And suddenly, we were living in a new culture… How did that happen?

How do companies grow into new cultures? Can a given culture be changed? How palpable is a culture anyway? And if you wanted to change it, how would you go about it? These are questions that occupy Organizational Development consultants and researchers alike. At Business School Lausanne (BSL) we have decided to prototype new forms of organizations as a way to offer a living case study to our students. For the end of the year, I would like to offer a self-reflective piece about our organizational journey, from my own personal (and obviously limited) perspective.

On September 30, 2015, BSL had formally implemented self-organization as its new way to organize itself. Now, 1 year and 3 months later, we are looking at ourselves in disbelief. We have become a living and breathing organism with its own distinct culture and sense of purpose. And we wonder how this happened?! This blog attempts an analysis by looking at 6 distinct time period in the course of the last 15 months.

Step 1: October to December 2015 – We can learn this. The initial three months of implementing Holacracy were colored with a tremendous (good)-will to learn this new system. I think every single one of us put in discipline, time, energy, and an open trust. We learned the technique of Holacracy, got burned by what they unveiled in us regarding how judgmental and close-minded one is, we stopped and wondered, does this work? Some of us masterminded a massive systems-change that we proudly introduced in December 2015: from 2 circles, we shifted to 5 circles – in one go. A circle is something like a “department” or “business unit” – those roles that work together organize in a circle. Only later would we learn that this is absolutely not the way to go about solving “tension by tension”. We were still operating from a paradigm of hierarchy, quite unaware and unconscious but willing to try. We attempted to separate “role” from “soul” and forgot about the “soul” in the process, without knowing what to do about it. Holacracy told us – “just trust the process”.

Step 2: January to March 2016 – In the deepest of darkness. After these initial 3 months of openly learning the mechanics of Holacracy, our team dove into a dark place where we lost our previous natural sense of how to maintain personal relationships as a part of our professional collaboration. Suddenly, everything felt mechanic, cold, and distant and there seemed to be no place to connect from person to person. Our Holacracy coach kept on telling us: “Holacracy structures how you work together, how you want to relate to another, what we call ‘tribe space’ that is up to you to define.” We didn’t know what to do with this advice, “tribe space” was a term that didn’t resonate and sporadic attempts to create a “tribe space” were mostly left unattended. Critical colleagues raised concerns about a serious loss of trust in the team saying we have a big problem.

Step 3: April to May 2016 – Addressing dormant people issues. These dark three months forced some previously unaddressed and uncomfortable people issues to the bright daylight. We had learned to talk straight and to listen to another – one of the great benefits of Holacracy’s very mechanic technics. This dialogue culture enabled us to openly address pain points we didn’t have the courage to address before. We realized that not everybody would make it and we made generous offers to those that would not be able to dance this new journey of self-responsibility and co-creation with us at a much heightened innovation speed. These talks didn’t help the sense of darkness in the team, to the contrary, now the problems were in the open and things looked and felt bleak.

Step 4: June to August 2016 – Inventing a new recruitment process. Connected to step 2, we were facing some serious recruitment challenges that resulted from having addressed the people pain points. Quite unknowingly, we stumbled into a number of new practices that entirely overhauled our recruitment process. We started to ask very different questions to candidates, asked them to write an essay about how they might do in a self-organizing structure, and we used new strength-based assessment tools. We formalized with a policy that the committee consists of concerned colleagues that were intimately knowledgeable and concerned with the roles a new-hire would take. The blog “we are hiring for DNA” explains this well.

Step 5: September to October 2016 – Questioning the performance evaluation and bonus system. During the busiest time of our year, we also had to do our performance reviews. Given that we were new at self-organization, we didn’t quite know how to do this in our new setting. Those partners who cared formed a committee that defined in a few pragmatic sessions a process that seemed reasonable and time efficient. The result: a small disaster! By now, our team was entirely comfortable to discuss uncomfortable issues collectively and we quickly assembled a list of things that didn’t work. We agreed that we did no longer want to tie our financial bonus to our peer-based performance review. So how to advance? Simply, a call to those among us to self-organize and propose a better system for the coming year. This is an excellent example of what is called “safe enough to try”. We tried, it didn’t work so well, we still all accepted and embraced the consequences and vouched to do better next year. No hard feeling! As you can see, the goodwill and the trust were back – in a very new and different way. Not a trust in a boss or a hierarchy, nor a need to plead for personal favors, a trust in our way of making decisions, a trust in the ability for everybody to speak up and be respected, a trust that the others cared.

