Authentic Engine https://authenticengine.com Your trusted advisors for open source sustainability, governance, participation, and leadership challenges. Tue, 18 Sep 2018 03:42:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://authenticengine.com/files/2015/11/cropped-ae-gears-512px-32x32.png Authentic Engine https://authenticengine.com 32 32 Lead More, Control Less https://authenticengine.com/2017/lead-control-less/ Wed, 05 Jul 2017 18:17:46 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=1238 The leadership approach you’ll learn in this very approachable text by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff is one that focuses on structure, rather than behavior, to cultivate a culture of autonomy and self-leadership.

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Book Recommendations

lead more control less coverLead More, Control Less: 8 Advanced Leadership Skills That Overturn Convention (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells, Library) by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff. Topics: Leadership

Leadership Approach

The leadership approach you’ll learn in this very approachable text is one that focuses on structure, rather than behavior, to cultivate a culture of autonomy and self-leadership.

Time Required

At 142 pages for the paperback version, you can get easily through this book in a single sitting or even a busy weekend.

Structure

There are eight main chapters, corresponding with the eight skills presented:

  • Control Structure, Not People
  • Let Everyone Be Responsible
  • Consider Anxiety “Blocked Excitement”
  • Avoid “Taking it Personally”
  • Disrupt Fight or Flight
  • Include the Right People
  • Experience the “Whole Elephant”
  • Surface Unspoken Agreements

Each of the chapters includes essential ideas at the beginning, a case study where the skills is applied, and concludes with a summary and specific next steps for application.

Key Takeaways

For me, one of the most useful takeaways from this book is the idea that anxiety is blocked excitement:

Anxiety is the price you pay for constructive change. When the struggle escalates, dialogue is the best investment you will ever make. – page 38, paperback edition

While I think the authors had primarily in person settings in mind, the skills presented in this book are imminently applicable to remote and distributed leadership. And, in fact, they include an appendix specifically addressing how to apply the skills in “cyberspace.”

More Like This

If you enjoyed the content in this book, I encourage you to check out other work by Weisbord and Janoff, who are experts in leadership group dynamics and creators of the Future Search methodology:

  • Future Search (Amazon) if you are interested in learning a flexible and highly powerful group facilitation method which draws heavily on the leadership skills presented in Lead More.
  • Productive Workplaces (Amazon) if you are interested in a deep-dive into organizational development and change.

This post is part of our Book Recommendations series in which we share recommendations of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

If you find these useful, and are planning to buy a copy of the book from Amazon, please consider doing so via the links here so we receive referral credit. ThanksI

Header image (c) Alan Levine (cogdog on Flickr).

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Who Really Matters: Your Inner Core Group https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-your-inner-core-group/ https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-your-inner-core-group/#respond Mon, 04 Apr 2016 17:19:20 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=958 The post Who Really Matters: Your Inner Core Group appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Cover of Who Really Matters by Art KleinerSummary: Our earliest experiences with Core Groups stay with us and become generalized. That is, without effort, we perceive and interact with all future Core Groups as if they were like the first ones we encountered. This hinders us from seeing the Core Groups of our present as they are and working with them effectively. One strategy for breaking this pattern is to consciously develop an Inner Core Group based on what we actually value.

Who Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Chapter 14: Your Inner Core Group. You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 14: Your Inner Core Group

This chapter explores how our first experiences with a Core Group stick with us to influence our future interactions with Core Groups and ways to break this habit.

Kleiner starts this chapter by sharing several early Core Group stories, including one of his own. In these stories, he notices a common theme:

We had internalize the Core Group of our early careers and carried them with us, like “inner Core Groups” that shaped our expectations for the rest of our lives. (p. 126)

That is, we generalize our early Core Group experiences and apply them to all future Core Group interactions:

People mistakenly assume that a pattern set long ago, by some other Core Group in some other organization, will be universal. We carry with us the Core Group members who have supported us or rejected us in the past, in a kind of Inner Core Group–and we try (usually unsuccessfully) to recreate the nature of that Inner Core Group in the organizations of the moment. (p. 129)

The downside of this is that it gives us inaccurate information about how to proceed in the present. Core Groups are not universal in their composition, their behavior, or their attitudes towards us.

