Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

desire1Change management is coaching. Coaching is teaching. Teaching is helping someone learn. Learning to learn is change management.

Round and round we go. A bit circular. A bit abstract. If everything is everything, then nothing is everything. Oh boy, getting a little deep there. We won’t go there. Maybe some place a little lighter.

Reminds me of a scene from the Tom Hanks movie “Volunteers”:

Chung Mee: Opium is my business. The bridge mean more traffic. More traffic mean more money. More money mean more power.
Lawrence Bourne III: Yeah, well, before I commit any of that to memory, would there be anything in this for me?
Chung Mee: Speed is important in business. Time is money.
Lawrence Bourne III: You said opium was money.
Chung Mee: Money is Money.
Lawrence Bourne III: Well then, what is time again?

But seriously, isn’t change management at its heart essentially targeted coaching? Obviously I think the answer is yes. Perhaps coaching of a manager or a management team or a project team or an operations team.

Let’s try another round about.

Change requires coaching. Coaching requires motivation. Motivation requires desires. Desires are emotions. Emotions spur change.

I’m getting dizzy. Yet we keep ending up in the same place. Change. Change requires learning and learning requires desire.

Desire. What is desire? A dictionary tells me it’s a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.  Sounds good to me.

The trick in change management is finding out what that something is. Because that something is different for almost everyone.

In the process engineering world I know we almost always think that something is a number. A throughput number or a quality number. In the sales world I’m sure it’s often number of units sold or percentage of quotas met. It is not a number.

Our basic desires don’t speak in numbers. They speak in emotions: love, respect, recognition, pride, fulfillment, and so on. Find out what emotional desire they want to fill. That is the most important step.

Then and only then do you begin to ask how to achieve that. That’s when numbers come into play. That’s when data is important. Data helps us make decisions. Decisions that drive us toward our desired something.

I ran across some wonderful YouTube videos form Mike Lally on coaching. Does a much better job than I could at explaining the role of emotion in coaching.  How to Coach with Emotional Intelligence. Check him out. He has a good website as well.

I’ll leave you with this. Find your desire.

 

perspective1

Danger, what Danger?

The advantages of being a change agent often come from being outside the process or the culture. We get to look at it from a different angle. We also have tools and skills that help us leverage that perspective. We can bring a breath of fresh air.

Or we can be annoying. I know, it’s hard to believe. We’re here to help. How can that be bad?  True, it’s not always our fault. You can work with groups that are in defensive mode, or jaded mode or cynic mode and will initiate those behaviors as soon as you walk in the door.

But sometimes it is our fault. Heaven knows I’ve fallen into the pit more than once. I have scars to prove it.

Besides being a charming cult of personality, what are some ways to avoid some of those pitfalls? Let’s take a look.

The Pit of Objectivity

This one is usually covered by branches of good intentions. We mean well.  Really, we do. But we often confuse having perspective with being objective. I hate to break it to you but not one of us is objective. Not a single one. We might not have the cultural baggage but we are not objective.

We come with process biases, strategic opinions, schools of thought, methodology approaches. All of which are good. And all of which will influence your interaction with your team. That’s OK. But it’s not objective. You know it and I know it and more importantly the team knows it.

How do we avoid this? A couple options. One: Do not tell them you are objective. Don’t bring it up or use the word at all. Two: Specifically tell them you are not objective for the exact reasons stated above.

Instead tell them how you are going to interact with. Tell them where you come from and what your philosophies are. And then show them.

The Pit of Ego

This is a tough one. It’s hiding in plain sight. We’re experts. We’re good at what we do. We need to have confidence in that. We need to have a healthy ego.  No one wants to follow someone who lacks surety.

So we have to talk about what we know. We have to talk about what we’ve done and seen. We have to illustrate some of our skills and knowledge. This is indeed necessary. The problem is that we are talking a lot about ourselves. A lot.

The team might start seeing us as the talking head, the expert from out of town, the know it all. In fact the team might give us a little nudge into the Pit of Ego.

How do we avoid this? Redirection.  Always, always, always bring it back to the team. Never end an exposition without bringing it back to the team or the project. This is what I know. This is what I see. Then. What do you see? What do you know? How is my perspective valid? How is my perspective not valid?

