One of these things is not like the others…and confirmation bias will make sure it doesn’t get the job.

confirmation bias part two

According to the HBR, when you only have one non-traditional candidate in your hiring pool, that candidate has zero statistical chance of being hired.

Confirmation Bias Strikes Again.

When a business stalls or encounters serious problems, it is often the very “team” that gave it strength that now is part of the roadblock to creating innovative solutions.  Most businesses tend to hire employees from very similar backgrounds, whether socio-economic, schooling, or even geography.  It can narrow their perspective and also create an effect where there is deadly “group think.”  This is usually thought to be a result of the players being so “comfortable” with each other that they don’t challenge each other’s assumptions, and tend to draw the same conclusions. (Real-life examples of the type of “group think” turnaround featured in the classic “Twelve Angry Men” are rarer than we’d like to believe.)

A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review points out an even more insidious barrier to change, even among those companies that may be trying to diversify their teams.  It’s a long, but fascinating read….and you better have at least two people with a different perspective if you want to turn that jury around.

If there’s only one woman (or ethnically diverse or non-college educated or under-represented “fill in the blank here” candidate) in your candidate pool, there’s statistically almost no chance she’ll be hiredRead it here. The good news? Adding just one other non-traditional  candidate radically increases the statistical probability that a non-traditional candidate will be hired.

We’ve talked about how confirmation bias can limit your ability to correctly identify your problems here and why project teams need diverse viewpoints. Need to see just how homogenous your team is? Grab our “Reading the Terrain” field guide here. The pointed questions will help you view a very familiar place with fresh eyes.

5 dumb things people do when they try to change the workplace. Especially # 2

  1. Choose your actions carefully when you are the replacement for a weak leader

    Try to avoid these bad approaches!

    Constantly talk about how another company does “it” (i.e. whatever change is being made). Google may be great, Joe’s Ribs up the street may be dandy as well, but if all your points of reference as to why the company should change refers to how one other company is doing whatever you do, eventually people will tune you out, and the less polite will suggest you go work there, preferably immediately. If you are using other companies as a reference point, make sure to vary your examples and also be aware of your own company’s particular strengths. And if your reference point is a defunct company, make sure the item or behavior you’re proposing to adopt was not a key reason for the company’s demise.

  2. Place too much weight on their business unit’s corner of the world vs. its relative importance to the overall company success. It’s great to play to your strengths, its also good to streamline and perfect processes under your control. However if your area of expertise is only delivering .5% of the bottom line and all of your change plans aren’t likely to significantly change that, don’t expect the whole company to change to accommodate your plans.
  3. Insist on leading a change project because it was your idea.  Yes, it’s important to get credit for your good ideas. Unfortunately you may not have the skills and connections yet to lead the whole change. Don’t sulk if you don’t get to lead the charge. Ask for a position on the team, just don’t expect to be the chief.
  4. Expect the change plan to remain exactly as first envisioned. Tweaks, detours, roadblocks and Version’s 2.0, 5.0 and 6.0 are to be expected.
  5. Ignore the “unwritten rules” of the prevailing culture. If the team is predominantly highly competitive, slightly hyperactive people, they’re not going to sit through too many “talk through our feelings” sessions. If the team is a group of highly sensitive, keenly attuned to human behavior, social work type professionals, you won’t turn them into sales people overnight. Don’t take the company’s written values statements at face value, look at its actions, its people and its internal culture before mapping out your plan.
book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Need some more things to consider before creating your plan? Read our 10 rules of turnaround. Want to make sure you’re identifying the “unwritten rules” of your workplace? Get our free field guide to ask yourself the right questions.

Just need a whole new approach this year? Try this instead.

 

Speed Read your Work Environment, Today

Can you see what's going on around you?

Can you see what’s going on around you?

Ever think you might be missing the forest for the trees? Once you’re immersed in an organizational culture, you sometimes don’t even notice the quirks or unique habits of your environment.

What’s funny is that on the very first day you worked in the new environment you may have even spotted some key takeaways, but most likely  you didn’t fully process them or act upon them. (Okay, you may have slightly tweaked the way you dress but that’s usually about it for most people).

Our Free “Field Guide” gives you some key questions to help widen your view beyond your department or division. It covers topics as diverse as “Power Players” “Who’s Buying, Who’s Paying, Who’s Watching”, “Revenue Streams” “People Culture” “Technology” “Bomb Dropping”  and many other areas that help you truly understand the big picture.

You can get the guide for free, just sign up for our weekly newsletter in the subscription box at the right. We won’t mail bomb you, or share your email address. You’ll get a copy of the guide and our weekly updates of new articles.

Here’s a sample section:

Radioactive Fallout (aka “We tried that before” or “Previous Adventures in Change”)  

  1. What other change initiatives have been tried recently?  Are any similar to what you have planned?
  2. What were the results? Did anything actually change?
  3. What were the other consequences of the change; were there layoffs, staff cutbacks, staff reorganizations?
  4. Is “Change for Change’s Sake” a regular occurrence? How seriously is it taken?
  5. Does the team have a “set point?” a behavior or path of action they consistently revert back to when there is a problem with a change strategy or when the official “change period” is over?
  6. How quickly does the team come up with “workarounds” to avoid dealing with change? Is this the normal pattern?
  7. What is the persistent story around change in this organization (i.e. “Always leads to layoffs”  “ Screws everything up and then they go back to how it was”  “Another round of idiot consultants here to make money and make us miserable” )
  8. Does the culture favor real change or does it prefer band aids, quick fixes, and fluff (aka lots of marketing and branding fury signifying nothing).

If you don’t know where or what the “Elephants and Sacred Cows” are at your office, do yourself a favor and grab the guide.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

It’s Free, and it will take 30 seconds of your time. I guarantee it will open your eyes to at least one thing you may not have considered before.

And if you have a friend struggling at work, make their day better and forward this link to them!

 

A Fun Way to Get “Unstuck”

Team in a funk? Feel like you’re hitting a brick wall? There’s an app for that.

The “Unstuck” app, available on the ITunes store is a great, fun tool that allows you to put in a problem, business or personal, answer a few questions about feelings, who’s involved, what you perceive the roadblocks to be, and it shoots out a diagnosis of what’s going on, possible next steps, and some famous folks who have faced similar situations.  It’s been around for about two years and is constantly improved. Try it.

The app is for Ipads and is free. You can read more about it at www.unstuck.com

Rule # 9: Change Does Not Occur in a Vacuum

Shadows of change

Great Strategists understand they operate in the shadows of the history that came before.

Seth Godin said this so much more eloquently than I can; he calls it “The People Who Came Before You.”  When you begin to share your strategic plan with your team or your organization, you are standing in the shadow of all the ghosts who enacted change, or attempted to, with the same group. You are standing in the shadow of their experiences in other workplaces, at home and in past relationships.

If cost reduction strategies have always started with massive layoffs in the past, regardless of your words, the team will only hear “layoffs.”  If revenue growth meant giant sales goals that bore no relationship to reality, your “increase sales with our new strategy” will be reinterpreted as “We’re going to get some new scripting to take to the field and then they’ll raise our goal numbers.” Did the last strategic planning session feature a boring four day retreat followed by a zippy new mission statement and a binder that was shelved for all eternity the day after the retreat? Well, your call for a new focus on strategic planning will likely be met with some new mission statement suggestions and a request to vet the hotel location so everyone can set their tee times up front.

Ghosts take a heavy toll on team progress, especially when they are confronting change. Respect that the people you are asking to make that leap are carrying the baggage of many past adventures, the good, the bad, the awful and hopefully, the fantastic.  Having the right team in place before your unleash your plan is an important step. Asking that team about what has happened in the past, will help you unroll your plan to the larger audience in a way that can help people trust you enough to make the leap.

