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imprint– Winter 2012

From potential to performance_


Imprint | Winter 2012

Welcome – Happy New Year!

WELCOME TO THE FIRST EDITION OF IMPRINT IN 2012 I was recently asked to give a short talk offering three key messages for leaders who are intent on creating a healthy, constructive culture in their organisation. I am privileged to work with leaders of many organisations, large and small, across a range of sectors, but I do believe that the key messages are generic.

Dr Neil Straker Managing Director The Pacific Institute UK

I started from the premise that all employees wish to work in an environment which provides them with comfort, security and challenge. The leadership challenge is to enable others to own, and participate in, the creation and the evolution of that environment. My challenge was to restrict the list to only three messages, but here is a summary of my contribution.

1. CONVEY THE MESSAGE TO ALL COLLEAGUES THAT “YOUR EFFORT MAKES A DIFFERENCE”. My colleague, Mike O’Brien, who has contributed to this and other editions of Imprint, is adamant that this is THE key message to emphasise. All of us want to make a difference, to do a good job, to be recognised and it is the responsibility of all leaders to look for opportunities to praise staff and link that praise to the vision, values and strategies of the organisation. I urge you to try it – it really works.



Optimism pays, optimism is contagious and the way leaders speak to colleagues, the way leaders deal with success and setbacks helps create a collective self-talk in the organisation, which is either uplifting and inspirational or negative, limiting and spirals downwards. It is important to remember that while optimism is contagious, so is pessimism. As leaders we really do need to nip pessimism in the bud. So we should constantly work on the optimism piece – it starts with us, embracing the mindset of positive self-talk and optimism as a habit.

I’m often asked my view on the most important concept taught by The Pacific Institute®. I know that my colleagues across the world will have different views on this but, in observing highly successful leaders, one feature which sets them apart from others is their efficacy. Quite simply they believe that they (and their people) can make things happen and, as a result, they are self-assured, confident and transmit this causality quite naturally. The good news is that efficacy can be learned and it clearly links to optimism.

So every good wish for 2012. I wish you success and happiness and I also wish you a year of optimism, efficacy and many occasions where you are reminded that your effort makes a difference.


Imprint | Winter 2012

Cultural Alignment

IS YOUR CULTURE HOLDING YOUR COMPANY BACK? One of the primary purposes of corporate culture is to maintain the system - to keep things just the way they are. In this way, your culture can be working against you - trying to keep the organisation from growing and developing. In this brief article I will explore how cultures are created, and how you might unwittingly have a defensive culture. s humans we are very adaptable and perceptive. When we find ourselves in a new situation (as some would say, out of our comfort zone) our awareness heightens and we start to recognise how others are acting, and we adapt to model their behaviour so that we fit in. Operating at this heightened awareness takes a lot of energy, so we may start to take on the behaviours of those around us (indoctrination) until we get back into a new comfort zone. In organisations, the behaviours adopted are the behaviours that we perceive as being necessary to fit in and in most cases get ahead. These behaviours may or may not be what we would choose to do, but nonetheless they are "the way things are done around here."


A classic example of this occurs on aeroplanes. When you fly you are part of a temporary organisation, where the flight attendants are the formal leaders. During the flight, the flight attendants communicate

information about where to put your stuff, to keep you seat belt on and what to do in case of an emergency. One thing that flight attendants do not do is tell you how to get off the plane when you arrive safely; culture has taken care of that, as a norm has been established to get off the plane row by row. It is efficient and effective, and no one has to say anything, that is just the way we do it. However, occasionally the flight arrives into a hub late and the flight attendants make an announcement - "We apologise for arriving in Detroit late, we have some passengers on board who have tight connections, so would you please let them get off the plane first?" It is a reasonable request, however it rarely has any effect. The norm to get off the plane row by row is stronger than a reasonable request from the leadership. This phenomenon happens in organisations every day. We as leaders make reasonable requests and our staff has no problem acting like we never said a thing culture is a powerful force that


Michael O'Brien

drives behaviour and performance, even when it is contrary to our demands. There are two types of culture defensive and constructive. Constructive cultures reward proactive behaviours that foster innovation, performance, personal responsibility and accountability. Defensive cultures, on the other hand, reward inactive or reactive behaviours that focus on maintaining the status quo, blaming others for creating problems and promoting a real desire to look good on the surface.

CULTURE IS A POWERFUL FORCE THAT DRIVES BEHAVIOUR AND PERFORMANCE All organisations have some of each set of behaviours in their culture. But what differentiates companies is which set of behaviours is dominant. Research has shown that only about one third of cultures are primarily constructive, while the remaining two thirds are primarily defensive.

