Disrupters are changes in technology, process or knowledge that fundamentally change the nature of an industry. The iPhone is a good example of a disruptive technology. The use of "big data" is very much a disrupter in the knowledge realm and has far reaching implications for every industry sector. To a lesser degree changes in approaches to process improvement like LEAN or Operational Excellence or Behavioural Based Process Improvement are also disrupters.
Why Are Disrupters Important?
Having established what a disrupter is the next question is why is this important? Ask PALM or perhaps Blackberry. Ask Atari or Commodore. These are all examples of companies that have suffered as a result of not recognizing disrupters and for not fostering a disruptive technology drive of there own. Disrupters change industry and companies within that industry that do not recognize the disruption early enough to adapt, disappear. For a current example, many feel that Apple is now struggling with staying out front with regard to introducing the next major disrupter.
It is the nature of a disrupter to come from a place of obscurity and move to a place of dominance in relatively short order. Current companies are now trying to incubate disruptive technology, processes or knowledge as a means of staying ahead of the competition. This is where operational excellence comes in. If you can create an environment where every member of the organization is invested in looking for improvements, savings or better client experience you run a better chance of incubating a disrupter.
Everyone Can Play
One company took the approach that those closest to the action are best able to identify the opportunities so created a culture that encouraged input from front line workers. In one instance a worker shared some information regarding how to get more production from a well with what was a very simple approach. The net result was that for the next year rather than having a field with declining production it actually swung to an up curve and increased production. It added a million dollars a month to the bottom line for that field and extended its lifespan considerably.
Do You Incubate Disrupters?
You may say that that wasn't really a major disrupter and you would be right. Remember the grand daddy of the iPhone was the iPod. Small disrupters lead to bigger disrupters which in turn change entire industries. The point is if your don't foster operational excellence and start the process of incubating for these things to happen you may well wind up in the same place as PALM or Commodore. The next big disruptive breakthrough could be residing on your team. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Every Christmas I wait expectantly to see what new and novel way WestJet employees create something special for this time of year. This year they have not disappointed. In case you missed it they brought a bunch of families together in Ft. McMurray and treated them to a Christmas event. Toward the end of the event they dropped, by parachute, hundreds of return tickets to any of 150 WestJet locations around the world.
Each Year Different
For at least the last four years the staff at this airline have picked unique and heartwarming ways to say thank you and to show kindness. Their "Santa Surprise" garnered literally hundreds of millions of hits on their web site and was covered by news and TV shows around the world.
How Do You Drive Engagement?
Why do I bring this up you ask? Because WestJet prides itself on employee engagement. They use the catch phrase "every employee is also an owner!" The idea being that if every employee took ownership of the business they worked for everyone would go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure its success. It is what we call discretionary effort.
What would your business or group look like if everyone on it demonstrated this kind of discretionary effort? How much easier would it be to lead a group like this? The goal of great leadership is, in fact, to do exactly that - get your team to operate in that realm of discretionary effort.
Allow For Ownership
Giving your team the opportunity to provide input, letting them know where they stand with you and the competition, providing a voice for those closest to the action to enact improvements and recognizing those behaviours are all ways that you can ramp up your employee engagement and discretionary effort. Involvement leads to commitment and commitment leads to ownership.
Your business may not be a WestJet yet or your group may not seem that significant but give your staff some room to spread their wings and let them surprise you. What would your business look like with that level of engagement? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Let me first of all be clear - I am a Calgary fan. Having said that I can say I witnessed a great Grey Cup game, with two amazing teams. I will give credit where credit is due and Ottawa, as a team, performed beyond expectations and with a laser focus. Well done!
We have been exploring an excellent article by Jeff Haden on the traits of what makes an exceptional employee. He outlined eight traits of exceptional employees and I believe he hit the nail on the head in his article. What I have been exploring with you is the question; can you as a leader "create" exceptional employees?
My contention is that this is entirely possible and in fact I have seen it done many times. Let's focus on one particular trait for our study today.
They're constantly exploring.
Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow.
