What is Required to Shift from Survival to Thriving Long Term?

Leaders Guide to ThriveAbilityThis guest blog post was written by Robin Lincoln Wood. Dr Wood is a renowned strategist, futurist, communicator and agent of transformation. He has spent 3 decades working at board level with the world’s leading organizations in 35 countries on 4 continents. He is deeply skilled in designing & catalyzing major shifts in large scale systems, & in inspiring & empowering the teams that deliver them. This post is an excerpt of a paper that will be published in the Integral Leadership Review in October 2015.

Robin will be a guest on the Voice America radio show on September 29. This post is a companion to that interview.

Earth’s 7.3 billion citizens are currently consuming 1.6 planet’s worth of resources, thereby guaranteeing runaway global warming, climate change and suffering for billions in the next few decades. Such a wicked problem needs a whole new kind of leadership, capable of thinking and acting on a planetary scale while maintaining local viability. New kinds of leadership are emerging in response, capable of working from perspectives that access the highest leverage points in human, social, natural and technical systems, while integrating multiple disciplines, methods and tools for beneficial change and transformation. This post is a primer for the book “A Leader’s Guide to ThriveAbility”, details where we are (a degenerative, exclusive economy); where we need to be (a regenerative inclusive economy); the integral framework undergirding the ThriveAbility Journey, which explains how we get from here to there; and the role and kinds of leadership needed to assure a beneficial transition.

Toward a Regenerative, Inclusive Economy

Imagine a world powered by renewable energy, where all human beings thrive in resilient habitats; where businesses operate in a circular economy that regenerates natural capital, without a particle of waste, and are led by enlightened leaders whose goal is to maximize the ThriveAbility of all their stakeholders; where each individual is empowered to pursue their passion and make a living in service to others; where governance systems are transparent, effective and wise in the ways in which they deliver their services to their communities and populations; and where intercultural appreciation and insight enriches the exchanges between the diverse worldviews and cultures embraced by humankind.

Does that sound like an impossible dream, or pie in the sky? The co-creators of ThriveAbility would point out that every single one of these “pockets of the future” is currently observable in the present, right here and right now, somewhere in the world. It is just that the future is distributed unevenly, and sometimes hard to see when one is up to one’s neck in alligators and trying to drain the swamp.

  • How would this desirable future scenario of a thriving human civilization on a thriving planet convert into practical outcomes that are measurable and manageable?
  • What would such a future look like?
  • What kinds of leadership are emerging to get us there?

We can begin by describing in very big picture terms what a desirable future scenario of a thriving human civilization on a thriving planet might look like.

The Six Desiderata of ThriveAbility

Based on the pioneering work being done by hundreds of thought and practice leaders around the world[1], we have framed six desiderata by which we can measure the endpoint of the ThriveAbility Journey toward a regenerative, inclusive economy:

Sustainability: Natural Capital; Manufactured Capital

​1. A Circular, regenerative economy 

  1. Natural and man-made materials and ecosystems are regenerated through circular economic processes
  2. All impacts are managed proportionately to the carrying capacities of the multiple capitals

2. Long term resource planning for intergenerational equity

  1. Technologies, Products, Services and Businesses designed for durability to continue serving future generations
  2. Innovations are inspired by natural systems by engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and others working with the grain of nature.

Organizational: Intellectual Capital; Financial Capital

​3. A Transparent and Level global playing field that delivers True Value 

  1. Apply true accounting principles that measure true costs including externalities, and calculate true returns with full transparency
  2. Level the playing field towards renewable and regenerative industries through true taxation and incentives

​4. Strategic Decision-Making to Scale-Up to ThriveAble Sectors 

  1. Nurture multi-stakeholder collaboration to amplify and scale up positive impacts
  2. Investment decisions based on the ThriveAbility Index

Socio-Cultural: Human Capital; Social Capital

5. Holistic Education to Develop Complex Systems Thinking & Leadership

  1. New open business models for education that integrate physical wellbeing, mental depth, emotional maturity and spiritual development.
  2. Developmental pathways based on co-working and co-creation between disciplines and sectors that are aspirational and compelling for future generations

6. Governance Systems Aligned to Inclusive Stakeholder Wellbeing

  1. Radically inclusive and transparent governance structures that serve the different priorities and needs of different developmental levels
  2. Innovative structures for and approaches to interworking between governments, NGO’s, businesses and academia that focus on Stakeholder ThriveAbility.

We believe that starting from this “end of the telescope”, what is required for regenerative, inclusive business becomes obvious fairly quickly to key decision makers and stakeholders. In this sense the ThriveAbility Approach and Index act as a powerful catalyst and producer of the aspirations and the cognitive dissonance required to make transformative changes a reality.

To put it bluntly, we have no choice whether we should move from a degenerative, exclusive economic system to a regenerative, inclusive one that can ensure the thriving of our biosphere and ourselves.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

[1] In the course of researching and writing “A Leader’s Guide to ThriveAbility” we met with and/or interviewed 83 global thought leaders, executives and investors shaping the future of business, sustainability and human flourishing during late 2014 and early 2015. Since then we have engaged with a further few hundred such leaders via ThriveAbility live gatherings, ThriveAbility Think Tanks hosted by Convetit, and videoconferencing.

