Stop shouting & start listening!
In an earlier post entitled The Reinvention of Management: Part 1, I noted that current management practices represent a set of economic, social and political problems of the first order, which cannot be resolved by a single fix.
Instead, a whole host of business leaders and writers, including Umair Haque, John Hagel, John Seely Brown, Lang Davison, Rod Collins, Ranjay Gulati and Carol Sanford are exploring a fundamental rethinking of the basic tenets of management. Among the most important changes being proposed are five basic shifts in management practice:
1. The firm’s goal (a shift from inside-out to outside-in).
2. Role of managers (a shift from controller to enabler).
3. Mode of coordination (from hierarchical bureaucracy to dynamic linking).
4. Values practiced (a shift from value to values).
5. Communications (a shift from command to conversation).
In this continuing series of posts, I explore in more detail the specific practices needed to accomplish these five shifts.
In previous posts, I have described the practices needed to achieve the shift in the firm’s goal to delighting the client, the shift in the manager’s role from controller to enabler, the shift from bureaucracy to dynamic linking and the shift from value to values.
In this post, I describe the practices involved in the shift in communications from command to conversation.
Shift #5: From command to conversation
None of the above shifts will be sustained if management communicates in the traditional mode of top-down commands that dispirit knowledge workers. Nor will customers be delighted if communications with organization consist of unresponsive one-way messages. Instead, communications need to proceed in the mode of social norms, with adult-to-adult conversation, listening attentively and responding openly, with authentic stories, metaphors and open-ended questions.
1. Use authentic storytelling to inspire a passion for delighting clients: For most organizations, the above four shifts entail a significant change agenda—often a fundamental shift in culture. This won’t happen, as Peter Guber explains in Tell to Win (2011), without compelling leadership storytelling—stories that show how other organizations have done it and, where possible, stories about how it is already happening within the organization.
2. Practice deep listening: Deep listening to stories both inside the organization with employees and outside the organization with customers provide the ingredients for lasting relationships. Within the organization, employees discover what’s wonderful in each other. Outside the organization, as customers discover that the firm consists of real people who communicate authentically, the foundation for a relationship can be laid.
3. Know the customer’s story: The shift from producing goods and services to networks of teams that delight clients sooner, more often, and more profoundly can only happen if teams doing the work know the customer’s story. This story becomes the raw material from which hypotheses as to what might delight the client can be derived.
4. Conduct authentic conversations with customers: Instead of viewing the customer as thing to be manipulated with one-way messages that “manufacture demand”, the firm organizes itself to conduct authentic conversations with customers whether through social media as explained by Charlene Li in Open Leadership or in call-in centers that actually seek to turn customer problems into customer delight, as at Zappos.
5. Deploy user stories as catalysts for conversation: User stories aren’t artifacts or instructions or commands. They are opportunities to conduct a conversation between the client and the people doing the work. The object of the conversation is to deepen understanding as to what might delight the client.
6. Deploy stories to enhance individual performance: Carrots and sticks don’t motivate knowledge workers. Instead, skilled leaders seek to discover what drives people into action and then connect that to the goals of the team. The sharing of stories can help to create needed understanding, mutual respect and trust.
7. Use stories to enhance team cohesion: Groups develop a sense of identity from three sequential stories: the story of who we were, the story of who we are now, and the story of who we are going to be. Having groups craft and perform this combination of stories communicates to both themselves and others what they have in common and why they might evolve into a high-performance group.
8. Use stories to inspire high-performance teams: The telling of stories about successful high-performance teams in other similar organizations can stimulate the narrative imaginations of the team members and show how that the experience can be emulated.
To learn more:
To learn more about reinventing management, read the whole series:
- Reinventing Management: Part 1: Overview
- Reinventing Management: Part 2: Delighting the client
- Reinventing Management: Part 3: From controller to enabler
- Reinventing Management: Part 4. From bureaucracy to dynamic linking
- Reinventing Management: Part 5: From value to values.
- This post: Part 6: From command to conversation
- Coming soon: Part 7: Implementing the transition
And read books such as The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, Reorganize for Resilience by Ranjay Gulati, Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins, The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford, or Tell to Win by Peter Guber.
For a comprehensive review of the principles and practices involved in reinventing management, read my book: The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century.