Good employees follow processes. Great employees tweak processes. Exceptional employees find ways to reinvent processes, not just because they are expected to...but because they just can't help themselves. Jeff Haden, 8 signs an Employee Is Exceptional (Which Never Appear on Performance Evaluations)
We could call this natural curiosity or creativity but either way it is a tremendous trait to develop on your team. My contention is that everyone on your team "wants" to exercise this trait but often culture and insecurity stand in the way of this being fulfilled.
Your role then as a leader is to create an environment that welcomes and nurtures this creativity. You provide a safe place to explore new ideas and you provide a structure for this to happen. While these two concepts may seem at odds you must create a structure to unleash your team’s creativity.
What do I mean by this? Creativity without a foundation on facts is opinion. Creativity borne from a set of facts and data is an opportunity. Teach your team to collect the metrics and data around an idea and you will have shown them how to bridge the gap between "gut" and "reality." When they know how to look for and collect the metrics and data they need to validate an idea, then you have truly unleashed that creative trait!
Time is money
One group I worked with had already become conversant with the "structure" of using metrics and collecting data. They measured all operations as a time=money equation either in terms of making money or losing money. Many large pieces of equipment were needed as part of the service they provided and at times equipment failure equated to lost time and money. For one piece of equipment located in the center of the operation this was particularly true.
Because they had been collecting data they knew how long it took to replace this machine and came up with a plan that would decrease the time needed to do this. There would need to be an outlay of funds to create the solution but their data demonstrated significant time and millions of dollars in cost savings. This may look like a home run but it was really an outcome of an environment that was already allowing for creativity on a small scale every day. Taking the step to something bigger was natural. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This is part of a series on exploring how to create exceptional employees on your team. There is a lot of discussion around the concepts I want to explore today. The first is that every organization is a reflection of its leadership. Not just the leadership at the top but the leadership right down to those immediate supervisors who are responsible for the smallest teams in the organization.
Who Has Influence To Create Change?
This is not a new concept and admittedly one that I think finds general acceptance. Having cut my teeth on leadership in the armed forces this idea is something I have seen time and time again. Where I may differ from some is in my belief that while senior leadership bear responsibility for the culture of a company and often that will be reflected with junior leaders, it doesn't always have to be that way.
Most change management research will tell you that by far the leaders with the most influence are those who are your direct reports. These individuals have far more influence than they realize. They actually have the potential superpower to create exceptional employees.
This brings me to the second concept (and potential superpower); praise. In his excellent article 8 Signs an Employee Is Exceptional (Which Never Appear on Performance Evaluations) Jeff Haden lists one of the signs of an exceptional employee as someone who praises in public. Those are the folks who don't hesitate to congratulate team mates who have done something well or good for the team. They don't hesitate give praise tend those folks who carry a lot of influence with the group.
Let's go back to point one; if you have the most influence over the people who report to you directly then practicing praise with your team is something that will "rub off on them." You can create an exceptional culture in your group by practicing exactly what you want them to do - praise. That is your potential superpower!
Let's be clear, you need to know what to praise and when. It has to be genuine and it should be connected with performance or behaviour that you know is relevant to the aims of the team. Like the analogy of the geese flying in formation, each bird takes turns leading but each bird also makes sure to "honk" praise to encourage the bird in the lead.
To sum it up. If staff are influenced by you and excellent staff practice praising others then you practicing that same skill should get your staff to feel comfortable praising each other as well. There is more to come on creating exceptional employees but this is certainly something to think about. By the way "thank you" for taking time to read these short blogs. It is a real encouragement to me and I appreciate it! Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This is going to be one of those discussions that you either will get or it will irritate you. The number one secret to creating an exceptional employee is to treat them with respect. I can almost hear the eyes rolling! Of course, you are thinking to yourself, I always treat my staff with respect. Let me push back on that thought a bit by defining what I mean by respect.
There is the now famous picture of President Obama stopping to chat with the janitor in the Whitehouse. The meme typically goes something like "You can always judge the character of a leader by how well they treat the janitor." Stopping to say hi and asking about how they are doing is polite but not necessarily the kind of respect that will create an exceptional employee.
Cog or Contributor
In a manufacturing company in Sweden they were struggling with how to improve processes on the plant floor. Initially management wrestled with it and could not find a solution. As a result they called everyone in the plant together for a meeting so that collectively they might find a solution. (A good start.) Again as a group they went back and forth and could not come up with a solution.
Finally in the back of the room the janitor put up his hand. Everyone stopped to look and the room went quiet, after all, what could he offer? He explained that each night as he mopped the floor he knew the path that each machinist took to either get parts or move an item down the line - just from the tracks they made. He had figured out that there was an awful lot of time being wasted doing these walking activities and after carefully explaining what he though might be a better arrangement for the production equipment and the location of the supplies they realized he had come up with the solution.
How Do You Define Respect
It may have been desperation that lead the leadership in that company to bring everyone together but by giving everyone a voice and a chance to participate in finding a solution they actually hit on a vital lesson. Everyone wants to contribute and help. Show them respect by giving them safe place to do so and they will rise to the occasion. They will become exceptional employees.
I would go a bit further than that meme; "You can always judge the true character of a leader by how they show respect for their people by allowing them a chance to contribute." Respect goes a long way to creating exceptional employees. Performance Leadership - Think About it.
Geese fly in a V formation because the lift created by the first bird helps the second and so on. This increases their range by up to 71%! What is more is that they all take turns leading and while a bird is leading the others are "honking" encouragement. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
I was reading an article by Jeff Haden (Contributing Editor at Inc.) on the 8 Signs an Employee Is Exceptional (Which Never Appear on Performance Evaluations). It was an interesting list and included among other things; They think beyond the job description, they are not afraid to ask questions, they like to prove others wrong and they are constantly exploring.
Can Exceptional Be Created?
What got me thinking was that while he accurately pointed out those things that make for an exceptional employee and therefore how to look for them, was it possible to "create" this type of employee? What would a team of these types of employees look like?
I believe you can create them and in fact Performance Leadership is predicated upon that belief. In combining a potent mix of operational excellence, continuous improvement and behavioural science the goal is to create employees who will practice what we call "discretionary behaviours." These types of behaviours have been the highlight of so many WestJet commercials for example, where staff go out of their way to provide industry leading client experiences. (Looking forward to see what they do this Christmas for example!)
After all, if one were to define "discretionary behaviours" wouldn't that include going beyond the job description, asking the hard questions to know the need better, proving others wrong by performing beyond what was thought possible and always exploring better ways to get things done? Of course it is!
Turning Lead Into Gold!
Finding an exceptional employee is like finding a diamond in the rough but creating a team of this type of employees is really the equivalent of the ancient alchemy of turning lead into gold! And it is possible! I know because I have witnessed it first-hand.
I won't go into all the details in today’s post but I will give you a bit of a teaser. It starts with you. You must believe and function as a leader who believes that each member of your team "wants" to be exceptional! You must identify what in your current culture inhibits that possibility and identify what must be done to promote it. That is the first goal of performance leadership.
Performance Leadership - Think About It!
The short answer is it depends upon the "type" of program you have. If you are like most companies, you either have someone come in for a day or two or you send people to off-site leadership courses. They cover some really interesting material and the latest trends in leadership, discuss how that might work for your company and send everybody back to work when they are done. The "Leadership Course" box is checked off for HR, maybe a nice book, mug or certificate is handed out and..........nothing changes. Sound familiar?
Are You Getting What You Need?
I just read a great article by Deborah Rowland from Harvard Business Review on this very issue. She hits the nail on the head and just so you don't think I have been banging my drum all by myself on this issue here is a short excerpt from her article.
Too many business leaders today are out of touch with the employees they lead. Edelman estimates that one in three employees doesn’t trust their employer — despite the fact that billions are spent every year on leadership development. Part of the problem: Our primary method of developing leaders is antithetical to the type of leadership we need.
The vast majority of leadership programs are set curricula delivered through classroom-taught, rationally based, individual-focused methods. Participants are taken out of their day-to-day workplaces to be inspired by expert faculty, work on case studies, receive personal feedback, and take away the latest leadership thinking (and badges for their résumés). Yet study after study, including my own, tells us the qualities that leaders in today’s world need are intuitive, dynamic, collaborative, and grounded in here-and-now emotional intelligence.
