Innovatively Speaking: The Driving Forces of Focus and Experimentation

Innovation is often the key to a business making a leap in growth and standing out to attain and retain customers. However, it often requires two critical ingredients: a clear focus and the willingness to experiment. This article explores how focus and experimentation serve as foundational pillars to foster innovation, leveraging examples from organizations that embody these principles.

Want the high level version? Watch our CEO’s What Works Wednesday video.

Focus and Innovation

The role of focus in driving innovation cannot be overemphasized. By channeling resources, attention, and efforts into a particular problem or idea, a business is primed to unravel fresh perspectives and solutions that can spur innovation. This concept of focus echoes Richard Rummelt’s notion of good strategy, which emphasizes “a focus on objective, obstacles, and action” (Rumelt, 2011). As a management consulting firm, What Works Consultants supports good strategy by concentrating on “empathetic organizational change and leadership”, catalyzing innovation within various organizations to disrupt conventional business modalities (What Works Consultants, n.d).

Experimentation and Innovation

In conjunction with focus, experimentation serves as a second key prodder of innovation. It engenders a culture where failure is not a pitfall. Rather, its a vital part of the process. A study by the Boston Consulting Group underscores this, revealing “75% of innovation leaders emphasize creating a culture where failing is accepted as part of the innovation process” (BCG, 2019). The understanding is that through trial and error, new, valuable insights can be gleaned which can propel holistic growth and innovation.

Real-World Application

A prime example of the marriage of focus and experimentation driving innovation is in the realm of tech giants Google and Apple. Google’s ‘Focus on the user’ and ‘Fast is better than slow’ philosophies have steered the company into experiments that have birthed innovative solutions like Gmail, Google Maps, and more (Google, n.d). Similarly, Apple’s immutable focus on creating superior user interfaces spurred innovative products like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad (Isaacson, 2011).

What Works: Intentional Innovation

Innovation isn’t an accidental happenstance but an intentional process, steered by clear focus and bold experimentation. Adopting these principles can propel organizations into unknown horizons of growth and differentiation. Drawing from organizations such as What Works Consultants, Google, and Apple, the potency of focus and experimentation being in the driver’s seat of innovation is crystal clear.

References:

  • Rumet, R. (2011). Good Strategy Bad Strategy. Crown Business.
  • What Works Consultants. (n.d). About Us. https://www.whatworksconsultants.com/
  • BCG (2021). Overcoming the innovation readiness gap. https://www.bcg.com/
  • Google (n.d). Ten things we know to be true. https://www.google.com/
  • Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster
Why Organizational Design is Vital for Businesses with Under 100 Employees

As the owner of a business employing less than 100 people, you are likely well aware that an effective organizational design is a significant factor for success. This article delves into how a thoughtfully designed organizational structure can enhance your company’s efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

Boosting Efficiency

Are you struggling to get the most out of your team or finding it hard to keep up with competitors due to inefficiencies? 

Efficiency ranks among the highest benefits of a well-planned organizational design, particularly for businesses with fewer than 100 employees. A carefully structured organization can maximize the use of resources and achieve more in less time. This level of efficiency can bolster productivity – a critical element for any small business intending to thrive in today’s competitive landscape.

Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities

Are you tired of witnessing miscommunication, redundancy, and frustration in your team due to unclear roles and responsibilities? 

A well-defined organizational structure ensures each team member knows their role and responsibilities, fostering a smoother, more collaborative working environment. This clarity eliminates the confusion that can arise when roles are ambiguous or overlap, leading to duplication of efforts or important tasks falling through the cracks. Moreover, when employees understand their individual responsibilities and how they fit into the larger picture, they are more likely to take ownership of their tasks, leading to higher levels of job satisfaction. Finally, clear roles and responsibilities can also make it easier to identify skill gaps, training needs, and opportunities for employee growth and development, which can further enhance productivity and team morale.

Enhancing Communication

Are you feeling frustrated with the constant communication breakdowns in your company, affecting productivity and customer satisfaction? 

An effective organizational design can also significantly improve communication within your company. A well-structured system encourages easy collaboration and idea-sharing among team members. Clear lines of communication mean everyone can easily understand progress and contribute effectively to decision-making. A defined chain of command reduces misunderstandings across departments, speeding up response times and improving overall customer service.

Fostering Focus and Organization

Are you overwhelmed with managing tasks in your small business, struggling to determine who should take on what, leading to confusion and lethargy among your employees? 

For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, organizational design can bring much-needed focus and structure. A well-designed plan spells out who is responsible for each task, removing guesswork and allowing for more efficient allocation of tasks. This clear delineation of duties reduces confusion in the workplace, keeping employees motivated by letting them know their contributions are seen and valued.

