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The QWERTY Complex: Un-jamming our organizations to thrive through change

Today, we are featuring a guest post from Sara Roberts, President and CEO of Roberts Golden Consulting, Inc. She is known for her expertise in large-scale transformation, particularly in driving culture change for enterprise innovation and collaboration, and has provided strategic guidance to dozens of the world’s top global companies over the past 15 years.

Navigating in today’s workplace can be disorienting.  It seems that the minute we reorganize, restructure, merge, shift… we need to do it yet again to keep up with new demands.  We lament, when are things ever going to be normal again? Things are changing so fast.  We can’t possibly keep up!

In our organizations, we often point to ‘agility’ as critical to our success – yet the ironic part is that our organizations are still trying to command and control our way into being more nimble.

What exactly is going on?  For starters, witness the last twenty years.  There’s been an explosion of vastly more information, globalization resulting in larger and farther-flung teams and, not to mention, greater competition coming from unexpected and untraditional sources.  Think: NetFlix and how Blockbuster didn’t see it coming. There has been a serious tectonic shift and our companies are at the epicenter.

In our organizations, we often point to ‘agility’ as critical to our success – yet the ironic part is that our organizations are still trying to command and control our way into being more nimble.  Often times we don’t fully realize that these old hierarchical structures, we’re holding steadfastly to, are unable to process information quickly enough to make the necessary day-to-day business decisions.  We think we can simply optimize to do it better, faster and cheaper but in reality, we need a transformation in our workplaces.

As I was writing this last paragraph, it made me think of a cognitive behavioral theory I recently read about, called “path dependence.”  This term refers to the notion that “something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.”  For instance, typewriters used to jam if people typed too fast, so the manufacturers designed a keyboard that would slow typists. We no longer have typewriters, but we are stuck with the letter arrangements of the qwerty keyboard.

Let’s ask ourselves: do we really want to be stuck with qwerty organizations?

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Essential Recession Recovery Tips for your Business from Ken Blanchard: Free WebEx Event

On April 20, Ken Blanchard, founder of the Ken Blanchard Companies will host a free WebEx called, “Healing the Wounded Organization,” aimed at helping companies recover from the last few years of cut-backs, realignments and more.

Reserve your spot today.

If your organization is like most, you’ve been through a lot the last two years. Layoffs mean friends were let go, teams reshaped, and everyone is doing more with less. Your organization has weathered the storm, but not without its share of cuts and bruises—especially to the human side of the organization.

A successful business is about more than operations.

During this WebEx, best-selling business author Ken Blanchard shares three key strategies Read More »

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Cisco Partner Tata Communications Takes TelePresence to the Cloud

March 23, 2011 at 10:33 am PST

Telepresence and videoconferencing services (both hosted and managed) will reach a whopping $1.2 billion(US) worldwide by 2016, according to ABI Research.

Cisco partner Tata Communications is riding that wave and shares insights in a recent FastChat video with MSPmentor Editorial Director Joe Panettieri.

In the video below, Joe interviews Greg Brophy, Director of Product Management at Tata. Greg shares ways that the company is using the cloud to help its customers connect globally using Cisco’s TelePresence technology. He also shares a recent customer win and what he sees are key trends among his customer base.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erszpHxrf8U&

Wondering how can you plug into Tata Communications’ infrastructure? Read More »

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Japan’s calm and communal attitude in the face of disaster

I have been deeply shocked and saddened by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami which struck the country last Friday. The Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has described the natural disaster as the country’s worst crisis since World War II and the photos and video footage which currently dominate global headlines support this statement: mass fires, towns and villages have been washed away, a leak in Japan’s quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power is causing radiation emissions to rise to dangerous levels and the death toll continues to rise. Scenes from hell. Read More »

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Let’s agree to disagree

I’ve been watching a TV series called You Can’t Take it With You in which business guru Sir Gerry Robinson helps bring families together to write their wills. Given the differing values, priorities, perspectives and emotional sensitivity of those involved, it’s unsurprising that -- if not visible, then just below the surface -- there’s always a degree of tension or even conflict amongst family members.

What many of the individuals do -- like so many of us in the workplace -- is try to avoid that tension or conflict altogether, or simply ignore it. If we can’t say something nice, our mothers taught us, don’t say anything at all. Of course, Sir Gerry’s task is to help the families tackle these difficult challenges and decisions. Inevitably, tension or conflict becomes unavoidable, and with it the potential for it to get disagreeable or even destructive.

So what is surprising is just how often he manages to pull off a minor miracle and turn conflict into collaboration. From favouritism, to boys versus girls, to judgments about people’s lifestyles to plain old-fashioned prejudice, Sir Gerry has helped negotiate a way through them all.

The typical strategy says Sir Gerry is to avoid conflict and close down dialogue and discussion (“I’m not prepared to talk about it”). Whilst this approach appears to work for many, stubbornness and inflexibility set in. And when tensions bubble to the surface, people already convinced of the rightness of their view become increasingly polarised around conflicting positions and values. The result he says is ‘destructive conflict’, which is personal, vindictive, and a source of pain.

Other strategies include reducing tensions and stresses by one party simply accommodating the wishes of the other -- a one-sided ‘win-lose’ situation. But this simply glosses over the issue -- something Sir Gerry won’t accept. Another widely accepted means of resolving conflict is to accept that there needs to be give and take on all sides, involving a series of ‘concessions’. A ‘win-some, lose-some’ strategy.

But Sir Gerry believes that when managed properly, conflict can have many positive aspects and even bring about innovative solutions. His ‘constructive conflict’ approach works because those involved have a positive learning experience from the event and see that theirs is not a case of ‘right against wrong’ so much as ‘right against right’. By creating the conditions for each party to both speak and listen he ensures they understand both the what and the why of their differences. By opening up dialogue and sharing and assessing the reasons for the conflict, issues can be clarified which results in more possible alternatives and opportunities to solving the problem. A clear ‘win-win’ strategy.

So how do we manage conflict so that it’s a positive not a negative force? I think it starts with the simple notion that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And that we have to make it “safe” to be different,  to take opposite points of view and to disagree. When people know they can stand up and say what they believe without being castigated, guess what? They will!

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