How to create an environment conducive to innovation

The Red Queen Hypothesis.

In this article, I am going to explain how to accelerate your team's capacity for innovation, even working in different ways than you did before the pandemic. In fact, innovation is about the only way that companies today can maintain the loyalty of customers and creative talent. Despite its objective importance, the situation of companies is not very good. A Harvard Business Review study tells us that 94% of CEOs admit that their companies are not very good at innovating.

We must recognize that the vast majority of our organizations are either based on a hierarchical culture or belong to conservative business environments. Therefore, they are not very fond of innovations. But that does not mean that they should remain immobile. Today's world moves very fast. It's like the accelerated application of the Red Queen hypothesis, do you know it? This hypothesis stems from Lewis Carrol's book, Alice Through the Looking-Glass (the second part of Alice in Wonderland). In the illustration I detail the paragraph in question.


Indeed, the inhabitants of the country of the Red Queen must run as fast as they can, just to stay where they are, as the country moves with them. In other words. Ultimately, to survive, you must go twice as fast as the competitor. And that can only be achieved by creating an ecosystem where innovation and agility are fostered. If you stop, you go back …

Some actions to accelerate the creative thinking of your team

Obviously, getting that ecosystem is not an easy task. Internal inertias tend to go in the opposite direction. Trying to change them requires you to promote disruptive thinking by infusing new perspectives. It is about that, as a leader, you are a catalyst of ideas, challenges and challenges directed to the team. But not only that, it is about doing it continuously and systematically.

Here are three simple guidelines on actions that you can take to keep your organization open to innovation and new ideas.

First action: generate time slots for innovation

In new work environments that is always difficult because people go from one meeting to another without a solution of continuity. It is about that, from the leadership, you force those times of innovation. How? First, scheduling or scheduling separate time to 'think'. In this sense, it is good that you promote reserving spaces ‘without agenda’ among the team. You can take the example of Google, which introduced its Project 20% many years ago, whereby all employees can dedicate a fifth of their time to developing or creating an idea or initiative that is related to something that the company is dedicated. Of that 20%, successful projects such as Google Maps or Google Images were born. But it must be recognized that initiatives of this type require a certain order. At the Mountain View company you need the approval of your manager to start your initiative. I know that you will be thinking that your company is not Google, but if you manage to get your team to put up the 'do not disturb' sign during a time of their day, you will be increasing, at least, the time for continuous improvement processes.

Another practice may be to create habits of thinking together. It would be like the B side of the previous album. It involves asking others to share ideas and things they have noticed, and discussing them together at the team level. They are, therefore, spaces to promote activities related to continuous improvement processes (CIP, in English). This implies lower levels of innovation, which clearly has an impact, also in the medium term, in a reduction in competitiveness. And by the way, openly discuss the things you are considering.

Finally, you can open your company to bottom up innovation. Many organizations believe that in innovation the old hierarchical management schemes can be replicated. Nothing is further from reality. The hierarchy is centered on the existing strategy. In this context, employees tend to avoid putting forward original ideas because they sense that anything outside of conventional thinking will not win the support of those at the top. To encourage it, you can open an idea lab. It is about establishing a series of items on which management is interested in innovating (that would be the only hierarchical action '). From there, let teams or individuals organize themselves autonomously to apply to those challenges. This means that each person or team of people can propose a solution to the challenge posed. It is not too difficult to hire a software that helps you organize and energize these initiatives. With it, you will be able to gamify the process and give it a final recognition (presentation to the management team of the finalist proposals and prizes for the winners).

Second action: open the organization to new ways of thinking.

It would be about encouraging team members to spend time with clients, with other companies or with academic environments. In this sense, for example P&G launched a project to make employees coexist with their customers. This is especially important for back office teams (HR, technology, finance, etc…), because they usually have functions on the business perimeter. To do this, for example, always run away from 'in-company' learning programs, which do not allow the exchange of experiences with people from other organizations, with other businesses and other cultures. Another practice may be to observe the behaviors and needs of employees who are 'on edge'. I am referring to those who do not limit themselves to following the herd, but are capable of withdrawing and, at the outer borders of corporate culture, experiencing other ways of doing, of thinking, of communicating. This involves ‘monitoring’ innovators and early adopters, according to Everett Rogers' scheme of the diffusion of innovation theory. In short, they are true catalysts for change and, normally, opinion leaders within the framework of the informal organization chart. A company with a good talent map is a company that has identified these groups and uses them as an engine of innovation.

Third action: Open the organization to new ways of thinking.

It would be about encouraging team members to spend time with clients, with other companies or with academic environments. In this sense, for example P&G launched a project to make employees coexist with their Third action: Open your organization to new ways of thinking.

Many companies limit themselves to innovating from within, thinking that no one knows their business better than they. I know managers who still think that the best innovation comes from the most expert, people who have managed to go beyond 10,000 hours of sustained practice. Nothing is further from reality, against more expert, more concentric gaze. You lose perimeter vision, and it is from the perimeter that the best ideas arrive. To increase the perimeter vision of your employees, you can use some very simple practices.