Step 6: November to December 2016 – The real test with titles and new-born authority. With our new-hires in place and with priorities cleared for the coming months, the question arose what to do with our old titles, in particular, “the Dean”. We recognized that our outside world demanded such a title and position, even if internally, we had delegated its accountabilities into a variety of roles and circles and the Dean no longer was a reality for us. There were 4 of us with external roles that at times resembled what is traditionally called a “Dean” role. In a governance meeting we discussed, argued, considered, reflected, rejected, improvised and eventually agreed that we shall be having the “Dean” title available to those who have an external representation need, clarifying that 4 people can use the title in 4 different special areas, such as academic programs, executive education, thought leadership, applied research. The website adjustment is still underway and shows how hot a potato titles are. Meanwhile, new authority arose elsewhere: we are making 3 significant leadership changes on January 1 in three key circles. Leadership in the sense of ensuring that resources and competencies are directed at realizing the mission identified. As my last act of “letting go”, the BSL Company Lead Link (a position even the Holacracy inventor Brian Robertson still holds at his company) will be energized by Carlo, while Branko takes over the School Lead Link and Massimo takes over the Support Service Lead Link. All of these appointments are announced as being intended for the year 2017, and we shall be seeing who has appetite and talent to embrace such roles thereafter.  Denitsa has risen to be our inspiration in her new people role, offering daily positivity challenges during the Advent months. David says that he feels there is more time that partners take to connect personally, creating a foundation to getting things done so much more easily. And last but not least, our newly invented Gap Frame Weeks have transformed the way the administration and the faculty interact with the student body, something that was palpable at our Holiday Season Party which was a huge success, independently organized by David. We are closing the year on an unprecedented high, “looking back at the pain with appreciation and understanding” (Aurea) and “feeling new wind beneath our wings” (David). Welcome 2017 – we are ready to embrace whatever is thrown our way!

Are these 6 necessary steps? Could we have anticipated or planned them ahead? Can you learn something from these? Do these steps provide insight into cultural transformation? I am not sure. And I am curious to continue with our “action research” to see if there is anything we and others can indeed learn, and if only in hindsight. And that is one of the purposes of a year-end reflection, too!

Kathy, I wish you strength to continue with your own personal journey of sense-making, most particularly in the coming year. It is a privilege to co-write this blog with you as it brings my own reflection about how to enable organizations to become sustainable and to contribute to the common good to new heights. Thank you for that and thank you for sharing so authentically your own journey with you last blog.

Author: Katrin Muff, PhD

Active in thought leadership, consulting & applied research in sustainability & responsibility, and directing the DAS & DBA programs

Analytics-driven decision making is becoming the ‘new normal’

This November 24th we launched our new “Introduction to Big Data and Analytics” course, destined for the Bachelor students. You may wonder whether we are digressing from the important business topics to be taught at a business school. Surely, Big Data is just an IT concern? And our students don’t aspire to become data scientists? So why bother?

Well, the reality is much more nuanced. How to deal with Big Data and Analytics is directly linked to success or failure of companies, as they continuously seek competitive advantage. What insights are they able to extract from their data to support the implementation of their business strategy? The access to, and storage of, data is no longer the issue, and as available data continues to grow exponentially (double every two years) the playing field is no longer level. Those companies and public institutions that don’t follow will very quickly fall behind and become uncompetitive.

It all boils to down to how large and varied sets of data, gathered and analysed in near real-time, can help companies make better decisions. Those companies that ‘get it’ continue to set the pace and it is fast! Their company strategies and unique differentiators are clear, and they focus all their Big Data efforts on helping them make the most competitively compelling decisions. Examples include Uber optimizing supply and routes based on your location; your telecoms provider adapting their promotional offers to your personal consumption profile; your supermarket dynamically changing stocked products and prices based on external factors such as meteorological data, social media data and local upcoming events; your city installing sensors on lampposts, garbage bins and traffic lights to maximise urban infrastructure efficiency; your car communicating proactively with its manufacturer to predict upcoming technical problems and servicing needs.

Every single industry vertical is affected by Big Data and Analytics and the numbers are mind boggling. Walmart alone processes 2.5 petabytes every hour (that’s 2.5×1015 bytes = roughly 1.3 trillion printed pages) with over 200 streams of internal and external data. Our digital universe doubles in size every two years, and there are more bits of info than there are stars in our physical universe. Only about 5% of all our data is analysed today. With about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day (= 10M Blu-ray discs) and bad/poor data costing US businesses roughly $600Bn every year, there are literally no minutes to lose on working out how to use large, varied and real-time data sets to drive competitive advantage. 

At BSL, we are taking a sector approach to teaching Big Data and Analytics. During our 2016/2017 Winter term, we will have six prominent guest speakers from six different industries to help make concrete data science business challenges come to life: Public Healthcare, Financial Services, High Tech, Transportation, Smart Cities, and HR/Recruitment. This will also give the students an invaluable insight into the core business model questions of each industry sector. They will better understand how decisions are made and why, as well as the trade-offs that companies and public institutions always need to consider.

My hope is that this class will become redundant over the years, as Big Data simply becomes the “new normal” and is fully integrated into the overall curriculum of business schools. In the meantime, we will prepare our BSL students well for a world in which understanding, analysing and applying big data sets has become a minimum entry requirement.

Author: Anja Langer Jacquin,
Professor at BSL

The Speak-up Series

Scandals like Volkswagen or Fells Fargo made it clear again: Before a scandal erupts, many, many people in the company knew about the ongoing ethics problems for quite a long time. But, why did they not speak up? Bettina Palazzo will explore in this series:

  1. How leaders discourage that their team members address uncomfortable truths and what they can do about it.
  2. How leaders need to conduct speak conversations that make it safe and worthwhile for employees to speak up.
  3. Why employees do not speak up and who the courageous people are that do dare to speak up.
  4. How employees can prepare am effective speak-up conversation and how they can conduct this difficult talk with courage and confidence.

#1 Speak-up : The Role of Leadership is crucial

Speaking up on topics of ethics and compliance is hard to do. Already speaking up when you disagree or have bad news can be difficult in organizations.

But speaking-up is important because companies need to know about ethical problems early, before they become a major scandal. Research shows that before a corporate scandal is revealed, people in the company knew about the problem for at least a year.

In order to encourage speaking-up, you need a climate of trust, where coworkers can speak up in a safe environment knowing that their opinion counts and that they do not have to fear negative effects for themselves and their careers.

Very often, though, leaders discourage speaking-up without even noticing :

  • Leaders are bad role models and do not speak up to their superiors themselves. Coworkers will always model their behavior to how their superiors behave. An example: Regular hand-washing is very important to prevent infections in hospitals. The most important factor in increasing hand-washing is when senior doctors act as role models and frequently wash their hands.
  • Leaders have an authoritarian leadership style that is based on command and control. Clearly this is unfavorable for the creation of a relationship between managers and coworkers that allows to speak up easily. An authoritarian leader presumes he/she knows best and does not empower coworkers to freely share their own, dissenting opinion. When coworkers disagree, they use the force of their authority to get their will.
  • Leaders do not listen to their coworkers.
  • They do not actively ask for their coworkers’ opinion.
  • They are not open to feedback.
  • They do not give constructive feedback themselves to coworkers.

We can see, if leaders want their team members to speak up, they need to work on a more participatory leadership style and create a climate where giving and receiving constructive feedback is normal. Only if this open and safe culture is well established, employees will speak up.

The importance of the leader’s role in speaking up cannot be over-estimated. This quote from the book « Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement » by Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson sums it up so nicely:

People with low power who are not convinced their honest perspective is really valued instinctively withhold their ideas. A leader has to do much more than say things like «My door is always open» or «I really want to know what you think” to get the goods from subordinates. The leader has to prove again and again through statements and actions that honesty is valued and that constructive disagreement goes unpunished.

