Learning Culture Is Built Together with Clients and Employees

Janne StrömbergIt’s easy to speak about customer focus and putting the customer at the center of your business. Unfortunately, in most cases these concepts will just be empty words in the corporate strategy.

When we’re busy running our business as usual, it’s easy to forget that if we honestly want to put the customer at the center, not just the customers but also the employees have to be put at the heart of all your business. As the amount of knowledge increases, technologies and markets are changing at the same, accelerating pace. The so called clock speed of the company, the working rhythm, should adapt to the pace of the change. Companies must be able to create new capabilities as a reaction to the constant change.

Engage and Motivate with Shared Goals

All the employees and the entire organization has to be engaged and ready to face constant change and fulfill the customer needs. In order for the competent and professional employees to stay motivated and engaged, it’s crucial to create the goals and the vision together. When employees are given the chance and power to affect both their own professional path and the path of the company as a whole, goals become considerably more personal. This approach requires the leaders and managers to think in a new way: instead of tightening control and focusing on decision-making, leadership should be more about enabling and creating opportunities.

Enabling is all about genuine presence and listening and decentralized decision-making. Instead of protecting closed management structures, the drivers of change should be found in the customer encounters, where the customer experience is delivered. It can be hard for a traditional leader to accept the fact that the best knowledge and understanding of the business environment isn’t necessarily in his own head.

On the other hand, the employees are also responsible for the building of the shared future, if this chance has been given to them. Goals and visions that have been built together will most likely meet the market demand and customer needs better than plans that just the CEO or a small closed group has come up with.

Learning Culture Requires Trust

If a company wants to put the customer at the center and make continuous improvement possible, the company should build a strong learning culture. In an ideal situation, the learning culture allows the organization to become self-guided and the organization will automatically fix its course towards the shared goals. This can only happen if the organization’s employees share the same mindset, communication is active, knowledge is being shared, and trust is being built, which makes all the aforementioned things possible.

The values that support the birth of the learning culture are created by leading by example and sharing positive experiences. Trust in the organization is a requirement in order to create this kind of culture. If the employees can’t have their say on decision-making or their publicly expressed views lead to negative feedback, trust naturally grows weaker and knowledge sharing and participation decreases.

However, changing culture and modifying the values that support the culture is difficult. It’s hard to tap into the values, as behavior is the consequence of the way individuals and networks work. Both employees’ and leaders’ personal values have to change to some extent, which demands strong self-knowledge and self-leadership at all levels of the organization. You’ve got to be able to adjust your own values to meet with the values of the organization. Change will not happen, if the individual is unable to adapt her actions in relation to the feedback she has received from her surroundings.

When it comes to adjusting values, it all comes down to setting an example: the way you act in different situations will have an influence on your own network of people. Unfortunately negative values stick more easily than positive. You’ve really got to be awake, so that behaviors and procedures that encourage distrust are not supported in the organization.

It’s easy to scapegoat the employees for all the problems related to the cultural change, when you encounter some resistance to change. Yet there are two types of resistance: well-grounded and groundless. It’s important to remember that management practices that are not based on the shared values can also block and slow the change.

In the end, changes in culture and in values can’t be successful without the right kind of leadership. The most important thing is to prioritize and look for the root causes in the right places. The causes are rarely unambiguous in complex communities. Humility and renunciation are needed in leadership in order to successfully create a learning culture, but at the same time it will bring significant new opportunities with.

The writer has a Master’s Degree in Industrial and Knowledge Management and he’s working as a development manager at MPY.

It’s About Time to End the Stone Age of Management

It’s Time to End the Stone Age of ManagementDo you have to fill in performance appraisals once or twice a year in your workplace? Does this form filling process feel meaningful to you? Do the forms have any connection to your daily work?

According to research, man is happiest when he collaborates with other people and pursues meaningful goals. The best way to encourage him for better performance is to give him positive feedback on his actions often enough.

In order to perform better in the ever so tough competition, companies are aiming at being agile and innovative in business, and at the same time they wish their employees would be more active, and responsible, and helpful for their colleagues, and have initiative. Have you ever heard of a company that would not try to get rid of the silos? These goals are really something to stand up for, but too often they are not being lead through the organization.

It’s usually quite hard to put goals into practice if there is no process. I’ve kept asking myself, why performance management practices in companies are based on yearly performance reviews regardless of the set goals and research knowledge. There are various problems with performance reviews:

a) The goals are trickled down from the top-level of the organizational hierarchy
b) The reviews are private and only few can access the information
c) Feedback is usually given only if the employee has not performed well enough

I argue that the only reason these practices are kept alive is tradition; this is the way it has always been and there’s no knowledge of better. However, research shows that this traditional approach to performance management will most likely lead to undesirable behavior: avoiding mistakes, repeating old patterns and doing just the minimum. Of course the traditional approach and negative interference to poor performance can quickly adjust the performance level for better, but this will not bring about lasting change. It doesn’t encourage employees to top performance and it surely does not advance innovativeness.

In our opinion, innovativeness and agility are not the sole privilege of startup companies. It’s mostly a matter of inspiring leadership and management. What I certainly don’t mean with inspiration in this context, is management blogs and videos shared in the corporate intranet, if at the same time employees are filling out performance appraisal forms which don’t have a clear connection to the mood boosting videos published a week before. Corporate culture is formed based on what is being done and what kind of actions the processes promote; not based on what we say we’re going to do.

