>> Amy Draves: Hello. Thanks so much for... pleased to welcome Bob Frisch to the Microsoft Research Visiting...

>> Amy Draves: Hello. Thanks so much for coming. My name is Amy Draves and I'm very
pleased to welcome Bob Frisch to the Microsoft Research Visiting Speaker Series. He's here to
discuss his book, Simple Sabotage, a modern field manual for detecting and rooting out every
day behaviors that undermine your workplace. Bob is considered one of the world's leading
strategic facilitators and is the author of several high-impact articles for the Harvard Business
Review including When Teams Can't Decide which was named as one of the 10 most read
articles on teams. He has authored Who's in the Room, How Great Leaders Structure and
Manage the Teams Around Them. Please join me in giving him a very warm welcome.
>> Bob Frisch: Thank you. Thanks also to the people who are participating online. It's hard to
know how many people are here and how many people are there, but to those people there
welcome as well. After this was book I came up with the headline Who's Sabotaging Microsoft.
I figure we probably would've needed a bigger room to have that topic, but actually that's the
topic. The topic is are there people today on this campus who are inadvertently in some way
actually sabotaging the success of the corporation, and why would that be and what do you do
about it? It's an interesting topic. So the jumping off point is this book. In the year 1944, the
OSS which was the predecessor of today's CIA published a book called The Simple Sabotage
Field Manual. If you go to www.simple sabotage.com you can actually download the PDF. It's
in the public domain. It's an old book. It was kind of the, I want to say hackers manual,
because hacker means something in this culture. The hackers that do bad stuff, what do you
call those people? The disruptive hackers, right. It was translated into a number of languages.
They dropped it behind enemy lines and it became kind of the manual for how to slow down
the axis from within. The resistance movement in Europe was very active and it was something
that was put in their hands to try to figure out how do we slow down the axis war machine.
They talked about sabotages. You know, lots of people doing small things to hinder the
efficiency and if you have thousands of people doing this, it could be an effective weapon
against the enemy, sort of how to fight from within. Most of the ideas were kind of in the sand
in the gas tank variety. Most of the manual, this when here is ruling the warehouse stock by
setting off the sprinkler system. You can do it by tapping on the sprinkler head with a hammer
or holding a match under. Again, it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that's how you would
do it, but if you have a laborer in a warehouse looking for what can I do? Okay, when
somebody's not looking just bang the sprinkler head and all of a sudden the warehouse full of
uniforms or whatever is destroyed. And lots of people doing lots of these things behind the
lines over time would deteriorate the effectiveness of an organization. That was the theory. So
they published this manual and they dropped it down. It was actually a very interesting book to
read. And I wasn't kidding about sand in the gas tank. This is the section on sand in the gas
tank. And literally it says whatever you can put in, one pint of liquid to twenty gallons of
gasoline is sufficient if salt water is used. So he literally it was the things that people could do
to help grind down the war effort, how to destroy an organization within consciously by
members of the resistance. One page, I saw it referred to somewhere in kind of an obscure
document. It's gotten a lot more downloads since our book came out, but it's out there. The
government printed it and how they declassified it and made it available. But one page,
interest. These were the eight tactics to disrupt an organization. If you want to disrupt an
organization what can you do? Again, we're going to talk about these eight because they form
the chapters of the book, things like insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit
shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions. Or bring up irrelevant issues as frequently
as possible. Mine is referred to matters decided on at the last meeting and attempt to reopen
to question the advisability of the decision. So I'm a management consultant. I work with
leadership teams and so I started showing them this page and everybody laughed, like that's
my company today. I see these behaviors happening all the time around me every day. So you
have to ask yourself the question, if these are the things that the OSS said that somebody
should do to bring down an organization, why are they pervasive today? And what do you do
about it? So I got together with my partner Cary Greene, my friend Rob Galford and we are
kind of looking around for what is the next book. My first book was on the structure of senior
executive teams, a really great book for about six or seven hundred people, a very sort of a
specific book. But I wanted to do a book with a broader audience and Cary did as well and Rob
had done a few. We said maybe this would be an interesting topic. Let's try to figure out are
these things really going on as much as we think they are? The chuckles after you show this is
one thing, but are they as pervasive as we think? And if they are do we actually have anything
to say or could we talk to people who do have something to say about what do you do about it?
How do you basically either identify them and root them out and inoculate yourself against
these behaviors if these are the very things that bring down a company? We're going to
assume, by the way, conscious sabotage, we are going to assume that away. If somebody did
come here intending to do damage, we're going to put that aside for this. This is unconscious,
inadvertent, they don't mean to do it. It's just happening today. The first thing we did,
naturally, we took a survey. We are quantitative people. We set up a website. We set up a
survey. We got about 225 respondents, primarily U.S. companies at this point, senior to midlevel executives. We said here's a list of things. How often do they adversely impact your
organization's performance? And a significant of them said frequently or constantly. When
they saw the list they are just like you. I see these things all the time. And then we actually said
do they have an impact? Some people said modest, but most people said noticeable and forty
percent said substantial or destabilizing. These are things that are very real taking place in
companies today that are deteriorating the performance just as the OSS designed them, or
codified them to intentionally destabilize performance. We also have a list and there are a
couple of new ones here. We are going to talk about one today. We added a couple, one of
which was not available to the OSS 1944 called cc everyone in order to inform no one. We will
be talking about that this morning. There were some tactics that weren't available in 1944. But
we asked and we said to you see in your company and all of them were recognized at least 50
percent of the time. There was not one of these that was only relevant to a small portion of the
population. These are fairly pervasive, fairly impactful and pretty widespread. We said okay.
