I am sitting in the Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt. I have a few hours to kill because my flight was delayed, and I missed my connection. I already planned to write about the third and last key in the empowerment journey. I am on my way to Copenhagen for a couple of interviews and meetings, then I am heading to Finland to spend the weekend in a forest near the Russian border. This weekend I am hoping to take some cool photos of wolves and wolverines. (Please feel free to see some of my photos on https://www.instagram.com/thomasajspur/). Monday, I am heading to Kiev to meet with our fantastic team in Ukraine.
Why do I start with this?
I decided to buy a new lens on Sunday for my trip; I ordered on Amazon and paid for one-day shipping, which somehow meant delivery on Tuesday. Maybe Mondays don’t count anymore? I checked Monday for tracking and could see it hadn’t shipped, and when I looked Tuesday morning it was still being prepared for shipment. I called Amazon and spoke to a person that clearly wasn’t empowered; they were very quick to say: “Do you want to speak to an English-speaking agent or a supervisor?” They promised to call back in two hours, but they didn’t. When I called back, I had the same experience. I spoke to a person who couldn’t do anything other than say I am sorry and (again) asked if I wanted to speak to a supervisor. He then told me that it would be delivered and was in the process of being packed in Texas. (I live in Colorado.) They wanted me to believe they could get a package from Texas to Colorado in four hours. Pretty impressive.
Amazon’s customer service people are not empowered, do not work in a pod and cannot make any decisions. [I will soon write a blog about the 800-lb. gorilla, Amazon (or is it a fat pig today?). In the meantime, please read our e-book about How to compete against Amazon.]
My lens has not shown up and now they can’t find it…
Amazon apparently forgot to share Amazon’s Leadership Principles with their employees.
In the first key part of this series, I wrote about sharing information with everyone, otherwise you cannot expect them to make the right decisions. You need the data to do that. Then in the second key part of the series, I talked about creating autonomy through boundaries. Now I will touch on the last key: The teams become the hierarchy.
It is time to really develop your pods. As mentioned in my last post, we have decided to call our teams pods. A pod is a self-directed team, constantly changing to meet our needs in the company and for our customers.
These teams are extremely important to the success of the empowerment journey. You can have an empowered individual; however, an empowered team can do far more and over time the team will always win. Have you ever been in a team where some didn’t lift their fair share of the workload? Here’s some news for you: That is not a team, that is a group. When you are sitting in an airplane, you’re part of a group of people with no common purpose. You’re just trying to get from Point A to Point B. If an accident happens (maybe I should write this when I am on the plane😊), then suddenly the group has a common purpose, and that is getting out alive. How well they work together will determine their success.
In other words, a team must have a shared goal. They must develop a common purpose together and know how to work cohesively. That is how you make a difference and that is why empowerment and pods are such a strong strategy. But it is not easy.
In my many years in the ERP industry, selling and implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365, I have often seen the Project Manager, the Solution Architect and maybe the Lead Developer putting a plan and a design together. They then ask (let us just say demand) the team to create the solution. That is group work, not a team effort. In this case, you did not leverage the power of the team. A team will bring a diversity of ideas and experience to come up with better solutions to the challenges you are facing in an ERP project. Let their combined brainpower and experience do the magic instead of one individual.
Don Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew and Ken Blanchard (they all founded for Ken Blanchard companies) created an acronym for high-performing teams called PERFORM. Teams:
It takes time.
As with all new initiatives, it takes time to succeed. In the beginning of the journey, you will see that the teams may struggle; they need to get through the Forming, Norming and Storming stages before getting to Performing. Just like football (sorry, soccer😊), it takes time and practice before the players understand their roles and the purpose.
In the good old hierarchical world, teams are not effective because team members and leaders are used to decisions being made by managers and carried out by the employees.
In the beginning you may even notice your leaders are uncomfortable with this new setup, where they will move from decision-makers to coaches (real leaders). They may fear that they are losing control because they have moved decision-making to team members -- even the important business decisions.
As a result, train not only team members, but also the leaders, which may be even more important. Invest the necessary time and money.
Just remember, it takes time to implement this empowered system. We started with our Sales and Marketing team as a pod. It took us six months to get it to the stage where we now will start implementing it in the rest of the organization. And you cannot expect great results in the beginning; productivity likely will go down, but over time you will see the difference.
In my next blog, I will go in details on what the hell a pod is.
Good luck, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.