Organizational Behavior

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Rebooting Work for a Digital Era

Until recently, IBM’s performance management system followed a traditional approach that revolved around yearlong cycles, ratings, and annual reviews. This case study explores how, after recognizing that the model was holding back the organization, IBM reimagined its performance management system with a model that favors speed and innovation and cultivates a high-performance culture.

The Surprising Value of Obvious Insights

Findings don’t have to be earth-shattering to be useful. In fact, obvious insights can help you overcome three barriers to change in your organization: resistance to new data (“But that’s not what my experience has shown”), resistance to change itself (“But that’s the way we’ve always done it”), and organizational uniqueness bias (“That will never work here”). You can also gain trust by confirming what people already believe.

How Customer Obsession Creates Accountability for Change

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Organizational change is difficult. Some 70% of change efforts fail, and awareness hasn’t improved the odds of success. But there are exceptional companies, making strides with everything from digital transformation to employee engagement to diversity and inclusion. And they have one thing in common: They are customer-obsessed. When customers are truly at the center of your business, change proceeds from one organizing principle: What’s best for them?

The Enabling Power of Trust

Examining skill sets and mind-sets will help leaders understand what it means to be a leader in the digital economy. This will include requirements such as changing mastery, executing excellence, nurturing relationships, and, notably, building a culture of radical trust.

Think Critically About the Wisdom of Experts

Leaders and managers must inevitably consult the analysis, advice, and research of people whose expertise exceeds their own in a variety of domains. Getting the most from that perspective means understanding precisely how to question the experts’ wisdom, no matter what form it takes. Eight specific lessons can help leaders and managers use others’ expertise to the greatest possible advantage in everyday business decisions.

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Using Artificial Intelligence to Promote Diversity

What if, instead of perpetuating harmful biases, AI helped us overcome them? What if our systems were taught to ignore data about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other characteristics that aren’t relevant to the decisions at hand? They can do all that — with guidance from the human experts who create, train, and refine them.

Using Digital Communication to Drive Digital Change

Leaders trying to get their organizations to adopt new technologies or ways of thinking tend to kick things off with inspirational speeches, but then communication grinds to a halt. The lack of information leads to doubt, cynicism, and anxiety — emotions that quickly become obstacles to change. To fix this problem, leaders should model the behaviors they want to see, using digital tools to deliver a steady stream of messages to employees and gathering and responding to feedback.

The 2018 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review are pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded annually to the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development. The 2018 award goes to “The Corporate Implications of Longer Lives,” by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, both professors at London Business School.

Gender Discrimination Still Exists — Now What?

In both practice and research, we are doing a better job at bringing attention to the problem of gender bias. But we haven’t established enough tangible suggestions for how to challenge it. New research has begun to investigate the efficacy of ‘scripts’ — a set of words or phrases, such as, “Can you repeat what you just said?” that would signal to a peer that he has crossed a line, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

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Building an Ethically Strong Organization

Unethical behavior and misconduct has been a persistent problem in the business world. A company’s ethical norms are a cumulative outcome of how daily ethical dilemmas are addressed in the workplace. Over time, these micro-level issues can evolve into a corporate ethics scandal — unless organizations work to help employees make ethical choices day to day.

When Communication Should Be Formal

Formal communication channels, such as protocol-guided meetings, are often eschewed by today’s managers and employees, who prefer the ease of email and apps. But informal avenues can lead to oversights and inefficiencies that hurt performance. That’s the central finding of research from IE Business School on manufacturers of high-tech machinery. Fortunately, formal communication protocols can be designed to both maximize performance and overcome people’s resistance to adopting them.

Leading With Next-Generation Key Performance Indicators

MIT Sloan Management Review and Google’s new cross-industry survey about key performance indicators (KPIs) asked senior executives to explain how they and their organizations are using KPIs in the digital era. The results shed light on the challenges and emerging opportunities companies face when using KPIs, demonstrate the many ways advanced use of KPIs can benefit organizations, and offer steps executives can take to make the most of KPIs going forward.

Measure Your KPI Alignment

A new MIT SMR study measured the role of KPIs in aligning an organization toward its objectives. Three categories emerged: Measurement Leaders, Measurement Capable, and Measurement Challenged. Take this self-assessment to uncover challenges and opportunities based on your score — and find out what group you are in.

Interactive: Customer-Focused KPIs Fuel the Future of Business

Research from MIT Sloan Management Review and Google shows executives increasingly rely on key performance indicators (KPIs) to manage and lead their organizations. But what sets leading companies apart is not so much the number of metrics they track but how they use them to better engage customers — and thereby grow their businesses.

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The Impossibility of Focusing on Two Things at Once

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Neurological science has demonstrated that brains are not hardwired to focus simultaneously on day-to-day activities and long-term objectives. In the workplace, that presents a challenge: How can employees maximize individual performance while enhancing organizational success? Research into employee behavior underscores the need for organizations to help employees familiarize themselves with perspectives not readily available in their current roles.

The Time for Retraining Is Now

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None of us know how our technological future will unfold. But whether there will be a net increase or decrease in jobs overall, it’s clear that these will be different jobs, requiring different skill sets. We need to act now to enable current employers and employees to gain the skills they are going to need in the brave world of AI technology.

How Leaders Face the Future of Work

Some leaders have failed to realize that the daily lives of those who work in their organizations will inevitably be transformed over the coming decades. But it’s the responsibility of leaders to create clarity about the future of work. That means being engaged with creating a narrative about the future of jobs, actively championing the learning agenda, and role modeling work flexibility — for instance, by taking paternity leave or working from home.

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