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Posts from the ‘people management’ Category

Adapting your leadership style to the maturity level of your self-organizing team

Unless they are adopting Agile for the wrong reasons, people managers find themselves facing an interesting decision – “Am I willing to let go some control in order to take advantage of the benefits associated with Agile?”.

Being human, it is difficult not to resist change unless we know what to expect from the future and clearly understand the implications for us. Once the future becomes clearer, we can start to appreciate the need to change. That’s just the beginning… Change for what?

In his book, Jurgen Appelo presents various levels of decision making and manager involvement in the context of Agile adoption. I took the liberty to build a matrix (see below) to match Jurgen’s various leadership styles to the 7 stances of a self-organized team [a pdf version of this matrix is available for download].

(1) Taken from: Agile self-organized teams – is the team self-organized or not?

(2) Taken from: Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders

The matrix presents which leadership style the manager should be using based on the level of maturity of your team. Hope you will find it useful!

12 tips to be a better coach

image by BernzillaI often hear people saying they are coaching others in an agile context. Coaching is often incorrectly used to mean: consulting, teaching, mentoring and a few other unexpected meanings.

Coaching is very useful to help people get from “point A to point B” and it can be used in various contexts, including coaching for Agile adoption or to help people managers modify their leadership style. Either way, to be powerful, coaching requires a few basic skills and a question from my friend Yves prompted me to describe 12 fundamental elements that I believe are required to be an effective coach. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts.

  1. Inner silence: To be truly effective at listening to what others are saying and how they are feeling, it is critical to block the voice inside your head – yes that’s right, that voice that rambles all the time saying things such as: I wonder what we’ll eat for dinner tonight?… Damn, I forgot to make reservation for dinner… I hope the kids did well on their math test today… I’m bored… I think I want a coffee right now. I heard the term monkey brain to describe this constant action of jumping around from one thought to the next. To be an effective coach, you will need your monkey brain to calm down so you can find inner peace.
  2. Stop all judgment: When you coach people, it is easy and unproductive to become judgmental. Comments such as: Wow, that’s a weird comment… I wonder why he’s saying this… There must be some secret meaning to that sentence… I don’t think I’l be able to help her on this topic… I feel insecure… This won’t help be effective at all. Simply listen to what is being said for what it is being said. Judgments will sidetrack your listening abilities and will make you a very poor coach.
  3. Stay focused: Now that you stopped all judgements and are able to keep the inner voice quiet, you need to remain focused for more than 6 seconds. Yes, just like meditation, this sounds like an impossible task at first but with practice, you will develop your focusing-muscle and the task will get easier with time allowing you to be more present to what the other person is expressing.
  4. Be present: Be in the moment – right there and then. Listen to what is being said, notice how the person is acting and give her your full attention and make the space secure for the conversation.
  5. Don’t aim for personal performance: Aiming for an academy award when you are coaching simply doesn’t work. You are not there to impress anyone. Ironically, the more you will try to impress the other person, the less effective you will be. She will will quickly notice that the focus is on you and not her which will make it pretty much impossible to actually support her development.
  6. Ask open ended questions and wait for the answers: Remember, you are not telling a story, you are there to listen. If you need clarification or want to encourage discussion, simply ask a short question. Trust yourself that the other person will understand your questions and if they don’t, they will quickly let you know. Once you have asked your question, wait for the answer.
  7. Trust your intuition: If you feel that you need to ask a certain question, then go ahead and ask it. If you believe it is better to wait, then wait. I believe what we call intuition is simply our brain and senses’ abilities to decipher subtle messages from the other person and give us clues as how to interact with them.
  8. Keep silent: After asking a question, never speak first. Maintain the silence until the other person breaks it. I am a very strong believer in keeping silent. Silence opens up a secure space for conversations and gives all the space to the other person.
  9. Pay attention to the non-verbal: Words are a great way to communicate but non-verbal clues are usually very useful to understand where the person stands – Are they at a rational level? Intuition level? Emotional level? This information will be very useful to adapt your coaching style.
  10. Dig deep: It is much easier to stay at the rational level in a discussion. It often leads to contextual information and detailed explanations. To make a real difference, you need to get to the underlying emotions – What are the person’s fears? Intentions? Motivations? Ask feeling-related questions, not logical or rational questions such as: “How do you feel about this event?” instead of “What do you think about this?”.
  11. Rephrasing: When rephrasing, use the same key words as the other person. The words are usually very meaningful to the other person and will open up relevant information for you.
  12. No context: Do not focus too much on the context. It is usually good to understand what triggered the actions or where the event took place, but the information usually has very little impact on the person you are coaching.

