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.
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.
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.
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
“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
Achieving the @ResponsiveOrg Swing
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.
Built to Become a @ResponsiveOrg
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