Friday, 22 March 2013

Diversity Programs

I read a great article this week from Ngaire Moyes - What Do Women Want @ Work.  I paticularly loved the accompanying infographic, and the more I looked at it - the more I wondered about what the 'Men' version would look like.

I'd love to see the same survey for men, but here are my answers:

Success at work means finding the right balance between work and personal life.

I do think my career has been a success so far.

I do think you can have it all - a fullfillung career, relationship and children. 

I didn't slow down my career as soon as I had children. 

I work in a fantastic company which totally support flexibility and family.

Career path is the biggest challenge affecting my career.

I am aware that my physical appearance makes an impression, but it has not had a major impact on my career.

That means I answered in the way of most women on the survey. Which I suspect would be the same for most people.

There is absolutely no doubt that there are too few women in senior positions in most companies and most industries - there are plenty of studies that back that up. But I'm honestly not sure that it's all to do with sexism in the workplace.

Out of curiosity, I ran a quick spot check on my own sexism (or lack of) credentials:

46% of the people I follow on Twitter are women, 39% of those following me are too. Around 70% of the people who have worked directly for me in the last ten years have been women, and I've spent slightly less than half of my career working for a woman. I cannot imagine having even half the talent of my amazing Wife.

What's missing in the workplace is an appreciation for diversity in all forms. Employing in own image is frequent. Interviewing from a pool of talent that all conforms to expectation, unconscious prejudice - it's all common, and it exaggerates the problem.

At a recent round table, someone asked another delegate to clarify what they meant by a diversity program. They started to explain that it includes women, racial minorities, lesbian, gay,  those with disabilities.....and so on. What they were trying to say was "anything but straight white men." 

(This doesn't always hold true, there are various functions, that are traditionally female dominated and therefore benefit from the reverse)

Does this mean that we should employ positive discrimination in the workplace? There's probably no choice, although some are loathe to admit it. But it would be better to educate leaders and managers in the immense value of having a diverse number of opinions and viewpoints around the table - learning that simple fact should be the first move in any diversity program, but it involves changing a seriously embedded mindset.

Successful culture transformation programs take diversity into account early in the process, because appreciating diverse opinion is one of the most effective catalysts for change

Take the time to look at the team structures in your company. If everyone looks, acts and thinks the same, you probably won't be successful for long. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Learning From McDonalds

I have a habit of observing teams wherever I go. Drives my family nuts - but having a passion for what I do means I'm always looking to learn, and sometimes this comes from unexpected places.

There's a particular McDonalds I stop at with the family (Bassett's Pole - B75 5SA) which is mid-way between our home and my parents place. Over the last few years I've never failed to be impressed with everything that happens there. 

Let me list some examples of things I see consistently there, but rarely (or never) at others....

- Any time there's a queue and an available cash register , any member of the crew will step up and open a line. Manager, shift supervisor - anyone. The important thing is clearly that the queue is short, not the status of the employee.

(I've seen the managers emptying trash, running across the car park in the rain carrying orders, helping clean tables)

- Last time I was there the manager looked out and saw a queue had built up. Then started ferrying the cups between the fountain and the tills, and restocking the high traffic items. Helping the crew to serve faster. 

- I have four children, on several occasions extra toys from previous months happy meals have magically appeared on the table with a smile. 

- The food is always, repeat always hot. I've often returned to the line with a cold sandwich in other places. Never here - because the crew are checking the temperature as they pick it off the slide, not relying 100% on the system.

- The guys that run round keeping the place spotless are clearly part of the crew. They laugh and smile with visitors and the rest of the team.

- There's usually someone being trained, and I've yet to see micromanagement going on. Equally, if there's a question - there's no hesitation from the trainee in asking for help.

- These guys think outside the box. My daughter likes her burger with just the ketchup. With four children there's a lot of orders to get through but sometimes she'll still be waiting for hers whilst the rest of us eat. Not here. Last time, the crew member excused himself mid way through my order to ask the chefs for it - that way, he explained, everything would arrive at once.

So what's my point? This is one of the best teams I've ever seen - they seem to naturally exhibit all the things that we try so hard to learn from books and experience and pass into more office based environments.

The team at Bassett's Pole are innovative, clearly place the customer first, their managers lead by example, there's a lot of fun happening - and they break the rules when it makes sense to do so. 

It's not a dictatorship - nobody seems to being told what to do, the team just do the right thing when needed, and help each other to give the customer the best possible experience.

And it has to affect their bottom line - we're not only willing to stay hungry for an extra hour on the journey to stop there, but happy to do so. I'm sure many others do the same. 

If you work on the corporate side of McDonalds, or own that particular franchise - please go out of your way to congratulate them. I've stopped a few times on my way out to tell them what an amazing job they do - but I'm darn sure it would mean more coming from you :-)

**** Update: This weekend we visited again. My Dad accidentally knocked his half empty cup of tea, and spilled some on the table and the floor. Before he could go and get a napkin, one of the team was there to clean it up.......and then, out of the blue returned two minutes later with a fresh cup of tea and a smile. Just brilliant *****

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Dead Horse Culture

I enjoyed this one arriving in my inbox a few days back, and found myself thinking of examples where I'd seen each of these behaviours over the years.
Not necessarily productive, but a lot of fun :-)

Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in business we often try other strategies with dead horses, including the following:
  1. Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses. 
  2. Buying a stronger whip. 
  3. Changing riders. 
  4. Say things like, "This is the way we have always ridden this horse." 
  5. Appointing a committee to study the horse. 
  6. Increasing the standards to ride dead horses. 
  7. Appointing a tiger team to revive the dead horse. 
  8. Creating a training session to increase our riding ability. 
  9. Comparing the state of dead horses in today's environment. 
  10. Change the requirements declaring that "This horse is not dead." 
  11. Hire contractors to ride the dead horse. 
  12. Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed. 
  13. Declaring that "No horse is too dead to beat." 
  14. Providing additional funding to increase the horse's performance. 
  15. Do a Cost Analysis study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper. 
  16. Purchase a product to make dead horses run faster. 
  17. Declare the horse is "better, faster and cheaper" dead. 
  18. Form a quality circle to find uses for dead horses. 
  19. Revisit the performance requirements for horses. 
  20. Say this horse was procured with cost as an independent variable. 
  21. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position 

I've heard the 'flogging a dead horse analogy' a lot in recent years, in many companies the act of changing a culture can often feel that way.

An executive with the best of intentions sets out to build some camaraderie amongst a team or an organisation, and decides that some new values on the wall will help. At this point the horse is dead.

Dysfunctional teams can be helped by culture transformation, but it's using a sledgehammer to crack the proverbial nut.

If you're thinking of changing your culture make sure you have a clear diagnostic of the current state, a clear idea of the outcome you're trying to achieve and most importantly a passion and conviction for the journey ahead.