Let's go ahead and think through this. We did the book. It's gotten some nice reviews which
was fortunate. They came out in September. I want to talk a little bit about these tactics.
When you came in, people that wanted to, there are some sheets in the back. For those of you
who are watching from your desks, you may want to take some notes on your own. I'm going
to go through these including the three new ones, the three modern tactics. I'll just ask you
very quickly to make a little note to yourself, just make a little mark. We are not going to
collect these. Sometimes we use wireless keypads. I'm not going to ask you to raise your hands
because there are five cameras in the room and I don't want to embarrass anybody, but just
make a note for yourself of either have I seen it? Have I been a victim of it? Has it been done
and impacted me, or might I have done this? Might I actually be a perpetrator of this particular
kind of sabotage? As we are going through them it is handy to just keep track because I'm
curious. We've noticed in some organizations some are more pervasive than others and some
are harder to root out than others. So I'm going to talk about each of these a little bit. I'll go
into depth on ones that you guys decide to go into depth on to the time limit that we have, and
then we'll do some questions and roll on. Sound like a worthwhile way to spend some time?
Sabotage by obedience, this actually is the wrong data. Sabotage by obedience, my apologies
for the slide. Sabotage by obedience reads insist on doing everything through channels, never
permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions. Again, insist on doing everything
through channels and never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions. Let me
give a small example of this. Again, it's from the book so you can save yourself the page. I was
checking into a hotel and I was arriving late at night. I was a frequent stayer at that chain and I
said do you have an update available? The night clerk said no upgrades tonight, didn't look at
the system, didn't do anything just didn't look. I said okay. The next morning when I was
checking out I was talking to the morning manager and I said gee. I'm surprised the place was
so crowded on a Sunday night. And he said no. We were empty. I said really? There were no
upgrades available. And he looked and he said I'm very sorry. We had rooms to upgrade you
to. And I left a somewhat dissatisfied frequent stayer of that chain. I felt that. I realized that
the person the night before may have been distracted, may have been lazy. May have said it
costs an extra five dollars if we upgrade because they drink the free waters or it takes a little
extra to clean up the nicer rooms, so I'm going to avoid that cost and I'm just not going to give
out upgrades.. If you think about that he was a saboteur. He held by the book. The book is you
showed. You are paying for a regular room. You are getting a regular room. I'm not going to
bend any rules for you, just go stay in your room. Hope you have a nice day. And I was a little
unhappy that they didn't make the effort to sort of stretch it a little teeny tiny bit and see if it
might be available. I stay in that hotel quite a bit. What I realized is this kind of sabotage
happens all the time. And in looking at it, we think, and I'm going to go into depth on this one
because we can go into depth on any of them, but I want to show you how we sort of thought
about some of these things. I'm pretty sure that that hotel chain probably has a system where
if a hotel clerk gives away too many upgrades it flags. If somebody is giving away 10 upgrades
tonight and they are giving away 10 times more upgrades than any other manager in the
system I'm sure there is a system set up to report that to the area manager. Usually when
somebody does something in excess, too many returns, too many price adjustments, too many
upgrades, too many changes approved our system is designed to flag those kinds of excesses.
How about if somebody never gives away an upgrade? How about if somebody never asks for
an exception? How about if somebody never gives a return in violation of the norm? How
about if somebody never asks for that? Many times our systems are not designed to detect
those behaviors. That's where saboteurs live. One of the key things you have to remember
about the OSS and the saboteurs is that they didn't want folks to get caught. A saboteur gets
caught and he's in trouble. So you have to have behaviors that are either hard to find,
somebody in a deep corner of a warehouse hits the sprinkler head with a hammer and the
things go off. Or you have to find things that if they are done have a lot of deniability to them.
Somebody says gee Fred, we happen to notice you never giveaway upgrades and you say, well
it costs the chain another four a half dollars every time I do an upgrade. I was trying to save
money. I understand we are trying to work out our margins around here. You can't get
somebody in trouble for that. It's a highly, whether they call it back in those days? Plausible
deniability, right, plausible deniability. A saboteur should have in the best case possible
plausible deniability. The easiest rule to have is I always follow the rules. I just don't make
exceptions. Don't ask me to. And by the way, I don't really appreciate your making exceptions.
We have rules. They're here for a reason and I'm not going to be a cop but don't ask me to do
something that I think is wrong. I just went to this lecture about how we are watching our
margins. Every free room we give away snacks and water. That costs the chain 6 1/2 dollars.
I'm sorry. I'm supposed to be watching my margins around here. I'm very careful who I give an
upgrade to. That person might get applauded for that behavior. I walked away unhappy. The
diminished my relationship. They sabotaged my relationship with the chain, Inadvertently,
hard to detect, but very, very real. Again, I think if you look at your score sheet like do I see it?
