• Andy Goram

The Evolution of Teams and the Workplace

Updated: Nov 12

The way teams and workplaces best function has gone through some rapid change over the last 18 months, with transient and self-managed teams becoming more popular. So, what will it all look like as we move forward, and what signs and examples had we missed before this most recent period of turmoil?


In episode 25 of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, host Andy Goram, of Bizjuicer, the Employee Engagement & Workplace Culture Consultancy, speaks to the Chief Energy Officer of People & Transformational HR, Perry Timms, about all of that. In a packed 40-minute romp the two chew their way through their own belief systems, team models and some fabulous examples of people and businesses who have or are, paving the way for a new model of people productivity and fulfillment.


Below is a full transcript of their conversation, or listen to it here.

Two men discussing the future of teams and the workplace on a zoom call
Perry Timms (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss the future of teams and the workplace

00:00:10 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to Sticky from the Inside. The Employee Engagement Podcast that looks at how to build stickier, competition-smashing, consistently successful organisations, from the inside out.


I'm your host, Andy Goram, and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn the lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tonnes more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses. The sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work, and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.


So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.


00:01:10 Andy Goram

OK then, look, I talk a lot about the important role purpose can play in creating more engaged people at work. I make no secret of my love for this topic, because I've seen its powerful effect for real. And I'll tell you, it's addictive, in a good way. It grows connection, helps people feel more self-worth and makes people think bigger. And I think it's going to play a bigger role going forward, as I hope we continue to see a stronger reemergence of humanity in the workplace, powering teams to greater achievements.

But what is the future of the workplace and how will teams evolve and help businesses change for the better? Well today I'm joined by Perry Timms. He's the founder and Chief Energy Officer (I just love that title) of People and Transformational HR. And they've got over 30 years' experience in people, learning, technology, organisational change and transformation. His personal mission is to see more people flourish through their work and help shift organisations as a force for societal good, not just being profit machines. And his business mission is simply defined as “Better business for a better world.”

And it's also worth noting that at the time of recording, Perry and the team have just achieved certified B Corp status. Which if you know anything about that, is an amazing achievement. I'm sure we'll touch on that as well.


But if that wasn't enough, he's a Global and TedX speaker, advisor, conference chair on the Future of work & HR, and a member of the “Be the Ripple Movement” to help promote kindness and eradicate bullying in the workplace. So, who better? Who better indeed, to speak to about the future of teamwork and how we power ourselves on to a different way of working than Perry, and I'm sure he's going to blow my mind at some point as well in this conversation.


So welcome to the show, Perry. Lovely to have you here.

00:03:09 Perry Timms

What an intro, Andy! Thanks so much for that. I mean it's nice to hear it read back because, you sort of remind yourself of, you know, why we get out of bed, what sparks your life into action, and it's nice to get a tingle from that, so thank you.


00:03:25 Andy Goram

Well, it's... I mean that B Corp thing is an amazing thing. I've only ever read about B Corp, I've never met anybody in the flesh who's there, so, congratulations.


00:03:34 Perry Timms

Thank you. Let's put it this way. I've been, like you, an admirer of that concept for a long time, and so when the team got a bit bigger and we had the chance to think about going for it, we thought, well, you never know, but we didn't really anticipate we would qualify. And then we looked at the criteria and thought, my goodness me, there's a lot to get your head round and prove. So, what it did, is it gave us two opportunities. One was to prove what we already were standing for and doing, was the right stuff. And then all the other things that we had, perhaps, not quite thought of in the same way, gave us a chance to think about them and really put them into play. So, if anybody sort of says, “Oh, you know, these accreditations are just given away, like toffee.” Absolutely not this one.

You know it was a really, really deep and philosophical look at who we are, and what we do. And the evidence they were after, you know, we had to really think about what we do, how we document things. But in the end, we got a decent score, and we are absolutely over the moon about this, because it just symbolises everything we believe in.

00:04:38 Andy Goram

I was just going to say what does it feel like to have gone through that process and to come out the other side successful?