So how can leaders create a speaking-up culture?

They have to do seemingly simply things like listening to their team members. Easier said than done. We are often hard-wired to respond instead of taking the ideas of others in. Especially leaders are tempted to jump too quickly to conclusions and offer solutions. Understandably so, after all a manager’s job is to solve problems…sometimes they are so eager to solve the problem, that they do not take the time necessary to really understand what is going on by using tools like active listing and asking the right questions. Leaders should never underestimate the small problems their team members might address. You never know, they might be the beginning of bigger problems or the tip of an iceberg.

Furthermore, leaders need to sharpen their senses and watch out if coworkers fall into silence over a topic. If everybody is chronically of the same opinion in team meetings and nobody ever offers a dissenting opinion, it is time to take a trusted team member a side and ask some open questions.

Finally, leaders need to make speaking up normal:

  • They should explain to all of their team members form their first day of working together, that sharing their open opinion with him or her, is vital and that they will be receptive to constructive feedback and always say “thank you”.
  • Leaders can integrate speaking-up into their team meeting routines. Of course, they will need to role-model this first.
  • Leaders need to prove that their followers can trust them and that speaking-up will be safe and worthwhile.

So we see, speaking up is first and foremost a communication and relationship problem. If you have good communications and a good relationship with your coworkers, if they trust you, if you do share responsibilities with them, speaking up is much easier.

Stay tuned and watch for the next episode of the speak-up series!
Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo
Professor at BSL

Competencies that count: Where are Responsible Leadership and Sustainability proficiency listed in the job descriptions?

Recently, and through different announcements, a number of large global corporations have made public their intention to remove University Degree requirements from (some of) their job descriptions and requirements. They argue that the correlation between holding a degree and being good for certain jobs is weak and too many good candidates are discarded because of this wrong filter. They plan to use new and innovative online tests that will do a better filter job according to them.

I look at this with interest as I have never been convinced that current degrees, and business degrees in particular, are representative of the important skills our future leaders need (and by leaders I mean leader in whatever position they hold, not only senior management). Among the many important skills future and current leaders need are responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency. Or not?

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My feeling is that if you ask the question directly to a hiring manager, they will certainly answer yes. At the same time, have you ever seen these two competencies in any job description? I am trying hard but, unless I come across some very specific job related to sustainability, I have seen no trace of the demand for these two important competencies. I am embarrassed by this. At Business School Lausanne, we have made a clear commitment to facilitate learning around sustainability and responsible leadership all across our program and courses. We design innovative pedagogy around these crucial competencies as we believe that there is no way the world will progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals unless new practices are embedded within any single next decision that business people are required to make. What is the next ingredient you will source for your product? Will you ship it by train, track, plane, boat? Will you ask for a local production? How much money will you allocate budget for personal development of your team? Will you invest in a social venture? Will you close an eye on your current polluting factory? Will you ask for innovation toward sustainable practices? Will you engage with all relevant stakeholder when making impactful decisions? And the list can go on and on forever. Almost every single decision business people are asked to make, presents a choice to go for more or less responsible and sustainable solution. Do you want your employees to be conscious of that option? Do you want them to be fluent with the consequences wrong decisions can lead to (and clearly not only financial)? This is a call for every job seeker to add where they stand with their responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency on their CV. This is a call for all hiring manager to make sure they make it clear they demand such competencies.

Let a new purposeful market grow around jobs and competencies that count and will make the world a better place!

Author: Carlo GiardinettiActive in Program Development, Holacracy and directing the BBA, Masters and E/MBA programs Business 

African Handmade Shoes

African Handmade Shoes” is a start-up created by one young guy, Paul Burggraf, from Lugano in 2013.The company fairly employs thirty shoemakers from Cape Town, South Africa, to produce shoes (espadrilles) sold worldwide. It is an innovative project as well as a supportive business idea that creates a bridge between South Africa and Ticino, Switzerland.