It can be quite difficult to break this Inner Core Group cycle:

The Inner Core Group is invisible when you are consciously at your best. It manifests itself in high-stress moments–arguments with the boss, sudden deadlines, decisions to quit–when you don’t have much perspective and it’s particularly hard to change old habits. And in low-stress moments, when there’s a lot of time to reflect, it doesn’t seem quite so important or difficult to deal with. (p. 129)

One strategy for breaking the cycle is to reflect upon and rehearse new ways of interacting with the Core Group patterns that have frustrated you in the past. Over time, you can build an alternative Inner Core Group, one that is “consciously created mental image of the people who are truly important to you, on whose behalf you will be making decisions.”

Kleiner closes the chapter by speaking to the value of dialogue work, which he describes as “a practice of collective thought and in-depth conversation.” For more on dialogue work, see Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together (Amazon), by William Isaacs.

Quoting Isaacs, Kleiner underscores the importance of overcoming the Inner Core Group formed by early experience and intentionally developing an Inner Core Group true to you:

You think you’re in a Core Group or you’re not, because of some external factor. You go to school, for instance, because you think the degree will get you into the Core Group. You wonder, ‘How come this person got in and that person did not? How do I get to be part of it?’ And all along you’re bypassing the critical question: ‘Are you at the Core of your own life? Are you making decisions on behalf of your deepest unfolding potential.‘ (p. 131)

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 15: Core Group Enablers.

Citations

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

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Using your “whiskers” to detect disruptions you cannot see https://authenticengine.com/2016/using-your-whiskers-to-detect-disruptions-you-cannot-see/ Thu, 31 Mar 2016 18:16:34 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=950 The post Using your “whiskers” to detect disruptions you cannot see appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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When we started talking about the World Wide Web, it always went with a graphic of straight lines from data node to data node. We watched the brilliance of messages that were constructed so they could route around disruptions in the network. We have this whole mental model of linear relationships, binary gates, and yes-no answers.

In my experiences, that’s a very partial model. I think of the way I experience the world as having whiskers. I’m not a dot sliding along a line, I’m a cat walking through tall grass. I can’t see everything past the grass, but my paws and my whiskers tell me about disruptions, things that may be a danger to me even though they are not in my line of sight.

The wider and more diverse my social network is, the longer and more sensitive my whiskers are. For example, recently I noticed two people post oddly similar tweets about leaving the same company. Neither of them said outright that they’d been fired, but I knew one of them had ongoing plans with the company, so it would be very surprising to leave at that point. I pinged a friend in the same field to ask if she knew anything else, and we ended up talking about other signs that there is a decline of irrationally exuberant investing in startups. Since my target demographic is startups, that’s good and useful data for me to gather. I’m alert, slightly less inclined to lie around sunning my tummy and more interested in hunting and staying safe.

I’m not panicked, it’s just that I got some bits of data that indicate caution, and not because I’m reading Economist articles, but because I’m picking up on micro-vibrations in a field that is important to my career.

Sometimes, this sensation is overwhelming and kind of scary. This time last year, I started worrying about a prominent tech feminist non-profit I cared about. People I respected were leaving, silently. The search for an Executive Director seemed like it had been taking forever. There were rumors about the end of programs. As I reached out, my connections all agreed that there was something going wrong, something was happening, something was rotten in Denmark, but none of us knew what to do about it. I just kept being alert and asking questions and nosing around and connecting people with similar stories. This whole time, I felt like there was something going on just outside my range of perception. I could feel the effects, the ripples, but I couldn’t see what was going on directly. As my questions got more pointed, I was blocked, and so I knew my questions were unwelcome. In the end, the organization did fall apart, in just about the most comprehensive way possible, with the dissolution of it’s global community and the dismantling of the valuable lists. This article is not that failure analysis, but when it happened, I was saddened, but not shocked, because I’d known it was coming.

I think under-represented people tend to develop more of this alertness than people with more institutional privilege. It’s a logical adaptation to a world where you are reminded all the time of the precarity of your employment or even your bodily autonomy. The CDC’s change from “fetus” to “unborn baby” in a single statement made my whiskers, my threat sensors, quiver madly. If you identify something inside my body as a full human, then I lose control of my body and my choices. I imagine that thousands of men and women glossed right past that wording. Only people who spend a lot of time thinking about bodily rights would have whiskers that extended that direction.

There’s a downside, of course. First, the longer and more sensitive your threat-detection devices are, the more false alarms you’ll get. Sometimes it’s something that is real, but probably not a threat to you. Sometimes it’s something so distant that everyone thinks you are just imagining it, even though you know it’s real. I think that’s why so many people (including me) never notice they are committing microaggressions. We just don’t see it. The second problem is that cultivating the networks, the time, the awareness, the pattern-recognition to accurately figure out what is happening is exhausting. It means being on high alert all the time, and sifting through vast amounts of data in search of very small indicators. It’s a massive tax on people who feel the need to be alert.

My whiskers go off when my company is in financial trouble, when my boss is cross at me, when someone is behaving in a creepy/predatory manner. Those are valuable alerts. My whiskers also go off when my spouse is cranky, even though they are in chronic pain. That is not a valuable alert. Learning to distinguish what is causing you fear and unease is the work of a lifetime, but it’s work that needs doing.

Some people journal, writing down their guesses and then going back and seeing if they were correct. Some people cultivate security so that they don’t have as much to worry about. A year’s living expenses insulates you from a lot of concern about how unreasonable your boss is. Some people go to couples counseling, or get divorced, or take to communicating in the way that they find least alarming. I can’t tell you what will mitigate that feeling of constant alertness for you. I can tell you that living in a constant state of fear and attention is hard on your mental health and your ability to see the other patterns in your life.

Your perceptions are valuable, and important. They are the real world that you are experiencing, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. But if you are constantly scared, you need to either change yourself, or change the world around you.

This post is part of our First Person series in which guest authors share personal stories about leadership and career development.

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Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Diversity https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-core-group-theory-chapter-13/ Mon, 21 Mar 2016 12:00:45 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=820 The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Diversity appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Cover of Who Really Matters by Art KleinerSummary: Without effort, most Core Groups will tend toward the homogeneous and exclusionary. While you might derive strength though cohesion of an insular, non-diverse group, how do you know you aren’t missing something important as a result? Diversity is a key way to build the effective integrated learning base. And, only members of the Core Group can unravel the barriers that prevents certain types of people from entering the Core Group.

Who Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Chapter 13: Glass Ceilings. You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 13: Glass Ceilings

This chapter explores the importance of Core Group diversity and inclusion.

Using the example of a liberal-arts college in the Rocky Mountains where Core Group membership is dependent on being a lifelong skier, Kleiner demonstrates that without effort, most Core Groups will tend toward the homogeneous and exclusionary. This is human nature; we are comforted by and therefore gravitate towards people like us.

While training and other awareness raising strategies can improve how employees communicate and work with those different from themselves, Kleiner asserts that only the Core Group can truly address issues of diversity and inclusion:

Diversity is a Core Group issue. If conversations about diversity in an organization bypass the Core Group, then the organization hasn’t dealt with diversity at all. […] No one else can do it; no one else has the wherewithal to unravel the barrier that prevents certain types of people from entering the Core Group no matter how valuable or worthy they might be. (p. 117)

The entire organizations learns from the Core Group, via its composition, not only who is valued, but that some people are to be valued more than others:

Whatever the particulars of the group it excludes, the Core Group sends a message that it’s not just all right but mandatory to treat some people as innately worth more than others. (p. 119)

People across the organization internalize and propagate this attitude, eventually believing it about themselves.”I’m not as valuable because I’m not part of the Core Group.”