00:04:44 Perry Timms

I think it's the sort of thing where you just hope that what you do is right in the eyes, of what I can only describe as, a very objective and searching and revealing set of criteria. I mean their attention to environment, community, social. So, it really tests whether you're in that or whether you're just dabbling or just aspiring. And so, admittedly, some of the things we probably were dabbling, but it gave us a sense of fortitude to go, but actually we do mean this. So, we leaned into some of the things that we thought we might be a bit lighter on. So, to come out at the other end after the scrutiny with the analysts, with that result was just like “Oh wow!” It just meant so much because, yeah, we believed in it so much, and we doubted it at times. And then we came through it and it was like, yeah, just blissful.

00:05:34 Andy Goram

Brilliant. That's great. Well, you're here today, my friend, because your good mate, Cris Beswick, said you were the guy to talk to about employee engagement, future workforce and all the rest of it so here we are. So, what are the sort of things that, before we get into the topic itself, what are the sort of things that you're dealing with today. As we've had a weird 18 months, with just coming out of furlough today so, what’s going on?

00:06:00 Perry Timms

So, I think the title of the company PTHR and deliberately having “people” and “transformational” gives you a clue, because we stand for helping people transform from a state of mediocrity or even toxicity to something where it absolutely is, the workplace that people go, “It's an extension of me. It's my whole reason for being in the work that I do.” And so, some people kind of go, “Yeah, but isn't that just for, you know, Tech Unicorns and the likes?” Absolutely not. So, you know, our client base varies from charities through to healthcare organisations and to some blue chips and a few aspiring. But within it, whatever the product and the service that they're offering is, there are a lot of people there who to them, their work is really important to them, and if there's interference in that or some form of blockage or impairment, we want to remove that. We remove that, so that people go, “This is what I thought I had signed up to and now I'm getting to do it.” And I'll give you a tiny example of that.


We did some work in a local authority up in the North West. And it's a challenging part of the world, really, because it's a mixture of tech investment and very historical former industrial might no longer there. So, you've got age differences, you've got different demographics of that nature and race and religion and social standing. And so, they've got some really hard circles to square there. And they were desperately trying to engage their citizens more on digital services. So, they heard about the work we do to enable more people to play a part in creating those kinds of things. Got us in. We worked with a core of about 100 people and then we walked away after about 8 weeks of working with them. Not solidly, but you know, periodically, and then a few months later they've launched so many really useful digital services, they became Digital Council of the Year.


00:07:51 Andy Goram

Wow!


00:07:52 Perry Timms

They've totally changed how they operate. They are a really responsive.. I mean they out agile Spotify, in many respects, they are so very good, yeah exactly, and this is a local authority, in the northwest, that people would never think of. And so, to be a part of that is something where we go, “That's what we mean by transformation.” They will never be the same again, you know.


00:08:12 Andy Goram

And how much did that common goal, that kind of purpose-understanding, play a role in making that transformation, Perry?


00:08:21 Perry Timms

All of it. All of it. So, actually we came into what I would call, a very well-articulated position on what they wanted to be. But their ability to be like that was just not quite there yet. They just hadn't got the ducks in the row thing and perhaps got rid of some of the bureaucracy that you would associate with the local authority. So, we wanted to respect the things that got them there, but we also wanted to undo some of the self-damage, if you want to call it that. But they didn’t even notice or realise. So, we introduced swifter systems, we changed the mindsets, we broke a few rules, really, on who normally gets engaged in those kind of projects. And I had one person who said to me, “In my 23 years of working in this organisation,” 'cause she'd been there a long time, she said, “I have not felt so much fulfillment as I had in the time I spent doing the things I've been doing the last few months.” That's stuff that sets the hairs on the back of your neck going.

00:09:14 Andy Goram

I couldn't agree more.


00:09:16 Perry Timms

Because it is laser-precision aligned to the things they declared they wanted to be. And she was a manifestation of what it was, yeah.


00:09:24 Andy Goram

I think that's one of the, I guess, not-so-secret issues that we see in businesses today is... maybe not intentional, but a lack of involvement of people all the way through the organisation in creating what you're going to be and understanding how you play your role in it. And I think that's just so sad. It's so sad.


00:09:43 Perry Timms

Yeah, yeah it is. And I don't even think it's necessarily willful or deliberate. It's neglectful in many ways. And yet, you and I know that, when that sort of genome is switched, people are doing incredible feats of outperformance because of that. So, I mean there is this sort of tension, isn't there at the moment, around purpose-led organisations, where some clever organisations have cottoned onto this and are conflating and exaggerating the nature of what they do, to draw people in on that basis. Only to then find they're disappointed when they don't live that virtue. And that's sad too.

00:10:20 Andy Goram

I totally agree with that. I think that whole, say-do gap can be so toxic and a real kind of soul destroyer, because, if you bought someone in on the basis of a purpose that they really connect to, then all of a sudden, “No, that's not really what we're going to be doing, thank you, it’s a marketing thing.” That's disastrous.

00:10:39 Perry Timms

It's kind of fraud, isn't it?


00:10:41 Andy Goram

Yeah, absolute fraud. Great word for it. And I think we've seen good and bad, right, over the last 18 months. But one thing we've definitely seen over the last 18 months is this fragmentation of teams, as we as we've gone forward, I mean, I was literally speaking to a guy I used to work with, only this afternoon and he hasn't been in the office for 18 months and the office doesn't even exist anymore. They were kicked out. And so teams that now were on top of each other all the time are now not together, working practices changed, locations changed. There's been lots of problems for businesses. Some businesses have really struggled while others, others have flourished, Perry, right? And so, what have you seen in the work that you do in this particular area? What’s working? What are the common threads?

00:11:27 Perry Timms

Yeah, so we've got a client right now, who took the decision during the pandemic to again, absolve themselves of their premises because it made no sense. They could see the pandemic was potentially quite a long tail, but equally, I think they used this opportunity to go, “Do you know what? We can do this flexible stuff.” And they were obviously attentive to things like culture and togetherness and so, they were very deliberate about it and said, “Look, this is what we're going to do, and we will work with you to make sure that all the things that you probably thought you were going to lose, we will try and create something that compensates for that.” And so, we joined them after they've made that decision. And what that had realised, is that all the things that they needed to pay attention to were nothing to do with working in proximity to other people. That was almost a charade. It was operational efficiency. It was clarity of, you know, aspirational goals. It was projects that were stalling because there wasn't enough effort in the right place and way. So, we're now working with them, sort of re-engineer their systems. And of course, they're all 100% virtual.

So, I just got off a call with somebody who has stepped in to run an agile project with absolutely no training at all in how to run an agile project. And so, I, you know, I started the call by admiring her bravery for doing so, but equally what she described to me was, it was all about our intent being right, but the process is not lining it up. And she said, “I can see this lines it up.” So, she said, “I'm going with it and we're emerging into it.” She said, “And our first Sprint finishes this week.” And she just wanted a bit of advice about how to get the best out of that 30-minute review. And it's just incredible that we've removed some of the orthodoxies and myths, and we've broken away from those and said, “It wasn't about what we thought it was, because now we've revealed what it really was, and we can solve those problems.”

Now, transversely, there's an organisation that does seem to like to bring its people together, and people seem to like to come together, so they wanted to get that back in. So they said. “OK. At top, we've decided Monday, Friday work from home. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, come into the office.” And they declared that to the people. And then they opened up some chat on it, which was at least good of them to do that. And the responses back from People were, “What do you want us to do on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then?” And the responses came back again, saying, “Well, maybe that's when you do things like your meetings and stuff?” And then, the response to that from a lot of people was, “No. We'll do that on Monday and Friday. If we're coming in, we want to be social, collaborative, creative. All those things.” And actually, they backtracked and said, “OK, tell us what you think the rhythm is”, and they came up with it and they adjusted it. So they were a bit clumsy. And I can see a lot of that. People thinking, we get certainty by making a decision. And some people go, “That's just a decision without the parameters that should be there.” And I think I'm seeing a lot more rejection of those blanket, easy solutions, if you want to call them that. But also they don't want to go into complex uncertainty. So they're saying, “Well, we'll help you decide that.” So, maybe there's a bit more employee activism coming through from this, but that's the sort of thing I'm thinking I'm seeing. Either really, really well thought through application of this or clumsy misfiring stuff, and not mentioning any names, but you know, Canary Wharf organisations spring to mind.


00:14:49 Andy Goram

Yeah, I think that's true. I wonder whether this 18 months has given people some real time to contemplate things on a different level. So not just, “Do I want to be in this business, is there a better place to go?” but, “How do I best perform in the business? What's been the best for me? How am I... I'm working really well at 4:00 AM and I'm getting loads done in two hours that would normally take me all day, how do I make that work at work?”