Holacracy – Innovative Organizational Operating System

Holacracy cc pat munroThis guest post was written by Alexis Gonzales-Black. Alexis is a guest in the Voice America discussion about Holacracy and implementation at Zappos among other progressive clients. Alexis Gonzales-Black is the Co-Founder of Thoughtful Org Partners, a consultancy specializing in transitioning companies from traditional management hierarchies to adaptive organizational models, like Holacracy. Prior to Thoughtful Org, Alexis spent three years at leading College Recruiting, Holacracy Implementation, and Diversity initiatives. At Zappos Alexis leveraged her background in education, training, and talent to build a force of over 80 internal Holacracy facilitators and advocates to lead the implementation of Holacracy across the company.

Holacracy is a new management model that transforms the static organizational structure into a dynamic structure that provides real clarity into roles and accountabilities.  At Thoughtful Org Partners we draw on our experience implementing Holacracy to help craft personalized self-organization strategies for companies of all sizes across all sectors.

Holacracy isn’t the first, nor the only, model of self-organization. Companies like Valve, Spotify, and MorningStar all have integrated principles of self-organization into their companies with strong results.  It’s no surprise that more agile, self-organized companies are more productive, and ultimately more profitable.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Holacracy lowers the activation energy for change— Activation energy is a concept that I learned about in my Intro to Chemistry classes describing the minimum energy which must be available to result in a chemical reaction. Usually at the company level, any structural change in roles, team structure, accountability, authority, policies, rules are all decisions that require immense activation energy. These decisions are labored over for days, or weeks, and when finally wrought, often feel unnecessary, or out of touch with the real work that needs to happen. The last time I logged into Zappos governance records I was blown away, that on any given day, governance meetings and processes are being used to produce hundreds of changes, ranging from small tweaks to full on reorganizations. The activation energy required to make change happen has been remarkably lowered, and all of those changes are happening in real time, in response to real tensions in the work. And business keeps moving through all of this. Talk about rapid evolution!
  2. The stories we tell ourselves — At the core of workplace dysfunction and insecurity is misaligned expectations and lack of communication tools to resolve those misalignments. Holacracy gives a forum to surface these misalignments, process them into some sort of change, and capture these changes in a transparent document for all to see. By doing this you are limiting the crutch that many, including myself, have used time and time again to justify inaction; the story of the malicious manager, or evil co-worker, or whomever else is standing in your way of making change.

It’s important to remember that the transition to Holacracy is a slow process. The mindset and ego shifts that have to take place to properly leverage the new operating system take hold slowly. It took Zappos two and a half years to get 100% of the company up and running in Holacracy. Some of the companies I’m currently working with are looking at the same timeline and shaking their heads at the commitment it requires. But that’s the deal. It takes a long time to undo a lifetime of deferring your authority into someone else’s hands. It takes a long time to face down the specter of the ‘bad manager’ and realize that you are your own manager, for better or worse. And it takes a long time, and a lot of effort to create a safe enough space that people feel comfortable showing up authentically at work. In the end, Holacracy doesn’t replace strong communication, emotional intelligence, or resilient relationships, but it’s a critical piece of a larger movement toward a better, dare I say, more human, workplace.

For more information about creating a more dynamic and human powered workplace through self-organization, reach out to 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Listen to the radio series Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

photo credit: Holacracy Pat Munro

Organizational Disruption – Holacracy the New Operating System

The following Holacracypost is provided by guest Brian Robertson, Co-Founder of HolacracyOne. Brian will be the featured guest on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations on September 15 along with Alexis Gonzales-Black, CEO Thoughtful Organizational Partners and involved in the Holacracy implementation at Zappos.

If you’re old enough to remember the days when most PCs ran MS-DOS, consider the leap in capabilities that came with a new operating system like Windows. Your computer’s operating system, invisible though it may be, radically shapes everything on top of it.  It determines how the overall system is structured, how different processes interact and cooperate, how power is distributed and allocated between applications, and so on.

Likewise, the social “operating system” underpinning an organisation is easy to ignore, yet it’s the foundation on which we build our business processes and organisational cultures.  The traditional top-down, predict-and-control management hierarchy has been the standard organisational operating system for nearly a century.  Yet when we unconsciously accept the management hierarchy as our only choice for structuring and scaling companies, we lose the opportunity to innovate in this fundamental domain of company building.

Holacracy is a new “social technology” for governing and operating an organisation, which replaces the traditional management hierarchy with peer-to-peer distributed processes for structuring an organisation, defining roles and responsibilities, and coordinating across organisational functions. Holacracy aims to improve organisational responsiveness by increasing the number and scope of decisions that can safely be made quickly and locally.  It gives staff more authority and autonomy to get work done and drive continual improvements to the organisation’s policies and processes.

To avoid increased autonomy coming at the expense of coordination and scale, Holacracy also adds processes to align actions and update expectations and constraints dynamically, which everyone in the organisation can take advantage of.  This results in a just-in-time, minimally sufficient organisational structure that stays nimble and lightweight, driven by on-the-ground experience from getting work done.