The first would be to share articles or new trends or ideas. I remember that when a century-old company needed to inoculate the virus of lateral thinking among its management team, it designed a program, Digital Fridays, which consisted of bringing provocative speakers from very different backgrounds such as startups, technology companies or directly scientists. It was a sustained program for two years and the degree of digitization of the workforce was measured, resulting in a success.

Other little practices can help you 'open the mind' of your collaborators. Thus, build a ‘Notes from Address’ routine. This is a very simple exercise: write notes to the team about the things that you have discovered together in the past month. Along with these learnings, the mistakes made in the team in the same period must be recognized. In certain cultures (geographical, but also corporate), error tends to be seen as something to hide or as a fear (of retaliation). But if you want to innovate, you must start by recognizing that a team that is never wrong is either a team that does not make decisions, or a team that hides its mistakes. You have to keep a record of the mistakes, accompanied by the lessons learned. For people to be honest about it, you must generate a climate of trust, and even, if you can, celebrate or reward the mistakes made (as long as they involve the corresponding learning). It is, therefore, a matter of keeping a logbook of innovation / learning.

Reverse Q&A sessions are also very helpful. I mean that normally team meetings end up deriving questions from the collaborators towards the leader. This exercise is just the opposite. It is about that as a leader you promote an open conversation towards different points of view, as a methodology for exploring ideas. For this, the topics of debate can be incorporated into the agenda and the leader can only ask questions, not answers. The success of this dynamic will come when the greatest number of questions begin with a why.

In summary:

With these simple actions, among others, you will be in a position to start the path of innovation.

Remember that innovative leadership is one of the ones that can help you the most to keep your teams committed. A boss who leans on the old dogmas is a candidate for his employees to march in search of growth spaces.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro

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The art of leading a virtual meeting

The new virtual environment is here to stay.

In recent months, who more or less has had to hold non-face meetings. For some it has been a new experience, for others a previous reality that has accelerated. Although we long to be able to meet in person, I think it is quite peaceful to admit that holding virtual meetings has many advantages: it saves time and travel costs, increases digital skills and collaborative work, orders interventions, etc.

Today, after 20 months of pandemic, we have all accepted that this new reality is here to stay, and that we will probably not attend those marathons of face-to-face meetings. In fact, as in the case of teleworking, the pendulum will surely lead us to a hybrid management of meetings. We will also see how the appearance of the offices changes. Some companies, small and not so much, will decide to dispense with the liability that represents many square meters of infrastructure that now, with teleworking, are not so necessary. Nor will the proliferation of face-to-face meeting rooms make much sense, which will be replaced, in part, by virtual meeting rooms.

But not everything are advantages. An important part of team management has to do with that ‘human touch’ that is generated around face-to-face meetings. In addition, when there is a negotiation component in the meeting, non-verbal language plays a very important role. And in virtual meetings it is very diluted. In relation to this non-verbal language, sharing the same physical space makes all your actions visible, which makes it more difficult to 'disconnect'

If, due to your profession, you need to exercise leadership in non-face-to-face meetings, here are six tips to make them efficient and successful:

Set goals before you start.

It is very important that you take the time to convene by calendar. This call requires some reflection. In any case, you must include, in addition to the day and local time, the objectives to be achieved and the agenda items to be discussed, with the name of those responsible for presenting them. It is also important that you set the connection tool, which should be clear and, if possible, just one click away.

Be punctual, it denotes seriousness and respect for the time of others.

Punctuality is more important, if possible, than in a face-to-face meeting. The first responsibility in this regard rests with you, as a leader. Remember that as an attendee there is nothing more frustrating than waiting in front of a screen that reminds you that the meeting will start when the organizer connects. But, in addition, since this modality lacks a large part of the social component that face-to-face meetings have, communication gaps can be generated during the waiting time that do not help the meeting to work.

Summon the necessary people: no more, no less.

One of the most frequent problems is not hitting the summoned. If you leave someone out, the meeting can go into paralysis because 'Murphy's Law' makes knowing that person always essential. Worse still is to summon more people than they should. This happens many times out of fear of making someone uncomfortable, but the result is that some of the attendees do not feel 'connected' to the background of the meeting, and this causes demotivation. In any case, don't forget to reflect on the effectiveness of your organization chart when you perceive that more people attend than necessary in most meetings.

Encourage clear, concise and orderly interventions.

Something that is often forgotten, and that causes comprehension deficits, is that while there is no intervention, the 'mute' must be activated. Remind everyone of this before the meeting and, if necessary, feel free to 'mute' a person, if your application allows it. The order of intervention is marked by the order established in the call and, in the discussion of each point, you as the organizer must assign turns of interventions, if the dynamics requires it. By the way, wait for the interventions of others before expressing your opinion. Many times, a hasty intervention by the leader restricts the participation of the attendees.

