Team and Workplace Excellence Forum Leadership Announcement

It is now officially announced. I have volunteered to be the chair of the Team and Excellence Forum for the ASQ.

The Team and Excellence Forum is well placed to develop and provide best practices in the input and process factors, and to develop competencies that the other technical divisions and forums can leverage. Areas such as facilitation, team organization, collaboration and the list goes on. In the last few months I have found myself narrowing in to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Division for my professional/technical competencies and the Team and Workplace Excellence will be the focus on my interests in social and self competencies.

As the announcement indicates I am currently pulling together a leadership team -we will need to fill at minimum a secretary and chair elect (the chair position for the forum runs through 2021 so I’m not going anywhere) – and folks to build and drive content.

My immediate goals are:

  1. Conduct a voice-of-the-customer survey – need to figure out what topics the membership is most interested in and what content formats (case studies, podcasts, webinars, videos, articles, etc) work best
  2. Build content on the my.ASQ community so it can go public
  3. Create a 2020 business plan aligned to the ASQ strategic priorities (due in September)

An exciting year is ahead. If you are a member of the ASQ and looking for volunteer opportunities, and your interests align with Team Excellence, then drop me an email.

Overcoming Subjectivity in Risk Management and Decision Making Requires a Culture of Quality and Excellence

Risk assessments, problem solving and making good decisions need teams, but any team has challenges in group think it must overcome. Ensuring your facilitators, team leaders and sponsors are aware and trained on these biases will help lead to deal with subjectivity, understand uncertainty and drive to better outcomes. But no matter how much work you do there, it won’t make enough of a difference until you’ve built a culture of quality and excellence.

The mindsets we are trying to build into our culture will strive to overcome a few biases in our teams that lead to subjectivity.

Bias Toward Fitting In

We have a natural desire to want to fit in. This tendency leads to two challenges:

Challenge #1: Believing we need to conform. Early in life, we realize that there are tangible benefits to be gained from following social and organizational norms and rules. As a result, we make a significant effort to learn and adhere to written and unwritten codes of behavior at work. But here’s the catch: Doing so limits what we bring to the organization.

Challenge #2: Failure to use one’s strengths. When employees conform to what they think the organization wants, they are less likely to be themselves and to draw on their strengths. When people feel free to stand apart from the crowd, they can exercise their signature strengths (such as curiosity, love for learning, and perseverance), identify opportunities for improvement, and suggest ways to exploit them. But all too often, individuals are afraid of rocking the boat.

We need to use several methods to combat the bias toward fitting in. These need to start at the cultural level. Risk management, problem solving and decision making only overcome biases when embedded in a wider, effective culture.

Encourage people to cultivate their strengths. To motivate and support employees, some companies allow them to spend a certain portion of their time doing work of their own choosing. Although this is a great idea, we need to build our organization to help individuals apply their strengths every day as a normal part of their jobs.

Managers need to help individuals identify and develop their fortes—and not just by discussing them in annual performance reviews. Annual performance reviews are horribly ineffective. Just by using “appreciation jolt”, positive feedback., can start to improve the culture. It’s particularly potent when friends, family, mentors, and coworkers share stories about how the person excels. These stories trigger positive emotions, cause us to realize the impact that we have on others, and make us more likely to continue capitalizing on our signature strengths rather than just trying to fit in.

Managers should ask themselves the following questions: Do I know what my employees’ talents and passions are? Am I talking to them about what they do well and where they can improve? Do our goals and objectives include making maximum use of employees’ strengths?

Increase awareness and engage workers. If people don’t see an issue, you can’t expect them to speak up about it.  

Model good behavior. Employees take their cues from the managers who lead them.

Bias Toward Experts

This is going to sound counter-intuitive, especially since expertise is so critical. Yet our biases about experts can cause a few challenges.

Challenge #1: An overly narrow view of expertise. Organizations tend to define “expert” too narrowly, relying on indicators such as titles, degrees, and years of experience. However, experience is a multidimensional construct. Different types of experience—including time spent on the front line, with a customer or working with particular people—contribute to understanding a problem in detail and creating a solution.

