Sunday, July 17, 2016

What's the Secret of High Performing Project Teams!

The team is dead, long live the team!

In a rapidly changing and competitive environment, companies must innovate to survive. The future of work is the project team - knowledge workers who come together to deliver on a project before breaking up and moving on to the next one.

But forming a project team based on the expertise of the team members doesn't always work. Egos are often at stake, and more often than not team dynamics swamps the technical potential of the team. So, what's the secret of getting project teams to perform at their best?

A 2012 Harvard University study found the way teams shared knowledge significantly determined how well they performed. They coined the term knowledge integration capability to refer to a reliable pattern of team communication that helps the team to understand complex problems and get better outcomes. They looked at 79 client-facing teams in a professional services firm, and here's what they found:
  • Knowledge integration capability was positively correlated with team performance.
  • Under conditions of high uncertainty, relational resources (team members who knew each other and knew what knowledge each possessed) and the structure of those resources (high dispersal or sharing of knowledge) were strongly related to knowledge integration capability.
  • Under conditions of uncertainty, experiential resources (team members with the right type and level of task knowledge) and the structure of those resources (low dispersal of knowledge, closely guarded by team members) detracted from knowledge integration capability.
What does this mean? To get high performing project teams, you need to ensure:
  1. A high level of knowledge integration capability, and this seems particularly relevant under conditions of high uncertainty where the expected outcomes may be unclear and support for the project may be ambivalent.
  2. That at least some of the team members have worked together before and have an appreciation of each others' knowledge. 
  3. That knowledge is widely dispersed and accessible to all team members, not retained by one or two individuals.
  4. While the right type and level of task-related knowledge that team members possess is important, it might lead to rigidities that inhibit the efficiency and collaborativeness of communication.
How well is your team tracking? Get the KIC (Knowledge Integration Capability) assessment here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How to Change Social Systems!

If you've had anything to do with bringing about change in groups, teams or organisations you know how much intensive effort it can take. It requires a shift in perspective, much like the Apollo 17 photo of the Earth. We saw for the first time how fragile our planet is, and how interconnected we all are.

I'm presently in a small village an hour's drive west of Berlin where I'm attending the Presencing Foundation Program with Otto Scharmer from MIT. There are 80 delegates from 20 different countries. The program is all about the frameworks, methodology, and experiential learning for bringing about change in social systems.

How do you change social systems? According to Otto there are just two things which bring about the shift:
  1. Courage: Having the courage to try something new, to sense and learn from the emerging future, not just the past.
  2. Loving Attention: The quality of our attention is shaping the world around us. Energy follows attention. And when we pay attention with love the social system is more likely to respond.
The essence of changing social systems is to help people in the system sense and see themselves - to view the system from within. If you want to change social systems, first change the quality of your own thinking and the quality of your own attention. 

"The quality of results produced by any system depends on the quality of awareness from which people in the system operate"

It turns out the formula for successful change processes is not "form follows function", but "form follows consciousness". It's the structure of our awareness and attention that determines the pathway along which a situation unfolds.

Here are four questions to ask yourself to begin the process of change:
  1. What in your life and work is dying or ending, and what wants to be born?
  2. What do you need to let go of?
  3. Where, right now, do you feel the opening to a future possibility?
  4. What are your most important sources of energy? What do you love?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

How to Make Wiser Decisions!

Why do we have such a hard time making good choices?

When it comes to making decisions, we're naturally biased to think that we are all good decision makers. Just as most people in hospital after a vehicle accident they caused still maintain they are good drivers. There's ample evidence that our brain's are flawed. And in business that costs money.

But how can we do better?

Researchers, Dan Lovallo, and Oliver Sibony, investigated 1,048 important business decisions over 5 years, tracking both the ways the decisions were made and the subsequent outcomes. They found that in making most of the decisions, the teams had conducted rigorous analysis. They also asked the teams about their decision process - the softer, less analytical side of the decision. Had the team explicitly discussed what was still uncertain about the decisions? Did they include perspectives that contradicted the senior executive's point of view? Did they elicit participation from a range of people who had different views of the decision?

Lovallo and Sibony found that our decision process - how we structure our thinking about the decision, is more important than the analysis - the technical assessment of the relevant information. Good decisions - those that increase revenue, profits, and market share, were predicted by process more than analysis - by a factor of six! Read more here 

Here are four ways to counter bias and make better - even wiser - decisions:

Widen Your Frame

Teenagers get trapped in a narrow frame. They are blind to their choices. Unfortunately, most organisations tend to make decisions like teenagers. Often our options are far more plentiful than we think. Focusing on our current options means that other things are out of our spotlight. To escape a narrow frame and widen your options think about opportunity cost, or try the vanishing options test: What if your current options disappeared?

