Posts Tagged ‘vision’

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.

Advertisements

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.

vision

Do you have visions? Dreams of what the future could look like?

You should. You better.

When I say vision I don’t mean some crap ass mission statement about being the best. I mean envisioning a perfect future state. Whether for a small or large project, for your team, for your company, for your own job, you need to have visions.

Even Misfits need vision. Even if they are abstract and hard to define. Can you see it? Good. Then start talking about what you see (or writing about it if that is better for you). Maybe at first you’ll have a hard time describing it. That’s OK. Bounce it off people. They’ll poke holes. That’s OK, too. Every new concept has holes to fill in.  If you have passion for the vision, let that shine through.

And then start telling your customer about the vision. Start selling your customer on the vision, on the possibilities. Don’t confuse this with telling them what to do. This is about opening their eyes to opportunity. The what to do will come later. Create the desire first.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So we have desire. Now we can put the shared vision to work. As we take our first steps we can look ahead to the vision and ask where are we trying to go, what are we trying to accomplish and then finally we can ask what are the very first steps to move in that direction. Having that vision means we don’t have to have some detailed plan on how to get there. We just have to keep taking the next best and available step toward the vision.

Knowing the destination will allow us to make a wider range of choices, to use more discretion in concocting actions and behaviors that are conscience of the ever changing environment around us. We’re agile. We’re not tied down to the baggage of a plan concocted long before enough information was available to make good choices.

We have to get used to making directional, non-linear choices. And for many of us the only way to get used to that is to start doing it and working through the discomfort. This is important because we’ll never each a perfect future state and we have to learn to be comfortable that.

And sometimes we’ll be wrong. That’s why it’s uncomfortable. That’s OK. The advantage in going step by step by step is that if we are diligent at the wheel we can never get to far off track. And we always learn more from mistakes. It’s kind of like managed play time. But instead it’s managed mistake making.

I was reading an article the other day about re-inventing the public library. The author basically stated that if we as library managers are not making mistakes we’re not pushing hard enough to keep up with the changing times.

We have to push ourselves into discomfort and risk, knowing that our vision is our safety net. That is the ticket to the future.

As to how to cultivate visions, that belongs to a different post.