The idea is very simple: producing handmade shoes in Africa and sell them online in Switzerland and worldwide. In addition, the project is characterized by an ethical attitude that provides fair wages and optimal operating conditions for the thirty artisans working in the Cape Town laboratory, differentiating it from other shoe manufacturers who exploit their workers through poor working conditions and with low wages. Nevertheless, “African Handmade Shoes” are fully aware of these problems and they are ready to make the difference.

In 2007, Paul Burggraf made his first of many trips to South Africa. Since then, he has fallen in love with South Africa – a colourful country, incredible, so full of potential.
The idea of “African Made Shoes” was born through meeting Arnold – a young South African craftsman who ran a small shoe shop. Paul was immediately interested and impressed by his work and his products. He realized there was serious potential for fashion export. Thus “African Handmade Shoes” was born.

student-blog

They started with a Facebook page collecting orders and received good feedback. They subsequently figured out the brilliance of their idea. They now have a thirty-man strong workshop in Cape Town, a website through which the product reaches around the world and a logistics base in Ticino: https://africanhandmadeshoes.com/.

The main sales channel is e-commerce, however, it is also possible to find temporary stores during festivals and events such as the “Locarno Film Festival” and so on. Currently there are a few stores in Ticino and Switzerland, it is even in the most prestigious Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich.

Transparency and fairness are very important; in spite of the few resources available,
social media has been key to make them known. Through these channels they have decided to completely document what was going on in the workshop of Cape Town. In short, the complete manufacturing process is documented for final consumers to see.
Pride in their craftsmanship, dignity and self-worth in their employees, respect for workers, earn a living wage, multicultural and happiness are values important for the brand. Workers are simply local people, they are friends and they are also neighbors.
Trusting workers is important to get maximum quality for the final product.
They have also helped to maintain a trade, that of the shoemaker, which globally is disappearing. Those who learn this profession with them can support themselves in the future. In the African social reality, in which education and apprenticeship training are lacking, giving people a future by learning a job is a huge added value.

Finally, they believe in African culture as well as the promotion and growth of the African economy. Therefore, the company is conducting a competition for local entrepreneurs called “Startaboom”: Three projects of local entrepreneurs are presented on the website of “African Handmade Shoes”. The public chooses what business will get financial support by voting on the website. The entrepreneur who receive the most votes will get the 10% of 2015 profit of “African Handmade Shoes” in order to help the project grow.

The success of “African handmade Shoes” is very simple: The colours and fabrics of these shoes make a product with a long cultural history, tradition known globally. Companies like these show us that business does not have to about profits only, but can be economically successful by helping to solve social problems and making people in Switzerland and South Africa proud of what they do.

Here a few links for more information:

Video presentation
Founder speech about local entrepreneurs (new start-up)
One of the three local entrepreneurs

Author: Riccardo Bonfitto, Master in International Business student, 2016

We’re hiring for DNA!

Today started with a strange email in my inbox. One of the three final candidates in a current open position for which we are hiring wrote that he is retrieving his application. He explained that after having completed the two assignments we ask all advanced candidates in any position at BSL to complete, he understood after intense reflection that given the internal structure of BSL with our strong focus on business cases in sustainability, he would not be able to contribute to the overall goal of the circle for which he was under consideration to the degree he would wish. Interesting, I thought. The two assignments were the completion of a strength-finder self-assessment and an essay about Holacracy at BSL, and more precisely about how a candidate thinks of and places himself in the organizational context of Holacracy. This is the first sign that our recruitment process is truly working both ways. Thanks to a very transparent sharing of who we are and how we work with each other, a potential candidate has decided that this was not an environment for him. Brilliant! I feel that we have just made a big leap forward. A year ago, it would have been very possible for us to end up hiring such a person who would subsequently end up being a misfit with our organization, without having had the tools, wisdom and processes to screen for this hugely important cultural aspect.

This is a week full of people changes. A long-term collaborator will end his contract with us on Friday with his new energetic replacement having started just a few days ago. And another member of our team has gracefully announced that she will be leaving us to pursue other opportunities related to her dream. We are a small team and this is a lot of change for us. A colleague mentioned to me that somehow her circle felt as if the blood was changed in a person and that she needed yet to get used to how the new person would feel that her circle was transitioning into. When I shared with her the story of the email I had received, she smiled and said: “well, now, we are hiring for DNA”. She referred to a most recent hiring decision where we opted for the candidate who brought the most desirable attitude to us, at the expense of the perfect expertise his counterpart had offered. And indeed, I realize that what has happened over the past six months is that somehow, we have found our own DNA as an organization and that in our continuous adaptation of our recruitment and onboarding process, we have learned to create processes, questions and assessments that allow us to filter for this DNA when recruiting new members of the team.

