The CEO and The Janitor

Janitor.jpeg

Wow, I heard a powerful story from a colleague that I wanted to share.


The colleague’s father was a industrial psychologist and he would go into some relatively big organizations to improve the functioning and culture. 


One of the things that he would do is get the CEO and the janitor in the same room together. 


And he would say:

“Both of you have vital jobs in the organization and you need to appreciate each other!”


At this point, the CEO and the janitor would be looking around the room super quizzically.


And the psychologist would to the janitor and say:

“The CEO’s job is critical, because without the CEO, we wouldn’t have the leadership and vision for the organization to be successful, and you wouldn’t have a job and salary.

 

Then he’d turn to the CEO and  explain:

The Janitor’s job is critical, because without the janitor, we wouldn’t have a clean and functioning building and facilities for everyone to do their jobs and be successful, and you wouldn’t be able to come to work ever day.”

 

It’s really amazing that despite all the fancy titles, corners offices, and rich compensation packages for some, really everyone in the organization is vital in their own way!

 

We need to remember that when we deal with others that they are human beings–in the image of G-d–and we need to treat all with the utmost dignity and respect for both who they are and what they contribute. 😉

 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Reach Out To Lead

Shake On It
The New York Times today had an editorial called “Our Unrealistic Hopes for Presidents.”



In this piece, Brendan Nyhan lowers the bar on all leadership, and most importantly on the President of the United States. 



He advocates for us to “give up on the idea of a leader who will magically bring consensus and unity to our politics.”



While I agree that there is no “magic” in leadership or politics, it is precisely a leader’s job to see to the vetting of ideas, compromise and consensus, and a way forward for the people, organization, and/or nation.



The leader, especially the president, establishes the vision, motivates and inspires, so that we are elevated from being focused on our own selfish motives  to being “One nation under G-d with liberty and justice for all.” (Pledge of Allegiance)



Or as JFK stated:



“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

This is the type of greatness that our leaders can raise us to and it defies race, party, or creed.



Certainly it wasn’t easy for the founding fathers of this nation to come together and write the Constitution and Bill of Rights that is not geared to the right or left, but is just plain brilliant and correct!



Yes, this is precisely what leadership is–not blame, finger pointing, go it alone, or defeatism–and that is why NOT everyone is cut out for the “top job” and why we seek the the 1 in 311 million for the job!



Nyhan writes “At election time, candidates seduce us with promises to bring America together, but inevitably fall short and end up leaving office with the country more polarized than when they arrived.”



In plain English…this is called broken promises and failed leadership!



A leader, absolutely, must bridge the divide, create an overall unity, a sense of purpose, bring the commitment of the hearts and minds–whether to feed the hungry, land a man on the moon, or win the war whether against fascism or terrorism.



Nyhan states disparagingly about us that “The public and the news media still want someone…a uniting figure who works across the aisle to build support”—Uh YES, how else will we ever get anything big and meaningful really done?



He tells us to “stop asking who can achieve the unity,” that times have changed, and that instead we should accept the “norm of polarization,” conflict, and disharmony in our nation. 



Sure, there are times of urgency and crisis, when a leader must decide and act in lifesaving haste; however, in most usual cases, decisions and actions can come about by joining together rather than tearing asunder. 



No, we should never stop demanding great leadership–those who can overcome both the petty divides as well as the more substantial differences, to see through to a greater good, common purpose, and a better future for us all. 



We can’t do this as Nyhan proposes by giving up on working together, and trying to go it along, without anyone who thinks differently than us, and “govern well without their support.” 



In corporate America or politics, leadership by decree is known as dictatorship, and that is not what this democracy or for that matter real success is about. 



Whether in the boardroom or the Oval Office, we need to demand leadership that explains their point of view, listens to other perspectives, and is able to form compromise and win-win scenarios.



When one side feels ignored or that they’ve been worked around instead of with, then the result is sure to be bitterness and prolonged fighting to overturn the “my way or the highway” decision or to poke the other side right back in the eye when they have the chance. 