Does it happen to me? Do I ever do that? I think you'll find this is one of the most pervasive
forms of sabotage. People following the rules to the nth degree, not showing flexibility, hard to
call them out on it, hard to say you are sabotaging this effort. I'm not sabotaging this effort; I'm
just following the rules. You're sabotaging the effort by not following the rules. So we could
talk a little bit about what to do about it, but this is an example of the kind of behaviors that
people look at the list and say I see that all the time. Again, I want to show here on some of our
thinking on each of these rules we talk a little bit about what to do about it. I won't have time
to do that on everyone, so I thought we would go through the rules relatively quickly. I would
introduce them, and then if you look at your little score sheet and say there is one or two that I
would like to talk about a little bit more about what do you do about it, we can spend our time
on that. What we recommend here is you have to look at your performance metrics and your
incentives. Are you actually incenting people to do the right things? Again, if I just looked at
one of my measuring, I guess I don't want people to give away too many upgrades because I
flag that and I report that. But is that really the problem? Have I looked at the other side of the
bell curve and said do I care if somebody doesn't give any away? Yeah, I do. That would
probably be a pretty inflexible person not ever giving an upgrade away. Okay. So do I want to
actually set my metrics to report that to me? Do I want to see it? Because again, what we've
noticed since we started talking about this is it is really true that the too few exceptions tends
to be a very unmeasured and unmonitored part of the world. And the too many exceptions is
where most reporting systems live. That's where they spend their time measuring is too many
exceptions, not too few. Does this feel familiar or comfortable to people? I'm not asking for a
show of hands because we have five cameras and I don't want to embarrass anybody. You
have to be a little bit careful about continuous improvement. Here's what I mean by that. We
were with a client wants and we were talking about the goals and objectives for their call center
operation. They were very proud. They were answering the phone on average like 1.6 brings
and by the end of the year they were going to get it to 1.4 brings. The CEO said how many
people abandon before two rings? And they said if people intended to call us nobody.
Everybody waits. He said why are we going from 1.6 to 1.4? The answer is we have been
spending 10 years lowering the number of rings and now it's year 11 and so we are lowering
the number of rings. There's some point where enough is enough. We are good. But again, is
that sabotage that the call center director was spending that tremendous time and effort for
trying to get from a ridiculously high to a absurdly high level of competence? I don't think you
would say she was sabotaging anything, but they were going to spend an awful lot of time
trying to get that average number of rings down because that's what they were doing. But in
the course of doing so, she may have been sabotaging the organization because that money
should have been spent elsewhere. Like what do people say when they actually pick up the
phone? But lot of money was being vested in the wrong metrics. It's always good to look at
your metrics and especially if it's something you've been working at for a long time, say is it
good? Should we move on? Can we start worrying about other things now? Tolerate mistakes,
people have to be able to use their judgment. There is a very famous story. I don't remember,
but one of the great historical business people, Woolworth or one of those folks, somebody
made a very, very expensive mistake that at the time cost tens or hundreds of thousands of
dollars, a fortune back then. And somebody said are you going to fire the person? They made
a terrible mistake and he said that experience cost me so much why would I fire somebody that
I have invested so much money in? He's not going to make the mistake again. So to a certain
extent how do you let people use their judgment and not necessarily feel bound by a rule set,
because again, strict adherence to a rule set can be negative. And especially, take an
experienced employee and put them through the new employee orientation and say what are
we telling people is important? What are we telling them they will be measured on? What are
we telling them is important? That night clerk obviously thought that turning an experienced
traveler we without an upgrade didn't matter very much. It's always useful to say what are we
actually training people to do? What are we telling them is important around here and what
are we telling them we are going to measure? And if you think about it, if you walk away and
it's all you knew, what impression would you have of what I'm supposed to be doing around
here and what the organization values? Again, none of these is a cure. None of these is a fix,
but these are the kinds of things that if you think you have that problem of too strict adherence
to rules, are the measures in the right place? Are you teaching people the right thing? Are you
letting them use their judgment? Are there mechanisms to deal with it? These are all things
that can help to offset the impact of that one behavior. We can do a deep dive into any of
these. I just wanted to give you an example. Second one, sabotage by speech. I don't know
what happened to my projection, but my apologies. It says make speeches. Talk as frequently
as possible and at great length. Illustrate your points by long anecdotes and accounts of
personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate and patriotic comments.
Again, sometimes people in meetings or in life tend to go a long way and say an awful lot and
actually not say very much except wave the flag and score the right points and move on. Again,
can you say to somebody you are impacting the effectiveness of the group by talking too much
for speaking too much? You could. It's an awkward conversation to have. But it's a very, very
effectively for people to get progress from happening. I know one particular executive and
when he meets with subordinates in a one-hour meeting, 45 to 50 minutes is about whatever is
in their brain when the meeting started from whatever topic what the last meeting was about
to a football game and then they actually get down to the business of the meeting in the last 10
or 15 minutes. I think it's a very deliberate behavior on that person's part, but the organization
feels that very little gets done. It's a hard thing to fix. Sabotage by committee. Sabotage by
committee says when possible refer all matters to committee for further study and
consideration. Attempt to make the committees as large as possible, never less than five.
