lundi 5 décembre 2011

We all know how essential innovation is to business success. If Apple Corp. had not innovated, we would not have iPhones. If Microsoft had stopped innovating when they released DOS, we never would have seen Windows operating systems. If manufacturers had stopped innovating, we would all be driving Model T's and calling each other on candlestick phones that need operator assistance; there would be no television to watch and you wouldn't be reading this because the Internet would never have been created.

Innovation is Essential

So if innovation is so important, why do so many companies spend all their time making tiny process improvements and watching their competitors steal their customers with innovative new products and services? Clearly the problem is not that business owners and managers don't see the need for innovation. Many just don't know how to encourage innovation. However, most actively discourage innovation - not on purpose, perhaps, but very effectively. Let's look at two small companies. One is an example of how to discourage innovation. The other is an example of how to encourage innovation.

Discourage Innovation - Kill The Company

Carol runs a small family business. She is very good. She knows what she is doing and is able to tell everyone else specifically what to do too. Unfortunately Carol's business has been going downhill. She has had to lower her prices, which reduces her profits. She keeps losing business to her competitors who come up with better products and cheaper ways to do things. Several long-time employees have left and it takes a lot of time and effort to train the new people in the right way to do things.
How can that happen? Carol is smart and works hard. She pays her people well. She tries different things. People are happy in the office, but they don't talk amongst themselves much; they just all stick to their own jobs and try to do them right.
You see her walking all around the office watching what people are doing and when they do something "wrong" she steps in and shows them how to do it right. Often people call Carol to their work station to ask how to do something new. They all remember how Carol reprimanded Jeff when he tried something new. She didn't even have time to listen to his explanation of why.
Carol's approach works well when you are training toddlers or teaching math in grade school. It would also work on the battlefield. But it will not produce the innovation Carol's company needs to survive and prosper.
Carol is overlooking the greatest asset of her company, its employees. Each of them has unique experiences, education, and background. They have different perspectives, different problem solving skills and techniques. There may not be a single one of them who is as smart as Carol, who knows the business as well as she does, or who is as good at innovating as Carol. But, as smart as Carol is, she is not smarter than everybody.

Encourage Innovation - Grow The Company

Valerie has her hands full. Her little company has been growing so quickly that it's hard to keep up. There are a lot of new employees who need to be trained in how the company does things. Without this training, her company would lose some of its product quality. Fortunately, Anna showed a real gift for explaining things and she handles most of the training these days.
Valerie remembers the “old days" when it was just a handful of them. They would sit around an old picnic table out in the shop and have lunch together and talk about kids, movies - and the business. Lots of happy chatter and some crazy ideas came out of those lunches. Everyone seemed to enjoy it except Devon, the new guy. He was always the last one to show up and the first to leave. He would talk occasionally, but not often.
Valerie smiles now when she thinks about how he has developed. Devon wasn't much of a "big thinker" like the rest of them, but when they came up with an idea, Devon was the one who could take it from a rough sketch to a finished product.
Valerie's day is frequently interrupted by phone calls from her team. This morning Eva called to let her know that the new packaging technique had failed - for the fourth time. Valerie suggested she talk with Alicia who had seen a similar problem yesterday in her efforts to streamline the IT operations. There was also the call from the head of sales who wanted Valerie to address the meeting they were having next month for several clients to discuss the industry and what its future needs. And her Operations Manager wants to talk about the SWOT analysis they are doing in his department next week.
The R&D group posted a note on the company intranet asking for volunteers to test a new product prototype. The company softball team posted this season's schedule on the intranet as well. HR is recruiting volunteers to tutor students at the nearby elementary school in reading.

Why One Company Fails

It's easy to see why Carol's company is in trouble. There is no innovation because Carol unintentionally stifles it. She is so focused on doing things right that she does not give people the freedom to make mistakes by trying new things. Although she tries to think of new things herself, she has limited ability in that area and she doesn't let anyone else try. She micro-manages her employees and treats them like children. Pretty soon, they stop trying to improve things, or they just leave.

