Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Enhancing Organizational Performance

Visionary Ideas

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What motivates an organization or a movement of any kind to persevere, even in the face of adversity? It is when the organization or movement is based on a concept or an idea of what it stands for or potentially can become. This holds true for very small organizations as well as the largest. It holds true for political, human rights, conservation, religious movements etc.

Ideas are powerful. They are more powerful than physical assets, more powerful than territory, more powerful than any one person. Having a powerful idea is a cornerstone that a successful organization or movement needs to be built upon.

The founder of a small family run restaurant has the idea of building a “go-to” restaurant for locals and something the founder can pass on to the next generation. That is a visionary idea, and as contained as it might be, it is powerful for that family. They will fight ferociously and work endlessly for that vision.

The USA Declaration of Independence stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That is a visionary idea, an expansive one, and if fully implemented very powerful. And out of that powerful visionary idea sprang our institutions, our laws, our methods of governance with its checks and balances, all of which were intended to support and nourish the vision.

Taken from that perspective and at the risk of gross oversimplification, you could say that the outcome of WWII was preordained. For the Germans were rallying to and fighting for Hitler and yes, while he did have a vision of a new German and ethnically cleansed World Order, his apparent narcissism and megalomania made him central to that vision and put himself forth as the only one who could accomplish that vision. But the USA and its allies were fighting not for a person, but for an idea, a vision of how they were going to live their lives. A much more potent force.

People will dedicate their lives and under certain circumstances sacrifice them for a vision in which they believe. Jim Mattis, the highly respected and outgoing Secretary of Defense in his farewell note to Pentagon staff stated, “I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life.” A clear message of support for and direction to protect the vision of the USA and not any one person.

And while a lawyer may claim that they would “take a bullet” for a particular client, when faced with the reality of prison for crimes committed, that sacrificial commitment to an individual rings hollow. As it turns out, many people are susceptible to and find authoritarians attractive, as they state that they will take care of all of your problems and that they alone can do it (the estimate is up to 30% of the USA population are attracted to authoritarians), but over the long-run belief in and support of a commonly-held and widely supported vision will beat an authoritarian figure. Articulating and getting buy-in to that vision is key.

Each organization out there, no matter your size, industry or location should examine the vision by which it operates. If the vision is not explicit to the organization’s members, consider making it so, for it is hard to buy into a rumored vision. And make it a vision in which each member can feel pride. Commitment and dedication will be the reward the organization can obtain.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

January 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm

My Fellow Rats…

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On Psychopaths, Rats and Presidents. The phrase “You are a Rat, or to Rat someone out” may need to be rethought. This was first written in 2011, but is more relevant now than ever.

Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

There is an old folktale that begins with two travelers, strangers walking down a long dusty road.  As they walked, one of the strangers asked the other “What say you, shall I carry you or shall you carry me?” The second traveler ignored the statement for he was not about to carry the other. Later on the traveler asked a second question as they passed a field of barley, “Has this barley been eaten or not?” Once again the second traveler ignored the first for it was obvious for all to see that the barley was still growing in the field. Later on they passed a funeral procession and the one stranger said to the other “What do you think, is the person in the coffin alive or dead?” The second traveler could no longer contain himself and asked the first why he was asking such ridiculous questions. The first…

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 29, 2018 at 7:42 am

Organizations as a Force for Good

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Over the course of many years I have been fortunate enough to work in many different countries, with many different companies and in many different industries. One cross-company, cross-country, cross-industry study that has been repeated several times has been aimed at answering the question, “What is stronger, local culture or company culture?”.

And there are usually a few corollaries to that question which revolve around how international companies manage diverse global populations. Should one set of rules, one set of principles be in place globally or should companies adjust for local cultural nuances. Does “Do no evil”, or other corporate values statements work outside of the country where the corporation originates?

At the risk of oversimplifying, the way this study is typically executed is to take employee survey results from a large number of companies with multiple country locations. You would then match the survey items across the companies and countries. You hold constant as many variables as you can across the companies, matching them on occupation, tenure, gender etc. You then examine the data to determine if Company A in USA is more like Company A in China, Canada, Vietnam, Germany, etc. or is it more like Company B in those same locations. In other words, if Company A is more like Company A across countries, company culture is stronger. If Company A is more like Company B, or C, or D in their respective countries, then local culture is stronger.

