Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wrong Change Right Reason?

I bet that there isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t think that we live in a fast paced world. Everything needs to be done quickly ,now, yesterday doesn't it? If you take too long to think you’ve been overtaken by the competition or you’ve lost the sale because someone else got in there.

You need to change your business quickly too don’t you. Flexibility and adaptability are the key these days. No time to wait and analyse and think it through. Just make the change happen. In fact if I suggest taking some time to review and reflect on why the change is needed and what we need to deliver to meet that why I find clients groan! ‘Its adding more time’ they say. Lets get on with it!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a pretty fast pace, ‘doing’, kind of guy and I
don't like to take years to analyse and review. In fact putting things off to tomorrow ‘just to see if we get more data’ or ‘just in case something else turns up’ is not my style and frankly drives me crazy. But I have seen some disastrous change programmes and some of those have been disastrous even though they took a lot of time to deliver.

So I am not talking about the time you take to change I am talking about ‘what’ you change. Let me give you an example.

If you are in logistics or sales you will know that there is always tension between the two. Its always stock you hold (tied up cash) versus ability to get what the customer needs when they need it. If ‘sales are king’ in an organisation then its tough on the stock guys and if ‘cash is king’ its tough on the sales guys. A few organisations that I have worked with tend to push their sales guys now and again in sales drives. You know the thing, competitions, targets, bonus, sales-person of the month etc. Or sometimes if the Sales Director sees that the quarter end target is not being hit she gets the sales guys to get out and sell harder, offer discounts etc. Sometimes what this means is that the sales volumes peak close to the target or quarter end date, making it near on impossible for logistics to plan their workload, or production to plan their output or the buyers to bring the freight across.

So what happens if this goes on regularly. Well, if the sales director has the power then Logistics or Production has to change what they do. This can mean putting on extra manning or carrying extra stock or even allowing the sales guy just to pick what he wants off the shelf.
If the power is elsewhere then the Sales team has to change. This can mean fixed sales levels with rules set for no changes to plans of less than a month ahead or saying no to ‘opportunity’ sales.

My question is not whether any of these are good or bad, but whether they are right or wrong for the business as a whole (and in general when one division inflicts a change on another I tend to find that it will be wrong for the business). All of these will be for the right reason, but will they be the right change i.e produce the right result.

Lets think it through. The business is there to make sales to make money, service its customers, manage cash flow, minimise cash tied up in assets etc.
So the changes above might keep one of these happy but not the other. Wrong change Right reason

With probably the same amount of time that it takes to plan one change properly, you can conduct a simple root cause analysis, risk analysis and model the impacts of possible change scenarios i.e you can think through “what’ really needs to change to get the result you are looking for. And you don’t need to be a big business to do this.
Nor do you need a lot of people and a lot of time. You just need a different mindset to produce a different answer; Right Change, Right Reason, Right Results

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ready to play Poker?

Preparation for successful change is vital, particularly if you are restructuring. If you are changing peoples jobs you are changing a big part of their life so you need to be sure of the proposed changes, whether they be the purpose of the role, it's scope or the big one-whether the role is actually needed.

That prep takes a little time if you want to manage the change well. Its not always about having the decision worked out fully (and of course your local laws on consultation changes of employment will govern a lot of that), its about prepping your managers for the questions they will face, the risks that might occur and the impact on people of a change.

I am not going to blog on that today, but the aspect I wanted to raise was the impact on your managers of walking around with all this information in their heads before the change is announced.

Its hard going to meetings and keeping the intentions of those meetings secret. Its hard to manage the questions that come your way; the ‘What are you up to boss?’ questions. Its even harder to look at people whose lives you are affecting without that showing or the new reality that is in the managers head from creeping in to the conversation. I have heard managers begin to talk about duties, that were being worked up in new job descriptions behind the scenes, as if they were a reality. I have known managers who began thinking that people had begun to suspect something, so in turn they began to suspect that people were looking at their files. I have met managers who tried to hide every moment of he day so that they did not bump in to anyone in the corridor in case they were asked a question.

If your organisation recognises that people truly are their biggest asset, you will be aware of the impact of change on the receivers and you will possibly prep leaders in how to deliver announcements of change, manage bad news etc (if you don’t then
contact me!). So if you are doing that its maybe not a big leap to recognise that you need to prep your managers for the pre-announcement phase. How they handle themselves, how they deal with the possible stresses of knowing what they know and how they deal with curious questions that come their way before they are ready.