One way or another, whether it’s Holacracy or another approach, the management hierarchy is ripe for disruption. The environment around our companies has changed dramatically since its introduction, and our organisations face new challenges in today’s global fast-moving world. But those of us building companies today have other options, and regardless of what we choose, I think we’ll be better off by at least asking the question: what power structure is right for my company?

To learn more about Holacracy and Zappos, we recommend the Forbes article Making Sense of Zappos and Holacracy. To learn more about Holacracy, check out their resources page.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Listen to the radio series Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

Organizations of the Future – The Challenge

Innovative Leadership Integral ModelThis post is an excerpt of a paper to be published in the Integral Leadership Review in September, written by Maureen Metcalf and Carla Morelli. This post is a companion to the Voice America discussion with Daryl Peterman, CEO of Abrasive Technology and Mike Morrow-Fox with Metcalf & Associates.

“Today any company that isn’t rethinking its direction at least every few years—as well as constantly adjusting to changing contexts—and then quickly making significant operational changes is putting itself at risk. But, as any number of business leaders can attest, the tension between needing to stay ahead of increasingly fierce competition and needing to deliver this year’s results can be overwhelming.”

–John P. Kotter, “Accelerate!”, Harvard Business Review, November 2012

Accelerating change continues to impact every facet of business. To thrive long term, business leaders must make implementing change a core competency in order to capitalize on our changing world instead of merely trying to adapt to it.

In attempts to stay abreast of rapid changes, continuous advancements in system efficiencies have been enabled by unprecedented rates of technology development. The ensuing race to keep pace with competitors and technology has proven deeply problematic: innovating functional efficiencies has become the singular focus of most corporate strategy at the expense of vision and cultural cohesion. Significant dissonance between purpose and day-to-day functioning has arisen as companies have focused their energies on functional training rather than developing sophisticated thinking, complex interaction capabilities, or comprehensive decision-making skills. Organizational strategy has essentially been reduced to improving functional processes, and technical competency has inappropriately become equivalent to strategic vision.

This shallow version of strategy has not only driven market volatility, it has worked to marginalize new organizational strategies, particularly those emerging to address the flattening global economy. Companies are applying more technology innovation to resolve issues that were actually created by a myopic focus on innovating technology.

The nature of these changes is becoming progressively more complex. Every moment of experience is influenced by the interaction between intention, action, culture and systems. All four of these basic dimensions are fundamental to every experience we have, and mutually shape them in all circumstances. Leaders must consider the four-dimensional view of reality and balance the situations they face in the most comprehensive way possible.

Balancing the whole is critical to effectively transforming your organization. A multi-faceted approach provides a more complete, accurate view of events and situations than the traditional one, which favors analysis based primarily on a systems or process view, and excludes culture and leadership impact. Leaders often take the more traditional approach to changing organizations, overemphasizing systems change with little or no consideration of the culture or how their personal mindset and actions shape the change’s content and success. Our model, the Innovative Leadership Transformation model, provides a framework that enables leaders to create continuous alignment across the four dimensions.

Companies clearly need innovation to successfully navigate both current and emerging economic landscapes – and most are not getting it. It’s relatively rare for transformation programs to deliver the results projected in an original business case.

“It’s relatively rare for transformation programs to succeed; many surveys, including our own, put the success rate at less than 40 percent. Our recent research, however, underscores the fact that certain tactics promote successful outcomes. The most important tactics are setting clear and high aspirations and targets, exercising strong leadership from the top, creating an unambiguous structure for the transformation, and maintaining energy and involvement throughout the organization. Companies that used all of these tactics succeeded more than 80 percent of the time.”

–McKinsey Quarterly, April 2009

Simply put, companies attempting to traverse the economic landscape with incomplete tactics will not succeed.

In addition to tactics, however, we must also look at the impact leadership has on the organization’s ability to successfully implement change. An inappropriately heavy focus on system performance and analytics often proves costly. Enhancing organizational capacity must go beyond increasing system functionality. More comprehensive approaches to leadership and organizational transformation must be seriously considered.

“Change-management processes supplement the system we know. They can slide easily into a project-management organization. They can be made stronger or faster by adding more resources, more sophisticated versions of the same old methods, or smarter people to drive the process—but again—only up to a point. After that point, using this approach to launch strategic initiatives that ask an organization to absorb more change faster can create confusion, resistance, fatigue, and higher costs.”

–John P. Kotter, “Accelerate!”, Harvard Business Review, November 2012

If, in addition to developing better functional processes, one also begins to clarify strategic vision, grow leadership capacity, and build a cohesive company culture, greater and more sustainable success will be achieved.

Of course, not every challenge requires a leader to change how he thinks about the business or himself as a leader to “solve” it, but many complex challenges do. One of the biggest challenges for today’s leader is developing the ability to identify which problems require complex solutions and which are merely technical in nature that can be solved using more traditional approaches. Developing complex solutions requires experimentation and often generates new discoveries. They can take a long time to implement and are not successfully implemented by edict. To succeed in developing complex solutions, leaders must fully understand the organization’s problems and challenges, their own leadership capabilities, and the barriers and resistance they will likely face.

