"Innovation is CREATIVITY that ships" (Steve Jobs). Not a PowerPoint slidedeck.

Mumbai’s committed contingent of 5,000 dabbawallas (dabba = tiffin, container; walla = worker) delivers over 350,000 lunches per day to office workers across the megacity with a commitment for accuracy and service excellence. I recall my childhood in Mumbai when my mother delivered a home cooked meal (ghar ka khana in Hindi) to my school through a dabbawalla.

dabbawallas

As I consumed my bowl of Kellogg today, I mulled that while Silicon Valley and Starbucks had become part of corporate folklore, the ethos of the dabbawalla system wasn’t as well known outside the Indian subcontinent.

Following an organizational realignment, my team felt stuck and unproductive after being officially asked to stay on a “holding pattern” through a vaguely worded memo. I also felt rather jaded after seeing email signature blocks that read […] “Make a Difference“. Trapped in this status quo, I felt that I was not enhancing my contribution potential and walking the talk of “making a difference”. I heard echoes of (the infamous) “how good managers set up their employees to fail syndrome” in a corporate environment. Resisting the default urge to assign blame, I felt an itch to do something constructive and, consistent with the global tilt, I searched for outsight (outside in focus).

“The planning process spins and spins, but nothing — and nobody — moves.”
Dan Pink, To Serve is Human, 2012

As an Activist PMO Leader, I had an epiphany regarding connecting the dots between (1) the spirit of service that is the container of the dabbawalla culture and (2) the tenets of Host Leadership.

I’ve sketched a sensemaker’s view of the dabbawallas’ DNA so that I can bust the clouds in my head. The essence of the dabbawalla’s spirit is upserving, which essentially means taking the extra steps to transform a mundane experience into a memorable experience.

dabba root

host leadership root

Initiator

Inviter

space creator

gate keeper

connector

co-participator

management

process

org structure

culture

make a difference

(click to enlarge)
Host Leadership

With a goal to become relevant in the conversation to mitigate strategic inertia and increase customer intimacy, I am going to learn how to help others get unstuck by being solution focused, adopt the Roles of Engagement of Host Leadership and operate like a dabbawalla in a corporate environment and co-create value. While I don’t have all the answers, this is an improvised performance of a lifetime and a growth opportunity to enhance my contribution potential.

A Leadership Team (LT) that has the courage of conviction will incorporate the dabbawalla culture in order to plant the seeds of service innovation as part of the company’s transformation journey. By incorporating key principles of the dabbawallas mindset any business can make a difference with attunement, benevolence and clarity (ABC) while serving a customer.

In 2011 the management team at NASCAR realized that the company had become dangerously irrelevant. The old way of engaging the fans, who were mostly millennials, was creating a “disjointed user experience that discouraged online exploration of the sport.”

nascar

A state of dangerous irrelevance is every CxO’s nightmare. Yet it is often too easy to miss during the daily demands of business as we fall prey to being “present-biased” and defer the need to compete for the future. Richard Thayer, University of Chicago, would probably agree that this is an example unconscious “misbehavior.” We recommend pausing periodically and taking a deep breath to process and reflect how things are unfolding and nudge the organization to take calculated risks to enhance competitive advantage.

East of Amazon.com, across Lake Union, the stay awake at night moments of Microsoft’s founders revolved around:

  • What are the things that make our organization unique?
  • Where do we focus?
  • What is unique about our people?
  • What is unique about our culture?
  • What are our core values and core competencies?
  • Are we building a company that will still be around well after Bill Gates and the founding management team are gone?

How were Gates, Grove and Jobs (The Founders’ Touch) able to steer their companies (Microsoft, Intel, Apple) through the volatile ups and downs of decades of changing technologies and mitigate dangerous irrelevance?

Founders Keys to Success

After consuming my “bowl of Kellogg today,” I had the following epiphany:

Anchoring the mental model of the Founders’ Touch is the “pre-URL” strategy for nurturing disciplined imagination and sensemaking, minimizing coordination deficit and positioning the organization to be fit for growth.