Are there other tips you would like to share?

Agile teams – What people managers can learn from parents

image by candrewsBefore I explain what people managers can learn from parents, I feel the need to defuse what some readers may have in mind. I am not suggesting that employees and team members are children or act like babies [although, sometimes ... - sorry, I'm digressing].

The Art of Parenting

If you have children, you should quickly relate to the fact that nothing really prepares us to be good parents. Sure, while growing up we assimilate patterns, behaviours, and skills from our environment – including and often to a large extent from our own parents. At a later stage in our children-free life, some of our friends start to have kids and we observe them – sometimes with curiosity, sometimes out of sheer voyeurism, and sometimes with envy – and that’s when we contemplate the idea of having kids of our own.

Then, one day out of the blue, the kind doctor tells your spouse that she is pregnant – in our case with twins! But that’s an entirely different story ;)

Then comes the next stage of learning to become a parent, we spent countless hours on amazon.com previewing and ordering books, lot’s of books. Except for a few best sellers, the others titles vary based on our perceived areas of weakness and the bad pattern we noticed from our parents when they raised us.

And one day, a beautiful baby boy is born and/or a pretty baby girl – once again, in our case we got one of each.

Once the sleepless nights are over and the baby is capable of learning, parents slowly transfer increasingly complex tasks to their child: holding the milk-bottle, feeding themselves, walking without holding mommy’s hand, abandoning the diaper, selecting how much ketchup to put on their food, picking their own clothes, walking to school by themselves, deciding what time to go to bed, going to a movie without supervision, and so on up to the point when the child moves out of the house to start their own independent life.

What people managers can learn from parents

It is obvious that parenting is very different from managing people, no doubt about that. On the other hand, their are some similarities.

Nothing prepares people to become good managers. Sure, while growing up in our professional career we assimilate patterns, behaviours, and skills from our environment – including and often to a large extent from our own managers. Granted, some people had the opportunity to learn about management during their school years and that could be an added bonus.

As with parenting, once we decide to get into management we spend countless hours on amazon.com previewing and ordering books, lot’s of books. Except for a few best sellers, the others titles vary based on our perceived areas of weakness and the bad pattern we noticed from our previous managers.

How that applies to Agile teams

Agile management is somewhat similar to the art of parenting with the manager transferring to its team increasingly complex tasks and responsibilities. Helping the team self-organize doesn’t mean to abandon the team to itself without help or some supervision. Along the same lines as parenting, there comes a time when the manager must determine how much responsibility to transfer and what level of support to provide.

Similar to the role of the parent, the agile manager is there to support the team’s development and make it successful and autonomous until one day – maybe – the team is highly performing and can become independent.

The myths of self-organized teams

Image by Lauren_MillerMany Agile practitioners will push forward the concept of self-organized teams as a first step towards an Agile transition. Unfortunately, self-organization is often mis-understood and many become frustrated with the concept. Below are myths taken from real life situations – including the inner workings of our organization.

