Insights and Learnings offered by Dr. Joel and Michelle Levey, InnerWork Technologies, Inc., Seattle
For over twenty years the staff of Seattle based InnerWork Technologies, Inc. has integrated the five disciplines into our work with over 100 leading organizations around the globe. Our work has focused on building synergy between:
Though our approach to this work is customized for each organization, there are a number of factors common across all three of these unique projects:
"What has been your company's major insight or "lesson learned"?
"How would other practitioners benefit from hearing your story?"
CORPORATE LEARNING CULTURES
MID: Building Team Learning Culture and Community at Work
The BLD Learning Journey
RESEARCH and RESULTS
Dr. Wagner also noted that two indicators, "Risk-Taking" and "Locus of Control" (i.e. "I control my own success at work") both showed significant improvement. These indicate that inwardly individuals felt more confident and genuinely empowered, and that outwardly they felt more trusting and safe to make contributions and raise difficult issues. Neither of these measures had ever shown any change in post-program surveys in any of the many other change projects that Dr. Wagner has studied.
Unusual and Lasting Results
"Was the InnerWork Technologies program successful? All of the data would suggest that it was a very successful program, especially in the long-run. Compared to other similar programs we have analyzed, this program clearly ranks as a very successful one. The number of significant changes in both the short-run and the long-run was approximately twice the number normally found in programs similar to this one. In addition, the magnitude of the changes was generally greater than the changes we have found in similar programs. We would suggest that programs similar to this be integrated into future training programs whenever possible. The overall impact on team work appears to be a major positive to programs of this type and this one appears to have been particularly effective."
"The InnerWork Technologies program was unique from the start. First of all, few management teams even bother to measure their change efforts. Secondly, I've never seen a project seek to make such fundamental improvements in both people and the work environment. The post-test measurements we took for this program are like nothing we've seen in looking at over 20,000 change program participants. In this case nearly every one of the 22 measures went up in statistically significant ways. The post-test measurements we took as the Travelers project evolved are like nothing we've seen in looking at over 20,000 change program participants. Nearly every measure went up in statistically significant ways. What's even more impressive is that these measures remain as high or higher, even after six months."
"The depth of this project has the earmarks of a pioneering effort, not only for HP, but for American business. We were grateful that the Hewlett-Packard team asked us to be involved in yet another successful InnerWork Project."
People First At Hewlett-Packard!
"In the spirit of "whole systems organizational learning" we helped to network and arrange a meeting between members of the senior management team of the Hewlett-Packard Business LaserJet Division and senior members of one of the large airplane manufacturing companies that we work with. The following comments, excerpted from the report by the airplane manufacturer, offers a unique perspective of some of the key learnings from the Hewlett-Packard "Learning Journey":
"This meeting was initiated as part of our team's cultural strategy to "learn" and "benchmark" what other firms have done to improve their culture, technical and business operations, and especially their approach to people. This is documented below as one case study in the success that Hewlett-Packard had in applying some creative new approaches with which they have had both business success and extra-ordinarily good feedback from their people.
"As is common in many reorganizations, there was a prevailing sense of us and them and the perception that one division was taking over the other division with a concern that their successful ways of working would be overridden by the larger more dominant division. People of both divisions had been very successful, as measured by both technical and business factors of their laserjet products, yet the culture was not strong on acknowledging or celebrating successes and people did not feel the positive sense of what they had accomplished. To increase efficiency and commonality, HP upper management decided to combine the two divisions and reorganize.
"As part of a large reorganization, the new General Manager of HP's Business Laserjet Division, stressed people/teaming issues as the first, and the continually most important, aspect of the new organization. He and his senior management team came to agreement between themselves and then involved people at all levels of the new organization in co-creating the divisional vision and values. The senior staff worked together with their departments and teams to generate trust and quality working relationships among their people as a foundation for developing work plans, schedules, visions and structural changes.
