Category Archives: Culture

The Reality Step Always Wins

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You talk about culture and the importance of culture. How can culture be created? How can culture be sustained?

Response:
Culture gets created every day. Whether you intended or not, the culture you have today was created yesterday. Culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our required behaviors in the work that we do together. It is a cycle.

  • We hold beliefs and assumptions, about the way we see the world.
  • We connect behaviors to those beliefs and assumptions.
  • We test those behaviors against the reality of consequences.
  • The behaviors that survive the test become our customs and rituals.
  • Customs and rituals reinforce our beliefs and assumptions about the way we see the world.
  • Rinse, repeat.

You can start almost anywhere on the cycle to define your culture. Ultimately, the reality step always wins and redefines the rest of the cycle until the next test against reality occurs.

How to Get People to Use CRM

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Tom, I remember a few years ago you talked about the effectiveness of negative vs positive reinforcement to affect changes in employee behavior. Here’s my problem: I am responsible for implementing a CRM sales management system affecting over 100 sales reps and 15 regional sales managers. For 30 years, we’ve allowed our sales reps to act without much direction or accountability. Our market was robust so a salesperson’s day was spent taking care of customers, entertaining them, and knocking off early on Fridays.

Then, our market soured, so did our sales.

Over the years, we became a service oriented company with little focus on sales management. As you would guess, there is strong resentment and resistance to the accountability that a CRM requires–assigning prospects, setting tasks and goals, and required reporting to management.

Here is the feedback so far. “Do you want me to sell or fill out these stupid reports?” OR “I’m no good with computers.” OR “I don’t have time.” OR “This is Big Brother micro-managing me.”

I’m experimenting with gamification of the process, creating competition among territories and recognizing successes. The CEO of the corporation is reviewing weekly scorecards and sending email comments to the sales managers on performance.

Here’s the question. What will have the greatest effect on participation, negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement? Should we tie pay to usage of the system?

Response:
This is not an unusual dilemma. Your idea of gamification takes me back to a post I wrote in Sep 2007 (yes, ten years ago), where we looked at how a young teenager learned to play a complex video game without a training course, instruction materials or a tutor. In fact, despite discouragement from his manager (mom), he still managed to achieve a high level of competence at playing the game, would actually go without food or sleep to play.

So, how could you get a group of veteran, grisly sales people to spend time with a CRM system?

First, to the subject of positive vs negative reinforcement. At best, negative reinforcement only gets you compliance. And compliance only works in the presence of the manager and the constant pressure of the negative reinforcement. If the manager is not present or the probability of enforcement is low, the desired behavior disappears. Most negative reinforcement resides outside the individual with only temporary effect.

To achieve commitment (vs compliance) to the behavior, you have to go inside. You have to look for an intrinsic reinforcement. You have to examine the belief. It is not your rules, not your suggestions, not your tracking tools that drive behavior. It is the belief inside the individual.

And your individuals have spoken their beliefs.
Do you want me to sell or fill out these stupid reports?

  • The belief is that only selling creates sales, not filling out reports. Filling out reports is a waste of time.

I’m no good with computers.

  • The belief is that I am good at sales and that I am not good at computers. The belief is that using a computer will not bring in more sales.

I don’t have time.

  • The belief is that filling out reports in a computer is not as high a priority as anything else.

This is Big Brother micro-managing me.

  • The belief is that a good salesperson does NOT need coaching. The belief is that tracking activity may surface accountability to a standard defined by someone else.

Ultimately, this is a culture problem. You don’t get the behavior you want (interaction with a CRM system) because you, as the manager, have not connected success (sales) with activity in the CRM system. They don’t believe you.

Culture Cycle

  • Beliefs.
  • Connected behaviors.
  • Connected behaviors tested against the consequences of reality.
  • Behaviors that survive are repeated in customs and rituals.

You started with a CRM system rather than starting with the team. Your team knows how to make sales, they are experts at it. In a meeting, get them to document the processes and behaviors that create sales. Big flip chart. Here is my prediction – they will create a system similar to most sales systems.

  • Prospecting
  • Qualification
  • Needs assessment (preventing objections)
  • Connection of needs to your product or service
  • Customer willing to solve their problem (pay)
  • Closing
  • After closing support

These are activities in a sequence that creates customers and orders. These are likely the same activities you are attempting to document in the CRM system. But, now, it is the team that identified the behaviors, not some stupid CRM system.

Next, ask them to coach each other. They may not trust you, but they trust each other. Ask them to document what a coaching process might look like. Ask them what collected data might be helpful to make the coaching more effective.

Teaching is not nearly as effective as learning. Turn this into a learning process, not a teaching process. -Tom

How Is The Morale?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I am the direct manager of a team of four supervisors. I am working on the agenda for 1-1 discussions with each individual. Based on your suggestion, I structured the agenda using the Key Result Areas in the role description. While it seems to make sense, I feel there is a missing piece to the agenda. I know we are talking about the work in the role of the supervisor, but where many of them struggle is in the soft skills, the interpersonal working relationships between each supervisor and their team members. We often talk about those issues, but I am not sure how to organize my notes from those discussions. What we talk about doesn’t fit any of the Key Result Areas, but I feel like they are dramatically important. Is it possible that there are things we should talk about outside the Key Result Areas defined for the role?

