Serendipitous Collaboration

As we discuss the future of work, of how we do in-person, remote and hybrid it is critical to think about how modern knowledge work is highly networked and collaborative and benefits from social serendipity through social networks and access to people with complementary expertise. Value is often created in an ecosystemic way and through social networks, and as we determine new ways of working it is important to consider how we will allow social serendipity while at the same time creating flexibility.

Frequent, informal, spontaneous interactions in collocated work environments enable cohesive relationships and increases social awareness. There are four major types of collaboration that stem from social serendipity:

Collaboration-asDefinitionExamples
Intellectual generositySharing ideas freely with others for the advancement of the organizationFree exchange of ideas
MentorshipWorking with less experienced colleagues to encourage and support developmentGiving feedback
CommunicationDisseminating knowledge and visionPresenting results
PerformativityWorking with others to solve problems and improve performanceProblem-solving teams

As we evaluate our organizations, build and sustain teams, we should be looking for ways to enhance the ability to have social serendipity, enshrining this as part of our team norms.

Accelerate for Cultural Change

Visualized by Rose Fastus

Building culture means change. There are a lot of models for change out there, but for the work we pursue around building a culture of quality and excellence I think there are few better than John Kotter’s model.

Kotter sets forth Eight Accelerators of Change which can be leveraged in cultural change:

AcceleratorFocus when building Culture
Create a Sense of Urgency around a
Big Opportunity
The urgency here is the strategic threats from having a less-than-robust quality culture and the opportunities it creates. This is the True North. With this accelerator working, large groups of people are committed to building and improving a culture of quality.

The translation of the sense of urgency from leadership down to the working level is a constant need. People must understand the argument laid out by leadership, but it needs to be linked with their own needs and less about the business need 5 years out. This is pretty fundamental, if folks don’t see how the culture vision will make immediate changes to their work then it will never be prioritized.

It is advantageous to have several different facets of this urgency that might appear to different segments in the organization. Manufacturing may be focused on human error reduction while research is excited around innovation. Both are moving forward in a similar direction.
Build and evolve a guiding coalitionYou need a coalition throughout the organization deeply committed to a culture of quality and the benefits it will bring. Culture will never happen when it is viewed as a quality initiative only. Ideally there will be lots of branches and initiatives moving in the same direction. Communicating between these elements of the change initiatives and leveraging between initiatives is vital.

This is about fostering an environment that turns around the big opportunity and gives the member the opportunity to be different and creative. As a result, the participants of the coalition will find ways to work together different from their ordinary habits. This will increase the speed of decision-making and enables the organization to be more agile.
Form a change vision and strategic initiativesArticulating the vision of culture shows a fit to strategic opportunities can move you with speed and agility to that vision. By choosing a few strategic opportunities around culture you can move quickly to them.
Enlist a volunteer armyCommunicate in ways that lead large numbers of people to buy into the vision and want to help. You want to excite and mobilize as many active and passive members of the organization as possible.
Enable action by removing barriersWork swiftly to achieve initiatives and continue to find new ones that are strategically relevant. Identify barriers that are slowing down the growth of a quality culture and remove them.
Generate (and celebrate) short-term winsLook for wins big and most specially small and celebrate them. These wins, and their celebration, have psychological power and play a crucial role in building and sustaining culture transformation. The created credibility helps to develop a certain standing for the network within the organization and can also convince people, who did not have a positive attitude towards the network before.
Sustain accelerationDon’t let a few wins slow you down. Keep going, keep growing, keep doing and celebrating. This accelerator helps to keep the spirit within the employees up and motivates them further to strive for the big opportunity of developing and reaping the benefits of a quality culture.
Institute changeInstitutionalize the changes in process and procedure, in way of working and behavior.
Kotter’s 8 Accelerators of Change

Kotter also lists five principles:

PrincipleExplanation
Many people active in the change, not just the
usual few folks
The engagement of a large number of people for part-time involvement in the change, as opposed to relying on the same few people to work it full time.
A want-to and a get-to (not just a
have-to) mind-set
People need to want to be change agents and feel that as change agents they have the power to make the change happen. They need to have the ‘spirit of volunteerism” and there needs to be enthusiasm for quality and excellence.
Action that is head and heart drivenPeople need to be motivated to participate not only by logical arguments based on a business case. Rather there must be an emotional element that drives their engagement.