A survey by Boston Consulting Group of about 1000 senior managers around the globe reported that “lack of coordination is the single biggest barrier to innovation.” Various studies have validated Conway’s Law which states that product design mirrors the organizational and communication structure of the organization creating a product. As a result, the communication structure is a non-obvious product design constraint. Conway’s law reversed states that you won’t be able to establish an efficient organization structure that is not supported by your system design (architecture).

Mismatches between product architecture and the organizational structure is called the coordination deficit and is positively associated with quality problems. A metric of organizational misalignment (i.e., coordination deficit) can be computed by examining the number of change orders impacting the product (service). The impact of organizational complexity on failure proneness has also been empirically validated in one of the largest studies of “commercial software—in terms of code size (> 50 Million lines of code), team sizes (several thousand), and software users (several Million).”

Nachiappan

According to American business icon Robert Half, “The search for someone to blame is always successful.” Since it is a reliable outcome, it fosters a culture for working in silos, a low appetite for taking risks and negatively impacts organizational productivity and innovation.

The success of open source software such as Linux has confirmed that a product developed by a loosely-coupled organization is significantly more modular than the product from a tightly-coupled organization.

The first realization regarding applying Conway’s law is that all connections made in an organization from a communication perspective are not equal. The second realization is that every product will have a knowledge structure that underlies the final product.

Loosely coupled organizations are more empathetic than tightly coupled organizations. Any product (or service) is an integrated version of the knowledge structure, and the associated communication /relational functions that preceded it. The types of empathy include the following: (1) subconscious empathy (mirroring behavior), (2) emotional empathy (function of both verbal and non-verbal communication enhanced by shared presence), (3) conscious empathy (process contextual information and emotional response) and (4) global empathy (larger levels of self-awareness).

The successful delivery of a software solution is not purely a technical endeavor. Since an organization is a socio-technical system, it is vital to reframe the view of solution as consisting of a social side and a technical side.

How can a manager utilize Conway’s law and shape an empathetic organization and raise its collective intelligence? While there is no silver bullet per se, managers have an opportunity to practice empathy, lead by example and create the structure of the organization, which will then drive the structure of the product (service) in order to enhance value co-creation. In an organization with a shrinking core and an expanding periphery, governed by a number of strategic alliances, there is a need for empathetic thinkers on both sides of the supply chain during the innovation process.

In a volatile environment, strategic dissonance is a “cloud in the head” as managers struggle to make sense of conflicting information in an attempt to discern the newly emerging strategic picture. The management of strategic dissonance (actions leading or lagging the strategic intent) is a messy and unstructured process. Intel’s transformation from a memory company into a microprocessor company (a disruptive innovation) was not initiated through a structured change request process. An emotional attachment on the part of top management to the business that made the company once successful can impact corporate survival.

Astute managers often ask: Are there any early warning signals that are flying at low altitude that we’ve missed while being immersed in the daily operating details of the business? In an era of information overload and reduced attention spans, there is also a business need to increase the comprehensiveness, depth and rigor of the intellectual debate among middle and top management in order to recognize and manage strategic dissonance. Leaders have the challenge of encouraging vigorous debates, devoted to exploring different issues, independent of rank with a long-term goal of building an adaptive (learning) organization at an operational level. While capitalizing on the strategic inflection points, it is imperative to bring these debates to closure so that there is also an equal emphasis in building products that are “good enough” for emerging markets and enter a new era of profitable growth.

Sensemaking is about contextual rationality and is built out of vague questions, muddy answers, and negotiated agreements that attempt to reduce confusion. In a forest fire the old playbooks no longer work. Creativity is defined as figuring out how to use what you already know in order to go beyond what you currently think. Poor sensemaking cause an organization to be strategically adrift, distracted or capacity constrained.

sensemaking - ready for growth

According to a study by Forrester: “Alignment is dead: it is time for integrated strategic thinking with end-to-end process ownership”. Strategy is the meeting point of different logics of the various stakeholders. It is not how your strategy counts but rather how those logics are reconciled that counts. The reconciliation process is demanding and requires a higher level of organizational maturity. The engagement to deal with contrasting logics is the root of the strategic execution complexity and requires sensemaking.

