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A Conversation with Jason Jennings on Reinvention (Part 2)

January 20, 2012

It’s all about continually pushing to re-imagine, rethink, and reinvent.  As Jason Jennings, authority on leadership and innovation shared in his recent Linkage Thought Leader Series broadcast, organizations cannot thrive unless they reinvent themselves.  In the second part of this two-part series, Jason Jennings touches upon how change and reinvention need to be an intentional component of organizational cultures. Read part 1 of his Q & A>>

Linkage: How and when do we start pulling the plug on the things we are doing now?   

Jason Jennings: I think that you need to be pulling the plug on what you do now all the timeIt is truly just part of the DNA in organizations todayI mentioned during my presentation that organizations are relentlessly questioning products, people, and processesIt has become popular in business to talk about the fact that every line of business has its ‘S’ curve, and that you should be able to forecast when to manage instead of diminishThese companies are not spending time studying the ‘S’ curve because by the time they recognize that a line of business is on a downward trend it is too lateSo I would say it is not when they do it. It is something that is absolutely in their DNA all the time.

Linkage: Randy at the Los Alamos National Laboratory would like some hints at actualizing some of your concepts with the clerical staffThey have relatively repetitive, high quantity, but very important work.

The support team does incredibly important work wherever they happen to beWhat Randy needs to do–assuming that Randy is the line manager for these people—is sit down with these people one at a time—this is not a group exerciseand say: “Well, Susan, I want to talk to you a little bit today about your understanding of what we do here, and why we do what we do here, and what the big strategic objective of the organization isI want to make sure you understand that, and together let’s figure out how what you do is playing a vital role in the achievement of that big objective.”  What it takes is some one-on-one timeAnd that is what is missing in so many businesses across the countryIt is making people feel importantMake them feel like they do belong. And that is not just motivational talkThat is a human being extending him or herself to another human being saying, “You are important.”  And half the job is letting someone know that they are important.

Linkage: You mentioned Apple in your presentation. Megan from Encana is asking, “How does Steve Jobs fit into your success factors model?”

It is interestingI had limited contact with Steve Jobs, but I can tell you that I knew Steve Jobs long before there was Apple, when he was actually trying to raise money for a little telephone device that allowed you to actually illegally make long distance telephone callsThat was the first time I met him, and then I met him and spent some time with him right after the start of Apple when they were actually powered on cassettesHow does he fit into the modelSome would say that I talk about transparency in everything I do, and Steve Jobs was most notably, and Apple is, a very secretive company, and so how can I put those two things togetherWell, I put them together this way: You know, you do not have to release the blueprints for your next product to the publicBut everything has to be transparent to the people within the organizationThey have to understand the role that they play, again, in the achievement of the big, strategic objectiveI think, in his own way, he was a steward, a good stewardThe man never wore anything more than a mock turtleneck and a pair of jeans, lived in the same house, frequented the same restaurants, and never flaunted his moneyHe did not do it for wealthAnd so I think he was a very, very good steward.

Linkage: This next question comes from Stacy from the University of Texas, AustinThere are only 24 hours in a dayHow do you decide what to doThere are so many good ideas, and limited time.

I am reminded of Dan DimiccoHere is Nucor Steel, the nation’s biggest steel company, I believe one of the best led companies in the world, if not the best led company in the world, and they do not have a research and development departmentThe first time I learned that, I went, “Dimicco – Dan Dimicco—the CEO—what do you mean you do not have an R&D department?”  He said, “We just try everybody’s idea.”  And I said, “Excuse me?”  He said, “Everybody at every one of our facilities, every one of our plants, every one of our offices, we just try everything, and if it works we get the word out to every facility, and if it does not, we just say, ‘OkayThat didn’t work.’  We are on to the next thing.”  Imagine the environment that is created where you try everythingThen it comes time for some prioritizing, and I would suggest as you are prioritizing the one thing that must never get scratched off the list, is what I call the soft stuff, the people stuffAs recently, as a decade ago, the soft stuff was dismissedThe people stuff was dismissedIt was kind of like, HR deal with thatThat is the soft stuffThat is the people stuffI would suggest, and it has been proven repeatedly now, the only important stuff is the soft stuff.

Jason Jennings’s next book The Reinventors-How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change, is due out in April. To access a recording of Jennings’ full Thought Leader Series broadcast with Linkage, visit us online or call 781-402-5555.


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