Michael Walsh, Ph.D. in Work Arts Interview

Dr. Michael Walsh is an industrial and organizational psychologist, author, professor and leader of human resources and people analytics. In this Work Arts Interview, he shares some of the foundational ideas of his 2021 book, HR Analytics Essentials You Always Wanted To Know, discusses how changes in work are impacting organizations and their HR professionals’ efforts to build healthy communities that retain talent, and leaves us with practical steps we can take to make better decisions.

Michael currently leads Global Talent Management and Organizational Effectiveness for Eaton Corporation’s Vehicle Group. He also teaches graduate students at the University of Illinois and Wayne State University. Previously, Michael started and led the Global People Strategy and Analytics function at Bloomberg and the People Analytics and Insights Function at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Michael began his professional career as a client facing consultant for Mercer’s Human Capital practice focused on HR Strategy, Organizational Design/Development and Human Capital Analytics. He worked for Mercer in Chicago, Dubai and New York.

Arts We Like is a series of posts spotlighting great thinkers, ideas, products and partners that we share to help enable remarkable performance through more effective and engaged organizations. Contact Us about how to deploy these solutions as a part of a broader HR Strategy or engagements to develop your organization, capabilities and talent.

Julian Chender in Work Arts Interview – June 2021

This Work Arts interview highlights my June discussion with Julian Chender, talking all things Organization Design & Development. We discuss where we’ve come from, where we are going, as well as the foundation of social science and management/business science that shape what we know as organization development.

Julian shares some backstory on the historical foundations of the recent ODReview published article, OD in Times of Disruption, he co-authored with Corrie Voss, MOD, Ed.D. With enduring social science, we continue to appreciate and apply the work of original thinkers like Kurt Lewin, Edgar Schein and Jay R. Galbraith, from the early work in the OD field. On the management/business side, we continue to evolve as organizations face new challenges, leading to the need for both scale and agility. Finally, Julian shares insights on what he is learning as a part of the Fellowship Program at Kates Kesler.

Julian Chender is an Organization Development and Design practitioner and scholar. He oversaw Leadership Development at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease during the global Ebola and Zika outbreaks and then at Veldhoen + Company helped organizations align their culture, technology and physical space to meet strategic goals. He is now a Fellow at Kates Kesler Organization Consulting, part of Accenture, where he consults on large organization design projects. Julian is Founder of the OD Salon and was the 2020 recipient of the OD Network’s Emerging Practitioner Award.

Arts We Like is a series of posts spotlighting great thinkers, ideas, products and partners that we share to help enable remarkable performance through more effective and engaged organizations. Contact Us about how to deploy these solutions as a part of a broader HR Strategy or engagements to develop your organization, capabilities and talent.

There’s no such thing as a great company

There are great teams and not so great teams. The best companies are networks of great teams. When you look at organizations, there is a huge range in performance team by team by team. There are differences within high performing teams compared with underperforming teams. These differences impact not only business outcomes, but lead measures like the ability to attract and retain talent that create the valued product or service that customers trade money for.

In 1994, a HBR article titled Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work (J. L. Heskett et al.) introduced a model that is widely referenced and used. This year, DDI published their DDI’s 2011 Global Leadership Forecast. In it, they illustrate an adapted version of this value chain based on their huge biannual leadership study. Integrating the two looks something like this:

I do this to illustrate a (simplified) sense of cause and effect. The best companies are made up of great teams. Great teams have high quality leadership that build a uniquely positive work environment / climate. This leadership and context supports team member engagement in work that allows them to contribute their strengths. While the local leader exists within a system – enabled or confined by talent systems and process, as well as the broader management culture – it is the leadership of the local manager that has the greatest impact on the engagement and performance of their team. While leaders are as much a product of this system as they are nodes within it, positive deviants exist and they make the most significant difference. Most team members’ knowledge of and beliefs about the organization are driven by how the organization is presented and exemplified through their local leader’s words and behavior.

Curt Coffman and his partner Kathie Sorensen have taught me a lot about how local managers drive engagement. Most engagement research consists of reporting data collected from a large sample of employees from a broad set of teams and organizations – how do a broad range of factors impact engagement. Coffman’s research surfaced drivers of engagement by finding the correlation between employee responses to questions and team performance. For example, while a question like, “I’m fairly compensated…” is a highly rated hygiene factor that individuals rate as highly influencing their level of discretionary effort and intent to stay, It’s important to everyone regardless of performance level. However the question “My manager really knows me” is rated significantly higher on high performing teams than low performing teams. This research shows that highly engaged teams delivering superior results are different and the key differences are under the control of and most influenced by the local leader.

Despite more than a decade campaign to refocus leaders on achieving greatness through allowing talent to contribute those things they are truly great at, we remain fixated on being “not-bad” by trying to put in what’s not there or improve what we are remedial at. Good is not the opposite of bad. It’s entirely different.

“We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas a knowledge workers should not take on work, jobs and assignments. It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

There’s no perfect job. The ideal for most people, when they are asked to describe it, is an enriched and empowered variation of what they are doing now.

SO WHAT?

Glad you asked. Leadership matters. How we feel about our contribution at work matters too. Focusing on these two things will make you and your organization more effective.

Leaders – Focus on leadership drivers of engagement. How would those you lead respond? Ask them?

  • What are the outcomes that you are accountable for?
  • Do you feel that you really know me? Is there anything you’d like to know?
  • Do you see additional opportunities where you could contribute your talents and abilities?
  • What’s the best (most meaningful) recognition you’ve ever received at work?
  • What are you doing when you’re doing what you’re best at?
  • Who was the best manager you’ve ever had? Tell me about what he or she did that you liked so much?
  • How do you feel you best add value to the organization?
  • What are the strongest teams in our organization? Tell me about the strongest team you’ve ever been a member of?
  • When have you grown most professionally in your career?

Each of us must better understand our strengths and use them more. This will serve our personal interests, benefit our organizations and the stakeholders we impact – family, community, etc.

What, in your experience, causes an organization to be seen as great?