The best thing about this approach is that you can even use it if they’ve already pushed you in the pit. Bring it back to the team. They might even help you out.

The Pit of Immersion

Or sometimes called going native. This is a pitfall where we perhaps do not become annoying but ineffectual.  Out of good intentions, of course. We perhaps try so hard not to be annoying that we pass from empathy for their situation to sympathy. We take up their cause. We see and champion all the wrongs that stop them from moving on.

We often do this with jaded and cynical teams. We do it to build trust.  But we move in closer and closer and soon are in the middle and have lost whatever perspective we had. We’ve gone native.

How do we avoid this? Keep going back to the goal, your mission, your objective. We must ask ourselves repeatedly, what are we trying to achieve?

If the team is too jaded and defensive to buy into the objective, the objective needs to change. The objective needs to be to change their attitude. We need to be aware of how we’re achieving trust and not fall into the Pit of Immersion.

bars

Are the bars limitations?

Change is everywhere, believe me…

I was listening to a health and nutrition podcast the other day in the car. The host was talking to a caller who had some health issues. He was giving advice on the right nutrition and other steps that could be taken to address the issues.  Then he said something I wasn’t expecting. He asked “Do you know what a kaizen is?”

I raised my hand and said “Ooh, ooh, I do.” Essentially the host said while what I’m telling you may seem overwhelming the key is to make small changes. Yes!

Overwhelming. That’s what it feels like so often when faced with a need to change.

My favorite example of this is at companies who are so dependent on software. The truth one has to come to grips with immediately is that most of these companies would not be able to survive without the software. The dependence on software and technology gadgets will become even greater. This is awesome.

But the business world is fluid, ever changing. Unfortunately, as softwares and companies grow larger and larger their agility becomes more and more limited. Their ability to flex cannot keep pace with the demand to change. The software becomes our prison bars, caging our need to change.

Curse you, software teams. Why can’t you keep up? If we only had this change or that change we would be awesome.

Wait, wait. That’s not going to help, is it? That’s like cursing the sun for coming up every morning. Futile and filled with negativity.

No, best to apply the Serenity Prayer:

Give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed
The courage to change what can be changed,
and the wisdom to know the one from the other.

And what do I know that I can change without coding? Behaviors and process. I can work to change attitudes and approaches to process and culture.

It reminds me of a legend about Dr. Seuss. The legend goes that he wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” on a bet that he couldn’t write a children’s story with only 50 words, obviously an extremely limited and arbitrary set of conditions. But look at the masterful and creative result. A result very much influenced by the limits placed upon the process.  Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

So think of software not as a limitation but an environmental situation that calls for creative solutions.  My mantra is always to use software as a last resort.

I do not ask for software changes.
Not in a day
Not in a week
I do not ask for them
With a plan
I do not ask for them
From the man
I do not ask for them
With a promise
I do not ask for them
With a kiss
I do not ask for software changes

vote1

I had a daydream about a change meeting the other day that went like this. Heaven knows what manager would let me do this but it would be intriguing to see it play out.

The scene: Meeting room with a team whose manager has asked me to mentor on changing culture.

The actors: Myself, team manager, fifteen team members

Good morning. My name is Joe. I’m a change agent. Manager Bob has asked me to help create a culture more adept at creating and dealing with change.

I know you’re thinking  “Oh great, another consultant come to tell us how to do our jobs.” Fair enough. And in some ways that is true. But in most ways it is not.

Think of me as an architect helping you build your house. You brought me in because you want me to help you design a  really cool house. I am not here to tell you what kind of house to build. I’m not here to tell you how many rooms you need.  I’m not going to tell you what amenities you should have. That’s not my job. That’s your job. Because frankly, I don’t know.

What I am here to do is help you make decisions, to learn new ways to make decisions. As an architect I might help bring issues like physical limitations or repercussions. You may want to have a pool above the garage. My job is to tell you that might require different engineering and a different budget. Oh, you want a four season porch.  It’s my job to talk about the different heating options you may not know about. Or to probe about how you will use it so the design can reflect that.

You see it’s my job to introduce you to methods or approaches or attitudes about work that needs to get done that may be new to you. And not just to you but to Bob as well. So not only are you going to be introduced to unfamiliar things so is Bob. Because if you are going to change the way you work and approach work so will Bob need to change.

