John Bernard, Business at the Speed of Now, Podcast Episode 3: Making the Shift to NOW
Good morning John. Hope you had a good week.
JB: I did Tom. I had some great fun with clients this week.
TM: That’s great. In our last session John shared his insights on some of the game changes for leaders today such as a millennial mindset and some others. He also described some of the five crucial elements leaders must provide for every employee so I encourage you to go back to podcast two and listen in.
Today I have a few questions for John that focus on the second chapter in his book which is titled “Making The Shift To Now.” John I chuckled as I started this chapter. You didn’t waste any time. You got right to the point in the chapter by telling a story of how “a leader can stubbornly operate out of invalid, even dangerous, assumptions that defy common sense.
I had a big grin. What have you found to be the cause of these conventional management practices that you wrote about?
JB: Well it’s pretty straightforward Tom. Most of us in leadership roles got there by being successful. We got there being successful using the old model and so when in doubt we throw the model in full gears, speed up, throw extra fuel in a new carburetor and hope it will get you there this time. But the reality is the model is outdated and we’re trying to make it work and it just can’t work. But as leaders we’re used to being stubborn. We’re used to achieving the unachievable so it’s easy to get stuck.
TM: You went on in the chapter to actually list out some of the things that would fall into a Then management philosophy or model, and also highlighted some of the Now mindset philosophies. Can you outline a couple of those for us as examples?
JB: Sure. In the Then world everything is driven by hierarchies so decisions are all about the chain of command and management’s primary job is to make decisions. In our Now world it’s quite different. It’s all about the customer and it’s about what the customer needs and that decision is no longer centralized; it’s highly decentralized right at the point of action.
Another is just functionalization. In the Then world what mattered were all those functions – accounting, audits, its own language of accounting. There are schools of accounting, schools of marketing, schools of engineering that create this language and logic for how that work is done. But today we’re in a process world and it’s centered around the customer and it’s about how that work gets done.
The customer doesn’t care that accounting has a rule that you’re stuck with or a policy that you’re stuck with, what the customer cares about is solving their problem and their want their problem solved now.
TM: So how would you describe the differences we’re relating with either subordinates or peers? In the Then way and in the Now way? Do you have a couple examples or insights you can share around that?
JB: I think the big shift, Tom, is that we’re going from our roles as mangers or as leader which was to make decisions. Now our job is to enable others to make decisions. That’s a whole different body of work. That’s a whole different way of thinking.
We have to let go of crazy notions, one of which I hear all the time which is “I’m afraid of losing control.” The reality is, as a leader, you don’t have control over anything that goes on in your organization. Only the people who do the work have control. The question is do they have what they need to be able to have effective control of those processes? Have you put in place all those things that enable them to give your business control?
TM: So as a leader, looking at the list of the Then style there were a few things I could recognize as my own style – not all of them but some. Could you describe the interaction you have with leaders that recognize that and what advice or guidance you give them on trying to make the shift to Now?
JB: Sure. I think that much of our concern is “I’m going to have to go through some big huge fundamental changes in awareness”. There’s a certain amount of truth in that but basically it’s more mechanical than that.
I’ll give you a simple example. If you want people to solve problems then they’re got to know how to effectively solve those problems. Once you’ve done that, you don’t have to tamper with their problems. Once you’ve made sure they know how to effectively solve problems, they’ll bring you solutions you can’t imagine, solutions that are so well thought out.
I think that’s the big shift. We have to recognize there are new things we need to put in place that enable our people to make decisions now which are good decisions for our business.
TM: To touch on that a bit more, it is a little scary. If I’ve been the one calling the shots and I’m the one with the relationship with somebody or I know the technical side of it, it’s pretty hard to just delegate that or turn it over to somebody.
So what are some of the things I do at the start of the shift to not only get myself more comfortable but to help those folks that I’m going to be turning to to feel more comfortable as well.
JB: I think we have to recognize that we’re moving from seeing our employees as kind of an extension of the machine to actually needing the thing to understand, to have skills they’ve not had. So as a leader, as a manager, we have to start to think “how do I actually help my people some of the things that I know that are essential?”
An example is I don’t want somebody making a technical call that is out of their body of knowledge or out of their comfort. They need to know when they need to come to get that technical advice and how do they make that judgment call. Rather than taking everything away from them and not allowing them to make any decisions, at this point you’re going to need technical support. We need to make sure that’s built in to what people understand about their job, where they have autonomy to make decisions and where they don’t.
TM: I’ve also been part of organizations where I feel like I’m the only one. Say I’m going to begin using some of these approaches; what do you say to clients of yours that are organizations, or conferences that you go to where you’re speaking to these top level executives, what do you give as far as advice or guidance on how to make a change at an organization level?
JB: Well ultimately the way a business is run is determined by the leader of that organization. I did this. I ran a supercomputer manufacturing plant. I made all kinds of crazy changes. I did it without a whole lot of people above me understanding or caring because frankly we were getting great numbers so they were thrilled with that. But ultimately if I do what I feel is right I can only have so much impact inside an organization unless I’m running it. That’s where a decision ultimately needs to be made. If I’m running it then I have to put in a system that enables people to take action, make decisions, and solve customer problems Now.
TM: Well I appreciated how you outlined in great detail some of these shifts for how to do it as a leader and as a manager. I encourage folks listening in, if you’re looking for the handbook or the how-to, I found a great wealth of information in chapter two.
So thank you John.
JB: Thank you Tom.
His Ink Magazine top five bestselling book “Business At The Speed Of Now” can also be found on Amazon.com.
Look for our next podcast where we’ll continue pursuing how leaders can thrive in the Now. Thank you for listening and I hope you can join us next time.