Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"Embrace cultural change to remain competitive"/ creative control

Sept. 25, 2017 "Embrace cultural change to remain competitive": Today I found this article by Mark Edgar in the Globe and Mail:

Having a flexible, forward- thinking workplace is key to attracting and retaining the best talent – and also a foundation for success

Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed a radical cultural shift in workplaces across Canada. With a shrinking labour force and an increased desire for flexibility, many organizations are realizing they have to adapt and focus more on employees’ diverse needs in order to attract and retain the best talent.

The very face of today’s work force is changing. There are more than 12 million millennials in Canada and one of their primary motivations is flexibility – from where, when and how they work, to the digital and social tools they expect to utilize in the workplace. To remain competitive, companies have to commit to adjusting organizational cultures, processes and systems to accommodate the expectations of this dynamic cohort and other generations in the workplace.

Embrace change at any age

While some technology giants and the startup world are known for their flexible corporate culture and workplace perks, much of the corporate world has, perhaps unsurprisingly, lagged behind.

I work for one of the oldest insurers in Canada, a place you might expect to be “lagging behind” in terms of a forwardthinking workplace culture. I get the preconceived notions.

Flexible, agile, digitally savvy – these aren’t words you would necessarily associate with a 300- year- old legacy insurance company.

But a couple of years ago, we recognized a need to change the way we operate and take a more pro- active approach to addressing factors affecting our business, from digital literacy to employee engagement. We also recognized that this evolution was not going to take the form of an overnight cultural makeover.

Embracing digital innovation was essential for us to stay ahead in a competitive landscape, as well as meet our employees’ and brokers’ expectations. And a cultural disruption – refocusing our workplace culture to address our changing and diverse employees’ priorities – was crucial for attracting and retaining the best talent in Canada.

So how did we do it?

Catering to the next generation of leadership

We began to implement this cultural shift by first identifying a number of priorities for RSA employees – specifically the increasing number of millennials within the company’s work force, and who we know will make up 75 per cent of Canada’s work force by 2024.

These priorities included a flexible work environment, an increased use of digital communications tools and the need to work in a collaborative framework in order to build a fulfilling career. Knowing this, we started thinking of ways to implement changes that would directly address our employees’ feedback and meet the needs of our diverse work force.

One of the first things we realized was that only 65 per cent of the desk space at our downtown head office was being used at any given time. This insight was key to kicking off what we call the “Better Ways of Working” or “BWOW” campaign.

We consolidated our downtown head office to two floors from four, and invested the money saved into other areas of the business, including expanding our digital capabilities with significant investments in technology. We decided on an open- concept workspace, removing the barriers that separate typical corporate hierarchy – even for our C- Suite – to increase efficiency and collaboration, and introduced a variety of agile workstations so employees could choose the set- up that best suited the work they needed to do.

Perhaps most important, we encouraged our employees and our leaders to swap “office attendance” for new behaviours, including paying attention to e- mail and meeting etiquette, and communicating through digital platforms. Our goal was to empower our employees to determine how they could best complete their work, and also reinforce that their performance would be measured on the work they produced, not the number of hours they spent at their desk.

We also introduced a number of new digital communication platforms such as Skype, Yammer and WebEx to make it easier for our employees to connect, collaborate and do business. This enabled us to keep pace with shifts and developments in technology, and also meet our employees’ and customers’ expectations for a digitally forward workplace.

Lead by example

Change is always scary – especially when it involves introducing new concepts and ideas to how we do business. We faced initial skepticism and pushback with some initiatives; now, almost a year into the program, we’re already seeing the signs of a highperforming talent base that’s more agile and receptive to change. Across the board, our employees have expressed that they’ve seen a significant improvement in the way they collaborate with colleagues.

Most important, we saw firsthand how cultural changes must begin at the top: For executives and senior leadership, role modelling the behaviour they want to see is crucial.

When our C- Suite and executives began to fully embrace the changes, they not only realized the benefits of the initiatives for their business outcomes – such as reducing meeting time – but their willingness to be innovative funnelled down to employees at every level.

No matter how many years of experience a company has under its belt, or how reluctant to change it might seem, it must always continue to learn and embrace what it means to be successful. For RSA Canada, this meant changing our culture into one that fosters collaboration and altering our work environment into one that is agile – with the ultimate goal of making life better for our brokers and customers.