But at the end of the day what I want is for you to learn new methods and approaches and acquires a new attitude about change so you don’t need me. I want you to think in a new way. We want the culture itself to change and that is all about you.

The key to achieving that is attitude. Change is about attitude. It’s about belief that change can happen. It’s about desire to learn how to control that change.

Here is the deal. If you don’t think things need to get better. If you don’t think things can or will change. If you think this is a waste of time.  If you are just going to go through the motions. Then I don’t need to be here. A lot of time will be wasted and no one wants that.

That’s not to say you can’t be cynical. That’s not to say you can’t question.  That’s not to say you can’t offer alternatives.

So what we’re going to do is vote. Voting will be anonymous and majority rules. Manager Bob will count the votes. You just have to answer this question Yes or No.

Do you think things can get better?

If more than fifty percent believe we can change, we’ll get to work.

If more than fifty percent believe we can’t, I’m out of here.

Thank you.

translate1a

We are always harping the mantra of communicate, communicate, communicate. You can’t communicate too much is what we say. Just keep getting the word out there.

But what I like to follow that with is “Know your audience or lose your audience.”  If your audience tunes you out, you’ll get nowhere.

So you need to know your audience. You need to know how they communicate. Within any given project  there will be different communication  styles or preferences.  You need to be nimble and flexible in your communication style. And sometimes you need to know the difference between how they tell you to communicate with them and what will really reach them.  Understanding the vernacular is what I would call it.

Pay attention to how the members within different groupings communicate out. Essentially, how do the locals communicate with each other? The vernacular. Incorporating elements from their style can make it more familiar, easier to digest.

This is not to say that you need to give up your preferred style altogether but be aware your job is to communicate not win a Pulitzer. Know your audience.

Gauge their level of sophistication. Gauge their depth of knowledge. Gauge their awareness of the nomenclature.

Fancy Powerpoints with big words and big concepts is good for your colleagues and upper management but not may not work so well on the project team.  That’s not to say the project team won’t understand but they may be turned off by what they consider to be consultantese and ivory tower BS. Your job is to communicate with them, not impress them. They’ll be more impressed if you talk to them on an equal footing. Throw your template out the window. Ask your self, How would they communicate?

To know your audience you’re going to have to spend some time communicating with them, hanging out with them, testing the waters, drinking the Kool Aid. No wait. Scratch that. Do not drink the Kool Aid.

Oh, that reminds me of another trick. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Dare to be irreverent. Dare to show that you’re human. People like humans. We want change to be normal and comfortable and yet we end up sounding like robots. Don’t sound like a robot. Sound like a human. You are human, aren’t you?

So what if this kind of communication is not your strong point? Writing or speaking publicly is not your thing. That’s OK. Don’t panic.

Pair with someone who has these skills. Whether it is a fellow change agent or an internal team member. Find the person who can help you. It’s like using a translator. There’s nothing wrong with using a translator. I’ve translated for a lot of people. It can be a good partnership. Learn from your partner.

But I’m not letting you off the hook that easy. You still need to work on communications. Especially paying attention to how other people communicate. It can tell you a great deal. Just take it slow. Make it a point to be more aware of how people communicate. It’s worth it.

Here’s a good article on writing a speech. It makes come good point about tailoring your message to your audience.  Take a look.

https://www.boundless.com/communications/informative-speaking/effective-informative-speaking/tailor-complexity-to-your-audience/

fork1

Something’s wrong. Maybe the data is telling you. Maybe your gut is telling you. Either way, you know you’re on the wrong path. It’s not that you’ve even failed yet. It’s just not going to work and you know it.

And you’re the one who insisted you take the path. You were so sure. It’s OK. No one’s perfect. But you know this isn’t working.

Now what?  Obviously, you need to steer the team to a new course. So buck up and own up.

What are your options for doing that? Here are two.

Be the Expert

You would do this when you feel the team still needs stronger direction or illustration of how to change course. In this case you would work to present the case for why.  That means digging into the data or your guts and finding the root cause for your discomfort.  Illuminating the obstacle or the dead end that you see.

