An organization, like a nation, is a group of people; a collective multitude of decisions, actions, behaviors and interactions. The observed and unobserved norms that form as a result constitute the organization’s culture. In this way, culture represents the shadow of the organization; whatever the organization does is reflected in its shadow - and that can only be changed obliquely.
I recently attended a talk called “Blockchain for Enterprise” at the inaugural Brandemonium, an international brand conference in Cincinnati, OH, led by Sharad Malhautra, a Senior Manager from Ernst & Young. The bulk of his material covered E&Y’s Wine Blockchain, which allows consumers to access reliable information about the Italian wines they purchase by giving them access to details about cultivation, production process, and point of sale. Consumers use their smartphones to access this data by scanning QR codes on the bottle labels, providing greater confidence and transparency about their purchase. Additionally, the system is designed to help mitigate counterfeit wines and foreign competition to the Italian wine industry.
Toys ‘R’ Us is in a world of hurt. They owe billions in debt and filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy last Monday. They are over-indexed in big-box stores, a segment of retail that is rapidly dying and losing share to the likes of Amazon and Walmart. They are late to eCommerce, which only became a priority for them in July, 2017. And coming out of bankruptcy, they plan to deploy a strategy that looks flashy in headlines but disappoints when considering its execution.
Inside corporations, transformation can feel like a loss. It doesn’t have to.
In the thousands of interviews I’ve conducted at large corporations in the midst of transformation efforts, one theme rises to the top. Often, it’s stated exactly the same – across divisions, regions and functions. I’ve heard it at tech companies, financial firms, healthcare corporations, and manufacturers.
Customers don’t make decisions in a vacuum, or rationally. If they did, there would be no reason to have a sales or marketing department. They would just compare all options and choose optimally based on a structured, economic value equation—benefit(s) over price. But humans don’t operate this way. We choose irrationally—typically when something feels right.
Communication Context means taking into consideration the relevant circumstances before you decide what message to communicate and when to communicate it to others. With internal communications, those circumstances can determine how well your message is received by the organization – and how likely the audience will be to react positively.
Blue Apron—the ingredient and recipe meal kit service –is the most recent to make headlines. With a subpar IPO and a stock price that continues to decline, Blue Apron may eventually succumb to the Amazon Effect: either closing its doors or selling out well below the $2 billion it was once valued. Or not. What if Blue Apron joined forces with Kroger?
They’re both great at grabbing headlines – Mr. Kim alarming the world by launching his latest explosive toys with abandon*, Mr. Bezos for alarming the world of commerce with his disruptive experiments (spaceships, drones, Whole Foods, Wardrobe, etc.) – and certainly both of them have the world wondering what’s behind all the frenzy. But look deeper, and strange similarities emerge…
Many millennials are doing something few in previous generations have done before: they’re starting to love themselves, exactly as they are. It may sound trite, but coming on the heels of Gen X’ers who are often dubbed the “low self-esteem generation,” it’s revolutionary. In fact, millennials are spending twice as much as boomers on self-care tools like diet plans, fitness memberships, therapy, and apps that focus on improving their well-being.
Pappy Van Winkle is the most sought after bourbon on the planet. The pre-prohibition style liquor enjoys huge demand from bourbon enthusiasts, bar owners and high-end restaurants around the world. Depending on the make and age, a bottle will run a buyer anywhere from $200 to $2,200, selling as high as $6,000 in the secondary market. That’s if you can find it.
One of the drawbacks of online shopping is the delay between buying and actually receiving a product. If we go through the hassle of driving to the store, physically sifting through sweaters or shoes and making small talk while paying for our purchase, at least we have the instant gratification of using our stuff immediately.
After a long pause, the mid-level manager leaned in and said, “Everyday, we shake the tree too much…You must plant the seed, nourish it and provide the right sunlight for the tree to grow. You must then let it flower and be unselfish in harvesting its fruit…And currently we shake the tree too much. We are too urgent and we are running out of fruit.”
Change Management is an artifact of a world that doesn’t exist, invented by management consultants to rob organizations of their money, time, morale and energy. If you’re tired of hearing the same repetitive answers to the very interesting question of how to help your organization respond to seismic change, stop drop-clicking on bullshit memes like 10 Principles of Change Management.
The truth, as seen from the perspective of people in the trenches of the organization, is the essential ingredient for leading a successful transformation. Leaders are able to close the gap between their own point of view and that of the workforce by proactively addressing employees’ real concerns, reducing friction caused by confusion or mistrust and allowing transformation efforts to move faster.
Inside large organizations, transformation is often painful. Some of that is just par for the course, but some of that hardship is self-inflicted. For the last six years, our company has helped leaders in a variety of industries communicate change internally. We’ve found a few common things that get in the way of transformation efforts. Eliminating these obstacles will ensure a faster transition with fewer pain points.
Search ‘Millennials’ and the first Google suggestions will likely read ‘Millennials are Idiots.’ We’ve been deemed the lazy, narcissistic, and entitled generation, and while that may be true for some of you, many of us are success seeking, driven and career-focused professionals. However, the negative connotation of being young in the workplace is working against us.
As part of my work in communicating change inside large organizations, I write and design executive presentations. Typically, I’ll get an outline or draft deck riddled with charts, graphs, acronyms and business jargon. I have to admit the content isn’t very motivating. Sometimes, it’s downright depressing.