- David shares the process that he follows as a coach for entrepreneurs and businesses from current state assessments to implementing a culture change process: 1:58
- Tracy and David discuss making decisions without all the information that they would like to have, and in a changing environment: 11:15
- Mike and David talk about customer discovery and the similarities and differences between customer research in large vs. small organizations: 14:10
- David addresses a question on how he coaches leaders to foster cultures of “systemic leadership”, while addressing that we don’t need to quantify everything: 17:30
- David shares his perspective on complexity,the inability for organizations to create comprehensive policies that cover the entirety of complicated situations that exist in organizations, and the wisdom of investing in listening to customers: 22:10
- The group discusses the need to create the ability for teams to serve their customers effectively, while maintaining business outputs using the airline industry as an example: 31:46
- David shares more about where listeners can find his work, especially highlighting his focus on the concept of change: 37:50
- Do you want to learn more about David and his work? Do so at: https://www.davidharkins.com/ or at: https://www.davidharkinscompany.com/
- Check out Evolve 2021 here!
- Learn more about how TEAMES & CO builds effective and empowered teams that deliver results
- Follow TEAMES & CO on Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter (@teamesandco) and Instagram (@teamesandco)
- Want to watch the podcasts on video visit TEAMES & CO on YouTube.
- TEAMES Global is live!!! We will be launching new courses throughout the summer to support leaders and organizations as they empower their teams, connect with customers and reach their goals!!! Follow TEAMES Global on Facebook and LinkedIn, and sign up for a course today!
If you’re looking for a related podcast, check out our conversation with another socially conscious entrepreneur Geraud Staton, the Director of Helius Foundation here.
Listen to Episode 37
Episode 37 Transcript
Tracy Eames (00:24):
Hey everybody. Welcome to this week's episode of Building Teams with TEAMES & CO. Mike and I are thrilled to welcome David Harkins, a strategic change consultant and educator to the podcast today. David, welcome.
David Harkins (00:36):
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Mike Vaggalis (00:38):
David, it's great to see you this morning.
David Harkins (00:40):
Nice to see you, Mike.
Tracy Eames (00:42):
David, why don't we get started. Our audience, obviously you and I know each other from volunteering in different ecosystems and mentoring opportunities. But would love to introduce you to our listeners today and give them a little bit more background about, what does a strategic change consultant do? And a little bit more about how you help businesses each day and nonprofits. I know that's one of your key focuses.
David Harkins (01:04):
Sure. So what I really do is help organizations navigate complexities within their own organization. So it's people, process, technology and what all that means to be able to shift from where they are, to where they need to be. So a lot of my work is with non-profit organizations, but I also work with corporations who are really focused on having social impact and social engagement. And I also work with social entrepreneurs, I try to figure out, "Okay, what do we do? How do we make a difference in the world?" So at this stage of my life, I wanted to stop helping other people make money and help other people and organizations have greater impact, so that's where my focus tends to be with my business. And I teach, as you know I teach entrepreneurship and marketing and a bunch of other things for several universities as an adjunct.
Mike Vaggalis (01:57):
David, that's fantastic. I'd love to learn a little bit more about your process. When you go into work with either an entrepreneur or maybe a more established organization, whether that's a for-profit or a non-profit organization, how do you go in and start to understand how effectively is that organization running today before you can obviously prescribe recommendations for how they could improve?
David Harkins (02:23):
Sure. It typically starts with what I call a current situation assessment, which is a series of interviews of different stakeholders around the organization. I like to talk to people who are really supportive of things, and also people who are big naysayers of things, because that gives me a balanced picture or a relatively balanced picture of what's going on. And that is typically the first step in the process. And then I look at what are their existing strategies and what are they trying to achieve and where they want to go with their organization and see how, where they are aligns with where they want to go. And quite often it doesn't. So then the next step is, well, how do we find ways to align that? And often it's rooted in cultural change within the organization. So how do we shift the culture to achieve these things and change the mindsets of individuals and encourage ownership of some of these new approaches that the organization wants to take.