Not everyone has a poker face. Not everyone can separate themselves from the emotion of the change, not everyone can handle questions smoothly on the run. Not everyone is a born change manager (managers don’t do this every day, thats what
people like me are for).

Are your managers ready with their poker faces? Or do they need prepared?

Monday, October 19, 2009

So you think you survived the recession?

As governments around the world begin to announce that the ‘corner’ is about to be turned and that the worst of the recession is over, you would think it a good time for organisations to breath a sigh of relief and relax a little. Lets face it, a number of your companies have gone and some businesses will have seen competition disappear.

But before you break out the champagne its maybe time to take stock and ask ‘how good a shape are we in?’ Here are four quick “health check’ questions that you may want to ask of your business or your team, however big or small.

Body Mass Index
A lot of businesses survive recession by cutting. Taking out staff numbers, reducing spending, stopping maintenance etc. If this goes too far this can leave you without the right people to take advantage of the opportunities that will now present themselves, with plant/equipment downtime just as you need it or systems that are more out of date than the competition. Sure, you had to do this to get through the bad times, but don’t ignore the choices you had to make. If you made them for good reason you knew the possible impact that they had. Now is the time to look hard at those choices and see what you will need to do in the coming months to get back in to shape so you can last in the long run. Of course if you didn’t take the opportunity to look at the shape of your business and get clear on what is core for your organisation you may be unhealthily slow to recover and need to shed a few kilo’s just as everyone else is getting in the starting blocks!

Those that survive hard times often do so because they have improved the agility of the organisation. Often rules are relaxed to allow opportunities to be taken. Bureaucracy and red tape are trimmed while people are encouraged to ‘go-get’. There are two sides to this as times improve. One view would be that you want agility at all times, and the other would be that too much agility means increased risk (shortcuts, compliance, not checking etc.). If you’ve learnt to be agile, you may have tested your old rules and systems to see what you really need to run your business and now you know what the new rules for the organisation should be. Before you put back the old constraints it is a good time to test what you might have learnt.

During good times it is easy to lose focus on what is core to the business by picking up whatever come the way of your business because they represent an opportunity to make a bi more profit. During leaner times you need to be really clear on the focus of your business or team to maximise what you are really good at, and where you can succeed in the marketplace. Did you use the recession as an opportunity to tune up your eyesight and get a focus on where you can succeed in the marketplace?

Blood Pressure
How have the people in your organisation come through the last year? I’ve heard from people who are covering two jobs and doubling their travelling! and others who have been doing very long hours. Is everyone coping? are they tense or overstressed? People who are tired, worn out or stressed tend to ‘just get by’ and lose their sharpness. At the very worst they start dropping off with health issues just as you need them to be fighting fit. If they’ve lost their vigour it may be time to re-motivate them or it may be time to take a look at the working hours habits that they have built up for you in the bad times. If you want to be healthy in a year’s time, nows a time to check the pulse and see if its strong!

We'd love to hear your ideas on a health check list for teams/organisations that are coming out of the marketplace!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A great time to change?

Someone asked me recently, “what’s the most frequent change question you get asked?”. It wasn’t that hard to answer. “ Why didn’t that last change make any difference?” I replied.

I hear this virtually any time I am working with an organisation designing their change programme, or working with employees on how to cope with the change’s around them. Interestingly it is frequently asked by employees (more so than line managers). Employees take the changes that we announce very seriously. It’s not only because many of them are most affected by the change, but most of them take the fact that their leaders are there to lead quite seriously. Over the years I have met many “change-jaundiced” employees who have seen so many changes deliver so little that they ignore the latest change (lets face it history has shown them its not worth bothering about) or even treat it with contempt. Of course these people then become the target of bright new managers who want “change-agile” employees and whose mind-set is “if you don’t want to change, don’t stay on board”

In private many senior executives will tell you that the last change didn’t deliver everything that was needed. Short term it may have delivered some bottom line savings through reduced numbers or outsourcing, but the real wins of culture change, efficiency gains and innovative thinking often don’t materialise.

There are a number of key reasons’ why change fail’s to deliver so lets explore a couple here.

Change Management Mentality; “It’s just a task”
Many businesses see change as a technical project such as new IT, new production lines or a new system or process. They focus on the technical or task aspects of the change and plan the steps involved with physical installation, re-building or the new paperwork etc and believe that good project planning principles are all that is needed.