Computational thinking, pioneered by Jeanette Wing (Microsoft Research), is a proven enabler for understanding the value and use of modeling techniques and transfer into a context that engineers, managers, non-engineers and customers discover new knowledge and enhance collective sensemaking.

Managing strategic dissonance requires a cadre of Activist Turnaround Managers (@ATM) whose skills and abilities include the following:

  • Acting like a leader; Thinking like a leader (@) (i.e., improvising and learning by doing with an outside in perspective)
  • Perceptual acuity
  • A growth mindset to see opportunity in uncertainty
  • The ability to see a new path forward and commit to it
  • Adeptness in managing the transition to the new path
  • Skill in making the organization steerable and agile

Let’s anchor the role of an @ATM from the rowing sport. A coxswain is a person who steers the shell and is the on-the-water coach for the crew. A swing is the hard-to-define feeling when near-perfect synchronization of motion occurs in the shell, enhancing the performance and speed.

An @ATM acts as a coxswain and orchestrates the swift replacement of a traditional order with an improvised order. Akin to the Boys in the Boat, the team remains resilient with a conscious preference for the strength of the whole rather than the versatility and resourcefulness of the parts. @ATMs are creative under pressure, precisely because they routinely act in chaotic conditions and create order out of available resources or insights while striving to achieve a nearly perfect swing.

“Harmony, rhythm and balance. There you have it. That is what life is all about.”

George Pocock

“Real life can be complicated and chaotic. Rowing is beautifully simple”

Katherine Grainger

“There’s really nobody to blame but me.”

This was Pete Carroll’s sentiment after Seahawks lost in the recent SuperBowl.

The relentless quest for Disruptive Innovations and Authentic Leadership (DIAL) is a journey. This is not the traditional electronic dialtone from yesteryear but is discovered mindfully from within (for brevity, DIALtone) and in action in a social media and mobile world.

DIALtone leaders scale for excellence and build resilient championship organizations. Mind you, this is neither a typographical or (re)branding exercise since that is below tablestakes for individuals or organizations who prefer to be “great by choice”.

What can I learn from Pete Carroll’s authenticity in order to re-calibrate my DIALtone?

seahawks_dialtone_1

seahawks_dialtone_2

seahawks_dialtone_3

seahawks_dialtone_4

Icebreaker

I enter the office building and walk the halls of this large Fortune 50 company. Every day I see the poster with the signage “Did you had your bowl of Kellogg today?” The casual reader’s initial food for thought would regard this as an invitation to taste a brand name cereal for breakfast, which is pretty straightforward! Several reflective pauses over a span of a few months reminded me about the managerial struggle between the twin viewpoints (while also enjoying the breakfast option):

  • Does culture eat strategy for breakfast? or
  • Does strategy eat culture for breakfast?

This debate is largely unresolved when the frame of reference of an organization is hierarchical and static with a fixed mindset from the industrial revolution era with heads in the cloud. When complacency sets in, it is easy to morph into an organization where the leadership is in a state of Brownian motion and everyone agrees but nothing changes or there is a struggle to implement agreed-upon plans or become too steeped in bureaucracy or politics — ultimately losing sight of the customer. An undesirable effect is a situation called the Abilene paradox where some employees suffer action anxiety, fear of separation and existential risks.

Satya Nadella, when he was a candidate for the CEO position at Microsoft, shared the following perspective:

“What drives me every morning and what keeps me up every night is one thing: this business is not about longevity, it’s about relevance.”

Clark, D., Langley, M. and Ovide, S. Microsoft’s CEO Pick: From India To Insider, The Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2014: A 1.

    • The incorrect answer is “culture eats strategy for breakfast” or vice-versa, which causes a disconnected view of strategy and culture.
    • As Robert Burgelman of Stanford University accurately points out: “strategy without culture is powerless; but culture without strategy is aimless.” Managing the dynamic interplay of strategy and culture is an important ingredient for business relevance and leadership capability.