Promoting Agile Change Management and Competitive Edge

Are you feeling stifled by your current organizational structure, finding it difficult to adapt to market shifts or customer demands rapidly? 

Having an effective organizational structure can provide smaller businesses with the agility needed for efficient change management and competitive positioning. A systematic approach to reorganizing operations allows for quick adjustments to strategies or processes to meet customer needs or gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. It ensures stability within your organization amid any external changes or market fluctuations.

In conclusion, a well-designed organizational structure is vital for businesses with fewer than 100 employees seeking an edge in efficiency, team collaboration, customer service quality, and agile change management. When executed correctly, it can catalyze your business to reach its full potential and create an environment where every team member feels their contributions are making a difference. Take the time to invest in effective organizational design – you’ll find that the rewards are well worth the effort. Connect with us for a complimentary discovery call.

Some Books to Read on Organizational Design

  1. Organization Design: Simplifying Complex Systems” by Nicolay WorrenA comprehensive guide to understanding the complexity of organizational design in the modern business environment.
  2. Designing Your Organization: Using the Star Model to Solve Five Critical Design Challenges” by Amy Kates and Jay R. Galbraith: This book provides a practical approach to organization design with a focus on the ‘Star Model’ framework.
  3. “Organizational Design: A Step-by-Step Approach” by Richard M. Burton, Børge Obel, and Gerardine DeSanctis: This book offers a step-by-step approach to organizational design with a focus on designing and managing organizations as dynamic systems.
  4. “Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness” by Frederic Laloux: Laloux presents new models for organizations that align with more evolved stages of human consciousness.

Helpful Articles to Read:

  1. “The 5 Classic Mistakes in Organizational Structure: Or, How to Design Your Organization the Right Way” Organizational Physics
  2. “10 Principles of Organization Design” from Strategy+Business
  3. “The Importance of Organizational Design” Harvard Business Review
  4. “Organizational Design: The Rise of Teams”, Deloitte Insights (2016): This article discusses the shift towards team-centric organizational designs, highlighting the benefits of this structure.
Driving Organizational Performance with Psychological Safety

It’s no secret that organizational performance hinges on how well employees can do their jobs, yet creating the right environment to enable them is a challenge for many senior leaders. Establishing psychological safety in the workplace – an atmosphere in which individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves and providing feedback without fear of judgment or retribution – is essential to unlocking and sustaining performance growth. In this article, we’ll explore why psychological safety matters, how to create it, and the benefits it brings to organizations[^1^].

Why Psychological Safety is Critical in the Workplace

First, it’s important to understand why psychological safety is so critical in the workplace. To maintain high performance and quality standards, employees must be able to receive feedback and learn from mistakes without fear of reprimand or alienation. Without psychological safety, employees may feel too intimidated to speak up with ideas or concerns, leaving their potential contributions to organizational success untapped[^2^].

Additionally, a psychologically safe work environment encourages creativity and collaboration – both necessary ingredients for innovation and long-term sustainability[^3^].

Creating Psychological Safety

So how can leaders create psychological safety within their teams?

Model the Behavior You Expect

One way is to model the behavior you expect from your staff. Lead by example when it comes to giving constructive feedback without judgment and showing appreciation for employee input. Also, emphasize that mistakes are part of the learning process – rather than punishing someone for making an error, use it as an opportunity for growth by helping them develop a plan for improvement[^4^].

Create an Open Dialogue

Another key component is communication – create an open dialogue between team members and managers so that everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinions without fear of negative repercussions. This could include weekly check-ins or monthly team meetings where everyone can provide honest feedback on their experiences and ask questions on any topics that may be causing confusion or anxiety. By creating these dedicated spaces for two-way conversations, leaders can demonstrate their commitment to psychological safety while also strengthening relationships between colleagues[^5^].

Welcome All Perspectives

Finally, recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion – having a variety of voices involved ensures that all perspectives are heard which can lead to better decisions being made. Showing respect towards every team member regardless of differences in backgrounds or beliefs will foster greater trust among team members which in turn will enhance psychological safety within the workplace overall[^6^].

The Benefits of Fostering Psychological Safety

The benefits of fostering psychological safety go beyond individual performance gains – studies have shown that it leads to greater job satisfaction overall and improved morale within organizations as well as increased productivity on projects due to enhanced collaboration among team members[^7^]. Leaders who prioritize creating an environment that fosters open dialogue and encourages problem-solving are more likely to attract top talent who value being part of a psychologically safe workplace where they can contribute meaningfully while developing personally at the same time[^8^].

