Posts Tagged ‘business change’

dunce2I like this headline because it’s almost as obnoxious as “Everything You Know About Change Management is Wrong.” I love those kinds of headlines. Great way to offend your audience and under-deliver. Needless to say there are no indisputable things about anything and I certainly hope you are not wrong about everything.

My goal here was to force myself to choose five tenants I could put my convictions behind (and of course, get your attention) . Creativity via limitations. Here’s what I came up with.

1. What to Change

In my last assignment I often said our hardest job was not knowing how to do it but what to do it to. What do we attempt to change? That is THE question.

I blatantly steal from the Theory of Constraints here. But instead of focusing on what is the most significant process constraint to change, we focus on what is the most significant cultural/organizational constraint we need to change.

What cultural behavior or norms stop us from making improvements? Organizational silos? Incentive systems? Education? Distrust? Chaos?

They could all be constraints. Which one is the lynchpin? Evaluate and make a decision. It’s not an exact science.  You might be wrong. That’s OK. The act of trying to solve the problem next to the lynchpin will probably lead you to the lynchpin. And that’s progress. It’s part of the process.

2. Strategy and Tactics

As Eli Goldratt put it, strategy is the “What For” and tactics is the “How To,” and they need to work together.

The What For defines what we are trying to achieve. The emotions involved with the What For make it complex because people’s desires are fluid and so their attitudes towards the What For will be dynamic.

The How To will be less complex but often more complicated, as it may involve many layered steps and processes that need to be tracked.

The key is to keep bouncing them off each other to make sure they remain aligned.

3. It’s the Psychology, Duh

If you don’t understand psychology, you will fail. The complexity of the What For requires you understand the human condition. It requires that you respond to each person’s reaction to the situation individually, one interaction at a time. There’s no one size fits all. That’s called propaganda. No one likes propaganda.

Emotional Intelligence. We are all motivated by emotions. To rely solely on cold-hard facts and logic is to ignore the human condition. No one wants to be treated like a cog in the process machine. Find a way to connect. If you can’t, find someone who can. It’s worth the effort.

4. Focus, Focus, Focus

There are a thousand thousand problems to solve. Every twisting turn in the path will call for change. It’s a siren’s call. Stay focused. There will always be something else that wants your attention. Better to do one thing well than a thousand poorly.

The reasons to stay focused are many. My go to reason is that if you do the right thing well, many of the other problems just cease to exist. The other reason I go to is that focusing minimizes variables. Too many projects means too many variables. Too many variables makes it hard to know which ones are working for good and which ones are working for evil.

So what do we say to the god of distractions. Not today.

5. Go back to the beginning. Often.

Keep revisiting the first four points.

This is important especially because of point #4. All the siren calls will fill the system with noise. It’s easy to lose the signal.

It’s also important because as you dive into the tactical details going back to what you are trying to achieve keeps you out of those rabbit holes that get you so easily caught up in the wrong priorities. Because just like you have to pick and choose what to change at the higher level, you also have to pick and choose what to change at the detail level.

And for point #3, make sure you aren’t losing people. It’s a long haul. You’ll have to work to keep them engaged.

Make sure it’s all still working together.

So there it is. Ready to be put right into action. Oh, the indisputability of it all.

 

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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.

 

greek1

“Know thyself” is a good Greek saying. As a change agent I’ve always thought “Know thy role” is also a good saying. And as a change agent one of the things I’ve found most helpful is tackling the slippery idea of role.

What is a change agent’s role? The biggest challenge I’ve discovered is arriving at a common understanding of that role. Does everybody involved think it‘s the same thing? The answer is usually no. That’s OK. It provides us with the opportunity to think a little deeper and know thy role.

The three groups that need to be on the same page: you, the management and the team. 

Let’s start with you. What do you think your role is? This is probably different for each of us. It might be different for each project. That’s OK. The goal is to understand your expectations of yourself for this project. If you don’t have clarity, who will? 

You might define this yourself. You might define it along with your manager. Defining this before you start helps you know where to insert yourself and where to draw lines. Of course you always you need to be adaptable, but having a starting point is priceless. 

Now, what does management think your role is? They probably have ideas of what you will and won’t be doing. They’ll probably be different than your ideas. That’s OK.  A little negotiation may be in order. Negotiations often hinge around perceptions, wishes and realities. Be positive but real. If your role has to change, try to make sure all parts of the role you defined are handled by someone. 

And lastly, what does the team think your role is? Here is where you’ll probably get the most variety of belief. This is also going to be more of an education than a negotiation. Based on the agreements made above, you’ll walk through the approach and what it is you’ll be doing. And sometime you’ll need to talk about what you won’t be doing. 

That’s not to say there won’t be any negotiation. The team’s level of sophistication will enter into the equation. Some teams may need you to do things others wouldn’t. Again, be positive but realistic. 

Why is this important? 

Obviously, it starts out as just good communication. We should talk about these expectations as part of the greater project anyway. But in the end it’s about relationship building. You are working towards avoiding misunderstandings that lead to disruptions in flow. About minimizing the “Why are you doing that?” scenarios that lead to friction about the wrong things. How many times have people thought you were over stepping your boundaries when you thought you were just doing your job? That’s never good for trust, I am sure of that.

And the reality is you can’t do everything. So having everyone on the same page about your role also allows you to begin defining other people’s roles.

hand2a

Convincing people that things need to change is hard. Convincing them that change is good is harder. Convincing them that they should actively pursue change is hardest of all.

There are so many good methods and techniques and tools for pursuing change. They are, however, of limited value if you can’t get your team to take the change steps willingly.

It comes back to trust. And this time it is two kinds of trust.  The trust that they place in you and the trust they place in themselves.

Trust can be built in many ways. One way to build trust is by giving without expecting. For example, if I am working with a team I make sure to understand the people, the process and the current environment. I learn about things related to what I am there to help with and but I also learn about unrelated things and general conditions. I look for things that they are struggling with and I try to find a way give them something to help.

Perhaps a contact to reporting resource. Hey, I think Bob might have data on that topic. Or a link to an article on how people are dealing with a customer service problem. Or maybe I take some of their data and do an analysis and create a chart that says hey look I noticed this trend you might be interested in.

Just give it to them. Don’t belabor it. Let them take from it what they will. That’s it. You can do this for the manager. You can do it for a team member.

Here’s what that just accomplished. You showed them you are paying attention. You gave them some of your expertise without asking for anything. You’ve demonstrated your capabilities.

This might sound disingenuous but it’s not. It is good human relations. When building a relationship with a friend you do things for them you think they would like. It makes you feel good to do this. You get a serotonin boost. It makes them feel good. They get a serotonin boost.  You don’t ask for anything in return. You’re trying to build a bond. The bond is what you are getting in return.

And it’s not disingenuous because everyone knows you are there to get things done so no one is going to be surprised when you finally ask them to get involved.

Then there is the trust they have in themselves. You can help them with that. Because the more trust they have in themselves the less daunting the challenges of change will be.

Find out what their skills and capabilities are. Illustrate to them how those will translate to even unknown future tasks.

And if you find out they might be missing a key skill, then do what you can to help them acquire it. Provide education, examples, practical application. Build their knowledge, build their confidence, build their trust in themselves.

When in doubt, lend a hand.

Wizard1

Wizards. That’s what so many business analysts and engineers seem like when they show up with their weird terminology and strange tools. It’s like they’re casting spells to lighten the darkness for you.

Some engineers come across this way because they indeed want to seem magical, adding to their aura as special beings. Others come across this way unintentionally. Either way the effect on the victims is pretty much the same: instead of being awed by the wizard’s powers they are annoyed by the wizard’s arrogance. Not really the outcome you are looking for.

This always reminds me of a fantasy book series called “Sword of Truth.” The first book in the series is called “Wizards First Rule.” And there is in fact a Wizard’s First Rule (spoiler alert) and it is: “People are stupid. They will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true.”  It’s the people are stupid line that resonates with me not the lying bits since I know we all have good intentions. Now this might make a for a good novel or a comedic line, but treating people like they are stupid or trying to impress them with how expert you are is not good change management.

I didn’t intend this to be a list of things not to do but it kind of fell out that way. So here are three rules to follow to avoid being a bad wizard:

  1. Don’t use big words and jargon from your area of expertise. You end up sounding like some wizard casting spells.  Take time to explain in detail what they mean in layman’s terms as necessary. Educate them on the importance of the term in on-going efforts. Once people understand the term well enough then you can use it. Until then speak in practical terms they will understand. If you can’t do that, then you need to spend more time understanding them and their processes before you start speaking.
  2. Don’t be a Gandalf. Don’t come in and rile things up and then disappear for a month. This might make for a good movie but doesn’t do much good for trust. No one wants to feel abandoned. If you don’t have trust, you don’t have diddly.
  3. Don’t scare the locals with magic tricks. Unless you want to spook the locals, do not walk around with clipboards and stop watches. It always comes back to trust. Once you establish trust by explaining the terminology and the methodology, then you can explain the magic tricks that are the clipboards and stop watches. Everyone has to understand this, not just managers.

So let’s all go out there and be the best wizards we can be.

eyesofsauronmisfit

I don’t know when it was I realized I had my own personal philosophy on how to get things done. I suppose it’s unique in that it’s my own alchemical amalgamation of existing philosophies. Perhaps this was bound to happen since my basic view on life has always been that there is no one method or school of thought that has all the answers. I suppose a quite pragmatic view at the end of the day.

Perhaps it was my dislike of absolutes and excessive certainty that led me to my alchemy. Consistent run ins with consultants and experts excessively tied to their methodologies rankled my sensibilities. I naturally rebelled.

At the end of the day that probably wouldn’t have mattered much (you see us process people have large egos and we all think we are right), except that I noticed the reactions of the people they were supposed to be helping. Defensiveness is natural when trying  to “help” an organization. So that was never alarming. What was alarming was the unnecessarily high levels of distrust and dislike exhibited by the organization. Exhibited in reaction to the ego-driven, heavy handed, unempathetic demeanor put forth. A serious turn off.

I didn’t want to be like that. I couldn’t be like that.

So while other engineers were designing their future states, I was building relationships. Methodologies were useless if no one wanted you to be there. So that’s where I began to diverge. And that’s when I became a misfit.

Now there are many other qualities that make me a misfit that we’ll get to eventually.  But I like it. I find advantage in it. And it works.

So we’ll talk about those kinds of things. And some of it you’ll love and some of it you’ll hate. And that’s just the way it will have to be.

Cheers