The meeting ends with a summary of the treaties, setting actions and responsible parties.

The way it is finished is as or more relevant than the way it is summoned. It will determine its success in a decisive way. It is absolutely essential that someone write a conclusion document, point by point, assigning responsible parties and deadlines. Today there are many collaborative office automation tools that allow the meeting itself to draft and agree on the conclusion brief, with the participation of all. Also, it is very important to schedule the next meeting, if necessary. And by the way, never forget to congratulate those who have contributed the most, before and during the meeting.

Manage the results of meetings based on data.

Data is the oil of the 21st century. You need to have a dashboard that shows you if your meeting system works. If you use collaborative office automation (Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace), the tool itself will show you the average time you spend on meetings and the investment, also in time, with each of the people you are going to meet, among other data. On an individual level, you can schedule periods of concentration or check if you always meet with the same people (which can lead you to lose lateral perspective in management). The good news is that this data can also be exploited collectively, with which you can check the degree of efficiency of the team in this field.

If you follow the steps above, you will have laid the foundations for the meetings to be successful and the attendees will surely appreciate it. As you have seen, some of the concepts we have listed apply to the entire digital environment, not just meetings. In this way, precision, agility and traceability are three concepts that must permeate all work dynamics in the new reality.

Remember: An efficient meeting is not improvised, it is prepared.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro

How to get the most out of your team

The implementation of hybrid or remote work requires a model, with standards and procedures known to all team members. It is also important to invest in the training of leaders, so that they are the ones who drive the change towards new ways of working. Many companies believe that these new ways of working represent a mere consolidation of the model used during the pandemic. That is a very serious mistake since sooner or later the connection between people will be lost and their stress levels will increase. To avoid the unwanted consequences of hybrid work, it is also very important for these leaders to understand the relationship between stress levels and team performance levels.

The Yenkes-Dodson law.

For this, we can help ourselves with the Yenkes-Dodson law. This is the result of the work of two psychologists (Robert Yerkes and John Dodson) at the beginning of the 20th century on the influence of pressure (which can be understood as the level of stress) on performance in tasks that involve complex mental operations. .

This law states that the relationship between stress and performance can be represented in the form of an inverted 'U'. In this way, performance will be optimal when the stress level is moderately high. But if it is too high or too low it has a negative effect on performance.

The relationship between stress and performance

Thus, according to Yerkes-Dodson we can establish three types of stages in this relationship:

  • When we carry out tasks with a low level of stress or alertness, we become bored and less productive. Taken to the extreme it spawns zombie workers. These are those whose body is kept in business but whose mind has long since caused low. This is what we can call the boredom zone.
  • At the other extreme, when the demands on a specific worker are very high and he does not know how to manage them, his mental clarity and his ability to understand and stay attentive in his tasks falls. Then he tends to experience feelings of anxiety and general psychological discomfort, generating stress that has a tremendous impact on productivity, and burnout problems may appear. This, then, is the burnout zone.
  • In the center of the curve, the worker is in his flow zone, totally focused on what he should do, like a surgeon who is focused on the operation, completely oblivious to everything that is happening in the operating room. And it is that when the task is stimulating, challenging and we have the knowledge and skills to do it, we concentrate more. The flow zone will be our target zone.

The three key factors to keep the flow.

Therefore, the objective should be to keep our team workers in the flow zone, avoiding boredom and burnout zones as much as possible. And how is this done?

There are at least 3 factors that play a very relevant role in this:

First, the complexity of the tasks. If the tasks we have to carry out are more difficult, we will need to invest more cognitive resources than if they are not. Consequently, complex tasks require a lower level of pressure to achieve optimal performance than simple ones. The consequences in the assignment and follow-up of the same by the manager are evident.

Second, the skill level of the employee Taking into account the skill level of workers is critical when determining the ideal environmental pressure. It is evident that the greater the individual's mastery of the tasks, the less subjective difficulty they develop.

Third, the manager's motivational skills. The best way to boost performance is to increase motivation to carry out the target tasks. It's about achieving sustained levels of commitment to work.

Thus, adjusting the complexity of the tasks to the skills of the workers, and maintaining adequate levels of motivation contributes decisively to keeping team members in their flow zone for as long as possible in their working day.

Therein lies the skill of the leader.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro
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Risks of unregulated remote work.

Remote or hybrid work has many advantages. But also some risks. Focused on those that affect employee, we could summarize them in three:

  • Increase in working hours. The available studies tell us that part of the commuting savings is invested in starting the workday earlier or ending it later. An increase in working hours can have harmful effects.
  • Less connection between team members. Working from home produces isolation as it reduces human interaction, which is especially relevant in tasks that require more coordination.
  • Excess of technological connectivity. The opposite phenomenon to the previous one, the result of being always connected to a screen, going from one meeting to another.

Concept and content of digital disconnection.

When these new ways of working remain active for a long time without a clear regulation, these risks can end up becoming real problems that affect the health of employees and the culture and competitiveness of the company. To prevent it, there are multiple techniques. Perhaps the most relevant is the management of leaders' learning so that they can assume the new skills needed to lead remotely.

