Transforming and Reinventing Me – for business

There are two ideas that crossed my path this last week that gave me a kick in the pants and caused me to transform and reinvent the purpose of this blog.

The first was an essay by Amy Chua called Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior written for the Wall Street Journal. I burned out a vehement post in response, without context, and certainly without the eloquence that subsequent writers have shown in the Journal. Although I should know better as a writer myself to compose something when my ire is up, the experience had an unusual side effect — I began to use my true voice in this blog. Angry, but authentic.

The second moment of inspiration came from an invitation by Cameron Tuck, a member of a leadership LinkedIn group. He writes a blog called the the Imperfect CEO. Imperfect – CEO. I’d never seen the two words together written by a CEO before. Mind you, I’d thought it many times. I looked at his posts, and they are truly imperfect…not bad, just not the perfection you get when the PR department writes it and you sign your name. His blog has his voice, for better or worse.

I looked over my posts again. When I first started my voice was there, however tentative. As I decided to reach out to the business community with my “wisdom” more actively the posts became more cerebral, more ordered, more perfect…and well…considerably more boring. Hell, I don’t even like to read them twice.  It’s troubling that the great information – well composed and properly cited – is lost among the sheer lack of voice. Hmmm.

So, it’s time to welcome the Authentic Me on this Bizlog. I will connect what I do in the classroom and in my family life to how I have, and will, lead. I will sometimes write while I’m angry. I will make mistakes and take accountability for them. I promise my readers, however, that I’ll not be boring.

I tell my students that if I’m bored while I’m teaching, they must be in a coma. Whoo, does that ever go for this blog. If I lapse into Not Me, call me on it. If I anger you; tell me. If I inspire you, tell me and others.

Welcome to the Authentic Me and my way of looking at business. Please, engage.

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Solid to Liquid: Organizational Redesign

It’s not easy to move from a mechanistic business structure to the more fluid structures that are needed to compete in today’s global economy. What are the barriers and the techniques needed to get changes made?

Why do people resist?

  • Concerns over losing their jobs during restructuring
  • When you restructure, you may get a new boss or new responsibilities
  • Often the changes are not made transparently resulting and confusion and distrust
  • Contemporary structures lean toward flatter, more team based structures threaten employees’ hard earned authority
  • Incentive programs and individual performance evaluations would need to be redesigned to incorporate group goals

Don’t expect restructuring to be successful without the buy-in of your people. Structure exists only so far as it is recognized and reinforced by the people in it.

How to redesign the organization

  1. Streamline – flatten the organization and spread out decision making. One area can then be responsible for more than one strategy to increase efficiency.
  2. Start over – take a look at what is important to your customers and where your company is going in the future. From there, design a company that fits the direction from a blank slate. Of course, this will be the more costly solution, but your company will transform the organization rather than make only incremental changes. Take time planning this one as it would be smart HR planning to figure out where you can retrain employees for your new direction.
  3. Stray across boundaries—strategic alliances don’t have to be between two different companies. What about two different business units or functions? The same principle applies to bringing in strengths and innovation from another “partner.”
  4. Self –Managed Teams—become a collection of entrepreneurs by using self-management teams. All the functions of management are done within the team. Coordinating the teams becomes the role of a few executives, reducing the weight at the top.

Each of these techniques has different goals and intentions. Which is right for your organization?

An Integrated Approach to Change

Victor and Franckeiss, experts in change management, introduced a model of change called “The Five Dimensions of Change” in 2002. This post is a summary of their article.

Change management does not follow a neat line from start to finish. In fact, while an organization is going through planning for change, it is also dealing with change at all management levels. Due to this dynamic environment, a cyclical model is necessary to understand and evolve toward successful change practices.

Although the model set forth by the authors is similar to the 5 stage O.D. processes discussed in module two, there is an important enhancement. The process is directed to organizations and gives them more direction on how to institute comprehensive, integrated, change.

The Five Dimensions of Change

D1 – Direct

This stage ensures the overall direction and purposes of the business. At this stage, the organization should consider their vision, mission, and value statements in relation to the external business environment. The resulting strategies should be well defined and communicated to all stakeholders to ensure they are internalized.

D2 – Describe

At this stage management is responsible for translating the aspirational statements defined in stage one into strategies (or plans of action) for achieving goals. The strategies need to be customized to the functional level, with the vision in mind. Victor and Franckeiss assert that there are four principle strategies that ensure integration of constancy of purpose and consistency of approach.

