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A blog by Ryan Quinn, Robert Quinn, Shawn Quinn, and Amy Lemley

Archive for the ‘Collaboration / Teamwork / Breaking Down Silos’ Category

Solving the Authenticity Puzzle: What Many CEOs Cannot Do

Friday, July 5th, 2013

By Robert E. Quinn

I met a consultant from another part of the world who works with senior business leaders.  In their country’s culture, he said, there is an extreme emphasis on hierarchy and seniority, with strong norms to defer to.  Because of that, someone such as a CEO may get little honest feedback, and a CEO’s blind spots may become a growing problem in the organization.

On one assignment, my acquaintance spent a very long period preparing a CEO’s direct reports to share key truths with him.  He taught them that they needed to be simultaneously respectful and honest.  The direct reports were fearful but willing to try.  A two-and-a-half-hour meeting was scheduled. For the first hour and a half, the CEO was uncomfortable, and so were the direct reports.

The man who was telling me the story described his own anxiety.  In his country, a man as powerful as the CEO could destroy a consultant’s career.  Performing this sort of “intervention” was a great risk.

Thankfully in the last half-hour there was a major change.  The CEO began to see the value in what was taking place, and he opened up.  The meeting became a positive intervention that led to a lasting change in the communication patterns of the top management team. (more…)

Positive Leadership in Action: Prudential’s Jim Mallozzi Shows How It Works

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Amy Lemley

How would you unify more than 50,000 employees worldwide? Ask Jim Mallozzi, chairman and CEO of Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services.

The answer? Positive organizational scholarship (POS). As a senior VP in Prudential’s retirement division, Mallozzi became acquainted with the field eight years ago. That’s when he met Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship cofounders Kim Cameron and Bob Quinn (also a partner in Lift Consulting and my fellow Lift blogger). A colleague who was a University of Michigan Ross business school grad, introduced them, and Mallozzi was hooked.

In 2009, Mallozzi ascended to chairman and CEO of Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services. Positive leadership principles seemed like a natural place to turn for corporate transformation.

In 2011—at the height of a difficult time in the relocation sector—Brookfield Residential Property Services acquired his company. This move creating a change management opportunity in which positive leadership was equally relevant.

Kim Cameron and Emily Plews (MBA/SA ’10) interviewed Mallozzi for the April 2012 issue of Organizational Dynamics. In the article, Mallozzi talks about how he and his employees have implemented some of its core concepts. He listed three examples of initiatives that made a difference:

  • -The reflected best-self feedback process, which we became really good at.
  •  -The use of the competing values framework, which is how we demonstrated respect for each other in terms of what unique attributes each person brought to the table.
  •  -The development of an Everest goal, or what we aspired to be and what we stood for.

POS posted a video of an extraordinary Positive Links presentation in which Mallozzi quite candidly discusses where things stood at Prudential and how positive leadership came to permeate its culture.

The February 2012 session—which Mallozzi calls “a great adventure and a great honor”—is entitled “Saving Private Ryan: Hard-Fought Lessons in Creating a Positively Deviant Organization.” It’s an hour and 20 minutes long and well worth your time. Click play, sit back, and enjoy.

A Conflicted Country and the Strategy of the Third Path: How Do We Go From Here?

Friday, November 9th, 2012

By Robert E. Quinn

Tuesday was the Presidential election.  On Wednesday morning I went to the gym. Two women were there who are in their seventies. One was wearing an Obama shirt and looked very happy. The other said to me, “I grew up in World War II and I have always believed that God watched over America. Today I no longer believe that.” I saw what so many political analysts had pointed out the night before: This is a rapidly changing and deeply divided country.

While it is normal to be concerned about that conflict and the gridlock that is likely to follow the election, my attention is drawn to something else.

I believe a major event like an election is important because it generates new data. It more sharply exposes the emerging reality. When we encounter new data, nature offers us two choices: fight or flight. Today, for example, I heard one person calling for total resistance to the administration. That is the fight response. Other people claim they are going to move to another country. That is the flight response. While these are natural responses, they are not very productive ones. The first will increase the conflict. The second will preserve the existing conflict. Both are self-interested and neither pursues the collective good.

