Corporate reorganizations can cause headaches

How to Manage Corporate Reorganizations Without the Headaches

Whether you call it reorganization, restructuring, reengineering or realignment, there’s one thing you can be sure of: it’s not going to be easy. In fact, many of these interventions are costly and painful—and in the end, don’t work.

One industry, in particular, that is dealing with this right now is the information technology sector. Mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, financial concerns and other issues are causing leaders to take a closer look at how their businesses are structured and whether or not they have both the agility and the depth they need to remain competitive.

But before any organization goes headlong down the “re” path, they might want to reevaluate the process first.

Why Restructuring Efforts Fall Apart

All too frequently, management implements these kinds of initiatives with an emphasis on ROI (return on investment) and execution. Seems like a logical approach, right? But this is often counterproductive because it overlooks some essential, make-or-break elements—things like culture, vision and morale. The future.

In fact, when the objective becomes so narrowly focused on issues like cost reduction, for example, creative and innovative possibilities won’t even be considered. But creativity is essential when you’re looking for new ways of doing things. Without creativity, restructuring efforts often end up getting good marks for intent, but very bad marks for results.

Reinventing Your Process

From a thinking standpoint, the word reinvention is more descriptive of what should really take place when a major change occurs. And whole-brained reinvention is the whole-brain-modelbest descriptor of all.

Our data has shown that the process of invention very clearly involves both analytical and imaginative thinking. If you look at the Whole Brain® Model, these are the upper A and D quadrants. When you add in the necessary B quadrant activities, like form, sequence and implementation, with the C quadrant preferences for interpersonal relationships, teamwork and communication, you have a much more mentally complete process to support the outcomes you really want.

So, where can you find this breadth of thinking?

You’re in luck. It’s most likely right there in your organization; you just have to be sure you’re tapping into it. That means making sure you have the thinking diversity you need represented both in your project leadership and within your implementation teams, and just as important, that everyone recognizes the business value these different perspectives contribute.

4 Steps to Check Your Thinking

If you’re involved in a “re” effort (or are suffering through one that’s not going very well), here are four diagnostic areas to evaluate to make sure you have the thinking processes in place to support the results you need:

  1. Are the desired financial and business objectives achievable as planned? If not, your analysis may have overlooked key elements from other thinking quadrants. Consider what those might be.
  2. Are timelines and schedules well planned and being communicated and respected? If not, then the planning process wasn’t thorough enough. An easy way to check for gaps is to review the Whole Brain® Model to see what you might have missed.
  3. How are the workforce and customers responding? If morale is a problem and customers are aggravated, you’re likely overlooking some important people-related elements, and there could be other contributing gaps, like overlooked process issues and financial factors. Are you encouraging the imaginative ideas and solutions that could anticipate and preempt potential implementation headaches?
  4. Is this a good strategic decision? Are any innovations or creative solutions emerging? Reorganization is about the future, so it requires future-oriented management decisions. This is a great opportunity for the whole organization to get energized by going creative, but it has to start with and be supported by the leadership.

If you want to read about an M&A initiative that bucked the trend and exceeded expectations, check out the story of the merger of Westpac Bank and Challenge Bank.

Westpac didn’t just avoid morale problems during and after the merger; staff turnover actually went down from 14% to 6%. The bank also increased opening hours, making their customers very happy in the process. To top it off, they were able to save the $10 million that had originally been set aside for redundancies.

Now that’s a great example of mindful merging.

How Global Leaders Think

4 Steps to Integrate Thinking into Your Teambuilding Exercises

4 Steps to Integrate Thinking into Teambuilding Exercises

Teambuilding exercises. Just the words can bring up strong feelings and long memories, from awkward exercises and superficial “feel-good” activities to other tasks that have questionable—if any—lasting business value.

But we know that teams are essential to getting work done in today’s business environment. A large majority of the workplace now spends a high percentage of its time in team-related activities, and this trend is only expected to escalate.

