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We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation

We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation

It’s been almost 10 years since HBR published John Kotter’s classic article,”Why Transformation Efforts Fail.” And although his suggestions for how to improve the odds have been widely accepted, the success rate of major corporate change programs remains essentially unchanged – it still hovers at 30%.

 Given the amount of research that business schools have dedicated to understanding change management, the number of books and articles published on the subject, and the investment that companies have made in consultants and training, one would think that we would be doing better by now.

Based on consulting experience with dozens ...


How To Make Technology Your Friend At Work

How To Make Technology Your Friend At Work

Over the years I’ve talked with hundreds of managers about the reasons for complexity in their organizations – and in almost all cases they cite “technology” as one of the main culprits. But in the next breath, they also acknowledge that technology has revolutionized the way they work, increased personal productivity, and given them a whole new world of capabilities.  It’s an odd dichotomy: the notion that technology is a blessing and curse, a driver of improvement, and a source of frustration. This often leaves managers wondering what they can do to increase the benefits and minimize the pain ...


When a Public Mistake Requires an Old-Fashioned Apology

When a Public Mistake Requires an Old-Fashioned Apology

Everyone makes mistakes. We make bad decisions and insensitive statements, we speak before we think, and we let our emotions get the best of us. But since we hold very senior executives to a higher standard, when they mess up, it often becomes a public spectacle.

Consider the case of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. On August 9, 2013 – a time of disappointing quarterly results – he held an all-hands conference call with 1,000 Patch (AOL’s hyper-local news division) employees. During the meeting, which was called to announce layoffs and site closings, Armstrong publicly fired Patch’s creative director for ...


It's January: Time To Sharpen Your Organizational Rhythm

It's January: Time To Sharpen Your Organizational Rhythm

We don’t often think about it, but life is based on natural, recurring rhythms: Days, years and even our own lives have predictable cycles that allow us to navigate through time. Our morning activities differ from our evening ones; we plan vacations around the seasons; and we focus our energy according to the stages of our careers. Without these cadences the music of life would be chaotic, and it would be hard to build a common social experience with other people.

The turning of the calendar year is a reminder that organizations also need rhythm. Some of it derives ...


What To Do When You Envy Your Colleague's Success

What To Do When You Envy Your Colleague's Success

How do you feel when one of your sales colleagues closes a big deal?  Or when a fellow manager is recognized for leading one of the best projects in the company? Or when a co-worker is selected for a special assignment or training program? It’s a tough question at any time of the year, but particularly now when we’re all having parties to celebrate the end of another year – together.

The politically correct answer of course is that we’re supposed to feel pleased.  When people that we work with are successful, it’s not only good for ...


When Not to Celebrate Failure

When Not to Celebrate Failure

Most of us would accept that failure is just an inevitable part of success. For instance, when you learn how to ski, you have to fall a number of times before you’re able to make it down the mountain skillfully. There are times, however, when failure is not a good thing, such as when you need to meet a customer deadline or achieve a competitive level of quality. Unfortunately, many managers don’t distinguish between when failure can be a valuable catalyst for learning and when it can be truly harmful, leaving employees unsure about when to take risks ...


How Do You Determine If A Company Is 'Socially Responsible'?

How Do You Determine If A Company Is 'Socially Responsible'?

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a class of second year MBA’s, and one of the most outstanding questions students raised was whether they should take jobs with companies that they considered to be socially irresponsible. I wasn’t struck so much by the question as by the intense debate that followed:

Some students of course argued strongly that working for these kinds of companies was a moral “sell out,” and that they shouldn’t lend their support to companies that mistreat the environment or produce destructive products. Conversely, other students took the position that the best ...


A Successful M&A Considers the Human Element

A Successful M&A Considers the Human Element

Some of the most popular stories in the business press are about mergers and acquisitions. And why not?   Unlike standard financial reports with numbers, analyses, and projections, M&As include a sense of personal drama, almost like a television mini-series: Will the combination actually happen? Who will be in charge? Will they live happily ever after? Who will win and who will lose?

There’s also no lack of material: In the first three quarters of 2014, over $2.5 trillion worth of M&A deals were announced worldwide, up 39% over the previous year. Among the top ten transactions ...


Why Managers Hesitate To Bring People Together

Why Managers Hesitate To Bring People Together

Out of the many ways that managers get things done, one of the most underused is what I call “convening authority”: the ability to bring people together to share information, build alignment, or solve problems. To explain, let me share a quick example, in two acts:

In Act One, the manager of a corporate engineering group was tasked with reducing the cost of common materials used by a number of different product teams. To address the issue, she met with fellow engineers in each of the teams to understand their processes and how they utilized the materials. She also met ...


How To Survive A Bad Boss

How To Survive A Bad Boss

A good boss provides encouragement, development, mentoring, and support, while also being fair, constructively critical, and helpful in integrating employees into high-performing teams. This is a boss you remember for years, one who has a lasting impact on your career.

But what happens when you end up with a really bad boss – someone who not only lacks these positive characteristics, but is also a negative force? Do you just grin and bear it, complain to higher authorities, look for an escape route, or do something else? Here are two quick (disguised) examples:

  • Sheila was an up-and-coming manager at a well-known ...

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