General Motors should expect more failed parts — Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From USA Today

General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared before a Senate panel once again Thursday to discuss the company’s flawed ignition switches and vowed that GM will “do all it can to make certain that this does not happen again.”

In terms of damage control, much of what Barra and GM appear to be doing right now is positive: fessing up about product failures, bringing in outside investigators and firing employees that failed to take appropriate measures.

And while these are important steps, they amount only to a good, if somewhat belated, crisis management strategy. In fact, these efforts pale against the very real organizational challenges that lay ahead for GM and Barra. In order make good on her promise to Congress, Barra must prevent the kinds of engineering failures that caused the ignition problems in the first place and the organizational failures that propelled the problem to its current tragic magnitude. And that will mean changing the culture at GM.

Engineers like to be right. They like to prove that they have the correct answer.

Highly trained and highly motivated to solve problems, at the point of releasing a design or demonstrating a model or a prototype, everything in them is wired to prove that they’ve arrived at the right answer. The premium is so high on being “right” that even when data starts proving them wrong, they work to show that they are right somehow. They seek to explain what is happening is an exceptional outlier or an aberration; not that it is a sign of a problem. Read More »

Executive education opens its doors to the non-English speaking world — Peter Hirst and Laura Ziukaite-Hansen

The vast majority of executive education and business leadership programs in the U.S., Europe, and even parts of Asia are conducted solely in English. But for a large portion of global employees—about 40%*—this can be a significant barrier to learning and professional development.

While English may be considered the dominant language of global business**, it is certainly not the only language in which business is conducted. New poles of economic growth are emerging around the world, and a growing number of non-English speaking entrepreneurs and managers are creating new and exciting businesses in developing markets. They want to learn how to manage global teams, scale their existing businesses, expand their product lines, and develop their workforces. If they do not speak English with enough fluency to participate in executive education, everyone misses out—executives in all corners of the world have a lot to gain from and contribute to global management programs.

This past winter, MIT Sloan Executive Education piloted the Global Executive Academy. Held on the business school campus, the two-week multi-lingual program brought together 38 executives from 15 countries to share a learning experience based on four of MIT Sloan’s most popular open-enrollment programs.

The Academy provided faculty-led programs focused on innovation, management, marketing, and organizational performance, all conducted in English and simultaneously translated—“United Nations style”—into Arabic, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Participants listened to translations using wireless headsets. All classroom discussions, presentation materials, and in-class videos were translated into the individual languages.

Read More »

Seven steps to running the most effective meeting possible — Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From Forbes

The meeting that drones on and on; the meeting where everyone sits fiddling with his or her smartphone; the meeting that Doug from Accounting hijacks; or the meeting where almost everyone in the room is wondering the same thing: Why am I even here?

Meetings fill an increasing number of hours in the workday, and yet most employees consider them as a waste of time. According to a survey of U.S. professionals by Salary.com, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer. (Dealing with office politics was a close second, according to the 2012 survey.)

Read More »

3 Things We Can Learn From The 2013 Red Sox — Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

From WBUR Cognoscenti

As a devoted Red Sox fan, I have a lot to celebrate today, and perhaps the nation has a lot to learn. The team’s worst to first transformation in a trying time might give us clues on how to rebuild our economy and democracy into something that again makes us stand tall and proud as one.

Here’s what I take away from this turnaround.

1. Distributed Leadership

The Red Sox owners and general manager reflected on and learned the right lesson from their failed effort to build a team around expensive stars and a flamboyant manager. Shedding and replacing them with talented players and a manager willing to and capable of building a team culture of mutual respect, shared leadership, and accountability paid off. David Ortiz said it well: “We probably don’t have the talent that we had in ’07 and ’04, but we have guys that are capable, stay focused, and do the little things. And when you win with a ball club like that, that’s special.” America’s CEOs might take note: Hire and invest in talented people who are also team players and leaders; pay them fairly and equitably. Don’t squander all your dollars on a few stars (including yourselves).

Read More »

From failure to success: Using improvisation to develop leadership – Daena Giardella

Daena Giardella, MIT Sloan Lecturer

Business schools prepare students to succeed.  Two courses that I teach at MIT’s Sloan School of Management take an unusual approach to this goal. I teach students how to fail—so that they may find brilliant success in the future.

No textbooks are required for these classes – “Improvisational Leadership: In the Moment Leadership Skills,” which I have taught for the past three years as an elective course, and “Improvisation, Adaptability and Influence: An Experiential Leadership Lab,” which I have taught for the past seven years as a two-day SIP workshop. Students don’t have to spend hours at the library or sit through long lectures. But they do have to do something that for most of them is far more challenging. They have to confront their fear of failure.

When we fear making a mistake or looking foolish, we are reluctant to take risks or to try new things. We are less spontaneous and authentic. Our ability to listen with care and awareness diminishes when we are worried about “getting it right.” Since failure is inevitable in all human endeavors, it is important for future business leaders to learn to face the fear of failure and then to discover how to turn failure into success.

Improvisation is the art of the unexpected.  It teaches us how to take risks and to respond confidently in the moment to whatever happens. The improviser develops a mindset that  includes curiosity, high stakes listening, flexibility, and the desire to build strong relationships. Resilience is key.

Read More »