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William F. Johnson

Disorganize or Bust

One half of all new organizations will close their doors forever after only five years. Those organizations – started with vision, enthusiasm, and hope for the future – will leave employees, clients, and constituents in limbo. Within sixteen years only twenty five percent will still be viable. There are a number of reasons for failure but some result from their own success.

There is a definite cycle in the life of organizations. It is not chronological but a functional cycle. A simplified pattern might include five phases; Initial Structuring, Formal Organization, Maximum Efficiency, Institutionalization, and Disintegration.


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About the Author

William F. JohnsonWilliam F. Johnson is an award winning author writing primarily in the field of leadership and personal development. His background includes starting and leading three different business entities and he is currently CEO of a non-profit organization. Bill can be reached at www.wfjohn.blogspot.com.

Bill’s book, Disorganize or Bust (Aslan Press), provides an understanding of organizational development, traces some real life organizations through their life cycle, and is provided as a tool for leaders and entrepreneurs to avoid or slow down the institutionalization process. It will be uncomfortable for some whose main desire is a smooth operation, but growth is not smooth.

StrategyDriven Decision-Making Article

Alexander Throckmorton Comes of Age

StrategyDriven Decision-Making ArticleOn September 25, 2015, Warner Brothers released The Intern: Experience Never Gets Old starring Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway; written, directed, and produced by Nancy Meyers. The September 2015 edition of Chief Learning Officer Magazine featured an article called Don’t Undervalue Older Workers by Lynn Schroeder. Nancy and Lynn must acknowledge that Edgar Lee Masters planted the seeds for appreciating seasoned workers back in 1914 when he wrote the play based on tombstone epitaphs in the western Illinois hamlet of Spoon River.

When Edgar Lee Masters penned his eloquent formula for genius, which he attributed to one fictional – albeit deceased – Alexander Throckmorton in the classic Spoon River Anthology, he bequeathed to all of us an elegant guiding principle for organizational leadership: genius is a composite made of some parts wisdom and some parts youth. Many organizations have exactly what they need for genius; that is seasoned workers and young workers. The problem is that so many organizations see older, experienced workers as problems; blocking the door for younger, less expensive and less experienced talent to enter the building. If we’re to believe Lynn Schroeder, Nancy Meyers, and Alexander Throckmorton, organizations who deliberately integrate wise, experienced team members with young, talented, and energetic team members, eager to destroy barriers and bifurcations, have the potential for genius—not individual genius; but true, organizational genius.

After the meltdown of 2008, there has been a corresponding breakdown in the corporate conveyor belt. At some of the largest and most recognized organizations in North America, senior executives of pension age are refusing to drop off the end of the belt into the retirement bin. Unable to retire with the financial status they had hoped for, older workers are turning around and walking back up the conveyor in the opposite direction, straight into the line of upcoming middle managers.

Rather than a pile-up of junior and senior workers, the traffic jam on the conveyor belt gives the organization a shot at true genius. Assuming the seasoned and still-working managers were retained because of their leadership value, one might conclude that our nation’s companies may have the greatest opportunity to reinvent leadership since the GI Bill; shared leadership.

What will happen if organizational designers deliberately pair more experienced older workers with less experienced younger workers in leadership dyads – pairings of employees – one experienced and capable, and the other relatively youthful, but clearly talented and loaded with potential. These dyads could replace solo, sometimes rouge leadership at the most senior executive and even middle management levels in the public and
private sectors.

Implicit in this model: decision-making and rank are equal and shared among these co-leaders. Because neither has ultimate authority, negotiations (and decision-making) inevitably integrate the untempered optimism, impatience, and master-of-the universe-inspired creative energy of the young mind with the more concrete, real-world experience of the more seasoned manager. The result is practical genius.

The leadership dyads would remain accountable to one another and all constituents, mutually dependent, sharing responsibilities, in continuous tension and continuous refinement. The organizational homeostasis of a shared leadership model, sometimes referred to “distributed leadership,” can be both more invigorating and more stabilizing than a traditional top-down “Great Man” model that endows individuals – and, eventually, a single powerful leader – with ultimate (and sometimes weakly-challenged) institutional authority. When well executed, the end result of shared leadership, if not genius, is certainly greater clarity, better creativity and reduced opportunity for error.

Wisdom and youth are unlikely bedfellows, replete with natural suspicion, impatience, cultural and institutional incompatibilities. But, from the tension can come great innovation. Walt Disney called differences of opinion on his project teams “creative tension” through which a more creative, higher quality, and sustainable product or idea emerges. Notably, shared leadership has long been the naturally balancing preference for leading households and raising children. It is the theoretical underpinning beneath successful self-directed teams and is a sustainable governance model for faith-based organizations.