But as we also know from our own team experiences, you don’t automatically get the results you’re looking for just by bringing people together. Communication breakdowns, competing priorities, conflict and a lack of trust are just a few of the obstacles that can, and often do, get in the way of the team’s success. Read more

Quotable Business Advice from the Whole Brain Business Book

Quotes from The Whole Brain Business Book, 2nd Edition

Twenty years ago, Ned Herrmann’s groundbreaking book opened the eyes of business leaders and professionals around the world to the power of Whole Brain® Thinking. With the release of The Whole Brain Business Book, Second Edition, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO of Herrmann International, is carrying on her father’s legacy and bringing practical new insights and advice specific to the challenges of the 21st century business environment.

Filled with real-world examples and essential charts, action steps, exercises, and tools, The Whole Brain Business Book shows you how to rethink your business, prepare for the future, realign your goals, and reinvigorate your team—by putting your whole brain to work.

The select quotes below give you a taste of what’s inside: Read more

Thinking Preferences and the Perfect Match, At Work and At Home

workplace mentoringWhat makes a good match? Whether you’re putting together a workplace mentoring program or just thinking about your prospects for Valentine’s Day, thinking preferences provide some clues.

On the work front, many organizations have begun setting up mentoring programs recently. With another estimated 4 million Baby Boomers expected to retire this year, these companies want to make sure their valuable knowledge, experience and critical thinking skills don’t leave along with them.

But just like any pair, not every mentor match is made to last.

HBDI® Certified Practitioner Lynne Krause has used thinking preferences as her guide in pairing mentors and mentees at the US Naval Command, and we’d challenge even the best of online dating sites to equal her 99% success rate!

Of course, it’s only natural to be curious about the connection between thinking preferences and your personal relationships, too. Here’s what we can tell you on an anecdotal level:

In working with thousands of people over the years, we’ve asked them where they think the preferences of their partner, spouse or significant other lie, and anecdotally, we can say that opposites attract—at least in first marriages.

On the other hand, couples in second and third marriages, as well as unmarried couples who are living together, are generally more similar in their thinking preferences. (Could it be that the unmarried couples think so much alike that they don’t feel the need for a formal contract?)

Being with someone who has significantly different thinking preferences from your own can be challenging, both in the positive and negative sense of the word. It doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed to fail, but maybe couples in their second and third marriages have figured out that they just don’t want to work that hard anymore!

 

Think Outside Your Comfort Zones in 2015: A Checklist

Recent research suggests looking at cute things can improve performance. We figure it’s worth a shot!

Resolve to put Whole Brain® Thinking to work for you in the new year by spending some time outside your thinking comfort zones. Remember, if you aren’t just a little uncomfortable, you probably aren’t learning!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

A Quadrant:

  • Clearly define work goals for next quarter.
  • Use logic in your decision making.

B Quadrant:

  • (Re-)organize your filing system and/or your desk.
  • Plan out a project in detail and follow through with it.

C Quadrant:

  • Spontaneously recognize another employee in a way that is personal and meaningful for them.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal communication and make it friendlier—smile, be relaxed.

D Quadrant:

  • Set aside time for idea generation, and think of at least one “crazy” idea per day.
  • In your “mind’s eye” (with eyes closed), imagine your organization ten years from now.

You have access to your entire brain, so use it! Happy New Year from all of us at Herrmann International

 

How to Reboot Your Brain

You’re on a roll, tearing through that 20-page document, making changes and getting it all down. And then it happens:

Your computer freezes up on you.

It’s the ultimate frustration. Your system just won’t work, and the only way to move forward is to shut it down.

Something similar happens when you’re mentally stuck. Sometimes you need to change your entire operating system, but sometimes you just need to reboot.

There are advantages to both. Why and when would you want to reboot rather than change systems?

Well, a reboot is easier. It builds off of something you’re familiar with and allows you to feel like you still have momentum. Doing a zero-based budget is a great example of a reboot. Some years ago I was looking at needed cutbacks, and I as went line by line through the P&L, I got lost in the detail of it all: Did we really need this item? How much?