Complex challenges illuminate deeply held beliefs and force not only a change in how work is done, but also in the leaders, themselves, and in an organization’s values. What results is more than a process change or innovation translation: a complex solution also changes personal values, beliefs, behaviors and interactions. The most effective solutions to complex challenges are those that change the leader and the organization’s relationship to processes, values, behaviors and interactions. In other words, the change process works on the leader at the same time the leader works on the change.

Leaders must be willing to face what they will need to change about themselves as well as change about their organizations to successfully solve adaptive challenges.”

– Ronald A. Heifetz and Donald A. Laurie, “The Work of Leadership” Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Leadership, December 2001

As the term suggests, “adaptive challenges” require leaders and employees to learn new ways of thinking about the work as much as new ways of doing the work. Adaptive challenges are often the most elusive, as they require that leaders change not only the organization, but take on the difficult process of looking at themselves as leaders and determining how they need to change in order to solve the challenge they face. “Adaptive change” and “transformation” will be used throughout this article to mean complex changes that require a solution involving change to the leader, the culture and the organizational systems.[1]


To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

[1] Heifetz and Laurie built on these initial findings in their June 2009 book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World.

Creating Vibrant Organizations to Drive Performance

Vibrant Organizations - Ecosynomics FrameworkToday’s topic is Ecosynomics and the science of abundance, a quantitative framework developed by Jim Ritchie-Dunham and team based on extensive data collected across 93 countries identifying the factors that make an organization vibrant. This post highlights a key element of the Ecosynomics framework and how it drives organizational abundance by improving an organization’s ability to innovate out of key problems and create strategic advantage. You can learn more on the radio show, where he appears with Christoph Hinske, a fellow at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and James Drinkwater, a senior policy advisor at the World Green Building Council.

How often have you worked in a situation where you withheld recommendations because it was easier to keep them to yourself than risk implementing something difficult? Does your organization unconsciously support the status quo rather than continually update what it does and how it performs work? The unconscious “agreements” we make with one another and with the company often drive behaviors that sub-optimize performance.

Here is an example of why Ecosynomics matters. When working for a technology company, Bill proposed several IT cost saving ideas. He was part of HR at this company, but had a strong technical background, which made the recommendations solid. Though they would have cut the licensing cost of HR software by $1 million per year, his suggestions were not implemented because the organization lacked a mechanism to make the suggested changes – it was less risky for all involved to continue with a higher-cost vendor than take on the personal risk of making a change that could be difficult to implement.

Enter Ecosynomics: a highly validated framework, set of assessment tools and transformation process that helps organizations address this type of endemic challenge.

The Institute for Strategic Clarity developed Ecosynomics based on observations of thousands of “positive economic deviants” (AKA, the “rock stars” of their categories) in 93 countries and 12 languages. The framework names the phenomena and supports all forms of social systems in making the shift from being stuck in the scarcity-driven structures proposed by contemporary economics to abundance-based structures offered by scientific insights. This well-tested framework quantifies the cost of scarcity and benefits of abundance, providing both a starting point and guiding frame for organizations to shift in ways that seemed impossible before now.

Ecosynomics looks at what people around the globe are doing to move from perceived realities of scarcity – characterized by ingratitude, “stuckness,” anxiety, apathy, mistrust, antisocial competitiveness, active disengagement and a high level of organizational failure – to perceived realities of abundance characterized by enthusiasm, flow, creative capacities, effectiveness, efficiency, trust, social solidarity and wellbeing. The research shows this is a basic, universal experience every human being knows: worldwide, tens of thousands of groups and teams in business, government, civil society, networks and communities are in the process of experimenting with and reinventing their fundamental agreements. They are discovering that they can generate higher levels of economic growth and business health, and lead the way to more productivity and job creation.

A key foundation of Ecosynomics is that (often unconscious) agreements among members of a group are the differentiator between organizations that consistently transcend the constraints of daily organizational lives and those that don’t. By creating conscious agreements that enable participants to identify creative solutions, they can more intentionally determine how to implement innovation and execute for results. Organizations that can’t do this will be outpaced by those that can.

The problem with most organizational agreements is that we don’t see them. They just are. Most often, we are unaware that what is happening around us is based on an agreement that one could potentially change. It seems that life is just that way. In our day-to-day interactions – at work and at home – we engage in a set of agreements and relationships whether we realize it or not. Sometimes they work, resulting in vibrant experiences and great outcomes, and sometimes they do not, leaving us feeling depleted, fatigued and disappointed about lousy outcomes. These agreements are a key foundation of organizational culture; as the agreements change, they drive culture change.

Ecosynomics makes it possible to see the often hidden, underlying agreements that most affect the human experience, enabling people to choose which fundamental assumptions they accept, the structures and processes that result from those assumptions, and the behaviors they want to experience in their daily interactions with others. It provides a unified framework for describing what tens of thousands of groups identified by ISC are learning.

Jim and his team discovered that these groups start from a different initial assumption than economic scarcity. They start with abundance. Ecosynomics, the social science of abundance, explains what they are learning and how it changes all the rules of the game.

Vibrant groups also achieve higher levels of social integration and governmental/administrative efficiency and effectiveness. They are demonstrating new ways of relating that are more sustainable and lead to higher performance and innovation than the currently accepted norm. What people in those groups are doing cannot be achieved by applying present-day economic agreements of scarcity (defined as state of lack, or not having enough, restricted in quantity).