Mike Vaggalis (03:30):
Culture change is always such an easy thing for organizations to implement. Changing the mindset of an organization is one of the simplest things, I'm joking of course. I wanted to know, how do you coach organizations and leaders to go about something that is as big and as challenging as shifting a culture?
David Harkins (03:52):
Well, to begin with, they have to understand that a culture is something that they have, and that it is something that can be shifted. So many organizations and leaders really think, "Oh, well, the culture just develops." But that's not exactly true. The culture is shaped by leadership and it's shaped by individuals. There are various theories on culture and culture development, but they all pretty much fall into line with, it's implied beliefs and behaviors of individuals and their actions, based on history in the organization and leadership legacies and things like that, which shape how people make decisions, and that's how the culture develops. So understanding those things makes it a little bit easier to come in and say, "Well, all right, what are the elements that we need to change to shift the culture in a different direction?" Pretty much everybody wants a collaborative culture.
Individuals want to have fun working together and enjoy what they're going on, but there's all these conflicting tensions within an organization. So if everybody's having a good time and everything's like family, then somebody has to be mom and dad. So that gets into this environment of leaders telling people what to do, rather than the individuals in the organization, coming up with new ideas and new directions and new thoughts to be able to drive it. And then you have the idea of, "Well, it's great to have a family, but how do we put food on the table?" So how do you take that market-centric approach to generate revenue in the organization and where does that create tension between, how focused we have to be on driving revenue versus how close we want to be as a family? So I'm not sure I gave you a great answer for that, but it's just messy. So every culture is different and everyone requires a different approach to achieving whatever the goal is that the organization wants to achieve.
Tracy Eames (06:00):
I think David, we find that so often as well. And it's easy, and I think a lot of the time we'll all read articles or listen to podcasts like this, or watch YouTube videos of people giving Ted talks or whatever the medium is. And a lot of times in those, there's this the buzzwords of culture change and create this collaborative environment. And everybody tries to make it sound really easy, but before we kicked off recording and you've alluded to it again, which is, it's not easy, it's messy. And for leaders, there's a heavy lift to set the tone. And one of the things I think I'm hearing coming out in your description and one of the things we focus on is, as you're going through that, one of the ways to align your organization and create that dialogue, create some of those feedback loops is to identify who your customer is and agree who your customer is.
And I think that's a big debate for a lot of organizations, especially ones that are changing and shifting as we've all done in the last 18 months, it's who are we serving? And what are we providing? And using that as a jumping off point to say, "Okay, if this is who we're serving, and this is what we're providing, how do we do that? How do we keep innovating together? How do we build processes around that?" So maybe you could talk a little bit, I know that you've mentioned obviously your background in marketing and your expertise in that and change. How do you try to combine those ideas for organizations to say, "Okay, here's where we go from here." The current state analysis gives you lots of information, but what's that next step of this potentially difficult journey in kicking off change?
David Harkins (07:40):
It depends, right?
Tracy Eames (07:44):
Our favorite always.
David Harkins (07:46):
Yes, always. Context is such an important part of that. So when you think about leadership in general we... And this connects to customers and everything. We have this approach to how we operate within our organization. And quite often we think about the organization as a closed system, but organizations are not closed systems. So organizations are open systems. So what happens on the outside, affects what happens on the inside. So what we end up doing as leaders is we spend a lot of time focusing on the things that we can measure, which in an open systems model would be considered the throughput. So how many sales do we get? How many, oh, I don't know, how many leads do we have? How many customers have we served? We focus on all those things. Who performed this way, who performed that way? But what we're not looking at as closely, is how the market changes. So how generational leadership change, or how customer preferences change, and how does that affect our business and our business operation. Even the attitudes of customers.