In my experience the success or failure of change is largely “belief” based. Belief in the hearts and minds of the people who use the IT, run the production lines or use the process or system. You cannot programme belief through a change management bar-chart. Unless your people “get-it” it is unlikely that they will use it or do it, whatever that it may be.

But people often say in response to this, “but we’ve built training in to the plan, and that’s about people”, and I often reply “is it?”. Most training is just another part of the process, another task step. If the training is “how do you” in style i.e. it is telling you how to use the system, run the line or enter your data in the new IT, then it is not addressing the vital “Why”. Knowing why we are changing, the intent behind the change, why it’s needed and what it will mean creates belief, not training. Training is a 'How', not a 'Why'.
And going back to process style training, lets face it if, you don’t take any belief in to the training with you it’s unlikely that you will take on half of what you are told. So if the training people is meant to get people on board then its too late. People need to be on board before they get to the training.
Many companies confuse training or learning and development with “Organisational Design” because of the belief that training is the change and fail to get real results as a result. So while training is a vital tool in your change programme it is not all it takes to have your change accepted or acted upon.

Empowered for a day; changing style for the sake of change
Some businesses launch in to change with a new found interest in their people that some employees can find quite scary! One minute you are happily doing your job and the next minute, every leader around descends upon you telling you that your voice is vital to the success of the change, only to disappear again once the initiative is over.

One of the standard questions in our on-line change readiness survey is “are your people empowered and involved in the business?” Leaders sometimes read that and think that it means that they should be and kick off their change programme with lots of involvement and use of the empowerment word. In case you’re wondering, I'm not advocating either way (but I always think that anyone who rushes off and does it for change is guiltily thinking they should be doing it anyway).

The key thing here is being congruent with the way you run the organisation day in day out. If you don’t seek opinions at any other time of the year, then don’t demand them as part of a change programme, you will only create unease and suspicion.

However, if you are looking to change your culture and leadership style (yes they are heavily inter-related) then a time of change is a good way to introduce that new style and develop that new culture. Any major change is going to have an impact on your culture (whether you want it to or not), so why not choose the change in culture that you want? A change of office, a new company-wide IT platform or a re-branding exercise for example, will all impact on your culture, and should be treated as a culture change programme like any other with appropriate leadership style and action used during the programme to re-enforce the new way of working required.

The fact that change is happening will mean that people notice the change in leadership style and associate it with the new world you are taking them to.

All you have to do is maintain that new style after you’ve moved office, installed the IT or launched that brand.

A time of change is a great time to change!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Shifting the team viewfinder

I sometimes wonder if we are living in the 21st century. Not with what we see on the Tv or in the news, but when I see some of the issues that arise in the workplace.

I’m talking about inter-team strife.

Does it happen in your business? Do you have a few teams that should work hand in hand but don’t? Do you have examples of silo’s that do more than think differently, they work against each other?

A few years ago I was running a change programme that involved the down-sizing of two teams who worked side by side for different managers. One team handled customer problems and the other handled customer bills. Often the problems that the customer team faced from customers was the bills. Often the problem that the billing team faced was with customers not paying the bill. You would think that with such an overlap of issues the teams would find some benefit in working together wouldn’t you? Their team areas were a mere ten feet apart yet the gulf often felt like the great wall of china!

To improve the situation we decided that the downsizing project would also involve the moving of some of the better team-members between the two teams. The idea was that with better understanding of what each team did, we would reduce the friction and improve the cross silo working. When the appointments were announced I was working close by the team-space and I witnessed one of the candidates nominated to move teams proclaiming that they would ‘soon sort out those ------ next door!’ I wondered what we had let ourselves in for. Had we just moved the battlegrounds?
A month later I witnessed the same person talking in their new team. They were complaining about the team next door! A complete shift in perspective in four weeks!

I realised then how tribal people still were and began to notice similar behaviour in many places that I worked. Teams often have practices that amount to rituals. These rituals make a unique team and differentiate them from other teams in the organisation. Some teams have different uniforms from others. Most teams have different locations that are close to tribal lands (and you know when you have entered and you aren’t one of the tribe don’t you!). Teams meet and discuss issues and often these are with the team whose function adjoins them. These issues are often ‘stepping on our turf’ by doing our role instead of what we perceive as theirs. And sometimes the tribal leader joins in!