00:15:19 Perry Timms

Exactly that. Again on a call yesterday, when it was a Conference. So it was that kind of thing and somebody said that's exactly what people have started to realise. Their cadence wasn't what was given to them, so they've hacked it and created their own. And then when people say, go back to that, they’re like, “No, no, I've discovered what really works for me and what really works for me is often what works for my colleagues and my customers.” And so, it's not just an isolated indulgence on me. People have been very considerate from what I can tell, about the implications on supply chain, on colleagues who don't have the choice and have to turn up. I've seen overtures towards and stronger connections being made deliberately because they know those people have no choice. Now that's brought people closer together. Not everybody, but there have been some terrific examples.


00:16:05 Andy Goram

No, I think that's true. I minded to ask you, because I've seen you sort of talk about this before, or at least mention it before, in that this thing about transient teams and how they could potentially swarm together doing stuff to create this antifragile organisation, right? I mean, that sounds like the sort of stuff that would blow my mind, but what do you mean by “The swarming of transient teams.”?

00:16:36 Perry Timms

Yeah, so I mean it sounds like the sort of thing that would be on a TedTalk and everybody would go “Cool! That's interesting” and just carry on regardless. Yeah, because it's word confetti. I mean that's what it is, right? But what we're trying to do is just summarise a concept that's different, to depart people’s thinking from traditional approaches. And I guess so to unpack that what I mean is, we deliberately created our systems in the understanding that work came to us in these nice little finite packages. And we matched the resource and the process to that, to achieve an outcome.


Now if there's one thing I know about the world now, increasingly it's more unlikely that that will ever happen, let alone regularly happen. Because queries are complex, individuals know they've got choice and can take to social media and decry customer service. Whatever it is that's forced this into being, it is not that simple now. So how do you simplify it? Well, you go to where the work is, rather than the work comes to you. That's the metaphorical representation.


Now there is an example, in the world of banking, actually. ING Bank. ING Bank in Canada was subject to a management buyout and it became Tangerine Bank.

00:17:41 Andy Goram

OK.


00:17:49 Perry Timms

And Steve (Peter) Aceto, who was the CEO there, was very much into, “We don't have jobs. We all work for Tangerine Bank. We just happen to have a little frame around it, but there are things we need to do sometimes where we forget that, and we just do what's needed.” So, there was talk of a product launch where literally the FD stopped doing FD work and took to the phones to answer queries about a product launch. Now where on Earth, would that have happened prior to that new kind of thinking? What it did was incredible. It brought people so much closer together because they saw it in action. That they were outperforming competitors on deposits, on like dollars per head performance. And it was such that that banks reputation was, these are people who care, because they don't care about their job description, they care about the outcome and the Purpose. And so, yeah, that's what I mean by this swarm and huddle thing.

And I genuinely think because I've just done some research on research, ironically, and thought leadership, white papers, whatever. Yeah, I’ve mashed together about 40 things out there from Gartner, McKinsey and everybody to try and find the one truth that sat within that. And there was one truth that did keep coming through, and I was kind of pleased it did.


00:19:05 Andy Goram

Right?


00:19:05 Perry Timms

Which was

We've got to stop convincing ourselves we can engineer everything, and we have to think about clever deployment of talent to problems.

That's sort of the summary of it, and that's what I mean by that, so I used it in a discussion yesterday with a very complex organization actually with their global sort heads of HR from different countries and functions, and they totally agreed. I have this concept that the job really doesn't exist anymore apart from in our imagination and recruitment drives, because everything is a project. And everything that's a project needs different ways to assemble a team to do that project and then disassemble and move on to the next thing.

00:19:44 Andy Goram

That's so interesting.

00:19:45 Perry Timms

Production-line stuff, yeah, it doesn't really count.


00:19:46 Andy Goram

That is so interesting because, a lot of...Well, I don't know. This is this isn't real. This is my own experience I guess, but my take on Agile has always been on IT projects, right? It's always been about IT projects. But then if you think about it like you just said, pretty much everything, if I look back now, and but I ended up doing in my career, was a series of connected projects, pretty much, that got divvied out to departments who had ownership.

00:20:13 Perry Timms

Exactly. Exactly that.


