Working Out Loud and Culture Cooking

Managers and leaders in the growing and globalizing Grundfos have been forced to deal with the need for agility in an increasingly complex business. On top of this, we are met with increasing demands for better internal co-ordination and efficiency due to ‘truly global’ customers and competitors who exchange information and negotiate based on their internal global structures.

The challenge is obvious: we need to maintain high speed and relevance in our business processes despite a disperse geography, time-zones, and culture differences.drucker1

“Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast,” is a remark attributed to Peter Drucker, but it got known when Mark Fields, president of Ford Motor Company, pitched his ideas for change in 2006. In our small ‘Global Working Culture’ team we know that Grundfos has to induce a number of changes in a lot of areas over the next years, and we have started talking about ingredients, recipes, cooking techniques (and machinery), and of course menu cards for the decision makers. Why grow boring with change programs, enablers and business processes if you can talk food and wine?

One of the true core ingredients of a changed working culture in Grundfos is ‘Working Out Loud’ (WOL).

One current definition of WOL is ‘…the concept of continuously narrating – and/or executing – work openly.’ [Wikipedia]. Beware that ‘openly’ does not necessarily imply that your work is visible to outsiders! It can be if you find it feasible or you judge that it will add more value to your organization by doing so.

WOL can help organizations get speed, remain on track, adapt better to changes, and increase motivation because of transparency and sharing.

WOL is an important ingredient in a number of cooking techniques any future Grundfos manager or leader will need to get acquainted with over the next few years, e.g. ‘Community Management’ and ‘Virtual Team Leadership’. WOL is highly important to get business value out of a true ‘Global Grundfos Network Community’ where – in theory – all 18000+ employees with Grundfos can connect, ask questions, and explore. But we need to learn to ‘dose’ WOL and to navigate in the knowledge and network access.

Back to CULTURE. Being a successful company – and a rather successful one! – Grundfos naturally comes with culture legacy. Some of it makes out the core for our future growth and success. No doubt about it. But we also have a bulk of assumptions and beliefs that slow us down – it’s basically cultural dead weight. The interesting thing is that if we waited 10 years, the bulk of new employees with their digitally native background would do the job for us just by working as they have learned to work effectively anyhow – but we cannot afford to wait! We need to remove the dead weight fast by internalizing positive experiences where new ingredients and cooking techniques prove their value.

Right now, pilot projects on ‘Virtual Leadership’ and ‘Community Management’ are being designed and implemented. It is part of a range of smaller initiatives which accumulate to form a kind of culture hack!

At the core of the work, is a wish to rock the boat on a number of fundamental assumptions with which almost all experienced Grundfos managers have been born and raised.

On the notion of WOL itself, a few of the basic assumptions we need to change are:

  1. I already know who can help me – or my manager does
  2. Too many people will get involved and it will slow me or the project down
  3. My work isn’t relevant to others
  4. I don’t want to create more noise for other people
  5. I’ve been hired to do this job, other people should only do their own job
  6. The known and effective corporate communication channels will break down.

On the notion of leading virtual teams (dispersed in time and geography) some of the basic assumptions we need to hack are e.g:

  1. One needs to actually see the person in order to develop a personal relationship with him or her.
  2. Effective virtual work is about good management as well as self-managed teams.
  3. To be able to trust somebody I need to have met the person face-to-face first.
  4. Virtual media are impersonal – which means that I must be present to convey the difficult messages.

All of the 10 listed assumptions are false.

In many cases you do not understand why until you have worked with the depth of the problem, but here is your moment of Zen: remember why you did what you did in order to create results and value for the company in a ‘physically enabled’ business setting. The ‘why’ is the important part. You can do most of the stuff just as good in a digital setting – and much of it way better than before!

In Grundfos we will start the learning journey by means of WOL, Virtual Leadership, Community Management, and more. But in the end it all breaks down to simple questions of how you do things differently with digital: When do I share, How do I share, How do I motivate online, How can I be private or have private conversations, How am I subtle or bold, How do I/we get in control (what is control?), When do I insist on real-time communication, When do I trigger asynchrounous media, How do I measure progress, How do I remain present to all team members, etc.

Our intention is to design a WOL capability into each individual and virtual leadership into every manager or leader 😉

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Posted in Barriers and challenges, Business value, Culture, Leadership, Strategy, Uncategorized
One comment on “Working Out Loud and Culture Cooking

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