Organizational Behavior

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Redefining Work for New Value: The Next Opportunity

Investing in job redesign without first planning for and investing in redefining work narrows future outcomes and limits opportunities for both growth and long-term value creation. Understanding the relationship between these two approaches to work is essential to any strategic effort to compete over the long term.

Employee Emotions Aren’t Noise — They’re Data

Within organizations, emotions reveal not just how people feel but also what they think and how they will behave. Emotional culture gets communicated non-verbally in people’s facial expressions, vocal tone, and body language. You see it expressed by the people around you, including—or even most of all—managers. For companies, emotions are an important lever for improving employee satisfaction and productivity.

What Does It Mean to Lead?

Are management and leadership entwined in a digital world? Or are they distinct activities, one more important than the other? Can you be closely involved in day-to-day operations, as data-driven tools allow and encourage, without watching and directing employees’ every move? How do you cede top-down control without courting chaos? And how do you eliminate entrenched practices that obstruct change? Experts wrestle with these questions and share their perspectives on how leadership is evolving.

Take a Wrecking Ball to Your Company’s Iconic Practices

As they pursue digital transformation, most leaders know they must also orchestrate a cultural shift — from prioritizing flawless execution to valuing more agile learning and experimentation, from doing siloed work to fostering true interdisciplinary collaboration, and from evaluating people’s past performance to enabling their future development. Articulating the ambition is the easy part. Taking a wrecking ball to what’s really getting in the way is a lot harder.

How Will U.S. Companies Respond to Regulation Rollbacks?

This month’s MIT SMR Strategy Forum poll looks at the recent rollbacks from the Trump administration on a wide variety of U.S. regulations pertaining to water, air, land, and public health. We ask our panel of experts to weigh in on whether corporations will decide to adhere to rules that closely resemble original standards, or if they will embrace deregulation.

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Leading in the Age of Transparency

In a data-rich world, company stakeholders know more than ever about the organization and possess unprecedented power to spread the word when something goes wrong. Leaders must realize that the damage to the business and its reputation will be revealed more quickly and spread faster and wider than ever before — so it’s vital that they look carefully at potentially risky decisions and practices.

Improving the Rhythm of Your Collaboration

With so many digital tools in the workplace, collaboration has gone omnichannel. Given how hyperconnected people are, the authors set out to explore the implications for organizations and teams. In their research, they discovered that always-on connectivity was good for fact finding and information sharing but not for problem-solving, as we tend to assume. For tasks that require imagination, it’s better to alternate between connectivity and quiet focus. Leaders must help establish a good rhythm.

It’s Time to Tackle Your Team’s Undiscussables

When leadership teams struggle with undiscussables, symptoms range from unresolved conflicts and uneven participation in meetings to destructive groupthink and employee disengagement. The more undiscussables there are, the more difficult it is for the team to function. Ignoring them results in strained relationships and bad decisions. Here’s how leaders can bring the four types of undiscussables to light, improving team learning, problem-solving, and performance.

The 2019 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 to the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development. The 2019 award goes to “Building an Ethically Strong Organization,” by Catherine Bailey and Amanda Shantz.

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Why Company Culture Matters for Strategic Results

Good corporate culture can turbocharge performance, while a bad culture can wreak havoc on a company’s reputation and results. When companies strike the right balance on culture, they can align behavior with corporate strategy while allowing employees flexibility to exercise judgment and initiative.

Imaginary Time Travel as a Leadership Tool

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Leaders can help employees manage immediate problems by harnessing the human capacity to think beyond the moment and recognize that “this too shall pass.” Psychological tools such as temporal distancing help ease the sting of current troubles. And the tool of “failure premortems” can help people identify dangerous risks and delusions in new projects by imagining they’re in the future looking back at why a project failed.

A New Era for Culture, Change, and Leadership

Renowned social psychologist Edgar Schein and his colleagues defined how we thought about organizations and leadership in the 1950s. But in the digital era, Schein — working with his son, Silicon Valley executive Peter Schein — has developed a new perspective, one that advocates combining culture, change, and leadership into an integrated process, rather than viewing them as three separate topics of importance.

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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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