It's easier to spot a narrow frame from the outside. "Whether or not" decisions should set off alarm bells!

Consider the Opposite

To overcome confirmation bias - hunting for information that confirms our initial assumptions (which are often self-serving) - we need to spark a constructive disagreement within our organisations. We can ask disconfirming questions - questions which probe for potential problems, and even consider the opposite of our instincts. It might be possible to test our assumptions with a deliberate mistake.

Because we naturally seek self-confirming information, we need discipline to consider the opposite.

Overcome Short-Term Emotion

Fleeting emotions tempt us to make decisions that are bad in the long term. To overcome distracting short-term emotions, we need to attain some distance. Our decisions are often altered by two subtle short-term emotions: (1) mere exposure: we like what's familiar to us; and (2) loss aversion: losses are more painful than gains are pleasant. Loss aversion + mere exposure = status-quo bias.

We can attain distance by looking at our situation from an observer's perspective. Perhaps the most powerful question for resolving personal decisions is "What would I tell my best friend in this situation?"

Bookend the Future

The future is not a "point" - a single scenario that we must predict. It is a range. We should bookend the future, considering a range of outcomes from very bad to very good. To prepare for the lower bookend, we need a pre-mortem: "It's a year from now. Our decision has failed utterly. Why?" To be ready for the upper bookend, we need a pre-parade: "It's a year from now. We're heroes. Will we be ready for success?"

Anticipating problems helps us cope with them. By bookending - anticipating and preparing for both adversity and success - we stack the deck in favour of our decisions.

Test Your Decision-Making Process

To find out about your decision-making process, we invite you to take the DPS (Decision Processing Survey), the first instrument to reliably identify and measure three orthogonal information processing modes which contribute to good decisions - Deliberative, Intuitive, and Considerative.

For a limited time, we are offering the DPS for FREE!

When you complete the 10 minute survey your report will be generated and will sit on our server. Contact us to get your report and a personal debrief from either, Dr Barry Partridge or myself, Peter Webb.

Take the DPS for FREE here!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Staying in the Loop!

So, you think you're pretty good at making decisions, and you naturally assume most everything you do is under your conscious control - right?

Wrong! It turns out most of what you do and think and feel isn't under your conscious control at all. Your brain is in the business of gathering information and steering behaviour quickly and automatically and outside of your consciousness. It doesn't need you to stop and think. You operate day-to-day on multiple feedback loops - habits, that are hidden from view. As Pink Floyd put it, "There's someone in my head, but it's not me."

What happens when you want to change one of these feedback loops? How do you take back conscious control of your own brain?

First, you need to know something about the machinery of the brain. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. The process of habit-formation is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. This allows it to stop working so hard, and divert focus to other tasks. Habits never really disappear. They're encoded into the structures of your brain. The problem is, your brain can't tell the difference between good habits and bad habits.

Creating a Habit
Habits are powerful, but delicate. They often occur without your permission, but they can be reshaped. You can create a habit by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop. Cravings are what drive habits. And figuring out how to spark craving makes creating a new habit easier.

Want to exercise more? Choose a cue, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about that smoothie, or about the endorphin rush you'll feel after the gym session. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward, and eventually that craving will get you out of bed and down to the gym every day.

Changing a Habit
The golden rule of habit change is you can't extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it. Here's how it works: use the same cue, provide the reward, but change the routine. To modify a habit you must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits' routines, and find alternatives. You can choose your habits once you know how they function.

If you believe you can change - if you make it a habit - the change becomes real. Your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs - and becomes automatic - it starts to seem inevitable. Your habits have a central role in creating your happiness and success.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How to Influence People to do What you Want Them to Do!

Managing a business, government agency, or community organisation would be so much easier if wasn't for people! They just seem to pull this way and that with no rhyme or reason. How do you figure out what motivates them and how do you get them to point in the same direction?

It might seem like a tug-of-war sometimes, but it's actually quite simple. There are just two things you can do to compel people to do what you want them to do.

The first is strength. This is the capacity to make things happen with abilities and force of will. People who project strength command our attention. Strength consists of two elements: Ability, or competence; and will, or determination, perseverance and resilience.

You can influence people to do what you want them to do through assertiveness and dominance. The very act of asserting yourself boosts your standing as someone who matters. But strength alone will only take you so far. To move beyond respect to admiration, you also need to be liked.