David Harkins (08:56):
So all of those things then affect throughputs, which affect the output or the performance of the organization. So if we're not looking at, "Well, how is my customer changing, how is my market changing," and realigning our organization constantly to that, then we run the risk of not being able to perform the way we need to and keep our businesses afloat. This is particularly challenging I think in this environment where everyone has decided, "Well, we've sequestered ourselves for the last 18 or 20 months, and now do we buy things the same way we bought things? We're coming out of this shadow, but are we doing things the same way we used to do things."
And even the organizations that are saying, "You've got to come back to work, you've got to come back into the workplace." Well, is that the right answer? Is that the right answer for everybody? And how is that going to affect consumers, consumer spending or business spending, whenever we make those shifts? They're going to continue to buy online or are they going to change their spending habits? All of those things become inputs in how we think about business operations and performance.
Tracy Eames (10:13):
And I think in that, David, one of the things that strikes me about what you're saying and that we've heard a lot is, this search for one answer, or changes one event. And obviously, as we've seen this year, change is never one event. We always speak about it as incremental processes that leadership has to build, you have to keep adjusting, keep that feedback loop open. And to your point, a lot of these decisions that we're making now where customer behavior changes, it's not a left or right, or a curbside delivery or inside shopping, or I'm going back to the office full-time or I'm staying home full-time. There's a lot of gray areas in these decisions that are facing all of us as team members, as customers. How are you helping organizations navigate that gray area right now? It's one thing that we face a lot with our clients and that we're talking about all the time, and I'm imagining you are as well.
David Harkins (11:07):
In terms of product design or service design as a connection?
Tracy Eames (11:15):
Yeah. I think as you're speaking about taking those next steps and saying, "Okay, how are we going to serve our customers?" Without that clear roadmap, we're all often making these decisions without this clear destination point, we don't have all the information we want. And right now, a lot of these decisions, like I said, are in this gray area. How do you help organizations? Whether it's product design or understanding what's the value you're creating for a customer? How do you do that with things changing so rapidly, or maybe not knowing that clear answer as we don't right now?
David Harkins (11:50):
Sure. There are a couple of thoughts that I have there. So one of them is for lack of a better word, we'll call it rapid prototyping, or better a better phrase is rapid prototyping. So as your customer needs, values and expectations begin to change, if you're watching for those things, then you have to have a system inside the organization that says, "Okay, we're beginning to see this, so how do we need to shift our organization internally? And how do we get the voice of the customer integrated in?" I really don't like that voice of the customer term. "How do we get that voice of the customer into the organization in a way that's consistent?" And there's lots of methods you can use to do that. And one of my favorites is the whole design thinking methods. So how do we get out there?
And we listen to the customer in a way that brings their input into the organization in a consistent fashion and a regular fashion so that we're constantly listening. So that's one way. The other way I think is for leaders... and this is mind blowing to me a few weeks ago, and talking to someone about this whole concept of leadership. And we know this, we as leaders and professionals, we know that things are always changing, but the situations, the context in which we make decisions are always changing too. So what we as leaders sometimes do is we go into a situation, say to ourselves, "Well, this looks like that. And based on my past experiences, this is how I'm going to approach it."
But the context is completely different and it's always different. And what we end up doing is looking at it through this whole lens of the past, this hindsight model. And we make these assumptions of some level of continuity in that process, but nothing is ever the same. The context of all of our decisions are different, and we can't look at them through this hindsight lens all the time. We've got to be able to look at them differently, which is where this idea of customer input, in an open system, that customer input into our models makes a big difference.
Mike Vaggalis (14:09):
Yeah, Dave, I'd love to dig into that customer input component. And I've seen this, and I know Tracy has from a couple of different dimensions in our own lives. So Tracy and I both have larger CPG organizations in our background where we worked with really robust insights teams that did all sorts of psychographic studies and qualitative and quantitative, and the whole shebang. We have dedicated teams that developed really robust quantitative backed customer personas, where we had very precise expectations for customers' pricing sensitivities, their attitudes toward different things, their desire for different product features, et cetera.
