Myth Busters Edition of The Plugged-In Manager
Bill Choy, one of my past Executive MBA students, often sends in challenging questions. Recently, it’s been examples of executives in the news and then a question about whether or not I think they’re plugged-in. Many of the articles are so focused on the organization's strategy that it’s hard to tell. This last one, an interview of Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez, by Adam Bryant (author of The Corner Office) had a beautiful level of detail -- and Mr. Jimenez may well be plugged-in, or at least very open to the ideas of managing across all your people, technology, and organizational processes -- at the same time -- and this insight seems to be something he gained through experience. Adam Bryant starts out with a great question: “What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?” Jimenez then describes a multi-step approach he took to diagnosing a problem when he was a division president (at another company). He started by bringing in consultants who suggested adapting the sales and operations process, including better analytics. This is an organizational process, and perhaps, technology response. Doesn’t work. He then brings in a behavioral psychologist. Her assessment is that people were afraid to tell the truth, resulting in bad forecasts. He makes a shift to taking in the forecasting data and thanking people for bad news that can be acted on. At this point he has made a shift in process, perhaps technology, and a shift related to the people of the organization. Sounds like a plugged-in approach (seems to hit on all three dimensions) and it worked. As for many of us, Jimenez admits his approach has changed over time. Bryant asked him about how his leadership and management styles have evolved:
I’m more patient now. When I was younger, I was always trying to move faster than I probably should have moved. So sometimes what would happen is, I would move and the organization would stay behind. You learn the subtle elements of doing what it takes to communicate. So, for example, I have 120,000 employees. It’s very important for me to connect with as many of them as I can. So I blog once a week and I just talk about what I did the last week. About 20 people might comment, and then I always make sure I respond. And everybody sees it. Sometimes people will send me a private note, but 99 percent of it is public.
Two plugged-in points here: Jimenez is talking about learning to do what I call Stop-Look-Listen (the first practice of a plugged-in manager). He then describes using technology and process to connect with his employees -- as he shares his approach (sharing is the third practice of a plugged-in manager). All good and more powerful when managed in concert (mixing people, technology, and process is the second practice of a plugged-in manager). I feel a bit like the Myth Busters here. Is Joseph Jimenez a plugged-in manager? This secondary source material would suggest our answer is: Confirmed.