This is something that has occupied many of us deeply over the past year as we have learned to find words and spaces to express how we sense that the organization needs to evolve. This is something that the tension-based process of Holacracy has invited, and maybe even forced, us to do. We have gone through a period where we found increasing courage to attempt to bring words to misalignments in this domain and in entering in daring, personal conversation about how to develop further and how to overcome our shadows and shed light on blind spots. We are in the middle of a newly developed self and peer assessment that those with an interest in designing such things have co-created. I am curious to see how honest and caring conversations we are able to have, with ourselves and with each other. I have opted to select those partners in the organizations who I suspect are the least happy or the most critical of my performance and I am hoping for real insights into how I can improve and develop. In my self-assessment, I have completed a view on myself that should shed light on my dilemmas, regrets, poor choices and areas where I judge lacking performance and I hope that this courage will be contagious so that my partners will be similarly critical in their care to help me advance. I so look forward to their point of view.

My heart was singing of joy as I walked out of a BSL company governance meeting (the super circle of most other circles) where a BSL partner joined us to express serious concern about a policy that had been introduced 5 months ago. We had adopted a “partner retention policy” from Holacracy One after a Holacracy Coaching training course a few of us had attended and which contained also steps of how to let go  (fire) an employee in case a committee would not vote to retain a partner. A policy that was entirely foreign to our HR practices but that seemed the way to advance with Holacracy. I doubt that many people were comfortable with the policy and yet nobody had expressed a tension about it, which itself was source of a tension for at least a couple of people. So finally, today, a partner addressed her concerns and in a most direct, open, daring and courageous sharing, deep fears, concerns and worries were voiced in such a way that the policy was suggested to be deleted. Except for a valid objection of another partner which meant that a solution had to be found to integrate the objection resulting in an amended retention policy that everybody present in the room was very happy with. It took us 60 minutes to undo a malaise that had blocked the organization for a few months. Having removed inappropriate elements that presumed that a person who would not be voted to be retained would be laid off, we agreed that if a person does not get support to be retained that what would need to happen is for the right group of people sit with that person and figure out what the next developmental steps for that person would be. In the check-out round, one of the participating members said that his legs were shaking when he had first read this new policy five months ago, right upon return from his vacation. He was sure the policy was aimed at him and that he would be laid off. Five months of worry without having found a way to express this – wow. We were all stunned and realized the long journey still ahead of all of us to verify assumptions before jumping to conclusions and to dare to bring up such worrying concerns right away. The experience of having seen a colleague finding words to address such a delicate issue has given me and I am sure everybody present in the meeting today the hope that we are today an organization that is on its way to welcome warmly and caringly whatever delicate concern anybody may have. And that makes my heart sing.

This new transparency and appetite for courageous conversations has been most visibly a turning point in a five hour long negotiation with a strategic partner this afternoon and has finally brought out the real hidden issue that has held us all back from finding the shared common solution we had all been hoping for. Finally, a member of the other team, slammed his hand on the table and said: “So, ok, if you want it really straight as you guys seem to be doing it with this Holacracy thing, here is what is really bugging me!” And this was the opening to being able to find a joint solution that allowed us to pop a bottle of champagne. So, this courage is spreading also outside of our little team, and is starting to be contagious to our partners we are engaged with. Wow – who would have thought that culture can be that contagious!

It was a long day and I while I am exhausted, I feel very very happy inside. I feel I am part of an organization that is not only finding its soul but is also finding ways to let it vibrate and sing. And I love the very very quiet first new sounds of music that these vibrations are making. Today was a day where I heard and felt that music. Thank you, fellow partners of BSL!