The mismatch between leadership development as it exists and what leaders actually need is enormous and widening. What would work better?
Over the last 16 years I have carried out research into how leaders create change, and I’ve worked in the change leadership field for 25 years in multinational corporations. Over that time, I’ve come to appreciate four factors that lie at the heart of good, practical leadership development: making it experiential; influencing participants’ “being,” not just their “doing”; placing it into its wider, systemic context; and enrolling faculty who act less as experts and more as Sherpas. - Deborah Rowland, Harvard Business Review, October 2016.
Let me sum it up; good leaders need to get training that is experiential - it relates directly to what they are doing. It needs to focus on "being" or show leaders how to be in the moment. It needs to provide context within the broader needs of the organization and it needs trainers who guide rather than direct. Let me add one more; it needs to provide tangible proof that it works.
How Good Do You Feel About Your Investment?
As Rowland points out billions of dollars are being spent each year on leadership development and with little to show for it. Take a look at those four points (five if you include mine - lol!) and ask yourself if that describes your leadership program or the program you have been sending your prospective leaders to? If it doesn't, don't you think it’s time to make a change? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
70% OF SURVEYED ENERGY COMPANIES ARE EXPECTING TO SEE REDUCED OPERATIONAL COSTS AND HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE. ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?
This is an issue that has been near and dear to me for certainly the last year or so. It was heartening to see that some research done by PennEnergy in their white paper "Maximizing Operational Excellence" focusses on many of the same things I have been seeing. Allow me to share a quick snippet.
"Over the past 20 months or so, the industry has addressed falling oil prices in the traditional manner. Reductions In Force (RIF), freezing discretionary spending, shuttering projects, etc. have been wide spread. the number of bankruptcies and asset sales continue and one can expect mergers and acquisitions to accelerate once asset value is stabilized.
Has management done all it can to survive in this market? Perhaps not. If the market has undergone a systemic change, cost savings efforts are not enough.
In 2015, the consulting firm McKinsey put forth a methodology they claimed could reduce offshore drilling costs by 50%. Two major findings that are under the control of management include;
- Up to 80% of costs are project time issues, e.g., optimizing equipment, material and facilities, and delivery times.
- 50 and 75% are engineering productivity constraints, such as frequent and last minute project change orders, and "weak-performance cultures and broken learning curves."
These are significant cost savings that are measurable, which means they can be managed. Moreover, other components of the energy value chain suffer from the same issues including cost overruns.
If drilling costs can be reduced by 50%, operators, drilling companies and energy service providers among other participants in the value chain may be profitable in the current crude oil trading range....
An earlier McKinsey paper stated that, "world class operational execution can add up to 30% of value to the production asset base." If these values then can be extracted from the financial Balance Sheet and Net Income Statement, the value to shareholders are huge. Additionally, they are visible at all levels of the organization and actionable....
Increased productivity and lower direct operational costs will unlock this value and can do so quickly." PennEnergy White Paper - Maximizing Operational Excellence, 2016
There Is Another Way
To sum up this finding; In addition to the traditional approaches to dealing with falling prices, operational excellence can be used to garner significant additional savings. This can be at the drilling level and indeed through all the levels related to it. If you can save 50% in drilling then savings should also be realized for example, in completions, other service components and indeed throughout the entire organization.
The reality is that the downturn also represents a significant change in the industry as the "boomer" demographic exits the workforce and the remaining smaller demographic groups are left to cope with a smaller work force. Operational Excellence is THE tool to equip companies to not only survive but to be competitive in this new market reality. If you are not already rolling out Operational Excellence my question to you is "what are you waiting for?" Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Well it is Wednesday morning and the confetti has finished wafting to the floor in campaign headquarters all across America. The headlines are peppered with words like "historic" or "unprecedented" for a result that no one saw coming. But is that true? Clearly someone saw it coming and they are working at creating a transition team for the Whitehouse.
