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Archive for October, 2010

Happy 2nd Anniversary Analytical-Mind

Picture by srsphotoToday marks the 2nd anniversary of my blogging hobby! It has been a fun and interesting endeavour that has allowed me to discuss various concepts with people all over the world, and within my organization. Blogging forces me to crystallize my thoughts and perspective on some important aspects of my leadership style, my coaching abilities and my personal development.

Thanks to all of you who are reading my posts and comment (in person or in writing) on the posted topics. The number of readers have tripled in the last year and the number of Twitter followers has gone from 0 to 200 - if you’re not already one of them, send me some positive vibes and start following me :)

If you like what you have been reading, don’t hesitate to link to my posts and even maybe include me in your blog roll. Thanks to those who have been tweeting and re-tweeting my posts.

If you haven’t been following my blog since the beginning, you may want to read my top 10 blog posts:

Now let’s get back to writing…

What is the job of the president in a self-organized company?

Picture by wolfpixSince being appointed president of Pyxis Technologies a few weeks ago, I have been wondering what it means to be “the president” of an organization with a non-traditional governance model. Wanting to be successful in my new role, it is important for me to figure out what is expected of me – hence the questions about the meaning and purpose of my job - and as if the universe wanted to ensure I would answer these questions, Raphaël prompted me to describe what the new role meant for me, during a recent visit to our Paris office.
Since our organization heavily relies on autonomy and self-organization, the new role made me feel like a manager within an Agile organization. So here’s what I came up with (so far):
  • Leading the growth of the organization: working with team members and the leaders of the various communities in establishing their vision and their objectives and supporting them in achieving the targeted growth by providing an external perspective and/or some experience and skills.
  • Raising the performance bar: most people agree with setting goals and my role is to ensure that people set challenging goals for themselves and their community. Achieving a simple goal might be easy but it doesn’t make people grow, it doesn’t take them outside their comfort zone. My role is to get people to step outside their comfort zone.
  • Providing the means for people and communities to grow: wanting people to step outside their comfort zone without providing support for them to succeed would not only be unfair and unreasonable, it simply makes no sense.
  • Ensuring people operate with integrity and holding them accountable: integrity is a simple concept for me, it means to “say what you do and do what you say”. Consequently, I am taking responsibility (until the community members do so themselves) to hold people accountable for their commitments in order to make sure they operate with integrity. Imagine how powerful an organization can be if people operate with high integrity!
  • Making sure each group has defined clear protocols and plays by their rules: I personally don’t feel the need to control what people and communities are doing but I need to make sure each group has defined clear rules so the team members understand what is allowed and what isn’t. There is nothing worst than erratic rules and behaviors for people to be un-successful at what they do.
  • Committing to making people successful: it is much easier to get rid of people when they don’t meet certain expectations than it is to work with them at closing the gap. I am not saying that nobody will ever be asked to leave the organization (there are legal reasons why we might want to do so) but in the case of lower-than-expected performance level, I am committing to truly work with people so they can succeed.
  • Coaching people: it is the team members and the community leaders who are part of the day-to-day action. As a coach, my role is to maintain enough distance to properly observe the team’s performance in order to ask powerful questions that will enable the team to find alternate ways to reach their objectives faster and more efficiently.
  • Adapting my leadership style: people and communities are at different level of maturity and based on the maturity of the group, I will adapt my leadership style to provide the best level of support for their performance.

As I was defining for myself what role I should be playing, I started reading over the week-end Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance.

Leaders exercise a kind of gravitational pull on their team. Their behavior sets the performance “should be” for others - Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance.

The books describes the following behaviors which are important for me:

I am pretty sure I will be adding to this list as weeks go by but it seems to be a good start. Needless to say, I am not kidding myself thinking that I will have a perfect score on all these fronts but making my job description public and asking my colleagues to hold me accountable is a challenge I am ready for.

Would you add anything to this list?

Non-conventional salary review process

Picture by bookgrlAs within most organizations, the salary review process is an important one at Pyxis. The process is important for the employee-shareholders so they know there is a process, they understand it and deem it to be fair. It is also important for the organization as a whole to retain the talented employee-shareholders and provide a compensation that compares favorably to the market.

Most traditional organizations would agree that the process is very important but there is a distinction on how the process is handled within Pyxis. At most traditional organizations I worked for (and with), the salary review process is tied to the performance appraisal process and to the budget allocated by Human Resources. At the end of each year, the employee receives a performance rating which determines the percentage of salary increase – people receive an average increase for an average rating and an above-average increase for an above-average performance. The guidelines are clear and applied to everyone the same way. The salary review process takes place between an employee and his/her manager.

We like to do things differently. I have already described that Pyxis is organized in communities.