The Burning Platform element of Culture will undoubtedly speak to the head but also must speak to the heart. In the pharmaceutical industry the Heart elements of the burning platform could include getting medicines to market quicker for the patient as well as making workers lives better.

Sensemaking and storytelling are key.
Much more leadership, not just
more management
Leadership is about vision and inspired action and management is about project management and budget reviews. The secondary operating system needs more of the former.

Democratic leadership, utilizing reflection and feedback is critical for the leader to maintain behaviors that support the change idea and do not contradict it.
Two systems, one organizationThe network and the hierarchy must be inseparable and in constant communication. The idea of a network approach to change is critical here.. Change needs to sit next to traditional ways of working to truly be able to make a difference.

The network has a start-up character, which allows working flexible and agile on the change process and taking fast decisions.
Kotter’s Five Principles for Change

Creating the Movement

A central element of Kotter’s Accelerators is the secondary operating system which relies on a volunteer group of people who are there to propagate the change. These people don’t just magically appear, they are somehow motivated to get involved. How does an organization create the spirit of volunteerism, especially when most employees are disengaged from their organizations?

People will volunteer because they either want to do something for themselves or they want to do something for others.

Self-Enhancement

If someone wants to do something for themselves they are seeking self-enhancement. Self-Enhancement is the desire or observed reality of seeing oneself and by extension one’s actions, traits, and attitudes in the most positive light which can be an attempt to increase status and relationships with the leaders within the organization. This is a primary driver of engagement and behavior change.

Another element of the self-enhancement motive which plays into the formation of the volunteer army is whether we see this group as being part of the inner circle or a favorable group in the eyes of other high status people in the organization. This can be a driver to join the group and once joined we invariably see the group in a positive light and others not in the group are ‘black sheep’. Having the right leadership champions who talk about the efforts is critical.

Pro-Social and Intrinsic Motivation

Pro-social motivation means that the employee sees how their contributions have a positive impact. The underlying driver of this motivation can be because the employee feels it’s the right thing, because they care about the people who would benefit, and because it helps them maintain membership in a group

Intrinsic motivation, as the name suggests, comes from the areas of interest that people have within themselves and the desire to pursue those interests. When someone is intrinsically motivated they are more creative, motivated, and show greater persistence towards complex problems.

We want to be at the intersection of intrinsic motivation and pro-social motivation. Prosocial motivation strengthens and directs intrinsic motivation to be more useful.

Perspective taking, the cognitive process in which individuals adopt others’ viewpoints in an attempt to understand their preferences, values and needs, is a key element in developing pro-social motivation Perspective taking gives a framework to decide what ideas are more useful. If functionally diverse groups of employees can be given opportunities to discuss the strategic imperatives together and with immediate customers they can then find those areas which interest them at the same time they see the possible benefits. This may motivate them to get involved.

Kotter’s Eight Accelerators of change tell us to develop as many change agents and to do this people have to want to get involved and wanting to get involved is both a cognitive and emotional process. This ‘wanting to’ is really our intrinsic and pro-social motivations. Those motivations are stoked in several ways, such as by leadership and the vision they put forth. This vision may be better assimilated if employees have contact with its beneficiaries both internal and external, to see and hear their needs and how elements of the vision may have had a positive effect. This enhances leadership’s credibility with respect to their vision and also plays on the availability bias we all have towards strong examples. Additionally motivations are developed by perspective taking of others, so if employees know the needs of others this helps them filter creative ideas generated via their intrinsic motivation towards useful ideas that they will act on. These motivations must override our natural human tendency to be loss averse and to overweigh unlikely outcomes.

Leadership

The leadership of this volunteer army should be democratic. This style is critical to provide credibility to the vision of transforming culture, otherwise employees just hear new rhetoric which isn’t backed up by action.

There is a great opportunity here to shape the culture transformation as a development opportunity for people, allowing them the time to pursue it and coaching them through the process.

Leaders need to avoid extremely negative or extremely positive language, instead using vocabulary that is more neutral and does not try to seduce people by just manipulating the language.

