On a recent trip to the West Coast, I visited with
PG&E CIO Patricia Lawicki at her
company’s headquarters in San Francisco. PG&E
emerged from bankruptcy protection a few years ago with an
almost completely new executive team and a major
transformation effort ahead of it. The new CEO, Peter
Darbee, began the turnaround with a culture change.
According to Lawicki, company directors and their direct
reports went through weeks of facilitated sessions to both
define a set of values everyone would live by as well as to map
out how those values would be demonstrated in the daily life of
the company. The values include acting with integrity,
communicating openly and honestly, respecting each other,
meeting customer and shareholder needs, and being accountable.
The values are supported by a set of dictums and concepts to
help bring them to life.
One that I found personally relevant is “Be here
now.” Borrowed from the title of a 1971 book on
spirituality by Ram Dass (or an album by the rock band Oasis,
depending on your orientation), the idea is that whatever
you are currently spending your time on should be important
enough to give it your full attention. No beneath-the-table
BlackBerry fiddling in meetings; no IM
while on the phone, no thinking about a work problem when
your kid is telling you about her day. As an incorrigible
multitasker, this was a powerful message for me.
PG&E reinforces these ideas with wallet cards and
posters in the halls. At every staff meeting, one of
Lawicki’s direct reports explains how he or she has
embodied one of the concepts in the past month.
“I’ve been through these exercises before, where
you spend a few weeks coming up with your vision and values
statement, then it goes in a drawer,” Lawicki said.
“We didn’t want that to happen.”
Attendees at August’s CIO 100 Symposium were treated to a
variation on this theme by Dewitt Jones, the renowned National
Geographic photographer. He urged the audience to “see
the extraordinary in the ordinary” and to ask,
“What will I be given today, and will I be open enough
to receive it?”
For me, these simple ideas are a means to demonstrate
greater respect for the people around me and achieve a greater
sense of personal fulfillment. I suspect they will enhance my
effectiveness as well. Not bad for three small words.