  • Self-organized teams can only work with experienced people. Although more experienced individuals may make it easier to self-organize, they can also make it much more difficult due to their old work habits. Overall, the age of the team members or their actual experience doesn’t impact their ability to self-organize. Self-organization has more to do with the people’s willingness to self-organize and the support they get from their manager than it has with age or experience.
  • Self-organized teams don’t need a leader. Wrong, self-organized teams still need a leader to move them through the various stages and toward their end goal. This being said, it doesn’t mean that the leader has to be a manager or a person in authority. Quite the contrary. Emerging leadership is a much better way to achieve self-organization but management needs to be patient because self-organization takes time.
  • Self-organized teams don’t need managers. Why not? Managers are a key success factor to support self-organization. Once again, this doesn’t mean that the manager is included in the self-organized team or that the manager will be leading the team. As Jurgen puts it – “Agile managers work the system around the team, not the people in the team”.
  • Self-organized teams are for everyone. Not necessarily, some people may not be ready for self organization or they may not be willing. Everybody has the capacity to be part of a self-organized team, it is simply a matter of wanting to be part of such a team because it is demanding and requires people to become responsible and accountable.
  • Self-organized teams are easy to implement. Really? If it was easy, why wouldn’t everyone adopt self-organization? The fact is that starting at a young age, we keep being told what to do (brush your teeth, go to bed, pick up your clothes, do your homework, show up at the office at 9am, finish the report for your boss, go on vacation in July, retire at 65, etc.) Wanting to be self-organized and taking control of your life is counter-intuitive and difficult. People in self-organized teams often act as victims of circumstances during the early stages (I can’t do this because the system won’t allow me) and then start to notice the opportunity the freedom of choice brings.
  • Self-organized teams quickly increase the team’s performance. No, it won’t. The team’s performance will indeed increase and for the long run but self-organization requires time, energy and much efforts to deliver results. If you are interested in quick-wins with minimal investments (time and/or money), I would suggest the Agile magic pill.

Autonomy or self-organization is a strong contributing factor for motivation and motivated individuals lead to improved performance and better results. Attempting to implement self-organized teams without understanding the risks and the energy required isn’t a good idea.

Transforming employees into shareholders may not be a good idea

image by risayv

Logic would tell us that offering shares of your company to your employees (assuming they are offered at a good price) should clearly boost performance and allow the organization to achieve exceptional results. After all, wouldn’t most people work harder, reduce inefficiencies, increase their performance and chase sale leads once they become shareholders?

Turns out logic does not necessarily prevail in this situation and results may not be extra-ordinary.

Let me share with you our not-so-successful experience.

Our experience

I’ve already stated that Pyxis is an experimental laboratory and like many people, we understand that money by itself is not a good motivator. We also believe that sharing the wealth with the people who contribute toward achieving the business results is not only a good idea, but it is for us a morale obligation.

So at the end of 2007, the founder and then CEO agreed to sell 25% of his shares to the employees with the intend to increase performance and share the resulting wealth – in addition to using it as an employee retention strategy. At the time, almost 100% of the employees created a cooperative to own shares of their company. It is important to specify that our province offers important tax credits to employee-owned cooperative – which was an important driver in creating a cooperative.

The conclusion after more than 3 years of having employee-shareholders is that the intend and the objectives were right but the way to achieve them weren’t done right. Why is that? I asked myself.

Below are my conclusions but before we get into those, I believe it is important to understand the distinction between being an employee and being a shareholder.

What is an Employee?

An employee contributes labor and expertise to an endeavour. Employees perform the discrete activity of economic production. Of the three factors of production, employees usually provide the labor.

Specifically, an employee is any person hired by an employer to do a specific “job”. In most modern economies, the term employee refers to a specific defined relationship between an individual and a corporation, which differs from those of customer, or client. Wikipedia

What is a Shareholder?

A shareholder or stockholder is an individual or institution (including a corporation) that legally owns one or more shares of stock in a public or private corporation. Shareholders own the stock, but not the corporation itself. Wikipedia

Clearly, there is a distinction between the role and contribution of an employee versus that of a shareholder. For one thing, transforming employees (with their behaviors and attitudes) into full-fledged active shareholders doesn’t happen over-night. To be honest, it still didn’t happen after over 3 years for almost 1/3 of the employees. Did we hire people who were not driven by results? Well, maybe for a couple of people but certainly not over 30% of the people. So why is it that results didn’t go through the roof?