So the second is warmth. This is the sense that a person shares our feelings, interests, and view of the world. When someone projects warmth, we like and support them. Warmth encompasses empathy, familiarity, and love.

You can influence people to do what you want them to do by displaying empathy, which means putting yourself in their shoes. You can also create familiarity through acting consistently and predictably. This helps to put people at ease. And above all, acting with a sense of compassion, even love, can deeply influence others.

A funny thing happens when you use too much strength. You might get your way, but you never know who to trust. On the other hand if you use too much warmth, people may like you but they might not follow you when the chips are down.

The trick is to use just the right amount of both strength and warmth. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anaemic."
  1. To emphasize your strength, do some stretches to make yourself feel taller and bigger before you talk to the team. use the "power pose". Speak with calm determination, not aggressive or arrogant.
  2. To emphasize your warmth, generate a calm abiding compassion for people. If you want to be liked, you have to like people. Move your face into a genuine smile until it starts to make you happy. Find a reason to be happy where you are with the people you are with. Others will find your happiness contagious.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Exponential Organisations and Leadership Wisdom!

Never in human history have we seen so many technologies coming together at such a rapid pace. "Moore's Law" has seen the doubling of price/performance in computing continue uninterrupted for half a century. But the same is true of information. Once any domain, discipline, technology, or industry becomes information-enabled, its price/performance begins doubling every year or two.

Ray Kurzweil, co-founder of Singularity University, calls this the Law of Accelerating Returns (LOAR).

We are entering the age of the exponential organisation driven by a new breed of newly democratised, exponential technologies. But who will lead these organisations, and will they do so with wisdom?

According to Salim Ismail and co-authors of the book, Exponential Organizations, we are facing four historically unique levels of convergence:
  1. The continuous acceleration of specific computation technologies occurring in areas such as Infinite Computing, Networks/Sensors, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Manufacturing and Synthetic Biology.
  2. The convergence of these technologies - the intersection of Networks, AI and 3D printing - will soon allow anyone to describe their thoughts. Every one of us, with or without skills, becomes a master designer and manufacturer.
  3. The number of digitally connected people on Earth will grow from 2 billion in 2010 to at least 5 billion by 2020. What will that enable? what will they build?
  4. The rate of innovation on Earth increases as a direct effect of people concentrating in cities. The proportion of urban dwellers globally crossed the 50% threshold for the first time in human history  5 years ago. Soon, the global mind of 5 billion connected people will drive the most rapid iteration of technology ever seen.
Yet, while the authors breathlessly extoll the virtues of technology to solve the problems of humanity, they remain blindly optimistic about exactly how to engage, motivate or lead the people who will be living through these changes.

Disruption is the catch-cry of the digitised economy. Yet in reality, disruption deals with death and rebirth. "What's dying is an old civilization, predicated on the mindset of "me" - maximum material consumption, bigger is better, and special-interest-group-driven decision making that has led us into a state of organised irresponsibility, collectively creating results that nobody wants", writes the MIT Economist Otto Scharmer in his seminal book, Leading From The Emerging Future.

What we need is a social methodology of change that matches the sophistication of the new information paradigm. And more urgently, a methodology that does so with wisdom!

Preparing leaders for the exponential organisations of the emerging future involves 7 elements according to Scharmer and the faculty at MITs Presencing Institute:

1. Global classroom
A blended technology approach combining live-streamed classroom sessions and mini-lectures with highly interactive small-group practice.

2. Deep dives into inspiring local, regional, and global hot spots of innovation
Total immersion journeys (actual, not virtual) that allow learners to feel, empathise, and connect with multiple perspectives.

3. Awareness-based leadership technologies
Mindful leadership and awareness-based leadership technologies that link the intelligences of head, heart, and hand.

4. Presencing coaching circles
Peer circles of 5 to 7 members that use deep listening-based coaching practices to hold the space for individual and shared renewal.

5. Action learning
Taking part in challenges to co-create hands-on prototype solutions that are helpful to a specific community or stakeholder constellation.

6. Innovation hubs
Innovation happens in places. So, create a place conducive to integrating the intelligence of head, heart, and hand, not only for individuals but also for communities of innovators.

7. Individualized lifelong learning
From this deep place of awakening, activating, and strengthening the capacity to be an entrepreneur within (or without) an exponential organisation, who designs your curriculum? The answer is, you!

However, most companies and institutions are responding to the challenge by doing more of the same: Cutting costs and becoming more lean and mean, but not reinventing themselves. Scharmer says "in order to facilitate profound innovation, leaders need to shift their mindset from ego-system to eco-system awareness and practice".

Are you and your organisation making the shift?