We don’t need excuses, but strong leaders who know how to “work the room” or “reach across the aisle”– to bring facts to the table, and sentiment to touch people’s hearts, to give clear vision to help us see “the bigger picture” of what can be done, if we only can act deliberately as one.



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Niels Linneberg)

Worry, Who Doesn’t?

Worry, Who Doesn't

Many people worry–they are afraid of all sorts of bad things that can happen.

And they ruminate on what ifs and what they can do about it–if anything.

The more people feel they have no control over a negative situation, the more they worry about it–they can feel helpless and hopeless–and this may even lead to depression.

I remember as a kid my dad telling me a story/joke about this–it went something like this:

One grandmother is talking to another.

She complains how her grandson always worries about going to school.

The other grandmother says, “Oh really, why?”

The first grandmother tells her that her grandson is worried because “The kids hate him. The teachers hate him. And everyone gives him a hard time.”

The other grandmother says, “So why doesn’t he go talk the principal?”

The first grandmother answers, “Because he is the principal!”

The moral of the story is that everyone has problems, and has worries, and it doesn’t matter who you are–whether you’re a kid in school or the principal in charge, a worker in the company or the CEO, and so on.

I think sometimes we lose sight of the frailty of all human beings and we think mistakingly that just because someone is successful or high up on the totem pole of life that they don’t have worries and problems.

Which reminds me of something else my grandfather used to say: “G-d doesn’t let any tree grow into the heavens.”

No matter how big a person gets, G-d reminds us of who is really boss–so chop chop on the tree and watch that big ego–we’re just people. 😉

(Source Photo of picture: Andy Blumenthal)

>No Ego Leadership

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It’s funny that we get so used to the way things are in our country and culture that it becomes difficult to think there is any other workable way of doing things.

The New York Times, 14 February 2010, has an interview with Vineet Nayar the CEO of HCL Technologies, a global services 100 IT company based in India and ranked by Hewitt Associates in the 30 best employers in Asia.

However, reading the interview from the CEO of this Indian company opens up broad new possibilities for the way we can conduct our organizational affairs and perhaps become more competitive in the 21st century, global market-place.

No single country, industry, company, or person has a monopoly on innovation, and we can learn from some of the outside the box thinking at HCL.

Here are some of Mr. Nayar’s thought-provoking leadership ideas:

Subject

Key Idea

Role of CEO

“My job is to make sure everybody is enabled to what they do well. It’s part of our ‘Employees First’ philosophy.”

Delegation

We “make sure everybody understands that the CEO is the most incompetent person to answer questions, and I say this to all my employees openly.”

Transparency

“All HCL’s financial information is on our internal Web. We are completely open. We put all our dirty linen on the table, and we answer everyone’s questions.”

Hierarchy

“We’ve inverted the pyramid of the organization and made reverse accountability a reality.”

Performance

My [the CEO’s] 360 degree feedback is open to 50,000 employees—the results are published on the internal Web for everybody to see. And 3,800 managers participate in an open 360-degree and the results—they’re anonymous so that people are candid—are available in the internal Web [as well].”

Information-sharing

We started having people make their presentations and record them for our internal Web site. We open that for review to a 360-degree workshop, which mean yours subordinates will review it. You managers will read it. Your peers will read it and everybody will comment on it.”

Feedback

Prospective employees will say “I completely disagree. And they will have a fight with me… I want people who will kick my butt on points where we disagree.

Learning

I want people to say they want to learn. I don’t want teachers.”

At first glance, the ideas of Mr. Nayar seem almost crazy, because they are so different from what we are used to. But upon deeper reflection, we can see value in much of his leadership style.

To me, this seems a testament that when a leader has no ego and is willing to think innovatively and behave with integrity, the possibilities for positive change is not bound by any box or paradigm. We need to realize that we can learn from everybody, everywhere, and with an open mind and of course some discretion, we can progress our thinking and ways of doing business in ways we may never have even imagined.