When possible refer all matters to committee for further study and consideration, attempt to
make the committees as large as possible, never less than five. Anybody keeping score here at
home? Anybody see this behavior? Constantly, right? My, our synagogue got an e-mail from
the association of synagogues or whatever, and they were concerned about alcohol
consumption. They didn't think alcohol consumption was appropriate. They wanted all
synagogues to them all alcohol except for certain events. So our Rabbi gets the letter, calls a
bunch of us together and says I think we have to address this. We have to take this very
seriously. I think we should talk about it at the next board meeting. We should have a special
committee. We need to have the youth chairman, the men's group, the women's group, maybe
a couple of psychologists from the community. Oh, so-and-so is an expert in substance abuse.
Maybe somebody from the police force. Good idea, good idea. I'll have a committee. That was
four years ago. The committee has never met, but if asked, somebody says what are you doing
about this letter? We say oh, we have a committee. Problem solved, we have a committee,
right? The many organizations, you know, treat committees that we. The problem is solved;
the committee has been appointed. But also in the actual work of a committee, and a lot of the
time and we'll talk more about it in a moment, but we do things like the racy model or rapids or
other things for who's got to be informed, who's got to be consulted before. There are ways
you can work on committee structures to keep them leaner and tighter and more effective.
Most companies don't deploy that. As soon as there's a topic, you know, we've got to have
someone from legal there in case something legal comes up. Finance has to be there because
somebody has to add three numbers. Marketing has to be there because it can impact the
brand and all of a sudden you get 27 people showing up for a meeting that really for five people
could have resolved. So is the person that does that a saboteur? They're trying to be inclusive
they're not trying to blow it up or try to keep it from being effective. But this when we see all
the time. Sabotage by irrelevant issues, it just says bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as
possible. Again, I don't know if anybody has ever experienced that in an organization, but it
happens all the time. Again, we'll talk a little bit about how do you prevent or call out these
behaviors, but it is a challenge when you are working with a group of people and somebody
brings up something that is just totally from left field. You feel like you can't disrespect the
person by not acknowledging it, but at the same time it's just not germane to what you have to
do. Sabotage by haggling, my friend Rob, this is his favorite. Haggle over the precise wordings
of communications, minutes and resolutions. So once you made a decision, now let's spend
another two hours about exactly, precisely what did we decide and how will all the eight
different stakeholder groups feel when we actually do it and how do we put things in the right
words? I'm not saying to be insensitive or be a clod about it, but at the same time a saboteur
can spend an awful lot of time and energy on the wording of a decision as opposed to the
decision itself. I don't know if on your little score sheets you have seen anything like this
before. My favorite, sabotage by reopening decisions. Again, it says refer back to matters
decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question or the advisability of that
decision. You may think you have a decision but somebody comes back and says I have been
thinking about it. Shouldn't this really be over here? Or the ones that I especially like that is
related to it is you make a decision and then three weeks later somebody is offering a
completely different angle. And you say what's going on? I thought we decided this. Yeah, but
I went back to my group and they kind of didn't see it that way so we're going to go over here.
Okay. But you never actually told the rest of us, so we're all going that way and you're going
this way. Like there is no need to loop back and say we sort of edited the decision post
decision. Again, common behaviors. Sabotage by access of caution. Advocate caution in
quotes. Be reasonable and urge your fellow conferees to be reasonable. Avoid haste which
might result in embarrassment or difficulty later on. So try to avoid decisions or getting back to
decisions by just continually being the person putting on the brakes saying is this too much? Do
we have to go this far? Are we overreacting? Should we think about this some more? Should
we let this die just for a little while? Is it really something we have to move on now? In certain
cultures it's more pervasive than others. In certain industries it's more destructive than in
others. Asking for a week's delay in the citing of a chemical plant, I'm sure it's a bad thing for
the engineers of a chemical plant, but it takes 10 years before you decide you want to put a
chemical plant somewhere and you get a molecule out the other end. Beyond an eternity in
your industry, so cycle times matter on this one. Sabotage by is it really our call. Being worried
about the propriety of the decision, raise the question as to whether such actions as is
contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group. Be worried about the propriety of a
decision, raise the question as to whether such action as contemplated lies within the
jurisdiction of the group or whether my conflict with the policy of some higher echelon. Now
that we've made a decision, do we have the right to make this decision? I don't know if that
ever happens. If I had keypads I could get what you really thought. We see this all the time.
Again, if you look at these things most of them are actually an excess of the good behavior.
Following rules, doing things through channels, that's a good thing. You can't have anarchy.
You have to have rules. You have to have channels. You have to have processes. That's how
organizations are run. You don't want people to talk too long, but people never say anything,
that's bad. We are always getting coaching about speaking up in meetings, having people know
your opinions. It's good for people to participate. That's very positive. Committees are great.
People shouldn't make arbitrary decisions unilaterally as dictators. You should bring other
people in, seek their counsel, seek their advice. What's the matter with a committee? Nothing
wrong with that. Irrelevant issues, okay, irrelevant issues, that's fine, but it's never good to get
right down to task. Some of us are told when you start a meeting don't go to task right away. If
there's a big football game it's always good to say how was the football game. Even if it's not
your natural tendency, we are taught that certain people like to socialize, so not bad. Haggle
over precise wording. People are going to ask us what this means. Vacation is going to start
this day. What time is it going to start. Are we going to get out at the regular time or will we be
a couple of hours early? Is everybody going on vacation or just certain kinds of employees?