We at Cloudriven want to make performance management inspiring, engaging and social – who knows, maybe even addictive :). We also want to monitor work progress on a daily and weekly basis, give positive feedback for performance and attach work to a broader context and meaning. Our goal is to help our clients to create sustainable value in their business. Natural byproducts for this are better work and customer satisfaction as well as better financial results.

If you still believe in the traditional way of management, fear not. Inspiration, engagement and social are not synonyms for laziness. Sweat will still be the cologne of accomplishment and success the ladder you cannot climb with your hands in your pockets. We’re not going to demolish the significance of individual performance, yet we’re putting it into a larger frame.

How does that happen? Invite us for a coffee and we can find the solution that best fits your organization’s needs. Be sure to check out our Habit for Performance Management solution as well.

Slush 2014 in Retrospect

Slush 2014 is over and little by little our lives are going back to normal. This was Cloudriven’s first year in Slush: we learned a lot and we will definitely be back next year. Our team had loads of good meetings with potential investors, who really liked our approach to performance management.

But most importantly, the carrot cake we served at out demo booth was delicious and received lots of compliments from the visitors. The cake was hand-baked by our Head of Customer Service. Thank you, Anu!

Antero and the carrot cakes

Antero and the carrots.

The discussions we had about performance management revolved around a variety of topics:

  • How to bring the management rhythm (internal meetings) and both the qualitative and quantitative goals covered in performance appraisals to a weekly level
  • Social features and transparency
  • How to communicate goals clearly
  • Rewards and recognition

If you want to know more about our Habit approach to these topics, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Jukka doing a demo.

Jukka doing a demo.

Cloudriven Achieved Microsoft Gold Competency Once Again – Habit Now MPR Certified

Gold and Silver PartnerCloudriven has been one of Microsoft’s Gold Partners from the very beginning, and once again Cloudriven has renewed its Gold Competency in Application Development. The competency proves that Cloudriven is one of the best application developers working with Microsoft platforms.

To gain the Gold Competency, Cloudriven had to show its expertise by passing several challenging tests and proving that the company’s products utilize various Microsoft technologies.

As a part of the renewal process, Microsoft granted Cloudriven’s Habit Behavior Engine solution Microsoft Platform Ready (MPR) Certification. Habit is powered by Microsoft Azure and it extensively uses the various services Azure has to offer, like cloud services, SQL databases, storages, mobile services and many others.

Furthermore, Cloudriven was awarded with the Silver Cloud Platform Competency. This competency proves that Cloudriven’s expertise in utilizing the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform is outstanding.

Why Habits Matter?

Why Habits MatterWhen you wake up in the morning, you don’t usually think too much of what you’re going to do next. You get up, shuffle to the toilet, brush your teeth, crawl to the kitchen, make some coffee, eat breakfast and rush to work. Everything seems to happen by itself; it’s like someone had turned your brains into autopilot.

American business reporter and author Charles Duhigg published his bestseller book The Power of Habit a couple of years ago. The book’s main conclusion is that habits guide both our working lives and our personal lives more than we can even imagine. When our brains turn on a behavior model that has become a habit, we repeat the familiar routines compulsively. Habits are not controlled by conscious decisions, because habit-based behavior has its origin in time when man had to react to deadly threats by instinct. There simply wasn’t time to make decisions.

According to Duhigg, habits follow a simple pattern which he calls the habit loop. The loop consists of three elements: the cue, the routine and the reward. Whenever we’re exposed to the cue, we perform the routine and get the reward. After repeating the habit loop enough times, we start to crave the reward and the routine will become almost like an automatic action. For example, the cue for a smoker could be the need to get out of the office. The loop arises when the smoker starts to link smoking to the reward, 10 minute break outside, automatically. As the smoker starts to crave for fresh air and a break, he picks up his cigarettes and heads out for a smoke just the way he’s done many times before.

It’s extremely challenging to get rid of habits entirely, but you can change them by finding out the cues and rewards. What is the cue that triggers the habit? What is the reward that you’ll get by performing the routine? When you know the cue and the reward, you can try to replace the “bad” routine with another one that gives you the same reward. However, changing habits requires a lot of willpower which doesn’t make it an easy task.

Successful companies know how to use habits to build efficient management and corporate cultures. In his book, Duhigg tells a story about Paul O’Neill, who managed to increase the profits of the American lightweight metal manufacturer Alcoa sky-high in ten years by focusing exclusively on worker safety. When O’Neill was appointed the CEO in 1987, he knew that it would be impossible to give the the employees orders to change. That is why he decided to focus on just one thing: Alcoa was to become the safest workplace in the world.

Watch the video for more examples of habit building.

O’Neill believed that the changes made in safety habits would launch a chain reaction within the company, which would eventually shape the corporate culture and all the other habits towards the desired direction. For Duhigg, these kinds of habits are keystone habits, as they are essential for change. Therefore, in order to be successful, your company has to recognize which habits and behavior models will open the door for change.

The name of our Habit Behavior Engine solution was not chosen by accident. That is to say that you can actually use it to change the habits and behavior models in your organization. We use repetition, reflection and rewards to shape corporate culture towards the desired direction. Don’t be afraid to ask us for more information!