The emerging science of Ecosynomics provides a model to begin to name the field that observers and practitioners are discovering associated with creating vibrant organizations. Vibrancy (the move away from scarcity) is required to drive the foundational changes needed to navigate the challenges we face as a society today. Unless we take an abundance mindset (a view that we can solve the problems we face using innovative thinking), we are destined to leave our children a world that is worse than the one we inherited.

The Ecosynomics framework is a model of health that describes what people are learning about how to move from lower to higher vibrancy and economic prosperity. Vibrancy is what social systems experience when they are identified with and acting out of their greatest potential. It implies the concordance of diverse perspectives in a shared, meaningful whole, resulting in the emergence of a new, larger possibility.

To act out of our greatest potential, we found five key relationships that must be in alignment. When I am with a group/organization:

  • Self: I feel good about who I am and what I am learning (I can share my aspirations and contribute my greatest potential, and trust that others support my success – including allowing me to make mistakes and learn).
  • Other: I believe others in the group support my success, and I support them (we don’t actively undermine one another).
  • Group: I support and contribute to the organization’s mission and culture. The organization’s leadership acts ethically and works for the good of its people and clients.
  • Source of Creativity/Spirit: We create an environment where creative ideas are solicited from everyone. We actively seek ways to continually improve our organization.
  • Process of Innovation/Nature: We pilot creative solutions and continually improve what we do and how we do it to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

If any of these relationships are out of balance, we will perform in a sub-optimal manner.

To learn about your organization’s vibrancy, take the free Ecosynomics vibrancy assessment. To learn more about the Institute for Strategic Clarity and the frameworks, follow this link or subscribe to Jim’s blog.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

How to Turn a Reorganization Into a Leadership Disaster

Lead Inside the Box Book CoverToday’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (you can get your copy by clicking here).  You can learn more about Mike and the book at the end of the post.  Here’s Mike:

Quite often, departments are combined, split, or a team’s purpose is redefined. Reorganizations are disquieting. Leaders in this role face several challenges the Leadership Matrix can help them overcome. First, they have to evaluate the performance of team members with whom they haven’t worked before. Second, as responsibilities change, a team member who was a high performer on one set of tasks might find themselves struggling with their new role. The Leadership Matrix makes it easier for leaders to assess these new team dynamics and apply their energy appropriately.

You can use the Leadership Matrix to assess your new team members, especially if you haven’t worked with them before. One of your primary goals when you lead a team through a reorganization is defining roles quickly and in a manner that puts everyone’s talents to best use. The Leadership Matrix can be a powerful tool for making that happen.

During your assessment of the new team, watch out for negative impacts arising from changing someone’s role. As you shift around responsibilities, be aware of situations where you might be giving someone more than they can handle. We’re not saying you shouldn’t change their roles. Such changes can be great growth opportunities. What we are advocating is being aware of the possible shift in the person’s performance that is a result of their new responsibilities. If you know this risk exists, you can take mitigating actions before it becomes a major problem.

Sally serves as a great example of what can happen if a leader isn’t mindful of a reorganization’s impact on a team’s performance. She was responsible for running the operations group in a business unit at a professional services firm. During a major reorganization, Sally’s boss, the business unit president, was moved to another role in the company. Sally then took over his role as the business unit president. Her team now consisted of the operations group she previously led, a strategy group, an infrastructure group, a finance group, and a marketing group.

Before the reorganization, Rose led both the strategy and infrastructure groups. During the year prior to the reorganization, Rose demonstrated she was a Rising Star. At the beginning of that year, her responsibility was running the strategy group. As the year progressed, Rose took on greater responsibilities every month. Eventually she ran both the strategy and infrastructure groups. Her results were fantastic. Every week she found new ways to deliver more value to the organization.

When Sally took over the business unit, she wanted to show everyone she was in charge. She felt a bit insecure in her new role and felt the best way to demonstrate competence was to exercise her newfound authority. For her, this meant unilaterally changing Rose’s role.

Sally didn’t solicit any input from Rose even though she had previously been a peer. Instead, Sally decided on her own to break Rose’s team up and reassign responsibilities for the infrastructure group. Instead of reporting to Rose, that team would now report directly to Sally. Rose’s role was reduced back to what she had a year ago – she was now only responsible for the strategy group.

Rose found these changes demoralizing. She asked Sally to reconsider the reorganization and voiced her frustration with the move. Sally’s response was “Well, I’m running the team now. I think it makes more sense this way. You go focus on strategy and leave the infrastructure to me.” Sally wasn’t going to budge on her decision.

Rose gave up any hope of succeeding in the environment Sally had created. Her career path had been derailed and there was nothing she could do about it. She went from being a Rising Star to being a Slacker. She stopped putting forth her usual tremendous efforts and instead began looking for a new job.

Sally pushed Rose to focus on the strategy group but Rose’s heart wasn’t in it. After a couple of months, Rose left the company to go pursue her own entrepreneurial venture where her growth wouldn’t be limited like it was with Sally. By failing to assess the impacts reorganizing the team would have on her high performers, Sally lost a great talent. That loss led others to leave the organization too. Sally’s team’s performance dropped precipitously as high performers fled to roles where they felt more supported by their leader.