For some time now, digital disconnection has been configured as a rising worker's right. The digitization of jobs has contributed to this, when they provide their occupants with almost total mobility both in space and time. Thus, at the concept level, we are facing a labor right of employees not to connect to any professional digital device or company software -computers, corporate mobile phones, etc.-.

First element: Purpose

Every Change Management project must be started with a purpose. Each organization has to decide why it is interested in building a digital disconnection policy. Some will do so out of the need to create a work environment that encourages the attraction or retention of talent. Others because they are concerned about the well-being of their employees. There will be those who feel that a regulation of this matter could lead to an improvement in productivity, by reducing the stress levels of the teams. Others simply want to comply with the norm and approach the issue from an eminently legalistic perspective. The first step is, therefore, to reflect on the ultimate purpose of what you are going to do. Depending on that purpose, you will build one project or another.


Second element: Scope

Just as remote work affects different types of employees differently, digital disconnection affects different members of the workforce differently. Of course, there are different internal services that may have a more restricted application of this disconnection. Imagine, for example, that the non-convening of meetings beyond 5 am is established as a general measure. PM and we have workers in charge, for example, of maintaining the systems at night. We will have to adapt the application to these groups. Treating the exclusions to the rule is always delicate, but precisely for that reason it is very necessary.

Third element: Measurements.

We enter the core of the project here. What measures can we apply to help this digital disconnection of the workforce? Some of them will directly affect the law and others will have a greater impact on the generation of a favorable corporate culture. Let's look at some examples.

  • Communications outside of the day or on vacation. They can range from setting time slots for disconnection, holidays and weekends, to policies for managing senders of emails (courtesy copies, mainly). In vacation periods, for example, they may incorporate the obligation to set 'absent from the office' as an organizational management measure.
  • Call for meetings. In remote environments it is very important that meetings coincide with synchronous work time bands. The usual thing is to set exclusion times (for example, not to call meetings after 5:00 PM). However, it is also used to establish unique channels and rules for calling and managing exceptions (common in multinational environments).
  • Good practices. It is about activating training and awareness actions that lead to a sensitive culture on the matter. In this way, slogans are launched such as reducing the number of meetings as much as possible and minimizing travel or reducing the number of summons to those that are strictly necessary to fulfill the purpose of the meeting. On the other hand, a maximum duration of meetings can be set (combined with policies to turn off the lights in physical or virtual rooms) and messages about the importance of ensuring compliance with schedules.

Fourth element: Governance.

This type of project requires the implementation, in parallel, of an internal circuit with which to communicate cases of non-compliance or incidents. These incidents can be managed by a single body, for example the HR department. But they can also be by a collegiate. In this case we can organize it in the form of sole representation of the company or joint representation of the workers. In the latter case, it is very necessary to have an operating regulation prior to its start-up (it is especially important to set maximum resolution times, due to the implications that this may have).

Let us not forget to set a validity period for the pact itself. This will allow us to report it and rewrite it if we see that it suffers from defects.

The importance of the 'negotiation factor'.

Finally, I will refer to the way in which a document of this type can be produced. When affecting the rights of workers, it is usually the result of a negotiation with the workers' representatives. As in any collective bargaining process of this type, it requires patience, a left hand and also a lot of determination.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro

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Go back to the office?

Lately, multiple reports and opinion articles have appeared on the phenomenon of returning to the office, taking advantage of the favorable evolution of the vaccination process.

In this sense, the predictions that resulted from the survey that McKinsey Global Institute carried out in February this year on the Future of Work after COVID-19 are being fulfilled. After the exodus to the homes of March 2020, a part of the workers will not return to the previous situation.

Thus, many companies are going to have to manage new work models. As I wrote in my article ‘How to build a hybrid work strategy’, to address this type of transformation, it is important to have a purpose, a strategy and a method. But it is just as important to have a change management plan that serves to make the ‘cultural adjustments’ that allow its peaceful assumption by working people.

The force of resistance.

Many projects on new ways of working fail because their authors do not take into account resistance to change. Humans, by nature, find it difficult to get out of our comfort zone. It is not possible to drive a change with just a PowerPoint presentation. Those who do so stay on the surface. And on the surface of organizations, as in the sea, you only see a part of the whole, precisely that part that is closest to you. But if you dive in, you can see the real company. The one where the teams move harmoniously, like schools of fish. People, like those schools of fish, act gregariously to defend themselves against changes, because they perceive these changes as threatening predators.

Therefore, it is critical to keep in mind that your action -your project- is going to have a reaction in the opposite direction of the same intensity. Pure physics. Below I am going to list some of the main causes why your project can fail. I advise you to take them into account when activating your change management strategy.

Insufficient followers.