Author: Katrin Muff, PhD

Active in thought leadership, consulting & applied research in sustainability & responsibility, and directing the DAS & DBA programs

 

Giving Sales the position it deserves

Going into Sales used to be the career choice of people who weren’t particularly good at anything else. The view was, that you could always make enough of a living from finding people who could be convinced to buy whatever you had to sell them. Someone even less smart than you…

Over the years, being a salesman gained a bad reputation, becoming associated with images of aggressiveness and dishonesty. A 2011 survey of more than 9,000 people from around the world (What Do You Do At Work? survey, Daniel Pink) showed that the first words which come to people’s minds when being asked about Sales are ”pushy”, annoying”, ”sleazy” and ”yuck”! 

Yet the days are long gone where salesmen rang our doorbells with a suitcase full of products to sell. The level of sophistication required to successfully sell products and services has risen exponentially with the avenue of digital (Internet, mobile, social media, analytics). Today, a sale is so much more than a transaction, it has become an experience for the buyer who looks for emotional triggers well beyond the traditional rational reasons. In our world of abundance, we have so many choices that we seek personal fulfillment in addition to simply satisfying a need. In fact, we often end up buying things we don’t even need. And the things we buy are often based on recommendations from people we’ve never met.

Today’s sales person must be incredibly versatile to navigate this complexity: be a subject matter expert, display focused business acumen and – probably most importantly – demonstrate strong emotional intelligence. They have to be masters at building genuine relationships whilst still delivering on the financial returns required by their employer. In fact, no sales means no revenue means no company. Everything else is context at the end of the day.

As our BBA students in the Sales and Key Account Management course reflected on the future of selling in a recent assignment, there was consensus that the role will only become more complicated in the coming years and decades. The human touch is being lost from the sales process, with many buyers preferring to make decisions and manage processes themselves (just consider how we prefer self-check-in or online purchases).  How to compensate for the absence of contact, knowing that buyers are looking for an experience? Companies as they gain better insights into their customers through tailored analytics will evolve to employ artificial intelligence in the sales process as well as advanced technologies such as virtual reality and drones.

We’re in for an interesting and turbulent ride as business models are turned upside down (consider the fate of everything from travel agents to the music industry to the banking sector). Those responsible for ensuring that products and services are sold and that revenue comes through the door, will need to be highly adaptable and attentive to market shifts. We need business-savvy young people who are well prepared for delivering value to customers and to companies, whichever way is the right one. That preparation starts at Business School Lausanne.

Author: Anja Langer Jacquin, BSL Professor

Team Building Day – Summer 2016

22 August 2017 – It’s called Green Day and it was my first team-building event at Business School Lausanne.  It’s exactly one year since BSL started operating under Holacracy, and in this spirit, I would think of this day as a “Tribe Day” (“tribe” is a commonly used Holacracy term to describe our sacred space for social interactions).

My personal reflection of this day is that there seemed to be a magic mix of Doing, Being and Reflecting plus perfect blue skies.

What happened?
Doing
We started in the morning by entering the Escapeworld in Lausanne. One group got challenged to de-code Area 652 and the other one Délire du mandarin. Really tough teamwork in dark and hot conditions to be done in one hour – it was a team-building with “results” to be expected.

Being
After being totally immersed in the undergrounds of Escapeworld, we switched to another, totally different world: The Chaplin’s World museum in Corsier-sur-Vevey. We got inspired by strolling around in the Manoir where each room in this beautiful home speaks volumes about the family life of the legendary artist.

The day ended at the Lavaux Vinorama where we enjoyed wine of the region with even more “tribe” conversations.

Reflecting
Call it coincidence, but our weekly Tribe Space meeting was scheduled for the next day and we closed the team building experience with a powerful Appreciative Inquiry exercise where we exchanged notes of appreciation by indicating at least one positive trait/behavior that we had observed in each member the day before.

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To me, this day was of higher value than any other team-building day I experienced so far.

Why?

  1. The 1-hour Doing exercise went surprisingly smoothly relying on the collective intelligence to emerge. We reflected that for us it somehow seemed rather normal not to have a group leader any more (perhaps first signals of behavior change one year after we adopted Holacracy?)
  2. Tribe-trust developed in 6 hours of pure Being mode (no flip charts, no facilitator, nothing).
  3. Having an appreciative Reflecting phase the day after (to really sleep over the tribe-day).