People are going to ask us. We might as well be precise so everybody knows. Reopen the
advisability, if I had been sleeping on something and I think it's a bad idea, why shouldn't we
talk about it again? Since I left the meeting I have had a chance to think about it. I talked to
some other people. I think it's worth a second look. But it's just not go ahead. If my colleagues
told me their concerns, we are locked in and I can't bring those in front of you to have a look at
them? What's the matter with that? Caution, what's the matter with being a cautious? What's
the matter with being reasonable? What's the matter with taking your time before you make a
decision? What's the matter with saying maybe we weren't supposed to make this decision.
Somebody else more qualified should make it, or if they make the decision were feel that they
made it, they can bring more resources to make it stick better. Any one of these behaviors is a
laudable behavior taken to excess. That, I think was the wisdom of the OSS because plausible
deniability all over the place. You can't take anybody out and shoot them. Remember,
saboteurs got shot. You got caught you're shot. You got caught wrapping that thing, now, if
you are a plumber and you are trying to fix the system and you accidentally set it off, that's one
thing. But if you're some employee who is banging around with a fire alarm system, you're
going to get in trouble. You can't get in trouble with these. And, they very much are behaviors
that we are looking for inside our organizations. But wait, there's more like the infomercials
say. We added a couple more because we thought we should. This is my favorite, cc
everybody. Send updates as frequently as possible including the distribution list of anyone
even peripherally involved. I don't know if that is happening in this organization; you've
guarded against it. I remember when Murdoch, who was the publisher of one of the British
tabloids, somebody got caught hacking into the phone messages of the royal family. It was a
big scandal over there. And somebody said you knew about. I said I didn't know about. They
said you got this e-mail on this day and you opened the e-mail. It was like a sentence in the
fifth paragraph buried with five other topics. Oh, by the way… He was not informed. They said
you got the e-mail and you opened the e-mail. You were informed. You read the e-mail. Well,
I didn't read that part of the e-mail. And people cc everybody to protect themselves and say I
informed you, but everybody knows if you get this barrage of -- I don't know how many e-mails
the average person in this room gets, but I'll bet it's a lot. And even with really good filtering
and the ability to put things into directed boxes by sender and all the things you can do, at the
end of the day this is a pervasive form of sabotage today. Well I told you. You never told me. I
sent you an e-mail. Sending me an e-mail is not telling me. It kind of sort of is. Sabotaged by
matrixed accountability, anybody work or have next to them a matrixed organization around
here? The greatest gift to consulting ever conceived. Hide accountabilities. You notice, by the
way, I have yet to find a matrixed military. I just thought I'd point that out. I haven't found a
matrixed Army yet. Hide accountabilities within matrixed organization so no one feels
responsible for making decisions. In all seriousness, matrices are very, very hard work within
and finding the locus of accountability, who owns the decision, is sometimes challenging in
many organizations, maybe not here, but in many organizations. Again, saboteurs can hide in
the matrix very easily.
>>: Do you find a corollary to that that organizations create matrices so they feel that it
spreads responsibility and makes more people feel involved and engaged?
>> Bob Frisch: There are many positive things. All of these have a positive side. There are 100
arguments why a matrix is a terrific thing to do, but if you are saboteur working inside a matrix
you can do a lot of damage. If you just refuse to make decisions, or refuse to let other people
make decisions, you can be really effective in that kind of climate. I've noticed that. By the
way, the people that usually put matrixed organizations into place do not themselves work
within a matrix. [laughter]. I just thought I would put that out. I've seen very few, because I
mainly work with the top levels of organizations. That typically is a chairman, CEO and their
directs. They typically are not themselves matrixed. They matrix below themselves. But they
have a boss. The CEO has the chairman as the boss; they have the whole board. But typically,
matrices start when clicked down or two clicks down in organizations. And then the last one,
sabotaged by over committing top talent. Assign the same small group of individuals to work
on too many groups or committees. I know every single time we are launching a set of
initiatives and we talk about who should be on it, I've been with some of my clients for 10 or 20
years and it's the same names over and over. These are organizations with tens of thousands
or hundreds of thousands of employees. Why is it only 12 people are qualified for these
committees? They are the same 12 people you put on every group. I don't know if that
happens around here, but that happens in most organizations. These were not the kinds of
things, this was not possible in 1944. There was no e-mail. CC comes from carbon copy.
Anybody here remember carbon paper? Okay, maybe four copies, maybe. In school, how did
they make a copy? They used a mimeograph machine, so if you were going to copy something
it was hard to do. You could keep like a couple of people informed. Today it's you know.
Matrixed organizations actually were a postwar phenomenon. They were introduced in general
around sometime in the '50s or early '60s. We obviously had pyramid shaped organizations
until then, so it's a relatively new creation. This idea of over commitment of top talent, this
may have happened for a long time. We don't know. But I think if the OSS could have, they
would have done this one. So what do you do about it? I can't just sit here and describe a
problem, so what do you do? In our book we talk about four stages. The first is referred to as
identify. You have to acknowledge that they are present. I don't want to ask anybody here but
you can look at your score sheet. All you have to do is sit a group of people down and talk
about these things and ask them do you see it. But you have to acknowledge that they are
present. By the way, you have to take any guilt, negative feeling, blame aside. They're
pervasive everywhere. They're just ongoing things. The next thing is calibrate. What's our
range of acceptable behavior? By identifying you're actually allowing yourself to have the
conversation. In other words you're making it okay to talk about these behaviors in the open.