Next, Kleiner explore why diversity matters at all. Core Groups that are insular and homogeneous enjoy a strength and cohesion derived at least in part from their homogeneity. Unfortunately this also creates a kind of myopia:

How do you know you aren’t missing something important as a result? And if others in the organization are aware of this, how do they get both the permission and the wherewithal to bring it to your attention? (p. 119)

Diversity is a key way to build the effective integrated learning base mentioned in Chapter 7:

A Core Group needs to understand the lives of its organization’s constituents — which means being willing and able to learn from them. (p. 120)

Furthermore, excluding whole groups of people from the Core Group can be a liability:

People who are excluded from the Core Group either establish themselves as employees of mutual consent or leave to find a Core Group (and sometimes take their customers with them). (p. 120)

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 14.

Citations

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

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Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & the CEO’s Choices https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-core-group-theory-chapter-11/ Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:16:39 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=814 The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & the CEO’s Choices appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Cover of Who Really Matters by Art Kleiner
Summary: As CEO, you have formal authority, but it is constrained by guesswork as well as the priorities of the rest of the Core Group. The best way to use your power as CEO is to create the conditions out of which a great Core Group forms and operates.

Who Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Chapter 11: The CEOs Choices. You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 11: The CEOs choices

This chapter explores the factors that constrain your influence as CEO and how best to leverage that influence.

As CEO, you have formal authority, but it is constrained by guesswork because you can’t control how people will interpret your directives or how they will lead projects. You are also constrained by Core Group priorities. As CEO, you have influence over the Core Group, but not complete control. Even if you choose to override the priorities of the Core Group, doing so can have lasting negative consequences.

Building upon Peter Senge’s idea of “leader as designer,” Kleiner proposes that:

Executive leverage, in short, lies in sending signals and establishing constraints; setting an environment and context out of which a great Core Group can emerge. (p. 98)

That is, the best way to use your power as CEO is to create the conditions out of which a great Core Group forms and operates. As CEO, you can affect the following:

The paths by which people are recruited, promoted, trained, rewarded, and laid off. As CEO, you can’t hand select all members of the Core Group, but you can signal who you favor though the diversity and quality of people you promote and the kinds of training and development you support. If you want to see someone with a given background in the Core Group, build mechanisms for those kinds of people to be promoted up through the ranks. If you want to see someone with a given set of skills, create mechanisms for people to gain those skills on the job.

The visible ways in which senior executives pay attention and the channels through which that attention is made clear. Everyone else in the organization uses the attention of the Core Group to calibrate what forms of creativity, innovation, performance, and accountability are relevant. Whatever the Core Group pays attention to is what’s considered to be important. As CEO, you can encourage Core Group members to pay attention where needed. Especially important is to connect Core Group members and a wide base of creative people across organizational boundaries.

The patterns of information and communication flow. As CEO, you have significant influence over the information available to employees and also how employees communicate with each other. Focus on making sure communication from the Core Group is well-conceived, deliberate, and consistent. Doing so allows you and the Core Group to construct and share a complex, yet coherent worldview to guide the organization’s work. Also focus on connecting people across organizational lines because no one else is in a better position to do and it likely won’t happen otherwise.

The support given for entrepreneurialism and error. The best way to support innovation and creativity is to give people the freedom to say no to trivial requests and the freedom to experiment without fear negative consequences. As CEO, make it clear you and the rest of the Core Group support these two freedoms across your organization.

The quality of your own leadership. Embody, with maturity and presence, what you want your organization to be. Start by recognizing the privilege of your position and commitment it requires.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 12: Expanded Core Group Organizations, which explores successful organizations that have an “expanded Core Group,” meaning nearly everyone is part of the Core Group.

Citations

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

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Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Expanded Core Groups https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-core-group-theory-chapter-12/ Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:05:27 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=817 The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Expanded Core Groups appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Cover of Who Really Matters by Art KleinerSummary: Some successful organizations have an “expanded Core Group,” meaning nearly everyone is part of the Core Group. The nature of these organizations varies, at each of them everybody’s welfare and development is one of the entire organization’s top priorities. It takes constant effort to create and maintain such organizations, but the anecdotal benefits are many.

