Archive for the ‘educate’ Category

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.

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It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of focusing all out energy on the team members who we are asking to change. They’re on the front line. If they’re not engaged and bought in, nothing happens.

We tend to give managers a pass as long as they consent to the project or mission of change. In fact sometimes we like it if they consent and then go away. Life is easier that way, at least until management balks at the proposed change or doesn’t get it.  Then that’s not so great. It’s actually quite frustrating.

So we need to address the obstacles of management as much as the obstacles of the team. We need to have an approach with them as well.

Again, the context and the environment will obviously need to be assessed. Let’s look at a couple familiar things we can do.

Strengthen Relationship with Managers

Managers are often stretched thin and will have limited time to work with you. Do you already have a relationship with management? If so, that’s a bonus. If not, you need to begin to build some bonds.

I like to start by telling them what I think I am going to be doing. This is especially important if they didn’t ask for your help. Set the expectations. And then expand the expectations and tell them what I think they are going to be doing. They might disagree. That’s OK. Time for some negotiation. Dialog around the expectations can be a good way to increase understanding of the process.

Then I shoot for some education. Here’s what we’re going to do and why. I don’t want them to just nod in understanding. I want them to regurgitate the ideas and concepts. Then I want them to explain it to the team so the bond between them, the team and me is strengthened.

Communicate and Continue Education

Communicating often to management on progress is important. Find as much one-on-one times as possible. Unfortunately, the project update seems to be the only exposure you have to them.  Take advantage of it.

I’ve found that bland project updates on tasks and milestones, while necessary, leave so much opportunity for improved understanding on the table.

Keep educating. There is so much more to learn as you get deeper and deeper into a project, the nuances and detail that drill down beyond the high level concepts.

Take your status update and make it an education tool. We completed this task. This task is important because we learned this and sets us up to do that in line with this concept and goal.

For example, we put in data collection around A, which allows us to track B which allows us to trend C which allows us to make better decisions on D. We‘ve created a feedback loop that allows us to become a learning organization. This allows us to go on to the next task. Badda bing! We’ve expanded and reinforced understanding.

Remember, change is about education. Education for everyone.

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Having the right perspective can mean all the difference in the world. Opportunities can open up with just a little shift in position.

Unfortunately, knowing that you need to shift position often requires the objectivity you don’t have when you’re inside the process.

Which of course is why people employ change agents and process engineers. Improved objectivity.

We know people don’t like change. They also don’t like being told they need to change their perspective. They essentially interpret that as “you’re stupid.” That’s never a good place to start.

So how do you avoid that reaction? Especially since you know you have to arrive at that conclusion at some point.

Well, to be honest, it’s highly unlikely you can avoid it altogether. That’s human nature. Maybe the question is then how do you minimize it and then move on?

A good way to do this is to lead them to a new perspective. Don’t tell them they need a new perspective. Don’t tell them what perspective they should have.

Illustrate perspectives you think will resonate with them. Use an unrelated example to walk them through. Move on to a simple internal example.

Use the examples to educate them on the principles that make them tick. Classic training technique. Illustrate, educate, illustrate. Raise awareness.

And when someone finally gets the concept, they’ll blurt something out and you’ll go “That’s it!”

You’ll be excited. They’ll be excited. You’ll develop a bond from having figured it out together.

Now you have a foundation and can talk more openly about changing perspectives and the power that comes from that.

This is yet another example of the value of doing with them and not to them.

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 Methodologies abound in change management and process engineering. I’ve worked extensively with a few, been exposed to a few more and have read about countless others. I have my opinions on many of them but that would take days to ramble through and not necessary today.

What I want to talk about today is the need to define your own approach. I don’t mean you need to invent one (That would be quite the assignment), and I don’t wish for you to regurgitate the text book definition of a method you favor. What I mean is that we all have a way of approaching projects that have evolved over time based on our own experiences and our exposure or study of methodologies.

What is the benefit of doing this, you might ask. Sometimes we are so busy doing our jobs we don’t take time to reflect on how we are doing them. This is a good exercise to explore how we currently think even if you never show it to anyone. Our approaches should be fluid so this is good periodic exercise to see how we are changing.

I have come to find that there is nothing like having to explain your approach as a way of synthesizing what it is. You must organize all the thoughts and actions you might take into a workable and actionable framework. You must clarify the reasons and objectives behind these thoughts and actions. You must clarify expectations and roles.

You might also find holes or weaknesses in your approach. If necessary you can then go in search of tools and techniques to fill the holes. A good motivator to search out knowledge.

As you do this you begin to see where a whole trove of philosophies you’ve adopted fit. Like all the blogs that have come before this for me. These ideas and techniques all fit somewhere in my method. Then they begin to become more present. More available.

Once you have done this your ability to walk a new partner through your approach becomes much easier . Communication becomes so much easier. You feel much more in control.

You might even have more than one approach depending on the context of the project. That’s good. Flexibility is valuable.

I’ll end by giving you an abbreviated example of my approach. I call it the Lewis and Clark method. You can tell I’m not a professional method designer because first letters of the sections of the method don’t spell anything. They just make sense. This method assumes I already have a vision or a goal for my project.

Explore, Map, Analyze, Decide, Move, Repeat

Explore

Look around. Get to know the people, the lay of the land. Educate. Build bonds. Build skills.

Map

Visualize the situation. Get down as much as you currently know that lies between you and the goal. Don’t map too far ahead. Educate. Build bonds. Build skills.

Analyze

See what the map tells you. Gather more information and data based on what you know and where you want to go. Look at the map again. Find some places you can reasonably get to. Educate. Build bonds. Build skills.

Decide

Make the best decision you can with what you currently know. Be flexible. Take what the beast will give. Choose your destination. Identify necessary resources, give assignments and roles. Educate. Build bonds. Build skills.

Move

You can send a scout by doing a prototype or you can do a pilot by using a whole team. You just need to move and be directionally accurate. Educate. Build bonds. Build skills.

Repeat

Once you are near or at your sub-goal you start over by exploring the new conditions.

This is just a shell and I could add all sorts of actions around relationship building and communication and so on. I could visualize it. Make a presentation with all sorts of paths and graphics (which I did do about a year ago).

But this alone allows me to talk about my approach with ease. Once I had more specifics on a project I could begin to fill in with more specific tools and techniques I might use.

You’ll notice I repeated educate, build bonds, build skills. That’s the piece for me that is so often missing. So I put it in all phases to remind me.

Your approach will look different because we all have different backgrounds and experiences. Give it a try. See what you can learn about yourself.

Schoolboy Struggling with Math Problems

Change is life. And if you are a change agent, you are a teacher, an educator. Because helping a person gain an understanding of a concept is the best way to open the door for them to actually endorse and execute on a concept.

We don’t often think of ourselves this way. Sure we throw around ideas like teach a man to fish but do we really think through what it means to really educate people on how to change. We throw a few presentations around, maybe send people to a couple trainings. They got it, right?

Sometimes they get it right away. Usually they don’t. And they don’t get it right away not because they are failing but because it takes time and repetition to get it.

I think we tend to underestimate how long it takes to assimilate new ideas. Once we become experts it is so easy to forget just how much effort went into it.

It reminds me of times I worked for a cousin of mine who was an experienced general contractor. He would say go do this, it’s easy. I would say, yes, it’s easy if you’ve done it a hundred times. Anything is easy if you know how to do it.

So you need to be a teacher. I almost said mentor. But in this case I don’t mean mentor because that’s something different. The goals are as important and you should certainly be one but it’s a different role and so a topic for a different time.

You need to educate. Though you may not be running a classroom the skills and efforts that go into teaching an effective class certainly apply.

Think of it as a combination between giving lessons and being a tutor.

The lesson part is about looking at what skills and knowledge your project needs to be successful. You may need to talk about the change process in general, you may need to talk about the whys and whats of the goals and vision of the project, you may need to teach about the process methodology, you may need to talk about success variable, etc.

Think about is as creating a lesson plan. What are all the lessons this person needs to learn to make it through this class/project successfully. Notice here I didn’t say the project had to be a success, but that the person has learning success through the project.

Patience. That’s another skill you’re going to need. The demands of the project will always want you to go faster than the education is occurring. You’ll have to stand as strong as you can in defense of the need to not push past the awareness points.

It’s like if you really didn’t get algebra and you are forced on to calculus. There’s a pretty good chance you will never get calculus. You won’t get it not because you are stupid but because the framework to understand was never finished. It will crumple.

There are a lot resources out there for creating lessons and teaching tools. Learn about these. They will come in handy because everyone will have their own way of learning. It will be your job to figure out what methods work best based on your pupil and the subject matter.

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Going Native

Good change agents need to engage with the people they are trying to help.  They need to have empathy so they can understand the different attitudes that inevitably spring to life. They need to take time to observe and analyze the processes and jobs performed so they can relate those back to the attitudes and behaviors of the team.

This approach is not without risk. While it is important to understand the people you are working with, it is also important not to go native, to become so immersed in their world that your vision becomes blotted out by their objections and fears. Instead of you helping them change, they change you. You become their mouthpiece and then you are lost. I have seen  many a good analyst go native.

The classic analogy of course is Kurtz from “Heart of Darkness” (or “Apocalypse Now” if you are a movie buff). He went upstream and went mad, went native. His mission or vision became contorted and justified and horrific. For however intriguing the story of Kurtz is, it’s probably not a path we should follow for helping teams. So how do we avoid this?

Vision. There that concept  is again. What are you trying to achieve? Where are you trying to go?

It’s your compass and your map. You need to know your vision. Then you need to make sure it’s a shared vision.

In order for it to be shared, the team needs to be educated.

Here’s our vision. Here’s what it’s trying to do. Here’s how we’re trying to get there. Here’s how these tactics work.

Change is education.  Education needs to be ongoing through the process. Because it’s in doing that the learnings are cemented into the consciousness. And when they are cemented into the consciousness, then behaviors can change. This is your goal after all.

But there will be pitfalls and traps. You will see where they are coming from, you will see the logic they present for turning from the vision. You will be shown the trees and forget the forest.

Stay calm. Keep educating to the vision and the process along the way. It reinforces lessons for the team, but just as important it keeps these things in front of you as well. It’s your compass to let you know if you are getting lost, if you are going native. It will be more work and you may have to be more patient, but the effort is worthwhile. You don’t have to follow Kurtz into the Heart of Darkness.