I'm not saying you talk a lot. I'm saying we have a problem in our meetings where too many
people are taking up, 10percent of the people are taking up 90percent of the airtime, so what
can we organizationally do about that? It's less threatening than Joe, you talk too much. It
becomes a systemic problem that we are addressing. The second thing is calibrate. What's
acceptable? What's okay? If we have a problem where a few people tend to dominate the
meetings that they are in, we are not telling them they can't talk at all. What's acceptable?
What's a reasonable way to think about it? If you are giving the person coaching you can say it
would be appropriate for you to speak, but if you leave the meeting and you have taken up
more than 25percent of the oxygen in the room when there are 20 people there, you probably
want to think about that. You want to get some coaching around there. What is kind of the
acceptable limit? Similarly, with giving away my upgrades, you don't want to tell somebody to
give we can upgrade and everybody shows up. Say you know something? You should be giving
away 10, 15, 20 upgrade to week. You haven't given an upgrade in five years. You should start
giving them. Well, how many? I don't want to give away the store. Giveaway five or 10 a
week. See how it feels. So set limits for people beyond zero. What's acceptable? Remediate.
Not only call people out but let other people call them out. Make it okay to talk about these
things. If somebody is continually sidetracking a meeting, if somebody is constantly going back
and questioning things, say you know something? It's good to bring open issues, but every time
we make a decision you're back at the next meeting questioning the decision. We are having
trouble getting stuff done. Make it okay to have the conversation and make it okay in your
culture to call them out. What a lot of people we work with do is they basically through this
vehicle or others, they start the education process. Everybody laughs. Everybody says we have
this all over the place. Let's make it okay to talk about it. I think we cc too many people. Make
it okay to send a message back saying take me off the list. That's okay. Or send me a weekly or
monthly digest, even better. I want to be a once a month person not and every e-mail person.
Can you do that for me? Again, it's not that I don't want your e-mails. It's not that I don't like
you. But I get 600 a day and I can't process them. Give me something because I want to stay in
the loop but not as in the loop as you have me. Make it okay. Again replace it with a better
practice. How about a weekly or monthly digest of the activities of the team instead of copying
everybody every time you are deciding whether there are going to be bagels or donuts at
tomorrow's meeting. I don't mean to do that. And inoculate. Put your performance
management systems and your metrics in place so that you are starting to evaluate and judge
the positive behaviors that you want to have. If you want to give people the right to be a little
bit flexible around the rules, then you should reward that to a variety of places, make process
changes not to let it get out of control but give people a comfort zone and say one of the things
that we are going to be asking about is does this person show flexibility in a combination and
meet people's needs. Do they make success happen despite the system? You can all think of
examples where people have done. They put a measure in place with a limit on it to start to
reward the behavior that if left unchecked might be a bad behavior, but they wanted people to
move more in that direction. Even to say to somebody you haven't participated in a lot of
meetings or maybe somebody over participates, we've talked about it and you are taking up
too much airtime. It's an issue. It's destructive behavior. As your boss I'm going to be watching
and I will be giving you feedback on it and it will be part of your performance appraisal. Are you
actually able to monitor that or do you insist on hijacking the meetings were taking up all the
airtime? And so what we found is if you think about it, one of my authors, Rob Galford, wrote
this book, The Trusted Leader and this is his concept. You have to show you understand it. You
have to set guiding principles of how this company wants to operate, keep to them. The most
important thing is to have really honest conversations. Allow yourself and your group and your
team -- yes, we would like to sell lots of copies of the book, but even downloading the original
OSS manual and just taking that one-page and turning it around for a laugh and then say do you
see us in this list? Is there anything that we are doing in this list that we ought to be talking
about as a team? Even that gives you permission to be able to open up the dialogue. I can go
in depth on any one of the tactics or we can just take questions, whatever you would like to do.
We have about 20 minutes left. Please?
>>: First of all, I'm personally just, my background is I'm extremely happy and excited that
somebody has actually broached this subject.
>> Bob Frisch: How many x's did you get?
>>: I didn't go through the whole list, but a whole lot.
>> Bob Frisch: More than 10?
>>: Potentially, yes.
>> Bob Frisch: Okay.
>>: And these are things that I think everybody sees and the fact that they are enumerated and
laid out is very helpful. I think that's a great step for industry as a whole. One thing I'm trying
to work with personally is, and I think you mentioned this as well, there may be cases where
we're looking at polar opposites. If you are looking at a continuity spectrum where there are
really bad behaviors and a sort of middle ground and then really positive behaviors, some of
these things can fit on opposite ends. For example, obedience or sabotaged by committee
might be the opposite of reopening decisions or something of that sort. I think what I'm
hearing you say is each organization needs to go through its own learning process or each team
needs to find their middle ground, which I think makes sense as well.
>> Bob Frisch: I'm a big fan of whatever the philosopher who said all things in moderation. I
don't know who that was. But on any of these you can say look. We can have a committee on
everything. We can have a committee on committees. Believe it or not, I was with an
executive team the other day, the top executives of a very large publicly held company. We
were doing a two-day off-site. They said Bob, we need about 15 minutes before we start.