Many HR projects are unsuccessful due to a deficit in the implementation methodology. It is curious how some companies spend great efforts to promote the implementation of new products or services for customers and at the same time understand that the products for employees are going to be assumed by them without more. That they will 'buy' them regardless of the perceived value, the customer experience or the price they have to pay.

As I mentioned in my article ‘Human Resources in the face of cultural transformation’, it is essential to handle the theory of the diffusion of innovations by Everett Rogers, by identifying the early adopters -early adopters- who are going to drive change. The talent map of your organization should include this figure. Because only when your change project has a minimum market penetration of 15%, will you be able to say that you have found the path to success.

Leaders don't want to change.

The most recurrent phrase of those leaders with strong resistance to change in the ways of working is: people telecommuting are less productive. It is an argument widely used by telework deniers. The problem is that when you ask them about evidence that values ​​the claim, you don't get them out of statements based on the performance of isolated people. These statements usually carry a derivative: the real problem is not the worker's performance. Rather, it is the leader's way of leading. Many companies have to understand that if they want to have agile, collaborative employees with good technological skills, they cannot have bureaucratic leaders, individualists or with analogical behaviors.

To try to have the proactive and positive participation of your leaders, you will need two basic tools: communication and training. Regarding the first, I recommend that you implement a continuous feedback methodology between the teams. This model must combine a process of collective feedback (in the manner of OKR -objectives and key results) and individual feedback (which I already addressed in the article 'The Art of Continuing Feedback'). On the other hand, the competencies required to lead remote teams are slightly different. Feel free to allocate a portion of the budget to train your leaders in this regard.

The state of opinion against the change.

One of the most difficult problems to tackle in the management of a project occurs when at a given moment a state of opinion is triggered against it. If you have made an adequate risk assessment in the analysis phase, the problem may come from what I call a 'management model' by anecdotes' or '' management model by hoaxes' '. The first model occurs when the performance of a minority is elevated to the category of norm (for example, 'people teleworking are less productive than in the office'). The second is when a fiction is directly turned into reality (for example, 'when you call a teleworker to a face-to-face meeting, he does not attend' and it turns out that in a pandemic this has never occurred).

The tool to combat a state of opinion is called data management (people analytic, if you are from HR). Very often I find that in the manifestation of that state of opinion the word 'sensation' is pronounced. To combat it, your hybrid work management model needs indicators. I am not referring to something very complicated but to a dashboard for monitoring and managing the model. There are methodologies that can help you build a useful dashboard to manage new ways of working.

The technology is not adequate.

Technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the implementation of a hybrid work strategy. It is the main facilitating factor of teleworking. It allows us to communicate and cooperate.

So that technology does not pose a brake on the implementation of new ways of working in your company, it is essential that you carry out a prior self-diagnosis, from the user (and customer) experience. Pay attention to a few questions:

  • Do we have a collaborative office automation system that allows me to unlink performance and presence?
  • Can we answer phone calls remotely efficiently?
  • Are our core applications ready for remote operation?
  • Do we have the systems ready to face cyber risks derived from teleworking?
  • Do our employees have levels of connectivity at home that allow them to operate remotely?
  • Have we designed a suitable device deployment policy?

These and other questions should provoke a debate prior to any introduction of hybrid work.

Employee well-being.

To finish. It is important that you bear in mind that remote work involves a new way of working. Working people should receive the support of the management committee. Techno-stress is a real threat and corporate occupational health standards will need to adapt. but that, perhaps, already gives for another article ...

Author: Ricardo Alfaro Puig

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The great HR dilemma.

What work model are we going to implement in my company after the pandemic? Many HR managers are now asking themselves that question. The dilemma between returning to the pre-COVID model, keeping teleworking as the preferred option or implementing a hybrid model is a constant in our companies.

In the accompanying graph, I make a brief differentiation between the characteristics of a COVID teleworking model and those that a post-COVID model should have.

To help you reflect, here are some clues about what a good management model should contain.

Finding the ideal implementation strategy

The next step is that you have a good implantation method. I remember that a few years ago Fortune magazine published an article stating that only 10% of companies manage to implement their strategy successfully. So that this does not happen to you, I suggest that you spend some time writing your implantation model. By way of example, I list some elements that this model must necessarily have:

  1. Scope and modalities to apply.

    Not all companies can telework or not all people in the same company can work with the same model. It is very important that you clearly identify exceptions and that you determine the possible modalities (ranging from one day teleworking to full teleworking). In all cases, attendance shifts must be recorded so that there are no collapses or "valleys" of attendance at the office.

  2. Work hours and flexible hours.

    New ways of working involve new ways of managing time as an element of consideration in the employment relationship. In addition to the hackneyed issue of time control, you must establish synchronous work periods -all working in that time slot-, asynchronous work periods -time flexibility- and digital disconnection periods and their conditions -obligatory in some countries-.

  3. Rights and duties of employees.

    The new scenario will mean the adaptation of their rights and duties, which is why they usually need a collective agreement with the unions. We refer to aspects related to occupational health and safety -how and under what circumstances the job evaluation is carried out or how new occupational risks, such as techno-stress, are managed-, information security, data protection and right to privacy and the complex issue of possible compensation for teleworking expenses (by the way, mandatory in some countries).