"Once these new working relationships were established, the total organization developed buy-in for the vision, plans and restructuring since they participated in and helped steer the decisions. The restructuring itself ended up to be better and more customer focused as a result of the involvement of the people! The organization's structure changed from vertically oriented one of top down "direction' into a horizontal one of processes organized into a "value chain" in which each group treats the next group as their "internal customer". The people are more "energized" and took a strong sense of personal ownership, and showed a willingness to take risks necessary to maintain their dominant market position. HP is obtaining more commonality and a "product line" focus rather than the singular focus of individual products. The General Manager's view is that the focus on people resulted in a major business "breakthrough" in organizational efficiency, functioning, and increased customer satisfaction, while simultaneously greatly increasing employee satisfaction and commitment.
"In the reorganization, the new General Manager wanted to create a new organization, a new set of working relationships and a new culture rather than just adjust the combination of the two organizations into a new structure... He stressed getting the people involved as the first step as opposed to first developing plans or even a new vision. He said he wanted to "focus on first things first, and that was the people." He wanted to "get the environment correct so that decisions didn't have to be remade three or four times. Two business focuses, or "Hoshins", drove their principles and priorities:
"These Hoshins are quite inverted relative to most US corporate cultures. It has some of the characteristics of the Japanese approach combined with some of the thoughts of Margaret Wheatley stirred up in a uniquely American way."
"The question was, 'How did they accomplish these results in BLD, especially the high morale?' Their keys were: involve everyone, build trust, establish relationships.' The GM stressed the following sequence of steps and priorities: relationships first; values, purpose and visions second; plans third. He first got his own direct reports working together through off site meetings and developing "working-together" relationships. These were facilitated by an outside consultant team (InnerWork Technologies) who stressed the people relationships.
"At first the HP employees were suspicious of this entire approach: they believed that it would be another fad. They were also surprised that anyone in management asked about and cared about their opinion. However, as they were allowed to participate directly in the evolving vision, plans and structure of the new organization, as they were allowed to express their ideas without threat, and as they saw their feedback actually incorporated into the divisions direction, their attitudes began to change."
"The result of this "people first" policy was that teamwork began to improve dramatically. One of the specific outcomes of the involvement of the people in the overall planning was that the employees pushed management to have a much greater focus on the external customers."
"Another interesting action was the encouragement and celebration of risk taking. Rather than criticize the maker of a decision that didn't work out, their policy is to encourage learning from it and rewarding the individuals for taking the risk. ... Their new approach (encouraged by changed management behavior) is to: Trust the individual first, seek to understand what is being said second, and challenge the ideas (NOT the person) only after these first two steps."
"HP's experience is an interesting case study with similarities and differences from our own. They are doing what many in the management field are discussing ... and with which companies are having success. Particularly, our desire to move toward a flatter, horizontal structure focused on value chain and processes may find some thought in their success by focusing on people first. They have embodied by action much of what our leaders have continually discussed for a long time... as well as our desire to move toward processes. They appear to have implemented at least some of the major aspects of our top management's stated goals for people, especially the creation of "an environment where all employees can contribute to their full potential." There are lessons here worth considering for adaptation to our own situation."
"Our management team knew last year that meeting the challenge of the ISD Vision would not happen without some calculated risk-taking and experimentation. We needed to create a far better model for how we should live and work as people and Travelers employees. Like most areas, our people are under tremendous pressures. These pressures have been calling forth from us very different responses, different skill-sets, new values and attitudes. We also needed to find ways to create a work environment that supports us in taking much better care of ourselves and each other. We have been and are experiencing constant change. We had real barriers and fears that needed to be broken down if our productivity and quality was going to improve. Technically, we were pretty strong. The issue was: How do you find ways to develop much higher levels of trust, communication, honesty and support?"
"The transformation required was nothing less than going from being a group of technical experts to becoming a real team of learners being able to both respond quickly to change and make effective change happen. We needed to rewrite the book."
"By late 1991, we had already reorganized into a work-team structure, but that didn't mean we had created empowered, self-directing teams. If we were serious at all about self-direction, it was time to put the oars in the water. We saw this project as a way to breakthrough and build the commitment to the new structure."
"I think what's really exciting is that we are building a sense of community as we serve our customers. It's a feeling of belonging, and our people are unwilling to think, speak, and act like victims anymore. I think each of us is discovering how much power and control we really do have to make a difference."