A bias toward experts can also lead people to misunderstand the potential drawbacks that come with increased time and practice in the job. Though experience improves efficiency and effectiveness, it can also make people more resistant to change and more likely to dismiss information that conflicts with their views.

Challenge #2: Inadequate frontline involvement. Frontline employees—the people directly involved in creating, selling, delivering, and servicing offerings and interacting with customers—are frequently in the best position to spot and solve problems. Too often, though, they aren’t empowered to do so.

The following tactics can help organizations overcome weaknesses of the expert bias.

Encourage workers to own problems that affect them. Make sure that your organization is adhering to the principle that the person who experiences a problem should fix it when and where it occurs. This prevents workers from relying too heavily on experts and helps them avoid making the same mistakes again. Tackling the problem immediately, when the relevant information is still fresh, increases the chances that it will be successfully resolved. Build a culture rich with problem-solving and risk management skills and behaviors.

Give workers different kinds of experience. Recognize that both doing the same task repeatedly (“specialized experience”) and switching between different tasks (“varied experience”) have benefits. Yes, Over the course of a single day, a specialized approach is usually fastest. But over time, switching activities across days promotes learning and kept workers more engaged. Both specialization and variety are important to continuous learning.

Empower employees to use their experience. Organizations should aggressively seek to identify and remove barriers that prevent individuals from using their expertise. Solving the customer’s problems in innovative, value-creating ways—not navigating organizational impediments— should be the challenging part of one’s job.

In short we need to build the capability to leverage all level of experts, and not just a few in their ivory tower.

These two biases can be overcome and through that we can start building the mindsets to deal effectively with subjectivity and uncertainty. Going further, build the following as part of our team activities as sort of a quality control checklist:

  1. Check for self-interest bias
  2. Check for the affect heuristic. Has the team fallen in love with its own output?
  3. Check for group think. Were dissenting views explored adequately?
  4. Check for saliency bias. Is this routed in past successes?
  5. Check for confirmation bias.
  6. Check for availability bias
  7. Check for anchoring bias
  8. Check for halo effect
  9. Check for sunk cost fallacy and endowment effect
  10. Check for overconfidence, planning fallacy, optimistic biases, competitor neglect
  11. Check for disaster neglect. Have the team conduct a post-mortem: Imagine that the worst has happened and develop a story about its causes.
  12. Check for loss aversion

ASQ Technical Forums and Divisions as Knowledge Communities

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how to best build and grow knowledge communities within quality. One of my objectives at WCQI this year was to get more involved in the divisions and technical forums and I, frankly, might have been overly successful in volunteering for the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum (TWEF) – more on that later when announcements have been made.

Stan Garfield provides 10 principles for successful Knowledge Management Communities. If you are interested in the topic of knowledge management, Stan is a great thinker and resource.

PrincipleThoughts for ASQ Divisions/Technical Forums
Communities should be independent of organizational structure; they are built around areas upon which members wish to interact. The divisions and technical forums are one part of the organizational structure of the ASQ, but they tend to be more on the knowledge generating side of things. The other major membership unit, sections, are geographical.

Divisions and forums are basically broken in two categories: industry type(s) and activity band.

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic or Biomedical are great examples of industry focused (these are by nature of my work the only two I’ve paid attention to), and they seem to be very focused on product integrity questions.

The activity bands are all over the place. For example in the People and Service technical committee there is a Quality Management, Human Development and Leadership and a Team Excellence Forum. Those three have serious overlap.

It is of interest to me that the other divisions in the People and Service technical committee are Education, Healthcare, Government, Customer Supplier and Service Quality, which are much more industry focused.

And then there is the Social Responsibility division. I have super respect for those people, because they are basically trying to reinvent the definition of quality in a way that can be seen as anathema to the traditional product integrity focused viewpoint.

There is still so much to figure out about the TCCs.
Communities are different from teams; they are based on topics, not on assignments. Easy enough in the ASQ as this is a volunteer organization.
Communities are not sites, team spaces, blogs or wikis; they are groups of people who choose to interact. As the ASQ tries to develop my.ASQ to something folks are actually using, this is a critical principle. The site pages will grow and be used because people are interacting, not drive interaction.

Ravelry seems like a great example on how to do this right. Anyone know of any white papers on Ravelry?
Community leadership and membership should be voluntary; you can suggest that people join, but should not force them to. Divisions are voluntary to join, and people get involved if they chose to.