  4. Device management.

    It is not a minor issue. First, you must decide if the company will take charge of the devices for remote work or it will be the worker himself who provides them (BYOD model, acronym for 'bring your own device'). In the first case, you will have to decide if that device replaces or complements the office device. If you replace it, you will have to think about a new configuration of the spaces - hot desk without assignment of position? - and if it complements it, you will have an extra expense that will have to think about how to rinse to meet the budget.

  5. Performance management.

    Are you sure your performance model will work in the new environment? Performance management systems are based on competencies, in turn based on behavioral evidence. The problem is that many times these behavioral evidences require the observation of behaviors by the manager.​​ Without physical contact, that observation declines, and therefore is less.. The new models are based on constant individual and collective feedback. Spend time on this, it is one of the most strategic aspects in the medium term

  6. System governance and legal aspects.

    One of the critical success factors in the implementation of a hybrid or remote work model is to ensure that its access and operating conditions are predictable and known to all. That happens, in addition to what is established in the first point, to decide whether it is HR or a collective body that resolves the incidents or to write a model annex to the employment contract -in some countries it is mandatory-.

Manage Change. The pending challenge.

When you have defined -and written- the new model, you will have to manage the change correctly, so that implementation is assumed and shared by the entire organization. Apart from the fact that you may require a collective agreement with the unions (in that case the model can be a good draft), I recommend that you start by training your leaders. Without your proactive collaboration the model will not work.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro Puig

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Breaking silos in the 21st century company

When a company grows large, it needs to be structured into departments in order to be more efficient. It then begins to put together a series of procedures that the entire organization has to follow. So far so good.

The problems start when those departments super-specialize. Then they tend to focus exclusively on what they do and lose the global perspective of the organization. When this phenomenon becomes general, the famous 'silo effect' appears. Then, they begin to work in isolation, without transfers or flows of information between them. According to a study by PwC, half of the companies work with silos.

The antidote to reducing or eliminating silos is collaboration. In this hyper-connected world we live in, collaboration has become a true management obsession.

Three manifestations of business collaboration.

The current remote or hybrid work does not help to eliminate silos between different teams or departments. This is so because social interactions between people are reduced as presence is reduced. But, on the other hand, today there are very few processes or projects that remain in a single department.

In this environment, it is imperative that leaders promote collaboration. First of all, between colleagues, because it's not about competing between departments, it's about cooperating between colleagues. And secondly, and there is the key, within the teams. In this sense, you should bear in mind that there are three types of collaboration or cooperation.

  • Intra-departmental collaboration: Between members of the same team. It is the easiest to get because you all belong to the same tribe.
  • Inter-departmental collaboration: This is more complicated because it affects different tribes. Here the work that is done between leaders is important
  • Open collaboration: This is the future of business. Alliances are sought to win, between different companies. 

Three ways to break silos in a hybrid organization.

One of the great challenges for companies is to break down the walls that exist between departments. For them we propose three very simple formulas, applicable to any organization.

  • Collaborative technology. Today technology is an ideal way to foster collaboration between teams. That's more powerful when you integrate office automation, file management, and communication on a single cloud platform. Right now, you can opt for either Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. Many companies implement them exclusively from a Tech perspective. But for teams to embrace it and take advantage of its full potential, you need to put together adequate change management, promoting workshops that accelerate its adaptation in transversal business processes.
  • Collaborative methodology. In the first place, you must adopt adequate management by processes and by projects. In every organization, there are departments that work more on processes - they are more in exploitation - with others that work more on projects - more oriented towards exploration-. For both to feel integrated, it is very important that you have a very structured process map - defining a ‘main owner’ for each of them, but also adequate project governance. In the latter case, the adoption of project management technology such as Jira or Monday, for example, will help you a lot.
  • Collaborative leadership. Collaboration needs leaders who promote it with methodology. Training those leaders and creating human capital management projects will help you. In this regard, there are very interesting experiences. For example, a company decided to promote collaboration between functional areas by assigning ‘ambassadors’ from each department so that they could coexist for a time in others. Another experimented in the same way between the lines of operations and the corporate one, with the aim of increasing mutual knowledge and understanding, the seed of collaboration. Another created an internal recognition system for those people who demonstrated that they had made a greater donation of knowledge to the outside of their department. In any case, the HR departments have a very relevant role in this process.

Finally, remember that a company that does not encourage internal collaboration has too many numbers to succumb to internal bureaucracy and end up being uncompetitive. The prelude to his disappearance.


A model of relationships in hybrid work environments

Internal communication, part of the culture of an organization.

Company culture means how things are done, the personality and behavior of the organization. Until a few months ago, those of us who are dedicated to business management had as an axiom that a culture is only transformed if three elements are combined: strategy, determination and time. This was equivalent to saying that to drive change you needed a solid strategy (built from an inspiring vision), a strong determination on the part of the Management (and from there a cascading commitment) and a period of time to adapt the objectives. behaviors (the amount of time depended on the length of the gap between the current culture and the desired culture).