00:20:15 Andy Goram

And really, this is about individuals having ownership. And I think I don't know whether this is going on in banking, or not, because I read an example the other day about “Transient teams”, I think it was Deutsche Bank. And the MD of Deutsche Bank was talking about involvement and I guess an old Shingo-ism of “best ideas come from the workers”, and he was talking about his communities of practice E-discussion forum, that he had.


00:20:44 Perry Timms

Yeah.

00:20:46 Andy Goram

And where everybody across the business had an opportunity to talk on a whole range of topics. They could contribute, you know, really feel involved. And I think he called it “Thinking out loud” (actually it was “Working Out Loud”), which I quite liked as a concept. But maybe banks, I don't know, in the past have they been very, very siloed and closed, and now they're sort of opening up the gates, or they had a lot of IT interaction, therefore this stuff has kind of moved in by osmosis. I don't know. What’s your take?

00:21:10 Perry Timms

So, I'm glad you mentioned Deutsche Bank because they are famous and synonymous through John Stepper’s work on Working out loud, exactly that. And that was a buck against the trend, big time in that industry, because it was all about secrets and very discreet things happening, that suddenly became known. But I think Stepper’s work actually said, “You know, we're a hive mind here, let's make that happen.” So yeah, and I think, you know, Don Tapscott, who's a great kind of thought leader who's now really hot on things like cryptocurrency and stuff. He said, “You know the key thing in the 21st century knowledge era is collective intelligence”, right? And that's what that stuff does, right? So, I think you know it isn't just in the banking world, but I think even the banking world has got much more product oriented. It's got much more platform based. It's thinking about additionality of service. It's thinking about experience for People. So, I think they've become much more consumerised, but also very service proposition-lead, not just we're big, so therefore we're OK. Because big doesn't always work, and you know, you look back at the Northern Rock debacle, back in the day. All that, right? So, there are examples where this stuff it's not too big to fail at all. Royal Bank of Scotland in public ownership, etc. But they learned so much, Royal Bank of Scotland, and you wouldn't recognise that place now compared to apparently how it was. So, there's some really, really interesting shifts in that world which you would say are the “Mad Men of the day”, you know? So, we're seeing Starling, Monzo, blah, blah. You know, they're all really shifting the dynamic. And Fintech and Biotech are two huge industries in Silicon Valley, attracting investment, because moving money and keeping people healthy is kind of the big-ticket stuff I suppose.

00:22:57 Andy Goram

There you go.


00:22:58 Perry Timms

So, I think they've had to adapt. Whether that started with things like the “PayPal mafia” and almost glamorising the financial side, I think maybe. But it's so different now, yeah?


00:23:10 Andy Goram

It's interesting, isn't it? I think this is what then, why you need... if you’re going to disperse stuff through project ownership, right, and we'll probably talk about self-managing teams and what have you in a second. But this to me is why we need those other constructs of, a really clear purpose, really clear common goals, and you know my old history, a very strong brand proposition. Because if you've got lots of people working on projects, you need that backbone to kind of pull you back in, like that anchor point right?


00:23:39 Perry Timms

Amen, Amen.

00:23:40 Andy Goram

And so, let's then think about this, “If it's not departments, it's people.” And we're talking about this empowerment, if you like, to have self-managed teams. I think productivity constantly comes up in the sort of work that you do. The sort of work that I talk about, with Engagement, and yet, we've busted a tonne of myths, right, over the last 18 months, about how people working autonomously is a bad thing. Like, “We must spy on them. We must control them”, right? So how is the world of self-managed teams moving from what you see?

00:24:15 Perry Timms

Umm. So, if I loop back to start off with, about your marketing proposition and so on and so forth.

00:24:20 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah.


00:24:21 Perry Timms

That whole “Audience of one” thing, has kind of come into the work market too. Because I think, if we take a particular sort of calibre of person, who's got a demonstrable understanding of the work they're doing and where they want to go with it, and so on and so forth. So, you know, they've made some conscious decisions and what have you. They are thinking of themselves as an audience of one and they are saying, “What’s this about for me?” But often, that's a projection then into, “But what can I contribute?” And this is where it's perhaps a healthy projection that's bigger than me? Because if I'm belonging to something bigger than me, there is a trail of psychology research that says that's when you'll get like fulfillment and happiness at work. Because it's not about stroking your ego. It's you belonging to something that makes a difference. And if you talk to anybody about what they like most about their work, they'll often say, “Making a difference.”


