Continuous improvement and innovation

Culture | 0 comments | by Simon Ricketts

The world may not be getting smaller, but it is certainly getting more competitive. All of the client firms that we are currently working with are experiencing the need to compete more globally, and in this age of freely available information it is hard to see how you sustain any form of advantage for any period of time.

Customers are increasingly looking for new forms of value, or ways in which they can access value in more convenient, easier or cheaper ways. The Internet is fuelling this search, and to succeed in the future firms are going to have to think very differently about their business model and offering.

Innovation therefore becomes critically important for future survival and prosperity–but we do tend to think of innovation at the strategic level, i.e. new products and services, new markets and the like. However, there is huge untapped improvement and innovation potential within all of the people that you employ.

Therefore, building a culture of continuous improvement and innovation can provide an enormous source of value, as organisations clearly need to innovate at both the operational and strategic levels.

So, in the real world how is this done?

Sir Ken Robinson in his RSA video (Click here to watch) outlines the challenge – when we were small children, we could envisage hundreds of potential uses for a paper clip, but as we were ‘educated’ our ability to think laterally and creatively diminished sharply. This underlines the challenge of reclaiming that innate innovative ability.

The reality is remarkably simple, although difficult to do (like so many things in life…). As organisational leaders we need to:

  • Highlight the need for innovation, why it is critical for us and your desire for people to engage in this way with their work
  • Continuously ask for and positively reinforce the behaviours of challenging the norm, thinking differently and bringing ideas forward
  • Experiment with different management behaviours and leadership styles, and monitor the positive (or negative) impacts they create
  • Clearly demonstrate behaviours focused on continuous improvement and innovation

If we do not change our behaviours, how can we expect anything different from those around us?

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Measuring to drive positive behaviour

Leadership | 0 comments | by Simon Ricketts

Driving the right or wrong behaviours?

Are your KPIs or measures the first thing you think about when you wake up each morning and draw the curtains?

Are they your constant source of energy and inspiration that keep you working at peak performance?

Thought not.

Too often measures are imposed on us and they they often represent what the organisation needs rather than what is meaningful for us.

But it does not have to be this way. Measuring to drive positive behaviour change involves a subtle but significant shift away from using KPIs and measures to drive behaviours to one where leaders are using the measures to engage, excite and enable.

We should and can have an emotional connection with our performance objectives and KPIs. This does however require a different approach.

We help our clients achieve this through developing KPIs and objectives that are :

Stretching – to drive us beyond the comfort zone into real achievement
Meaningful – for us, not just for the organisation
Aspirational – so we want to deliver – rather than just complying
Rewarding – there must be a ‘what is in it for me’
Trust – small word, big meaning and effect…

How do your KPIs measure up to these more emotional criteria?

Use KPIs to move your people from mere engagement to sheer excitement and exhilaration!

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70-20-10 leadership development drives real behaviour change

Leadership | 0 comments | by Simon Ricketts

There is currently much talk about 70-20-10 approaches to learning and development in organisations, and with good reason. Consider the following question:

What was the most impactful event in your professional and leadership learning?

Having asked this question of a large number of people now, the answer always seems to lie in bosses they admired (or didn’t…), feedback they received or times when they were thrown in the deep end on a project or task.

Whichever is true for you – why do we not seem to recognise this and build this insight into our management and leadership development strategies?

We have long been impressed with the power of group learning (action learning in particular and variants of it), and the idea of learning that is more self-directed. It seems that we only really learn what is relevant to us at a particular time. For example, learning about strategic planning works particularly well at the time that your company is going through its strategy planning processes. Sounds obvious, but it is an often overlooked key that the real learning only happens when the new knowledge is used and applied. This is also the point where it creates value for the organisation too…

As a result of all of this, development programmes (and coaching) need to move into a phase where they are more varied in their approaches, relevant to peoples’ and organisations’ needs and combining traditional forms of learning with more experiential and social ways of making sense of the learning as it is applied to the learners’ work, and sharing the learning with others to help the organisation maximise the value of the new skills to everyone else. This principle is being expounded through the term 70-20-10, meaning:

  • 10% of development time should be spent on acquiring new knowledge or skills through training, on-line learning or other forms of knowledge transfer
  • 20% of time should be devoted to discussing the application of the learning in the workplace in groups, through social media or other forms of communication
  • 70% of the time should be in the doing – applying the new skills, techniques or behaviours in the workplace to integrate into the learner’s daily practice.