>Executives, One Foot In and One Foot Out

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The last thing any executive should be doing is getting caught up in the weeds of management. The executive needs to lead and define the organizational strategy and the management team needs to execute. The executive is the link between what needs to get done (stakeholders’ needs) for the stakeholders and getting it done (management execution) through the organization’s people, process, and technology.

How does the executive perform this linking role?

Not by looking myopically inside the organization, and not by jetting around the globe shaking hands and kissing babies. Peter Drucker said “ The chief executive officer (CEO) is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers. “

In Harvard Business Review, May 2009, A. G. Lafley the CEO of Proctor & Gamble see’s that the CEO’s job is to “link the external world with the internal organization.”

The executive is the bridge between inside and outside the organization. And by having one foot in each, he/she is able to cross the artificial boundaries and bring vital stakeholder requirements in and carry organizational value back out.

Lafley breaks down the CEO’s role into four key areas, which I would summarize as follows:

  • BUSINESS SCOPE: Determining “the business we are in” and not in.  No organization can be everything to everybody. We need to determine where we will compete and where we will withdraw. GE’s Jack Welsh used to insist on working only in those markets where GE could be either #1 or #2. Drucker’s view is that “performing people are allocated to opportunities rather than only to problems.”
  • STAKEHOLDER PRIORITIZATION: “Defining and interpreting the meaningful outside”–this is really about identifying who are our stakeholders and how do we prioritize them?
  • SETTING THE STRATEGY: Balancing “yield in the present with necessary investment in the future.” Genuine leaders don’t just milk the organization in the short term, but seek to deliver reasonable results immediately while investing for future performance. Lafley states “We deliver in the short term, we invest in and plan for the midterm, and we place experimental bets for the long term.”
  • ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE: “Shaping values and standards.” Lafley argues that “the CEO is uniquely positioned to ensure that a company’s purpose, values, and standards are relevant for the present and the future.” Of course, the culture and values need to guide the organization towards what matters most to it, to meeting its purpose, and satisfying its stakeholders.

To me, the Drucker-Lafley view on the CEO as a bridge between boundaries inside and outside the organization, can be extended a step down in the organization to other “chief” roles. The CEO’s vision and strategy to deliver value to the stakeholder to the role is fulfilled in part by the chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO). Together, the CIO and CTO marry needs of the business with the technology to bring them to fruition. Within the organization, the CIO is “outward” facing toward the needs of the business and the CTO is “inward” facing to technology enablement. Together, like two sides of the same coin, they execute from the IT perspective for the CEO.

Similarly, the chief enterprise architect (CEA), at the next rung—supporting the CIO/CTO, is also working to span boundaries—in this case, it is to technically interoperate the organization internally and with external partners The chief enterprise architect works to realize the vision of the CEO and the execution strategy of the CIO/CTO.

The bridge the CEO builds links the internal and external boundaries of the organization by defining stakeholders, scope, business strategy, and organizational culture. The CIO/CTO build on this and create the strategy to align business and technology The CEA takes that decomposes it into business, information, and technological components, defining and linking business functions, information flows, and system enablers to architect technology to the business imperative.

Three levels of executives—CIO, CIO/CTO, and CEA, three bridges—inside/outside the organization, business/technology sides of the organization, and business process/information flows/technologies within. Three delivery mechanisms to stakeholders—one vision and organizational strategy, one technical strategy and execution, one architecture plan to deliver through technology.

>Governance and Enterprise Architecture

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Enterprise architecture is critical to effective IT governance. EA establishes the baseline and target architectures and the transition plan and enforces these through the EA Board, who conducts technical reviews of proposed new IT projects, products, and standards. EA guides the organization to performance results, business-technology alignment, information sharing and accessibility, systems interoperability and component reuse, technology standardization and simplification, and security, including confidentiality, integrity, availability, and privacy. In short, EA ensures information transparency of business and technology to enhance organizational decision-making.

But what happens when organizational governance, whether EA governance or corporate boards, that is supposed to ensure transparency, does not?

The Wall Street Journal, 14 January 2008, reports “Why CEOs Need to Be Honest with Their Boards.”