Why One Company Succeeds

Valerie's company is doing great. Why? She has created a company culture that encourages innovation.
  • Encourage Communication - everyone can get together, at lunch, on the softball field, etc. and talk. This cross-functional conversation spurs the imagination of each person and lets them learn from the skills of the others.
  • Allow Failure - Eva is now on the fifth attempt to solve the packaging problem because the first four failed. How many times did Edison fail before he found the right filament for the electric light bulb?
  • Find Patterns - Alicia's solution to the IT problem may be what Eva needs to solve the packaging problem. Look for similarities that can lead to discovery.
  • Know Your Market - There is no point in developing an innovative way to make better buggy whips. Find out what your clients and your industry need and find innovative solutions to those problems. Use a SWOT analysis of your competitors, your own company, and your industry to highlight opportunities for innovation.
  • Use Everyone's Best Skills - Devon wasn't the best innovator, but having him focus on the engineering allowed other people in other areas spend the time to be more creative. R&D recruits their testers from across the company to get many different perspectives.

Use Innovation To Create Success

Your company (or department, group, or team) has a lot of smart people. Encourage them to be imaginative, give them permission to make mistakes, and give them time to just sit and think. Build a culture that is "flat" and works across organizational lines easily. Build the individuals into a team that enjoys being together at work. Do these things and you will get the innovation you need to succeed.

jeudi 1 décembre 2011

What employees expect from managers?

The Cubiks Human resources’ agency had realized a survey with 450 employees across 8 european countries. More than 70% of the executives think that their bosses have been counter-performing in their work because of management reasons. Also, 60% admit having quit their job because of the way of managing in the company. Then, management seems to be a central element in the employees’ life.
In order to understand what is the best and the worst of management for employees, the survey had examined the actions viewed as the most demotivating and the most motivating. Among the first ones, two actions are considered as really demotivating: when the manager awards an unsatisfactory wage’s increase and when the manager appropriate to himself the work of the employee. The people surveyed also the lack of support on a project or a difficult task.

Among the motivating actions, 3 are highlighted: the support of the managers in the crisis periods, the congratulations of the manager, the support of the manager to get a promotion.

Finally, almost 40% of the employees say that the main quality of the manager is the « honesty in his feedbacks ».17% of the employees prefer an “open to feedbacks” manager. Empathy and listening are essential qualities. Loyalty towards his colleagues is also quoted among the important qualities of the manager.

vendredi 25 novembre 2011

Post-it war

Paris, La defense – The phenomenon took place in Summer 2011 and was initiated by Unisoft and BNP – the concept is clear : design characters from comics and cartoons with simple Post-it and try to be better than the competitor building in front of you…

More and more firms got involved this big game in which employees take part with enthusiasm. The event created a real buzz on Facebook - more than 6000 likes in three days, today more than 45 000 likers – and French medias follow it since the beginning.

Even if it looks totally counterproductive, a real waste of time and money - when post-it has been replaced by emails and bugdet for furnitures become more and more tough – this new activity seems to have real vertues for employees. Indeed, it allows them to relax by having fun and reinforce their motivation and cohesion within the team and then outside with those who play the game against them.  Also, it reinforces the corporate feeling of employees who are proud to defend their company against their evil competitors…

It is for this reason that well-known French firms like Renault, SFR, Citroen, Haribo and SNCF decided to take part to the game. Even more, PricewaterhouseCoopers offices in Paris dedicated a whole room to this original and pleasant activity.

Do you think it is a good way of managing people?

jeudi 17 novembre 2011

Who did what?

Link the idea to the person.
Don't cheat! Try to remember who worked on what.
When you’re finished, give us the answers. We will tell you if it’s right or wrong.
Have fun!

1) Adam Smith
2) Taylor
3) Mc Gregor
4) Fiedler
5) Mintzberg
6) Lewin
7) Holland
8) Hersey
9) Gantt
10) Pfeffer

a) X and Y theory
b) Division of work
c) Planning chart
d) Scientific management
e) Power in organization
f) Change process
g) Contingency model of leadership
h) Typology personality/job
i) Model of the situational leadership
j) Roles of a manager

mercredi 9 novembre 2011

IKEA way of managing

As you know, the way of managing is partly influenced by the culture of the country. People are unconsciously raised with a certain culture characterized by some customs and habits which have an impact on the human being. Geert Hofstede (2 October 1928 in Haarlem, Netherlands), an influential Dutch social psychologist and anthropologist, has played a major role in developing a systematic framework for assessing and differentiating national cultures and organizational cultures (website link :

He classified the countries according five major points, determined by a report studying the behavior of IBM employees in 70 countries, which are:

-         Power Distance Index (PDI) : that is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally
-       Individualism (IDV) : it measures if people are used to work alone or prefer working in a group
-      Masculinity (MAS) : versus its opposite, femininity, refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found
-        Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) : it measures the level of uncertainty people can accept and to what extent they are willing to take risks
-            Long-Term Orientation (LTO): versus Short-Term Orientation depends on the level managers think, rather in a long term way or in a short one.