This creates a more varied, stimulating and ultimately impactful development experience that will in time make simple training courses look a little long in the tooth.

Click here to see an example of how we used 70-20-10 leadership development for the University of Exeter in their Leadership South West contract.

For a discussion on how to re-align your development programmes that are not quite delivering the behaviour change you want or need to the 70-20-10 model, contact Simon on or on +44 (0) 7711 831992.

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Building an innovation culture

Culture | 0 comments | by Simon Ricketts

OK, this is easy… install whiteboards everywhere, put the word ‘innovation’ in the mission statement and tell managers to think ‘outside of the box’. Right?

Yes I know, you are smarter than that – but what is the real answer to this challenge of building cultures within our organisations that encourage and foster creative and innovative thinking? Oh, and in a way that is authentic, aligned and useful…

Some surprising research has shown that the answer is essentially ‘investing in people who are motivated by work that they enjoy and which meets their personal goals, with managers who aren’t overly negative and who can create a supportive work environment’.

Great. But what does it all mean we have to do?

Get the right people on the bus. This is all very well for the Googles of this world who are starting with a blank sheet of paper, but for organisations seeking to get the best from their people this is not so straight forward. However, focusing on peoples’ emotional motivations and using these in the management of them can dramatically increase levels of engagement, and the good news is that there are many tools and frameworks to help leaders do just that.

Involve people. This is both a huge opportunity and a massive challenge for most leaders, as it entails that age-old problem of ‘letting go‘. Psychologically this really hard – most managers instinctively want to control, but the real trick is being smart about when to control and when to let go. A recent consulting project we undertook saw a director agree to a substantial piece of work being guided by a relatively junior group of people with both outstanding results, and fantastic levels of engagement. The keys were a sharply defined objective, lots of support (as opposed to interference) and space for the group to operate with some independence. Wonderful.

Watch the mood hoovers. They exist everywhere, the people who just seem to suck the energy out of an office or team. They make the culture negative and stifle innovation and creative thinking. They need managing so they do not kill the positive environment of possibilities that you are trying to create.

Support them. People are at their creative and innovative best when they feel that their ideas will be values, or at least considered. So explore their ideas with them – give them time and resources to rise to the innovation challenge, and have high expectations. They might just meet or even exceed them!

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Value your values

Culture | 0 comments | by Simon Ricketts

How do your employees behave when no-one is looking? Do they simply do what feels right to them, or can they be relied on to act in the ‘right way’ every time?

This is the real test of whether your people feel a genuine sense of belonging and ownership, and genuinely share and hold dear the values that your organisation espouses.

I have seen many organisations that display wonderfully conceived and articulated lists of values, only for these values to be sadly absent in interactions with (and between!) their people, especially when the conversation is more difficult or challenging.

It is tempting to dismiss values as soft stuff for the HR people, but the reality is that the game of business is being increasingly won or lost through these so-called soft areas. As our demands of service levels rightly increase, so the need for people to be acting consistently with their brand takes on a greater competitive significance.

Agreeing and adopting a shared sense of values that connect with the organisation’s strategy, can be enacted naturally and deliver real value and meaning to the customer is a neat trick, but is hard to achieve consistently and sustainably. The net result of this challenge is that it generally ends up in the ‘too hard to do’ box.

If you want to see values in action – walk into an Apple Store this weekend and notice how the staff intact with you, even without posters of values telling them how to behave…

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