But in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and many things have changed in our organizations. In 2019 few of us could trust that company culture could adapt almost overnight to a new paradigm. And he did, and with it the old axiom fell apart.

But we cannot forget that the change was due to an external cause, related to health, and of a temporary nature. Now it's time to start thinking about a new work environment: the post-pandemic work environment. And how we carry out internal communication in that transition is not going to be a simple matter. Because things are not going to be as fast as during the pandemic, but the reality to be managed is going to be very different from before.

Four characteristics of internal communication in new work environments

Communication management has always been one of the great pending subjects of management. It tends to be perceived as a permanent area for improvement. In fact, many of the problems of labor relations have their beginning in deficits in the communication between the management, the middle management and the employees. Well, if in traditional environments it is usually a complex element, in a hybrid environment it is much more so. Here are four characteristics that you have to take into account. Something like determining how communication should be in this new paradigm.

  • Predictable. In traditional work environments, linked to the presence of employees in the office, a manager can call a meeting at any time. No problem, just leave your office or cubicle and… that's it. Virtual environments are, by their very nature, more flexible. Employees need to know in advance when they are going to be summoned to a meeting. In this sense, routines become more important because they serve as a counterweight to flexibility. Remember that now you need to establish guidelines on which to base the governance of that communication: meetings set in advance, recording and dissemination of their results, communicated in real time but with set guidelines (one day a week, at a specific time each day) . All of this will help us prevent infoxication.
  • Continued. As we show in our post 'The New Management of Working Time', the best leaders hold continuous check-in meetings 1 to 1 weekly with each of their collaborators (48 meetings a year, 15 minutes of in-depth attention to each employed a week, 12 hours a year, what less). It is proven that teams that practice it reduce turnover and improve performance. Why? Because if you reduce the frequency of that check in (let's say once a quarter) the conversation becomes more generic since you don't remember the evidence on which your feedback is based. Remember, combine weekly group follow-up meetings with the entire team with personal feedback with each member. Your priority, as a leader, is to maintain that communicative routine, that of your team; manage the day to day.
  • Personalized. I think we will all agree that during the pandemic the meetings have become more impersonal, getting to the bottom of the issues without prolegomena. But these prolegomena are very important, also in management. In them, personal relationships are established that facilitate trust and agreement. But also, one of the main problems of communication in non-contact work environments is that they lose an important part of language: non-verbal language. Remember, communicate from the personal to the professional. Start by spending time worrying about people, their children, their health, their family ... Adapt the message to the conditions of each member of your team. Make him perceive that he is special and unique. From there, you can build a sufficient level of trust to honestly address any problem or difficulty.
  • Digital. I'm not just talking about tools. I am referring, rather, to the spirit with which an organization assumes the digitization of relations with and between its employees. You will need the technology to be just one channel. So, for example, remember to combine virtual meetings with face-to-face meetings. The former are more efficient for checking tasks and routines, the latter for engaging in brainstorming, innovation or negotiation processes. It is also important to create a multi-channel strategy for employees to communicate with each other and share best practices and reciprocal recognition. There are many technological models to service these strategies.

Once you have chosen those four topics on which to build the new post-COVID internal communication, you need to turn it into a plan. It is about making each team more predictable, continuous, personalized, simple and digital in how to communicate with and with each other. And lead by example. Remember that Aristotle already said that speeches inspire less confidence than actions.


Does it make sense to continue managing people based on presence in hybrid work environments?

Productivity is the end, working time is the means.

Productivity is the quotient between the results and the time used to obtain them. In this way, the less time it takes to obtain the desired result, the more productive the system is. So it was about doing more with less.

In managing this difficult equation, many companies place more emphasis on the time factor than on the results factor. In these agile times it is a mistake that can have negative consequences.

Pathologies related to the traditional work time management model.

Continuing to manage human relations in the company based on the traditional concept of "working time" can cause some pathologies that do not exactly benefit productivity. Let's see two:

  • Reduce empowerment. If the prevailing culture in my company puts the emphasis on working time, leaders will use their energy to control this factor, rather than the one that corresponds to the result of the work. Many organizations allocate more resources to the day control system than to the performance management system.
  • Aligns the organization at the bottom of the performance. It is like the teacher who every day sets the bar for the level of the subject that he imparts to the lagging student. The rest of the class ends up getting bored. When this happens, people who ‘are there but are not there’ live together. Real work zombies, the problem is that their body is present and their mind is absentee. And those that remain end up procrastinating.

New ways of working and especially teleworking or hybrid work represent a paradigm shift that companies cannot ignore.


Four decisions you can put into practice to organize your work time in a new work environment.

In this new context, it is very important that companies make some decisions regarding the working time of their employees.