A good manager has to be aware of these characteristics before thinking about working with or in another one located abroad. Yet, some companies succeed in applying their way of managing all over the globe which can sometimes be a key of their success.

For instance, the well-known brand IKEA, the world’s larger furniture retailer, presents in 3 countries, has developed its success around its design products and its original ‘Scandinavian lifestyle’ which convinced both customers and employees.

The Swedish model spreads worldwide

According to Hofsede, the Swedish power distance index is low, which means the hierarchy is not that specified with many levels. Besides, masculinity is very low as well, which means people are preoccupied by emotional issues rather than by facts.

This is the way the company is organized, with the minimum of hierarchy. They emphasized the personality of people they hire, with a real will to hire people with their own characteristics.
It has a strong almost ethnocentric Swedish corporate culture following a home based internationalization strategy.  The great challenge of the organization as it becomes larger and more diverse through the years is how to keep the core founding values alive. To make it right, it simply reproduces its way of managing in all the countries, which sometimes has been a real issue.

For example, in the European countries, such as France and Spain (the two tables among) which, even if they have some differences of culture (France has a high power distance index), succeed in adopting the IKEA culture. At the contrary, IKEA have had some difficulties in convincing the US of its corporate culture and struggled to tap the market (consumers have different expectations, competitors are numerous…).

Another question : if and how individuals with differences in background as race, gender, physical ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age all can subscribe to the shared corporate values of IKEA and find it a good place to work?

This contradiction is not an error from IKEA, it goes with its orientation of diversity management. There must be non-negotiable differences of gender, ethnicity etc. in order for it to make sense, to speak of diversity. At the same time, these differences must be negotiable in order for it to make sense to manage them in a coherent corporation.

Accepting the paradox, whether explicitly or implicitly opens a field of possibilities, one of which is the practice displayed in the web pages of IKEA. We might inquire, however, if this paradox is specific to the diversity management practice of IKEA.

mardi 1 novembre 2011

Apple vs. Google: Battle of the Management Styles

With the recent death of Steve Jobs and our previous articles concerning Google's management style, we find interesting to compare these two companies' ways to motivate their employees. 

Apple Computer is getting a lot of press these days, but the focus isn’t always on its computers, iPhone, or ubiquitous iPods. Rather, various sources have written about how Apple is run very much like a traditional top-down company. People are told what to do and then sent off to do it. If they do a bad job, they may get yelled at by the boss.

Who would have guessed?
Since reading about Apple’s old-time management style, I can’t help watching the “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” TV commercials more closely to see if the cool Mac guy has bloodshot eyes from crying in his cubicle.
According to Leander Kahney, author of a recent essay in Wired magazine titled “How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong“:
“Whereas the rest of the tech industry may motivate employees with carrots, Jobs is known as an inveterate stick man. Even the most favored employee could find themselves on the receiving end of a tirade. Insiders have a term for it: the “hero-shithead roller coaster.” Says Edward Eigerman, a former Apple engineer, “More than anywhere else I’ve worked before or since, there’s a lot of concern about being fired.”
Apple’s management style seems the polar opposite from what we hear takes place at most modern tech firms, including the world’s most powerful brand, Google. Leander Kahney writes:
“Google’s engineers have unprecedented autonomy; they choose which projects they work on and whom they work with. And they are encouraged to allot 20 percent of their work week to pursuing their own software ideas. The result? Products like Gmail and Google News, which began as personal endeavors.”
Google’s management style sounds idyllic, but I bet the reality of the situation isn’t so rosy. I’m certain there are some team members no one wants to work with and a bunch of projects that need to get done that no one wants to do. I suspect there are even days when the catered meals need salt and the massage therapist’s hands are cold.
From a talent management perspective, I think the Google style may work for Google but is at the experimental stage elsewhere. It’s not yet certain such a high level of freedom leads to greater happiness among employees or a more creative and productive team. Economists would surely say that, given such freedom, team members will inevitably choose individual self interests over what’s best for their colleagues or the company.
The opposite approach, though, of beating employees with a stick, will only be endured by the employee until a better job comes along. Making matters worse, when that employee does leave, he or she will be bitter and will do all he can to hurt the company.