Who Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.
This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Chapter 12: Expanded Core Group Organizations. You may want to start with the introduction.

Side Note: If you’re interested in learning about other expanded Core Group organizations, as discussed in Chapter 12 and below, I highly recommend Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations (Amazon). Laloux calls these “turquoise organizations” and includes several fascinating examples.

Chapter 12: Expanded Core Group Organizations

This chapter explores successful organizations that have an “expanded Core Group,” meaning nearly everyone is part of the Core Group.

Such organizations vary in their structure and operation, but share a common trait: Everyone’s welfare and development is one of the entire organization’s top priorities.

It takes constant effort to create and maintain such organizations. It requires that executives continually refine and expand financial structures as well as learning and development structures, ensuring they are ever more transparent and inclusive.

This transparency and inclusiveness around finances and development fosters a Core Group attitude throughout the organization. It encourages people to make decisions that take into account everyone in the organization and the sustainability of the organization as a whole.

These types of organizations are not widely studied, so their efficacy is mostly demonstrated anecdotally. Klener spends a lot of time on one example, SRC International. SRC International, because they were facing going out of business, adopted “open book management.”

Under open book management everyone is educated about the company’s finances and has a part in developing strategy and direction of the company. This, coupled with employee stock ownership, has created several benefits for SRC International. It’s made them more resilient, enabling them to weather economic downturns and thrive during upturns. It’s also allowed the building wealth beyond the Core Group. It’s fostered a sense of mutual concern. Not only do employees to things to support one another personally, but they also work collectively to make decisions based on the interests of the whole company, rather than just themselves.

Kleiner gives other examples of expanded core group approaches: WL Gore, Requisite Organization, Toyota.

And he cautions that, as with Welchism, these systems can’t be applied piecemeal. They must developed by each organization’s Core Group with courage, thought, and care. And most Core Groups are likely unwilling to do the hard work this requires:

Because it would required most Core Group members to fundamentally change–not just what they say, but how they think, how they are paid, how they carry themselves, and how they build relationships. Almost by definition, no one has either the courage or the organizational wherewithal to promise this kind of change unless they’re in the Core Group themselves. Most of us, after all, have an unconscious vested interest in keeping ourselves and our organizations going in the same pattern of basic management where they already exist. We’ve invested our careers, our habits, our thinking, and our feeling in an organization that maintains its current Core Group form. (p. 115)

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 13: Glass Ceilings, which explores the importance of Core Group diversity and inclusion.

Citations

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Expanded Core Groups appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Welchism https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-core-group-theory-chapter-10/ Wed, 16 Mar 2016 12:26:38 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=811 The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Welchism appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Summary: Jack Welch-style management can be an effective antidote to complacent bureaucracies. Unfortunately it can also easily take the warmth out of a business and leave fractured and isolated Core Group with little ability to inspire commitment, foster quality, and sustain business success. The way to apply Welch-style management successfully is to be “intensely devoted to cultivating their people at the same time they prune them.”
Cover of Who Really Matters by Art Kleiner
Who Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Chapter 10: Welchism. You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 10: Welchism

This chapter explores the effects of Jack Welch-style management on organizations though the Core Group theory lens.

In 1981 when Jack Welch became CEO of General Electric, the company was floundering. It’s once productive Core Group had evolved into a complacent bureaucracy. Welch turned the company around by changing who was in the Core Group and how long they stayed there. This approach has become one of the most copied management practices, which Kleiner calls “Welchism” and defines as:

The deliberate streamlining of the organization by defining the core group — from a large body of employees with lifelong membership to a very small group of people whose membership is permanently insecure. (p. 90)

Welch’s primary mechanism for realignment was the vitality curve. Each year everyone was evaluated and ranked according to two criteria: Do they get results?” and “Do they match our values?” Values in this case meant the values Welch himself embodied: hard-driven, brash, energetic. The top 20% were A Players, the middle 70% B Players, and the lowest 10% C Players. A Players received the best rewards: raises, promotions and stock options. B Players received modest rewards. C players were laid off.

Under Welch, being an A Player got you into the Core Group, but your position there was never guaranteed and would be reevaluated each year and you had to work to stay there.

In interviewing folks who were at GE during this time, Kleiner found that the most disenfranchised by Welch’s system were the B Players. Even when they had done good work and been diligent employees, because they couldn’t break into the ranks of the top 20%, they felt they were taken for granted and never fully recognized for their contributions. One person said:

You’re either on the team or off the team. If you’re off the team, you may be able to stay if you do your job, but you’ll never feel like anybody really wants you here. (p. 92)

Having a large portion of your organization who feels disengaged (not “on the team”) reduces the efficacy of the entire organization. By focusing only on ranked performance, organizations squeeze out many of the hard to measure human qualities that are essential for success. As Kleiner says:

The warmth…goes out of the business. What’s left is a fractured and isolated Core Group that (all to often) loses its ability to inspire commitment, foster quality, and sustain business success. (p. 94)

So, while Welchism can be an important antidote to entrenched bureaucracy, it’s important not to “throw the human creativity out with the bureaucracy bathwater.” And creativity needs space to fail, to be messy and fuzzy. For Welchism to be successful, it can’t be simplified to “identify the weakest 20% and lay them off.” That approach is costly, ineffectual, and habit-forming.

Rather, organizations wanting to apply Welch-style management successfully need to be “intensely devoted to cultivating their people at the same time they prune them.” (p. 95) They need to demonstrate they value individuals and their creativity by investing in their development and success. This gives people the best chance of being seen and recognized as a “A Player” and helps maintain the “warmth” of the organization.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 11: The CEOs choices, which explores the factors that constrain your influence as CEO and how best to leverage that influence.

Citations

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Welchism appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Incentives, Targets, and Measurements https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-core-group-theory-chapter-9/ Tue, 15 Mar 2016 12:07:59 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=804 The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Incentives, Targets, and Measurements appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Cover of Who Really Matters by Art KleinerWho Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Part 2, Chapter 9: “Doggie Treats” (Incentives, Targets, and Measurements) . You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 9: “Doggie Treats” (Incentives, Targets, and Measurements)

This chapter explores the impact of incentives and measurement systems on organizational performance and how they can distort the perceived priorities of the Core Group.

First, Kleiner introduces the “Balanced Scorecard” theory: To generate results, select strategically oriented incentives, targets and measurements. This is often referred to as “what is measured matters.”

Next, Kleiner argues that such metrics aren’t as integral to the success of organizations as their popularity by management would suggest:

Incentives, targets, and measurements are relied upon because they’re fast and consistent; they reach across an entire hierarchy with lightning speed. Their purpose is not to help the organization succeed. Their purpose is to help it perform well enough to make it through another day, without overtaxing the attention of the people in the Core Group, while reassuring them that the organization is under control. (p. 85)

Furthermore, the use of such incentive-and-target structure has drawbacks.

Firstly, it reduces the quality and depth of communication between the Core Group:

Estimates flow up the channel from employees, through bosses, to the Core group. Targets based on those estimates flow back down from the Core Group to the employees. Results flow back up again, and demands for better results back down again. All of these are expressed in terms of numbers alone, without an explanations of the meaning of the numbers. The numbers are sacrosanct o the page, but everyone knows how fictional they are in reality.” (p. 85-86)

Secondly, numbers detached from their context and history fail to address the ambiguities faced by decision-makers seeking to meet their targets:

Which performance targets must be embraced wholeheartedly, and which can simply be fudged for the next quarterly review? Which ‘stretch targets’ can be met simply by saying, ‘Well, we tried,’ and which require working all weekend and missing your kids’ soccer games? To what extent must people work alone to meet targets, and if they work collectively, how will the incentives recognize this? What are the he acceptable and unacceptable ways of fudging the numbers, and how can people avoid embarrassing themselves or the organization? In short, what sort of response to the incentives an measurements is acceptable around here? And what is not? (p. 86)

Not only do people answer questions about the numbers by interpreting signals from the Core Group, but they also interpret the Core Group according to the numbers. If the targets and incentives send a clear signal, they assume that is where the Core Group wants to go. The system becomes self-reinforcing and often times entrenched:

In many large companies, the measurement and control systems proliferate so wildly that they become, in themselves, a kind of robotic, machinelike Core Group. (p. 88)

To prevent this and create metrics and incentive mechanisms that help our organizations be successful, we cannot let numbers become disconnected from their context and meaning. We need to genuinely explore the value of measurements and incentives. We need to ask:

Which ones truly matter? Why do they matter? Who put them in place, and what where they thinking of? How do they help the Core Group get what it needs? Did Core Group members ask for those particular measurements? Do we know why? How well do they serve the organization now, and how well might they serve it in the future? (p. 88)

We also need to ask who is the best audience for our metrics?

Do we even need measurements and metrics that go up the hierarchy, or should we reorient them so that they people conduction the work are the same ones who receive all the measurement reports, instead of melding them into aggregate figures that ring up on an abstract scoreboard? (p. 88)

And, we shouldn’t exempt the Core Group from these discussions and ask “what are the appropriate incentives, targets, and measurements for Core Group members themselves?” (p. 88)

The discussion of measurement in this chapter prepares us for the next chapter on Welch-style management, which relies heavily upon performance evaluations.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 10: Welchism, which explores the effects of Jack Welch-style management on organizations though the Core Group theory lens.

Citations

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Incentives, Targets, and Measurements appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Guesswork https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-core-group-theory-chapter-8/ Mon, 14 Mar 2016 12:48:28 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=800 The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Guesswork appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Cover of Who Really Matters by Art KleinerWho Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Chapter 8: Guesswork . You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 8: Guesswork

This chapter explores the extent to which people make decisions about their work based on guesses about what the Core Group wants and how Core Group members can minimize the ill effects of this guesswork.

Using the example of Henry II’s off hand remark leading to the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Kleiner explains that signals from the Core Group are amplified and distorted: “people hear them as louder, stronger, and more commandlike than they seemed to you when you uttered them.” (p. 75)

This happens because folks in organizations can’t know exactly what Core Group members want and they assume it is there job to figure it out, even if that means guessing. Should people want to ask Core Group members for clarification there could be any number of barriers to doing so: feeling intimidated by status differential, no clear communication channel, appearance of Core Member being too busy, etc.

Even if you are that rare kind of boss who is visibly eager to be asked for clarification, your subordinates will still tend to guess instead of ask. You would do the same. (Back when you were in their place, you probably gathered in the hall yourselves, lief your subordinates do now, and asked ‘What did the boss mean by that?’) They want you to experience them as trusted protectors of your interests and fixers of your problems — especially the interests and problems that you didn’t know you had. (p. 76)

The problem with guessing is that people generally guess wrong. This is because they guess based on the coarsest, most noticeable and thereby least nuanced signals from the Core Group. These signals by no means represent the actual intentions and desires of the Core Group and so people must fill in the gaps. And they do so based on what they would want were they in the Core Group, or what they imagine the Core Group to want. And they extrapolate without the benefit of the information and experience to which Core Group members have access.

The consequence of guesswork can range from the merely funny to wasted effort, talent, and misaligned performance, to ruined lives and completely dysfunctional organizations. Aside from the merely funny, most of these outcomes we’d like to avoid. But how?

A first step towards improving any organization involves reducing the level of distortion in the signals that the Core Group sends. (p. 80)

This means becoming much more aware of the signals you send, intentionally or otherwise, and crafting even the most casual of remarks very carefully.

