The Leader Magazine

SEP 2017

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60 SEPTEMBER 2017 ThE lEadER administrators, physicians and supporting staff. The second lesson came from a person whom I sat next to during an invitation workshop many years ago. It was a time when "alternative workplaces" fi rst became a hot topic. One speaker, introduced as an expert, was passionate about a scheme that he had thought through for a prestigious organization. For me, his ideas sounded like a rather well-known strategy, even if one still considered cutting-edge. My seatmate whispered to me, "That guy is an innovator by magazine." I asked him what he meant; it turned out that he was the editor of the then-hottest business trends magazine and he explained that, once his magazine published a case study about something different, something interesting, it would become the "innovation of the moment." For me, the lesson from the editor's observation was to be open to oral or written presentations based on cases, benchmarking or surveys, but to take them only as information points, not as guidelines for action, in any particular situation in which I was involved. Interviewer: Are you suggesting that these more universal studies are not useful? MJ: No, not in the least. They are useful in that they can get you (and the groups with whom you work) to start thinking, often outside of the so-called "box." They raise questions; they provide knowledge about what others have done and they suggest lines of inquiry. All I am saying is that they do not necessarily suggest a course of action for any other organization. To really design a course of action, one needs to probe into how the people in the organization, often differentiated by sub-units, practice work, which is the gestalt of tasks that they do, the tools they use, the relationships that they have, the physical and virtual places where they do their work, and the culture of the sub-group as well as the larger organization. One can acquire this information using a few methods: relationship and task mapping, interviews and observation – often best done with a sub-group of members of the organization – which allows the organization to learn, not just you. Interviewer: That sounds both time- consuming and a bit vague. Can you give me one or two examples, briefl y? MJ: Years ago, I worked with people who were masters of understanding work by listening, observing and testing scenarios: Chuck Kukla and Turid Horgan. One project in which we were engaged was driven by the mission-critical need of a corporation to devise a new product within months. This required bringing together half-a- dozen business groups representing such diverse expertise as mechanical engineering, chemistry, marketing, systems operations, logistics, computer science and infographics – none of whom had ever worked together. The idea was to have them develop the product through a process of co-invention, where they framed the problem and approaches together, melding their expertise, not just coordinating it. The problem was that none of these groups really knew what the others did, how they did it, and why they did each step – critical knowledge to form a basis for working together. Kukla and Horgan organized a series of tours, whereby teams from different disciplines would visit the work areas of people whom none of them knew. They would watch, ask questions and probe, and they would, with coaching from Horgan and Kukla, speculate how what they heard might matter to their own work. Respondents were glad to talk about what they did. The membership of the touring groups kept shifting, and over time the conversations transformed from just learning to brainstorming, even though that was not the stated agenda. By the time work teams were formed, members were enthusiastic to push their own bounds with people they had already begun to understand. The second example has to do with the largest Nordic bank that, through acquisition, had developed a major presence in fi ve countries and wanted to develop a single "center of excellence" to bring together top-rated IT staff from each country into a single, physical location to develop state-of-the art electronic banking systems. Within each country these experts were housed in a central location and they went out from there to deal with local banks, their "customers." Corporate leaders were impressed by what several other organizations had reportedly achieved by this strategy of bringing in key people from the fi eld under one roof where they could do the famous "bump into one another" way of collaborating and could readily be called into collaborative meetings. Kukla was assigned to develop the concept for the center. Rather than start by designing a center as he was expected to do, Kukla began his analysis by having the teams in each country map their relationship and interactions with their local clients. He followed- up with conversations based on what the maps revealed, and he then spent hours following a day in the life of select people in each offi ce. The results revealed two critical insights. The fi rst was that being physically on the scene with local bank offi cials was important to the IT staff for the purpose of training and for their learning on a just-in-time basis. It was also a critical way to build the relationships and trust necessary to implement system changes. The second was that the banking culture varied considerably among several of the countries and this set the context in which each branch offi ce worked. For example, one country led all of Europe in electronic banking, while citizens in another preferred the place-based, person-to-person culture of banking. Taking these experts out of their local setting would have made them less effective and would have reduced their knowledge. Based on his work, Kukla proposed that the bank create a virtual center of excellence, with occasional physical meetings. Staff from the fi ve branch offi ces, which had been involved with the analysis, supported Kukla's recommendations. This local backing was important to infl uence the central leadership who had come into the exercise with a preconceived predilection for centralization. Interviewer: Both these cases suggest that this work requires a lot of time. MJ: Not really. They were done in a concentrated period of time and the time that it took was worth it because the solution that came out was customized for the situation. Interviewer, to Larry Matarazzi: Larry, as a senior leader of real estate for large companies, you have lived for years in the trenches of CRE practice. Can you give an example of how you have used quickly gathered evidence, rather than deep research and huge amounts of data, to make decisions on a real estate initiative? LM: A few years back we were rolling out a corporate fl exible-offi ce program globally. The next large offi ce to be converted was a country HQ in the Mediterranean region, and I knew from comments at executive meetings that the country manager, primarily based on his own personal beliefs about how the offi ce was used, was not in favor of this program. To help him make a more informed decision about the offi ce occupancy patterns, I collected three types of easily gathered data: badge-in data, computer activity and unobtrusive, on-site observation. For the badge-in data we consulted with my team on site and local admins to select two different weeks, separated by at least a

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