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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

Why Problem Solving Starts with Problem Definition

Why Problem Solving Starts with Defining Problems

Charles Kettering, the celebrated inventor and head of research at General Motors, once said that a problem well stated is a problem half solved. Most people today would probably agree. And yet, it’s not what most people usually do.

Typically, they jump right in to brainstorming solutions before understanding what they really want to accomplish.

You can dramatically increase your problem-solving effectiveness by taking a few minutes to define the problem up front. In fact, you might be surprised at how often this step leads directly to a solution.

Take the elevator makers’ dilemma, for example.

You can imagine what it was like when elevators were introduced. People were understandably nervous about getting on them. They fidgeted and pushed buttons, impatient and waiting for the elevator to arrive at its destination. And there was a widespread perception that elevators were unbelievably slow. This led to complaints.

So, elevator makers had a problem on their hands: Can we make our product move faster? Read more

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

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

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!

 

How to Handle the Leadership Challenges of a Changing World

How do I become a better leader in a changing world?

It’s a question that’s been on the minds of so many I’ve talked with recently. It was also the question that lingered in my mind this past year as I was deep in the process of putting together the second edition of The Whole Brain Business Book.

The response we hear so often is, Be more agile. Build your agility. But how? And what does that even mean?

Well, for one, I believe it means unleashing your full brainpower. The only way you can keep up with change and lead through the chaos and uncertainty and distractions and complexities and big data and on and on and on…is to get more conscious about your thinking and how you apply it.

Unleashing your full thinking potential can be uncomfortable, though, whether you’re a highly structured thinker who needs to experiment and take more risks, or a highly imaginative person who needs the discipline and organization to be more productive with your time.

Fortunately, brain research supports the fact that you can stretch and overcome your mental blind spots to become a more agile thinker and leader. It’s something we talk about throughout the newly updated Whole Brain Business Book.

Although the second edition won’t be on the shelves until this spring, you don’t have to wait until then to get started! Here are 6 tips from the book you can apply today to make thinking agility your leadership advantage in a changing world:

  1. Get used to being uncomfortable: Discomfort is a sign the brain is engaged and learning. Instead of wanting to avoid those who make you uncomfortable, recognize the opportunity they offer to help you stretch your thinking. Hire and enlist them. They can become your biggest asset. Make it a personal challenge to work through the discomfort to new understanding.
  2. Challenge your assumptions. The brain is very efficient, and it will “fill in the blanks” for you when you’re looking for a solution. But when you’re trying to see something in a different way or find a new way of doing things, the quick leap to conclusions can ultimately be a trap. When you begin to make an assumption, flip it around. Ask yourself, “What if this was not true?”
  3. Embrace the unknown. It’s your ally, not your enemy. Change presents a great opportunity for new thinking, but only if you deliberately and consciously take advantage of it.
  4. Optimize your toolkit. Use your own thinking preferences to determine the tools that work for you. For example, if you’re a highly visual thinker, a linear, spreadsheet-style planning tool may make the task of getting organized even more difficult for you. If the techniques and processes aren’t helping, look to thinking preferences for clues and help on how you can find or create a more workable solution for you.
  5. Lighten up. Unconventional approaches free the brain and stimulate new ideas and perspectives. Find ways to jolt your thinking, and have fun with it!
  6. Make it a mental habit. Decide what you want and go for it, making your desired future outcomes a reality.

Especially in today’s knowledge-intensive world, your greatest strength lies in your ability to get smarter about your thinking—to make your thinking work for you instead of being trapped by it. Try it, and see how it makes the difference!

(And if you want to get more insights from the book—and be among the first to get a copy—be sure to join me at the ATD 2015 International Conference & Exposition in Orlando this May.)

 

How to Get Value from a Team’s Thinking Diversity

Trying to navigate a thorny issue? Need an innovative solution? Looking for a way to help your team dig deeper and really flex their thinking muscles?

Bring in diversity—of all kinds.

Our research, and the experience of companies like Harrahs Entertainment and Brown- Forman, has shown what a difference difference makes on a team, whether you’re trying to solve a complex problem or come up with more creative ideas. A recent Scientific-American article echoes this point with the particularly eye-catching title, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter.”

The article points out that not only do people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives benefit from the diverse information they bring to the group, the diversity itself provokes different thinking, “jolting us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.”

So difference in a group can lead to better problem solving and decision making as well as more innovative ideas—but it’s not just as simple as putting diverse people on a team and seeing what comes out of it.

From a thinking preference standpoint, we know that when a team has representation from across the thinking spectrum, each person will approach problems quite differently. This is a huge benefit to the team, but only if the team recognizes each others’ preferences and how they each add value.

Honoring different thinking approaches will allow every member to share their thinking and ideas openly. Once that openness occurs, the team’s creativity begins to emerge as they’re motivated to take advantage of the different thinking styles rather than viewing them as obstacles. And as a foundation for a discussion about diversity, thinking gives people a non-judgmental starting point. It’s not about behaviors, personalities or other attributes; this is just how someone prefers to process information.