Please volunteer…..
Communities should span boundaries; they should cross functions, organizations, and geographic locations. The ASQ has this mostly right.

The industry focused communities are made up of members across companies, with a wide spread of locations.
Minimize redundancy in communities; before creating a new one, check if an existing community already addresses the topic. The ASQ hasn’t done a great job of this. One of my major thoughts is that the Quality Management Division has traditionally claimed ownership of the CMQ/OE body of knowledge, but frankly a good chunk of it should be between the Team Excellence and Human Development divisions, which between them seem to have a fair bit of overlap.

Take change management, or project management, or program management. Which one of the three divisions should be focusing on that? All three? Seems a waste of effort. It’s even worse that I know the Lean Division spends a fair amount talking about this.
Communities need critical mass; take steps to build membership.The major dilemma for professional associations. Love to see your suggestions in the comments.
Communities should start with as broad a scope as is reasonable; separate communities can be spun off if warranted. I’m going to say a radical and unpopular thought. If the ASQ was serious about transformation it would have dissolved half of the divisions and then rebuilt them from scratch. Too many are relics of the past and are not relevant in their current construction. Do you truly need a Lean and a Six Sigma forum? A Team Excellence and a Human development (and a quality management).Should biomedical (medical devices) be part of the FDC?
Communities need to be actively nurtured; community leaders need to create, build, and sustain communities. To do this community leaders need training, coaching and mentoring. I’m happy with the connections I’ve started building in headquarters and with a certain board member.

Perhaps one of the focuses of the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum should be to help push the praxis on this.
Communities can be created, led, and supported using TARGETs:
Types (TRAIL — Topic, Role, Audience, Industry, Location)
Activities (SPACE — Subscribe, Post, Attend, Contribute, Engage)
Requirements (SMILE — Subject, Members, Interaction, Leaders, Enthusiasm)
Goals (PATCH — Participation, Anecdotes, Tools, Coverage, Health)
Expectations (SHAPE — Schedule, Host, Answer, Post, Expand)
Tools (SCENT — Site, Calendar, Events, News, Threads).
Okay. So much here. But this helps me build an agenda for a forthcoming meeting.

I may be jumping the gun, but if you are a member of the ASQ and interested in contributing to the Team and Excellence Forum, contact me.

Goals, Objectives and Transparency

Organizations, projects and teams have goals and objectives, and often these terms are used interchangeably. When I’m trying to be good on nomenclature, I use the following standard definitions:

Goal is generally described as an effort directed towards an end. In project management, for example, the term goal is to three different target values of performance, time and resources. To be more specific, the project goal specifies the desired outcome (performance), the specific end date (time) and the assigned amount of resources (resources). A goal answers to “What” is the main aim of the project. 

An Objective defines the tangible and measurable results of the team to support the agreed goal and meet the planned end time and other resource restrictions. It answers to “How” something is to be done.

I think many of us are familiar with the concept of SMART goals. Lately I’ve been using FAST objectives.

From “With Goals, FAST Beats SMART” by Donald Sull and Charles Sull

Transparency provides the connective tissue, and must be a primary aspect of any quality culture. Transparency is creating a free flow within an organization and between the organization and its many stakeholders. This flow of information is the central nervous system of an organization and it’s effectiveness depends on it. Transparency influences the capacity to solve problems, innovate, meet challenges and as shown above, meet goals.

This information flow is simply that critical information gets to the right person at the right time and for the right reason. By making our goals transparent we can start that process and make a difference in our organizations.

Topics of concern for collaboration

More a collection of topics for things I am currently exploring. Please add additional ones and/or resources in the comments.

