I interviewed Norman Wolfe who discussed A New Approach to Creating Results.
Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?
Oh, yes. Certainly.So, briefly, I have been an executive with HP, and I've been consulting for large and small companies for over 30 years. And perhaps the latest thing I could say is I've been curious about what it is that gets us the results we get, and how can we get more of the results we want. And that's what really has led me to writing the book The Living Organization: Transforming Business to Create Extraordinary Results.
And about your new book, my first question is what is a quantum leader?
Well, a quantum leader is an odd way of thinking. If you think about what leadership is, in general, it's a person who influences other people. And for us, a quantum leader who influences those people around them to actually create extraordinary impact.
What I mean by that is it goes beyond just having a mechanistic view of creating outcomes. It's really getting into engaging the passion and the power of individual creativity and collective creativity. So, a quantum leader is somebody who knows how to go beyond just getting things done and goes into a realm of creating extraordinary impact.
How do you know if your organization needs transformation?
Well, a lot of that has to do with how good are you at creating results. If you're getting the results want then keep doing it. Don't change. If it's working, don't fix it. However, for most organizations today, or a least quite a number of them, are beginning to realize that applying the old way of doing things, looking at an organization as a set of individual components put together like a machine, just isn't working, especially in an environment that is extremely uncertain, highly complex, filled with a lot of volatility, like we're seeing all around us.
An organization that operates like a machine can be highly efficient, but it really can't be highly responsive or creative or innovative. When was the last time you heard a machine innovate? Machines do what they're told. Living organizations respond to their environment creatively.
If you're getting the results want, don't change. If you need to be more flexible, more responsive, more engaged, it's time to start seeking transformation.
Can you talk about how transformation is done effectively?
Well, that's a challenging question, because transformation, especially at an organizational level is really a shifting of one's core thinking process. Now, I mentioned a lot in the previous answer, that organizations are operated like machines. And that really goes to the core of how we think about organizations today. We typically think of them as machine to be optimized focusing on efficiency, streamlining, process improvement—those kinds of machine-like attributes.
To change that, we have to go about thinking of an organization as a living entity. That means, thinking of an organization like a person, rather than a machine. So, we start approaching the problem sets completely differently. So, the beginning part of the transformation process is really to start shifting the way you think about the challenges you face and beginning to recognize what I call turning the pyramid upside down, so to speak.
A lot of what we do today is look at the activity we do first and the reason why we do it second. In the Living Organization Model, we actually turn that around and begin to look at what is the context of our being, who are we, why are we here. Then second, we look at what are the relationships we have. And then finally, we look at what activities do we need to perform to support our context, our purpose, our meaning, and to enhance our relationships.
So, the transformation process begins with first starting to ask completely different questions and, as I said, turning the pyramid upside down.
Where have you seen some success?
Well, I think the biggest success I've seen is in a small healthcare unit I worked with in Portland, Maine. They were a clinic that was struggling with becoming profitable, biding the constraints of a very complex healthcare system here in the US.
And so, we began that process of transforming. We began the process of rethinking. I had them do exercises like name the organization. What gender is it? Is it male or female? How does it behave? What is its personality style? Is it introverted? Is it extroverted? Does base everything on feeling tones or does it base everything on logic? And really treating the organization as if it was a live person, and we're doing a personality profile on the organization.
Then from there, we began to look at its relationships. And some very interesting things began to reveal itself. And the way they began to operate internally and then how they began to relate with the customers because of this new approach, completely changed everything. And within a six-month period, they went from over two years of non-profit to having their first really profitable quarter. And so that, I would say, is a great example.
I'm also seeing a lot of movement in this direction to looking at organizations as living, organic entities, even in large corporations. I was reading recently how even General Electric is beginning to rethink their whole performance review process to, moving away from their famous forced ranking approach comparing one employee to another, to an approach which looks at how do we best develop our employees. This is indicative of the whole changing and the whole emergence of a new way of thinking. And in my own work, I'm seeing successes in the number of clients I've worked with.
Where can people find your book?
Well, it's on Amazon.com. It's under my name, Norman Wolfe and The Living Organization: Transforming Business to Create Extraordinary Results. And they can always get in touch with m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Norman Wolfe
Founder, CEO Quantum Leaders, Inc