Beyond the natural choice of fight or flight is the third path: creative contribution. Creative contribution reflects a proactive choice to transcend the naturally structured “either/or” logic of the left brain. (more…)

“A Common Purpose” Nets Greater Investment and Greater Return

Monday, August 13th, 2012

By Robert E. Quinn

“This morning I keep thinking about the concept of chords: more than one note played together at a time.  It is a simple thing, but it makes me think of the power of coordination, the power of individuals uniting in a common purpose.”

These words, part of a piece my son-in-law wrote about his gratitude for music, reminded me of my recent lunch with a powerful policy maker. Over the course of our conversation, she had referred several times to her early career as a military officer. She recalled how, time and again, total strangers learned to transcend big differences to become unified in the pursuit of an important purpose.

From her comments, it was obvious that that experience had transformed her. Even today, she maintains a tight bond with her former associates.  As she talked, she seemed to imply that she had had difficulty replicating that closeness and commitment elsewhere. What was the distinction that led to such a tight bond? Was it the fact of war? Or something else? (more…)

Deep Change or Incremental Change? That Depends on How Easily You Adapt

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

By Robert E. Quinn

Most changes are incremental. We have an experience. We make an assumption about cause and effect. We have another experience. We make another assumption. We see change as a mechanical process, one that we can control. We think we know what adjustments must be made for the desired result to occur. Because we assume we are in control, we act upon others, directing them with a clear expectation of what the outcome will look like. We achieve incremental change.

Deep change is a fundamentally different process because it requires people to develop new expectations. As people experience deep change, they move from old assumptions to new ones. They start to see, feel, and think differently. Soon, they behave differently. (more…)

What Is Collective Learning?: A Discussion from the Deep Change Field Guide

Friday, May 18th, 2012

By Robert E. Quinn

This is the third of a series of three posts drawn from Chapter One of  The Deep Change Field Guide: A Personal Course to Discovering the Leader Within. In these discussions, we investigate both the barriers to deep change and the ways in (for a further introduction to this blog series, view the first installment). Here is what Chapter One suggests:

  • Change attempts often fail because of the assumptions we make.
  • We often find ourselves in situations that require us to adapt, but choose to distort reality and deny what the world is telling us.
  • To be excellent, we have to be at the edge, a place of uncertainty and learning.
  • When we are committed to a higher purpose, we move forward through the fear of conflict. As we do, we learn and we see in new ways

In the first discussion, we discovered why factoring in company culture is critical. In the second discussion, we looked at the role of authority. Now, we explore how managing those two factors creates a synergy one expert calls “collective learning.”

Discussion 3: What Is Collective Learning?

Collective learning. That’s something Jeff Liker knows a lot about. He’s seen it in action at Toyota again and again, and he has described it in The Toyota Way, and The Toyota Product Development System, and Toyota Under Fire.

Jeff, who is among the foremost experts on Toyota, describes the collective learning process as one in which two or more people learn in real time as they move forward together. In this process, the culture is such that everyone learns from everyone else. The notion of authority fades into the background.

One of Jeff’s favorite examples is the story of a manufacturing firm that hired a Toyota expert as a consultant to improve its processes.

After touring the manufacturing site, the consultant said, “You have three shifts with a total of 140 employees. I suggest that we reduce to two shifts with a total of 10 people while maintaining the current level of productivity.”  Naturally, the managers’ first question was “How?”

The consultant’s answer? “I do not know.”

I don’t know. Not the typical consultant’s response. A normal consultant would have offered a suggestion even if he had to make it up. Consultants have a profound need to look like experts, a trait they share with the rest of us. We are afraid of what will happen if others find out we do not know all the answers.

“We will have to learn our way to our goal, the Toyota consultant said. “I would like you to concentrate your efforts on eliminating the inventory backlog. In a few weeks, I’ll come back and see what you have learned.”

The people in the manufacturing firm worked hard to do as he said. They met often. They experimented. They listened to each other. In the process, they learned to interact as equals. They generated a number of innovations and were excited to share them when the consultant returned.