 

cloud

An organization’s relentless quest for relevance to its stakeholders is a dynamic and autonomous process as well as developing the company’s capacity to evolve and achieve corporate longevity.

growth oriented IBIS_1

Preview

The @ResponsiveOrg movement has clearly identified that “the future is impossible to predict.” The relentless pursuit of relevance is a continuous journey and requires an organization to reframe its belief system that it has to be “built to become” (not built to last) a relevant @Responsiveorg. In an omnichannel environment, employees need to become more attuned to the language of trust and inculcate a culture of customer obsession. Enterprise social networking technology such as Yammer, Jive and others are being leveraged by several organizations.

EC - ResponsiveOrg

As Is Assumptions in Traditional Organizations

      • The environment is predictable
      • The organization is a hierarchical pyramid, rigid and siloed
      • The personal capacity for control is limited to a restricted number of people
      • The rate of change on the inside exceeds the rate of change on the outside
      • I can think my way into the right action
      • Compel compliance with project plans
      • The “world is flat” and the culture is homogenous
      • Push out products and services to the marketplace based on a narrow lens of the customer (“we make, you take”)
      • The solution that works today will also work tomorrow
      • We always choose to focus more on the (PowerPoint) presentation (format, content and printout) and the documented project plan as the overarching frame of reference
      • We focus on more on hierarchy and less on the people and persuasive communication
      • We group customers into segments based on the characteristics that are shared by all customers in the segment
      • We sometimes [succumb to the temptation to] place the problem “inside” a person

Sensemaking in a @ResponsiveOrg

Responsive Org - 2

Resilient Org

ResponsiveOrg - 3

“Built to Become Relevant” Assumptions in a @ResponsiveOrg

      • The environment is unpredictable and turbulent
      • The organization is viewed as a system
      • Everything in an organization is interdependent with everything else (i.e., “people are people through other people” (Xhosa proverb) and a system does not respect organizational boundaries)
      • In an interactional view of organizations, the emergent properties at higher levels are the behaviors, relationships and results that those people generate in their interactions
      • The organization is a network, flexible and the boundary of the organization is constantly evolving
      • The rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside
      • I can act my way into the right thinking
      • Cut across silos and connect strategy to program execution
      • The “world is spiky”; CAGE (*) distances matter (*: Cultural, Administrative, Geographic, Economic)
      • Embrace and calibrate cultural differences to act as one unit
      • We choose to examine the marketplace and then look to deliver creatively on market opportunities (serve the needs of the market)
      • Finding solutions to customer problems become the guiding principle of the corporate architecture
      • Deliver customer-centric solutions in an iterative manner
      • Use the four silo-busting levers — coordination, cooperation, clout, capabilities — to achieve systemic integration
      • We always say “Yes, and…” and follow the customer’s path as the conversation unfolds
      • We choose to engage in persuasive conversations by focusing on the people
      • We are living in the magic of the moment and embracing alertness, flexibility and spontaneity (elements of improvisation)
      • Improvisation is flexible, exciting, natural, flexible, fresh, affirmative and collaborative
      • We always tend to look for things that make individual customers unique
      • We always communicate who we are before communicating what we want to sell
      • We focus on rich, persuasive communication and the presentation is created and brought to life when I am on the stage
      • We co-create the persuasive conversation, as a shared story, with the customer, try to spot the emerging game, and adapt the conversation to this game with a focus on achieving mutual affirmation and agreement
      • What our customer feels about his relationship with us will form the foundation of how he views our product and service offerings

Relational Coordination in a @ResponsiveOrg

As Is - Relational Coordination

Relational Coordination

@Responsiveorg Design

Achieving the @ResponsiveOrg Swing

ResponsiveOrg - 4

The individual has intelligent emotions, or sechel (a Hebrew word), when (s)he is able to see and live the interconnections of intuition, understanding and knowledge in a rigorous and consistent way.

      • What to change?
      • What to change to?
      • How to change?

The secret sauce is to make sure that enterprise social network (ESN) technology (e.g., Yammer) remains the enabler and servant of the business model and not its master.

Viewing an organization as a system and leveraging the collective insights of the Yammer discussion thread, the leadership team should (1) define the throughput operating strategy and (2) create a cadre of @Activist PMO Leaders who have an appetite for jugaad innovation and being the first mate on a sinking ship.
epmo_1

epmo_2

epmo_3

run

grow

transform

Growth Oriented Leadership

5 Focusing Steps

Built to Become a @ResponsiveOrg

Built to Become - Part 1

In 2013, Gartner estimated that “through 2015, 80% of enterprise social networks” (e.g, Yammer, etc) “would not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on the technology.”