And then we've also seen customer discovery from much more an entrepreneurial vantage point, which looks a lot different and looks a lot more like boots on ground individual interviews with whoever you can find to talk about the thing that you need to talk about, which carries some sampling risk and everything else, but also allows us as founders to get closer to the individual customer. Do you have any perspectives on how you coach different types of organizations and different sizes of organizations, to go and gather the customer feedback that they need to make the decisions that they need to make regardless of stage? Are there common threads they carry through or are there other ways that you'd recommend, maybe larger organizations to use different sorts of resources?
David Harkins (15:36):
Sure. I'm a big believer in a multi-method approach. So surveys and those sorts of quantitative methods tell you what is happening and that gives you one perspective, but you also need to understand why that is happening. And that requires interviews and other sorts of customer discovery methods. So connecting those two together should give you a clearer picture of what's actually happening. If nothing else, it will lead you to ask more questions or different questions. And that's really from a leader's perspective, whether you're an entrepreneur or other, that's really the goal of leadership in today's environment. That's really about asking better questions as opposed to trying to solve problems.
Tracy Eames (16:29):
I like it. And David, one of the things that we never make a secret about here on the Building Teams podcast is we love to talk about teams. So one of the things that you said previous to this really struck me which is, leaders are making decisions with the same context. And the reason that strikes me is, I think it's interesting to think about that in the context of a team. Your team is always evolving, especially if you're a strong leader, you're giving them access to more training, you're developing their skills. You may be helping them lead bigger and bigger projects or different types of projects. Maybe you have a mentorship program. So as you were making these decisions and as your organization is progressing, your team also has a completely different skillset. So how do you help leaders keep that in mind? But also how do you coach leaders to help them better coach their teams and have their teams be prepared for that next big decision point or that next change point, so to speak?
David Harkins (17:29):
I think we'd have to get to this idea of systemic leadership. So that helps us find leaders all throughout the organization and gets things out of the minds of top management. So it creates elements of diversity, at the team level, it creates opportunities for problem solving and so forth. And it's not about... Your teams, for example, or groups or wherever you're working, their teams obviously for this podcast, the teams are going to have the answers. So what we have to do as leaders is empower the teams because they're working closer with the issues and they're going to have a better perspective and they're going to bring better diversity.
So as a leader, it's not about you needing to do this. This is the directive that I'm giving you, this is how I'm going to solve the problem. The leaders have to empower their teams and they have to say to them something along the lines of, "This is our vision. How would you approach this?" And then I have to continue to ask questions of those teams to try to refine and shape that answer, but not necessarily dictate what the outcomes are. So by decentralizing the decision-making in an organization, I think it becomes much more effective.
Mike Vaggalis (18:51):
And before you mentioned that has leaders, we're so focused oftentimes on measuring throughput and quantifying easily quantifiable metrics. How do you go about measuring the success of doing that? How well is a decentralized decision-making structure working? Are there indicators or ways that you can put some structure behind measuring cultural engagement and less obviously quantifiable measures?
David Harkins (19:21):
Maybe, but is it necessary? So we are in this world where I think, thanks in part to Milton Friedman, we're in this world where we believe everything has to be quantified, but everything, in my opinion, doesn't have to be quantified. There are some things that are just like, "Okay, if we're nicer to our people, if we take care of our people, they typically perform better. Can we measure that easily?" Not really. But we can see the long-term outcome and the performance of the organization. We can't necessarily measure the tasks, but we might be able to measure the sales and overall satisfaction or something like that. But these are all surrogates. So I'm not convinced that everything needs to be measured.
