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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

Asking these 4 questions will improve problem solving in your group

4 Questions that Will Improve Problem Solving in Your Group

Due to a quality problem with a weekly shipment, a large financial publishing firm was facing a very unhappy $50 million customer.

This was obviously a very big deal. The managers were scrambling for a solution and feeling stuck. So they reached out to someone in the organization who knew about our Whole Brain® Model and asked for help.

This person pointed out that the managers had done some things very well. They’d done the analysis. They’d crunched the numbers. They’d focused on the fact-based and implementation-oriented thinking aspects of the problem by discovering what the symptoms were and how they were playing out. Yet there was something missing—a new way of looking at the problem, a shift in mindset. 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

Why Being Right Can Be So Wrong

You're wrong, right?

Have you ever noticed that you’re always right?

You probably don’t believe that everything you think and say is the final, capital-T TRUTH—not at a conscious level, anyway. But like me, you probably tend to act that way.

That’s because each of us defines for ourselves what’s true and what’s untrue. We grow attached to a body of beliefs, which means that we resist new ideas. We tolerate other people’s opinions to the extent that they match our own. Beyond that, we unconsciously tune out.

When choosing friends, we gravitate toward people who agree with us. When encountering a new idea, we argue against it. We look for ways to make people wrong. When seeking feedback or solving a problem, we search out the people who reinforce us. We’d rather get validated than get challenged.

In other words, we’re always “right.” Read more

What Does Diversity Have to Do with Innovation?

What cognitive diversity has to do with innovation

For many, the word “diversity” brings up images of staid EEOC training or well-intended but not necessarily critical programs—the “have-to-dos” that don’t get much buy-in or enthusiastic support across the business. So it’s probably not the first word that comes to mind when you’re talking about innovation.

But here’s why it should be.

“A diverse group of people can be more innovative than a homogenous group.”

In making that statement, David Greenberg, Senior Vice President of HR for L’Oréal US, emphasized that he’s not just talking about the more traditional definition of diversity but also diversity of thought, which he says is key to how L’Oréal fosters innovation. While he acknowledges that there can be more friction and discomfort when you bring together people who think differently, “the output,” he says, “is more innovative.”

Cognitive diversity­ has been getting a lot of attention lately for this very reason. Modern business issues demand innovative thinking, especially when you consider the fact that, from market conditions to customer demographics to the problems, tasks and tools, nearly all of the variables have changed. With so much complexity, we need diverse perspectives and ideas. You can’t use old processes to fix new problems.

Our research, including the six-year study on team effectiveness conducted by the US Forest Service, as well as numerous examples from companies like Caesars/Harrahs Entertainment, has consistently shown that you get greater creative output and, ultimately, more effective solutions when you bring together heterogeneous thinking teams and give them practical tools to leverage their differences. Furthermore, mentally balanced teams consider more options, make better decisions and exceed expectations more often than homogeneous teams. Read more

Expect Difference: 4 Tips for Valuing Thinking Diversity

One of the concepts we talk about in the Whole Brain Business Book is that no matter who you’re interacting with, whether it’s at work or at home, when it comes to thinking preferences, expect difference.

Sure, it’s often easier to work with someone who has similar thinking preferences to your own. It’s as if you operate in your own shorthand, and you instantly seem to “get” each other. But it’s not always possible, or even likely, that you’ll be surrounded by people who prefer think like you do. In fact, our data shows that difference is more often the norm.

This is a good thing! In fact, a study of teams with the US Forest Service found that when you have difference in a team—and that can be a difference in thinking styles, gender, age or other factors—the team is 66% more effective. And we certainly know from our research that you can get a lot more creative output from a group of diverse thinkers.

The challenge is that the brain likes patterns, so it’s always looking for similarities. When a difference occurs, it’s jarring, and in some instances we don’t always react in a way that’s very positive. But you can change your mindset about differences. Recognizing both the reality and the value in difference is a good starting point.

Here are four tips for getting the most from your own and others’ thinking diversity:

Expect it and plan for it so you’re not quite so surprised when you face it. Awareness can keep you from having a knee-jerk reaction or jumping to conclusions.

