Five Steps to Building a Responsive Organization

Five Steps to Building a Responsive Organization

Transforming a business is hard work. It requires a vision and a program. It means shifting and reallocating resources. It’s about asking hard questions and listening to the equally hard answers. Transformation is both strategic and tactical – and for many organizations, it is exhausting. The challenge of transformation, however, is not about arriving at your “transformation destination” – it’s about building resilience in your business so that change becomes part of your business DNA. Because the kicker here, is that change never ends. But hasn’t this always been the way? Hasn’t change always been part of our business and professional lives? When venture capitalist, Marc Andreesen suggested that “software is eating the world”, he brought a sharp focus to a movement that had been brewing for decades. Building on the learnings arising from the dotcom bubble, a new generation of internet companies are building “real, high-growth, high-margin, highly defensible businesses” – and the reason is that the technology finally works. And accordingly, software is revolutionizing not just the way that a company does business – software increasingly IS the business. The fact is that almost every organization was designed to deal with a world that no longer exists. … most organizations still rely on a way of working designed over 100 years ago for the challenges and opportunities of the industrial age. Team structures support routine and static jobs. Siloed, command and control systems enable senior leadership to drive efficiency and predictability at the expense of free information flow, rapid learning, and adaptability. Software companies by their very nature, however, live in this new world. As Tom Goodwin...
Women Who Lead

Women Who Lead

We hear a lot of talk about gender inequality at all levels. From the board room to the call center and everywhere in-between, we seem to have a problem. This is particularly in the technology field where qualified women are abandoning the industry in record numbers. In 2014, “big tech” got together to analyze the situation, releasing a report that showed that men outnumbered women 4:1 – or more – in their technical sectors. And we’re not talking “old skool” tech companies here – we are talking Google, Apple and Facebook. Collectively we are facing a huge challenge. Not only do we face the challenge of attracting women into the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM), once they are there, we have trouble retaining them. It’s an issue of culture. As I have suggested previously, we need to put a STEM in STEM for Women. Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation sums it up: It’s a really frustrating thing. The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it’s a valuable investment. But the news is not all bad. Monique Thorpe has created a website that showcases and celebrates the real worlds of women. There are already dozens of interviews of business owners, innovators, artists and activists. In fact, they come from all walks of life. Some of these women are early career. Some are executives. Some are following their own paths. Earlier this month I was featured as one of the women who lead. But there are plenty more. Take a few minutes to read the stories of...
Four Steps to Encourage Young Women into Tech Careers

Four Steps to Encourage Young Women into Tech Careers

Study after study has shown that diversity in the workplace has significant impacts on an organization’s employee morale, productivity and profitability. Yet, at the same time, we continue to see upstream challenges to the participation of women in those industries responsible for driving innovation in the economy. Just look at the percentage of women employees in tech companies –  women make up no more than 20% of the tech workforce at Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter. With this in mind, in early 2014, Google undertook a study of their own. The aim was to identify the factors that influenced young women in their choice of computer science degrees. The results were encouraging – and, I must admit, quite surprising. The study distinguished between uncontrollable and controllable factors. Analysis of the uncontrollable factors – such as ethnicity, early exposure to computers, natural aptitude and so on – revealed that they play a very limited role in influencing young women in their choice of technology study. It is the controllable factors – that largely determine decision-making – and this means that these factors can be acted upon and amplified. There are four factors that can be influenced and there are four steps we can take to encourage young women into technology careers. These are: Social encouragement Self perception Academic exposure Career perception Nina Nets It Out: Controllable factors can be influenced – which represents an opportunity but also a challenge. Without systematic approaches, we will continue to see computer science – and by extension – innovation, suffer. By addressing this problem programmatically we can have a massive impact on...
Putting a STEM in STEM for Women

Putting a STEM in STEM for Women

We often look at the world of tech startups through rose colored glasses. After all, these companies are the future IBMs, Oracles and SAPs – long-lived, large scale organizations that have generated not just large returns for shareholders, but massive value for customers, employees and partners. Yet despite their obvious focus on future value building and innovation, startup tech companies have a startlingly poor record when it comes to hiring women. Ann Hoang from STEMINIST explains: Women make up less than 40 percent of the workforce at Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter, and no more than one-fifth of the technical workforce at those companies. Blair Hanley Frank takes this further, citing “a 2011 study found that 15 percent of women who graduated with an engineering degree did not go on to work in engineering, while another 20 percent entered the engineering workforce and then summarily left for another industry.” Clearly there are not just factors that prevent women from taking up STEM related roles – there are also factors that drive them elsewhere once they have them. Lynne Y Williams refers to this phenomenon as IT’s vanishing women. “A 2004 study by the National Center for Women & IT revealed that a large number of women who already occupy upper-level IT-related positions are leaving the industry at a startling rate, with “56% of technical women leav[ing] at the ‘mid-level’ point” (Ashcraft & Blithe, 2010) of their careers, a rate almost double that of equivalent male colleagues.” Williams calls out the “hostile, macho culture” in the IT workplace along with isolation, lack of opportunity and support from and...
Closing the Gap-Statistics, Perceptions and Futures for Women in the Workplace

Closing the Gap-Statistics, Perceptions and Futures for Women in the Workplace

Gender equality in the workplace has been a topic that I have followed with great interest for some time. Looking around the world, we can now see many women who have smashed through the glass ceiling to be recognized as leaders on a world stage. Just think of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, and Janet Yellen, Governor of the Federal Reserve to name a few. But its not just at the top echelons of global leadership where women are having an impact. Young working women these days are making more money relative to men of the same age than occurred in previous generations. Pew Research Center data shows that in 2012, young women earned 93% of the average hourly wage of men, whereas in 1980 it was closer to 65%. And yet, despite the obvious and quantifiable gains that have been made over the last 20-30 years, the statistics only tell part of the story. There is still a significant proportion of the population that believe that society favours men over women. Pew Research reports that this figure has closed around 20 points in the last 20 years – down to 45%. Again, a significant improvement. But let’s dwell on this perception for a moment. More than four in ten people believe that men are favoured in society. When we delve into the Pew statistics a little more deeply, we find something else that is worryingly related. The fantastic gains that have been made by women over the last two or three decades has not translated to an increased sense...
Are Your Top Executives Running on Empty?

Are Your Top Executives Running on Empty?

You know the drill … into the office to get the day started. You are beset by distractions, dramas and issues, all of which keep you away from the important work that is (or should be) your focus. Yet, each and every day you work intensely and return home drained, catching up into the evening on emails that you missed or responses that need attention. In amongst all this, there is a lingering sense that the work that we do continues to mount and that our daily efforts amount to little. Sound familiar? A 2013 Gallup report indicated that just 30% of American employees feel engaged with the work that they perform. This extends across the entire employee base – which means that your top executives and even your leadership team are feeling the strain. In fact, they’re running on empty. To understand how leaders at all levels can address this challenge, Harvard Business Review, in conjunction with The Energy Project, conducted a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a range of industries. The results were surprising – and enlightening – identifying four core needs that when met, vastly improve employee morale and performance: Physical: We respond well to opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work. This means a physical break of some kind. Emotional: Feeling valued and appreciated is far from a “soft skill”, it’s a powerful motivator. Mental: The opportunity to be removed from distraction helps employees focus and achieve tasks and through this gain a sense of satisfaction. Spiritual: Connecting your work to a higher purpose – beyond oneself – also has...