Re-Imagining Effective Work

Diebold on Re-Imagining Effective Work: Executives Don’t Have to Work Out of Head Office

Diebold, an ATM manufacturer, features in a recent profile in Bloomberg BusinessWeek for its approach to finding and hiring senior executives:

Unlike a typical chief executive officer, Diebold CEO Andy Mattes can’t just stroll down the hall at his company’s headquarters in Canton, Ohio, to confer with his top executives over coffee. That’s because many don’t work there. His chief strategist works and lives 2,100 miles away in San Jose; his chief marketing officer is in Boston. Since taking the helm of the big maker of ATMs two years ago, Mattes has replaced about 60 percent of Diebold’s top 100 executives—with two-thirds of them stationed full time far from the head office.

For Mattes, building a virtual management team is crucial to Diebold’s turnaround. The company’s sales and profits had been declining for several years before his arrival, and his predecessor left after a foreign bribery scandal. To restore credibility and growth, Mattes knew he had to expand Diebold’s software and services business so the company could offer banks and other customers more than hardware.

In Re-Imagining Effective Work I look at how new technology enables a change in not just work practice, but also organizational structure, organizational culture, and even business model. Diebold was facing a set of challenges that called for new thinking. For example:
– the talent pool for senior executives near head office was shallow, and few wanted to shift into the area.
– the organization was experiencing difficult times, with sales and profits declining and a bribery scandal.

The result? A willingness / drive to find the best qualified executives regardless of their physical location. And by implication, a strong embrace of remote communication tools and approaches to enable executive interaction. Here’s what I picked up from the article:
– the CEO has a weekly teleconference on Monday morning with about 12 executives to sync up for the week.
– the CEO talks daily with some of his direct reports.
– the CEO meets face-to-face with direct reports whenever they visit head office, or when travel paths intersect.
– most executives spend a couple of days per month at head office.
– one executive asked his employees to send him a text message when they want to talk, instead of sharing long emails.

What’s missing from the list are tools like video conferencing, collaborative workspaces, and a social business tool. I can’t tell from the article whether Diebold explored these and rejected them as unworkable, or just hasn’t gone there yet. There would be many benefits for the firm in exploring the possibilities of online collaboration tools in light of the business pressures currently faced.

(From this video and this case study it looks like Diebold has a strong relationship with Microsoft for in-market innovation. Various Microsoft tools could also be leveraged to assist with in-firm innovation).