There's a critical issue we have to discuss. I said fine. I'm getting my coffee and walking to
them. They are discussing whether or not the company picnic that was scheduled for the next
afternoon should be postponed given the weather report. I said folks, you have 12 executives.
I won't even tell you the average incomes of these people. Couldn't like the head of HR -really. Do we need all of them in on this discussion for 15 minutes? It's ridiculous, right? But
maybe the head of HR was thinking I don't feel empowered to make the call on my own. So I
always find taking any of these and putting up a bell curve and saying where are we today? Do
we have too many people making autocratic decisions without asking anybody? Or do we have
too many committees that are bound down and can't make a decision about anything because
nobody feels they have the right to? Where are we and where do we want to be? We are
deliberately painting them as polar opposites, but the behaviors are polar opposites. Again, we
are only measuring one side typically of that curve and the other side is where the danger is.
We're not worried about too much autocratic behavior. Saboteurs don't do that. Saboteurs
hide in committees, so that's the part we are worried about in this book. There may be other
books about too many people being autocratic. That's another topic for next month. Do you
want to do a follow-up? How do you want to do it guys?
>>: Aspirationally, I think this is a great step forward in terms of identifying where the middle
ground is, but it would be ideal, and maybe this is too much handholding, but it would be ideal
if the next generation of guidance available could include this is what the continuum looks like.
And typically these are the attributes that you would have to know that you have struck the
right balance between, you know, certain level of process adherence slash obedience versus
>> Bob Frisch: We do some of that in the book because we have a chapter on that. But I will
tell you it really is so variable by culture and by industry. So what is an okay behavior in this
industry may be totally unacceptable in a pharmaceutical company where it takes many, many
years to get a new molecule out there on the market. Whereas, for you folks you can get
product revisions on the market real fast. We wanted to have something that was generally
applicable and the more we looked into it we tried to give general guidelines but to say here is
the right balance point, all we can say is you've got to find the right balance point.
>>: I've been at Microsoft a long time. First I would like to say it's a great presentation.
>> Bob Frisch: How long, a long, long time?
>>: Since the '90s, late '90s.
>> Bob Frisch: My name is Bob. Anybody here when Bob was here? [laughter]. Thank you.
Thank you for naming software after me.
>>: The reason I mention that is there are two behaviors in particular that have been long
associated with Microsoft, or at least within Microsoft. One is silos, where there is a tendency
of people when they do get brought into the committees of not having the interest of the
community in mind because they represent their own thing and sometimes they're competing
for everything. And second, all yes, one no, so in committees it takes the entire committee to
say yes, but any one person can say no. So unless you've got an entire agreement, which is
almost impossible to ever get, like notices [indiscernible]. Do those fall into this or how would
that work?
>> Bob Frisch: First of all, that's not the topic here because there is a lot of writing on both
topics. What I forgot to say was I was going to give away copies of the book to the first two
questioners, but they're selling books back there and I don't want to compete with the book
selling table. So this is the winner. It is a copy of Harvard Business Review on Point, and you
were the first two questioners. Is that right? Who ask the first question?
>>: I'll take that. [laughter].
>> Bob Frisch: In here is a superb article on page 124.
>> Amy Draves: Which month is it?
>> Bob Frisch: It's called when teams can't decide. I wrote it and it's on that topic of how do
you actually get committees to -- it's actually, it's not the regular HPR. They do these occasional
collections. They're on the newsstands, the on point collections. I've written on the topic of
team decision-making. That's not this book. And silos as well, my first book was a lot about
silos, but this specifically is about individual behaviors, not team behaviors. This is how people
themselves act. Please? We have an online question?
>> Amy Draves: We do. It's a perfect segue for it. How can IC, individual contributor influence
change in behavior when a group leader may be blessing or a boring these behaviors?
>> Bob Frisch: So the question was, how can you as an individual affect the behavior when the
group leader may be the guilty party, so to speak?
>> Amy Draves: No. They're ignoring someone else's behavior?
>> Bob Frisch: Ignoring someone else's behavior. Again, it sounds trivial. It's almost like a
party game. We actually find people who take this page from -- and again it's downloadable
from our website, the original PDF, and literally say I had this interesting talk. Here's this
fascinating book. Or in some cases we have people distributing copies of the book which we
prefer, even more. Don't we? Certainly our publisher does. But we find getting the right to
have the conversation is one of the most important things. This is tough stuff to bring up. You
don't want to say gee. I noticed in our team we've got this bad behavior going on, because
that's threatening, challenging and critical, whatever. So what we've tried to do is almost
create like a neutral starting point. Gee, I read this interesting book. Gee, I saw this interesting
thing, and then everybody kind of laughs about it. And you say yeah, but I think some of that
may be happening here. Like I've noticed the last five meetings we started the meeting by
bringing back the decision we made at the last meeting, so we may be laughing about it, but are
we as a group, or individuals in the group doing things that are not constructive? And I think,
again, our assumption is people aren't deliberately trying to put a monkey wrench in the works.