Trends Concerns
Increasing collaborative modes of working, specifically more:
Matrix structures (Cross et al. 2013, 2016; Cross and Gray 2013)
(Distributed) Teamwork (Cross et al. 2015) 
(Multi-) Project work (Zika-Viktorsson et al. 2006) and multiple team membership (O`Leary et al. 2011)
Interruptions, which are ‘normal’ or even as a necessary part of knowledge workers’ workday (Wajcman and Rose 2011)
Collaboration, which is seen as an end (Breu et al. 2005; Dewar et al. 2009; Gardner 2017; Randle 2017)
Collaborative work is highly demanding (Barley et al. 2011; Dewar et al. 2009; Eppler and Mengis 2004)
Perils of multitasking (Atchley 2010; Ophir et al. 2009; Turkle 2015)
Too many structurally unproductive and inefficient teams (Duhigg 2016)
Lack of accountability for meeting and conference call time (Fried 2016)
Overall, lack of structural protection of employee’s productive time (Fried 2016)
Impacts of collaborative technology
Growing share of social technologies in the workplace (Bughin et al. 2017)
‘Always on’ mentality, cycle of responsiveness (Perlow 2012)
Platforms are designed to prime and nudge users to spend more time using them (Stewart 2017)
Unclear organizational expectations how to use collaborative technology and limited individual knowledge (Griffith 2014; Maruping and Magni 2015)
Technology exacerbates organizational issues (Mankins 2017)
Inability to ‘turn off’ (Perlow 2012)
Technology creates more complexity than productivity gains (Stephens et al. 2017)
Increasing complex media repertoires: highly differentiated, vanishing common denominator (Greene 2017; Mankins 2017)
Social technology specific Increased visibility (Treem and Leonardi 2013) and thus the ability to monitor behaviour Impression management and frustration (Farzan et al. 2008)
Overall, overload scenarios and fragmentation of work (Cross et al. 2015; Wajcman and Rose 2011)
Increasing ratio of collaborative activities for managers (Mankins and Garton 2017; Mintzberg 1990) and employees (CEB 2013; Cross and Gray 2013)

Workdays are primarily characterized by communication and collaboration.
Managers at intersections of matrix structures get overloaded (Feintzeig 2016; Mankins and Garton 2017)
Limited knowledge how to shape collaboration on the managerial level (Cross and Gray 2013; Maruping and Magni 2015)
Experts and structurally exposed individuals (e.g. boundary spanners) easily get overburdened with requests (Cross et al. 2016; Cross and Gray 2013).

Behavioral traits (‘givers’) may push employees close burn-outs (Grant 2013; Grant and Rebele 2017)
Diminishing ‘perceived control’ over one’s own schedule (Cross and Gray 2013)

Overall, managers and employees do not have enough uninterrupted time (Cross et al. 2016; Mankins and Garton 2017)