Sally’s failure to evaluate her team members’ performance and how she should interact with them had disastrous results. After a year of running the business unit, Sally was removed from the role by senior leadership. Had she conducted a thoughtful assessment of the situation before acting, she might have realized how her changes could affect her Rising Stars which could have prevented the exodus of talent from the team.

If you’re leading a reorganization, be sure to avoid Sally’s mistake. Spend time assessing your new team using the Leadership Matrix and weigh the impacts of changing responsibilities before you take action.

– Mike Figliuolo is the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results and the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.  He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm.  An Honor Graduate from West Point, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro.  He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Five Key Elements In Performance Management Design Part 2

Performance MeasurementBlog post written by Rob Harman, II CPA, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP

This is part two focusing on of five things to think about when designing a Performance Management System and Process. Part one covered use. This part will cover design, measurement, output, and competencies.

2.  Design (see blog series part 1 for the first item).

There are many factors to be considered when designing a performance management system. Below are factors that are important as you consider designing a system for your organization.

    • Simple to use. If your system is cumbersome, people are not going to want to use it, or will just do the minimum it takes to achieve the “goal” of giving feedback. Complicated systems only produce good results when everyone involved is dedicated to spend the time to provide the input. The evaluator and evaluatee need to have the ability to choose from a range of selections based on each item being measured (i.e. a rating scale of 1 to 6 for each question). The system should also have an open text box after every question in the event the individual would like to input comments or examples to support the rating.
    • Accessible anywhere anytime. As many in today’s workforce work from remote locations outside the office, the system needs to be web based and accessible outside the office. Consider if you want to use cloud based software for your performance management system. Many systems offer other capabilities and modules than just performance management and could be a part of your HRIS and total financial system software package.
    • Ongoing feedback. The system should be designed to provide ongoing performance feedback throughout the year based on projects, time intervals, or at the employee or managers request. Therefore the system is always open and on. This will be a culture shift for many organizations as many only give feedback when it is needed or at set intervals in time. Giving real time feedback is not only a powerful motivational tactic for good and high performers, it will help an employee or manager who may be having some challenges. It is important to provide that feedback as soon as possible so it can be addressed without sacrificing additional work productivity losses and damage to internal and external clients.
    • Reporting. The system should have robust data gathering and reporting capabilities for the evaluator, evaluate, and of course HR, to help monitor and track completion and other statistics for a particular group and the organization.
    • Easy to interpret results. The system should have a dashboard where the manager and employee are able to view performance feedback and goals that are compiled and aggregated throughout the year. The dashboard should be able to track the number of “to do” tasks, what stage of completion they are in, and the date of the stage. Consider the interface of the design to feature simple graphics, colors, and analysis for a quick glace of reporting and statistics.

3. Measurement.

Ask yourself, what specifically do you want to measure, and who should be measuring it? Consider the following when deciding what to measure around performance.

  • Performance on a project or in a cross functional group
  • Customer impact
  • Individual contributions
  • Pro-bono or other volunteer work
  • Attitude and ability to work and team with others
  • Ability and drive
  • Upward feedback

As mentioned employees should be able to ask for feedback in the system at any time on any measurable item and the system will trigger the evaluator responsible for providing the feedback. Employees need to be set up with responsibility evaluator(s) for each type of measurement and they should have the ability to do self-evaluations in the system.

Another item to consider is what type of rating scale do you want to use? Traditionally, companies used scales of 1-7, or something similar. Many companies are considering either doing away with the numeric rating, or making it a smaller part of the process. A numerical rating triggers a psychological response and people tend to focus only on the number and what the implications of that number may mean, and thus are not engaged fully in the conversation. An alternative could be to borrow from the color spectrum and use red as high performance, green as expected performance, and indigo as needs improvement.   Some organizations are giving feedback without ratings with some early success. For other companies, foregoing measures would be counterproductive given the cultures they have built around measurement. This is where the ability to give and receive feedback is imperative to success! One of the challenges with measures is how the feedback is delivered more than the fact that performance is measured.

An example of the ratings shown on the dashboard could look something like this.

Performance Management

Some companies are beginning to use values-based ratings1. This is done by looking at how the employee fits in with the company values and aligns with company objectives. Other approaches are to design a system where the output is not only feedback on performance, but focuses more on giving advice and coaching and not just a final “rating”. You will want to look for a software vendor that has designed newer products that will be able to accommodate these non-traditional ways of measurement and delivering feedback and coaching.

 4. Output.

Now that you have designed a system, how you will use it? What decisions will you need to make as a result of the process? Do you need to implement training? Are there performance issues with a particular group, or a particular manager? Is there a morale problem at the organization? A well thought out and designed performance management system will help your company answer all of these questions and more.

5. Competencies.

Finally, competencies are an area where many organizations design complicated frameworks by level, group, subsidiary, or other measures, in an effort to define every possible measurement of performance at every level. While that is admirable, even a well-designed system will be unsuccessful if the competencies being measured are too complicated or the forms are too lengthy. There is value at developing expectations of performance at all levels of the organization from staff to executives. The competencies should be progressive, meaning each level has mastered the competencies of the preceding level. Competencies need to be designed with examples of what high performance (red), expected performance (green), and needs improvement (indigo) mean at each level and for different categories such as client services, team work, attitude, etc. The competencies need to be designed to achieve organizational and individual goals. Competencies will be a topic in another blog series, so stay tuned!

