Leading Your Team

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How To Develop a Useful “Why” Statement

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Asking why you’re embarking on a project before you begin raises the project’s chance of success. But “to our continuing surprise, we often discover these teams have not even discussed, let alone agreed on, why they are pursuing the project,” write Karen A. Brown, Nancy Lea Hyer and Richard Ettenson. But producing a good “why” statement often requires both a lot of work and heated debate.

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From the Editor: Beyond the Organization

Business executives today are figuring out how to harness the energy not just of the talented people within an organization, but of those outside of it as well. The fall 2013 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on leveraging external innovation, from the phenomenon of corporations using innovation contests to an investigation of what motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects.

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The 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review announce the winners of the 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development published from fall 2011 to summer 2012. The Winners: Eoin Whelan, Salvatore Parise, Jasper de Valk and Rick Aalbers, authors of “Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation.”

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Developing Tomorrow’s Global Leaders

Human resources executives say that the next generation of global executives will be more diverse. But by diverse, they don’t just mean having variations in age, nationality and gender. They believe that top leadership groups in the future will be characterized by people with greater diversity of experience and “thought styles.” HR executives also believe that next-generation leaders will be working more collectively.

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The CEO Experience Trap

New research suggests that hiring a CEO with previous experience in the role is not always a wise choice. Authors Monika Hamori of IE Business School in Madrid and Burak Koyuncu of Rouen Business School in France, collected data on 501 CEOs of S&P 500 corporations. About 20% had at least one prior CEO job. Their findings? “Our research found that these prior CEOs performed worse than their peers without such experience.”
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The Question Every Project Team Should Answer

Many projects fail because they are launched without a clearly articulated reason why they’re being pursued. Without a clear vision, a project team can become overwhelmed by conflict and confusion. Exploring the four dimensions of a compelling “why statement” can improve a project’s chances of success. Karen A. Brown, Nancy Lea Hyer and Richard Ettenson explain those four dimensions.

Image from an 1864 manual of gymnastic exercises for the school-room and the parlor courtesy of Flickr user CircaSassy.
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How to Build More Personal Power

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Executives who find themselves experiencing a power deficit have two strategies for overcoming it: they can either play the existing game more effectively or they can change the game. “Career counselors often advise people to shore up weaknesses, but the secret to becoming indispensable is consolidating strengths,” write Jean-Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet.

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Would Your Employees Recommend You?

No matter how good a workplace a company provides, it may come not matter if employees dislike their immediate line managers. Most of us have at had direct experience with egocentric or micromanaging bosses, and we have seen how much damage they can cause.

So why is there so much bad management? “Most managers have a remarkably narrow or ill-thought-out understanding of how their employees actually look at the world,” writes Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School.

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Five Steps To Leading Change Successfully

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Before making a change, you need to identify the influencers who can push the project forward — or who can cause it to stall. “Left unattended, skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process,” write Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom.

Their solution is a five-step, proactive process designed to help leaders navigate both the politics and the emotions that are churned up by heading in new directions. The steps include mapping the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and involving the most influential of them.

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Video: What Digital Transformation Means for Business

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New technologies are changing the nature of business in powerful and unpredictable ways. Executives need to know which technologies to adopt and how to leverage them. Kim Stevenson, Intel’s chief information officer, and Mark Norman, the president of Zipcar, discuss how they manage for technological change with Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business and Didier Bonnet, senior vice president and global practice leader at Capgemini Consulting.

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The Executive’s Role in Social Business

A majority of respondents to a survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte say that their companies’ social capabilities are at an early stage of developing social capabilities. However, executives are increasingly recognizing the value of social business to their organizations, and a majority of C-suite respondents believe that social business represents an opportunity to fundamentally change the way work gets done.

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Navigating the Politics and Emotions of Change

Skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process. But proactively addressing these types of feelings can ease resistance and disengagement. Research shows that executives can successfully initiate change initiatives by mapping the political landscape to identify the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and the key influencers within each stakeholder group. They should also involve influential early adopters and engage with skeptics.

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How to Overcome a Power Deficit

Many factors can cause a talented executive to be ignored or sidelined within an organization. “The fact that I was right didn’t matter,” said one manager whose recommendations went unheeded. “What I hadn’t done was build sufficient internal credibility.” Fortunately, power deficits in legitimacy, critical resources and/or networks can almost always be overcome. Research looking at 179 executives found two basic strategies that worked: “playing the game” more effectively or ”changing the game.”

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The Dangers of Disgruntled Ex-Employees

A study of professional soccer players found that players who left a team on bad terms subsequently played unusually well against that team. This phenomenon, known as the “Immutable Law of the Ex,” demonstrates the power of a person fueled by anger and pressure to prove new loyalty. The findings are relevant to other settings in which organizational performance relies strongly on individual contributions. Employers can prevent employees from wanting to strike back by being sensitive to morale.

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Designing Trustworthy Organizations

A lot of the literature about trust supports commonsense notions for individual leaders. But building organizational trust turns out to be different from building interpersonal trust — and less intuitive. “A new model is required to understand how to manage trust in large, complex organizations operating in highly diverse global environments,” write the authors. Once trust is broken, repair requires understanding the systemic causes of the failure and confronting deeply embedded mindsets.

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From the Editor: Creating and Leading Change

Consumers are driving change for retailers. As the new article “Competing in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing” notes, “Recent technology advances in mobile computing and augmented reality are blurring the boundaries between traditional and Internet retailing.” Meanwhile, “The Executive’s Role in Social Business” notes that while C-suite executives see social business as an opportunity, they are having a hard time turning that potential into reality.

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How Innovative Is Your Company’s Culture?

Everyone wants an innovative corporate culture, but how do you develop one? This article posits that the ability of a culture to support innovation depends on six key building blocks: values, behaviors, climate, resources, processes and success. The article also includes a 54-element test developed to enable managers to assess a company’s “Innovation Quotient.” A case study in the article outlines the experience of a Latin American company with the assessment tool.

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Why Good Leaders Don’t Need Charisma

Among charismatic executives, for every Steve Jobs, there is at least one Dick Fuld — maybe more. Fuld presided over the downfall of Lehman Brothers. Nor is Fuld alone: Six out of 18 of Germany’s most recent “Manager of the Year” winners were responsible for dramatic missteps, including Daimler’s disastrous acquisition of Chrysler Corp. under CEO Jürgen Schrempp. That raises a question: do charismatic business leaders typically outperform their more ordinary counterparts over the long run?

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Reinventing Employee Onboarding

Wipro BPO, a business process outsourcing firm in Bangalore, India, was experiencing high turnover rates. In Wipro’s traditional onboarding program, new employees learned about the company. But when the onboarding focused, instead, on individual identity, employees were more than 32% less likely to quit their jobs during the first six months. The bottom line: By making small investments in socialization practices, companies can improve employee retention.

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