The diagnostic exercise at the close of this chapter is particularly revealing about how Core Groups can work to reduce the distortion in the signals they send. For example:

  • If what the Core Group says publicly and “officially” and what the rest of the organization hears and experiences aren’t aligned, then there is cynicism about the organization’s leaders. They aren’t seen as “walking the talk,” and so everyone else wonders why they should.
  • If the Core Group itself isn’t aligned as to what their intentions are and what signals they should be sending to the rest of the organization, then conversations and consensus building among the Core Group itself needs to happen.
  • If the Core Group is aligned about their intentions, but the rest of the organization isn’t hearing and experiencing what the Core Group intends, then the Core Group needs to work on clarifying its message and listening more effectively to the rest of the organization.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 9: “Doggie Treats” (Incentives, Targets, and Measurements), which explores the impact of incentives and measurement systems on organizational performance and how they can distort the perceived priorities of the Core Group.

Citations

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & Guesswork appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & A Core Group Way of Knowledge https://authenticengine.com/2016/who-really-matters-core-group-theory-chapter-7/ Thu, 10 Mar 2016 22:26:22 +0000 https://authenticengine.com/?p=772 The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & A Core Group Way of Knowledge appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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Cover of Who Really Matters by Art KleinerWho Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Part 2: Leading the Core Group, Chapter 7. You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 7: A Core Group Way of Knowledge

This chapter explores the idea that all great Core Groups (which an organization must have in order to be great) have a common function: they hold an essential form of knowledge.

The Core Group members themselves may not actually posses this knowledge as individuals. But they set the context that establishes this knowledge as significant. They are two parts that fit together neatly: the knowledge of the problem to be solved, shared by every organization of its kind, and each organization’s unique way of solving that problem, which constitutes its own distinctive edge. (p. 65)

Kleiner provides a few concrete examples. He compares French and California winemakers. Both know how to make wine, but in unique ways. French winemaking is highly specialized and rooted deeply in the tradition of place, whereas California winemakers produce and market many different types of wine under a single label. Another example given is Coca Cola and Pepsi. Coca Cola has its secret formula and Pepsi its skill in marketing to certain demographics.

This organization-specific knowledge Kleiner calls an integrated learning base. Other terms for it include “comparative advantage” and “core competence.” This knowledge is tacit (in people’s minds and habits) as well as explicit (documented and transmitted from employee to employee).

Fundamental to the Core Group’s role in maintaining this integrated learning base is that it:

…maintains the significance of the knowledge and it’s link with the organization. Even if there are whole aspects of the integrated learning base that the Core Group members know very little about as individuals, they are ultimately responsible for it. There will always be some people in the organization who embrace knowledge for its own sake, but the prevailing body of organizational members can take it seriously only when they see the Core Group paying attention to it. (p. 66-67)

The integrated learning base includes not just technical knowledge, but a holistic understanding of the environment and context in which the organization operates:

An integrated learning base does not merely include secret technical formulas, or patents and trade secrets for that matter, but an embedded awareness of the market, the partnerships, the regulations, the aspirations, and the management techniques, so ingrained and deep that it becomes second nature to the people of the organization. It also includes deep sensitivity to the patterns of decision-making and relationship within an organization. (p. 68-69)

This is why it’s difficult to bring an executive from one industry to another, because the integrated learning bases are so different. It’s possible for such a person to be successful, but they will have to overcome a huge learning curve as they adjust to the “professional ambiance” of their new organization.

Furthermore, organizations should be weary of weakening their integrated learning base by laying off too many experienced staff in order to cut costs. Rather, they should build creatively upon their distinctive knowledge base. The Core Group’s attention is key in facilitating these kinds of creative approaches:

The Core Group need not feel obligated to invent all of this creative new approach–or any of it–by themselves. The Core Group’s role is to demonstrate, by where it pays attention, which forms of knowledge creation are significant. Once it consistently embraces a particular form of creativity in a wholehearted enough manner, then other will jump in and creative miracles will ensue. (p. 72)

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Part 2, Chapter 8: Guesswork, .

Citations

All quotes from:

Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.

The post Who Really Matters: Core Group Theory & A Core Group Way of Knowledge appeared first on Authentic Engine.

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