It is our viewpoint that merely relying on analysts’ predictions that the adoption of enterprise social networks (ESN) will be successful is insufficient. A laisez faire attitude towards technology adoption is inadequate and does not create either a lift or transformative organizational changes. Creating “infinite” virtual hallways for conversations and stories about successful usage of Yammer (for example) that create buzz together with sustained executive sponsorship, ownership and community management play a pivotal role in shaping an responsive organization.

In this paper, Yammer is used to illustrate how enterprise social network (ESN) technology can cross the chasm and shape the culture of a @ResponsiveOrg that is built to become relevant. Ultimately business success lies at the intersection of an organization’s completeness of vision and its ability to execute that vision.

Proposition: The fusion between Yammer and sechel is a driver for an organization to become relevant and responsive

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“We’ve created this perfect platform of evil,” with increasing reliance on the Internet that ties together mobile computers, social networks, cloud and websites, said David Dewalt, chief executive officer of FireEye Inc., a security software company in Milpitas, Calif. “You throw all that in a petri dish with no governance model, complete anonymity and a lot of intellectual property one click away. That creates a very interesting model for attackers to use to get into systems that we now completely rely on – our critical infrastructure, our smart grid, our transportation industry, our financial systems, our military.”

“A 2014 study by the Ponemon Institute that evaluated security-breach costs in the retail sector indicated that the cost is $105 per stolen record.”

Context

“At the end of 2010, the Office of Management and Budget (http://whitehouse.gov/omb) established the “Cloud First” policy as part of an IT reform plan unveiled by the federal government CIO Vivek Kundra. The plan was to modernize federal IT systems on a number of fronts, including reducing the number of data centers and fixing or eliminating unsuccessful IT projects. As with the use of cloud technology in the private sector, the goal of transitioning to the cloud was to reduce costs and increase efficiency, agility and innovation.”
[…] “Other milestones, including the June 5, 2014, deadline for agencies to certify that their cloud systems with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) also provided difficult to meet.”

FedRAMP

The crossing of the chasm towards “FedRAMPing” with the “Cloud First” policy is work in progress. The good news is that there is growing awareness of the emerging cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities while acknowledging that in many instances, in both the private and public sectors, the cyber attackers are one or a few steps ahead, as evidenced by the security breaches in Target.

Higher Intent

The pursuit of better software quality is, more or less, a team sport. Achieving the desired level of quality for customer satisfaction is still work in progress. The prevailing record of security breaches among a large number of critical software- based systems demonstrates that there is a need for fresh thinking about refining the craft of software development. While Understanding the Cybersecurity Challenge is a first step, the VUCA governance model of the [cybersecurity] “petri dish” drives home the point that taming cybersecurity is a “ground war” and not simply an “air war” campaign.

The word “art” in the “Art of Computer Programming” has been used to drive home the notion that software development cannot easily be automated (i.e., requires human creativity and human assistance).

According to Brad Becker of IBM, “the whole focus of this [cognitive computing] is that technology should work for people, and not the other way around.”

We recognize that human beings are by no means perfect. Psychologists use an assortment of evidence-based treatments to help people improve themselves. Borrowing a page from “The Future of Computerized Therapy,” there are some initial promising experiments underway using Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing innovation, that is attempt to focus on who is going to be launching cyberattacks on the technology infrastructure, what their malicious intentions are, how cyberattackers work, what’s the ethnography and the cognitive psychology of the cyberattackers.

software psychology

The Programming Language F#

F# is a designed as a hybrid/functional object-oriented programming language. F# has a powerful type inference system which enables a programmer to write fewer lines of code and catch non-trivial errors at compile time. Functions are first class objects which can be combined to create new functions.

