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Define Yourself, Define the Organization, Define the World

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Having a mission, a sense of purpose about one’s activities has almost always proven to be a path towards generating higher levels of personal pride. Whether that pride is about your activities, your beliefs, an organization you work for, or some other facet of your day-to-day life.

Having a higher purpose mission is one way in which we define ourselves.  A nurse or doctor is helping the sick and maintaining health, a teaching is preparing the next generation, while students are preparing to take their places in our societies, a police officer is bringing safety and security to our neighborhoods, a firefighter is saving lives and property, a sanitation worker is keeping our cities and towns clean and livable, a craftsperson revels in the quality of their work. The list is potentially endless and each person, no matter their role in our society strives to define their place, their sense of purpose. Those who achieve a positive sense of purpose, I would argue, end up not only scoring higher on pride scales, but also in general life happiness.

Those who struggle with a sense of purpose to their lives, struggle on many other fronts as well. The good news is that people can change how they define themselves, their sense of purpose, over time. Someone who is struggling with that sense of purpose, either on their own or with assistance, can achieve a renewed sense of purpose and live a more fulfilling life.

A body of research has now shown that if you can encourage people to think along the lines of how they define themselves, it is more likely to lead to them taking action congruent with that definition, than if they think about just the action specifically. Christopher Bryan, a psychologist at Stanford University, has conducted a series of experiments on a variety of topics that makes this point. For instance, getting someone into the mindset that they are a voter, a participant in our democracy, increases the likelihood that they will vote over simply getting a commitment from a similar person to vote in next week’s election. Likewise getting someone to define themselves as a person who recycles, increases that behavior over simply asking people to engage in and getting them to commit to recycling activities.

Now we know that “nudging” a voter or recycler to engage in those activities also increases the likelihood of action being taken. An example of a voting nudge would be to as specifically as possible get someone to plan out how they will actually cast that ballot. So for instance, planning out how will they get to the polling station, which if any identification is required and locating that identification, or obtaining it ahead of time, determining what time of day they will vote, putting it on their calendar, arranging for childcare if necessary, etc. In other words helping the person visualize and plan out each step necessary to successfully carry out the behavior is more likely to result in the behavior being carried out. As it turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, getting them to define themselves as a voter in the first place has additional benefit, increasing the likelihood of a vote taking place.

In the organizational world, if you want to change the trajectory that an organization is on, it can be very important to change the actual behaviors that people engage in. In other words, for example, if you are trying to improve quality, and all you do is try to change attitudes towards quality, hoping that the old behaviors that led to quality problems will resolve themselves, what tends to happen is that the old behaviors override the attitudinal changes you are working upon and the old behaviors reinforce the old attitudes. That approach is like pushing a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down time after time. Rather, it is more effective to begin with some of the behaviors that are causing the poor quality to emerge, change them by showing, teaching, modifying, measuring etc. the specific behaviors, while at the same time working to modify the attitudes around what is acceptable quality.

And now a new additional potential step that can help insure success, work at the very beginning to have people join your quality journey and sign onto defining their mission their sense of purpose to create high quality.  So:

 

  1. Change the mindset, the definition of purpose/mission
    • Think of these as nouns – I am a voter, I am a recycler, I am a quality fiend
  2. Change the behaviors
    • Think of these as verbs – I vote, I recycle
  3. Change the attitudes
    • Think of these as outcomes, as mindsets and behaviors change attitudes will often follow.

Now how can we scale this up? Say our existence on this planet was faced with a challenge. The planet is warming and this will have all sorts of negative consequences. There is climate change and increased instability in the atmosphere (due to increases in atmospheric energy), there are changes coming in ocean salinity which can change ocean current patterns with which we are familiar as well as change the ocean’s habitability to current life forms, the artic permafrost is melting which has the potential to place unimaginable amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, as well as allowing long dormant bacteria and viruses to reemerge. Rising sea levels threaten coastal locations as well as numerous islands. The list of other really negative consequences to global warming is long, including threatening humanity’s very existence.

Our ability to take action on a global scale up to this point has been limited. Even though the United States is currently the only nation on the planet – think about it,  the only nation on the planet, that has walked away from a treaty that is a first attempt to wrestle this problem to the ground. Previous attempts in the USA have focused on changing behaviors and while that is extremely important, it is not perhaps where we should have started.

Ever wonder why school kids are so concerned, so impassioned about climate change, even when their parents may take on a less concerned, or less action oriented stance? They may feel, “after all, what can one person do” or they may not believe the science. But the kids have a different mindset. They think about themselves as stewards of the planet and the creatures that live upon it. Changing to this steward mindset among the majority of adults can be a beneficial first step to getting people and organizations to change behaviors. The only question is it too late?

The potential of applying mindset/mission/purpose definitions to all kinds of problems is there and the potential benefits are great. The motivation and/or resources to do so may be lacking.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

January 25, 2018 at 8:10 pm

The BIG Lie, Walls and Innovation

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If I was consulting at a company and the CEO told me that they were going to wall themselves off from the rest of the world, to prevent unwanted impacts from occurring to the organization, I would pretty forcefully make the argument that what they were doing was going to increase the amount of unwanted impacts, exactly the opposite of what was hoped.

Organizations which isolate themselves in an attempt to insulate themselves will not be challenged by or have access to better ideas, processes or products from elsewhere. Ideas, processes and products that others will have access to. Are those challenges uncomfortable, pushing the organization into new and potential untried directions? Yes. But those very challenges help them to progress as an organization and it helps them progress on making better, higher quality products. Isolated organizations stagnate, as the world passes them by, making them obsolete and ripe for failure or collapse. It is only a matter of time.

Organizations that embrace the outside world, find that they have to constantly update themselves, including their products and process, as well as the skill sets of their people. It makes success more difficult to achieve, but it also strengthens the organization so it can compete more effectively in the long-term.

One key element in measuring whether an organization is functioning as a highly innovative organization is to determine if the organization can make use of the best ideas from within the organization regardless of where they come from. Is the source of new ideas and concepts limited only to those whose responsibility or job title has something about research or innovation in it? If so, you can be pretty sure that you are looking at an organization that is not all that innovative. If innovations come from all over the organization, and the organization can incorporate the best of those ideas into the way they operate, you are likely dealing with a much more successful, innovative company. Another aspect of innovation is whether the company can find the best ideas and concepts externally and can they incorporate those novelties into their existing products and operations.

Innovation comes in at least two “flavors”. Big “I” and little “i” innovation. As Scott Brooks and I describe in our new book, Creating the Vital Organization, little “i” innovation is when existing processes, products and policies are improved. A daycare center which changes their hours of operation to better accommodate parents is doing little “i” innovation. Big “I” innovation is when brand new explorations are taking place, new products are thought of, new markets explored, and completely new business processes are being tried out. A daycare center that adds eldercare, which likely requires new and different equipment and/or facilities, new activities, different and/or additional staff and care standards, new marketing, etc. is doing big “I” innovation. Both of these types of innovation are critical for long-term organizational success.

A daycare center which, by walling itself off from its environment, continues doing only childcare, while all of its competitors are also offering eldercare, will fall behind competitively, for as the environment changes (with an aging population), they fail to adapt. Can they survive? Perhaps. But if everyone who needs childcare, suddenly finds themselves needing eldercare as well, this daycare is ill-prepared to deal with the market and the changing external environment. The organization which does not change will not thrive as they fail to fulfill their potential.

As the pace of change quickens, partly driven by rapidly changing technology and global economic conditions, keeping pace with change is all that more difficult and painful. But that difficulty will not change the ultimate outcome for an entity that Walls itself off.

An aspect of personality has been shown to be tied to innovation, changes and Walls. Neophobics, are people who tend to fear new things, they are traditional, wanting to maintain existing social orders, the things they have done in the past that work “just fine”, they want to build walls, both socially, policy-wise and physical. And they have been shown to have a more easily triggered sense of disgust. (Jonathan Haidt, the noted sociologist, has also found that they tend to be Republican). When something is new or different, or perceived as a threat their reaction can be one of disgust. They may talk about how “disgusting” an event, a person, or a change is to them. Neophobia is not a binary, either/or condition. It is anchored at the other end of the scale with neophillia, or a tendency to engage in new activities or to like new things. People at this end of the scale tend to embrace change and find it invigorating. The vast majority of us are not at one extreme or the other, but tend towards the middle of the scale. And depending on the situation, or environment a person who is neophillic just might act in a neophobic way and vice versa. Those at the more extreme ends of the scale exhibit somewhat predictable behaviors.

There are many forms that Walls can take. A physical wall between the USA and Mexico is very obvious, aimed at keeping a “problem” outside. Presenting your opinion as being based on “alternative facts” is simply a Wall that prevents the truth from entering, allowing those who base their actions on alternative facts (lies), to ignore reality. (People who cannot tell fantasy from reality are technically psychotic, a very serious mental illness.) A trade agreement is a way of overcoming Walls while tariffs on goods is a way of creating Walls. Eventually these Walls will increase the undesired impacts on the nation rather than reducing them.

Having peered reviewed scientific research run through a political vetting process as has been stated as a new policy for Federal Agencies as the new administration begins a lock down on information at such places as the Center for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency is nothing more than a Wall. You don’t want to let scientific truths impact your political talking points, so you must Wall off the truth. As both a scientist and a CEO, I find that deeply troubling, as there is only one way that can end if implemented, and it is not good for science, for business or for the USA. Fantasy worlds tend to collapse over time as they are nothing more than a house of cards. Scientific facts simply do not care what you believe. The ice is melting, the climate is changing, whether you personally believe it or not.

The USA is a very large organization. At this moment in time, there are elements that are aiming to build all sorts of Walls around it and even within it. These Walls will weaken the nation, will reduce the standard of living, and put all of us in peril. It is time to tear down Walls, not build them.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

January 26, 2017 at 9:49 am

Posted in Vitality

The Planet is in Trouble. What’s Your Organization Doing to Help?

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The UN set an ambitious humanitarian goal. But they can’t achieve it alone. 

 

Come learn what leading executives are doing to help the UN fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Last September, the United Nations set an ambitious global humanitarian agenda by establishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a list of 17 goals meant to improve the lives of people around the world over the next 15 years. Accomplishing these goals, which includes ending poverty, eliminating hunger, and achieving gender equality, among other things, is a colossal task, and one that will require the cooperation and dedication of people from organizations beyond the United Nations and member countries. Join us on September 27th at 12:30 pm EST for a lively discussion with members from four organizations who are actively making an impact toward the fulfillment of these goals. We are honored to have the following panelists: Dawn Rittenhouse, Director of Sustainable Development for DuPont; Mark C.Weick, Director, Sustainability and Enterprise Risk Management at Dow Chemical; Dr. David S. Wilkie, Executive Director, Conservation Measures and Communities at the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Norine Kennedy, Vice President, Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement at the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). Find out what their organizations are doing to make a difference, and why committing to the help fulfill these 17 goals makes good business sense. Register Here!

 

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

September 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Goal Setting, Vitality

The three types of people every organization needs

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I wanted to share information on my upcoming Webinar, The Three Types of Individuals Every Organization Needs, on September 13th at 12:30 EST.  During this webinar, I’ll take an in-depth look at three critical roles within the vital organization: That of explorer, executor, and boundary spanner. I’ll explain why each is important, and discuss how to identify employees who fit a particular type.

The research for the Webinar comes directly from Creating the Vital Organization: Balancing Short-Term Profits with Long-Term Success, which I co-authored with one of my partners and OV Vice President, Dr. Scott Brooks. Scott, along with our consultant Victoria Hendrickson, will join me for this webinar.

I hope you can join me next Tuesday.

Register for our upcoming complimentary Webinars:

The Three Types of Employees Every Organization Needs on September 13th.

Organizations and the SDGs: Why Doing Good is Good Business on September 27th.

Also check out Creating the Vital Organization, available in every online bookstore.

Evaluate your Vitality with free assessments and reports here.

 

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

September 8, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Posted in OrgVitality, Vitality

Organizations and the SDGs: Why Doing Good is Good Business

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By Walter Reichman

The world’s humanitarian crisis is rapidly growing, with billions of people around the globe lacking basic necessities like clean water, nutritious food, and access to education and employment opportunities. Last September, the United Nations (UN) addressed this crisis by identifying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at improving the lives of people and the health of our planet over the next 15 years. Some of these goals include giving people access to clean water, nutritious food, education, and employment opportunities.

These goals are bold and ambitious, and will take more than just the United Nations to make them happen. Thankfully, practicing sustainable business habits often makes good business sense as well, and more organizations are already investing in the health and well-being of the global community.

MasterCard is working to make the financial system more accessible to more than 150 million people around the world. Merck is developing programs to reduce deaths of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Microsoft is developing cost effective connectivity to the internet for schools and communities in Africa. Walmart is providing opportunities for small businesses with less than 10 million in annual revenue that aim to empower women, and IBM is helping to develop a scorecard that measures a city’s resilience to a natural disaster.

This is just a small sample of corporations that are actively working to improve the lives of people around the world through smart business practices. To better understand the importance of this work, OrgVitality is sponsoring a panel Webinar entitled Organizations and SDGs: Why Doing Good is Good Business on Tuesday, September 27th at 12:30 EST. The Webinar will present representatives of four organizations that have made an active commitment to the achievement of these goals: The United States Council for International Business, Dow Chemical, DuPont, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

In this webinar, executives of these four organizations will describe their programs, explain how and why they were initiated and are promoted within their organization, and discuss the benefits to the organization and to the world at large.

OrgVitality has been supportive of the activities of the United Nations since the inception of the firm. I have been the main NGO representative to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN from the International Association of Applied Psychology since 2004. At ECOSOC, I, along with other representatives, are tasked with presenting position papers that are based upon psychological theory, research, and practice for commissions, committees, and deliberations. The position papers are translated into the various member languages and distributed to the delegations involved in the deliberations. Additionally, we hold “side events” during commission meetings where psychologists present their information. Finally, we also work to share information about the UN and its activities with our own organizations and members, which I aim to do through this Webinar discussion.

As psychologists, we have a responsibility to help fulfill the SDGs. The people most affected by this work are extremely vulnerable. Psychologists worked with the UN to develop the list of SDGs, and will continue to play a role, especially in regards to helping to change government activities, as well as monitoring and measuring the implementation of the goals. We have submitted papers to the Statistical Division of the UN with our suggestions for measuring the implementation, and we are contributing to the determination of the “indicators” of the implementation. Over the next 15 years, the UN will be issuing reports on the level of implementation worldwide, within regions, and within nations. Hopefully, the success of the implementation will motivate countries to progress even further.

At OrgVitality, we believe that part of our counsel to clients must incorporate a sense of their place in the larger global community, and we are proud of our work helping many clients fulfill their missions. This Webinar is a follow-up to an event we co-sponsored at the UN during the annual Psychology Day meeting; at this event, 40 OrgVitality clients and staff members toured the UN and attended discussions on the global migration crisis.

The achievement of the SDGs will improve the lives of all people and reduce the probability of conflict among people and nations. The goals can only be realized with a strong commitment to global partnership and cooperation among governments, business organizations and not -for-profit organizations. Please join us for the webinar which will describe how the partnership and cooperation can be achieved. Register Here.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

September 8, 2016 at 5:06 pm

Posted in OrgVitality, Vitality

You are invited to Creating the Vital Organization book launch party

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

May 12, 2016 at 10:19 am

Posted in OrgVitality, Vitality

OV co-sponsors Psychology Day at UN – Jeff Saltzman’s opening Remarks – 042816

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Thank you all for coming. It is most gratifying that such an urgent issue as the migration crisis brings forth such a high level of interest among both our clients and friends.

I hope you find today’s panel discussion on the migration crisis, whether caused by global warming, war, violence, or other factors facing so many of our fellow humans both educational and inspirational.

From an educational standpoint, what you may find is that traumatic events which displace people don’t necessarily bring forth new challenges that we have never faced before, but greatly magnify those that exist around all of us every day. Displacement, the loss of identify, the need to reintegrate people into society and help them find their worth are challenges that occur every day all around us, but are greatly magnified, more challenging and often more urgent with migrants.

During 911, for instance, we were in the midst of an employee survey for a financial services firm and part of the employee population completed the survey prior to 911 and part afterwards. One conclusion from that study was that traumatic events greatly magnify challenges that exist daily, challenges that must be met for the successful operation of our society and the organizations that reside within.

Organizations and the employees within go through changes in leadership, reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, new people coming and old friends going. They also experiences changes in the environment in which they operate. Each of these events can cause changes in status, influence, security, and the sense of having a positive future for oneself and potentially one’s family. These challenges, while they do not rise to the level of those who are displaced in a migration event, never-the-less share some common characteristics.  So as the panel discussion unfolds ask yourself how these same psychological concepts play out in your own organizations.

I hope you draw inspiration from the efforts that people around the world are putting forth to assist migrants and from the migrants themselves. There is, of course, always more that can be done. In our upcoming book, Creating the Vital Organization, Scott Brooks and I discuss the resilience that people have when given an appropriate environment to recover from challenges. It is truly remarkable. To quote the noted Psychologist, Ann Masten, an expert on human resilience, “The greatest surprise of resilience research is the ordinariness of the phenomena”.

The lesson learned – if we reach out and help those who are suffering from migration events, or when we reach out to our own employees experiencing various challenges, they can bounce back. They simply need a helping hand.

OV is proud to support the UN and help enhance UN deliberations through organizational psychology. Should anyone want to stay afterwards and continue the discussion we would be happy to join you. Thank you and enjoy the day.  Jeff

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

April 29, 2016 at 7:05 am

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