Mike Vaggalis (20:17):
Tracy Eames (20:18):
Yeah, I like that statement. A, I think it's bolder than it should have to be. So we shouldn't have to make a quantifiable task to say, "Hey, are our people happy to work with us? Are our teams collaborative." One of the things that we say a lot is, it's one of those things you can actually feel. You can feel it when you walk into an organization or when you're coming in to work, are you excited to be going into work? Are you frustrated when you're in meetings? Are you sitting in meetings day after day feeling like, "Ah, this is so slow. Why can't we get to the next thing?" Those are the things we tend to hear when we go into organizations that may have some of these friction points.
They come out pretty clearly in interviews and nobody wants them there. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, "You know what? I really want to have one of those super frustrating meetings today, where I don't feel like we're getting anything done." But I think it does sometimes take that outside perspective to foster those conversations. And it sounds like that's what... that you do a lot with organizations to say, "Hey, let's just get it out on the table. We may not, at the end of the day, be able to say, 'X, Y, and Z led to these three actionable things,' but we also probably all will feel a lot better when we're in meetings together. And we'll be moving quickly or feel like we're moving quicker." And there's something to be said about that as well. So I realized that maybe that's something that was a bold statement on your behalf. But I love calling out that we don't need to actually measure any of these things, because sometimes we do know them in our gut.
David Harkins (21:58):
Yeah. We'll feel it. To your point, we'll feel it in the organization and people will be happier and that translates. I think I've been studying the concept of complexity in organizations lately and because we're not willing to deal with the complexity, leaders aren't willing to deal with the complexity that they tend to make things complicated, which is why we have all sorts of HR policies. We've got to do this because someone might do this. So we have to have this, we have to take this thing that's complex and dynamic based on the individual, and we've got to create a policy that covers everybody. When in reality, we'll never cover everybody, there will always be exceptions. So in my opinion, anytime you're creating policies and procedures to be able to cover everyone.
But yet you all say, "Well, we have some exceptions," really what you are doing is just not dealing with the complexities. And a great example that I saw passing through my LinkedIn stream the other day, an organization, non-profit, who had an individual who was employed by them, whose child died. And the individual had asked, "What's the bereavement policy?" And the organization's bereavement policy was three days. So is that the right answer for this situation? No. The right answer for this situation is, take as long as you need. And that's a complex situation that creates the variants which we need to deal with. The other thing I'm seeing in these studies is, I think it's Amy Kates who raises this up. She was talking about not letting leaders abdicate their responsibility for managing complexity and letting it fall down to the customer level.
So a great example of that would be, my wife and I, we've had electronic bank statements since we opened our bank account. Last month, we got a $1.50 charge on a paper statement. We didn't change anything. So my wife called them and they said, "Oh, you just go online and change that." And it's like, "But I didn't change it to begin with. So why should I go online to change that?" So well, but that's the way we do it. "Well, can't you change it? No, you have to change it because it's in your account. Okay. Well, can you refund the $1.50 when I change it? Well, I can put that request in." And it's like, why is the customer dealing with all these levels of complexity. These are leadership issues that leaders aren't stepping up to tackle, and they're letting everything flow down and they're putting the burden on customers or even internal teams, because they're not willing to deal with the complexities of their organization.
Mike Vaggalis (24:59):
And I'm just sitting here nodding my head, David. I've dealt with a couple industries recently where I'm fighting these battles and it's so frustrating as a customer, because it's man, there are things that are out of my control as a customer. And when the organization makes a change that I can't control, and then the expectation is that I unthinkingly live with the consequences. That is one of my biggest pet peeves and frustrations as a consumer. Tracy is laughing because she knows I will sometimes take the first five to 10 minutes of a meeting and just vent my frustration because... And it is, it's so frustrating as a customer. Any guidance for leaders or our listeners on how they can avoid creating customer experiences that force us to vent to our coworkers because we're so frustrated with the decisions that an organization has made, or maybe decisions that a leader hasn't made that has resulted in a frustrating customer experience?
