By Elisabeth Goodman, 3rd April 2018
From long-term planning and rule-based approaches to “servant leadership”
Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis tell us, in their article “HR goes agile”, in the March-April 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) (p.46), that managers need to get used to “servant leadership” as their approach to leadership.
They argue that HR and management are changing from the long-term planning and rule-based approach that typified manufacturing industries in the post World War II era. And are now adopting the more flexible, adaptable, customer and employee-based approaches derived from Agile IT and project management.
As we enter the second quarter of 2018, and RiverRhee’s next wave of public access courses for managers, teams and individual contributors, it seems appropriate to review what some of these “servant leadership” changes might entail.
Coaching versus telling
The concept of “servant leadership” is at the heart of Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis’s article. This is where supervisors and managers act as coaches rather than monitors for their direct reports.
As coaches, managers give their direct reports the space and the time to reflect on what they are learning. They create forums for people to learn together (we call these Action Learning groups). And they focus on building people’s capabilities, and approach that typically leads to greater engagement as people feel more valued.
Providing frequent and wide-ranging feedback, rather than single annual events
We know that many organisations have already been making the shift from the once yearly performance review, to more frequent and flexible approaches. This makes sense at so many levels.
For those working in scientific environments, the nature of their work is too uncertain, and changing too rapidly to tie objectives down for a whole year. The same is true for any environment that thrives on innovation.
Cappelli and Tavis stress the importance of frequent feedback to facilitate learning, for teams as well as for individuals. They also remind us of the importance of collecting feedback more widely than from an individual’s line manager. With people working in teams, and changing teams throughout the year, some organisations are using Apps to collect feedback from all those who will have input on an individual’s and team’s performance.
[RiverRhee can help you to review your Performance Management and Development processes, as well as deliver in-house training for managers and their direct reports. Performance Management and Development is also one of the modules in our Introduction to Management course.]
Promoting reflection and continuous improvement
Agile teams carry out frequent “retrospectives”, a version of the “After Action Reviews” that we promote in Knowledge Management, Lean Sigma and also in our Project Management courses to ensure that teams take time to learn and reflect on what they have learnt.
The HBR authors also advocate that teams monitor and continuously improve the dynamics within their teams. This is again something that we advocate in the Good Practices for Team Working module of our management courses and also support in our team building / team development workshops.
Moving to single project team membership, rather than a multi-team approach?
We know that there are many benefits as well as challenges to the wide-spread practice of multi-team project management. (See Addressing the challenges of multi-teaming in project management.) This is a topic that we also explore in RiverRhee’s Project Management course, coming up on the 24th May.
Lisa Burrell, in the HBR March-April 2018 (p.54) write-up of her conversation with IBM’s Head of HR, Diane Gherson, describes how IBM has moved to a model of small dedicated teams. People are allocated to a single team, rather than moving between mutiple teams, and this enables them to focus on the requirements of their clients in a way that also enables faster turn-around.
Is this a transition in management practice that more organisations should be considering?
Taking a more collaborative approach to recruitment
Recruitment continues to be a challenge for many of the organisations that we work with. (See Tips for hiring the best people in rapidly growing Biotech and Life Science companies.)
Cappelli and Tavis describe a collaborative approach to recruitment where recruiting managers form a cross-functional team, rather than relying more exclusively on the HR function to do this. The managers prioritise the recruitment effort based on urgency and readiness. They share information on the candidates in case they fit more than one position. They monitor and improve on the cycle time for recruitment and so reduce the risk of losing candidates to competitors due to poor follow-through.
Providing individually tailored Learning and Development programmes
I wrote previously about the importance of company learning and development strategies.
Such strategies demonstrate that companies value their staff, as well as equipping them with the capabilities to provide value to the organisation. Companies are increasingly sourcing online programmes to provide more flexible and affordable training for their staff.
Cappelli and Tavis describe the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to help match Learning and Development modules to individuals and their roles.
The predominantly SME-size Life Science and Biotech organisations, and the Library & Information Management clients that RiverRhee works with may not yet be using AI to design L&D programmes for their staff. However, we do like to think that they are providing their staff with opportunities to tailor their training to their needs.
Here are a few of the areas that we have planned to help managers and individual team contributors polish their “soft skills” in our open courses in May and through our in-house courses:
- Develop your assertiveness, influencing or communication skills
- Be more confident with your presentations
- Learn how to build more effective customer relations
- Be more efficient with your time, processes or projects
- Deal more effectively with all the changes going on in your business or team
- Increase your success rate when recruiting and interviewing candidates
- Manage your employee relations, performance and development with conviction…
How do these changes in management practice reflect what is going on in your organisation?
What about the whole field of emotional intelligence, which Cappelli and Tavis do not mention, but which could help managers be more effective in a coaching-style role?
[This last is an area we include in many of our courses, and especially in our Transition to Leadership course which runs next on the 26th April.]
Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house courses and workshops and one-to-one coaching, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams.