be presented at the Global Conference on Education and Research (GLOCER 2017), which will be held during May 22-25, 2017 at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus in Sarasota, Florida.

 

The CEOs Role in Leading Transformation

Sunday, December 18, 2016

TransformationPrevious ABS blogs have highlighted the processes involved in organisational transformations and change management. However, until recently, none of the research or articles looked in detail at the role the CEO of an organisation should play in this process.

The management consulting and research company McKinsey&Co have published just such an article based on their extensive research and experience in this area (read it here). While allowing for the vast differences in organisations and the particular uniqueness of each one, they have distilled four key functions that together are what leads to the CEO playing a successful role in a transformation. While providing just a summary, the entire article is worth the read. These roles are:

  1. Making the transformation meaningful
    • Adopting a personal approach
    • Openly engaging others
    • Spotlighting success
  2. Role-modelling desired mind-sets and behaviour
    • Transforming yourself
    • Taking symbolic action
  3. Building a strong and committed top team
    • Assessing and acting
    • Investing team time
  4. Relentlessly pursuing impact
    • Rolling up your sleeves
    • Holding leaders accountable

Committing to these actions more often than not sees the CEO play an important part in a successful transformation. Thinking about your role as a CEO, or your CEO, how many of these actions would you say are happening?

Great Performers Make Their Personal Lives a Priority

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Work life Balance 2The great dilemma for most people striving for success is to balance their personal lives with their careers, so that neither suffers. How difficult that can be is represented by numerous broken relationships and unrealised dreams. In a very recent post on the Harvard Business Review site, Stew Friedman explores this idea and proposes a way of making it work. You can read the full article here.

Friedman references examples of successful people who have achieved in the four areas of life – work, family, community and self, and talks of “four-way wins” that result in all of these areas being enriched through the span of one’s lifetime. While using these examples, Friedman does so in order to highlight that anyone can achieve this, and it is not the domain of the rich and successful only.

While the article elaborates on these examples, there are three principles that Friedman advocates as the starting point for this success, a quick summary of these are:

  1. Be Real – that is, act with authenticity to clarify what is most important to you.
  2. Be Whole – see how the most important things to you in work, family, community and self affect each other.
  3. Be Innovative – simply experiment with creative ways to get things done, that suit you and those around you.

No one said it was going to be easy, and it does require some degree of strength to work to align these actions between the various domains so they all line up with core values. But when you achieve this, there is less conflict and you can move forward. An interesting comment from Friedman is that the examples he gave of successful people, “…persisted because of their commitment to their families, communities and private selves, not in spite of them.”

The first step – what matters most to you?

The Avondale Business School can advise your organisation on being effective in these areas – find out how by contacting Warrick Long at the Avondale Business School.

E: Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au

P: 02 4980 2168

The Myth of Open Office Spaces

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Open OfficesThe idea of open office spaces comes and goes, and has recently been revived by a new group of employers looking to “break down barriers” and create “collaborative” and “team-oriented” work spaces. However, recent research questions this premise and instead suggests that open office spaces cause more problems.

Rachel Morrison and Keith Macky surveyed 1000 Australian employees about their experiences with open office plans. You can read about this research here. Contrary to the popular myth, their research found that there were increases in “employee social liabilities”, which include distractions, uncooperativeness, distrust and negative relationships. They also found that co-worker friendships and perceptions of supervisor support worsened.

The authors surmise that in open office environments, employees develop coping strategies like withdrawal which create a less friendly team environment. In addition, from the research, cooperation became less pleasant and information flow did not change in a shared office space.

Acknowledging that providing every employee with their own office is unlikely to happen, two strategies shared by the authors include:

  • Use panels, bookshelves or green walls of plants to block visual distractions
  • Allow the use of noise cancelling head phones to reduce noise distractions

Maybe it’s time to rethink your office layout and give back some privacy to your workers. If you would like further information on how Avondale Business School can help your organisation, contact Warrick Long:

E: Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au

P: 02 4980 2168

Not-for-profit Workers Are Happier Workers

Sunday, July 31, 2016

NFP WorkersMoney doesn’t always buy happiness! Reviewing a recent article by Martin Binder in the Journal of Economic Psychology (find it here), Christian Jarrett writes in the BPS Research Digest (read it here) that Binder’s study looked at British people working in both commercial and not-for-profit organisations.