Each and every time I have seen the results of this kind of study the findings are very clear. Company culture is stronger than local culture. That may surprise a few of you, especially those who are used to looking at power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, uncertainty avoidance etc., or those who simply feel that local culture can be very strong in many places, so let me explain.  If a company has an internal culture of strong ethics, customer focus, quality, respectful treatment, fairness or equal treatment, etc., that internal culture will override a local culture that may be less ethical, or less concerned about customer treatment, etc. People of course want to do a good job at work, (see https://jeffreysaltzman.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/lazy-good-for-nothing-employees/) they understand what is defined as doing a good job in a company they join and they tend to quickly conform to that definition. In these employee surveys we are not asking about local cuisine, predominant religions, clothing styles, or at what age should young people marry, etc. all of which of course can vary tremendously around the world, after all cultures in various countries are in fact different. We are asking questions about how they work, what they see in their working environment, how they feel about their treatment, about management, about the products and services they build or deliver etc. We are asking about the world of work, not their personal world (though of course there is some overlap).

So, if a company operates in an ethical fashion, or in a manner to treat all staff equitably regardless of their differences, etc., those characteristics are transportable around the world and can override local culture where fairness of treatment, or other characteristics are not necessarily common in that society in general. Companies can be a force for good as they operate globally if they have the right cultures in place. Here is an example. I was conducting a focus group of employees for one company in what will have to be an unnamed country. This was a company that put a great deal of emphasis on treating people fairly and giving equal opportunity to all, celebrating each and everyone’s differences. There was one participant in the focus group who decided to discuss his sexual orientation. He said coming to work was like a breath of fresh air in his life because he was accepted for who he was at work, even though outside of work in this country there were very negative attitudes towards LGBTQ people. The company culture, within the work environment, overrode local culture (as well as being aided by other factors such as familiarity).

If we broaden this out a bit what are the implications?

A company is simply a kind of organization to which people have voluntarily become members. People become members of many different kinds of organizations, or subgroups within those organizations, and upon joining those organizations or subgroups they tend to accept/tolerate the values of those organizations or they, within a fairly short period of time, exit those organizations.

Any organization has a set of values regarding how staff will be treated not only by the company but by other staff members, how customers will be interacted with, the emphasis on product quality, it’s regard for the law, norms of behavior, societal standards etc., in aggregate that represents the organization’s culture. Every company, every organization has a culture whether they work explicitly to achieve one or if they just let it arise on its own. Some organizations can have sub-cultures within the larger organization, or upon examination you may find that the organization’s culture is fairly uniform. (In general, organizations with uniform cultures outperform those with a number of sub-cultures, all other things being equal – but that is another study – see https://jeffreysaltzman.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/the-fundamental-benefit-of-consistency-for-organizations/).

An organization that sets a high bar, a bar of high ethics, equal treatment, intolerance of bad behavior etc. can project that culture domestically as well as internationally and into countries where that high bar just may be a bit lower. If they do so they can help raise the standards by which society functions. Any organization that sets a high bar can be a force for good.

The USA is simply another kind of organization, and the people who are living here are members (some by choice and some were born here). We don’t necessarily have a uniform culture or a uniform set of ethical standards, but historically the USA, while certainly not perfect, has been an example of how countries should operate in terms of the rule of law, freedom of the press, corruption, ethics, fundamental rights, torture etc. Even though at this moment the ethics, rule of law, level of corruption etc. in this current administration are questionable, I am hopeful that our institutions are strong enough to overcome the downward path we have taken and put us back on the right path. By building bridges to other countries, by working with our international allies, by protecting the vulnerable, leading by example our organization, our country can once again be a force for good.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 21, 2018 at 4:51 pm

A-7713

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via A-7713

As those at our southern border are stigmatized by the right I am reminded of this piece from a few years back. Constant vigilance is the price to be paid in order to avoid repeating history.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 8, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Justification of Decisions

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via Justification of Decisions

Making decisions with your gut? The data says you are on shaky ground.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 28, 2018 at 9:47 am

Speaking up

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Note to Staff: As the CEO of a company, one choice I make, nearly every day, is when do I speak up or speak out, and when do I keep quiet and let others follow the paths and actions they think best, or take the lead in putting out messages to staff, to clients or others. I am not a fan of micro-managing, but neither am I a fan of chaos, where people might be pulling in different directions. We must all pull together. And while this note is not about specific client related issues, after yesterday, once again I feel the need to speak to you. Forgive me if you feel I am being intrusive into your personal life.