David Harkins (26:01):
Well, I think it goes back to design. So how organizations are designed and who are we designing them for. And so many organizations design themselves for themselves. So they're not designing... They want customers to buy products, so they're designing products for that, but everything else is designed to improve the function and operation of the organization. They're not designing processes and procedures and engagement with customers and in a way that puts the customer at the center of that. It's like, "What would the customer want?" But you have to ask the customer. This goes back to our earlier points about customer discovery. So it's okay to survey the customer and say, "How is my service today?"
And It's like, "Do I even want to bother answering that question?" My wife got a survey like that with the bank the other day, "How was our service today?: And it's like, "I spent 40 minutes on the phone trying to solve a problem that shouldn't have occurred anyway. So I'm not going to bother to fill out this survey because it clearly does not matter." But if someone called and listened, it was a completely different opportunity. So I think really thinking about how we gather customer input in the context of that and redesigning our processes so that we make it easy for our customers to buy and continue buying.
Tracy Eames (27:32):
Yeah. I think it's interesting to me because oftentimes when we do those meetings with clients and we say, "Okay, let's go through these scenarios." If you ask them, how would you want to be treated in this situation? It very rarely lines up with how the customer experience is. And that's an interesting disconnect. If we answered the question of, how would we want to be treated in this situation as a customer? We'd probably get much closer to the experience that our customers want. And to your point, David, I think it's always valuable to ask customers and directly hear it from them. But there's a lot of organizations that I'm sure we're all very loyal to. And whenever somebody asks me, "Wow, you really never sway from ordering from that company. Or you always go to that store. Why?"
And I'm like, "Because they've never disappointed me." They've always handled situations in a way that I'm like, "Wow, that's surprising." And most of the time it's surprising because it didn't end in a 40 minute phone call that none of us ever want to take. So you're like, "It was just simple. They make things simple and they don't make me have to explain things numerous times in numerous ways." And I always imagine in those situations, there's somebody in their team that's like, "Hey, you know what we should do. We should just do the thing that we want, which is make this really easy for people."
David Harkins (28:55):
And they may do that. They may have people in the organization that say, "You know what, We need to change this." But what they run into is resistance within the organization because the processes and procedures are not designed for that. So there's this cultural resistance and you find people saying, "Well, that's not the way we do it. Or that'll never fly, management will never let us do that." And that is a whole other set of problems.
Mike Vaggalis (29:25):
Tracy Eames (29:25):
Yeah. And just for the team. Because when we talk to teams, they're like, "I want to help the customer. I want to be able to do this thing, but these processes and procedures say I can't." And so you start to lose customers who don't want to repurchase because they don't want to encounter that issue again. And you also potentially are going to lose great team members because they want to be able to provide a better service.
David Harkins (29:49):
Well, and say, if you look at some of the companies that provide exemplary service, you can see some great examples of that. Ritz Carlton is obviously one of them, or at least they used to be. I have not stayed at a Ritz-Carlton in a number of years now. But I had the privilege of hearing Horst Schulze, who was one of Ritz Carlton's past leaders and may still be one of their leaders, talk about their customer service once. And he was telling a story about a customer who left a briefcase in the room and the maid cleaning the room, and she discovers the briefcase and she can't get the customer on the phone, can't reach him at all. And she realizes this is very important. So she leaves her station, takes the briefcase, and finds out where he is through his office.
David Harkins (30:41):
And she takes it and hand delivers the briefcase to him, and takes time from work and does this, so the investment was sizable for her to do that. So what happened as a result of that is the management said, "This is great. Thank you so much for taking care of our customers. However, going forward, now we have a limit. So you can't spend over this amount of money without seeking management approval to do that." So now we've created a process that limits our ability to serve customers where in that particular customer, that maid might have served, could have been a loyal customer of Ritz Carlton spending tens of thousands dollars a year and would have been very much worth that investment.