F# facilitates a paradigm for responsible programming by providing an environment fashioned for continuous validation of a set of assertions as the program is developed. F# has continued to improve its ranking in the Tiobe index.

eSecurity

Technical Debt

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) is an IT process decision framework for delivering sophisticated agile solutions in the enterprise. Originally pioneered by Scott Ambler, “DAD fills in the gaps left by mainstream methods by providing guidance on how to effectively plan and kickstart complex projects as well as how to apply a full lifecycle approach, with lightweight milestones, effective metrics, and agile governance.”

Technical debt captures the cost that software systems endure due to poor design choices and insufficient levels of modularity. The unconscious cultural acceptance of technical debt breeds vulnerabilities and curtails the advancement of software assurance maturity. According to Martin Fowler:

“Like a financial debt, the technical debt incurs interest payments, which come in the form of the extra effort that we have to do in future development because of the quick and dirty design choice.”

Technical Debt

Software Assurance Ecosystem

“Trustworthiness requires a commitment to rigor in both software production and its verification. No soft skill, rigor has a hard edge.”

Trustworthiness

Software Assurance Ecosystem

Software Supply Chain

The non-governance of the “cybersecurity petri-dish” is a partial Glimpse of the Blindingly Obvious (GBO). We have to work together and launch a grassroots campaign with swiftness and strength to shift the odds and improve software assurance maturity in the industry. Thinking out loudly, I see a three dimensional view of this campaign strategy:

  • Accelerated adoption of a programming language such as F# (or Swift, OCaml, etc.)
  • Increasing awareness to reduce technical debt (T)
  • Building a self-organizing network for software assurance program management (Ecosystem)

Cementing F#TE and software assurance is an “all hands on deck” initiative to rapidly fortify the systems in both the public and private sectors. That said, F#TE is not meant to be silver bullet.

Code Psychotherapy

At a software testing conference, I remember reading Dr Bjorn-Freeman Benson’s use the term “code psychotherapy” to increase the attention span for the software developer to “listen to code screams.” A code scream is a behavioral indication of a deeper problem in the system. The minority opinion is that the craft of programming should include code psychotherapy. We need to mindfully reflect about the software developer and team collaboration more broadly and deeply (*), besides analyzing the technical details of the bug triage. (* : a mile long and a mile deep)

I will readily agree that code psychotherapy might be somewhat tangential to this discussion. In the spirit of thinking out loudly, perhaps there is an outside chance that we can leverage the ability for Watson to get rapidly trained in a (non-algorithmic) domain such as therapy and discover hidden, non-obvious patterns that will serve as heuristics for preventing sophisticated cyberattacks. Furthermore let’s consider the following questions:

  • What can developers learn from psychotherapy and incorporate the insights in the software engineering process?
  • We need to build a growing cadre of software developers who can play a variety of roles — the “good guy”, the “bad guy”, the “naive user”, etc to improve the dialogue between team members and engineer software that is trustworthy and robust (which may seem lofty goals today). This means going beyond the (passive) man-machine interface, walk in the other person’s shoes and co-create beautiful code that is verifiable.
  • With the growing attachment toward devices, perhaps there is room for psychotherapy body of knowlege to break new ground, forge collaboration with software developers, and contribute towards the interpretation of “code psychotherapy.”

Software Assurance Program Management

Below is a sketch of the mental model for software assurance program management
Cyber PgM_1

Cyber PgM_2

Cyber PgM_3

Cyber PgM_4

Cyber PgM_5

Cyber PgM_6

My hunch is that the F#TE is an art of turning software engineering activity into thoughtful, purposive action. In military parlance, this is a strategy of directed opportunism. In this context, the twin goals are to make software more humane while also improving the software assurance maturity.

(This is a living blog that is work in progress)

As I walk the halls of Red(ocean)Cloud-9 Inc
I see the welcoming invitation on posters
Chiming “Have you had your bowl of Kellogg today?”