One of the surprising findings was that while there are many “perks” in working for a commercial organisation, people in the NFP sector were typically happier with their lives, more satisfied in their jobs, and believed more strongly they were making a difference.

Other findings included:

  • For-profit employees would need to earn an additional £27,000 to be as happy as an equivalent NFP employee
  • Women and higher education people are more likely to work in the NFP sector

Some may question whether by their very nature happier people are more likely to enter the NFP sector, however Binder does not believe this is the case.

This is a very interesting and challenging research project, and has implications for both sectors of the workforce. What else can for-profit entities do to increase the happiness of their workers, and how do NFP entities ensure they do not exploit the generosity of their happy workers?

Are you happy in your work?

If you would like further information on how Avondale Business School can help your organisation, contact Warrick Long

E: Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au

P: 02 4980 2168

If You Are Hiring on the Basis of Skills, You Are Doing it Wrong!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

HiringManagers typically don’t do enough to understand their own organisational culture, and that exposes the organisation to significant risk. Such is the assertion in a recent Australian Financial Review article (read it here) that looks into organisational culture.

In fact, the traditional definition of organisational culture as being ‘the way we do things around here’ is challenged in the article with an alternative suggestion being ‘how we understand what motivates individuals at the forefront of our business and why they are engaging in the conduct they are.’

One of the main points of the article is that organisations typically hire people based on their skill sets and capabilities, yet fire them because of their behaviours and cultural fit. Why not instead consider behaviours and cultural fit at the time of hiring? Hence the question as to whether Australian managers really know enough about their organisational culture and people to really know what people are needed to move the organisation forward.

Another issue raised in the article concerns what organisations say is their purpose and culture often being quite different to what customers and front-line employees are actually experiencing. This is identified as a significant risk for organisations whereby people are empowered to disregard management statements because they have proven to be meaningless.

Within your organisation, does your organisational culture at all levels match what you say it is? And even more importantly, are you hiring people who are congruent with that culture? The Avondale Business School can advise your organisation on being effective in these areas – find out how by contacting Warrick Long at the Avondale Business School.

E: Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au

P: 02 4980 2168

The Secret to Being a Better Leader: See and Hear Others

Sunday, July 17, 2016

EmpathyConsistently people who have good empathy for others are proven to be better leaders, lead more effective teams, and gain power more readily. What does it mean to be empathetic? According to Dacher Keltner in a recent Science of Us article (Read it here), it is the understanding of what other people think and feel. Using Abraham Lincoln as an example, he quotes a journalist (Thurlow Weed) from the Albany Evening Journal who said of Lincoln: “He sees all who go there, hears all they have to say, talks freely with everybody, reads whatever is written to him.”

Keltner refers to numerous studies that show the positive results of being empathetic. It increases team effectiveness, one’s ability to negotiate better, widens the circle of friends, and enables one to gain power much more easily. In part this is because when people are heard and understood, they are more willing to be influenced by such people.

However, an interesting phenomenon occurs – Keltner refers to studies that show once empathetic people attain power, they often experience empathy deficits, whereby their empathy disengages. By losing this empathy, people in power then start disrespecting people and those once harmonious relationships are now jeopardised and tend to undo the previous good work.

The challenge for those that do rise to power is to be conscious of this and to purposively commit to maintaining the empathy that got them where they are. As Keltner points out from Lincoln, the secret is to see and hear others.

The Avondale Business School can help you and your team develop leadership skills – find out how by contacting Warrick Long at the Avondale Business School.

E: Warrick.long@avondale.edu.au

P: 02 4980 2168