After much analysis of the situation and heated debates, I believe there are a few reasons why transforming employees into shareholders didn’t give outstanding results:

  • Creating a cooperative has a non-capitalistic connotation: People who initiated the process of selling shares to the employees also wanted to implement a coop as a way to distribute wealth. Unless our implementation of a coop is very different than elsewhere in the world, many people understood a coop to be a non-profit driven initiative and as such, acted accordingly. Having a coop own 25% of the shares led to non-capitalistic behaviors and consequently slowed down growth and profitability.
  • Becoming an active shareholder isn’t the norm: Unless you have owned and operated a business in the past, the notion of becoming an active shareholder isn’t easily understood by most people. Many people – still to this day – ask themselves what it means to be a shareholder and how they should act differently. Transforming employees into shareholders is an educational process and unless you invest in training people what it means, the transformation will not give great results.
  • Lacking entry criteria brings performance downwards: Since everyone got access to shares without exception, there was no motivation to increase performance – why work harder than the next guy when the results are shared equally. On the other hand, when past performance is used to determine who gets the privilege to own shares, individual and collective performance is increased and as a consequence, the overall performance of the organization goes North.

Consequently, attempting to transform employees into shareholders overnight was a mistake in our case. If we had to do it again, I would still give employees the opportunity to own shares but it would be done according a different approach:

  • Owning shares is a privilege and would be based on past performance;
  • Allowing employees to own shares would be done in small increments, and annually (let’s say x% per year);
  • Potential shareholders would need to demonstrate their understanding of what it means to be an active shareholder and would need to agree to certain protocols;
  • The percentage of available shares would be results-based – the better the organizational results, the more shares would become available.

Based on this experience, I would gladly grant shares to employees who clearly understood the meaning and responsibilities of being an active shareholder and who have demonstrated (and are still demonstrating) outstanding performance. Otherwise, there is no wealth to share…

The Carrot Principle – Using Recognition to Increase Team Performance

Increasing teams and departmental performance – isn’t this why most organizations adopt the Agile principles?

Although there might be other reasons, many of the organizations we work with aim to increase their teams’ performance. I recently read The Carrot Principle – How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance – to see how recognition may help increase teams’ performance.

While many organizations still believe an above average salary is enough to keep people motivated, salary alone is not a good motivator. As Daniel Pink described, above an acceptable base salary, salary no longer is a good motivator. As such, managers often look for alternate ways to keep their team motivated.

The fact is that money is not as powerful a reward as many people think. While pay and bonuses must be competitive to attract and retain talented employees, small amounts of cash – anything short of $1,000 – will never make the best rewards because they are so easily forgotten – The Carrot Principle.

Recognition is deemed an important source of motivation and is usually used to maintain a low employee turnover rate and, increase employees’ performance and business results. Many organizations who adopt Agile practices recognize that it is increasingly difficult to attract top talents and in order to remain competitive, they should focus on increasing the performance of their existing work force.

Engaged employees demonstrate: innovation and creativity, take personal responsibility to make things happen, desire to contribute to the success of the company and team, have an emotional bond to the organization and its mission and vision.

U.S. Department of Labor statistics show the number one reason people leave organization is that they “don’t feel appreciated” – The Carrot Principle.

The book relies on surveys done by HealthStream Research and supported by data from Towers and Perrin. Below are some of the conclusions derived from the data:

  • Companies that effectively recognize excellence enjoy an ROE (return on equity) three times higher than the return experienced by firms that do not;
  • Companies that effectively recognize excellence enjoy an ROA (return on assets) three times higher than the return experienced by firms that do not;
  • Companies in the highest quartile of recognition of excellence report an operating margin of 6.6 percent, while those in the lowest quartile report 1 percent.

The authors point out that to be impactfull recognition should be combined with what they call the basic four areas of leadership:

  1. Goal Setting: defining the purpose of a task and tying it to a desirable end result
  2. Communication: discussing issues and sharing useful information with employees, welcoming open discussions
  3. Trust: keeping his word and owning up to his mistakes, maintaining a high ethic and positively contributing to the reputation of the organization
  4. Accountability: ensuring people deliver on their commitments.

Recognition can take many forms but whatever it is, the best reward is always personal and tailored to employees interests and lifestyle, given by a manager who cares enought to find out what motivates each individual – The Carrot Principle.

Finally, the book presents four levels of recognition:

  • Day-to-Day recognition: low-cost but high touch recognition such as Thank You notes to encourage small steps leading toward success
  • Above-and-Beyond recognition: provide a structured way to reward significant achievments that support the company’s core values
    • Bronze: to recognize on-time above and beyond related to core values
    • SIlver: reward on-going above and beyond behaviors for consistently demonstrating company’s values
    • Gold: behaviors that produce bottom-line results
  • Career recognition: recognize people on the anniversary of their hire
  • Celebration and events: celebrate successful completion of key projects or new product launches.

