The companies that come to us are usually people who have a vision or they have a strategic objective and they know that they need to involve their people in that. The issues could be quite different. It could be that we need to be more sustainable in terms of the ecology, in terms of the climate or could be that need to have a more innovative culture. The issues could be quite different. But they come to us and you need to have a very strong strategic vision for that. And he knows or she knows that unless people have some kind of profound experience where they are allowed to become convinced, where they get an invitation and they are allowed to play within that invitation whatever that makes sense. People won’t change. Part of it they come to us is that they know people will be resistant to change or fall back on old habits or default settings. There are all kinds of different languages we use in MIT to describe the status quo. But people tend to come to us and say – I have good people. But I need to help them leave the status quo behind and try out some either new strategies or new behaviours and create new default settings and new habits for themselves. I can’t do that through a memo. I can’t do that through a corporate meeting. I can’t do that purely through social media. I got to give people a profound experience. The reason I deal with them and teach is because often the people we are talking about have some kind of science, engineering, finance or mathematics or something data driven about the core process or the core ways the company adds value to the world. Coming to a place like MIT helps to engage those kinds of people and the change they are talking about. There are probably 3 or 4 things the companies did to get over the initial hump of sparking a large scale cultural transformation or what they need to build throughout the company some particular kind of capability that isn’t as resident as they would like. Both those things- Culture thing and resident capabilities in lots of people. The people in the room, we are going to have to touch with what we do have to believe that senior management believes in this and is going to stay the course. So we know that when we see a management shows up in the room along with us it makes a difference. People believe. So that is partly about creating belief in the future direction of the company. Because that is uncertain. That is going to a new place. People need some confidence around that. Another thing we noticed is that we need to give people plenty of time to talk about the enterprise issues and the team issues. But we need to carve our time when they are with us to have them reflect on who they are as leaders and how they are going to show up in the future and to give them feedback about that. So working at the individual level while we are also talking about what the enterprise needs to do and creating space to do both and marry them up. That is when they come together and meet live and we can work at multiple levels at the same time. But we got to work at the individual level as well as the enterprise level. As I said the other thing is it can’t be an event. Something that you do once and then some other event happens. So the initial event if they are doing at MIT needs to have some kind of reinforcement efforts downstream. So that the people feel the connection and continue to know that management is following up on whatever activities they are involved. One of the other things is that, this is the fourth thing now, is giving people projects to do where they can take the learning that they are getting here at MIT that enable them to try on and move out towards the direction of the new vision, helps them leave the status quo behind. So giving them focus projects so they can get out into a new way of thinking and doing and innovating makes a huge difference. So often in our projects, we have projects as I mentioned that happens, one other thing that happens downstream in the initial meeting here. The kinds of projects that people work on, they might after been given some learning how to study new market and look for profitable segments we might give them projects to make them go out and find other new markets that might be interesting for their companies. That would require the company to leverage some new capabilities it’s been building. So market analysis is one thing that the project might consist of. We might have a project where people build a prototype, a minimum viable product and then test it in that market place. That project might take 3-6 months. Most of our projects tend to take something in that order. There are simple projects but there are also... we try to make projects that have real deliverables within 3 to 6 months time. Some other projects are things where we look at complex processes that could be re-engineered or simplified through digitisation or other means. And then another set of projects are little bit more loosely defined. There are things like... we have struggled for years with this problem and we have never been able to crack it. Let’s give people some learning and let them go apply those frameworks or tools and get some support from MIT faculty members and see if we can begin making a difference to something that’s been troubling us forever. Usually these projects have some sort of system dynamics with multiple processes, coming together and acting with each other, hard to pick apart. We can often help people realise what is really driving a particular outcome and what he doesn’t like and putting measures to prevent those things from happening.
Author: MIT’s industrial Liaison Program - senior lecturer Court Chilton – MIT Sloan School of Management.