Culture-Driven Team Building Capstone: Week 2

Tony Morales Interview

  • Process for forming a consulting team:
    • Forming the consulting team happens on a case by case basis, as it depends upon the industry, function, and available people
    • Team is formed of principals, executives and residents at Inter-Growth, staff members, researchers, and experts
    • Experts are one of:
      • Functional experts (e.g. have deep experience in executive search, or deep experience in culture transformation)
      • Industrial experts (e.g. deeply familiar with transportation and logistics)
  • Generating ideas on how to tackle the issue:
    • Need to understand first. Research team does the following:
      • Extensive analysis of the organisation from the outside perspective
      • Looks to understand the industry
      • Looks to understand competitors
      • Looks to see what’s going on in terms of industry trends (cyclical or not)
        • How are their competitors operating?
        • What changes are happening?
        • Are there any emergent trends in the industry?
  • Client process and structure:
    • Seek to understand first from an outside basis (see above)
    • How can we learn about lived experience, the culture, the design, beyond what you can see written in a document?
      • Interviews and assessments
    • Cultural interviews:
      • Team members visited 100 client sites in a 90 day period to interview people, collect their notes, and put them together
      • These are ethnographic, and so it takes on an anthropological skill set
      • Don’t seek to guide or bias, just looking for the “grand tour”. Asking questions like:
        • What’s your job like?
        • What’s this organisation like?
      • This can give a piecemeal picture of what’s happening across the organisation
    • Assessment:
      • Inter-Growth uses a tool called “total for index”
      • This is an algorithmic assessment, that measures things like:
        • leadership
        • culture
        • experience
        • capabilities
      • Model comes up with actionable data which allows insights about what’s happening across the organisation
    • Deciding who to interview:
      • There’s not enough time to interview the 20,000 employees
      • Think about more than employees: what are consumers, partners, competitors all thinking?
      • Instead, draw a diverse sampling across the organisation
      • Looking to get information from different perspectives
        • geographically
        • seniority level
      • Broad bases, then focusing up on the executive team
    • Diagnosing team dynamics issues:
      • A lot of the problems that emerge will be cited time and time again in the interviews
      • Start off by looking for areas of shared concern from the interviews
      • Core findings will be common, but there may also be smaller one-off or isolated issues that could be addressed
    • Diagnosing organisation design issues:
      • Organisational design should be fit to achieve the target culture
      • There’s a culture that exists, and a culture that’s desired. Inter-Growth helps their clients move between these two states
      • Secondary to culture issues, business fundamental issues are also manifest in the organisation design:
        • cost saving
        • revenue generation
    • Other diagnosis tools:
      • Top team problems are always sensitive and delicate
      • Making sure that there is alignment with strategy and each other on the team level is important
      • Inter-Growth seeks to understand where there are areas of misalignment, and leading the executive team towards better alignment
      • Transport company had an executive team with different histories, and hence different ideas about what works and what doesn’t.
    • Other considerations:
      • Our client is a business who are looking to maximise shareholder returns
      • Culture and organisational design need to be aligned towards what will help the business most through:
        • driving revenue
        • cutting costs
        • maximising output
        • quality

Environmental Misalignments

  • VW pollution masking scandal
    • Consumers have become less accepting of environmental scandals
  • The external environment – something outside the team changes, but the team does not notice or adapt.
  • Causes of misalignments:
    1. focus on shared information
    2. ignoring alternatives
      • recency bias
      • over-valuing outcomes
    3. Focus on self-interest
      • motivated blindness
  • For all these reasons, teams fail to adapt.

Individual Misalignments

  • One of the main causes in Microsoft’s decline in the 2000’s.
  • Stack ranking assessment – reduced trust and damaged Microsoft’s ability to innovate
  • Team goals should align with individual goals (WIIFM)
  • Individual goals can change. Some examples:
    • Junior colleague develops new skills, gains new career aspirations
    • Things change at work (conflicts develop over time)
    • Things change at home (e.g. start a family)
  • Psychological safety: an environment where team members can take risks.
    • Examples of risks:
      • admitting mistakes
      • addressing conflict
      • offering competing ideas
    • These are risks because no-one wants to feel left out of a group.

Systems Thinking Frame

  • When attending a meeting, we must represent our own frame. However, it is also important that we adopt and listen, and take on other frames. Systems thinking is all about that.
  • Analytical thinking: separate something into parts, understand the parts, and then see how the parts fit together
  • Systems thinking (as opposed to our analytical framing) asks us to do something else. Take the part we are trying to explain, and see how that works in a larger system.
  • Metaphor for Systems Thinking: Concentric Circles
  • Example of car:
    • You can pull a car apart and understand all the individual pieces.
    • However, you won’t understand why it is the size it is, or why the size has changed since the 50’s.
    • Instead of viewing the car as a transportation machine, think of it as something to move families.
    • You only understand that when you think about the car’s role in society.
  • Example of education:
    • School classes, 1 teacher, 20-30 children.
    • Why that configuration?
    • Need systems thinking to answer:
      • What is this preparing them to do?
      • What is being taught?
      • What role does that play?
  • When we want to get the purpose, we need the systems thinking piece
  • Getting rid of a problem does not necessarily led to what you want
  • Is thinking about the system as a whole too much information?
    • It’s a different set of questions that we’re asking
    • If you’re really trying to understand purpose and possibility, that’s a different space
  • Discovery space: not about getting rid of problems, but formulating problems in such as way that we can see possibilities that were not clear before
  • By thinking of a goal and working backwards, we may avoid the constraints that block us going forward
  • Analysis and synthesis
  • Example:
    • People leaving a group
    • Was told this was because of monetary compensation
    • In the larger system, compensation is only part of the rewards system
    • What are the various monetary and non-monetary rewards?
  • Considering the system rather than individualising issues or problems
  • Win/Lose frame
    • If I give you something, I have to take something away from someone else
  • Reframing: changing win/lose to win/win solutions

Diagnosing Problems in Groups and Teams

  • We tend to think we bring together a group of people, and they will be high performing
  • It doesn’t always work! How can we identify the problems?
  • Example: steering committee on an organisational development initiative
    • Interesting patterns:
      • Every time the team met in person, lots of laughter and jokes. The were agreeable on almost anything that was discussed during the meeting
      • However, after the meeting, lots of emails sent raising numerous issues, which were not discussed during the in-person meetings
      • The next time they met, none of the issues were raised
  • The culture of politeness
    • We’re interfacing with each other, face to face, we’re going to be polite
    • “Real” issues are secondary to being polite
    • Being polite gets in the way of learning in organisations
  • The pattern of repeating
    • Even when contentious issues are raised, other people in the meeting disengage and lose focus. They’re not wanting to signal agreement or disagreement.
    • The speaker worries that they don’t get acknowledgement, so they repeat the same thing, a bit louder and more exuberant.
      • “I’ll do it again, and they’ll get it this time”
    • Not breaking the the frame, not stepping back or taking some sort of time-out.
  • Conflict is often avoided
    • People don’t feel the need to confront each other
    • They’re not comfortable dealing with conflicts
    • Undiscussable issues are not discussed during meetings
      • Conflicts are discussed outside of formal meetings, over a lunch or a beer
  • How to interrupt the negative cycle
    1. Pause, and raise the question of “What’s going on here?”
      • Make the pause part Ground rules.
      • Allow the team to re-frame and refocus
      • It needs to be a deliberate activity
      • The leader needs to help establish that this an effective and acceptable practice in the team
      • Examples:
        • work teams in factories can stop the whole production line
        • retrospectives
    2. Try to identify what the issue is
      • Where is the team is getting stuck?
    3. Collect a little data.
      • Ask everyone on the team:
        • What’s working well?
        • What isn’t working well?
      • Do an anonymous survey if people are uncomfortable talking in the open about what the issues are.
      • Don’t just make assumptions. Really try to figure out what people are seeing


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