If I were around 5 years old
(And able to read perhaps with my dad’s help)
I’d perceive that this advertisement was a breakfast commercial
And enjoying the cereal with a bowl of full fat milk :-)

Being somewhat north of 5 years old (in the double digits)
I recognize my alma mater’s brand promise
I don my Think Bravely hat
Pausing to engage in a reflective moment

Yes! this is a genuine endeavor
To deliver training for managers in Red(ocean)Cloud-9, Inc
With a spirit of sharing Kellogg’s thought leadership in Marketing Management

Staring into the whitespace cloud
Beyond the poster
I feel some emptiness as a “v-” workerbee
Most of the interactions seem transactional

I notice that many people are tethered to their devices
Tweeting “let me ping you” on Lync
Certainly high tech and low touch

I feel like an node in the corporate network
An IP address with calcified feelings
There is a recurring volley of verbose email threads
Often disguised as providing clarity

The conversational chatter by triangulation
Spin out of control causing confusion

In a virtual universe of instant messaging (im)
I find my brain overworked
I am not being wholesome
There is a part of me that is muted
I feel trapped in anxiety

In my state of restlessness
I seize the initiative
Choosing to Think Bravely

I am on stage as an Impromptu Man (the real ‘IM’)
Releasing my act hunger
And performing beyond where I am today

The realization dawns on me
That the thought leadership bandwagon
Is not nirvana

My bowl of Kellogg is an art of struggle
Across ethics, companionate love and authentic leadership
To heal myself and replenish depleted emotional bank accounts

I improvise by cocreating safe spaces between people
Engaging in shared discovery and creating an ensemble
Perhaps high touch and low tech?

What is my journey?
Creating and cementing connections
To scale up entrepreneurship
Learning to give back (not just grab)
And leveling the playing field

Kellogg eLsquared

Satya Nadella came under fire for his comments at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference celebrating women in computing, in which the new Microsoft CEO suggested that “women who don’t ask for raises have “good karma” and that not asking for equal pay with men is a “superpower.”” This controversial comment has gone viral in social media. Moreover “knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along” seems to be at odds with a Gallup poll finding that US worker productivity, engagement and commitment is at an all time low. According to Gallup estimates, this cost is more than $300 billion in lost productivity which, in turn, is dwarfed by the costs of lost joy and happiness.

Perhaps Satya Nadella has an opportunity to learn from Sheryl Sandberg regarding a gender-neutral, equitable and fairness-preserving approach to employee compensation. When Sheryl was talking to Mark Zuckerberg about joining Facebook, she did not accept the first offer and came back to make a counteroffer. Eventually Zuckerberg came back to Sheryl with a much more lucrative proposal. Sheryl emphasizes this point to “negotiate like a man” in her best selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Lean In has become a movement.

In the recent issue of McKinsey Quarterly (Sep 2014) there is an article about gender diversity in eBay. Ever since eBay launched the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), eBay has more than doubled the number of women’s leadership roles.

Apologies by Satya vis-a-vis this remark is appreciated but probably inadequate because, “at the root of these types of challenges there is a pervasive mix of unconscious mindsets, behavior and blind spots that color anyone’s perception of gender.” This unconscious bias has the following impacts:

  • The woman’s motivated cognition and the value of commitment in the workplace
  • The woman’s day-to-day experience while handling a range of issues with higher levels of corporate leadership (only one of them is compensation, which is high on the priority list)

As someone aptly tweeted, “you apologize for what you said but never how you think.” Co-creating healthy professional relationships (*) between employee and manager requires “excelling in the twin journey of loving and leading,” a life construct pioneered by relationship and organizational consultant Blair Glaser — ‘eL squared‘ for brevity.( * : viewed as a strategic alliance) The prominent management guru Tom Peters feels that every leader is in the people-development business and candidly asserts that “I don’t have patience with CEOs who don’t see it that way.”

At the end of the day, no human being or organization is perfect. Every person has a shadow side. Even organizations have a shadow side and need to heal. I regard these shadows as “clouds” in our head (aka skeletons) that need to be busted. Perhaps it is a good idea for entire leadership team [in every company] to mindfully reflect and actively engage in a conversation with their employees at the grassroots level, “leaning in” and listening to their concerns, enhancing their day-to-day experiences and career advancement opportunities, as well as championing gender diversity. Not merely in a town hall meeting but in a retrospective at the end of every month and make improvements incrementally.

Becoming mindful and passionate about recognizing and eliminating unconscious biases is a personal, conscious, therapeutic and transformational journey.

(This is a living blog in progress)

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