Once upon a time, there was a university in one of the largest Polish towns. Among its many organizational units was Institute of Applied Physics (details altered and sanitized for confidentiality), headed by an internationally accomplished Polish professor who believed that scientists should spend most of their time and effort on science, and not on reporting. He made no secret of his views when he was appointed Director of the Institute, which must have come as a shock to many a seasoned bureaucrat in the university Head Office. These people were firm supporters and eager practitioners of the Parkinson’s observation that Officials make work for each other. Being good officials, they felt it was their duty to ensure that the professor and his fellow physicists received their fair share of useless and time-consuming paperwork to be done. Once filled, the lengthy report forms would be sent back to Head Office, like some kind of symbolic tribute paid by a vassal to his lord.
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In contrast to the bad practices described in the previous post, today I will discuss a spectacular real-life example (the do’s) of a cultural transformation which helped a troubled company implement its new strategy and become successful again. The leader’s role in this transformation has been hard to overrate. I have found this story on a fantastic blog, which I strongly recommend to anyone interested in management.
After several years of mediocre performance that culminated in losing an important tender, the top management of a Japanese company realized that they needed to take radical steps to keep the company afloat. The executives showed good judgement when they turned for feedback to the company which has just turned their offer down. By doing this, they demonstrated that they were willing to treat failure as a learning opportunity, and that approach does not seem common in the corporate world. After all, it’s easy to find a scapegoat and punish him, or at least put the blame on unfavorable objective circumstances. It’s difficult and sometimes risky to acknowledge accountability for a setback, conduct a fact-based analysis, and follow the findings even if it means leaving your comfort zone. On the other hand, it takes humility and courage to rewrite your strategy based almost exclusively on actual client feedback, even when this client is a large and successful company. Incidentally, almost all companies these days maintain that customer (client) satisfaction is a key goal for them, but only few follow these declarations with actions that are actually driven by the Voice of the Customer. Instead, managerial decisions often appear to be based on preconceived notions or a political consensus. Which would be just fine if only these factors were good reflections of reality, which, as we know, is not always the case. Continue reading