Over the past few weeks we have seen abhorrent actions and one tragic event after another unfold across our nation or influenced by our nation’s current actions/policy on a  global basis. Perhaps this should have been expected in the run up to an election that many view as the most consequential in recent times, and I am worried that more stupidity might be foisted upon us before that election. Children, some extremely young, are still held in detention camps, separated from their parents. Any psychologist worth their salt can describe to you the lasting damage this will have on these children and I simply can’t describe to you how abhorrent I find this. Children, some younger than 5 are appearing before immigration judges, without representation,  to “plead their case” to determine whether they should be allowed to stay in this country. A 5-year old, of course, has absolutely no clue what is going on.  Last Wednesday, in Kentucky, a gunman tried to enter a black church and when thwarted, went to a Kroger supermarket and killed two, a likely hate crime. Pipe bombs were sent to outspoken critics of the current incumbent of the White House or those who practice journalism, a foundational bedrock which makes our democracy possible. In the Saudi embassy in Turkey, a journalist, who was viewed as a threat to the rulers of Saudi Arabia, was dismembered while alive and the audio recordings seem to indicate that he lived for 7 minutes while various parts of his body where cut off. In Yemen, a proxy war between Iran and Saudi is being fought, with USA supplied weapons. A few weeks ago, one USA missile killed a bus load of school children and today it is estimated that up to 13 million people are about to starve to death. Yesterday, in Pittsburgh, 11 people where killed while simply celebrating their faith. The list of tragedies can go on and on and they are in fact connected. They are connected or rather I should say enabled by the words and actions that are coming from this current administration. While we have seen tragic events before, events triggered by hate, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, the lust for power and wealth, and purposely fanned fears aimed at dividing us, we have never before seen the leadership of the USA openly promote such viewpoints (of course there have been racist presidents before). This current president as well as his enablers within the White House, within congress and within the judiciary have put this nation on a terribly dangerous path, one that serves their personal interests, or their personal beliefs, but not the interests of the nation itself or the principles upon which this nation was founded.

 

There are two phrases that I simply can’t get out of my head the last couple of days. One is “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” and the other is “a million candles burning for the help that never came”. I am unsure about the origins of the first, but the second is a line from a Leonard Cohen song. And while these two phrases might seem somewhat contradictory, the first suggesting a course of action, while the second suggests the hopelessness of that action, I am not about to give up for there is simply too much at stake. Last night at a memorial service that thousands attended in Pittsburgh for the slain congregants, a chant was taken up. It was one word, “Vote”.  It is not too late, light a candle, Vote.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

October 28, 2018 at 9:01 am

OrgVitality Acquires Employee Survey Practice from The Metrus Group

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PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y., Oct. 22, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — OrgVitality, LLC today announced the acquisition of The Metrus Group’s employee survey practice. Effective immediately, OrgVitality will assume all of The Metrus Group’s existing survey work.

OrgVitality is a global management consulting firm founded by leading industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists and technologists. The company is well-known for its science-driven approach to employee surveys, informed by the latest industrial organizational research and powered by cutting-edge technology. The Metrus Group is a New Jersey-based consulting firm that offers strategic employee surveys, talent management solutions, strategy design and execution and talent analytics. The acquisition leverages OrgVitality’s significant bespoke technology expertise, data-driven approach and proven track record of delivering high-touch business solutions.

“We are thrilled to welcome The Metrus Group’s Survey practice to the OrgVitality family,” said OrgVitality CEO Jeffrey Saltzman. “We have known the principals of The Metrus Group for years and greatly respect the thoughtful work they have done in this field. Not surprisingly, there is substantial alignment in our respective philosophies.”

Addressing the requirements of multinational workforces, driving transparency and data integrity and staying abreast of rapidly emerging regulations such as GDPR are continually increasing the role of technology in the employee survey business.  “We firmly believe that the most effective HR initiatives are grounded in science, customized to a client’s specific strategy and supported by a powerful technology platform that uses the latest advances in coding, machine learning, and artificial intelligence,” observed Saltzman.

“OrgVitality and The Metrus Group possess a shared vision and passion surrounding the work we do. It’s with great confidence that we entrust our survey practice in their care,” commented William Schiemann, CEO of The Metrus Group. “Our clients can trust that Valeria and I, along with Jerry Seibert, will remain involved with their projects, while enabling them to capitalize on the impressive resources that OrgVitality adds.” He noted that The Metrus Group will continue its consulting work in strategy, talent management and talent lifecycle.

Warranting a seamless transition for clients of The Metrus Group is a top priority for OrgVitality. Executive team members from the company will meet with all Metrus Group clients individually to better understand their business requirements and ensure continuity of high-quality services while migrating them to OrgVitality’s technology platform.

Saltzman concluded, “Companies generate competitive advantages through differentiation. What better place to start than a comprehensive understanding of how your workforce can support the fulfillment of short- and long-term business goals.”

OrgVitality was founded in 2009 and has offices in the United States, Israel and India. Financial terms of the agreement are not available.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

October 22, 2018 at 9:07 am

Posted in OrgVitality

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