So what?

It seems that Holacracy just made DOING, BEING and REFLECTING totally natural to us. A rough plan was developed and pre-scheduled for the day (thank you David!), but was kept totally fluid and self-organized by the Tribe at all times.

What a great green team-building it was, really proud to be part of this tribe!

Author: Jan Maisenbacher

“Don’t Learn to Do, But Learn in Doing”

I was recently asked to speak at the Impact Hub Zurich’s event on the future of education: trends and opportunities. I am no educationalist but I am educator, so I decided to speak on what I was comfortable with, my own experience in teaching that I have worked out through trial and error over the last 10 years. I cut my teeth teaching in Singapore to Executive Masters students who would come in the evening for 3 hours of lecturing after a full day at work. They were understandably tired and so I peppered my lectures with as many case study examples as I could in order to demonstrate the real-life applications of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, especially in a place and time when CSR and SD were still very much theoretical ideas and not a day to day reality.

And so to my current class of Masters students at BSL, I continue to try and make my lectures as relevant to real life as I can, knowing that business students need all the practical tools they can to be competitive when they head into the workplace.

This term I decided to use the theme of food and agriculture to discuss as many facets as possible of sustainability and business responsibility, and there is no shortage of material in this sector – from farming practices, (labour, pesticide use, GMOs, animal welfare), to processing (use of palm oil, high fructose corn syrup), transport (carbon footprint), marketing (obesity, fast food, veganism), to food distribution and scarcity.

To learn by doing, I asked my students to interview someone who had something, anything to do with the food sector and get their take on sustainability issues. It could be a restaurateur, it could be their uncle who likes cooking, a farmer, a winemaker, an eminent professor or their mate who likes eating…I look forwards to sharing some of these interviews with you which they have written up in blog form (of course, as the blog is another practical tool the students must master).

And how best for students to learn than to meet people who are “doing”, who can speak with confidence about their career paths and what it’s like to be at the coalface of an organisation. So we were privileged to have some time with Mr Diarmuid O’Connor (Global Agrimaterials Sourcing Manager at Nestlé Nutrition) who captivated us because he didn’t give us the blarney but told us what he did and why, and how sustainability made business sense and that he’d been working for over 20 years to support farmers in producing high quality materials for Nestlé.

I’m looking forwards to some more straight-talking guest speakers coming into the classroom over the coming weeks including Mme Isabelle Chevalley, conseillère nationale in the Swiss parliament who will speak to us about GMOs in Switzerland and Mr Sebastien Kulling who is working on a start-up in the food sector.

Prof. Marina CurranAuthor: Marina Martin Curran PhD,
Professor at BSL

Reflection on Leading Change – a BSL professor’s perspective

As I am receiving the post-course assignments of my class “Leading Change”, I am reflecting on my own situation: after more than 30 years of leadership in multinational corporations, from HP to Logitech, rolling out a new ERP system globally, managing a large product development group, I realise how many changes I have been through, whether they were internally triggered (new strategy, new leadership, new business, up- or down-scaling) or finding their root in the change of environment: new Operating systems, new technologies, new competition, new customers and most importantly new consumer behaviors. In some cases, I have been suffering through the changes, in other cases, I could surf the wave of the change or even had the privilege to be an actor of the change. Yes, some were great successes, but in all cases, I remember the struggles I had to deal with the uncertainty, with trial and errors on strategies, with novel organisational designs, with resistance to change, with large layoffs or hiring. I could have really used the material that I shared with the course participants ! On the other side, this material is directly leveraging the experience I gained through a full professional life…

In today’s world, I also realize that the participants will face many more changes than myself or my generation did, with faster pace, more complexity and tougher impact. I strongly believe that the education they got at the BSL will allow them to anticipate changes, actively adjust course of direction and execute with efficiency. Indeed, participants are constantly encouraged to be curious, to take distance and to work in teams, which are three critical assets to lead changes.

Wishing all participants and readers lots of success in this endeavour !

Yves KarcherYves Karcher

Prof. of Leading Change and Managing Turnaround at BSL