Sound familiar? So what do you do about it?

A lot of people try and deal with team friction through rules or discipline or by trying to create empathy between people. This might work to a point, but my view is that if they are behaving tribally you’ve got to think tribally in your solutions.

One of my favoured approaches when dealing with team friction is best explained through looking at the history of the land of my birth. Everyone knows that the Scot’s tribes are called clans, but not everyone knows that smaller clans were called Septs. The Septs swore allegiance to a bigger Clan and in times of war they rallied to the standard of that clan and stood side by side with other Septs and faced a common enemy. Then they went home and went back to fighting with the Septs that they had stood shoulder to shoulder with!

If you’ve got two tribes who are in conflict, one of your problems is that they see each other as the enemy. When they see another tribe as the enemy everything they do is seen in a bad light, everything they do is wrong, everything they do is something to be suspicious of. Lets face it history has taught them that’s the truth and their viewfinder is turned that direction and focused that way.

If you want to change the situation you’ve got to move the focus of the viewfinder. That focus is a ‘common enemy’ (just like the Scottish Septs). I look for a focus outside of the organisation such as a competitor. Most organisations have someone that they compare themselves with, competition for their market share, someone looking to sell to the same customers, someone whose product is too similar etc. The focus has to be real and something that everyone in the organisation knows about. It’s likely to be unwritten, but soon get told when you join. Its unlikely to be part of your vision or mission, but it will be part of your organisational chatter!

By getting each team to focus outside of the organisation at someone else that they need to win against you have a starting point for the team’s to see that there is something to value in each other. Something that means they need to work with the other team. Once a team starts to value another team then you have the chance for the other steps in moving from team conflict to team alignment.

Don’t fight the tribes! Just shift their focus and watch as the alliance begins to form and conflict begins to diminish.

Friday, August 14, 2009

As you sow so shall you reap?

Have you ever seen a change initiative struggle? Or have you ever had difficulty getting the traction or keeping the momentum behind an idea that you are trying to implement with your team or business? Most of us can see what needs changed, some can see how to initiate that change, but not all of us can see how to maintain the change once the programme is going.

You’ve probably heard the maxim ‘What gets measured gets done’. I’ve always found that it is one of the keys to maintaining momentum in change. Keep an eye on the progress of all the measures associated with, not only the targeted outcomes of the change initiative, but the inputs and activities that you have decided will drive those changes. This means that you always have something that keeps people connected to the change and reinvigorated when necessary.

But I’ve often found that measures are not enough and that the maxim is not always true, and that leads me to think that there is another side to this maxim.
A few years ago I was asked to talk with an organisation that was well down the path of changing their business model. They had moved from a regional sales model to a national model and like most organisations at that time were able to do so with the advent of improved telecommunications and call centre technology. That meant that they could make their change while still maintaining their regionalised employees. This should have meant that they got the best of both worlds, local knowledge where required and minimising of downtime that would happen in a purely regional call centres .
They had put in all their measures throughout the call centre’s but were not seeing any real traction. In fact what they were seeing still reflected a regional approach to sales and support. The natural conversation was around changing mindsets and how to do that.

Then I asked the question ‘How are the regional GM’s rewarded?’.

I’d noted that they had retained the existing structure with the previous regional GM’s leading the staff in the regional offices to meet the new national vision and measures. I was beginning to wonder if, from the staff perspective, there had been no change (same boss, same office, same job etc.).

The answer to the question was ‘ Their bonus is based on the sales and service figures for the region’. It turned out that there had been some contractual difficulty involved with changing the GM’s reward structure so it wasn’t changed. After all these were senior people, they’d bought in to the strategy and the vision hadn’t they?

On such a decision and such a sweeping belief a highly expensive change initiative was floundering. By assuming that leaders would put the business before their pockets they’d missed the basic’s of incentivised pay. The leaders were leading the organisation in line with the incentives first and the national measures second.

So the measures meant nothing, because the incentives weren’t linked to the measures.

Look at your organisations struggles today and ask yourself ‘am I rewarding the things that I am asking my leaders to deliver?’ If you want profit don’t just reward on market share or volume. If you want engaged people do you have some reward linked to the measures or actions involved in your engagement strategy. If you want quality make sure you don't just pay on output.

Our maxim should be ‘Incentivise what you measure and it gets done’.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Low hanging fruit give you stomach ache?