Summary

  • Creating psychological safety within an organization is essential if leaders want to unlock performance growth among their workforce.
  • Model the behaviors you wish to see from others
  • Have open communication between managers and staff
  • Embrace diversity in all forms
  • Reward learning from mistakes rather than punishing them.

Doing this not only yields stronger individual performances but better collaboration between colleagues leading ultimately to higher levels of job satisfaction across the board – something every leader should strive for[^9^]!

[^1^]: Edmondson, A. (2016). Building a psychologically safe workplace. TEDx Talks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhoLuui9gX8

[^2^]: Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33(4), 692-724.

[^3^]: Nemeth, C. J., & Nemeth-Brown, B. (2003). Better than individuals? The potential benefits of dissent and diversity for group creativity. In P.B. Paulus, & B.A. Nijstad (Eds.), Group Creativity (pp. 63-84). Oxford University Press.

[^4^]: Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html

[^5^]: Edmondson, A. C. (2003). Speaking up in the operating room: How team leaders promote learning in interdisciplinary action teams. Journal of Management Studies, 40(6), 1419-1452.

[^6^]: Shore, L. M., Randel, A. E., Chung, B. G., Dean, M. A., Ehrhart, K. H., & Singh, G. (2011). Inclusion and diversity in work groups: A review and model for future research. Journal of Management, 37(4), 1262-1289.

[^7^]: Delizonna, L. (2017). High-performing teams need psychological safety. Here’s how to create it. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it

[^8^]: Edmondson, A. C., & Lei, Z. (2014). Psychological safety: The history, renaissance, and future of an interpersonal construct. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1, 23-43.

[^9^]: Porath, C. (2016). How incivility kills collaboration. Strategy+Business Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/How-Incivility-Kills-Collaboration?gko=1f7a9

Top Ways Departmental Leaders Can Enable Performance

Introduction The success of any organization largely depends on the productivity of its employees. Departmental leaders play a crucial role in enabling performance and maximizing employee potential. This blog post examines the top ways in which departmental leaders can optimize performance within their teams. We’ll discuss the following strategies:

  1. Setting clear expectations and goals
  2. Providing continuous feedback and support
  3. Offering opportunities for professional development
  4. Recognizing and rewarding achievements
  5. Encouraging teamwork and collaboration
  6. Promoting work-life balance

1. Setting clear expectations and goals A crucial aspect of enabling performance is ensuring that each employee understands their role, responsibilities, and objectives within the organization. Departmental leaders should:

  • Clearly communicate the department’s goals and expectations (1)
  • Set realistic, measurable, and attainable performance targets
  • Ensure employees understand how their individual performance contributes to the organization’s overall success (2)

2. Providing continuous feedback and support Research shows that constant feedback is vital for employee development and performance improvement. Leaders should:

  • Conduct regular performance reviews and offer constructive feedback
  • Address performance issues promptly and work with employees to develop improvement plans (4)
  • Provide mentorship and coaching to help employees grow professionally (5)

3. Offering opportunities for professional development Employees who believe their company offers opportunities for growth and development are more likely to feel engaged and stay with the organization. Departmental leaders can support employee development by:

  • Identifying skill gaps and providing appropriate training and development programs
  • Creating growth opportunities through cross-functional projects or job rotations
  • Encouraging employees to attend industry conferences and workshops (6)

4. Recognizing and rewarding achievements Acknowledging and rewarding hard work and accomplishments can significantly improve employee morale and performance. Departmental leaders can:

  • Implement a formal recognition program that rewards outstanding performance
  • Offer various types of rewards, such as bonuses, promotions, or flexible work schedules
  • Celebrate team successes and milestones with team-building events or activities (7)

5. Encouraging teamwork and collaboration Effective teamwork and collaboration lead to better problem-solving, innovation, and overall performance. To foster a collaborative environment, department leaders should:

  • Ensure employees understand the importance of teamwork and establish clear team goals and objectives
  • Encourage open communication and information sharing among team members
  • Organize team-building activities that instill trust and camaraderie (8)

6. Promoting work-life balance Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for employee satisfaction and performance (20). Departmental leaders should:

  • Encourage employees to take breaks and avoid excessive overtime (9)
  • Offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours
  • Support employees in managing work-related stress and addressing personal issues (10)

Conclusion Departmental leaders can significantly impact employee performance by adopting these strategies. By setting clear expectations, providing feedback and support, offering professional development opportunities, recognizing achievements, encouraging teamwork, and promoting work-life balance, leaders can create an environment conducive to high performance and employee satisfaction.