Storytelling should be used but with the intention of reframing messages about the change and the organization.

Sources

  • Ackoff, R. L., Magidson, J., & Addison, H. J. (2006). Idealized Design: Creating an Organization’s Future. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Grant, A. M. (2012). Leading with Meaning: Beneficiary Contact, Prosocial Impact, and the Performance Effects of Transformational Leadership. Academy of Management, 458-476.
  • Grant, A. M., & Berry, J. W. (2011). The necessity of others is the mother of invention: Instrinsic and Prosocial Motiviations, Perspective Taking and Creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 73-96.
  • Kotter, John P. (2002). The Heart of Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Kotter, John P. (2014). Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Kotter, John P. (2016). That’s Not How We Do It Here!: A Story about How Organizations Rise and Fall–and Can Rise Again. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Levels of Problems in Culture

When thinking about root cause analysis it is useful to think of whether the problem is stemming from a cultural level or when it may be coming from an operational. We can think of these problems as hazards stemming from three areas:

  • Culture/philosophy is the over-arching view of how the organization conducts business from top-level decision-makers on through the corporate culture of an organization.
  • Policies are the broad specifications of the manner in which operations are performed. This includes the end-to-end processes.
  • Policies lead to the development of process and procedures, which are specifications for a task or series of tasks to accomplish a predetermined goal leading to a high degree of consistency and uniformity in performance.
Hazards unrecognized (risks not known or correctly appraised)Hazards forseen (risks anticipated but response not adequate)
Culture/Philosophy
Quality not source of corporate pride
Regulatory standards seen as maxima
Culture/Philosophy
Quality seen as source of corporate pride
Regulatory standards seen as minima
Policy
Internal monitoring schemes inadequate (e.g. employee concerns not communicated upwards)
Insufficient resources allocated to quality
Managers insufficiently trained or equipped
Reliance on other organization’s criteria (e.g. equipment manufacturer)
Policy
Known deficiencies (e.g. equipment, maintenance) not addressed
Defenses not adequately monitored
Defenses compromised by other policies (e.g. adversarial employee relations, incentive systems, performance monitoring)
Procedures
No written procedures
Procedures
Documentation inadequate
Inadequate, or Loop-hole in, controls
Procedures conflict with one another or with organizational policy

This approach on problems avoids a focus on the individuals involved and avoids a blame culture, which will optimize learning culture. Blaming the individuals risks creating an unsafe culture and creates difficulties for speaking up which should be an espoused quality value. Focus on deficiencies in the system to truly address the problem.

Quality Culture is Fundamental to Actually Providing Quality

For all I love the hard dimensions of quality (i.e. process, training, validation, management review, auditing, measurement of KPI) I also stress in my practice how the soft dimension of communication and employee participation and teamwork are critical to bring about a culture of excellence. Without a strong quality culture people will not be ready to commit and involve themselves fully in building and supporting a robust quality management system. The goal is to align top management behavior and the emergent culture to be consistent over time with the quality system philosophy or people will become cynical. In short, organizational culture should be compatible with the quality values.

Quality cultural is justifiably the rage and it is not going anywhere. If you are not actively engaging with it you are losing one of your mechanisms for success.

Quality Culture really serves as a way to categorize an organizational culture that intends to enhance quality permanently. There are two distinct elements characterizing this culture:

  • A cultural/psychological element of shared values, beliefs, expectations and commitment towards quality
  • A structural/managerial element with defined processes that enhance quality and aim at coordinating individual efforts.

Schein’s model of organizational culture provides a valuable place to start in assessing quality culture:

  • Visible quality artifacts (e.g. quality assessment tools)
  • Espoused quality values (e.g. mission statement)
  • Shared basic quality assumptions (e.g. quality commitment)
Schein’s culture pyramid

The first basic quality assumption to tackle is to answer what do you mean by Quality?

Even amongst quality professionals we do not all seem to be in agreement on what we mean by Qualitity. Hence all the presentations at conferences and part of the focus on Quality 4.0 (the other part of the focus is a mistaken worship of technology – go back to Deming people!)