The consultant reinforced their efforts and then turned their attention to another part of the process. This pattern continued for two years. At the end of that time, the firm was down to two shifts and had reduced the work force from 140 to 15.

All without establishing a plan before moving forward. As they looked back, it was clear that they had shared a vision, and they pursued it as a team in the process of collective learning.

They could not have achieved the same result by following a linear process articulated ahead of time by an expert who then measured and controlled what happened. Adaptation was an essential element. They tried things, evaluated the results, and then made adjustments and tried again. As they communicated with one another, their assumptions changed.

Together, they learned the way to their goal. They built the bridge as they walked on it. It was a process of deep change.

As you consider the collective learning process, ask yourself these questions:

Why are people often uncomfortable with a change process that involves setting a goal and deciding over time how to accomplish it instead of following a checklist?

  • Control over the collective learning process comes from trust. Have you ever been a part of an organization that was full of trust? How did that high level of trust change the way people interacted with each other?
  • What are some things people in organizations can do to increase trust so they can engage in a collective learning process?

What Is the Role of Authority in the Change Process?: A Discussion from The Deep Change Field Guide

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

By Robert E. Quinn

This is the second of a series of three posts drawn from Chapter One of  The Deep Change Field Guide: A Personal Course to Discovering the Leader Within In these discussions, we investigate both the barriers to deep change and the ways in (for a further introduction to this blog series, view the first installment). Here is what Chapter One suggests:

  • Change attempts often fail because of the assumptions we make.
  • We often find ourselves in situations that require us to adapt, but choose to distort reality and deny what the world is telling us.
  • To be excellent, we have to be at the edge, a place of uncertainty and learning.
  • When we are committed to a higher purpose, we move forward through the fear of conflict. As we do, we learn and we see in new ways

In the previous installment, we explored why considering the role of culture in the change process is critical. In the next discussion, we look at the role of authority.

Discussion 2: What Is the Role of Authority in the Change Process?

Deep change begins with a state of mind. Simply telling people about it does not instill in them what it is and why it works. Explanations just bounce off of their strongly held assumptions.

That’s why when I teach deep change, I no longer explain.  Instead, I put people through experiences that cause them to challenge their own assumptions. (more…)

Shots on Goal: How Ideas in Quantity Can Help Companies to Score Big

Friday, April 6th, 2012

By Shawn E. Quinn

In my previous blog this week, we talked about Jim, who was a leader of a large company until it was sold at the end of last year/start of 2012.  He took over a struggling business and through a lot of trial, error, and success, he and many others throughout the organization started to turn things around.  We discussed one action he took to spread good ideas and to help people act in new ways.  Today we will discuss one action he took to enhance the innovation in his company.

I have a colleague named Jeff DeGraff who is an expert in innovation (www.competingvalues.com) and spent some time with Jim’s senior team.  Of the many principles Jeff teaches, and the one that stuck with Jim the most, was the idea of shots on goal.  The more you take, the more goals you are likely to score.  There are many large organizations that focus on a couple of key projects and give large amounts of resources to those projects.  If things don’t go well, they try to fix the project rather than drop it because they have invested so much.  But Jeff took another approach: He encouraged this leadership team to try a lot of things with minimal resources and slowly add resources to the ideas that showed the most promise.  His mantra? Be comfortable with “failure” and letting things go.

(more…)

Innovation Strategy

Friday, March 30th, 2012

By Ryan W. Quinn

So far this week, I have given an example of extraordinary accomplishment using an unusual strategy, explained how to get ideas for alternative strategies, and suggested that when we want to be externally open, we should come up with one more strategy than is easy to come up with. One question that people may wonder, however, is “Why should I come up with multiple strategies if I’m confident that the one I have will work?” (more…)

Creating Sustainability in Other People

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

By Shawn Quinn

People are overstretched.  The regular job of today represents what was once the job of two or even three people.  Stress has increased in many people’s lives.  A lot of organizations want not only to perform, but to do so in a sustained way.

Yet their employees are being asked to do things that are not very sustainable.  Is there anything that can help these employees out?

(more…)