But our desire to measure and manage throughputs have now restricted that, and this was a number of years ago. And I don't know how that ultimately ended up playing out, but I can see the cause and effect there. While this is great, you took care of our customer today, but we're going to have to make sure that we don't spend as much to take care of that customer going forward.
Mike Vaggalis (31:45):
Yeah. I'm so interested, David, I'd love to learn more about your study, about managing organizational complexity. The establishment of policies and procedures is such a fascinating topic. And oftentimes you see the intent to serve the customer, but also to manage the expenditures of an organization or manage the ability for that organization to drive the throughputs that they desire through the establishment of policies and procedures, but it's such a delicate balance. And I go back to the airline industry as an example, obviously that's an industry that's been through so much over the past year. And they need to make decisions, for instance, to cancel flights, if there's not enough passengers on that flight. And as a consumer, if I booked a ticket on one of those flights, and then I have a substantial change to my schedule, that's extraordinarily disappointing to me as a consumer.
And I can understand the decision of the organization to make that decision, but that doesn't change my perspective as a consumer, that I'm incredibly frustrated that they've made a decision that changes my experience. All that to say is one example. But I'd love to know, where can we go to learn more about the work that you're doing to understand the establishment of policies and procedures that balance the necessary throughputs of an organization, while giving hopefully people the ability to make decisions to serve the customer to the best of their ability.
David Harkins (33:18):
Yeah. What we're really talking about is just change and whole-scale, large-scale types of chains. So Amy Kates and Greg Kesler wrote a book about organization design, which is really quite useful and helpful when you're thinking about managing complexity. There's a fair amount of academic research on complexity and managing complexity, but like all academic research, it hasn't always been vetted. So it's a lot of theory and a lot of testing, but can we as practitioners put it into practice and see the same types of results? I wish I had the answer to your airline question because I think I would be able to retire if I could figure that one out. How do you manage those sorts of things? Most of the airlines in my experience try to move you to the next available flight, which is what they can do, which is in their control. But we wouldn't expect them to, we wouldn't expect them to fly a full 737 with 15 people on it.
Not a full, but 737 with 15 people, we wouldn't expect them to do that because clearly they would be losing money. And you can't do too much of that if you still want to keep planes in the air. So where do you find the balance? Is it in notifying customers? Is it not overbooking or under booking flights? Is it constantly re-evaluating your bookings on your flights to say, "Hey, this one looks like it's trending down, maybe we need to shift these flights." Maybe they're doing some of those sorts of things, but my gut tells me, they're not doing enough of it. We've all been in the situations where flights have been canceled after we've gotten to the airport because they haven't had enough people on them or whatever. And that seems to be something that we could avoid.
I think at some point it's about setting appropriate expectations for your customers. I think people are reasonable, and they do understand. I just think there's another relative to learning there. There's a theory put forth by Matt Coots who wrote a book about contextual intelligence and this whole idea about 3D thinking. So the idea that we have to use our hindsight and our foresight together to create insight within our organizations, and as leaders. And that's incredibly helpful to think about because if we live too much in the past, it's dangerous to our decision-making because we end up thinking more about, "Well, this worked in the past, so this should work again." If we spend too much time in the future, it's not tempered with our past experiences. And if we don't find a way to balance those things, then we can't create insights that allow us to perform with greater efficiency.
Tracy Eames (36:32):
Yeah. No, I think that's great. And one of the things that your Ritz Carlton example struck with me is, we often speak about guidelines and guardrails To say, "Hey, you know what? You might not get it perfect every time, but if you can give your team a guard guardrail of like, 'Hey, try to take this approach.'" And then I think that secret is really staying in touch with customers to your point, setting those expectations. So maybe even taking the time as an airline to say, "Hey, we get it. This is not the ideal situation, we also don't want to cancel this flight. Next time we have to do this, hopefully we never have to, but what would be your expectation of how we would handle this situation?"
