Guy Lawrence – former CEO at Vodafone – tells of an organizational transformation effort that is intrinsically tied to office renovation – he says: “Conventional offices and working is dead”.
A Simple Recipe: Death to cubicles and offices
- Buy everyone in the company a cell phone and a laptop.
- Remove all offices and cubicles. Open plan office with desks.
- Remove all personal material so that every day starts fresh
- People sit with the people they need to work with that day.
- Meeting rooms are just for meetings of 6 or more people.
- Build coffee shops in in the center of each floor to create a “buzz”
Innovation & leveraging Gen Y
The motivation for undertaking these sweeping changes is to have people from Generation Y (born after 1982) actually want to work at Vodafone. A basic requirement here is that the tools they get at the company are as good or better than what they have personally. Nobody wants to use an infrastructure that sucks but for Gen Y this is a real problem.
Gen Y work on a collaborative model and do not tolerate a dominant hierarchy. Their employee engagement score plummet and they quit in droves.
Subversion of Management Hierarchy
A central part of the plan is to put the organizational hierarchy in the background and push communication and decision-making lower down in the organization. Part of the idea of getting rid of offices is to reduce the power differential between managers and subordinates. Guy reported that 49 of his 5000 staff did not make the adjustment to this brave new world.
The net of all this is to create a place that can rapidly respond to changing events. To use open networks of communication to tap into people’s creativity.
Video of Guy’s Talk at Google
What About Teams?
I am curious about teams in this brave new world. Agile Software Development and many others observe that building stable teams is a great recipe for high performance. My suspicion is that this model would be further enhanced by having a clear role for teams.
Curious About Culture
One thing very interesting is that Guy is leading a cultural transformation without clearly outlining the culture of the organization the way many other great organizations such as Zappos do. Instead, he uses simple rules to subvert traditional corporate behaviour. I imagine that this type of transformation could be even more successful if accompanied by an explicit culture model.
What’s next? Rogers Media/Telco!
I have been involved with Agile at Rogers (based in Toronto) on more than one occasion and it is by and large suffering from the typical culture and bureaucratic challenges of any large organization. I have been wondering what hope there is for the organization to truly transform without top-level leadership in a new direction.
Guy starts at Rogers in December, 2013.I am truly delighted to see that he will take steps towards a people-friendly work culture. I am also very curious to see if he will be able to overcome deeply entrenched resistance to change. Go Guy, GO!
A friend of mine asked me what is going on with all this touchy-feely people and personal growth stuff – “What’s it got to do with Agile?” My answer: everything! So this post ties together: Agile, High-Performance Culture with People skills and Temenos Workshop among others.
Here is my current roadmap of focus areas related to rebooting organizational culture:
The arrows indicate support. For example, People Skills such as communication models lead to Relational Flow where people trust one another and are emotional supportive. This in turn leads to or supports High Performance Culture.
High Performance Culture is the Goal, but Need to Focus Elsewhere
My goal is to help organizations develop high performance culture through the creation of environments where people can bring their best every day. We can see there are a variety of things to focus on that will lead to support this goal.
Let’s take meditation as an example. There is no direct connection to high performance culture – it’s indirect. But in my experience it is 100% relevant and salient for bringing about a sequence of changes that support the goal. So, we need to focus on the things that will lead to a great culture and the ensuing results. Of course, there are many routes and practices – so nothing is mandatory: meditation works for me, but you may have an alternate route to personal growth.
This is not an exhaustive map of all the elements that lead to High Performance Culture – for sure there are lot’s of things we could add. My purpose in creating and sharing this is to create a call to action to focus on these or related elements so that we can really help organizations succeed.
Examples of Posts on these Topics
My hope is that you are curious about some of these content areas, so I will share some of my blog posts for further reading.
What is High-Performance Culture?
- Workshop on Characteristics of High-Performance Organizations
- Diverse Paths to High-Performance Organizational Culture
- Lululemon – A Stellar Example of Break-Through Organizational Culture
- The Power of Vulnerability
- Understand Shame to get to Root-Cause in Your Life
- Deep Insights around Fear, Risk, Safety and Vulnerability
- Change your Culture or Die
- Tactics, Strategy, & Culture – A Model for Thinking about Organizational Change
- KrisMap: An Organisation’s Persona
- Ways to Make Progress with Culture Gaps
- An Influencer’s Playbook
- Hierarchy = The Matrix
- How to Build a Culture Bubble
- How Change Initiatives Damage Organizations and Fail
- Organizational Transformation Checklist
- Visual Summary of Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide
- Agile Failure and Culture – Agile 2012 Workshop Results
- Transformation? Leaders Go First!
- Personal Transformation is the Heart of Organizational Transformation
- How to Incubate Transformational Leadership
At Agile Tour Toronto last November, I conducted a workshop to get crowd-sourced research into high-performance organizational cultures. The purpose of this workshop was two-fold. First, to understand similarities and differences between organizational cultures. Second, to see if case-studies of high-performance cultures would resonate with Agile-oriented people.
The companies that were selected for study were:
- Zappos – amazing customer service
- Valve Corporation – everyone responsible for finding a project to contribute to (no hierarchy)
- Semco – where people pick their own salary and people choose their managers
- Netflix – where staff are managed like a professional sports team – only the best and non-performers are cut
- Beyond Budgeting – OK, this isn’t a company, but we used the composite characteristics of companies that move to decentralized control. It’s more about leadership than budgeting.
Each group was given a case study, and asked to summarize the following:
- Key Organizational Characteristics – What did the organization pay attention to and how did it structure itself?
- Business Benefits – What material business results were observed in that organization?
Happy Customers and Engaged Staff
When asked what the key benefits these companies found from their high-performance culture the aggregate results across all companies were happy customers and engaged staff. See image below. We played a short version of the game of 35 to arrive at this result.
With regard to the second goal of the workshop – the workshop participants were very interested and several indicated that they found learning about these cultures as valuable for understanding how to progress with Agile at an organizational level.
Zappos Characteristics and Benefits
I have photos of the results of some of the groups, but the lighting was terrible so it’s really hard to read. Below are the results for one group that was working on Zappos.
- Focused on long-term vision
- Customer oriented
- Fun and a little weirdness
- Team communication
- Personal and professional growth
- Delighted and repeat customers
- Employee retention
- Long-term growth
- Positive financial outlook
- Better ROI
I would like to thank all the participants for working together to understand each organization’s structure and to identify the key benefits. Based on the ratings and comments, it looks like people had fun.
I am very grateful for Thiagi for showing me how to create a great workshop out just some handouts so that I can get out of the way and let people learn directly.
Christine Day, the CEO of Lululemon, gave a compelling account at the Toronto Board of Trade of how Lululemon uses culture as a core competitive advantage. It is woven into the fabric of every interaction and decision, not a bunch of meaningless posters on the wall. Sadly, there is no book yet. But when there is, I believe it will have greater impact than Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness – a landmark book on organizational culture.
Below are my notes from the session.
Lululemon shares some characteristics with other break-through organizational cultures:
- Focus on the long term success
- Compelling shared vision – “elevate the world from mediocrity”
- Little or no organizational hierarchy. e.g. Stores drive activity, not head office.
- Focus on people and their development
- Having a compelling Why? See their manifesto
- Coherent and compelling company culture. See some slides to get some more flavour of this.
There are two elements that I notice are unique and striking about Lululemon culture.
Values Value Chain
The first is the focus on the “values value chain”. They seek to create an ecosystem of success: win/win for everyone they deal with from suppliers to staff to local yoga studios. Like Amazon they believe their long term success will not always lie with short-term decisions. And they always make decisions in favour of the long term. A key difference with Lululemon is that it’s not just about the customer, it’s about everyone involved in the value chain.
Creating a Generation of Leaders
The second and more important element is the relentless focus on leadership and personal development of staff. They encourage staff to dream big and to develop both personally and professionally. These are visibly posted in stores and online. The #1 reason for leaving Lululemon is to pursue their personal vision.
After the talk, I sat with some “Educators” – associates who do sales and other activities – and I could see first hand that Lululemon is changing the world by creating a generation of leaders. It is for this second element, almost a side-effect, that I believe that Lululemon will help change the landscape of business to one more habitable by humans.