Research Backs Listen and Adapt organisations

There are no shortage of companies looking to adopt (or adapt) new methods to increase productivity.

The problem is that good methods can only be developed and adopted by organizations with an appropropriate culture in place to create them in the first place.

Specifically, in order to get to a Sense and Respond organization, you need to first adopt a Listen and Adapt style of management.

Now I didn’t just wake up one morning with this thought in my head. I’ve worked with larger organisations for many years in a consulting capacity. And I’ve been privy to many different management styles. And what I’ve found over and over again through my own experience is that Listen and Adapt is the most effective way to transform an organization – far more effective than the traditional command and control structure.

So when I was presented with a means to quantitatively measure the difference in these two approaches, I jumped at the chance. This is where Dr. Gary Fisher enters the story.

Dr. Fisher was doing research and we were aware of each other’s work through a mutual client. So when he told me there was a way to test the effectiveness of Listen and Adapt management styles, I was intrigued.

His work in the psychology department at his university allowed him to study differing workplace behaviours, attitudes, perceptions and feelings when comparing traditional Command and Control management styles with my Listen and Adapt approach.

What he found was astounding. There was a detectable difference between the thinking, feelings and perceptions across all employee levels when they were introduced to the
philosophy and approach of Listen and Adapt.

It was objective validation of my own subjective views on how people responded to the Listen and Adapt methods I was teaching. Through my work I’d seen staff become much more collaborative and willing to contribute – and the research bore that out.

From here we were able to develop a psychological profile for typical Command and Control organisations. We were then able to show the differing psychological profile of parts of an organization that adopted a Listen and Adapt approach.

At about the same time I came across the work of U.S. psychologist Ben Schneider in the field of Work Climate. His research with millions of workers over his 30-year career showed a certain work psychological profile that was a de facto predictor of long-term profitability.

Unsurprisingly this profile / predictor was a lot closer to the Listen and Adapt methods I now advocate.

In the end, there are many competing theories for long term organisational growth. But when you can quantify the effectiveness of one approach over another using science and hard numbers, it’s a good indicator that you’re on the right path.


Scam caller stopped dead by one question

We’ve all heard the stories about devious callers trying to fool us to give up our precious credit card numbers. Who does these sorts of calls? What scum would try to scam people out of their hard earned money?

If my wife’s recent experience is anything to go by, the reality is that they’re actually deeply religious people. Yes, there are limits to what they will do in their ‘professional’ lives.

She got a call the other day from an Indian man informing her that someone in her household had been recently involved in a car accident or some such.

She told the man that she was the only person in her household, and oh, by the way, she doesn’t have a car.

Then she did something remarkable. She turned the tables on him.

She simply asked him for his phone number. He read her own number back to her.

“Uh no”, she replied. “That’s my number. I want to know your number.”

He giggled a nervous laugh and asked why she wanted his number. She responded matter-of-factly that since he’s got hers, she should have his. Makes sense, right?

He said he couldn’t give her his number. She replied that she couldn’t talk to him unless he did.

He then mumbled a number, something like 4433222345. She pointed out that it didn’t sound like a real phone number. He insisted it was his real phone number.
That’s when she went for the jugular. Presuming that his Indian accent was an indication as to his culture, she asked ‘Do you swear to God, to Allah, to Ishvar that this is your phone

After a short pause, he mumbled that he couldn’t do that.

She asked why. Silence.

“Because you’re lying?” she added.

She asked again: “Swear to your god that the number you gave me is yours”.

He said no he couldn’t and hung up.

We may have discovered a new tactic in dealing with unwanted callers. Ask them to tie their personal beliefs to their ‘professional’ demeanor.

Expect them to hang up before you do…

Group of business

Engaging willing contribution, ingenuity and commitment essential

I’ve been teaching, speaking and writing about organizational engagement for many years. And what I’ve learned is that even when it is relatively simple to get buy-in for new ideas and concepts, a lot of companies get stuck in the weeds of process.

It’s hard to blame them really. After all, process – the methods used to carry out a project – is something we are conditioned to respect and look for. So shaking this habit is one of the hardest challenges to overcome.

As a result I’ve seen several worthy change methodologies turned into a series of processes that replicate – but don’t capture – an organizational culture that produces successful outcomes in the first place.

Methods come and go but the principles for engaging the willing contribution, ingenuity and commitment of others are timeless.

So what are those principles? Respect, inspiration and encouragement are crucial parts of the equation.

But what I’ve come to see as equally essential is adaptability. Small businesses live and breathe adaptability because they really have no choice. They are small, can shift gears easily and pivot their services to meet client needs when necessary. They may be small but their mightiness comes from their ability to gauge their market and quickly move things around in short order.

Mid-size and large organizations have a tougher go of it. Sure, they’re big but with that growth in capacity, they’ve lost their agility. Management layers requiring multiple sign offs can slow down the implementation of a service or delivery of a product to the point that it’s behind the creative curve in the marketplace before it even gets released. I read recently of a Microsoft employee observing that they delivered a new product in 2010 that had was eclipsed by the competition before it hit the market: too late and out-of-date.

Putting principles into practice to engage employees is essential and changing a work climate to one that values and encourages adaptability is difficult. But it is crucial if you want to stay competitive in an increasingly agile marketplace.


Adaptiveness: not just for teenagers anymore

During my research into the value of adaptiveness as a learned behaviour, I’ve often wondered why some easily accept adaptivity as a metric for organisational change while others never quite “get” it.

So I had a bit of a chuckle when I came across an article on adaptability as it relates to the developing teenage brain.

The article posits teenagers have minds that are naturally adaptive. And that this adaptability plays a critical role in their development into adults.

The article goes on to suggest…

“They are trying to assess and understand the world around them. And taking risks, breaking the mold, questioning authority are all characteristics of the adaptive mind.”

That is quite true. Adaptive minds do indeed look beyond the convention of ‘what is’ to consider other possibilities and strategies. Although their willingness to consider untested waters may get them tagged as ‘rebels’, it is the actions of adaptable leaders and their “seemingly reckless demeanor” that is crucial to the survival and growth of any organisation they are in.

Even as adaptive processes are being accepted and implemented they are often not taken seriously as a driver of business growth. To the old guard adaptability is a simply a buzzword to promote the perception that an organisation values new ways of thinking rather than actually embracing them.

Organisational growth is best served however, by incorporating adaptiveness at every level of a business environment.

So should a business start filling boardrooms with teenagers? No, of course not. But incorporating some of the open-minded spirit of youth into a business mindset clearly has its merits.

Adaptiveness: it’s not just for teenagers anymore.

Read the article I referenced here.