Want to get all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Click HERE

What Baggage have you had to address when rolling out new plans? How did you handle it? Please share in the comments below!

P.S. Think you covered all of that and your project still isn’t getting any love? Try here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Some great questions to ask yourself and your team about your group’s previous adventures in change are in our Free guide: Reading the Terrain – A Short Field Guide to Understanding the Organizational Landscape. You can get it just for subscribing in the box at right. We don’t share your contact info with anyone else, and you’ll get free updates when this site adds new content.

Rule #7: Locate the Elephants

How do you navigate operational change when there's an elephant in the room?

How do you navigate operational change when there’s an elephant in the room?

Almost every business has an elephant or two; the problem everyone pretends isn’t there. How do you successfully create change without the elephant crushing your plans?

Elephants can take many forms. They can be a troubled department that creates a permanent roadblock, or a dysfunctional team.  Sometimes they can be a poor technology choice, where the cost was so great replacement is prohibitive but functionality is far less than optimal. Other times the elephant is the ghost of past decisions, a bad outsourcing decision, or a poor acquisition.  In a smaller firm it might be a ledger full of “accounts payable” where the elephant is that those accounts are likely to never pay, but no one takes them off the books because the reality would just be too bleak if they were removed.

In many workplace cultures, pointing out the elephant is actively discouraged.  In some rare cases, it’s career suicide. Pointing out problems can be viewed as negative, or whining, so sometimes it’s best to figure out what the elephants are, and how you’ll work around them in your strategy rather than charge the elephant head on.

Creating a strategy that derives results that may allow the group to put the elephant to rest is a win-win. If you do decide to “tackle the elephant” head on, it’s critical that you have strong supporters, a great plan and a reasonable timeline. When you create your strategy you may not name the elephant in your plan, but you need to absolutely account for it in your design.

Have you ever had to work around the elephant in the room? How did you conquer it? Share in the comments below…

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Our Guide: Reading the Terrain: A Short Field Guide to Understanding the Corporate Landscape, will give you some great observational questions to help you identify the obvious and not so obvious elephants.  Get it free when you subscribe to our site! Simply put your email in the box at right. We will send you site updates and will not share your address with anyone.

 

Rule #2: What you knew on the very first day, is what you need to remember now.

Remember the first day you worked at this company, this department?  Some slight boredom, endless paperwork tempered with the excitement of starting something new.  You had some time on your hands to observe while you waited for HR to send back your docs, or your first client to call. Most likely you observed some stuff that didn’t quite make sense, processes that didn’t seem to be working well; a system that seemed to have a vital hiccup.   And you didn’t raise a red flag because, hey, you were the new guy, maybe you just didn’t get “how things worked.”

A few months later, the “Kool-Aid” has been drunk and you’re part of the team. And you don’t notice those things as much anymore. Or someone gave you some sort of explanation about them that kind of made sense or implied a higher level of thinking had already thought through that problem.

Except, you were right, your beginner’s eyes caught something important.

When I take note of things on the first week of any assignment with a new team, if I look back at the notes a year later, there is clarity of thought that often points to a key weakness of the group, team or setup.  It’s generally not people perceptions, but rather processes, procedures or underlying assumptions of the business model that have a “hole” which, while not fatal, may keep the business from achieving the greatest return on its efforts.

Go back to the beginning. Did you take notes? (If not, make sure you always do going forward.) You may not have been 100% correct in your impressions, but I guarantee, somewhere in those first few days, you saw a glimmer of one of the problems that is dogging your team now.

Start digging there.

Want to see all 10 Rules for Beginning a Turnaround? Start here.

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Need help seeing things with fresh eyes?  Subscribe to our newsfeed and you’ll get our free guide to sizing up an organizational culture (look for the subscription box on this page). You want to see the whole chessboard before you make your first move.

© Jeanne Goldie 2015