“People who have spent time in corporate boardrooms say honest communication is often lacking between CEOs and their fellow directors. ‘Communication and transparency being a problem is more the rule rather than the exception.’”

Sometimes this makes headlines, such as when CEOs conduct activities without informing or getting permission from their directors, such as:

  1. Backdating stock options
  2. Holding merger and acquisition talks
  3. Trying to solve problems independently that need to be vetted

“‘Many times it’s the thing not said, or overly optimistic positioning that gets CEOs in trouble’…as leaders, they want to take charge and inspire confidence, even when things are turning sour. But that instinct can lead them to be less than forthcoming about problems—which can snowball into severe tensions with directors.”

CEOs who do not keep their board up-to-date do so at their own peril—“In 2006, 31.9% of CEOs who stepped down world-wide did so due to conflicts with the board…the forced departures were ‘nearly always because of transparency issues…[this leads to a] slow deterioration of trust, so the termination is generally packaged as a ‘loss of confidence.’”

Things have definitely changed in the relationship between boards and CEOs─ “‘There used to be a bright, clear line: We, the management made the decision and they, the board, reviewed and approved those decisions”…that bright, clear line has gotten really fuzzy now.”

Why does the CEO resist this transparency with the board?

“It’s the CEO’s job to ‘put a good face on things to mobilize and drive the changes that any company needs going forward…this requires inspiring people and giving them confidence that if you only make this last push you will get there.” CEO’s don’t want to admit that things are not progressing as expected. They don’t want to concede that they don’t have all the answers.

What’s the lesson here for User-centric EA?

We can’t think that we have all the answers. Collaboration, vetting, and information transparency is critical to enabling better decision-making. Whether information transparency is coming from EA to business and technical information stakeholders or from the CEO to his board of directors, information transparency inspires trust and “breeds self-correcting behavior” (as the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant often reminds us). Hiding problems, being overly optimistic or self-reliant, or working in stealth are not the cornerstones for good enterprise governance. Rather, openness and frankness about program, projects, products, and plans (EA or otherwise) enables good governance. Hearing opposing points of views leads to better decision-making. Even if it is sometimes painful to hear or slows down the process some; a little enterprise introspection goes a long way to improving the end result.

>CEO and Enterprise Architecture

>An organization’s performance is closely linked to the lives and state of mind of its leadership.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 5 September 2007 reports that based on a 10 year study of 75,000 Danish companies, profitability of companies declined after the CEO suffered from the death of a child (-21.4%), spouse (-14.7%), parent (-7.7%). [Further, the study reports that profitability actually increased when the CEO lost his/her mother-in-law (7%).]

These results are really not surprising nor or they hard to understand.

Leaders are people first—as human beings, we are all vulnerable to the tragedies of life and these affect us profoundly!

The WSJ puts it this way: “These are individuals…It’s important to understand they’re not automatons.”

The study called, “It’s All About Me” goes on to state the company’s profitability also typically fell after the CEO purchased a mansion. Researcher speculate that the leadership is either cashing out of the company (i.e. they no longer believe in the company’s future prospects) or that the leaders have become distracted by their own narcissism (i.e. enjoying their wealth rather than working hard).

For a quite a while, people have questioned the hefty executive pay packages, but as the WSJ states, perhaps these questions will be somewhat muted by these “studies [that] generally conclude CEOs do matter to their companies’ performance.”

In User-centric EA, people matter and leadership matters. If the leader is distracted or physically or emotionally wounded, the enterprise most certainly suffers. However, EA can help function as shock-absorber in the organization, since it provides for broad-based business and technical input, planning, and governance. By having the long-term mechanisms in place, such as a well researched and accepted EA plan and vetting mechanisms for how to invest corporate resources, the reliance on any single individual or individuals is lessoned. Leadership will always play a crucial part in organizational success (or failure) and as individuals we are all at the mercy of heaven above, but developing sound mechanisms by the which the organization can weather some of life’s shocks is a role EA can play.