Taking the ‘low hanging fruit’ is a well established change management phrase. The idea is to tuck some 'easy' results under your belt to get some traction in your change initiative.

I'm all for building belief throughout the organisation by demonstrating that the promised change is happening. It's core to all my change work, as many people aren’t instant converts and need to see change to believe in it. But the trouble with stock ideas that anyone can latch on to, is that people can think they know what the phrase means without having any depth of knowledge behind the meaning. Watching CSI doesn't make you capable of investigating a crime for example, even though you will hear a lot of ‘real’ terminology. I wonder whether ‘low hanging fruit’ has become misunderstood or misused?

The key to low hanging fruit is to know that the fruit is good for you. Just as nature can hide poison in a pretty casing, organisational low hanging fruit may look tempting but may not be helpful for the change you need.

How often have you seen a new leader declare that a particular thing is to be changed & then find themselves embroiled in associated issues? Often an obvious change has many less obvious threads attached to it e.g. connected processes, IT patches or previously agreed HR entitlements. Picking that first thread can quickly start to unravel the organisation and take up too much of the leader’s time. Soon you find that change then dictates the changes that follow and ultimately, more patches, more process fixes and addendum's to HR agreements and not the reengineering the leader envisioned, promised the board and was brought in for.

So how can ‘low hanging fruit’ go wrong and how can you avoid it?

The world we live in expects results rapidly and sometimes immediately (I coach executives in their first 90 days and find that many organisations believe that 90 days is way too long and want strategic decisions in weeks!). This can mean that there is pressure to achieve a quick result and quick results are sought in the ‘obvious’ rather than ‘the best’. Picking the obvious low hanging fruit may mean that you stay on the outskirts and don’t walk further in to the forest and find the more nourishing options.

If you want to avoid the problem you have to remember some good change principles. One of those is diagnosis. Whether the change is to processes, culture, systems, structure (and if you want real change you cant do one without the other, but lets not digress), you need to take a good look at what the organisation does, how it does it and why it does it that way. Unfortunately diagnostics take time, effort and a bit of investment, and all of those are often in short supply. But don't let that get in the way of the principle of taking a good look at the business before you kick off the change.

If the benefit of low hanging fruit is to demonstrate that change is happening so that your people engage with change and therefore get more impetus to the change then each change that you make needs to be one you’ve promised and each change must be an obvious contribution to the overall purpose of the change programme.

To state that simply, why pick a peach when you’ve promised an apple pie!

So get clear on your vision, diagnose what you have, look at what needs changed and lo and behold the really beneficial low hanging fruit will become more obvious to you.
Then when you pick it, everyone will know why you’ve picked it and your change programme gets the credibility that low hanging fruit is meant to get you.

And no stomach aches!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Question of Time

Does it sometimes feel as if being a leader means you have no time to yourself? That sometimes you don’t get anything done in a day because your staff are forever knocking at your door to ask questions? Do you find yourself working at home just because you didn’t get everything done during the day?

If so, you are not alone. When you stepped up to leadership nobody told you that you would be in such demand did they?

Being a leader requires you to value your time differently and more importantly it requires you to value yourself differently. But lets start with time first as that is often the biggest challenge that leaders face at every level.

In the last twenty years or so the phrase ‘open door policy’ has become the norm. You’ve heard of that? I bet you use the phrase too. In fact many leaders feel that they are obliged to say that their ‘door is always open’. Its the right thing to do isn't it? Its what you should do as a leader!

In principle the idea of an open door policy is right. As a leader you are there for your team (the word lead implies others of course) and to be there for your team when they need you.

So the principle is sound, but does the delivery match the principle? Does having your door open at all times so that anyone can come in when they need you, actually work?

Lets look at you, the leader first. Do you know your working style? Are you the kind of person that needs to complete a task before you can break your thinking from it? If you get interrupted do you often need to go back to the beginning? Do you struggle to concentrate without perfect peace? Are there some detail tasks that are not your natural style and you need to really concentrate or you make a mistake?

I have found that many thinking styles need to focus on what they are doing in order to get the best result, and that when we are doing something that is not our preferred style we need to focus even more. So interruptions might not work for you. You may need long periods of concentration or you may need short. You may need time to draft before you finalise. You may be a reflective kind of person that needs quiet thinking time. You may be a talk it out or a try it out kind of person. How you work best will be unique to you you know yourself well enough to know what that is?