Congratulations, you have the best player. Does this mean you will win the cup?

Image by wstera2With the hockey season well on its way and the Canadiens doing well so far, an interesting question popped in my head – is the winning team, the one with the best players? You can guess I am less interested in hockey than I am with business teams when that question appeared.

As a manager or a leader, isn’t our job to find the best players for our project or our organization? If we don’t have the best players, aren’t we doomed to fail?

With that question in mind, I did a not-so-scientific exercice. I looked at the winning teams in the last 5 years and determined if there was a correlation between the best player (in this case, the best offensive player) and the winning team. Much to my surprise, in the last five years, only in 2008-2009 did the best offensive player(s) win the much coveted Stanley Cup when Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby played with the winning team (Pittsburgh Penguins).

Much in line with a post I wrote last year, it makes more sense to focus on creating a highly performant team than to hire on “the best” individual contributors. The same seems to be true in hockey as it is in a business setting. Wouldn’t you agre?

2009-2010 Stanley Cup Winner Chicago Black Hawks
Player Team Pos GP G A P
1 Henrik Sedin VAN C 82 29 83
2 Sidney Crosby PIT C 81 51 58
3 Alex Ovechkin WSH L 72 50 59
4 Nicklas Backstrom WSH C 82 33 68
5 Steven Stamkos TBL C 82 51 44
6 Martin St Louis TBL R 82 29 65
7 Brad Richards DAL C 80 24 67
8 Joe Thornton SJS C 79 20 69
9 Patrick Kane CHI R 82 30 58
2008-2009 Stanley Cup Winner Pittsburgh Penguins
Player Team Pos GP G A P
1 Evgeni Malkin PIT C 82 35 78
2 Alex Ovechkin WSH L 79 56 54
3 Sidney Crosby PIT C 77 33 70
2007-2008 Stanley Cup Winner Detroit Red Wings
Player Team Pos GP G A P
1 Alex Ovechkin WSH L 82 65 47
2 Evgeni Malkin PIT C 82 47 59
3 Jarome Iginla CGY R 82 50 48
4 Pavel Datsyuk DET C 82 31 66
2006-2007 Stanley Cup Winner Anaheim Ducks
Player Team Pos GP G A P
1 Sidney Crosby PIT C 79 36 84
2 Joe Thornton SJS C 82 22 92
3 Vincent Lecavalier TBL C 82 52 56
4 Dany Heatley OTT R 82 50 55
5 Martin St Louis TBL R 82 43 59
6 Marian Hossa ATL R 82 43 57
7 Joe Sakic COL C 82 36 64
8 Jaromir Jagr NYR R 82 30 66
9 Marc Savard BOS C 82 22 74
10 Danny Briere BUF R 81 32 63
11 Teemu Selanne ANA R 82 48 46
2005-2006 Stanley Cup Winner Carolina Hurricanes
Player Team Pos GP G A P
1 Joe Thornton BOS, SJS C 81 29 96
2 Jaromir Jagr NYR R 82 54 69
3 Alex Ovechkin WSH L 81 52 54
4 Dany Heatley OTT R 82 50 53
5 Daniel Alfredsson OTT R 77 43 60
6 Sidney Crosby PIT C 81 39 63
7 Eric Staal CAR C 82 45 55
Sources:
http://www.nhl.com/ice/app
http://proicehockey.about.com/od/stanleycupbunker/a/stanley_cuplist.htm

3 behavior changes to increase team performance

Image by Marc WathieuIn addition to working on a new Vision (more on this in an upcoming post) and establishing new strategies, I’m operating a small cultural transition.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker

Our organization’s culture is “collaboration / cultivation” (from The Reengineering Alternative: A Plan for Making Your Current Culture Work) and like other organizations with a similar culture (and despite our success), there are a few areas for performance improvement.

