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So the ‘be a revolutionary in your business’ hogwash has already hit the business email blogosphere

February 3, 2011

No doubt, it’s going to also hit the mags and books as soon as the print dries and the electrons hit the spamosphere. Why do we all say (per the business pundits) we want to be revolutionaries?

Calling for a business revolution is a nice way to feel something is changing when very little is.  As for thinking you can keep things largely the same and still make a revolution, think about Gorbachev’s Perestroika.  Opening that closed society to outside information and switching to a market economy while keeping the society the same, the Party still in place, sounds like a great Tom Peters idea.   Sort of revolution lite; the safe revolution. Being a business revolutionary is great for consultants, writers and motivational speakers, but given the USSR’s collapse under Gorbachev, not a great way to affect meaningful and constructive change without completely blowing the place up.

On CNN while I’m writing this, Egypt is teetering on the fix it/replace it inflection point and what we’re seeing in the Middle East does apply to us.  We’re not seeing armies or bands of militants descending from the hills (ok, deserts) a la Fidel, we’re seeing everyday people being organized through Twitter, i.e. a mass revolution self-organized on the fly by the average person being tuned in to that society’s Twitter based conversation.   Reports say one of the key ‘revolutionaries’ in Egypt is an English teacher in her 30’s with a hot Twitter finger, not exactly a bomb thrower, but very much tapped into her society’s sense of timing and need for change and truth.  Today, every group of people has their own Twitter or other Social Media real-time info stream and companies are no different.  What we used to call the ‘jungle telegraph’ is now keyboard, not verbal, based.

The most significant business culture change we most often see is the disjoin between the Senior Leadership Team keeping things close to the vest and the average person’s new cultural norm (outside of work) for transparency and information sharing.  All those lobby and elevator court TV’s replaying your vision will not hit home.  You have to control your company’s Twitter stream.   As the CEO you have to send (or have sent) multiple Tweets per day, on things big and small, including public versions of your questions and frustrations.  Use the Dr. Pepper rule – 10, 2 and 4 for timing.  People will read them and reply once they see you actually read and reply (or have a close aide do so) and that they contain your real (and public versions of) concerns, frustrations and truths. The era of the imperial CEO is over as far as information is concerned.  Your company has an internal conversation and if you don’t control it, it will control you through your KPI attainment.

High Performance Organizations and their supporting cultures are values driven, defined, communicated and reinforced by numerous small internally consistent messages.  While we all like to talk about bottom-up, and that’s fine for a range of tactics, but the overall structure of the culture, its values and internal conversation needs to be framed top-down with calls for action followed by more calls for action.  Want an example of someone who gets it?  Not to get political, but Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark gets it.  During the recent snow storms, he tweeted on what street corner he was with a shovel and asked for help.  People responded and then he tweeted he was going to another intersection and people would meet him there to help shovel.  He controlled the conversation and showed leadership, far removed from the typical mid-morning and mid-afternoon photo-op press briefings by most snow bound mayors.

Does this work in the real-world we inhabit every day or is this another Perestroika idea?  Here’s an example of how people responded to Mayor Booker’s tweets for help shoveling out his city: ‘You inspired me to snowblow the whole block for the Chicago snowpocalypse. Good workout!’

Low cost, fast feedback and inspiring people to action, the real business revolution is managing by values fueled by tweets guiding the company conversation towards your vision of culture and KPI success. The real revolution is for us to implement company cultures more aligned to how we, as a collective group of 10, 100 or 10,000 regular people live in the greater culture and this means we have to tell it and read it, like it is, at 10, 2 and 4.

Rich Eichen is the Founder and a Managing Principal of Return on Efficiency, LLC, who’s website is http://www.growroe.com and is one of their senior turnaround leaders/CROs, Program and Interim Executives with over 25 years’ experience reshaping companies, Operations, IT and key initiatives. He can be reached at richard.eichen@growroe.com

 

 

 

 

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