Response:
Welcome to management. You have just discovered that the work of the supervisor is different than the work of the team member. It is not that there are issues outside of defined Key Result Areas, but, there are Key Result Areas that escaped the role description.

A military commander was once asked in all of his experience, what was his biggest mistake, his biggest regret. His reply was “not taking vacation before going into battle.” It was a curious response, but he explained that the most important element to consider before going into battle was morale. What is the morale of the troops?

Is it possible that a Key Result Area missed in the definition of the role description was team morale?

Key Result Area – Team Morale

Context – the most critical work product in our company requires high levels of cooperation and support between team members in collateral working relationships. It is incumbent on the supervisor to create positive working relationships that promote teamwork and high levels of trust among team members.

Tasks and Activities – the supervisor will clearly assign tasks in such a way that each team member understands not only their own task assignment, but the task assignments of those people they work around. Where work product is handed off from one team member to another, or one work cell to another, the team members will discuss the quality standards that each team member needs from other team members. The supervisor will create circumstances where team members provide feedback to each other, in a respectful way related to quality standards, pace of work and safety practices. Specifically, the supervisor will require positive feedback practice during times of low stress using project debriefs, brainstorming best practices, team teaching and cross training, so that during periods of high stress, the team can operate at high levels of cooperation, support and trust.

Accountability – The supervisor is accountable for evaluating the morale of the team, identifying team behavior that promotes teamwork and identifying team behavior that is destructive to teamwork. The supervisor will review this team assessment each month in a 1-1 discussion with the supervisor’s manager, to identify steps the supervisor may take to promote teamwork and discourage behavior that is destructive to teamwork.

Defining Culture as Behavior

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
When you described culture as a Key Result Area, you said the manager should be an effective model for behaviors that support the company’s culture. I am looking at our company’s mission, vision, values and it’s not really clear what those behaviors are.

Response:
The reason it’s not clear is that most mission, vision, values placards are not user friendly. There is no clarity because the company (the CEO, executive managers, managers and supervisors) have not made it clear. If you want clear behaviors, you have to define them.

For example, if teamwork is an agreed-upon value. “Our company values teamwork in its approach to problem solving and decision making.” What are the behaviors connected with teamwork? Spell it out.

Our company values teamwork in its approach to problem solving and decision making. Given a problem to solve, each team member, using their full commitment and capability is required to give their supervisor or manager “best advice.” Given a problem to solve, each manager or supervisor is required to collect facts about the problem by listening to “best advice” from their team. Only after thorough discussion and consideration of the data, contributing factors, circumstances and alternatives, will the manager or supervisor make the decision about the course of action to solve the problem. Our company acknowledges that this may be cumbersome and slow down the problem solving process AND it acknowledges that this process will be a learning tool for each team member in problem solving. In the short term, this process may slow things down AND in the long run, this process will prepare each team member to solve more complicated problems. This is not a suggestion, this is a requirement. -Tom
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You may recognize “best advice” from Nick Forrest in How Dare You Manage?

Having the Right Answer

Ernesto introduced himself to the class. “Hello, my name is Ernesto, and I have been in management for ten years. The biggest challenge with my team is making sure they do the job right. I have so much experience that I seldom make mistakes and I think that is why I was promoted. It’s important we don’t make mistakes because mistakes cost the company.”

Here’s the difficulty. How many ways does an expert have to solve a problem?

  • Instead of curious, the expert has the learned answer.
  • Instead of inquiring, the expert speaks with a solution.
  • Instead of exploring, the expert knows the right and only way.

Instead of being a curious child, we get good, we become learned, we become an expert. What are the predictable problems Ernesto has faced all of his managerial career?

It’s not so much to have the right answer, but to ask the right question. -Tom

Amidst the Hustle and Bustle

People are scurrying to take off for the holidays. I see the hustle, bustle and last minute shopping. I, too, am battening down for a winter holiday, a little feasting, a little skiing. We will see you back here in January. For now, hug those around you and give thanks.
_____

As Matthew looked across the manufacturing floor, the machines stood silent, the shipping dock was clear. Outside, the service vans were neatly parked in a row. Though he was the solitary figure, Matthew shouted across the empty space.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”

He reached for the switch. The mercury vapors went dark. He slid out the door and locked it behind.

See you all next year. -Tom

Culture as an Accountability

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
Is culture a Key Result Area (KRA) in a role description?

Response:
Over the past several years, I have come to the conclusion – Yes.

Here are the four absolutes identified by Elliott Jaques required for success (effectiveness) in any role.

  • Capability (time span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors (contracted behaviors, habits, culture)

Culture is that unwritten set of rules (based on our beliefs and assumptions) that governs the required behaviors in the work that we do together.

While culture impacts everyone in the organization, I find it is a managerial accountability related to setting context. Context is culture, culture is context.

I look for several things from a manager.

  • Awareness of the company’s culture.
  • Ability to communicate the company’s culture in stories and examples.
  • Model behaviors that support the company’s culture.
  • Observe behaviors in others and where appropriate, provide coaching, when necessary, corrective action.
  • Participate in the on-going definition of the company’s culture.

Here is what it looks like in a role description –
Key Result Area (KRA) – Culture
As a member of the management team, the manager will understand and be conversant in the company’s mission, vision and values related to culture.

Accountability – the manager will be accountable for effectively communicating the company’s mission, vision and values. This will include the telling of stories and examples of connected behaviors that support the company’s culture. The manager will be an effective model of those behaviors that support the company’s culture. The manager will be attentive to the behavior of other managers and staff in accordance with the company’s mission, vision and values. The manager will be accountable for coaching, and, where appropriate, taking corrective action. The manager will actively participate in meetings regarding the definition and maintenance of the company’s mission, vision and values, providing constructive input to the definition of the company’s culture.

How to Interview for Values

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I get it. Interest and passion come from value for the work. So, just exactly how do you interview for that? Any question I come up with, sounds stupid or leads the candidate.

  • Are you passionate about the work we do here?
  • Tell me about your interest in the work we do here?

These questions just leave me open for the candidate to fabricate something they think I want to hear.

Response:
You are correct, those are lousy questions. First, they are hypothetical and without definition for “the work we do here.” The first fix is to ask about the candidate’s real prior experience, not a hypothetical comparison.

Next, it is impossible to interview for values. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. We can only interview for behaviors connected to values. What are some descriptive words connected to value for the work?

  • Significant
  • Important
  • Accomplishment
  • Pride

Embed these words into a series of questions, focused on connected behaviors.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project of significance?
  • What was the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • Describe your work on the project?
  • What problems did you have to solve?
  • What decisions did you have to make?
  • What made that project significant?
  • What characteristics about the project made it important?
  • In the eyes of the team, what was accomplished?
  • In that project, what were you most proud of?

In the interview, as you listen to the candidate’s response, do the values described match up with the values necessary for the work in the role?

Before you spring this on a real candidate interview, try this with your existing team. Valuable practice. -Tom

Context is Culture

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I believe you when you say that a key managerial component is setting context. How does culture fit in to context?

Response:
Context is culture, that is why it is so critical for managers to set context. Context is the culture in which we do our work.

Beliefs and Assumptions. Culture is the way that we see the world (Grodnitzky). Culture is the lens through which we see every element of our surroundings. Culture is what we believe to be true (whether it is or not). It is the collective consciousness in our workforce.

Connected Behaviors. Culture drives behavior (Grodnitzky). Lots of things influence behavior, but culture drives behavior. These behaviors are attached to the way that we see the world. Change the way we see the world and behavior changes. If, as a manager, you want to change behavior, you have to change the way you see the world. Change the context, behavior follows (Grodnitzky).

Tested Against Reality of Consequences. Every connected behavior is challenged by reality. Is the way we see the world aligned with the reality of consequences? No plan ever survives its train-wreck with reality. Everyone has a plan (the way they see the world) until they get punched in the face (Tyson). The reality of consequences tempers the way we see the world. As a manager, do not believe that you can get away with a bullshit culture.

Customs and Traditions. Those connected behaviors that survive the test against reality produce our customs, rituals, traditions. These routine ceremonies reinforce (for better or worse) our beliefs and assumptions about the way we see the world. Some behaviors are simply repeated often enough to become rituals. Some traditions are created to enshrine the belief. Either way, over time, make no mistake, these customs will have their day against the reality of consequences. Be careful what you enshrine.

Context is the environment in which we work. What does yours look like? -Tom
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Many thanks to my mentor Gustavo Grodnitzky Culture Trumps Everything.

How to Set Context With Your Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I hear you say that management is about setting context. I think I understand what that means, but I do NOT understand how to do it.

Response:
Culture is context. Setting context is the prime objective for every manager. Context is the environment in which work is done. Work is making decisions and solving problems. This is fundamental managerial work. Three moving parts –

  • Communicate the Vision. This is the future picture of a project, picture of a product in a package, the output from a service. This is what a clean carpet looks like.
  • Performance Standard. This is the what, by when. This is the objective in measurable terms. This is the goal – QQTR, quantity, quality, time (deadline or evaluation period), resources. The vision is full of excitement and enthusiasm, specifically defined by the performance standard.
  • Constraints. There are always constraints and guidelines. Budget is a constraint, access to resources is a constraint, time can be a constraint. These are the lines on the field. Safety issues are always a constraint. When the project is finished, you should go home with all your fingers and toes.

That’s it, then let the team loose to solve the problems and make the decisions within the context. Do not make this more complicated. It’s always about the fundamentals. -Tom