  • Define a predictable work model. According to the most recent studies, the preferred model to address this new post-COVID stage is the hybrid work model. But we must bear in mind that in this model there is a progressive disappearance of the boundaries between the time spent on work and the time spent on other tasks. And that can affect productivity. The solution is to design a telework governance model. It is about making known who can access the model and who cannot (obviously, a maintenance manager is not the same as a systems programmer, although both can be engineers), which days they can telework and which days they cannot, how they are managed the calls for meetings, how the onboarding of new workers works, how health and safety is guaranteed in the new job, etc.
  • Establish the ‘Pact of Time’. In a traditional work environment all work is synchronous. This means that all people work at the same time in the same space. If the leader wants to call a meeting, he just has to leave his office and call his entire team to the meeting. In a hybrid environment things don't work like that. At the same time you can have members of your team working in the office and at home. But as teleworking provides flexibility, it may be that at that moment the person is accompanying their children to the doctor or is doing the shopping. Flexibility is good, but it must be regulated. Thus, time bands must be established for synchronous work (all working) and others for asynchronous work (in which you can choose when you are going to use them).
  • Manage the digital disconnect. Who more or who has suffered less work stress in their life. Many times we forget that stress, by itself, is not bad. In fact, if we did not have stress we would not last long in this world, because it is what makes us be alert and perceive dangers. The problem is when that stress remains elevated for a long time. Then comes burn-out and with it plummeting productivity. This is something that is explained very well with the Yerkes and Dodson law. According to this, the performance will be optimal if the activation level is moderately high; On the other hand, if it is too high or too low it will negatively affect the result of the task. To avoid this phenomenon, more and more companies are betting on establishing active digital disconnection policies.
  • Train leaders. Many times it is forgotten that all change needs to be managed. It does not occur in automatic mode. It is very important that the company allocate resources to change the mindset of its workers, especially that of managers and managers.


Obviously many other measures can be activated in relation to working time. But please, let's forget about reducing them to the famous time control. Let's put the focus on performance.

The Art Of Giving Continuous Feedback

Leadership based on attention versus leadership based on control.

In my early years in the profession, when my boss ignored me, it was a good sign. Everything was going well. On the other hand, when he called me at his office, it was most likely to correct a task. It wasn't good news ...

Years later, I remember the appearance of the first performance management systems. My boss became my manager and that was a step forward. At the very least, he had the opportunity to have a scheduled annual interview about how he was doing.

The problem of traditional performance appraisal.

Over time I lost faith in those performance appraisal systems. Why? Fundamentally for three reasons.

  • Feedback with such a long time cadence is not efficient. The behaviors that give rise to the evaluation are forgotten and the conversation becomes ethereal, soft, without substance. And all the biases that social psychology experts teach us in training these models come into play.
  • The conversation focuses on weaknesses and not strengths. The competency management model itself speaks of gaps, that is, of differences between the correct level and the one you have, and then they assign you a plan for advancement or improvement. This is called, euphemistically, developing your areas of improvement.
  • Manager bias remains, regardless of whether the person or team being evaluated changes. Over time I learned that this is called the idiosyncratic qualifier effect and it means that every manager has a grading pattern (for example, hard / soft). When the person evaluated changes, the meaning of the grades should change, but this is not the case. In fact, according to recent studies, 64% of the qualification depends on the qualifier and not the qualifier

A new model of continuous feedback.

In short, trying to pigeonhole people based on a model is a mistake. What is the alternative?

Every day I believe more firmly in continuous feedback around what you do best. It is a very simple, free system that does not require elaborate software to carry it out. It just requires self-confidence and iteration. Let's see it:

Each week a check-in session must be held with each member of the team. One by one. It's about setting aside 15-20 minutes of your time to ask two questions:

  • What are the priorities for next week?
  • How can I help you?

And it is used to congratulate a job well done, but not in general - that must be done in public. The good work! It should be the beginning of a conversation (How did you think about that? How did you do it?, ...). It's like replaying a winning play.

If this exercise is done 52 times a year -without holidays-, in a predictable and scheduled way, with each and every one of the team members, individual and collective performance will rise. Any impediment will be detected and attacked quickly and interpersonal trust will be greater.

And despite this evidence, there are still managers who do not practice this continuous feedback and limit their interactions to managing emergencies or, what is worse, the scheduled performance assessment process.

The impediments to continuous feedback.

In my experience I have only found two impediments to the practice of continuous feedback.

  • The manager finds it boring or monotonous. Many confuse that practice with control. It's not about practicing spanning control, it's about practicing spanning attention. If the feedback is repeated every week, nothing happens; be paying attention to the employee, and that is leading. If you can't, you should think about doing something else.
  • The manager has too many people in charge. Many organizations lack precisely that, organization. And I'm not talking about the organization chart, I'm talking about efficient team segmentation. Remember that, by definition, small teams are more efficient. agile and with greater capacity to adapt to change.

In short, beyond the typical cascade of objectives, continuous feedback allows companies to cascade meanings and commitments. Worth it.