In a future post we will also talk about how to plan employee development and discuss how it links to evaluation. Some organizations couple performance evaluation and development planning while others separate them. We will talk more about performance management next week.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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1 Predictions for 2015: Redesigning the Organization for a Rapidly Changing World, Bersin by Deloitte / Josh Bersin, January 2015

Photo credit: William A. Clark

Five Key Elements in Performance Management Design – Part 1

Blog post written by Rob HarmanPath to success cc traumaandissociation, II CPA, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP.  You have just received an email from your Human Resources Department advising you it is time to begin the annual performance review process. Do you react by thinking, great, I have an opportunity to showcase the great work I’ve done and provide meaningful feedback to others? Or do you suddenly feel the 12 week job assignment overseas is looking like a real opportunity? I think most of us will agree the performance management process is something that can be improved upon at most organizations. It is often a once or twice a year task that is required by the company in order to assess performance, determine promotions, discipline, or terminate employees who are not performing at a level that is expected.

While having the greatest intentions, many organizations come up with sophisticated competencies that are often very long, cumbersome, and complicated at best. The performance management process then becomes a necessary evil. Since most of us are being asked to do more with less, performance management becomes a low priority because the business of doing business always comes first. Often then, the performance management process becomes an annual exercise of trying to remember what you did for the year, what your team did, how well it was done, and what you can say about it in enough words to satisfy the owners of the process, while getting it done quickly enough to move on to your other tasks.

The sad part is that performance management is very much about running the business and meeting client needs, both internal and external. What is needed in today’s workplace is an efficient, effective, easy to use, continual performance management system that is transparent. Everyone needs to be trained on how to give effective feedback, and how to receive it. This should be an ongoing refrain! EVERYONE needs to be trained to give and receive feedback! Repeat – EVERYONE needs to use the training they received to give and receive feedback. Think of how many people you know who are ineffective at giving and receiving feedback and either are too busy to get better or think they are already good enough. The changes we recommend ONLY work if leaders and managers are GOOD at giving and receiving feedback!

With those criteria met, the performance management process will become a much easier task, one that is continual throughout the year, will deliver feedback, and will help set goals to help employees and the business.

In the following sections are five things to consider when building a successful performance management process and system. Use, design, measurement, output and competencies. We will cover use this week and the following four next week.

1. Use.

How will you use the system and what is your goal for the system? What organization and talent objectives are you trying to meet? Common uses are compensation decisions, promotion decisions, training, and what I’ll call leveling. Leveling can mean holding someone in their current position for a period of time, providing them with additional training, or finding other opportunities for them in the organization if their current position isn’t the right fit. Ultimately, it can mean counseling someone out of the organization.

As a side note, when making compensation decisions based on performance, many organizations are considering unlinking the direct connection between compensation decisions and the overall rating. Compensation decisions can still be made by performance, but other factors such as job position, job skills, market conditions, and contributions to the organization can be the main drivers1. This allows for more direct and honest feedback, and ultimately improving employee engagement and performance by honest coaching.

In part two, I will talk about what your intended use of the system should be, what to measure and how, as numeric ratings are falling out of style. We will also touch on competencies and how those are built into the system.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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Photo credit: traumaanddissociation

Have We Taken Optimization to Painful Extremes?

What is too optimized?This post is by James Brenza co-author of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.

As we hurriedly boarded the plane for our 6:00 AM departure, we sleepily threw our carry-on items in the overhead compartments and hoped for a calm, restful flight. The challenges started with the pilot’s innocuous announcement that we may have a short wait for de-icing. That short delay became a 30 minute line followed by a 90 minute wait for de-icing equipment repairs. Despite the pilot’s polite updates every 15 minutes, sleep was a lost opportunity due to the stress of missed connections and passenger calls to customer service to rebook connecting flights. Have you ever had a travel misfortune like this? Doesn’t it seem like the slightest disruption anywhere in the continent can disrupt the flow for the entire day (or longer)?

As seasoned travelers embrace winter’s grip, we brace ourselves for a plethora of difficulties. We all seem to encounter flight cancellations, late arrivals, insufficient or ill-equipped rental cars and overbooked hotels. I always find it interesting that other travelers complain that it wasn’t always this bad. Have you ever considered what changed? Is it possible that with more data and stronger optimization models that we’ve over-optimized based on profitability?

When creating optimization models, one of the very first steps is to pick an outcome. If the selected outcome includes only profitability, full asset utilization, minimal inventory or razor thin times to repurpose assets (e.g., airplane turnaround time, restaurant table turns per shift), we can certainly drive to that outcome. But if you don’t consider the ecosystem and especially the customer, you can actually sub-optimize the business ecosystem with excessive optimization. A few simple examples include:

  • Profit optimization is frequently accomplished at the expense of workforce capability and resiliency.
  • Operational efficiency optimization can compromise the customer satisfaction.