Imprint | Winter 2012

The tendency for organisations to be more defensive than constructive is just part of a natural path that organisations follow (unwittingly) in their growth and development. Most organisations start out being constructive (or with a lot of money) and to survive they develop a product or service that establishes them with a dominant market position. Over time their initial success leads to more success. They lose the urgency to create and develop new products to survive and they start to develop a sense of needing to "protect the core" and maintain this success. Management gets into a comfort zone, convinced by their success in the past, that their brilliance will carry them forward. As more and more effort goes into protecting the current business, management develops an arrogance - and they start to pay attention only to information that reinforces the view of their brilliance. They ignore and rationalise information that would suggest that their core business is deteriorating and that they need to reinvent themselves. To prevent dissidence from occurring, the focus becomes internal - attempting to maximise profitability on the core product or

service, oblivious to the realities of the market. The true performance of the organisation continues to deteriorate until one day they wake up in a crisis and have no idea how they got there. In fact, recent research has shown that the more defensive the culture of the organisation, the more volatile the financial performance is - i.e. going through cycles of developing new and then protecting the core until it is gone and then in a panic, develop a new and protect that and so on.

RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT THE MORE DEFENSIVE THE CULTURE OF THE ORGANISATION, THE MORE VOLATILE THE FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE So if you have been frustrated in trying to implement new initiatives, perhaps it isn't the initiative that has been the problem, but that unseen obstructionist, the culture. The companies that continually promote a more constructive culture do this through effective leadership that recognises how


important it is to keep the organisation ever-green. These organisations are externally focused, balance the concerns of all stakeholder groups, keep politics out and ensure that communication flows freely, ensuring candid discussions and decision-making. These leaders do this by being future focused, always anchoring decisions to a clear vision, a strategy and clear expectation. In other words, vision and values are not posters in these organisations, but true operational tools. Since 1983, Michael J O'Brien has unraveled the complexities of organisations into easy to understand interrelationships. Michael's diverse background in finance, economics and human behaviour has enabled him to take the seemingly unpredictable relationship side of business and make it tangible and manageable. His clear understanding of corporate cultures and leadership has enabled companies from around the world to achieve dramatic culture change and performance growth. Michael lives in Ann Arbor with his wife Angela and their son and two daughters.

Imprint | Winter 2012


(article by Joe Askew)

INNOVATION IN LEAN TIMES The Pacific Institute® in 2011 initiated an exciting new partnership with Cardiff University’s LEAN enterprise Research Centre (LERC). his exciting and innovative joint venture is responsible for the centre’s new executive short course on leadership in continuous improvement, ‘Lean Potential to Lean Performance’.


The Pacific Institute’s® (TPI®) approach to organisational transformation has been carefully integrated into the research and expertise that LERC has accumulated over a number of years. Combining cutting-edge thinking on leadership, policy deployment and organisational culture and change, the course has attracted significant interest from a broad spectrum of private and public sector bodies. The programme explores 4 key elements of effective change along the journey towards developing constructive leadership. These include: • Achievement • Self-actualisation • Humanistic and encouraging leadership • Affiliative leadership The curriculum examines these themes and blends a range of lean performance improvement methods with the very latest

thinking from psychologists, who are involved in the pursuit of best practice in performance improvement. Run over 7 days, the course is highly participative and measurable. There are 2 modules which comprise the programme, namely: 1 – Focus on Lean Culture and development of self 2 – The influence of leadership on lean culture Key benefits that participants can expect include the development of a personal and team progression plan to enable clarity of goals and objectives. They will gain a range of new skills, tools and techniques to get the best out of their teams and a much better understanding of themselves as leaders. A pilot programme was conducted in September 2011, and was comprised of leaders from Yeo Valley Organic, a leading dairy products producer. Led by three eminent industry professionals; Pauline Found, Senior Researcher at Cardiff University LERC, Lynne Oliver, from the Pacific Institute®, and Richard Harrison, visiting associate at Cardiff University 5

(LERC), the programme was extremely well received. For The Pacific Institute®, Lynne has been leading on the development of the programme and brings her considerable specialist knowledge and experience to the fore. Steve Welch, Group Continuous Improvement and Yogurt Manufacturing Manager at Yeo Valley Organic, was highly enthusiastic about the results of the pilot programme, explaining that the course focused on ‘getting the right behaviour and values and moving from good to great.’ Paul Kennedy, an HR Manager from the Blagdon site, was similarly impressed, saying “We feel privileged to be part of this interactive course, particularly as we are the first to experience it.” Three more programmes are planned for the early part of this year, including one with leaders from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The development of the programme and the interest it has generated certainly bode well for TPI® going into 2012. Once again it has shown how effective a good partnership model can be and we eagerly look forward to future success. Imprint | Winter 2012

Maximise Performance

(article by Joe Askew)

BUILDING A GREAT CULTURE TO MAXIMISE PERFORMANCE Culture. Seven letters that will determine the success of your efforts in creating a high performance organisation. In the summer of 2007, John Allen, Principal of Lincoln College, was fully aware of this fact. hat he had also realised was that something else was needed that could assist a good college to become an outstanding college; some form of catalyst, spark or impetus. This input needed to be different, not simply systems related but rather something that would light fires inside his staff and create an imperative for excellence. It was at this point that he began to consider the work of The Pacific Institute® (TPI®) and the results they had helped others in the sector to achieve. John would be the first to admit that he wasn’t 100% comfortable with the proposals. It wasn’t a natural partnership initially. Instinctively however, he knew that what TPI® offered was indeed different – an opportunity to get inside the thinking prevalent in his college – and in doing so, to gain a real insight into how staff perceived the college and why.