"The principles we are applying, when understood and taken together, give us a picture of a new way we can live and work. It's an inside-out approach to change. If managers ask: How do you get your work done more efficiently with a better end product, I'd tell them that, along with improving the work process, go out and build trust, communicate honestly, support each team member, and find ways to drive out the fear and relearn the idea that it's important for everyone to seek balance and wholeness in and through our work. When this catches fire, an epidemic of sanity-even love- can spread."
"We've made some big strides towards making the Vision a reality this year. But our people know this is really a journey of self-discovery that we are on, and that it never really ends. Our work here is about constantly renewing ourselves, our team, and renewing Travelers-one day at a time."
Accelerating the Formation of New Corporate Culture:
"I've never seen a team at HP go through a reorganization so quickly and with such a positive attitude. The last major reorganization that we went through appeared to go swiftly at a structural level, but the breakdowns at the level of working relationships lingered for months or years. The work we did with InnerWork Technologies really prepared our team to do some very important work on the front end.
"The results are clear and multiple. In essence, people have gone through the turbulence of a major reorganization with a positive attitude. Though some of the structural changes took longer, they were handled more wisely than has been our norm in the past. And in a very short time we are up and running with new teams and with people that are on board with a positive attitude and ready to own their part in defining the CPI (Continuous Process Improvement) initiative and building the new organization. We have communicated effectively and honestly, and maintained participation and avoided the backlash so common in a reorganization. I and other managers have been able to have some really tough conversations with people and still maintain a positive attitude and working relationships."
"Since our project with InnerWork Tech, we see the value of helping individuals and teams become more successful by improving our processes and realigning and reinventing roles and responsibilities so that they can become more effective. This has been very exciting, and people have energy for tackling what have been chronic problems. People feel a new level of commitment and management's support for making permanent changes for the better".
The Voice of the Client
Forrest Whitt, Quality Manager for BLD, Hewlett-Packard offers the following insights regarding systems thinking and large organization change from the BLD Learning Journey:
"Today we are faced with incredibly complex systems and organizations to manage, influence and understand. In order to create an environment where trust and relationships will allow individuals and teams to succeed, it is critical that organizations tackle some of the issues around authentic leadership, integrity and personal mastery.
We have a fairly mature business and organization. We have needed to find ways to increase the organizations ability to change more rapidly. We have also evolved from a product focused business to a solutions focused business. We have focus in two areas, the culture/identify of the division and the business itself. The work we have been doing with InnerWork Technologies, has helped us succeed as follows:
WISDOM at WORK:
Developing an organizational culture in which learning, high performance, and quality work life can flourish presents many challenges/opportunities. These include:
Key Learnings & Insights
The following insights sum up many of our key learnings for developing and sustaining organizational learning cultures:
Concluding Systems Thoughts:
The wisdom of whole systems thinking-living is essential to the quality of our work and our lives. The key to the enduring potency of this work is in acknowledging that systems thinking and organizational learning at its core really has to do with wholeness, wisdom, love, and honoring the creative human spirit at work. As Peter Senge has reminded many of us:
"All this systems thinking stuff has no meaning without understanding that we're part of something larger than ourselves."
Knowing that we are all part of the web of life, a larger, sacred reality gives our lives and work a sense of deeper roots and meaning. Systems thinking reminds us to keep looking deeper, and to discover, understand, and respect the myriad of exquisite and complex dimensions and forces so essential to our lives and work. Given the challenges-opportunities encountered as we bring systems thinking into our organizations, is it any wonder that more timid leaders or organizations are slow to become involved in or stay the course with this work? Yet as many of us keep learning, any description of our world, be it modern or ancient, religious, mythological or scientific, will provide us with only a partial and incomplete 'story' or set of assumptions about reality. Our search for a greater sense of belonging, core values, wise and meaningful work, and community is a participation in redefining the role of business in shaping our world. This truly is real time, real work of vital importance to the quality of our lives and to the sustainability of our business success.
Postscript: In preparation for this session we talked to Suzanne Mamet, VP at The Travelers-Aetna, whom we worked with in 19911992. She commented, "It's amazing to see that the work we did together on the Vision Project is still paying off- even after all these years, and all the major changes that the Travelers has gone through. We've really used our learnings to work help us through some rough times and I hope that others can draw some inspiration from our success!"
May the insights you have gained from reading this, and talking with us, leave you inspired and with clearer direction for guiding the people you serve along a wise path of organizational learning.
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