I felt overwhelmed and wasn’t making any progress. So I rebooted by trying a zero-based budget. I started with a clean spreadsheet and listed out all of the items that were must haves if I were starting the company today. Having the clean page gave me a fresh start, took the noise out of the process and made it all much easier. And I knew I could always go back and look at the old P&L if needed to.

You can do this with a project or any plan you get stuck on. (And if the blank page makes you feel even more stuck, try “walking around” the issue by viewing it from the perspective of each of the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model.)

What about in life? You can zero-base your life planning by simply asking yourself: If I only focused on what I want and needed from this this day forward, what would that look like? What if the past didn’t matter?

Feel overwhelmed by the never-ending number of commitments you’ve made? Zero-base your activities by imagining you have a totally clean slate to work with. What are the value-added activities you would choose to have in your life?

Feel that your team is riddled with baggage? Give yourselves permission to zero-base your team’s world. Start as if you were onboarding together as a new team. What meetings, processes and structures would you need to be most effective?

The key is to move everything down to zero and then add back in the items that are most crucial. It’s a great way to reboot, shift your thinking and get a clearer view.

Ready to try a reboot? To ramp up your brain first, check out this video that asks, what would you choose to do if money were no object? It will free you up to think differently!

 

Don’t Fall Back on Mental Habits

For those of us who observe Daylight Savings Time, this Sunday we’ll “fall back” by setting our clocks back an hour, and that extra hour of sleep will be good news for our brains. A growing body of research is finding that sleep enhances the brain’s ability to process and retain information and memories, unravel complex issues to make better decisions, and make connections that allow us to get more creative, among other learning and performance-improving activities.

But our brains also love their routines. Just try to change someone’s mind (even your own), and you’ll see how firmly engrained those routines are.

In fact, our brains naturally seek and organize around patterns we’ve developed in our thinking throughout the course of our lives. We develop mental habits based on what has always worked for us—and it feels safe.

But when you approach a new situation with your habitual thinking, you severely limit your ability to generate new ideas or solutions. If your thought patterns continue to be processed by your brain using the same neural pathways as in the past, you won’t be able to effectively lead and respond in different ways.

Think about that for a moment: Do you need to do things differently today? Find new solutions or inspiration? Adapt to a changing world? It’s a good bet that you do.

So whether you or your employees want to increase creative output, find new perspectives on how to handle day-to-day issues, or simply lead and manage in new ways, you can’t do it successfully until you break those existing patterns.

Of course, you’ll first need to know what those patterns are. The HBDI® assessment, which measures degrees of preference for different modes of thinking, is a great way to help people understand their thinking patterns and the impact of these patterns on how they communicate, learn, solve problems and more.

Once that baseline is understood, here’s a four-step process anyone can take to break out of their mental defaults:

  1. Visualize it: Because we know what to expect when we do the things we’ve always done, our mental habits feel safe. By visualizing something from a different perspective, we can get more comfortable with it. Here’s an easy exercise to try: Imagine your living room. Now imagine it from the perspective of a burglar. What do you see? How about as an interior decorator? The brain doesn’t necessarily know the difference between visualization and reality, so this is a great way to “try on” different perspectives and make them become reality.
  2. Define your goal: What is it you want? What’s the end game? Write it down and post it in a place you will see every single day. We need that constant reinforcement to remind us why we’re doing it and to keep it top of mind. Otherwise it’s too easy to fall back into the comfort zone of our patterns and preferences.
  3. Use the buddy system: There’s a reason why support groups are so effective for issues like weight loss or dealing with addiction: We’re social beings, and buddy systems actually work. Think about who can help you stay accountable as well as those who could provide some of the alternate perspectives you’re looking for. Maybe it’s a co-worker, someone in your personal life or even an online group.
  4. Make a plan: Give yourself the gift of setting milestones. That way you can celebrate some of the changes you’ve made and figure out where you’re succeeding, where you’re struggling and how to go from there. It’s going to take some time to overcome a natural mindset you’ve probably spent years and years developing and reinforcing.

Change keeps coming. If you keep falling back on your mental habits, you’re going to fall behind.

Don’t just change your clocks this Sunday. Start changing your mindset!

Decision Making in the Midst of Business Crisis: Think Before You React

No organization is immune to adversity. Whether the result of unavoidable external events, like an earthquake or economic crisis, or internal issues and upheavals, challenging times can—and most likely will—hit every business at some point.

The question is, when crisis inevitably hits, how will you handle it?

Let’s take the example of the recent economic downturn. Often when companies feel the beginnings of a financial crisis, the leadership mentality goes narrow, focusing in on the numbers and “downshifting” to a highly controlled, risk-minimizing approach. When all that matters are the numbers, putting on the brakes is an obvious, visible response to take.

So travel is limited, and expense account rules are tightened. Trade shows are cancelled. Purchasing ground rules are severely tightened, and building for inventory cuts back. Hiring stops, and layoffs start. It’s a classic crisis mentality, and it feels right because people are doing something. They’re taking firm action.

But is it the right action? One CEO candidly told us all the cost-cutting activities he directed during the last downturn actually left his company much worse off than they would have otherwise been. The cuts were so deep and his focus was so narrow on budgets and numbers that he couldn’t focus on growth, and that kept him from making a critical strategic hire. He not only lost sight of the company’s strategic purpose, he lost years of momentum.

In thinking preference terms, this kind of response reflects an emphasis on analytical (A-quadrant) and safekeeping (B-quadrant) thinking almost to the exclusion of the interpersonal (C-quadrant) and future-focused (D-quadrant) preferences we know are equally important from a business and leadership standpoint. It’s a common reaction when you’re dealing with a situation that involves so much unpredictability and ambiguity.

Our colleagues in New Zealand looked at a very different sort of crisis response when they conducted research on how organizations can be more adaptive and resilient during the recovery phase of complex, disruptive events like natural disasters. Here, they discovered the opposite problem can occur. Leadership may feel they don’t have time to spend on the supporting data or process and procedures (A- and B-quadrant thinking), and as a result, there’s a potential to overlook important considerations for decision making, particularly when it comes to what gets priority attention.

Thinking time may feel like a luxury, especially in chaotic circumstances, but being conscious about how you shift and apply your thinking is never more critical than in a high-stakes situation. In fact, if you’re going to apply Whole Brain® Thinking as a leader, there’s no better time than during a period of business crisis.

This is the time to develop multiple options rather than considering only those that are security-focused and safekeeping, to employ savvy leadership rather than single-minded management. This is a time for wide-angle binoculars. Because in crisis after crisis, the companies that fair best are those that are both realistic about the situation and committed to the long-term vision. They are prudent but not at the expense of keeping customers loyal and retaining good people.

With so much unpredictability in our world today, thinking agility has never been more important. Here are some resources for applying Whole Brain® Thinking as an organizing principle for making sense of the issue and making smart decisions under pressure:

  • Enhancing Organizations’ Adaptive Capacity and Resilience: Research report by Dr. Erica Seville and HBDI® Certified Practitioners Dr. Dean Myburgh and Chris Webb, published in The Business Continuity and Resiliency Journal
  • Whole Brain® WalkAround: Making Decisions in a Business Crisis:A handy tool for making sure you have a balanced view of both the short- and long-term implications of your decisions

Why Learning and the Brain is on Everyone’s Mind

Learning and the BrainIt’s no secret the subject of learning and the brain is always on my mind. But lately, it seems to be something everyone is thinking about.

In the past month alone, I’ve received two requests to write articles about the impact of brain research on training and learning. It’s also a topic that seems to be percolating more and more in the overall business community, particularly as new methods of studying the brain have generated new findings, more publicity and greater interest in broader circles.

In light of all this, it’s not surprising that one of the most common remarks I now hear from business leaders, training professionals and learners alike is an exasperated, “I feel like people are telling me I have to be a neuroscientist to do my job these days!”