00:25:13 Andy Goram

There you go.

00:25:14 Perry Timms

It's quite ethereal, right? So this audience of one, making a difference thing, is where I think self-management has a really strong part to play in exercising that. Because it then says I've got agency. I can make choices. I can even float conceptual ideas type-thing and people will say, “I'm interested. Let's give it a go!” I know that I could potentially step in and own that. To the point that I can prove it. And that makes a huge difference in people's loyalty and feeling of commitment that the organization entrusts them with a concept like that. Because this whole sense of how do we improve and how do we innovate, is often like you've said before; there are people spotting things like this all the time. And if there's no channel of that into the machinery, the machinery will never adjust itself. People will adjust that system. So, the system of self-management that prevails, is something that's strong, that needs attention and stimulation from people. Because either it will create laissez-faire, you know indulgences, or it will create that togetherness, and that real antifragile thing you talked about earlier on. Because agency has to come with responsibility. A bit like the Spiderman quote, right?


00:26:29 Andy Goram

Haha...


00:26:31 Perry Timms

Yeah, it is a bit like that. So, I really do say to people if they're inquiring about self-management, it's like, you do know that actually this is a quite hard. But it's people have to step into a level of responsibility and accountability that they may not wish for, once they know what it means. 'Cause it does stop with them. So, the audience of one thing is also, “It stops with me.” That's the trade with this. I think if you don't know that, you will struggle.

00:26:58 Andy Goram

It must also link to your point about people feeling more fulfilled and positive to the sort of... Dan Pink – Drive, piece, right?

00:27:07 Perry Timms

Totally that.

00:27:08 Andy Goram

Like you know, autonomy, mastery and purpose, right?

00:27:11 Perry Timms

… Mastery and Purpose. Yeah yeah.

00:27:12 Andy Goram

I mean that all links up to me. And I think underneath all of that, as there always is with the people engagement thing, is this underlying platform of trust. But perhaps in Self-managed teams, more of a focus on trust in your colleague, rather than the leadership and organisation’s past performance, right?

00:27:34 Perry Timms

Yeah it is, it is. It absolutely is you have to trust your colleagues have your back. You have to trust your colleagues do their share. You have to trust your colleagues to let you in on the conversations you should be in and be inclusive and so on. But you do also have to trust your leaders that that vision, perhaps, that they've set that you're signed up to is absolutely the vision.

Now what I found really interesting, again in some of the examples I've looked at. So let let's take Jos de Blok at Buurtzorg, the very famous Netherlands nursing organisation. 100% self-managed, scaled, highest level of health patient satisfaction in the world. Jos will admit he doesn't always get that bit right. When they were trying to resolve overtime, so that he could have a delegated budgetary responsibility in those teams, he thought it’d be really good if he said, “I'll give you some parameters to help make that easy for you.” And actually, the Buurtzorg nurses came back and went, “Jos, we don't need you. We honestly don’t need you.” They pushed back on it. So that was a sort of, if you want, a vision where he thought, “I can be helpful”, that they actually said, “We can work this out.” So, it's really interesting when the maturity of the organisation is that strong, the leader said, “OK, you don't need me for that, so what do you need me for?” And they would say stuff like, “Evangelise. Get more of this out there. We want you to be doing that.” And for some CEO's, that's like a gift of a job, right? So, he got given that, I think, really by his own people.

And Dan Price at Gravity Payments. He cut his own salary by thousands and thousands of dollars and at the end of the tenure for people having $70,000 across the board, his team chipped in and bought him a Tesla to show they appreciated that. This is it...


00:29:20 Andy Goram

That's nice, thanks very much.

00:29:22 Perry Timms

Exactly. You create the harmony and the music happens. It really, really does. And so, there's been some research recently by a couple of people who've featured in Harvard Business Review from Yale and University of Michigan – purpose, business performance and retention, and everything else, inextricably linked. Absolutely causal. And the CBI this week, issued a report pretty much saying, if you want to be successful you have to get this purpose right. 'Cause if you don't you won't. Simple as that. CBI said that!


00:29:54 Andy Goram

I mean, I read that, and I was like jumping up and down in my little... in the little corner of my living room, going, “Yay!” Finally, we maybe will get some real movement on this now and maybe it won't be in the in the rubbish sector of, “We're going to change the world with every biscuit we sell.” And it's going to be rooted in what employees actually see themselves doing, right, on a daily basis.