So which type of management do you think is the best ? 
Is it better to motivate people by letting them do what they want and have a certain autonomy or by putting them under pressure in order to reach the company's goals ?

lundi 24 octobre 2011

The balanced scorecard (BSC):

The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a strategic performance management tool - a semi-standard structured report originated by Drs. Robert Kaplan (Harvard Business School) and David Norton. It is supported by proven design methods and automation tools, that can be used by managers to keep track of the execution of activities by the staff within their control and to monitor the consequences arising from these actions.

While the phrase balanced scorecard was coined in the early 1990s, the roots of this type of approach are deep, and include the pioneering work of General Electric on performance measurement reporting in the 1950’s and the work of French process engineers (who created the Tableau de Bord – literally, a "dashboard" of performance measures) in the early part of the 20th century.

Design of a Balanced Scorecard ultimately is about the identification of a small number of financial and non-financial measures and attaching targets to them, so that when they are reviewed it is possible to determine whether current performance 'meets expectations'. The idea behind this is that by alerting managers to areas where performance deviates from expectations, they can be encouraged to focus their attention on these areas, and hopefully as a result trigger improved performance within the part of the organization they lead.

Balanced Scorecard

The organization through the four perspectives
  • The Learning & Growth Perspective: This perspective includes employee training and corporate cultural attitudes related to both individual and corporate self-improvement. In a knowledge-worker organization, people -- the only repository of knowledge -- are the main resource. In the current climate of rapid technological change, it is becoming necessary for knowledge workers to be in a continuous learning mode. Metrics can be put into place to guide managers in focusing training funds where they can help the most. In any case, learning and growth constitute the essential foundation for success of any knowledge-worker organization. Kaplan and Norton emphasize that 'learning' is more than 'training'; it also includes things like mentors and tutors within the organization, as well as that ease of communication among workers that allows them to readily get help on a problem when it is needed. It also includes technological tools; what the Baldrige criteria call "high performance work systems."
  • The business process perspective: This perspective refers to internal business processes. Metrics based on this perspective allow the managers to know how well their business is running, and whether its products and services conform to customer requirements (the mission).
  • The customer Perspective: Recent management philosophy has shown an increasing realization of the importance of customer focus and customer satisfaction in any business. These are leading indicators: if customers are not satisfied, they will eventually find other suppliers that will meet their needs. Poor performance from this perspective is thus a leading indicator of future decline, even though the current financial picture may look good. In developing metrics for satisfaction, customers should be analyzed in terms of kinds of customers and the kinds of processes for which we are providing a product or service to those customer groups.
  • The financial Perspective: Kaplan and Norton do not disregard the traditional need for financial data. Timely and accurate funding data will always be a priority, and managers will do whatever necessary to provide it. In fact, often there is more than enough handling and processing of financial data. With the implementation of a corporate database, it is hoped that more of the processing can be centralized and automated. But the point is that the current emphasis on financials leads to the "unbalanced" situation with regard to other perspectives.  There is perhaps a need to include additional financial-related data, such as risk assessment and cost-benefit data, in this category.

Since the Balanced Scorecard was popularized in the early 1990s, a large number of alternatives to the original 'four box' Balanced Scorecard promoted by Kaplan and Norton in their various articles and books have emerged. Most have very limited application, and are typically proposed either by academics as vehicles for promoting other agendas (such as green issues), or consultants as an attempt at differentiation to promote sales of books and / or consultancy.

Examples of the concerns raised by the development of the balanced scorecard. The use of Balanced Scorecard for appraisal/incentive use may:
  • result in the 'forced distribution' of people into performing groups
  •  lead to a 'one size fits all' strategy to performance management
  • encourage organizations to evaluate performance using a bell curve method. This in turn can mean that a set percentage of staff will be categorized as 'under performing'.
  • encourage 'peer ranking' resulting in assessment of performance relative to the performance of other employees, rather than fixed standards

Today, a lot of companies are using the balanced scorecard such as Veolia, BMW financial services, IBM, Philips electronic,... 

To go further:  

- A balanced scorecard website:

- A more complete explanation of the balanced scorecard:

- The example of Veolia: