What critical success factors do you monitor closely in your business?
Most leaders I speak with tell me they primarily watch performance metrics—widgets out the door, services sold, installations, market share, profitability, and the like. Customer service rankings come in a distant second.
According to Josh Bersin, demographic upheaval coupled with digital technology has greatly contributed to a rapid increase in the rate of change. This accelerated rate is, in turn, leading to new social contracts and business considerations. Bersin is responsible for long-term strategy at Bersin by Deloitte and is frequently published in Forbes.com and Chief Learning Officer magazine. He cites an MIT study revealing that 90% of CEOs said their company is experiencing disruption. Ninety percent! Given these turbulent times, the conversation about culture is more relevant than ever.
To “do less, better” isn’t something most leaders and their organizations embrace. The seemingly more attractive (and logical) option is to do more and more – the theory being the more markets, products, and businesses a company engages in, the better the results. This is not true.
Do Less Better is a strategy and a culture; it’s also the name of my book. And for organizations and their leaders, the proponents of this discipline worship focus, loathe complexity, and enjoy success.
Workplace culture is shaped from the top down. One of the costliest mistakes to organizations is the inability or unwillingness of its leaders to successfully facilitate difficult conversations. The difficulty may lie in the manager’s skill level. He or she simply doesn’t know how to coach an employee on a performance issue. Or a leader may be embarrassed to talk with an employee about careless social skills. Or the difficulty may be a more complex cultural issue that goes unseen until the problem becomes national news.
In an earlier post, we gave a very brief account of a major arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s School of Business, designed to create new behaviors in a group of senior project managers in the oil and gas exploration industry. The aim was to create a new culture of ‘open-mindedness’: the ability to form more effective working relationships with the other stakeholders involved in major capital projects and an increased ability to ‘improvise’ – to react quickly and effectively to rapidly changing situations.