In a business context, communities are similar to functional departments with some fundamental distinctions. In traditional setting, members of a functional department or of a project team work together to achieve a goal. With some exceptions, team members share nothing but their common goal and a common boss. By comparison, in addition to sharing a common goal members within a community also share common values and culture and they operate within agreed upon self-defined norms. Analytical-Mind.

The employee-shareholders are offered a few options when it comes to their salary review:

  • They can use the process put in place within their community (in this case, my only responsibility is to ensure fairness across communities).
  • They can suggest an alternate approach that respects fairness (in this case, my only responsibility is to ensure the fairness of the proposed process).
  • They can follow the approach recently used by Tremeur Balbous and Jean-François Proulx for their salary review.

The “Tremeur and Jean-François” approach

  • The employee-shareholder must complete and document a self-evaluation (a 360-degree feedback similar to this one is often used). He must evaluate its contribution to Pyxis for the year ending and propose a new salary for the coming year.
  • The employee-shareholder must then submit his self-evaluation to at least 3 other employee-shareholders with whom he worked during the year that ended in order to obtain their feedback and determine if the salary requested is appropriate and fair.
  • If the employee-shareholders consulted do not belong to the same community as that to which the applicant belongs, the requester needs to validate his requested salary with at least 2 members of the community of belonging.
  • Ideally, the community leader should be involved in the process since he is responsible for the financial framework of his community.
  • At the end of this process, the applicant holds a meeting with me to discuss his findings and request salary.

Factors having a positive impact on salary determination

  • Performance in his role;
  • Contribution to the success of his community;
  • Contribution to the success of Pyxis as a whole;
  • Revenues generated directly;
  • Income generated indirectly;
  • A marked increase in responsibilities – in the case where an employee justifies a pay increase by the marked increase in his responsibilities, the excess (beyond the base increase) is considered an additional increase. The additional increase will be removed in the event the employee ceases to assume the responsibilities for which he had obtained a further increase.

Does your organization use a non-conventional salary review process?

Agile transitions are hard. I wonder why people feel the need to control?

Image by Gabriela CamerottiWith the Agile approach, we constantly try to implement self-organized teams. Many of us believe that autonomy leads to improved results whereas control may bring consistency.

« The opposite of autonomy is control. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement » – Drive, by Daniel Pink

I asked myself, “Why do people need to control?” and came up with 2 reasons: lack of trust and ego. I feel it is important to understand where people come from in order to understand the environment in which we live and operate. As coaches, it’s also important to know why people behave in such a way so we can help them.

I recently talked about fears, which is closely related to the need to control.

The problem with novelty, however is that, for most people, novelty triggers the fear system of the brain. Fear is the second major impediment to thinking like an iconoclast [...] There are many types of fear, but the two that inhibit iconoclasting thinking are fear of uncertainty and fear of public ridicule (Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently).

Lack of Trust

If we are in control of our environment, then we have a far better chance of survival. Our deep subconscious mind thus gives us strong biochemical prods when we face some kind of danger (Control)

It seems normal to try to control our environment and the people around us if we aren’t confident in their motivation. As such, people tend to control. Lack of trust is closely related to fear – fear of uncertainty. In a business context, people try to control for some of these reasons:

  • to make results more predictable and ultimately to prevent mistakes
  • to reduce the perceived level of risk
  • to hide incompetence

Everything that the brain sees or hears or touches has multiple interpretations. The one that is ultimately chosen – the thing that is perceived – is simply the brain’s best guess at interpreting what flows into it [...] These guesses are heavily influenced by part experience (Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently).

Ego

On the other hand, ego is a completely different beast. The motivation behind controlling to protect the ego is at least as challenging to address as the lack of trust. The reasons behind the need to control to protect the ego are:

  • to avoid an un-pleasant situation – including being ridiculed
  • the lack of humility
  • to hide a personal motivation

Once again to be successful as change agents, it is our role to dig into the reasons behind the need to control. I’m not talking about psychology, I’m simply talking about root cause analysis of the situation in an attempt to properly address the symptoms.

Once we understand the source of the need, we are in a much better position to positively impact people and successfully implement the transition.

The more radical and novel the change, the greater the liklihood of new insight being generated. To think like an iconoclast, you need novel experiences (Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently).

Does YOUR organization have personality?

Personality can be defined as a dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed by a person that uniquely influences his or her cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations - Wikipedia

Yesterday, Pyxis Technologies celebrated its 10th anniversary, launched a new web site, released 2 video clips (How do you explain Agile approaches in 1 minutes? and Software development according to Pyxis) and threw a great party.

Over 200 guests attended the celebration. Many of the people I had a chance to speak with during the evening told me they really noticed the personality of our organization – some of which even asked if we would hire them. François has done an amazing job at attracting passionate individuals who share a common goal and that truly reflects a Pyxis personality.

Does YOUR organization have a personality?

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