Posts Tagged ‘education’

shovel3Leadership is not a position, it is an attitude. It comes from inside. I don’t know who coined this phrase but I love it, which is why I have stolen it for my next sentence.

Being a change agent is not a position, it is an attitude. And not only is it an attitude but a skill. Every manager at every level should possess a change attitude and the skills that need to go with it.

It’s not a nice to have. It’s a need to have. In a world where we expect change to constantly bombard us, we need people who have the right attitude and the right skills.

Sure, you say, it’s hard to argue with that. But how do we get there? Yes, yes. How? That is indeed a good question. I’m sure there are many good answers.

I’m going to skip all the vision and mission jabber, not because I don’t think it is important but because wiser people than I have expounded on that. I’ll make the assumption that we have one.

I was going to launch into my typical angle of needing to train people on continuous improvement and feedback loops and theory of constraints and so on.  Then I thought, no, those are tools. And the tools I might use might be different than yours, which am sure are good too. And tools are always subject to context. Don’t want to get into those weeds. So let’s not go there. Hmm. So where do we start?

Architecture. That’s it! Just like a computer system needs a good architecture. Just like a building needs a good architecture. A management system needs a good architecture.

So back to the question of how. If we want managers to have the change agent attitude and skills then it must be part of the management architecture.

Now just like a system’s architecture is dependent on the role the software needs to play, management architecture will depend on the needs of the business so no two would or should be the same. But if I were developing a management architecture for the modern world where change is constant I might include some key structural building blocks. Some basic expectations of capability and attitude that would allow the system to run efficiently. Here we go.

  • Systems Thinking – You Are Not Alone
    • This is a three for one.
      • If your managers don’t know about systems thinking, educate them. The understanding of context is crucial to interacting with the world around you.
      • Require them to understand the world around them. A thorough understanding of the processes that impact them and the process that they impact.
      • Systems thinking means people will question the world around them. This has to be encouraged and supported.
    • What is Systems Thinking? Here’s a primer. http://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/teaching_materials/systems_what.html
  • Support Role – Why You are Here
    • Unless you are creating value, creating output, you are support.
    • This means your role is to make sure that all processes related to that are efficient and accurate.
    • Your role is to remove barriers to production and work toward continuous improvement.
    • Everything else is secondary. Everyone has to understand this.
  • Change Management – It’s the People
    • You are not managing processes you are managing people.
    • You are helping people perform to meet the needs of the organization.
    • Learn it, live it, love it. Understand the human condition. Motivations, habits, behaviors.
    • Relationship Management. Build trust and you build willingness.

There you have it. Some basic conditions and attributes of a management architecture that will allow you to more systemically approach change and many other business challenges. Give your people this knowledge and these expectations. Give them a strong base of support to stand on.

And especially give these attributes to yourself. Perhaps this is where the “leadership is an attitude” comes in.

And just because it came to mind, a little Pete Townshend digging away.

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china2Don’t be a Change Thug, Please

Change Thugs. They mean well. They’re knowledgeable, experienced, bold. And they’re like bulls in a china shop. They put up some new signage, break a bunch of plates and then leave, touting all the good work they’ve done. They never look back long enough to see the damage done.

And damage they do. I know it and you know it because either it’s been done to you or you’ve walked into the aftermath. They didn’t like the Change Thugs and now they don’t like you.

Yes, Change Thugs know how to spur change. They have their favorite tools and tricks to pull the right levers and make things happen. These are good tools: maybe visual management, or PDCA or standard work or others. All good tools. All very useful.

And all abandoned when the Change Thug leaves. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon after. And with a bitter memory of how change was forced on them. And you are one of the Change Thugs until you prove otherwise.

We’ll save how to dig out of that hole for another day. Today we’re going to talk about how not to be a Change Thug because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So let’s look at the mistakes a Change Thug makes and what you should do instead to work better with the team.

Your Ego vs. Their Self-Esteem

Yes, you are the expert. And yes you need to demonstrate your fluency. Change Thugs, unfortunately, make things about them, about their expertise. But this isn’t about you. They already know you’re the expert. Every time you forget and make this about you the team will notice and you’ll have one more hurdle to clear.

Instead, your job is to boost their self-esteem, their belief that they can make improvements and change. In fact your job is to make sure they so strongly believe they can carry on the change, that they don’t need you.  If you don’t change them, you’ve changed nothing.

Doing it to Them vs. Doing it with Them

I call it the cookie cutter approach. This happens when within days or weeks the Change Thug has already decided on the solution and often the tool to fix the problem. It’s visual management or it’s feedback loops. And often that is the right answer because the Change Thug has been here before. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious. But that’s not the point.

The problem with the cookie cutter is that it’s the Change Thug’s solution. The Change Thug is the one who worked through the analysis and methodologies and understanding to that conclusion. There’s no way that in a couple weeks, the team came to that conclusion.

You have to work them through the analysis and the method and tool options until they have an epiphany or understanding. They have to get it.

Lecturing vs. Dialog

The Change Thug knows we need to teach them about methods and tools so they go to the PowerPoint on keys to visual management in front of the room like they are a bunch students at the university. They assign a management book for them to read. Then ask, “Did you get that?” Then get a room of blank stares and somehow take that as a yes.