Because I'm fairly confident that folks will say like, "Hey you know what, if you could've told me before I got to the airport, or if you could have told me a day ahead of time, or if you could have moved to the flight to be in the middle of two flights and all of us gave up two hours in either direction, that could have solved our issue."
But I think taking those opportunities to say, "Hey, we have to have policies. We probably have to have guidelines and guardrails to help our teams make decisions. But how do we keep iterating on those and keep improving them to get to that right situation?" I think that would help a lot of folks, but I also think we could talk about this for hours if we do. So, David, one of the things I don't want to miss is hearing a little bit more about what you're doing. I personally know there's lots of exciting things on your horizon and different collaborations that you're involved with and would love our listeners to be aware of those, so they can take the opportunity to hear more from you in the future.
David Harkins (38:07):
Thank you. I'm working on a new venture with some partners around the concept of promoting education around collaborative change. So this came from some of my continued education. So a few years ago I decided I wanted to go back to school and I stumbled on this doctoral program in organization development and change, and I thought, "What's organization development and change?" And when I investigated it, I realized it's a relatively young discipline, maybe 60, 70 years old, but when I did some investigation, I thought, "Oh my gosh, I've been doing this my whole career. I just didn't know what it was called." And it's about helping organizations improve performance, and it connects to the humanistic approaches. And it's about process and organization design and things like that. But it's also about maximizing human potential. So how all those things work together for the betterment of the organization.
And as we've seen over the last year, particularly the last year and a half there's a huge demand and need for organizations of all types from communities and government to for-profit and non-profit organizations to shift the way they think about things. So the idea behind the new venture and what we hope to put on this fall, which is an Evolve 2021 collaborative change conference, is really about helping people understand methods and ideas and thinking. And case studies about, how we can change and how we can facilitate change and be change agents in our communities and organizations, and what that could mean to the world. So I think the world needs this more now than ever before, and we all know we need to change.
Most of us recognize that change is a constant and probably the only constant, but we don't know how to make it happen. So I think what happens a lot of the time is we end up just reacting to change rather than looking for ways to facilitate it. So that's exciting. And I'm finishing up my doctoral program, so I'll be working on a dissertation in which I'm studying empathy in organizations. So that's interesting stuff. And my work with nonprofits continues. I really enjoy helping them figure out how to perform and continue to have social impact in the future, given all the change that's going on in the world.
Mike Vaggalis (40:48):
That's fascinating, David. I'd love to keep digging into Tracy's point, I know that we could and would, if we didn't have any time constraints, keep asking you many, many questions about all of those things. In particular, I'd love to learn more about your dissertation, that sounds fascinating. But I know that we do unfortunately have time constraints and we'll need to jump. Before we do, where and how can people find you or learn more about you if they want to contact you for any work or just to have a coffee chat?
David Harkins (41:19):
Sure. Best place to find me is one of my websites, one of them is davidharkens.com, which is really easy. And the other one is similarly davidharkenscompany.com. So that's where you can find me and reach out if you have any questions or want to explore ideas.
Tracy Eames (41:38):
Yeah, we'll post those links in our show notes, as well as the link to evolve 2021, if folks are interested in attending the conference. I will also say follow David on LinkedIn, you'll get to see some interesting posts and some great knowledge sharing. I always enjoy your posts and seeing what you're reading, because it's fascinating stuff. So David, we can't thank you enough for joining us today on the podcast, we loved having you. We'll probably try to convince you to come back soon and give us an update on Evolve 2021 and the rest of your work, but thanks so much for joining us today.
David Harkins (42:13):
Thanks so much, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you both.
Tracy Eames (42:16):
Awesome. Well to our listeners, thanks for tuning in this week, we look forward to seeing you next week. And in the meantime, if you want to follow us, we're obviously where you're listening to podcasts, but also you can check out the video versions of these on YouTube. We share some shorter clips there as well, so if you just want to share a shorter clip with one of your friends or colleagues about any topic, that's an easy place to do it. And until next time, thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you next week.