THE CONTEXT For forty years, The Pacific Institute® has worked with senior leaders like John to understand the culture they operate within. Extensive research suggests that most cultures act as an

obstructionist to change – that organisations subconsciously fight to ‘stay the same’. What often happens in the real world is a form of paying lip service to change. This would certainly help explain why 70% of new initiatives fail (Blanchard researchers, 2009). The key point of organisational culture is that it shapes members’ thinking about what behaviours are appropriate, regardless of whether those behaviours are productive or not! The Pacific Institute® utilises tools which measure not just the operating culture presently dominant, but also the ideal culture that leadership needs to create in order to deliver on their mission and vision. That was the starting point, which Lincoln College embraced.

THE PROCESS The project began with the Cultural Alignment℠ process, which saw staff undertaking a confidential online culture survey in the summer of 2007. The resulting report provided a detailed breakdown of staff views about the existing culture and the perceived effectiveness of the organisation. Results from the initial survey indicated that Lincoln’s own 6

John Allen Principal Lincoln College

culture was close to the average The Pacific Institute® has found in other FE colleges across the UK.

LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT ARE OUTSTANDING. STRONG LEADERSHIP AND HIGHLY EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT BY THE PRINCIPAL AND SENIOR MANAGERS UNDERPIN THE OUTSTANDING OUTCOMES FOR LEARNERS. The Cultural Alignment℠ process is two-pronged however and the results of the Ideal culture survey, completed by leaders, indicated that its desired culture was highly aspirational. There was a gap; a disconnect of sorts. Why was a highly constructive culture clearly identifiable as the objective, yet a significantly more defensive culture prevalent? The culture survey had highlighted key areas for change, which were fed back to John and his senior leadership team. The team was Imprint | Winter 2012

fascinated by the perceptions and their focus immediately shifted to how to move towards the desired culture. As part of the solution, the college began implementing TPI®’s Investment in Excellence® (IIE®) programmes, initially within the leadership team before rolling this out to other members of staff. IIE® is a 4-day process that unpicks the data from the culture survey and really examines why people come to hold collective beliefs about themselves and their organisations. It considers, amongst other things, at what the senior and middle leaders are doing to create these erroneous beliefs. This may be an uncomfortable process at one level. The bulk of the programme, however, is spent looking at how to align with the vision culture, not simply unravelling the current one. This creates significant energy and alignment.



curriculum was still welcome. John Allen is of the opinion that, “The IIE® programme is by far the most successful and popular CPD programme that the college has ever been involved in”. High praise indeed. Of the initial 60 staff who undertook the programme, 12 were selected to go forward and train as internal deliverers of the curriculum to the rest of the staff. The quality of this group was outstanding – a key element in the success of any implementation. By 2011, over 700 staff have been taken through the IIE® process – unleashing creativity and innovation across the college. This has been instrumental in creating a “can-do” mindset that will not settle for simply “good”. In the spring of 2011, Lincoln was inspected under the new Ofsted framework. Lincoln College is now

CULTURE. SEVEN LETTERS THAT WILL DETERMINE THE SUCCESS OF YOUR EFFORTS IN CREATING A HIGH PERFORMANCE ORGANISATION! For more information about any of these articles, or The Pacific Institute®, please contact: The Pacific Institute® 4th floor, 1 Kingdom Street Paddington Central London, W2 6BD


By the spring of 2008, 60 of Lincoln’s key staff had experienced IIE®. Working with expert trainers and inspirational leaders is the norm for TPI®, but the seal of approval they offered to the

officially the largest outstanding General FE College in England, and one of only five GFE colleges awarded the overall Grade 1 under this framework. Ofsted commented that “Leadership and management are outstanding. Strong leadership and highly effective management by the Principal and senior managers underpin the outstanding outcomes for learners. Expectations of staff and learners are consistently high and nearly always met”. Whilst this is due to a myriad of improvements across the college, it is worth noting the Principal’s summary of the impact of a project that had started 3 years previous, with the stated outcome of raising expectations within the college, “Lincoln College is now a very successful college, recently rated outstanding by Ofsted, which is a reflection of the embedded culture across the entire college”. T: +44 (0) 20 3402 3641 F: +44 (0) 20 3402 3411

From potential to performance_ 7

Imprint | Winter 2012

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