Posted tagged ‘Management By Walking Around’

Creating A Culture Of Communication

August 3, 2011

In my seventeen years of government employment, I encountered many bureaucratic procedures that made accomplishing anything very difficult and inefficient. Most government employees know that the agency or program they are working for could be improved but they do not have the opportunity to express their ideas or are afraid to express new ideas as most department heads do not value dissent in any way. For any type of change to occur in an organization, a culture that values opinions must be created.

As Chief Operating Officer of PayPal, David Sacks had 500 employees reporting to him. As an experienced business officer, Sacks has leadership skills that others can learn from. In a New York Times article titled Fostering a Culture of Dissent, Sacks makes the following points:

  • Open Door Policy –  “Anyone can walk into my office and start talking to me.” “Anybody can ask me questions and debate me. You could be a new employee and you can start getting into a debate with me about something. The start-up culture is very democratic in general. I think you need that in order to attract good people. You’ve really got to create a company culture that people want to work at. And so you try to give them a voice, give them a sense that they influence the direction of the company, and try to avoid unnecessary process and hierarchy — things that might frustrate employees.”
  • Management By Walking Around – “I also walk around the office and just start talking to people about what they’re working on. I’m not trying to micromanage what they’re doing, but I am trying to find out what they’re working on and talk to them about it.”
  • Create A Culture Of Dissent –  I think you’ve got to create a culture in which dissent is valued. And there’s probably a lot of ways to set that tone. Certainly you can tell if you’ve got a culture of dissent when you walk into a company. People can figure out very quickly whether dissent is encouraged or whether it’s actually something that’s not welcome. It’s a red flag to me if there’s just too much consensus and not enough dissent. I feel like in any human community there’s always dissent because people just disagree. Anytime there doesn’t appear to be dissent, it means that the corporate culture has just shifted way too much toward consensus. That means the leadership just doesn’t welcome dissent enough.”
  • Communication – “We do a lot of things to try and pull the company together and make sure that we’re all on the same page. So about once a quarter, I give a company presentation that lays out our thinking at a high level about the strategy. And then once a month we have Yammer Time at the end of the day on Friday, and the executive team takes questions from anyone in the company. They can also submit them online. They can also submit them anonymously if they want. We’ll basically answer anything that people want. People can see the anonymous questions online, and people can vote on which questions they want us to answer.
  • What Are We Trying To Do Here? –“We just implemented this quarterly process called Morph. So Morph stands for Mission, Objectives, Results, People, and the H is for “How,” as in, “How did you do by the end of the quarter?”Mission is just a one-sentence description of what’s your mission at the company? What do you have ownership of? And that really gets people to think about, O.K., what is my overall mission here?Objectives are the top three, maximum five, things that you want to achieve this quarter. Results are about the metrics you’re going to use to measure those objectives. How do we know if we’ve achieved them? People refers to, what changes do we need to make in the organization to achieve this? Do we need to hire people? Do we need to create new teams? Do we need to change the way that a team is defined? And then at the end of the quarter we just ask, “How’d you do?”I think it is helpful just to pause once a quarter and just kind of step back for a second and say, “What are we trying to do here?” You have to be centralized with respect to direction, decentralized with respect to execution.

    Why is it that the type of leadership Sacks talks about are hard to find in government; especially among County Executives, Mayors and Town Supervisors? County Executives and Mayors rarely have an open door policy, rarely communicate with front line employees about the bureaucracy of government, are uncomfortable with any type of disagreement regarding their decisions, do not like to share information and rarely ask “What are we trying to do here?”. While Sacks advocates for fostering dissent, I would be happy to at least be part of an organization that values communication and the expression of opinions. 

    What do you think?

Winning The Workplace

March 18, 2010

Douglas Conant as CEO of the Campbell Soup Company oversees an organization with 20,000 people. Over his many years of experience Conant has learned a lot about leading an organization. The Gallup Management Journal has an interesting article where Conant is interviewed and provides some valuable insight on organizational leadership.

A few excerpts from the interview:

  • “The essence of my leadership philosophy is … you have to inspire trust, and once you earn people’s trust, you have permission to do some amazing things. Trust gives you the permission to give people direction, get everyone aligned, and give them the energy to go get the job done. Trust enables you to execute with excellence and produce extraordinary results. As you execute with excellence and deliver on your commitments, trust becomes easier to inspire, creating a flywheel of performance.”
  • “I strongly believe that you can’t win in the marketplace unless you win first in the workplace. If you don’t have a winning culture inside, it’s hard to compete in the very tough world outside. Our mission is to build the world’s most extraordinary food company by nourishing people’s lives everywhere, every day. You can’t ask employees to achieve extraordinary results if they’re not fully engaged. That’s why we focus a great deal on getting the workplace right so that people are engaged and proactive — so that people are moving forward arm in arm and competing with a spring in their step. As they become more engaged, they find ways to win in the marketplace that are sustainable.”
  • “… I decided it was important for me to be more visible in my leadership. Although the company knows me pretty well, having been here since 2001, I started walking around headquarters every day. I have a pair of sneakers, and whenever I have a half hour free, I put on my sneakers and I start walking the halls. I stop and talk to people. And it gives me a sense of the pulse of the company.”

Organizational success is dependent on how trusting and engaged employees are. You cannot accomplish anything in an environment that is toxic with distrust. Conant has identified some key steps for achieving organizational success. Build trust, engage employees and get out of your office to obtain the pulse of your organization. I believe strongly in the concept of management by walking around. It is important to speak with people at all levels of an organization as you learn a great deal in doing so. Over the years I have seen many leaders who spend too much time in their office.

What do you think about Conant’s comments and the concept of management by walking around?