Here is your deejay with the brainwave helmet again: look at the wide open eyes of Sam from Sam The Sham and the Pharaos with their 60’ies monster hit “Wooly Bully”. His eyes wide open. Uno, Duo, Très, Quatro ! Let’s have some fun here. And be a bit crazy !
I recently got somewhat involved in the People & Culture thinking of our company. Already at our first attempt during our fantastic off-site in April, we identified excitement as one of the components that need to be part of our culture.
We should all re-read that blog post titled “Get a Life and Get Alive”, as we seem to loose lots of the sharpness of our ideas when we start putting them through committees, and the whole thing seems to get watered down.
So, for 4 months+, we kept ongoing and had a good solid understream of ideas, depicted by different people in different ways, depending on their left or right brain orientations.
After a couple of weeks, this was my best effort:
It was a combination of keeping the best, improving drastically the mediocre, and getting rid of the worst. The most important in this slide were the
They reflect the deeper purpose that guides our transformation process and choices, and these lenses can be used as a compass to be sure we still navigate in the right direction.
The direction was an ambitious one, a radical one.
But most executives do not like the words “radical” or “disruptive”.
- Does that mean we should adapt our packaging, our wording or worse our meaning and purpose to please our audience ?
- What happens with ambition when filtered through endless reviews ?
By the end of last week, we had our seventh or so iteration of the slide deck to be presented to the executive committee.
I though we had quite an “acceptable” outcome in a culture of consensus.
As I write this, I notice how polluted I have become myself by the consensus-virus. In the end, one compromises so much that all you end up with is a grey mouse.
So, to hell with outcomes that are “acceptable”. We don’t want grey mouse. They don’t inspire.
Nevertheless, I was surprised that version seven still included our famous words “Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will”. You had to search for them (see the big fat arrow above), but they were there.
Too optimistic though.
Throughout the week, folks kept on saying this was “too wooly”
So we tried to put different words. In version eight, we ended up with some things like “Intrinsically motivated people” and “Co-creation with Customers”, etc. Not bad, but “acceptable” in my opinion.
What made me write this post was the following comment on exactly this part of that version:
This part is a bit too vague
and b-school jargonistic
for my taste
Can we turn that into our
company terminology ?
(the other parts already were in company-speak)
My answer: NO, absolutely NO !
As I wrote in back in April, the real root cause (to use some Lean terminology) was about the openness of our minds, hearts, and minds.
Some indeed call this “wooly” or “b-school”. I don’t know what is meant here.
There seems to be some negative connotation here:
- “b-school” could mean several things. In the most optimistic case is stands for Business School, and then the wording may be perceived as too academic. In the worst case, it means b-grade school or even worst kindergarten or naivety. But I believe that many of our corporations would thrive well if they would resource themselves with some naivety of better
freshness and purity
like a young child
discover with eyes wide open
and without prejudices
- “wooly” has something to do with a certain form of “softness”. I sense all sorts of touch points with New-Agism, or the Hippies 2.0 movement. Executives seem to have e a natural aversion to topics related to softness, philosophy, emotion, feeling, sensing, or anything that has to do with mind, heart, and will. It is probably exactly this that needs to change in many company cultures if we want to make our companies more “human”. Or as Jeff Bezos so eloquently said: “It’s harder to be kind than to be clever” Read every word and sentence of his Princeton speech here. Listen to the emotion in his voice. You sense here stands a man who embodies and believes what he says. You want to follow him. Maybe he is Hippies 2.0 ? Maybe. But he’s inspiring.
Leaders will be followed, not because they have dictated so or by hierarchical power, but because they are authentic in everything they do, because they are inspirational, because they are charismatic, because they are truly “at service” and not “in command”.
The new game is about new hierarchies, not based on ranks and power but based on true service value.
The hierarchical PYRAMID changes
into a collaboration and service SPHERE
where there is no upper or lower level
where the value comes
from the strong interdependency and
100% service mind to make the OTHER win
What we need is a culture based on a fundamental shift from Old Game thinking to New Game thinking. We will not succeed if we stay “acceptable”.
Our ambition level in this should be nothing but an extreme makeover, respecting our company’s financial, operational and reputational integrity.
You can use whatever words for it, but the messages and its wording must be fresh, inspiring, ambitious, rejuvenating. Not only on its messaging surface but especially in its deep culture core.
I don’t believe that you can capture your “culture” in one word. Culture is a complex thing. It’s a combination of tacit, implicit and explicit values, attitudes, and knowledge. Is combines the good positive heritage of the past with the vibrant youth-ness of the future. So, here are some words that “capture” that culture.
That’s also why Talent and Culture are so closely interwoven. Because culture is the result of the people you have on board. If you want to change the culture, there are basically two things you can do:
- Try to change the people you have on board. Although this is very difficult, I believe we have enough cultural creatives to at least inspire more than 50% of the company to change gears. For the others, we’ll have to wait till the Hippie 1.0 generation is retired and made room for the new generation.
- Bring on board new young people with fresh insights. We should be extremely aggressive about this. Hire “en-masse” young people. If possible younger than 20 years, as even some 25+ “don’t get it”
Both generations where shaped by different time and historical contexts:
With courtesy: NASA Generation-Y Perspectives. Full slidedeck here.
Of course, when implementing such aggressive plans, we need to make sure that these programs do not become the exclusivity labs for personal and professional development for the young only, and that everybody gets her chance to fully realize their potential, so that they don’t have to ask us
“and where do I play ?”
Like many things, I think you recognize an inspiring culture when you see it. When you see the people of that culture. They have sparkles in their eyes. When you interact with them. They go the extra mile.
We need word and spirit that reflects:
- Intrinsically motivated people, as mean by Daniel Pink in “Drive”
- Extreme Management Make-Over and Employees First, as meant and intended by Vineet Nayar in his latest book, considered now as THE reference for modern HR
I was lucky to see Vineet deliver his message in person to the audience at Techonomy last week. The story goes like this:
- The goal of our company is to deliver value to our customers
- Where is that value created ? At the interfaces of our company.
- Who is at those interfaces ? Our employees
- Therefore the whole company should be organized to be “at the service” of the employees.
This is about a management extreme make-over.
- From managers giving instructions to employees and measuring their efficiency
- To managers at the service of employees
When I spoke to HR, my contact said: “Oh, that is what is called Service Management, I know about that”. When I asked whether he already proposed this as a management culture to the executives, he said
“Oh no !
That would be too radical
that’s a revolution !”
But I am afraid many of our corporations need nothing less than such a revolution, a fundamental make-over.
In the end
Culture = Company = People
People with a Life and Alive. Not wooly sheep following the dress code and complacent in being “acceptable”. People who share the “wooliness” of “kindness” vs. “cleverness”.
Our culture has to be provoking and inspiring. You should be able to rally your troops behind it. As soon as it becomes “acceptable” that won’t work.
In the song Sam sings about a “wooly saw”. What we need now is a very sharp saw.
To give the sharpness back to the Wooly Bully !