References

  1. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57(9), 705-717.
  2. Rogg, K. L., Schmidt, D. B., Shull, C., & Schmitt, N. (2001). Human resource practices, organizational climate, and customer satisfaction. Journal of Management, 27(4), 431-449.
  3. London, M. (2003). Job feedback: Giving, seeking, and using feedback for performance improvement. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  4. Noe, R. A. (2010). Employee training and development. Irwin/McGraw-Hill.
  5. Allen, D. G., Bryant, P. C., & Vardaman, J. M. (2010). Retaining talent: Replacing misconceptions with evidence-based strategies. Academy of Management Perspectives, 24(2), 48-64.
  6. Nelson, B. (1994). 1001 ways to reward employees. Workman Publishing.
  7. West, M. A. (2002). Sparkling fountains or stagnant ponds: An integrative model of creativity and innovation implementation in work groups. Applied Psychology, 51(3), 355-387.
  8. Greenhaus, J. H., Collins, K. M., & Shaw, J. D. (2003). The relation between work-family balance and quality of life. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63(3), 510-531.
  9. Kossek, E. E., & Ozeki, C. (1998). Work-family conflict, policies, and the job-life satisfaction relationship: A review and directions for organizational behavior-human resources research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(2), 139-149.
  10. Allen, T. D., Herst, D. E. L., Bruck, C. S., & Sutton, M. (2000). Consequences associated with work-to-family conflict: A review and agenda for future research. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5(2), 278-308.

Note: If utilizing references, please check your university library as DOI numbers were not provided.

5 Leadership Skills to Drive Empathetic Organizational Change

To create organizational change while still maintaining trust and empathy, leaders must have a deep understanding of their organization and its people. This article highlights five essential leadership skills that will help you drive empathetic organizational change: self-awareness, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence to drive lasting organizational transformation.

#1: Self-Awareness

The first essential skill for driving empathetic organizational change is self-awareness. Self-awareness involves understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as having an understanding of the people around you. Being self-aware will help you become a more effective leader and foster better relationships with employees, stakeholders, and customers. Additionally, it will help create an environment of trust within the organization by allowing you to understand different perspectives and empathize with those affected by changes.

#2: Empathy Mapping

The second key leadership skill that helps drive empathetic change is empathy mapping. This involves collecting and analyzing data to gain insights into employees’ needs, wants, attitudes, and behaviors. Doing so allows leaders to understand how employees interact with each other and the organization’s products or services. This will aid you in making informed change management decisions. Additionally, empathy mapping can help identify areas where further research may be needed in order to understand employee needs more deeply.

#3 Communication

Communication is another vital leadership skill when it comes to driving empathetic organizational change. Leaders need to use active listening and storytelling techniques in order to build trust with stakeholders throughout the entire process of organizational transformation. Whether communicating through email, meetings or other means of communication, leaders must ensure that they are communicating their message clearly while also showing empathy toward everyone involved in the process.

#4: Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is another important skill for leaders who are driving organizational change initiatives. Systems thinking allows leaders to consider how different parts of an organization work together in order to achieve success in any given project or initiative. With systems thinking, leaders can take a holistic approach when making decisions about changes that need to be implemented within the organization.

#5: Collaboration/Co-Creation

Finally, collaboration and co-creation are essential leadership skills for driving successful organizational change initiatives. Leaders should strive to empower employees at all levels by encouraging collaboration among teams working on specific projects or initiatives related to the overall goal of organizational transformation. Co-creation also gives employees a sense of ownership over the changes taking place within their organization – leading them to feel more connected with their role in the transformation process.

Quick Summary

Empathetic leadership is essential for driving successful organizational change initiatives as it encourages trust among stakeholders while also creating an environment conducive to collaboration across teams within the company. By leveraging these five key skills – self-awareness, empathy mapping, communication, systems thinking, collaboration & co-creation – CEOs and COOs can lead their organizations toward transformative change without sacrificing empathy or transparency along the way.

WWC can help you increase your awareness as a leader. We conduct research and empathy mapping to help you understand the current state of your organization and how to communicate with your employees. We act as a trusted advisor to guide you into systems thinking so you can collaborate, co-create, and innovate to increase your revenue. Contact us now for a complimentary consultation.

References

  1. The importance of self-awareness in leadership – https://hbr.org/2018/01/to-be-a-great-leader-you-have-to-learn-how-to-delegate-well
  2. Empathy mapping as a tool for understanding employee needs – https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/10/lean-user-research-solving-the-wrong-problem/
  3. Effective communication techniques for leaders – https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2017/06/18/building-a-trust-based-culture-is-easier-than-you-think/?sh=6b4d0a9c6b1e
  4. Systems thinking and its role in organizational change – https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/the-role-of-leadership-in-organizational-change
  5. The importance of collaboration and co-creation in driving organizational change – https://hbr.org/2018/03/how-to-create-an-innovation-culture