Here’s what we’ve learned about setting up a diverse team for success:

  1. The more heterogeneous (mentally diverse) a group is, the more they need a multi-dominant facilitator/leader. Agile team leaders are critical for managing and leveraging difference on the team.
  2. Heterogeneous groups can be extremely creative and successful OR they can “crash,” unless they take the steps and time necessary to find synergy.
  3. Stereotyping of others is a major impediment to team development (he’s a “this” or she’s a “that”).
  4. Because cultural differences can make working as a team even more challenging, more process time and consistent communication are even more important.
  5. Virtual teams need a common language even more than co-located teams to increase the speed of relationship building and decrease miscommunication.

Remember: Successful teams practice “creative contention.” Any team that does not disagree is not doing effective work or leveraging their differences. The art is in knowing how to do it productively.

Are you bringing together diverse thinking to get more innovative? How do you encourage and manage creative contention?

How Do Your Employees Think? The Answer Might Surprise You

 

Last week we talked about why you should expect difference when it comes to thinking preferences.

Taking it a step further, one of the things we’ve learned from the data we’ve collected is that not only can you expect difference, you can expect balance: Organizations, ethnic groups and any group of a large enough size will have a balanced distribution across all four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model. That’s why we say the world is a composite Whole Brain®.

In fact, our hard data from around the world demonstrates this finding conclusively: If the sample size is large enough—even just 50 or 100 employees—the composite of individual HBDI® Profiles will represent a highly diverse, but well balanced, distribution across the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model.

CEOs are always surprised by this. They often think their organizations have a tilt to the left mode or reflect the mental preferences of the leadership team or culture of the company. As a result, they aren’t managing their companies on the basis of the composite Whole Brain® reality of their organizations. Their leadership and communication styles have been either tilted in one direction or too confined for the global nature of the thinking and learning styles of their employees.

Just think about how much it might be costing these businesses, simply because they’re making the wrong assumptions about the true thinking diversity in their organizations. For starters, there is sure to be some degree of misalignment in jobs, training, communication and leadership approaches. But there is also likely an untapped well of perspectives and ideas that could be generating better decisions, solving problems more effectively and stimulating more innovative thinking across the board.

It’s highly likely your company’s workforce is made up of a balanced distribution of thinking preferences. The question to consider is whether this diverse workforce is being managed to take advantage of its potential productivity.

Most businesses today are made up of knowledge workers, and this is true even for those that have a large manufacturing component. In these highly competitive and complex times, production workers need to work smart; therefore, the mental demands of the work are greater than ever. Recognizing, managing and getting the benefit of all of the company’s thinking resources is essential to managing a successful company.

How well is your organization managing its thinking diversity?

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?

The SAGA of Managing Your Thinking in a Chaotic World

Today’s biggest cognitive challenge—especially at work—is managing the sheer volume of information and noise in the environment. No matter how skilled you think you are at multi-tasking, what you’re really asking your brain to do is task switch, and there’s plenty of research that shows the brain just isn’t very good at it.

So how do you get clarity and results when your attention is fragmented?

You have to consciously choose to manage your thinking. And that’s where filters come into play.

Clarity requires metacognition—thinking about your thinking: what you notice, where your mental energy goes, what you overlook. These are your mental filters.

Mental filters take the infinite streams of data that are available to you and separate what you notice from what you tend not to notice. The problem is your filters are not freely chosen. Instead, they’re put in place by unconscious forces. They work at a level below your conscious awareness.

Once you realize you have a set of filters in place, however, you can make them conscious. You can shine the light of awareness on them, bring them out in the open, examine them and evaluate them.

At that point you’re free to change filters. If your current set of filters is creating more complexity than clarity, then choose new filters. The key is to manage your filters instead of letting them manage you. When you do, they’ll help you:

  • Focus attention by pointing at what’s most important for you to notice right now and what you do not need to pay attention to.
  • Make meaning by consciously choosing how to interpret the events you notice.
  • Move into action based on your interpretations with an understanding of the mental demands required.

The way you habitually think on a daily basis—your default filters—can create blind spots that prevent you, your team and your organization from getting what you want.

You can use the Whole Brain® Model to recognize these default filters without judging yourself (level 1 meta cognition). With this baseline knowledge, you can intentionally put new mental filters in place to shift your mindset, discover your options and take action to get results you want (level 2 meta cognition).

There are many filters, and none of them are “right” for all people at all times. As I’ve worked in the field of Whole Brain® Thinking over the past 30 years, I’ve sorted through hundreds of options. But I’ve found that the following four filters apply to the challenges most of us are or will be facing. You can remember them by the acronym SAGA:

  •  Solving—Question your assumptions, shift your mindset and create breakthrough solutions.
  •  Aligning—Collaborate, leverage disagreement and get to closure even in the midst of conflict.
  •  Growing—Change at a deeper level when internal motivation or external challenges move you toward significant, long-term learning.
  •  Adapting—Flex your thinking and change your behavior in response to challenges that don’t require deep learning.

I’ll be exploring this topic more over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, think about this: Which filter can you leverage right now for maximum benefit?