The last decade has seen a frenzy of neuroscience research, leading to an avalanche of new findings and interest in the field. But along with the exciting new knowledge comes the inevitable hype and distraction. New studies abound that may or may not really be practical or relevant in application.

For true ROI®—the Return on Intelligence that comes from getting a better return on not just Investment but also Initiatives, Interactions and Innovation—application is what matters most. That’s why being able to filter out the signal from the noise, the “breakthroughs” from the “bunk,” is critical.

How has this explosion of research and interest affected your strategies? What can we do to avoid the “neuro-learning fad” syndrome? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Drop me a line or tweet me @annherrmann.

(And join me at the Learning 2014 Conference in Orlando next month where I’ll be conducting sessions on this very topic!)

How Do You Measure Success?

Fall has arrived, and that means many of us are taking stock and planning for the future. How do you gauge your successes? And where do you go from here?

It’s a topic Ned Herrmann thought about a lot, particularly as he looked at the journey of his own life and career. What follows is an excerpt from an article he wrote on “Rethinking Success.”

As you evaluate your own successes, as well as those of your team, employees, company or even your personal life, consider how your thinking preferences might affect your view. How might you expand your definition of success? How might failure contribute to future successes?

 

Suppose somebody asked you how you personally measure success. What would first come to mind? Would it be wealth and the trappings of wealth in our culture, such as a house? Car? Boat? Vacation home? College?

Do you think there is a culture where success is measured on the basis of the level of spirituality achieved? How about always doing things on time? Or putting enough salt on the movie theater popcorn to increase drink sales?

Would it be possible to live in a culture where equal levels of success can be achieved in a variety of ways? A golf pro? A thoracic surgeon? A kindergarten teacher? A university professor? A chief executive officer? A minister? A poet? A circus clown? A mountain climber? An architect?

The list extends to infinity, and each one of these vocations or avocations has its own success potential. Achievement could be based on financial performance, on-time delivery of a project, or facilitating a management workshop that results in needed change. Celebrating 50 years of a happy marriage qualifies, as does being named Teacher of the Year, or being a syndicated political cartoonist.

Even though these represent very different kinds of success, the comparative levels of achievement could be relatively equal. Delivering a high percentage of outstanding sermons might be just as success-worthy as winning a professional golf tournament, winning a big contract or running your business at an increased level of profit. Helping children and adults discover “who they will be when they grow up” is, in every way, as worthy as developing a life-saving medical breakthrough.

Since I believe the world is an equally distributed composite of four distinct thinking preferences, I have found it clarifying to diagnosis success in four different ways:

  1. Those among us who prefer logical, analytical, rational thinking processes like to measure success on the basis of quantifiable performance, such as money: How much? When? For how long?
  1. People who prefer organized, sequential, structured, detailed thinking processes tend to measure success in terms of on-time completion of an event: Did it happen the way it was supposed to? Efficiently? On budget? Were the proper steps followed/completed? Was it legal and ethical?
  1. People who prefer an interpersonal, emotional, humanistic way of thinking apply “softer” measures of success, such as: Were relationships improved? Did meaningful communications take place? Was learning achieved? Was help provided? Was happiness achieved?
  1. Those who prefer conceptual, imaginative, intuitive modes of thinking typically measure success in terms of solving problems and achieving creative “Ahas!” They value achievements that are unique, future oriented and global in concept, particularly when they involve overcoming risks to get there.

Success is frequently a combination of these four different thinking preferences, but in most cases, one particular preference takes the lead and determines how success is measured for that person.

Success can also be highly varied in terms of rewards and recognition, but in most cases, that determination is in the eye of the achiever. That particular accomplishment for that person, at that time, represents success for them personally, and it’s not in competition with another person’s success.

It is my belief that ultimate success for each of us is a combination of personal health, well-being and happiness. Easy to say, but often difficult to achieve.

In the meantime, perhaps we should all recognize and honor different types of success in ourselves and others, each and every day. We may be happier for it.