What To Measure?
Yesterday I shared some fun musings on whether there is a new way of measuring things around elections? The premise being that perhaps the current models are missing things. In the measurement business which is at the core of operational excellence and continuous improvement one must constantly be alert as to whether you are measuring the right thing. It is not enough to just collect reams of data and measures. It must be the right data and measure and it must give you the information you need.
The idea of measuring is at times off putting to folks who wonder if something can actually be measured. Because of this many times measures never get done. The reality is that anything can be measured but you must be clear about what you want to measure.
In a school I worked with they claimed that they had a program that created leaders. They wanted to know if this was true. But how do you measure something like leadership? They came up with a list of types of leadership behaviour that could be surveyed. Things like how many students volunteer in programs not connected with the school? How many students are involved in school related activities such as clubs, student counsel and sports? Once they had their list they surveyed the student body and actually began to measure these things and create a baseline. Soon they could answer their own question with reasonable certainty.
How Can You Measure A Hidden Demographic?
In yesterday's election it was very much the same thing. Was there a demographic of "shy Trumpers"? If so how could that group be measured? And as wrote yesterday one polling group, Trafalgar Group, came up with a really interesting approach. "How do you think your neighbour is going to vote?" was the measure that they used to tease out actual intentions for that group that was resistant to revealing how they would vote. They collected the data around that measure and made their prediction. Yes, it flew in the face of all of the other conventional polling results. Yes, they correctly predicted Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and a host of others. I suspect someone at the Trump campaign must have been paying attention based on where they focused their efforts in the last few days.
Anything Can Be Measured
What is the take away from all of this? When you want to drive performance. When you want to drive improvement don't let uncertainty around how to measure something stand in your way. Anything can be measured if you really know what you are looking for. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
If you are like me, you have been following the U.S. Presidential election with some interest. As a person who trains others in the use and value of measures and data this election has given me much to explore.
The Changing Role of Polls
As you know polls play a role in elections. In his book "Revolt of the Masses" Ortega y Gasset explores what modern society would look like moving into our century. On one point he speculates that due to the number of details the average citizen would need in order to make an informed choice they would turn to the polls to tell them what their fellow citizens thought and seek to fall into step with their peers.
Polls then could potentially have two purposes; to genuinely reflect the views of a group and potentially, to influence the views of a group. We have seen both instances in this election cycle and a lot of discussion regarding the veracity of each groups polling methods.
What About Social Media?
I decided that I would look to see who was doing something different this time around. Since it is having an ever increasing impact I looked at social media. On Facebook Trump has 12.2M likes and Hillary has 8.2M. On Twitter Trump has 13M followers and Hillary has 10.3M. On YouTube Donald Trump has 151K subscribers for his page and speeches and Hillary has 136K. Do these numbers give us a compelling narrative or do they muddy the waters because they contradict current polling data?
Is There Really A Silent Majority?
And what about the oft whispered about "Silent Majority"? This has become something of a recent phenomenon with the assertion that negative media treatment of Trump and his basket of "deplorables” has driven his support underground.
I looked hard to find any polling company who were trying to get a measure of this and finally found one, the Trafalgar Group. They used a rather novel approach; kept the interview short - under two minutes, used a computer generated voice for each call (their thinking was that people would be more comfortable giving information to a machine rather than a person - interesting!) and they threw in an extra question regarding who they thought their neighbours were voting for. This was their attempt to try and tease out that "silent majority" by letting the responder project their vote onto their neighbour.
They used this method to accurately predict the primary races so there is a suggestion at least this may be a valid approach. What was interesting is that in every state this question gave Trump an average of a 4% boost and a corresponding drop for Hillary. Gaps were typically around 12 points. They noted too that in not one instance was there a hidden vote for Hillary. Is this a valid measure? We will know by tomorrow!
Do We Have The Measures That Tell Us What We Need To Know?
Regardless of where you stand on the choices of this election what is becoming increasingly clear is the need for data, and measures that are useful. The same is true in business and operations. You need data and measures that give you a clear picture of how you and your team are doing and where the gaps are. Performance Leadership - Think About It!