Resources

  • Atchley, P. 2010. “You Can’t Multitask, So Stop Trying,” Harvard Business Review
  • Barley, S. R., Meyerson, D. E., and Grodal, S. 2011. “E-mail as a Source and Symbol of Stress,” Organization Science (22:4), pp. 887–906.
  • Breu, K., Hemingway, C., and Ashurst, C. 2005. “The impact of mobile and wireless technology on knowledge workers: An exploratory study,” in Proceedings of the 13th European Conference on Information Systems, Regensburg, Germany.
  • Bughin, J., Chui, M., Harrysson, M., and Lijek, S. 2017. “Advanced social technologies and the future of collaboration,” McKinsey Global Institute.
  • CEB. 2013. “Driving the Strategic Agenda in the New Work Environment
  • Cross, R., Ernst, C., Assimakopoulos, D., and Ranta, D. 2015. “Investing in boundary-spanning collaboration to drive efficiency and innovation,” Organizational Dynamics (44:3), pp. 204–216.
  • Cross, R., and Gray, P. 2013. “Where Has the Time Gone? Addressing Collaboration Overload in a Networked Economy,” California Management Review (56:1), pp. 1–17.
  • Cross, R., Kase, R., Kilduff, M., and King, Z. 2013. “Bridging the gap between research and practice in organizational network analysis: A conversation between Rob Cross and Martin Kilduff,” Human Resource Management (52:4), pp. 627–644.
  • Cross, R., Rebele, R., and Grant, A. 2016. “Collaborative Overload,” Harvard Business Review (94:1), pp. 74–79.
  • Cross, R., Taylor, S.N., Zehner, D. 2018. “Collaboration without burnout“. Harvard Business Review. (96:4), pp. 134-137.
  • Dewar, C., Keller, S., Lavoie, J., and Weiss, L. M. 2009. “How do I drive effective collaboration to deliver real business impact?,” McKinsey & Company.
  • Duhigg, C. 2016. Smarter, Faster, Better – The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, New York, USA: Penguin Random House.
  • Eppler, M. J., and Mengis, J. 2004. “The Concept of Information Overload: A Review of Literature from Organization Science, Accounting, Marketing, MIS, and Related Disciplines,” The Information Society (20:5), pp. 325–344.
  • Farzan, R., DiMicco, J. M., Millen, D. R., Brownholtz, B., Geyer, W., and Dugan, C. 2008. “Results from Deploying a Participation Incentive Mechanism within the Enterprise,” in Proceedings of the 26th SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Florence, Italy.
  • Feintzeig, R. 2016. “So Busy at Work, No Time to Do the Job,” The Wall Street Journal
  • Fried, J. 2016. “Restoring Sanity to the Office,” Harvard Business Review .
  • Gardner, H. K. 2017. Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos, Boston, USA: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Grant, A. 2013. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, New York, USA: Penguin Group.
  • Grant, A., and Rebele, R. 2017. “Generosity Burnout,” Harvard Business Review
  • Greene, J. 2017. “Beware Collaboration-Tool Overload,” The Wall Street Journal
  • Griffith, T. L. 2014. “Are Companies Ready to Finally Kill Email?,” MIT Sloan Management Review
  • Lock Lee, L. 2017. “Enterprise Social Networking Benchmarking Report 2017,” SWOOP Analytics
  • Mankins, M. 2017. “Collaboration Overload Is a Symptom of a Deeper Organizational Problem,” Harvard Business Review
  • Mankins, M., and Garton, E. 2017. Time, Talent, Energy, Boston, USA: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Maruping, L. M., and Magni, M. 2015. “Motivating Employees to Explore Collaboration Technology in Team Contexts,” MIS Quarterly (39:1), pp. 1–16.
  • O’Leary, M. B., Mortensen, M., and Woolley, A. W. 2011. “Multiple Team Membership: a Theoretical Model of Its Effects on Productivity and,” Academy of Management Review (36:3), pp. 461–478.
  • Ophir, E., Nass, C., and Wagner, A. D. 2009. “Cognitive control in media multitaskers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (106:37), pp. 15583–15587.
  • Perlow, L. A. 1999. “The time famine: Toward a sociology of work time,” Administrative Science Quarterly (44:1), pp. 57–81.
  • Perlow, L. A. 2012. Sleeping With Your Smartphone, Boston, USA: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Perlow, L. A. 2014. “Manage Your Team’s Collective Time,” Harvard Business Review (92:6), pp. 23–25.
  • Perlow, L. A., and Porter, J. L. 2009. “Making time off predictable–and required,” Harvard Business Review (87:10), pp. 102–109.
  • Randle, C. 2017. “24/7: Managing Constant Connectivity,” in Work Pressures: New Agendas in Communication, D. I. Ballard and M. S. McGlone (eds.), New York, USA: Routledge, pp. 20–26.
  • Stephens, K. K. 2017. “Understanding Overload in a Contemporary World,” in Work Pressures: New Agendas in Communication, D. I. Ballard and M. S. McGlone (eds.), New York, USA: Routledge.
  • Stephens, K. K., Mandhana, D. M., Kim, J. J., and Li, X. 2017. “Reconceptualizing Communication Overload and Building a Theoretical Foundation,” Communication Theory (27:3), pp. 269–289.
  • Stewart, J. B. 2017. “Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More.” The New York Times
  • Treem, J. W., and Leonardi, P. M. 2013. “Social Media Use in Organizations: Exploring the Affordances of Visibility, Editability, Persistence, and Association,” Annals of the International Communication Association (36:1), pp. 143–189.
  • Turkle, S. 2015. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, New York, USA: Pinguin Press.
  • Wajcman, J., and Rose, E. 2011. “Constant Connectivity: Rethinking Interruptions at Work,” Organization Studies (32:7), pp. 941–961.
  • Zika-Viktorsson, A., Sundström, P., and Engwall, M. 2006. “Project overload: An exploratory study of work and management in multi-project settings,” International Journal of Project Management (24:5), pp. 385–394.