I actually do not believe that any of the thousands and thousands of engineers inside
Volkswagen intended to bring down the Volkswagen Corporation with the recent issues with
the software. I don't think they will bring down the company, but they are certainly creating
major issues. There are no saboteurs. Nobody got hired by Toyota to go in and bring them
down. It's just things within their company our bad behaviors. These are bad behaviors. But
they're excesses of good behaviors and they are hard to detect, hard to smoke out and hard to
talk about. But we find that the beginning is just the acknowledgment and making it okay to
have the conversation. That really is the starting point. Please?
>>: I was wondering if by studying this topic a bit if you have come to any observations or
thoughts on why certain organizations or certain individuals self sabotage beyond just the naïve
or being dumb. Is sabotage rewarded in certain circumstances and therefore subtly
>> Bob Frisch: I think that's a very good question. I would actually say it's more like when
people, is the opposite behavior penalized? If somebody makes a decision and doesn't bring it
to committee and that person has some public fallout from that decision, the answer is okay.
All of the people who, everything goes to committee will make a decision without a committee,
it reinforces the bad behavior. That's what happens if you go over there. If you don't haggle
over the precise wording and something happens and legal is like I can't believe this went out
because you used this word instead of that word and you shouldn't have done that. The first
time you get your hand slapped you tend to go behind the lines really fast and really hard. The
people who wanted to do that are like I told you. So again, erring on the side of caution is an
easy thing to do particularly in a largely bureaucratic company. And what has to happen is
leaders have to point out that there's a cost to that. It's like trying to drive with the brakes on.
And I think the saboteurs who are on the brakes intentionally or unintentionally, but there is
never a problem with going slow. There is never a problem with reconsidering. There is never
a problem having one more people on the committee. It's always a justification, but it just
grinds down the efforts. Cleaning it out does take some leadership we find because somebody
has to point out the net effect of all this caution. The net effect of staying on one side of the
bell curve is you are just not going anywhere and not making any progress. So what will happen
is some other nimble competitor will eat your lunch. I know a number of companies now that
say we'll tolerate mistakes. Tolerating mistakes is hard. Let's talk to the head of regulatory
compliance. Let's talk to the head of legal. Let's talk to the CFO. Let's talk to the head of
marketing about tolerating mistakes and they can cite 15 mistakes that were made that they
wish hadn't been made. But yet if you are going to have a fast-moving nimble culture you have
to build this tolerance into it. There is risk moving off any of these. I think you just have to
acknowledge it and the counterbalance of not taking the risk is you have an organization that is
just slow and it feels that way. And you'll lose the people who get frustrated in that kind of a
company. It tends to be, unfortunately, a self reinforcing thing. There was one more, but
you're not going like this yet. We are kind of at the beginning of this. Somebody in the back of
the room, please.
>>: A lot of these behaviors are when the downside to a wrong decision is much higher than
the upside to a right decision and so can you give me examples of organizations that have
successfully, where organizations have made that shift from where they are tolerating mistakes
to actively increasing experimentation?
>> Bob Frisch: I think there are a lot of them. We've seen, I see a lot of things when they are
coming out. I would say in the last year or two there are a lot of people attacking committee
structures. There are a lot of people trying to streamline decision-making. Bain and Company
has their Rapids model than people have various ways of mapping accountability and decisionmaking inside companies, but I think people have been attacking matrix organizations and the
accountability and decision-making processes pretty hard in the last two or three years. People
feel like, particularly if you are competing against disruptive players, bureaucracy is especially
matrices are getting in the way. They are keeping response time down. I'm seeing a lot of
people starting to move very heavily in that direction.
>>: Any specific examples that you can share with this group?
>> Bob Frisch: That would be relatively hard.
>>: What was the question?
>> Bob Frisch: The question was examples that it sort of worked on, companies that have
worked on kind of their nimbleness lately and tried to speed up decision-making and be able to
move faster. That was the question that came out. I'm hard-pressed to think of one. I will give
you a very good example. I was actually with a speaker the other day from General Electric
Corporation and their moving their from Fairfield to Boston is a very deliberate shift on their
part. They're very much an information-based company now and they see themselves as much
more into software than industrial. And I think Jeff Immelt has been fostering a major culture
change inside GE and their moving their head quarters is sort of the capstone to that. So I
would say GE is a very good example of a company that has been trying very hard to get their
speed of decision-making and reaction time way up real fast. And I think they are doing a great
job at it actually.
>>: To help you out, Bob, there's a slide deck out there called the Microsoft Story that has a
brilliant section on culture and we are in the midst so cultural change really addressing half of
the items on that list. If you want a real home get to your own face deal, go read that because
it's the leadership team over and over and over trying to transform the company away from a
lot of those things to the point of failing fast, failing early.
>> Bob Frisch: Anybody in the room that would like to arrange for me to have a meeting with
those folks, I'd be -- I'll give you five copies of the book. [laughter]. I'll endorse one to your dog
if you do that for me. I would be more than happy. Dear Spot, I hope you enjoy the book. One
more question? We good? This will be available. We have a site, simplesabotage.com. We
have a little survey that I would like you to take. It's anonymous. We don't identify the
companies. We also have a download of the original. Books are for sale here. I'll be signing
them later. I'll be around for some discussion for a few minutes. I'm not in a great hurry to
leave. So thank you and thanks to our home audience. [applause].