Don’t turn your back on optimization in haste! There’s no reason to throw in the towel yet. One of the best remedies has been available for decades (yet easily forgotten). The Balanced Score Card was developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in 1992. The approach is still operationally sound and perfectly complements optimization and executive analytics.

Optimize your business

By considering the ecosystem impact of excessive optimization, you can ensure you establish the countering measures during your development process. Since these measures need to incorporate an extremely broad view of the enterprise, they are best aligned with the executive view of the system.

As your team considers the optimization outcome, the leader should challenge them to consider the risks created by excessive optimization. They can brainstorm outlandish extremes to help make the point clear. After they consider all possible sinister outcomes, the next step is to consider the counter measures or optimization models that will prevent such extremely negative outcomes. It’s possible some of these outcomes should be factors in the primary optimization model (e.g., incorporating the cost of accommodating and compensating displaced airline passengers while optimizing fleet utilization).

It’s critical to associate and integrate the competing models while conducting what-if analysis or simulations. As various scenarios are modeled, the impact on the counter measure should be examined. Even if the models appear to be balanced for the “standard” outcomes (e.g., first standard deviation), the models should be stress tested for the edge cases and counter measures examined.

Since the results are vital to the ecosystem, core operating measures or KPI’s placed on the executive dashboard should have the counter measures visually aligned and updated at the same frequency. Unless all levels of the organization understand and monitor the impact of myopic optimization, the enterprise will increase risk to unacceptable levels.

Just in case you’re wondering about our flight disruption and connecting flights, many of us were fortunate that the connecting aircraft was delayed due to a mechanical fault. We were equally fortunate that it was promptly repaired considering the next available substitute aircraft wasn’t available for 5 hours. That’s a shocking delay considering this airport was a hub for that airline. By failing to model adequate substitute hardware during a predictably difficult travel season, they’ve embraced and accepted a significant level of customer dissatisfaction.

Are you doing the same thing to your customers? Are you prepared to ask the difficult questions and respond to the challenging answers? How are you leading your teams to ensure your optimization strategy is balanced?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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Photo credit: frakus


Four Ways Understanding Developmental Perspective Improves Organizations


This series started with a discussion of different developmental perspectives. Now we turn to applying your understanding of this concept to transforming your organization or improving its effectiveness.

Developmental perspective not only helps you as an individual leader create your growth path, it is also important in transforming your organization. The key to high performance is to align people and roles considering their developmental perspective. Different functions within the organization are best filled by people at different developmental perspectives. We call this their “fit” for the role, or more precisely, how the qualities associated with their developmental perspective align with requirements specific to the job. It is important for both leaders and organizations to support the health of all employees from a developmental standpoint and create an environment where each individual is in a role where he best fits and can move toward achieving his fullest potential.

In order for you to be successful as a leader over the long run, it is essential to understand your proper “fit” within the organization—which includes understanding who you are and what you value, where you belong in the organization, and where you belong within the broader team and community stakeholders. It is also important to apply this concept to others as you are making hiring decisions, assigning people to roles, determining individual roles within a team, and communicating with others. Importantly, the goal is not merely to build an organization with all people at the “highest” developmental perspective, rather it is to select people for roles that allow them to function as effectively as possible individually and collectively. Your organization will be effective if it supports success for people at all levels and aligns them to roles that fit their capacity. Organizations that perceive one perspective as “better” will be less effective than organizations that leverage every perspective and design an organization where all levels can thrive concurrently and are working toward a collective goal of organizational success using a broad range of skills and perspectives.

You can use this developmental model with organizations in several ways:

  1. Make staffing and succession decisions using developmental perspectives. Considering developmental perspective along with past performance and technical and industry skills, align people to the roles that have the best “fit.”
  2. Improve communication skills by applying a general understanding of developmental perspective to guide leaders in improving interpersonal effectiveness. Instead of simply communicating with others as ourselves, we recommend communicating with them based on their perspective. Understanding the perceptions of others from a developmental standpoint can dramatically improve interpersonal effectiveness. This is true with staff, peers, bosses, clients, family members, as well as other stakeholders.
  3. Improve management and leadership by applying an understanding of developmental perspectives allows a leader to clarify the needs of employees. For example, Expert employees want clear and specific directions and guidelines so they can do their tasks “right.” Individualists want the freedom to determine the best approach to accomplishing tasks. Trying to manage these different developmental perspectives using the same approach will result in frustration and lost productivity.
  4. Comparing the organizational developmental level to your personal developmental level will help you better understand the organizational culture. Organizations develop along the same trajectory as people: they start with the need to establish basic rules and infrastructure, and then move to more complex functioning as they progress through the organizational lifecycle. Understanding the culture will help you because as an innovative leader you are continually aligning your intentions and behaviors with the culture and systems of the organization. While we do not address organizational maturity in this book, if you are interested in learning more, you may reference Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership by William R. Torbert included in the references section of this book.

It is helpful for you to understand your own developmental perspective and also have a sense of the perspectives of those around you. You will not be testing everyone in the organization, but will rather have a sense of levels of key jobs or roles within the organization and use this understanding as input when designing your transformation initiative. Understanding how to apply this model effectively can greatly improve your communication effectiveness and interpersonal interactions with people who function at different perspectives.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: Bryan M Mathers