Route out the ambiguity that results in:

  • Uncontrollable fragmentation of quality thinking, discussion, and practices
  • Superficiality of the quality-related information and communication
  • Conceptual confusions between the quality results and quality enablers, and between quality and many other related factors
  • Disintegration of the foundation of quality

I like to place and front and center the definition of quality from ISO 9000: “degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of an object fulfils requirements.” This definition emphasizes the relative nature of quality (“degree”) that also highlights the subjective perception of quality. The object of quality is defined more generally than for the goods or service products only. The object has its inherent characteristics that consist of all of its features or attributes. “Requirement” means here needs and expectations, which may be related to all interested parties of the object and the interaction. This definition of quality is also compatible the prevailing understanding of quality in everyday language.

For an organization, the definition of quality relates to the organization’s stakeholders. With the definition, we can consider both the quality of the organization as a whole and the quality of the entities being exchanged between the organization and its stakeholders. Products produced and delivered to the organization’s customers are especially significant entities in this context.

Following through with ISO9000’s definition of Quality management implying how the personal, organizational, or societal resources and activities or processes are managed with regard to quality, we are able to the framework for basic quality assumptions in an organization.

Herein usually lies your True North, a term used a lot, that recognizes that quality is a journey: there is no absolute destination point and we will never achieve perfection. Think of True North not as a destination, but as a term used to describe the ideal state of perfection that your organization should be continually striving for.

In espoused quality values we take the shared concept of quality and expand it to performance excellence as an integrated approach to the organizational performance management that results in:

  • the delivery of ever-improving value to customers and stakeholders, contributing to organizational sustainability
  • the improvement of overall organizational effectiveness and capabilities
  • Organizational and personal learning.

We need to have a compelling story around these values.

A compelling story is a narrative that charts a change over time, showing how potential solutions fit into the espoused values. This story can generate more engagement from listeners than any burning platform ever will. By telling a compelling story, you clarify motivation to develop discontent with the status quo. Let the story show the organization where you have come from and where you might go. The story must be consistent and adopted by al leaders in the organization. The leadership team should weave in the compelling story at all opportunities. They should ask their teams constantly, “What’s next?” “How can we make that eve better?” “How did you improve your area today?”

Compelling stories often build on dissatisfaction by positioning against competitors. In the life science sector, it can be more effective to enshrine the patient in the center of the compelling story. People will support change when they see and experience a purposeful connection to an organization mission. The compelling story drives that.

Espoused values require strong and constant communication.

Espoused values are have more levers for change than basic assumptions. While I placed True North down in assumptions, in all honestly it will for a central part of that compelling story and drive adoption of the espoused values.

It is here we need to build and reaffirm psychological safety.

In the post “Driving towards a Culture of Excellence” I provided elements of a high performing culture that count as artifacts of quality, stemming out of the values.

Process Owners

Process owners are a fundamental and visible difference part of building a process oriented organizations and are crucial to striving for an effective organization. As the champion of a process, they take overall responsibility for process performance and coordinate all the interfaces in cross-functional processes.

Being a process owner should be the critical part of a person’s job, so they can shepherd the evolution of processes and to keep the organization always moving forward and prevent the reversion to less effective processes.

The Process Owner’s Role

The process owner plays a fundamental role in managing the interfaces between key processes with the objective of preventing horizontal silos and has overall responsibility of the performance of the end-to-end process, utilizing metrics to track, measure and monitor the status and drive continuous improvement initiatives. Process owners ensure that staff are adequately trained and allocated to processes. As this may result in conflicts arising between process owners, teams, and functional management it is critical that process owners exist in a wider community of practice with appropriate governance and senior leadership support.

Process owners are accountable for designing processes; day-to-day management of processes; and fostering process related learning.

Process owners must ensure that process staff are trained to have both organizational knowledge and process knowledge. To assist in staff training, processes, standards and procedures should be documented, maintained, and reviewed regularly.

Process Owners should be supported by the right infrastructure. You cannot be a SME on a end-to-end-process, provide governance and drive improvement and be expected to be a world class tech writer, training developer and technology implementer. The process owner leads and sets the direction for those activities.

The process owner sits in a central role as we build culture and drive for maturity.