This instead needs to be an engagement, a dialog. You need to gauge the current level of understanding so you can shape your message. Skimming over Algebra because you’re in a hurry to talk about the more exciting and relevant Calculus is just going to leave everyone in the dust.

Be patient. You need to spend time talking with them so you know what building blocks are necessary. And this dialog gives you the relationship building bonus, that wonderful tool for building trust.

Piling On vs. Prioritizing

The Change Thug says “Here’s all these great new tools and tasks for you to do. They’ll improve the process and make things wonderful.”

But guess what? Someone forgot to change prioritizations. The Change Thug forgot to help management understand the importance of not piling on. Managers decide prioritization. And prioritization is time. And no one has enough of it.

New process improving tools and tasks are great. Except like everything else they take time. So tasks have to get prioritized. And in the real world that means things at the top of the list get done and those at the bottom don’t. So as a team you need to make a choice as to what tasks are going to slide from the top of the list to the bottom, to below the line where they don’t get done.

You need to do this together to remove the anxiety and angst over things we now all know aren’t going to be done. And that’s OK. We know if we do the right things more and more effective work will get done and hopefully, if we’ve done the steps above, everyone will understand why.

And that, after all, is why we’re here.

 

passion1What if I didn’t care? 

Seems like an odd thought to begin with. Yet the other day while researching a subject I thought, What if I didn’t care? Would I be researching this subject? Would I write this blog? Would I continue to explore new ideas?

I suspect I wouldn’t continue these activities but I had a hard time imagining the larger effect of not caring. What would that be like? You see, this caring is a good feeling and certainly a handy tool. Drives me to do a good job. I like to be around other people who care as well. Not necessarily what I care about but that care about something.

Since I couldn’t imagine not caring I took another step forward and asked another question that seemed more useful. Why do I care? And perhaps then in understanding why I could take another step and ask  how do I help others care?

After all in change management, and hopefully business as a whole, the key to success is getting people to care about what needs to be done. And we know this is hard because we have so many people jaded and cynical about change because of poorly executed projects or hollow cheer-leading efforts or many other sins committed in the name of change.

I want people to care about the change I’m helping them with. I want them to have some passion. I don’t, however, need them to be fanatical or extreme or obsessive about it.  You can have passion without being over the top. But wanting them to care is not enough.

So how do we get them to care?

  • Show that you care. Show your passion. That’s infectious.  Show that you know the situation and process of method or plan. First because you can’t have passion about something you don’t understand. Second, your mastery of the knowledge illustrates a commitment. And third, because you’ll need to educate them.
  • Be on a mission. Make it a priority. Do not get distracted. Nothing kills passion like distraction and rapid changing priorities. If you get distracted, your people will get distracted.
  • Power to the People. Knowledge is power. You can’t care about something you don’t understand. Treat your people as if they need to understand as much as you do. Educate them as much as possible on the situation, the subject matter and the methods.
  • It’s about each person. Everyone will be motivated differently. Acknowledge that. Attend to that.  Don’t treat your people like a mob. Don’t try to whip them into a frenzy. Mobs get out of control. Burning down the vampire’s mansion is not the goal.

I think these are excellent behaviors in all endeavors. Yet the first and hardest step is that you have to choose to care that they care. Take that first step. It’s caring and it’s free.

And speaking of passion.

 

 

keys2

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.

two-point-perspective2

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.

agent2a

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a change agent?

The Secret in Secret Change Agent

Is a change agent a job or is it a role? Do we approach change management as a project or is a project endowed with change management?

A true secret change agent has a secret mission.  Except that it’s not a secret.  Anyone can manage a project that will change the organization.  The change may be as small as verbiage on a letter template or as sweeping as shutting down a department.  But without a secret mission, it’s just another disruption to the team members. The role of a secret change agent is to transform every project into something greater by becoming part of the team, by building trust with them so you can promote change from the inside. You are doing the project with them, not to them.

So what is your mission, should you choose to accept it?   

The key difference between a Secret Change Agent and your run-of-the-mill process engineer is the mission.  And the mission is to change the culture.  It doesn’t need to start as radical change – we’re not talking “smash the state” kind of culture change.  Think of it more along the lines of “gradual enlightenment”.   With every problem identified, the organization has an opportunity to grow.   Our reflex may be to slap a band-aid on the problem and desperately hope the blemish never shows its ugly face again.  But the opportunity presented is one of learning.  It’s not just about solving the problem, but rather about furthering a problem-solving culture.

I love it when a plan comes together

Every secret mission needs a good plan. Your job is to look at the project and the secret mission and figure out what lessons can be learned about problem-solving. It could be one simple process method. It could be a set of tools to use. It could be feedback loops. You could even be planting seeds for future learning. And as always assess the current capabilities and understanding of the team members. Your job is to set them up to succeed in the learning because that feels good, creates a sense of achievement that they’ll want to repeat.

So bring the people in 

By involving the people who live the problem, hopefully the people who identified the problem in the first place, you are taking the first step toward an inclusive learning culture.  People are always sensitive about projects and change so it’s your job to bring the right attitude. It’s your job to guide them not drag them. Take time to understand both the people and the process. Then make an effort to let them know you understand. They’ll appreciate that and you’ll build the trust necessary to move farther and farther ahead.

Today’s blog was a fun collaboration with Megan O’Neal. Megan is seasoned business engineer from Minneapolis. Thanks Megan. 

kurtz_profile11

 

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.