00:30:18 Perry Timms

Exactly that. What do we stand for? Who do we stand with as well? That's also very important, you know, allyship and social economic issues and so on. That's getting more important now. You can see how some of that manifested itself last year, with companies who were a little bit fake or neglectful of standing in Black Lives Matter, or Me Too-type things. And so, all that is coming through as well. And, you know, I was really disappointed with the Basecamp stuff when that all came out about, rejecting all sorts of things that happened there, people just left in droves, didn’t they?


00:30:52 Andy Goram

Well, I think that's happening in a load of places, but maybe back to what you talked about earlier, in this rejection of being told what to do, or people can see through virtue-signaling and if it’s not genuine or authentic, right?

00:31:08 Perry Timms

Yeah. Totally right.

00:31:08 Andy Goram

Yeah, and this is where I think purpose gets into trouble. Because people want to be seen as being a socially, environmentally good citizen, but they just go off on a massive tangent that has no bearing in what they're really doing.


00:31:21 Perry Timms

I know. Absolutely that.

00:31:23 Andy Goram

It's a waste of... well, it's a waste of people’s time and energy, because they just get confused, disappointed and move on.


00:31:32 Perry Timms

Yeah, absolutely that. So, it's almost like if you fake it and get caught, that's worse than never trying it at all. So, it's almost like you can semi-forgive those people who don't stand in that space at all and just kind of go, “Well, I extract from The Earth. I don't know what else to do” versus, those people who say, “No, no, no, we're not like that.” Oh yeah, you are. You fly around the world and you do all this stupid stuff. So, you know it is genuinely... The fakers don't take as long to get caught now, either. There's a lot more scrutiny and lot more lenses on here. A lot more willing participants will stand up and object to it and say why, and have evidence for it.

So, (Dr.) Megan Reitz out of Ashridge management schools, written some terrific stuff on employee activism. And to me it's where perhaps, the trade unions should have stood in the space of, because they're missing a trick, I think, on this influence, purpose, shape how you behave, get the virtues right, and so on and so forth. So, you know, if you're a unionist listening to this, that's where you need to be. Go where people are at. And that's where they're at. Yes, they like the fact you negotiate pay and keep them in fair working conditions, but that's a bottom rung. There's a higher level of stuff you can play in that adds real value. And they should be in that space.

00:32:45 Andy Goram

100%. Before we get into summaries and what have you, if we think about all the great things we've talked about. Liberating things that we've talked about. What do you see as the primary benefits of creating stronger, more flexible, this self-managed teams, as we move forward, Perry?

00:33:03 Perry Timms

So, I will start this answer by saying, I am perhaps overly eulogising this. I can hear people saying, “Hang on a minute, that ain't gonna work in my place. Do you know what I mean?” And you might rightly think that. But actually, the mood is shifting. So be alert, because it'll only take a player in your market space to offer this stuff, and all of a sudden people will move. Business will move and the other place will die. So, I think there is a transience to that, and there is a transference, I think, of more virtuous companies who stand in the right spaces and what have you. So yeah, but if it doesn't feel like it will now, hold your nerve because it will start to come.

But going back to your question then, I think if I use that collective intelligence phrase as just one lens to look at now, we are “literally drowning in data but devoid of insight.” I saw that quote today, right. That's not mine. I saw it today. However, the essence of where you can get the insight is often where people are enabling you to zoom in on that really super-quickly, because they hear customers, they see markets, they know how colleagues feel. So self-managed organisations absolutely cannot exist without collective intelligence, because there is no one focal point where it all comes and trickles down. It's literally like a village life where everybody is looking out for every sign of danger, opportunity, support, care, whatever. So, I think it's that it's all eyes on the prize type thing. But then the other thing I think it generates is this strong togetherness feel that we've been trying to engage people in and use engagement as a lens to look at, and perhaps perk it and stimulate it and prod it. Actually, it happens when people feel it and it exudes and it becomes a force field of its own. You only really get that when you liberate people in order for them to create it. So, I think you know those two things are so important. Intelligence and togetherness. And if you want to get the best out of those, my suggestion is the self-managed system creates it and you need to then get the system that channels it, and really gets it in shape that helps you and the business and the colleagues that you've got.