As such, I believe there are 3 behaviors that are preventing our organization and the various teams from reaching the “High Performance Team” level (The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization). My attempt to increase the teams’ (and the entire organization) performance level is by focusing on the following 3 behaviours:

  1. Setting clear agreements
  2. Eliminating gossips
  3. Operating with integrity

Why focus on these 3 behaviors?

Let me start with a simple example to highlight what typically happens in many (including ours) organizations. You will certainly quickly understand why this is dysfunctional and can easily lead to sub-optimal performance. I invite you to follow a typical conversation…

  • Sarah: “Mi Mark, I’ve been having issues with payments from a customer. Can you help me?”
  • Mark, in the middle of typing an email: ” Sorry, I wasn’t listening. You need help with something Sarah?”
  • Sarah: “Yes Mark, we have sent reminders to your customer but still haven’t received any payment. Since you are the account manager for this customer, I was wondering if you can help me?”
  • Mark: “Yeah. Well, of course. What do you need me to do?”
  • Sarah: “I don’t know. Maybe you can give them a call to see why they aren’t paying their latest invoice.”
  • Mark: “OK. I have a few things to take care of today. I should be able to help you”.
  • Sarah, walking away: “Alright. Thanks.”
  • [3 days later]
  • Sarah, talking to herself: “I can’t believe it. I asked Mark to help me with something important and he still didn’t get back to me. Doesn’t he understand that receiving payments is important for our company. It’s always like this with him, he says “yes” but never does anything.”
  • [Sarah enters the coffee room]
  • Mary, smiling: “Hi Sarah. How are you today?”
  • Sarah, clearly upset: “Not good. Mark is so unreliable. I asked him to help me contact a customer and he still hasn’t done anything. It’s been 3 days already.”
  • Mary, nodding: “I understand what you are saying. I’ve asked him to contact a customer to invite them to an upcoming conference and he still hasn’t done anything. It’s over 2 weeks already.”
  • Sarah, pouring milk in her coffee: “Why is it that we have to do everything around here?”
  • Mary, approving: “You know, Mark is not the only one. Do you know that I’m waiting for Don to submit new content for the web site? It’s been 10 days already and Don hasn’t done anything. I don’t know what to do!”
  • Don, entering the room to get a coffee: “Good morning ladies!”
  • Sarah, walking away with a cup of warm coffee: “Good morning Don. Have a good day!”
  • Mary, smiling to Don: “Hi Don, how was the hockey game last night?”
  • [For 15 minutes, Don and Mary continue their conversation about the hockey game]
  • Mary, walking away with a donut and a coffee: “Nice talking to you Don. Have a good day!”

I doubt that these conversations only take place within our organization but what I’ve noticed is that they are detrimental to high performance. Here’s what’s wrong with this story:

  • Lack of clearly defined agreements – who does what? by when?;
  • Absence of difficult conversations – when commitments are broken, people don’t have open discussions around the situation at hand;
  • Talking to others about someone else’s issues – people resort to involving third parties in a situation that would better be resolved between those who had an agreement;
  • Not living up to the promise – commitments are taken lightly and there are no consequences for not delivering on them.

So here’s what I’m proposing to the teams in an attempt to take the organization to the next level.

Setting clear agreements

It is critical to establish clear agreements in order to avoid disappointment and mis-trust. To obtain a commitment and make sure that people have a true agreement, it is critical to make a clear proposal that can:

  • Be accepted in full;
  • Be rejected completely;
  • Be renegotiated.

Once the agreement has taken place, each party must then honor its commitments.

Eliminating gossips

Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing (unproven) facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and other variations into the information transmitted. The term also carries implications that the news so transmitted (usually) has a personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation [...] The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation – Wikipedia.

Instead of pretending to address a situation by involving a third party, eliminate gossip and go directly to the person with whom there is an issue and work at resolving it with them.

Operating with integrity

integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that one judges whether they behave according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold – Wikipedia.

For me, integrity is very simple as it means to “Do what I say and say what I do”.

Finally, in the possible event that someone can no longer deliver on their commitment, they must inform the other party as soon as they realize they won’t meet their commitment and re-open the agreement.

This may seem trivial and very simple to implement but I doubt any organization has actually been able to implement these behaviors on a large scale. I trust that we will become a highly performing organization once we are successful at doing this.

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?

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