  1. Look for the learning you can get from different perspectives: What might you overlook without them? That, alone, may encourage you to seek out differences.
  2. Keep in mind this process requires a mental stretch. If you’re irritated, the other person probably is, too. You both have to stretch to bridge the thinking divide, so recognize what’s happening and cut each other some slack.
  3. Unique is normal—so have fun with it! In nearly every discussion we have with clients, they share stories of how recognizing and valuing thinking diversity has helped them lighten up about it. They realize the differences aren’t personal, it’s just “where she’s coming from.”

What are some of the ways you can apply these in your work? Or how about at home?

Research Reveals Keys to Increasing Team Productivity

How do you increase the efficiency of a group of people? How do you get more output from your existing human resources?

Those were the questions Charles G. DeRidder and Mark A. Wilcox examined as part of a six-year research study they conducted with the USDA Forest Service.

The premise of their study was that a diversity of thinking would help teams reach new performance benchmarks. Using the Whole Brain® Model as the foundation for their work, along with thinking style data from Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) assessments, they documented significant improvements in efficiency and effectiveness when teams were designed to include a balance of thinking preferences.

Among their findings and lessons learned:

  • Teams that are balanced in terms of thinking preferences are more effective; they consider more options and make better decisions.
  • Whole Brained teams were 66% more efficient than homogenous teams.
  • 70% or more of the teams were “successful” when Whole Brained vs. 30% or less when not.
  • Size matters: 7 members is the ideal team size.

As DeRidder and Wilcox observed, if you want to break through to the next level of production and increase team productivity/efficiency, “The answer is clear: Organize mentally balanced teams that match the task.”

Download the full research report to read more about the study, methodology and outcomes: Improving Group Productivity: Whole Brain® Teams Set New Benchmarks

Watch: In this video, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shares tips for improving team performance.

Tips for Leading Cognitive Diversity in Teams

One of the things we know from the research on team performance is that getting great results from a team isn’t just about everyone getting along or coming to quick agreement. In fact, when the problems are complex or we need to push the boundaries for innovation, creative abrasion, which comes from the collaboration of diverse thinking styles and perspectives, can make the difference.

But it can also make people uncomfortable.

That’s why just having cognitive diversity on a team isn’t enough. If the process isn’t managed properly, the team can devolve into unproductive conflict, frustration and chaos.

Particularly in the case of highly diverse groups, an effective leader or facilitator is essential. The most successful team leaders value the differences on the team and encourage people to bring their best thinking to work, helping to both bridge the diversity of thought in the group and keep the Whole Brain® in mind so all perspectives are heard.

Here are some tips for managing the team’s collective brainpower and making the abrasion that sometimes occurs an advantage:

  • Encourage team members to learn about and share their preferred thinking styles and discuss the impact of differences and similarities among team members on the performance of the team.
  •  Understand the strengths of the group and how the dominant preferences can be effectively harnessed towards reaching the team’s objectives.
  •  Recognize and bring in the diversity of thought necessary to get the best results.
  •  Use the Whole Brain® Model as a framework to guide the team’s actions. At the beginning of a project or periodically throughout the team’s engagement, ask questions from each quadrant, such as:

A. Do we have clear performance goals, objectives and measurements?

B. Do we have clear priorities, a plan and a timeline?

C. Do we have an understanding of our “customer” and each other?

D. Are we taking appropriate risks to challenge ourselves and come up with new ideas?

Don’t discount the importance of this key team role, whether it’s a manager, team lead, or even a more informal rotating assignment.

What are your tips for getting the most of a team’s cognitive diversity?

In Preparing for the Olympics, Coca-Cola Exercises its Brainpower

conference room

Seventy days, 8,000-plus miles, 1,000 towns, and one momentous flame.

Preparing for what was dubbed the “logistical minefield” of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay wasn’t so much a physical test as a mental one for the organizers and sponsors of the London Games.

As a Worldwide Partner, Coca-Cola knew it would need to unleash its full brainpower to execute with flawless communication, stay agile in the face of enormous complexity, and generate world-class teamwork from a diverse group of people who, for the most part, had never worked together before.

We recently spoke with David Barker, Strategic HR Business Partner for Coca-Cola’s London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games project teams, about the company’s decision to bring in the Whole Brain® methodology, training and tools to help prepare its Olympic teams for success.

As we discovered, while the Games would soon become a part of history, the framework and collaborative benefits of Whole Brain® Thinking were just getting started as a foundation for the culture going forward at Coca-Cola Great Britain.

Download the full story here for a glimpse behind the scenes of Coca-Cola’s innovative approach to preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympics.