All summed in Culture

An organizational culture is the sum total of all I have discussed in my previous posts. It is the product of your people, your policies, and the way your organization does business.

Before you can define your organization’s culture, you must understand what a culture is. While there are many definitions, this is mine.

On the surface, a culture is how your company does things. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” This behavioral measure of culture is important because it’s the demonstrable result of all you do. But is not the only metric.

Culture is also the sum of the underlying values and beliefs that mold your organization. Those values and beliefs have been the subject of my prior posts in this series. Rolled up, they form the underpinning of your culture.

In a Meta sense, these values and beliefs provide a “reality” that is unique to your organization. It provides a basis for purpose and action. It serves as a means of mainstream … and provides a baseline to evaluate people and decisions.

Every organizational culture is different. Competitors can copy your products, mimic your strategies, and hire your people, but they can never duplicate your culture. It is a living, breathing, changing thing that defines your organization like a fingerprint.

This my readers marks the last post of my “Managing People” series. I hope you enjoyed reading them as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Organizations always plan for business strategies and technology solutions, but seldom do they seriously considering how they manage their people.

Please share the series or posts with your friends and colleagues if you find them of benefit.

Until I write again.

Saud A.


Promotions may be the most misunderstood aspect of management.

While promotions create motivation and engagement, and demonstrate recognition of individuals, they are not just a reward for good performance. A promotion is the process of adding more responsibility to an employee’s role in the organization.

Following this logic, the best candidate for promotion is not necessarily your team’s top performer. While the criteria for promotion will differ for every job, there are some common trails to look for.

Perhaps the most important is skilled communication. While good communication is desirable in every position, it is a prized asset in a manager. The ability to handle conflict, give feedback, and manage difficult people makes a strong manager in any situation.

Not to be overlooked is a person’s ability to handle failure. While some employees look for excuses and scapegoats, other will accept responsibility and use the setback as a platform for learning and growth.

Finally, remember that promotions groom your organization’s future leadership. Choosing candidates who understand – and demonstrate – your mission and values ensure the seamless continuation of your organization’s culture.

In summary, promotions are an incubator for leadership. While competency is important, always consider the skills and talents your candidate will need in the future, as part of your leadership class.

Manage Your Team’s Workload

Assigning projects to your team may appear to be a straightforward task, but in fact, it’s a critical and complex process.

In many organizations, top performers are burdened with too great a workload, causing resentment. Meanwhile, struggling employees are avoided, eventually losing interest and motivation.

Compounding the problem is human nature: some employees have trouble saying “no,” while others can all too well.

The disparity between the overworked top performers and the under-utilized weak performers leads to low morale, disengagement, and ultimately, turnover.

It’s easy to understand how this happens. Faced with productivity goals, the manager is simply trying to get the job done with available resources.

Management experts offer several methods to balance workload effectively:

First, match skills to needs. Who does what well?  Assign tasks according to each person’s strengths.

Next, create workload metrics. While employees equate effort to hours worked, the true metric is quantity and quality of tasks completed. The project one employee completes in an hour may take another all day.

Finally, coach and develop weaker team members. Every team has a person or two who are slower, inexperienced, or less capable. You owe it your top performers to develop struggling employees. They will require additional supervision and special, developmental assignments. You may find that these team members don’t have the proper aptitude or the necessary interest in the job. If so, they should be re-assigned.

Workload management is a fluid, ever-changing challenge. Giving it proper attention is key to a productive team.

The Micromanager

Have you ever had a boss who wouldn’t leave your work alone? Who had to rewrite and approve everything you did, no matter how small? Who was never satisfied with anything, ever?

You were the victim of a micromanager.

Like the name implies, the micromanager has a high need to control the smallest details. From reports to memos to something as small as a color choice, the micromanager is unable to delegate and has to do it himself. If you had the misfortune to work for one, you know how demoralizing it can be.

If you manage one on your team it’s best to address the problem now, before it results in turnover.

Sometimes this behavior is an extension of personal control issues, as you’d expect. But in others, it is actually based in fear of failure.

Consider how managers are promoted to their positions. Typically, they have above average competence at individual skills, and their work has earned them recognition and advancement. But once promoted, they manage employees who are less competent. Sometimes, especially when new to their role, these managers fear that work produced by their team is expected to be as good as their own individual work. Not comfortable with delegating, they feel the need to do the work themselves.

You can help shield the micromanager’s staff in several ways. First, model good managerial behavior, particularly with the micromanager. Demonstrate trust and proper delegation. Try talking through the problem with the micromanager, being sure to praise positive behavior.

Help the micromanager understand that there’s a difference between “his way” and the “wrong way.” That employees may get the task done differently than the micromanager expected, but the result is still valid.

Micromanaging is a difficult habit to break, but with patience and support it can be overcome.

A Sense of Community in the Workplace

Much of what we believe about management has its roots in the Industrial Revolution. The concept of the organization as a “well-oiled machine” with a rigid, almost military hierarchy, is leftover from a time when jobs were simple, repetitive, and mindless.

In fact, organizations of 100 years ago mimicked machines… and many still do. The manager sits at the top, pulling levers to cause specific actions. The employees become replaceable parts, fueled to do repetitive tasks with ever-greater efficiency.

Today, in the light-speed digital age, anything mindless and repetitive is already done by a machine, or soon will be. You need people to contribute critical thinking, creativity, and judgement to your business.

This is best accomplished by dropping the machine metaphor and viewing your company as a community of individuals.

While the community has a purpose of its own, it is supported by a foundation of people, each with their own unique hopes and dreams.

Creating a sense of community in your workplace is essential to satisfying two basic employee needs I described in the first article: belonging and recognition.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “This is great theory, but how do I create community in my workplace?”

First, you must discard the myth that the needs of corporation are greater than the needs of the individual.

I know, this is heresy by Industrial Revolution standards. But we all instinctively know it’s true.

Saying it out loud — and displaying it through your company’s behavior — has an almost magical effect: it allows your employees to shed their “you versus me” thinking and embrace the purpose of the company.  By recognizing them as individuals, they will know their needs are, to at least some degree, important to their employer, as well as themselves.

Work Engagement

If you gave each of your employees a check for 5 million dollars, how many would show up for work the next day?

Your answer is a window into the basic health and culture of your business.

Sure, it seems absurd that anyone would continue to work without the need for a paycheck… but money alone is not why people go to their jobs every day.

A survey conducted by Make Their Day, an employee motivation firm, and Badgeville, a gamification company, shows the most desired rewards from work are recognition and meaning. Compensation ranked sixth.

This is not surprising. People do not suspend their lives when they are working. They do not become fundamentally different when sitting behind a desk or standing at a machine.

In a modern society, where people’s needs for basic shelter and safety are met, they desire belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization. There’s no reason why work should be excluded from those desires, yet in most organizations, these needs are either disregarded or not taken seriously.

But there’s good reason to do so: Employees who sense belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization on the job experience a condition called “engagement.” Engagement has a profound affect on job satisfaction and creates an even more profound increase in productivity.

Only 30% of people are engaged at work and more often than not, you’ll find them at top-ranked, highly effective organizations. In this series of posts, I will explain more about the steps required to create engagement and in turn, turbo-charge your organization’s success.

Digital Transformation in Telecom

People are becoming increasingly connected through their mobile devices voice and data networks, and with advancements in technology, dependence is further increased on data. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems are the two most dominant operating systems for mobile devices and have offered users thousands of apps for increased connectivity, productivity, and entertainment.

Such developments in the telecommunication industry pose a challenge to telecom operators who rely heavily on voice services and could face a decline in profits and increased churn rate due to intense competition and digital media innovations.

Some telecom companies resorted to transforming their business. However, it is worth noting that its not enough for a company to go lean or improve its network infrastructure. It is however imperative that telecom companies focus on the customer experience and retain their customers through excellence in service. Believe it or not, customer retention costs 50% less customer acquisition (link).

Successful transformation will require companies to take a holistic view of their business and reconsider their strategies, structures, people, cultures, systems, and management styles all at once. To put it differently, it is not enough to expand delivery capabilities, but to also improve efficiencies, reduce costs, seek excellence in customer service, and improve on the customer experience.

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Telecommunications Outlook, the digital transformation of customer experience is one of the top strategies telecom companies should strive for to remain competitive. Such transformation would span customer care, sales, and billing.

To really stand out of the crowd, companies must invest in Big Data to understand their customers’ behaviors, and deliver products and services that match such behavior. Companies must understand the Moments of Truth their customers go through to purchase service plans, activates them, and/or switch between them. They must also understand how their customers like to spend their time, where they like to spend their money, what products interest them, and what significant anniversaries they have.

Here is a short video that really offers a very innovative approach to a pro-active customer experience through OmniChannel, which might seem a little farfetched at the time being, but not impossible to achieve:

So where am I going with all of this? Transformation projects are inevitable to telecom companies in Bahrain to remain competitive. However, to borrow from a previous article I wrote about Transforming Banking in the Middle East, and while strictly referring to digital transformation of customer experience, nearly 80% of Customer Experience Management projects fail (link) because managers think that adopting a new software or system is transformation, internal capabilities and operations are not ready, and finally for not having a follow-up plan post implementation (link). Only those who lead the way will succeed, while others wait and catch up at a later time. It could however be too late to catch up. Just remember Nokia’s late jump on the wagon of mobile device innovation.

My advice to companies considering digital transformation is for them to take a holistic approach and begin with an Organization Readiness & Competence Assessment, then perform an Outside-In analysis to better understand the relationships between their internal processes and systems and how they are affected by customer touch points, and finally how transformation strategies will affect them.


One Internet, One World

I recently read an article titled “One Internet, Two Nations“, which was recommended to me by a very dear person. The article, written by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and published in the New York Times on October 31, 1999, discusses the degree of digital divide within the American society. It does so based on ethnicity, between the white and black communities. Gates’ conclusion was that blacks have a self-imposed segregation between them and new technological tools of literacy.

Gates uses the days of slavery as his starting point, noting that blacks were denied access to education;  the first right they gained after a long legal battle. Then he wonders why blacks are reluctant to embrace the new digital tools, and why a type of cyber-segregation exists.

While Gates may have explored the topic from a brief economical point of view, including a focus on the content offered on these digital tools; I respectfully disagree with his conclusions. I understand that times have changed, and the article was written nearly 14 years ago. But I’d like to throw in a valid point when I think I have one.

Content is not necessarily what’s appealing to people when it comes to using technology or the internet. Its about the culture of a society and how they tend to behave. People of African, Asian, Arab, or even Latin decent, are known to cherish their family oriented values. Something they grew up with.

To prove my point, I suggest you take a walk in a neighborhood known to be predominantly populated by one of the ethnic groups mentioned above. You’ll notice that residents actually enjoy sitting on the porch, and children either skipping, playing sports, or simply “chilling”. They do that not because they can’t afford technology, but because they prefer to be around people.

In a 2009 study conducted by the National Center for Education (USA), only 33% of respondents reported their lack of access to the internet was due to its expense. This percentage however isn’t based on race or ethnicity.  The same study found out that nearly 90% of Whites have/use internet at home, while 80% of Blacks or Hispanics do. Their variance to me isn’t significant when accounting for cultural values.

More recently however, the internet has played  a major role in globalization, uniting different thoughts and cultures through keyboards and extended networks for different causes. Social Media has been successful due to the fact that it revolved around people. Not technology, research, or literature. Thus expanding its users base by appealing to people oriented cultures.

Twitter for example has a “trends” functionality that highlights what people are tweeting about globally. In fact, the term “The People’s Republic of Twitterstan” was used in this article which speaks about Twitter’s trending topics in 2011. Whether it’s a tsunami in Japan or wildfire in Colorado, you can bet that thousands of people are tweeting about it around the glob. Other terms such as twittersphere and twitterverse have also become common, reflecting on the effect of Twitter on its worldwide users.

So if I was to rewrite the title of Gates’ article, I’d call it “One internet, One world”.