  1. Resource strategy—the design and structure of the business and HR planning
  2. Performance management strategy – ensures that all  functions, teams, and individuals understand their roles and requirements
  3. Reward strategy – pay structure, benefits, and bonuses that are in-line with the company’s vision
  4. Communications strategy – internal and external communication, employee relations, employee attitude surveys

D3 – Define

This is the part that is less glamorous, but critical to the success of change efforts. Defining involves business processes, policies and procedures that support business strategies. Clear and straightforward communication helps ensure that the organization doesn’t slide back into old ways.

D4 – Deliver

Now it’s time to deliver the change consistently as defined in the preceding sections. At this point, managing by example is essential. The management team must consistently demonstrate the behaviors expected of employees during and after the change in order to ensure them that the changes are sincere and there to stay. Any inconsistency can be exploited by those resistant to the changes. All employees must understand what behaviors are expected and successes should be defined and measured to reinforce the changes.

D5 – Develop

The fifth stage is about more than evaluating and feedback, it’s about keeping the communication system open. This stage presents the opportunity for continuous learning. Feedback should come not only from internal processes, but from the external environment through such common analyses as SWOT and PEST. If the environment warrants it, it’s time to start the process again.

As evidenced by this process, communication and leadership are critical characteristics to successful change processes.

Victor, P., & Franckeiss, A. (2002). The five dimensions of change: an integrated approach to strategic organizational change management. Strategic Change, 11(1), 35-42. doi:10.1002/jsc.567.

Transformation and Renewal at Mattel

When thinking of organizational innovation, when does Barbara Millicent Roberts (Barbie) come to mind? You might think of the post-it note or the Apple computer, but Barbie? That’s right; the favorite doll of millions of little girls worldwide represented transformation for generations. At Barbie’s peak in 2002, Mattel, the maker of Barbie, posted sales of $1.52 billion. That same year is when Mattel’s culture stumbled, resulting in a loss of growth, revenue, and profit until 2006, when the Barbie brand began its turnaround (Kapner, 2009).

Since Barbie hit the marketplace she has had 108 separate careers and has been a role model and fashion icon for girls all over the world. In fact, 20 years before Sally Ride traveled to the stars, Barbie was already an astronaut (Springen, 1998). It takes a business culture that can look far into the future to transform a product into what will win the hearts of their customers almost two decades later. As for the brand, Mattel stood poised to transform Barbie in any way that would connect with consumers, and their pocket books (Springen, 1998).

Kids and collectors alike waited for the next Barbie transformation; but Barbie’s makers stumbled, focusing too much on internal workings and status quo, missing a big change in the market. Mattel had become bloated structurally and with the addition of a software company acquisition, the company lost focus on their core brands (like Barbie and Hot Wheels), and operational costs spun out of control (Hobson, 2001). Enter new CEO Robert Eckert.

Eckert apporached the transfromation at Mattel with two goals: boost sales abroad and focus on core brands. The key to this turnaround? Eckert planned new versions of the “blonde chameleon,” Barbie (Hobson, 2001). What happened to the Mattel that could read market intelligence and know what their consumers wanted before they did? Mattel’s external focus had turned inward allowing Management to take their eyes off of innovation and renewal (Ziff Davis Media, 2005). While 12-year-olds might have played with Barbie in the past, she was now a “baby toy,” and not able to compete with popular icons at the time (like Britney Spears). The target market was going through age compression, where tweens (8-12 yrs) were moving on from traditional toys and wanting to identify with an edgier look modeled by their new popular icons (Ziff Davis Media, 2005). What Mattel missed, MGA Entertainment noticed and they launched the popular Bratz dolls.

The year 2001 marked the decline of Barbie sales. Mattel was slow to interpret their market data and act upon it. The company that introduced Barbie to space before Sally Ride blasted off had missed the new frontier. It was time to transform the culture and refocus on their consumers. Eckert’s goals for streamlining the company allowed more energy to be spent on innovation. Barbie needed renewal. After a couple of missteps with My Scene dolls and other line extensions, Mattel gained traction by reconnecting with their core market: young girls. Now Barbie keeps company with the likes of Hillary Duff and has dolls resembling American Idol contestants and Diane Von Furstenberg designed life size Barbie apparel for Fashion Week (Kapner, 2009, Ziff Davis Media, 2005). What’s new about the culture? Mattel is beginning to integrate systems that generate internal renewal. The organization went through a transformation modeled by one of their biggest brands – Barbie.

References

Hobson, K. (2001). Meet corporate turnaround Barbie. U.S. News and World Report, 130 (9), p. 43.

Kapner, S. (2009). Brand Barbie gets a makeover. Fortune, 160 (2), p. 17.

Springen, K. (1998). Hey there doll face. You look like someone we know. Newsweek, 132 (20), p. 14.

Through the years. (2009). American Salon , 6(132).

Ziff Davis Media. (2005, August). How Barbie lost her groove. Baseline , pp. 36-52.