A Rising Tide of Research and Academic Attention

The concept is gaining no small amount of momentum among thought-leaders in the realm of leadership research. Writing on www.sharedleadership.com, Michael Marlow, former head of the AT&T Learning Center, and Lorri Lizza of the Society for Organizational Learning and former vice president of Human Resources at AT&T, believe that shared leadership is a growing global occurrence:

“Shared leadership is a growing phenomenon around the world. It is a response to thousands of years of an opposite form of leadership—warrior leadership. When we share leadership, we establish relationships so that each member of an organization, team, family, or community can find and bring forward their gifts and lead.”

Shared leadership thought leaders, Michele Erina Doyle and Mark K. Smith (2001), write:

“Many writers – especially those looking at management – tend to talk about leadership as a person having a clear vision and the ability to make it real. However, we have begun to discover that leadership rests not so much in one person having a clear vision as in our capacity to work with others in creating one.”

In Rice University’s OpenStax, Angus MacNeil, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Houston, and Alena McClanahan detail requirements for successful shared leadership:

  1. Equal partnership: one person cannot have power and the other not. This balance of power, MacNeil and McClanashan explain, is probably among the hardest aspects of shared leadership.</li.
  2. A shared goal: Despite divergent opinions and differing tactics, each member must recognize the common purpose and be prepared to let go of individual agendas.
  3. Shared responsibility for the work of the group: All the participants share responsibility and accountability for the work of the partnership.
  4. Respect for the person: The partnership must recognize and embrace differences in the full group to build a strong, cohesive unit that can work well together to accomplish a goal.
  5. Partnering in the nitty-gritty: Working together in complex, real-world situations.

As a SVP in a firm that specializes in leadership coaching and organizational consulting for Fortune 50, Fortune 100, and Fortune 500 companies, I can report that executive coaches and consultants at human resources consulting firms and within internal learning organizations are not yet behind the movement to team up senior leaders (many of whom are circling in a self-imposed holding pattern outside the Human Resources Department) with the strong bodies climbing the ladder beneath them.

Successful shared leadership will require the best of wisdom and youth, not reporting to one another, but working with one another. There is true hope at the flashpoint where the seemingly immortal courage of the young, the leavening influence of the wise, and the potential for genius that is in all of us—converge.

This approach is not necessarily suitable to all enterprises. Military battlefield leadership, for example, does not customarily have the luxury of time to incorporate the best thinking of numerous individuals. The same might be true of professions such as emergency medicine. Yet while a military operation in the field might not benefit from shared decision-making, the Pentagon might. Equally, a hospital board might do well to deploy the shared leadership strategy as well. It is important to remember that this approach is directed at the leadership/management level. Individual transactional activities (for example, trading on the floor of a stock exchange) may also benefit from intuition and snap decision-making of a single expediter.

What do organizations need now more than ever? Wings that are strong and tireless guided by wisdom from the high places. That could be Robert De Niro. That could be Alexander Throckmorton. It could be the older person you nearly knocked down as you rushed into the office this morning. Youth is one thing. Wisdom is another thing. Genius is the ultimate thing according to Albert Einstein:

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.
It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

Wisdom and Youth can create the wisdom.


About the Author

John HooverJohn Hoover, PhD.

Senior Vice President and Leader of the Executive Coaching practice at Partners in Human Resources International (New York), Dr. John Hoover is a former executive with The Walt Disney Company and McGraw-Hill. He is the bestselling author of a dozen books on leadership and organizational behavior from Amacom, Career Press, Barnes & Noble Publishing, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, and Saint Martin’s Press.

Dr. Hoover is adjunct faculty at Fielding Graduate University and the American Management Association. He has coached, lectured, or served on the faculties of Amherst, Aquinas College, Cal State Fullerton, College of the Desert, Middle Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University, and Yale. As outlined in greater detail below, he is an experienced consultant and executive coach to C-level executives and board members in the private sector, academia, and not-for-profit social service agencies.

StrategyDriven Business Performance Assessment Program Article

Doing Business in a Big Data World

StrategyDriven Organizational Performance Measures ArticleThe Internet and cloud computing have revolutionized the nature of data capture and storage, tempting many companies to adopt a new ‘Big Data’ philosophy: collect all the data you can; all the time. But this new world of Big Data is proving to be much more demanding and complex than expected, requiring companies not only to adopt different technologies, but also to make significant changes to their business strategy, internal skillsets, and organizational structures.

Big Data is Not Just More Data: That’s because the nature of the data we can now collect has changed. Big Data involves not just the structured data (customer name and details, products purchased, how much was spent and when, etc.) that every company is used to capturing, but also unstructured data (data scraped from the Internet and social media channels that may come in a wide variety of formats, from video to voice). It may seem an obscure data management distinction, but this shift toward collecting unstructured data – which is a large part of what Big Data is all about – is sending shock waves across traditional organizations.

Why?

New technologies: The consistency and predictability of structured data is what gave rise to today’s centralized IT departments – running SQL/Relational Database Management Systems, and ERP and CRM software. Structured data is clean and predictable; easy to collect, organize and analyze – and is usually securely stored on a company’s internal servers.

Unstructured data is very different. It is messy, variable, and difficult to interpret; captured from a wide variety of sources and usually stored on distributed computing nodes through the Cloud. In order to capture, filter, and analyze huge amounts of unstructured data, an organization needs to leverage the new technologies that include massively parallel processing (MPP) and NoSQL/Hadoop-like (non-relational) database and software frameworks.

But getting access to these Big Data technologies means either buying it and building it into your organization’s current IT enterprise structure, or accessing the tools and data storage through Cloud-based offerings (or a combination of both). Whatever method your organization chooses, it will place a significant strain on your – probably already overwhelmed – central IT department, because they will need to construct a complimentary architecture with these two very different platforms.

New Skills: These new technologies also require very different skills, because in order to convert unstructured, randomly collected data into meaningful intelligence, organizations now need data engineers who understand the new NoSQL/Hadoop-like programming languages, and data scientists (often with PhDs in mathematics or statistics) who can set up the algorithms and correctly interpret the data. Employees with these skills are still expensive and hard to find: nearly 80 percent of companies complain that they’re already finding recruitment for these jobs either ‘challenging’ or ‘extremely difficult.’

New Organizational Structures: And because 80% of Big Data projects cross business lines or functions, surveys show that an alarming one third of Big Data projects are already being pursued without the support of the company’s central IT function, by adventurous departments tempted to access Big Data tools unilaterally over the Cloud – often then running that data through the (unsecured) smartphones of their employees. All of this means that CIOs and centralized IT department staff no longer ‘own’ company data the way they did in the past; giving rise to new concerns about data integrity and security in a more distributed and anarchic company structure.

As a result, Big Data is forcing CIOs to relinquish some of their centralized authority in favor of a power-sharing arrangement – not only with departments (such as Sales and Marketing) who want to run their own customer-focused Big Data projects independently, but with important new C-level rivals: the Chief Marketing Technology Officer, or the Chief Data Officer.

A New Company Data Strategy: This means that a Big Data company strategy requires a good deal of equanimity on the part of these various competing and overlapping roles to create policies that allow for departmental independence, but don’t expose the company to data breaches and misuse of customer data. And that’s why adopting a Big Data strategy also requires senior management to be much more involved in IT and data-related matters – providing clear guidance on what data can be used, in what way, and by whom.

In short, there is a lot more to doing business in the Big Data world than simply collecting and analyzing more data. It is a disruptive paradigm shift that most companies have yet to make.


About the Author

Dale NeefDale Neef is a technology advisor, and author of Digital Exhaust: What Everyone Should Know About Big Data, Digitization and Digitally Driven Innovation (FT Press). A veteran of knowledge management, business intelligence, and large-scale technology implementation projects with more than fifty companies worldwide, he has been a technical consultant for the Asian Development Bank, has worked for IBM and Computer Sciences Corporation, and was a fellow at Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Innovation. A frequent contributor to journals, and a regular speaker at technology conferences, he earned his doctorate from Cambridge University, was a research fellow at Harvard, and has written or edited eight books on the economics of knowledge and data management and the use of information technology to mitigate risk. Learn more at www.daleneef.com.

New Ways to Minimize Financial Concerns that Erode Employee Performance

Research shows that money worries have a distinct negative impact on employees’ ability to perform their jobs. Financial education can help, but new voluntary benefits—such as student loan refinancing—offer employers a more proactive tool for combatting this productivity drain.

If you’ve ever had any doubt that financial challenges affect your employees’ productivity, findings from the 2014 SHRM Financial Wellness in the Workplace Survey may put that doubt to rest.

Conducted among more than 400 HR professionals, the SHRM survey revealed:


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About the Author

DanMacklinDan Macklin is a co-founder and vice president at SoFi. He is a thought leader whose perspectives on Gen X and Millennial personal finance topics have been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNBC, Fast Company and Mashable, as well as his personal favorite, Italian Vogue!

About SoFi

SoFi is a leader in marketplace lending and the largest provider of student loan refinancing, with over $2 billion in loans issued. SoFi helps ambitious early stage professionals accelerate their success with student loan refinancing, MBA loans, mortgages and personal loans. Its nontraditional underwriting approach takes into account merit and employment history among other factors to provide unique financial and investment products. Borrowers who refinance their student loans with SoFi can expect to save $11,783, on average, over the lifetime of their loans. For more information, visit SoFi.com.