And I'll use an example here of an organisation in The States that have got it in droves. And Barry Wehmiller - I talk about him a lot, but in the financial crash of 2008, the CEO there, Bob Chapman, was getting prepared to do the layoff-type calculations and he stopped himself. And he brought his board back and he went, “I don't want to do this because these people are family to me. Even though there's thousands of them.” He said, “Why don't we just ask them what we can do to tighten up and survive?” The response was phenomenal. There were people who forgave all their pension contributions for however long it took. People who stepped down in hours to share it amongst colleagues. People who left and said, “I'll go because somebody else can do my job.” All sorts of things happened. They saved something like $20 million by that self-crafted, self-managed, crowdsourced exercise. Well, they're not really self-managed in the true sense of the word, but that recovery was. They then posted their best year ever, two years later.

00:36:14 Andy Goram

Amazing. What a story.

00:36:15 Perry Timms

There's the result, I think, yeah.


00:36:17 Andy Goram

What a story. Uh, I'm sitting here thinking was there ever a man with a more apt title with Chief Energy Officer, 'cause I'm sitting here buzzing. Absolutely buzzing. But I have to kind of bring this to some sort of summary, Perry, even though I would just love to continue talking about this forever.

So, I have this thing on my show called Sticky Notes, right, which is my daft attempt to summarise the amazing stuff that you've talked about today, on three post-it notes, right?

00:36:44 Perry Timms

Hmmmm. Three post-it notes...


00:36:44 Andy Goram

So, if you're trying to give some worldly wisdom to people thinking about this stuff and what they've got to do to make this stuff happen, what would your three sticky notes say, my friend?

00:36:55 Perry Timms

OK, so my first sticky note is, “It is all about teams.” So, disaggregate decisions. Start to create the essence of change at team level. Give teams the responsibility and the support to make changes that work for them in conjunction with their fellow teams. But we've got to stop this top-down trickley thing. That is not how this works. It's teams-out, so I think that's my first post-it note.


00:37:24 Andy Goram

Nice. Teams-out.


00:37:24 Perry Timms

Yeah. My second post-it note would be more on the sort of, I suppose, attitudes, and so on, that leaders exude. You don't have to be a warrior. You don't have to be the hero. You don't have to be the know-it-all. In this research I did recently, there was a lovely phrase, it said, “Move from know-it-all, to learn-it-all.”

00:37:46 Andy Goram

That's good

00:37:47 Perry Timms

I love it. So as a leader just say to your people, “Just help me learn, and I'll make the decisions and set the vision, but I need you to help me learn.” And I can't think of any better invite from leader.


00:37:57 Andy Goram

That's great.

00:37:58 Perry Timms

Yeah, so that's my second post-it note. And then, I think my third post-it note is that “You've got to do something and the something can be seemingly really small, but it's normally symbolic.” There's a change theory by Chip and Dan Heath, who wrote a couple of books on change, and they have what they call, “The attic test.” If you want to empty your attic of crap, set yourself a timer for 15 minutes a day, to empty your attic at 15-minute sprints. And what Chip and Dan Heath said, two things happen there. Either you do that, and you really break the back of it in 15 minutes sprints, or you’re up there for 15 minutes and think, “I might as well do a couple of hours and make it happen,” right?


So never talk yourself out of doing something, because that chain reaction will create the sort of seismic shift you want in the end, but never stare at a problem that's big. Break it down. Do something.


That's my third post-it note.


00:38:54 Andy Goram

I am sitting here with such a full head, Perry, after that. Absolutely brilliant. I knew you would cause my brain problems and I've loved every second of it, my friend. I know you're an incredibly busy guy, so I can't thank you enough for coming on today.

Just brilliant. Well, look thanks Perry. I hope I get to see you again very, very soon, and get the chance to continue this chat.

00:39:16 Perry Timms

It's on, yeah! Let's do it mate. Thanks very much.


00:39:19 Andy Goram

Cheers, buddy. Well look, that was Perry Timms. If you'd like to find out a bit more about Perry and People and Transformational HR then please check out our show notes.


00:39:35 Andy Goram

That concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside, going forward.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe. It really helps.

I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to The Sticky From the Inside Podcast.

Until next time, thanks for listening.

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