You may also need to propose the alternative path. Again this will require you to have done your homework on what a better path is and the rationale for taking it. You could also present multiple options.

The key here is knowing where the team is developmentally and psychologically. Will they accept your leading them?

Be the Guide

In being the guide you almost follow the same steps above in that you still need to make your case for changing course. You even need to explore what alternatives you would take.

But as the guide you make your case for change but you don’t tell them the alternatives. You go through some exercise to help them choose an alternative. You’re still the guide so you make sure they don’t get off track. You make sure the goal is still intact.

It’s a good opportunity for the team to learn and gain experience.

The key here is knowing where the team is developmentally and psychologically as well. Are they ready to do some heavy lifting? If so, this is the way to go.

Of course, I am sure there are other options out there to communicate a need for changing course. The key is to understand where your team is developmentally, psychologically and even emotionally.

Turn the wheel and off you go.

 

prohibition_poster3Change and politics don’t mix. They don’t mix in government and they don’t mix in business. We don’t like to talk about politics. It’s taboo. Oh well, here we go anyway.

You see sometimes politics like change. If it sees advantage in it. Sometime politics dislike change. If it sees it as threatening to the status quo. And of course politics are fickle. Change that was good may abruptly become bad. Or the other way around. Makes you skittish to deal with it. You lose trust. Losing trust is bad.

I talk about politics as some abstract concept, which it is, but on practical level it is about leaders and managers. And leaders and managers are people. People whose behavior can be changed.

Politics happen for all kinds of reasons. The ones I see as most destructive to change are leaders jumping ion the latest management craze or jumping on the band wagon of the latest and hottest manager. I don’t know that either of these is avoidable and necessarily all bad.

The problem is that existing  improvement initiatives get the heave ho. Creating an environment of starts and stops. Attempts at improvements become out of joint, as Shakespeare might say.

I guess you might say we need to get used to it. This is after all a sort of ongoing change that we should know how to handle. But I’d rather not get used to it. To me these stops and starts caused by politics are juts chaos. It doesn’t have to be like this. We can change it.

I wrote about managing managers a bit ago in this blog: Change Managing the Management:  It was about educating managers about how change works. This is piece of the puzzle.

It’s not the whole puzzle. The other piece in the puzzle is awareness. Awareness of the ramifications and repercussions of swaying with the political winds.

We sometimes think everyone is in tune with all the ramifications of choices.  Unfortunately, they’re not. And the more they’re not in tune the more the term “unintended consequences” comes up. It’s not good when that term comes up.

Yes, there are certainly times in any situation that you can get bit by unintended consequences bug. But you’d much rather be bit by the unintended consequences complexity bug than by the unintended consequences clueless bug.

How do you teach someone to be more aware? That’s a tough one.

You could be blunt and say ” Hey, let’s not be that guy.” That might work. Make sure to know your audience on that one.

You can certainly start with education and communication like I mention in Change Managing the Management. This is always a good path to enlightenment.

But I like metaphors or analogies to spread complex ideas.

A good analogy for unintended consequences is Prohibition.  Prohibition is a good metaphor because it was clearly political. It had good intentions. And it snapped into place in the snap of a finger.

Unintended consequence heaven. That’s what it was. And it’s a good example because some were good and many were bad.

Increases in alcohol poisoning, DUI arrests, prison inmates, organized crime and so. Lot’s of fascinating stories out there on this.

Here’s a nice infographgic:  America’s Hangover: Prohibitions Unintended Consequences

 

Change One Person at a Time

light2We like to talk about process change. We like to talk about cultural change. About organizational change. We like to talk about big picture change.

But change is fundamentally about people changing. In fact it is about one person changing at a time. Because change is, at the end of the day, well, personal.

And we don’t like to change. It’s hard. It’s hard even for those who embrace change.

We know that to help change along we need to talk about the benefits. We need to talk about how the need for change isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just a need, a constant need. We know about good goals and good communication.

But what about me? This is about my personal relationship with change not some need or goal or mission statement. It’s about me. The individual.

I always like to tell people that you change the world one interaction at a time, one choice at a time. You hold the door for someone carrying a bag. You smile at a stranger. You buy local. One interaction at a time.

It’s the same for business change. You change the organization one person at a time. One interaction with that person at a time.