"What Lucasfilm can learn from Lego on the topic of creative control": Today I found this article by Jennifer Riel in the Globe and Mail:

JENNIFER RIEL Co- author of the forthcoming Creating Great Choices: A Leaders’ Guide to Integrative Thinking ( Harvard Business Review Press, September, 2017)

We are in the middle of a Star Wars renaissance. Star Wars: The Force Awakens successfully rebooted the beloved film franchise and two sequels to it are well into production, as is a film about a young Han Solo.

But there is a dark side. Over the past four months, producer Lucasfilm has parted ways with the directors of one of the sequels and the Solo film. Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow left the development of Star Wars: Episode IX a few months before filming was set to start. More startling was the departure of the Solo creative team: Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the writer- directors behind a string of successful features, left the project more than five months into filming.

Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller, known for their quirky humour and irreverent perspective, had seemed a great fit for the project. So what went wrong? Speculation has included micromanaging by Lucasfilm, a lack of preparation on the part of the filmmakers and a struggle for creative control.

In a statement, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy cited “different creative visions.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, sources argue that Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller were brought in to bring their own spin to the story, then given “zero creative freedom.” Mr. Trevorrow, too, departed because of reported differences in vision.

To understand what is going wrong at Lucasfilm, it’s helpful to look at a similar, but much more successful Lord and Miller project: The Lego Movie.

The context is similar. Like Lucasfilm, the Lego Group represents a beloved brand with generations of fans who feel not just loyalty but ownership. Both companies had tested the limits of fan loyalty with missteps through the 1990s and early 2000s. And both brought in new leadership to set things right. For the Lego Group, it was Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, a former McKinsey consultant who took over the firm in 2004.

The Lego Group’s core business is its little stackable plastic bricks. But the company has had great success with branded entertainment, produced with the most powerful entertainment brands in the world. But its first foray in feature- length films, a direct- to DVD movie called Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers, was a bust. It was earnest. It was true to the brand. And it was really dull.

When the notion of a big- screen feature came up, Mr. Knudstorp was determined to have a different outcome, but he faced a trade- off when it came to creative control. On the one hand, the Lego Group could insist on total creative control, hiring screenwriters and directors to execute based on a corporate vision for the film. With control in the hands of a corporation, there would be no freedom to play – no scope for imagination.

Alternatively, the Lego Group could cede all control to the filmmakers, letting a Hollywood team have full creative rights over the characters and story, including how the brand was depicted. This approach could attract great talent and produce a successful film. But it would also put the brand at risk, giving outsiders the opportunity to do lasting damage to the equity of the Lego brand.

Faced with this kind of a tradeoff, most leaders feel compelled to make the tough choice. They choose the least painful of the two options, or they try to find a barely acceptable compromise. For Mr. Knudstorp and Lego, neither choice was good enough and a compromise was still giving too much away.

What they really wanted was a better answer: a movie that was a creative triumph and that elevated the Lego brand. But how?

Mr. Knudstorp explains how it was done in an interview for our coming book, Creating Great Choices: “We actually gave the producer and the screenwriters at Warner Bros. complete degrees of freedom in coming up with a script. We had every opportunity to read it and comment, but we had no rights over it.”

Rather than enforce standards with contracts and constraints, Mr. Knudstorp decided to make it easy for the filmmaker to do right by the brand. He asked Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller to spend time with Lego’s superfans.

“I said to them, ‘ You need to see these guys. You need to talk to them. You need to attend the conventions with me. You need to read the letters – we get thousands of letters from children of all ages. …’ [ The filmmakers] willingly did that and, of course, spent a lot of time with our designers. I think they were genuinely surprised about how powerful the brand is and how meaningful it is.”

By connecting Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller with Lego’s biggest fans, Mr. Knudstorp helped them not only to understand the brand, but also to fall in love with it themselves. Even better, the stories from customers informed the plot of the film. The filmmakers learned, for instance, that “one of the things that is very important in the fan community is that you never use glue,” Mr. Knudstorp says. Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller picked up on the theme and – spoiler alert – made glue an important plot point in the film.

The Lego Movie was a smash success. It made more than $ 469- million ( U. S.) at the global box office and boosted the Lego Group sales by double digits on the strength of movie- themed merchandise.

The path to the success of The Lego Movie included a different kind of problem- solving process, one focused on opposing ideas and opportunities rather than on right answers and hard choices. On the Han Solo project, it seems clear that Lucasfilm struggled with the same trade- off on creative control. But Lucasfilm tried to find a weak compromise: bringing in the talent and then building a tight box around it. This approach to creative control seems to have ended in painful divorce and a lot of negative buzz. Compared with this, Mr. Knudstorp’s approach to The Lego Movie was awesome.

No comments: