Posts Tagged ‘change’

Strangely enough this is a post in response to my own question. If I wasn’t so opinionated I might feel as if I was being duped into this.

The question came from a longer Twiiter exchange with Gail Severini. The last several  comments were thus:

Gail: Don’t we all dream of being engaged in an org that encourages us to think for ourselves and to think together?

 Me: Spot on, Gail. So putting on my Theory of Constraints hat I ask, what’s the barrier to that happening?

 Gail: Great question – I am going to have to reflect on that. What’s your answer?

Hmm. I probably wouldn’t have asked that if knew I had to answer it. Just kidding.

The short answer is: It’s the Incentives.

The long answer is:

We do what we are incented to do.  Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s very bad.

The problem is that we mostly incent things with the best intentions and don’t understand the unintended consequences of not quite getting that right.

And you see incentives aren’t always monetary. Or at least not blatantly so. You see my incentive might be to please my manager by prioritizing his pet projects. Or my incentive might be to avoid the wrath of my manager by prioritizing tasks or projects that really upset him if they are not done.

So in the case of being encouraged to think for ourselves and think collaboratively, we must ask if we are incented to behave that way. Are we rewarded for that behavior?

That’s not an easy question. Lots of organizations talk about it. Lots of organizations have suggestion boxes and collaborative meetings. And nothing comes of it, not diddly squat. Because it’s just talk.

There’s no incentive to make it happen. And without incentive there’s no priority. And without priority we are all too busy to get it done.

But once you have incentive, it gets prioritized. And once it’s prioritized you put a system in place to make it happen.

And what’s the incentive? You make your manager happy.

So all the way back to the beginning. You remove the barrier by training managers at all levels to show appreciation and approval and happiness for the signs of independent and collaborative thinking. If that’s what makes you happy, that’s what your people will do.

Or something like that.

Also, you can check out Gail’s great website here.

 

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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

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.

swirl2

 

Things change. Really. They do.

Even as a change agent whose job it is to foster change you will run into change.

What you’re trying to change will change. Who you are trying to change will change. Why you are trying to change will change.

We are always telling the people we are helping that change is constant or inevitable. But we don’t always deal with change so well ourselves. It’s easy for us to latch on to a goal and not let go. To be upset when our sponsor leaves us for another position. It’s natural to react this way even when we know it’s not helpful. We have to follow our own advice.

That’s when we have to remember our role and our goal. To change culture, which is to change people’s behaviors. Everyone’s behavior. Not just the sponsor or the manager or your star employee. Don’t get me wrong. It does suck to lose a key person and it can be demoralizing at times. But someone once told me that the sign of a great leader is not how well they prepare for a task but how well they respond when things go wrong, which they inevitably do. No battle plan survives the battle.

This is where the Lewis and Clark method comes in handy. When you know where you are headed, it’s much more possible to make course corrections. If the bridge is washed out, then you must look for options and knowing which general direction you need to go makes the decision easier.

This is also where people fall off the track. At the beginning of a project they think they must and can map out all the points of failure. Endless sessions of contingency planning which suck the life out of everyone and everything around it. And you can’t do it. It’s flawed from the start. The things that go wrong are never the things you predicted. There are too many variables.

But you can prepare for contingencies without knowing specifically what they will be. Like Lewis and Clark bringing rope with them.  The rope might be used to pull something up, lower something down, hold something in place or hog tie a bear.  You just don’t know but you have a tool that can do all these things.

These concepts can be applied to people as well. You can look at it two ways. You can work to make sure you have the right people with the right skills (or rope) to address challenges that come along. Since you don’t always get to choose your people, it becomes really important to know your people, to understand what they are capable of. Like a skills or knowledge assessment. So when those challenges come you can look at your list and go, oh look, Joe has skills that would work well here.

So in the end once again it comes down to vision and people. Knowing where you are going and knowing your people and yourself is how you handle change in the change world. Educating and cultivating your people to handle change in the same way as you have trained yourself is key. Change is people, people.

Nomad Walking in Desert

That’s the analogy I use when people try to plan too specifically too far out.

In the change world the environment changes constantly while being buffeted by forces inside and out.

Trying to map too far out causes three key certainties. First, you will be wrong. Second, you will have generated solutions based on this wrongness.  Third, it will be really hard to banish those wrong solutions. These wrong solutions will persist and influence ongoing thought processes. And that doesn’t sound like a good plan at all.

So instead of bashing that approach let’s just talk about an alternate way to get where we need to go.

First, in choosing not to map sand dunes that does not mean you don’t know where you want to go. You have to know where you want to go. Now where you want to go may change as well but that’s a different challenge. For now, we’ll assume we have a fairly well defined goal.

I call it the Lewis and Clark method. Lewis and Clark where charged with getting to the West Coast. But they had very little idea of what was in between them and the coast. They had some scanty information available but hardly the kind that you would trust the lives of your expedition on.

So what did they do? The short and sweet version is this. They travelled for a distance. Stopped and mapped. Analyzed the knowledge they had acquired, chose the next direction and then travelled some more. Stopped and mapped. Analyzed the knowledge they had acquired and so on.

They adjusted. They took what the land would give them. If there was moose to eat, they ate moose. If there was bear to eat, they ate bear.  If the banks on the river were too steep to cross where they wanted they moved up or down stream. Take what the beast will give.

Think about the pitfalls they avoided by no having preconceived notions of how they were going to get to the West Coast.

What if they would have predetermined that they just had to cross the river at a certain place. But the banks turned out to be too high for the wagons to traverse. Someone would have started looking for a solution on how to get down and up the banks. A whole sub-project would be started to build ramps and sleds and whatnot. Because that’s what the plan was.

Time is lost. Resources are wasted. Attitudes are affected. Maybe that is what you have to do. You never know. But are there other options.

But by travelling and mapping and analyzing in short chunks, you are not married to a solution. Your mindset is geared to making decisions on what you know at that moment. You don’t have preconceived notions to fight through. Lewis and Clark could choose to move up or down stream to cross.

This path is never straight. That can be frustrating. But if Lewis and Clark had drawn a straight line on the map from St Louis to Portland and tried to strictly follow it none of them would have made it.