It’s like being a guidance counselor. You talk to individuals about their needs, about how they react to change. Each person’s relationship with change will be different. Some will be nervous. Some will be afraid. Some will be resistant. Some will be bitter. Some will be cynical. Some will be all for it.

Find out. Find out for each person. What are their concerns. What are their needs.

Their needs may have nothing specific to do with the given project. Assuage their fears. Help them understand process. Get them engaged and remove the unknown. Or other behavioral options that might be called for.

Bring them enlightenment.  Don’t be the light. Give them the light.

Help the person with change and you help everyone and everything. And yes, it takes time. It’s time well spent.  Teach people to change and they will change the world.

RedAlert1Failure. It will happen. You don’t know when and you don’t know where. But it will happen.

It’ll be annoying and it’ll come at the worst possible moment. It’ll be unwelcome and it’ll be unexpected.

That’s OK. It happens to everyone. It needs to happen. It means you are pushing boundaries. Looking to make real change. It’s these failures and adversities that test and develop your leadership skills. It’s not whether you fail.  It’s how you react when you do. In this care it is not only about how you react but how the whole team reacts.

I’m not going to talk about how to avoid failures and do a better job. Initiatives can fail for so many reasons. Most of my posts talk about how to do it right. This is about how to succeed at failing.

It’s like being a boy scout. Be prepared.

Deal with the psychology. Prep the team. Make sure to let them know that sometimes things fail. I know it can be tricky to talk about failure with a new team that is already skeptical. The downside of not taking about it is when you fail and the skeptics get to say, “Ha, I told you so.” You need to talk about it. It just doesn’t have to be the first thing out of your mouth. Sometime after you have covered the basic concepts and goals and tactics is a good time. Instill confidence, then instill reality.

Communicate the reaction plan. Some variation of PDCA (Plan Do Check Adjust).  Avoid the message that this is our Code Red Disaster Plan. Convey the message that this is our process regardless of the degree of success or the degree of failure. If necessary, you can emphasize the Adjust part.  Progress is a continuum of adjustments, not an end point. Adjusting to failure is a part of normal operating procedure.

Focus on the education. Reacting to failure is a learning process. This is how we learn. This is how we get better. Let them know that you’ll find the right tool to react to the situation at the time. Since we don’t know how it might fail, we don’t know what tool we’ll use. That’s OK. We’ll find the right tool then. If we don’t understand the tool, we’ll figure it out. One more learning experience.

You could get clichéd and say failures are opportunities. I wouldn’t, but you could.

 

sysiphus1

I’m a change agent. I know I’m a change agent. It’s my job to help things move along the change continuum.

But things don’t easily change if I’m the only change agent on the project. The inertia that is resisting change is just too substantial for one person to move. You need help. You need people from the project team to be change agents as well.

I’m going steal a belief from the annals of leadership thinking that tell us that leadership is a behavior not a position. It’s an attitude. So it is with change. Change is about attitude.

And what attitude is that exactly? That attitude is belief. Belief that you have the skills to make change. Belief that you can make a change. Belief that you will be allowed to make change.

Your job as an official change agent is to create that belief in as many team members as possible. Will everybody become a change agent? No, they won’t.  Why not? Because being a change agent requires that you be an optimist. And we all know everyone is not an optimist. But some people are.  Someone once asked me why I cared so much. I said I couldn’t help it. I said I believed I could make things better.

Our job is to nurture optimism in team members and draw them along with us to the attitude of belief. That we can do it. That it is worth it. So how do we do that?

I like to show by doing. I like to take a small manageable project that will illustrate that you have the skills, that you can execute and that you are allowed.

First step. Take a look at the project and determine what skills will be needed to achieve it. Make sure the team has the skills. Educate and train them on necessary concepts and tools. Perhaps it is data skills, tracking skills, charting skills or so on.

Second Step. Execute. Put the tools in place. Identify the steps. Iterate the process until proficiency is gained, until they can perform without your assistance.

Third step. Project team presents to progress to management. Of course, your job is to make sure management understands the point of the exercise. That management recognizes the effort and applauds it and approves it.

Badda Bing, Badda Boom. You’ve started to create an environment where change agents can emerge and help you. You’ve shown them that they can be the change.