Lets look at your team now. How often do they need time with you? Every decision?Emergencies only? Hourly? Daily? Weekly?
How often do they need you to be immediately available? You know; ‘I have a problem and it needs sorted now’ type availability. Do they need that? or have they got used to that? Have you trained your people to think that you can be available at the drop of a hat? Does your open door policy mean ‘Always open’?

Lets put the two perspctives, of you and your team, together in to a formulae for you to think about if you have difficulty managing the time demands of your team;

How I work best + What my people need=How I organise my availability.

The outcome statement there is critical. Its good old time management. If you need thinking time, then book it in to your diary. If you need a solid two hour block to work on something then book that in too. Book time in your diary to match the way you work best and that meets the first part of the formulae.

Now you need to apply the same approach to the second part of the formulae. Take a look at what your people need from you. If you have got a good delegating habit, you will know that you need follow up to the act of delegation (to check if its done, to listen to problems, to coach for learning etc.). You might schedule regular sit down time with your staff to go through work in progress or to coach etc. You might schedule regular walk about time just to listen to your people’s problems, understand the mood in the workplace and give yourself time to see and be seen. And if you need blocks of time to work quietly yourself, you may also plan the opposite. Time that your team know they can interrupt you if they need to. Time when you are working on easy stuff, like reading e-mails or going through your own to-do list etc.

The key is to educate your people in how you work best and therefore how you can work best with them. If they are interrupting you all the time then its you that’s created the habit (by not planning time with them or not having a planned diary or by making yourself indispensable!)

Re-training yours staff means talking to them about what you are trying to do and what it means for them. They know you are busy and will be understanding of your need for some closed door time in a day, as long as its not 7.5hrs of closed door time and 0.5hrs of access time of course. You left that behind when you became a leader.

So its not really a question of time; its a question of organising your time.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Are you right or are you winning?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were convinced that you were right and that the person you were debating with was wrong? Or that someone else’s behaviour was ‘out of order’ and that it up was up to them to ‘apologise’ or ‘make the first move’?

Perhaps you’ve had that situation with someone who worked for you? Or perhaps you’ve been the one on the other side of the argument?

Its really easy to get stuck sometimes, and its happened to most of us at some time or other. Sometimes as a manger you will see the situation occurring between two peers or between of your staff. But what do you do about it if you are the boss or the peer?

This came up in a conversation with a client of mine recently. He was in a situation where he had been given some ‘feedback’ by his manager. Except it wasn’t really feedback. It was a long list of what the manager thought they should and shouldn’t be doing and why the manager thought it was so. In feedback terms this is a ‘slam dunk’ and when we teach feedback to managers we find that a large amount of what is called feedback is really a ‘slam dunk’ (you know the type of feedback; negative and not designed to help someone improve performance; just a way of letting someone know how wrong they were. And if at this point you are thinking, ‘that’s the feedback we do in our business’ then contact my coaching colleagues at before it causes more problems than it already is!).

My client was rather unhappy about this and it had caused a number of sleepless nights and emotional outpourings with trusted friends. In fact it became obvious that my client was one step away from looking for a a new role, anywhere where his boss wasn’t. This, buy the way is the regular result of poor feedback skills. De-motivation!

But the actual feedback had happened a few weeks previously. So I asked why my client hadn’t raised this with his boss and given them some feedback about that conversation, explaining how it had left them feeling and how disempowering so much of it had been. The answer was ‘ why should I?’ and ‘its not up to me to make my boss better at their job!’

At this point I am sure that you have been here before, haven’t you? Whether you were angry at the boss, or hurt or worried about the way they had spoken to you I am sure we’ve all been somewhere like this before. So what do you do?

I know that some of you will have heard me use this maxim before, so it will be no surprise that I told him that one of my favourites is’ Am I right, or am I winning?’

We used this to talk through who was suffering most as a result of ‘the why should I?’ approach, and whether it was his role to help his boss be ‘better at his job’ or not. The answer is probably obvious to you, right?
Who was having the sleepless nights? Who was replaying the scene time and again in conversations with himself (we all do that, don’t we?) And with trusted colleagues? Who was using all that energy and building up the stress? Certainly not their boss!

In a perfect world, everyone would recognise when they have not been at their best, bosses included, and they would do the ‘right thing’. But waiting for that to happen and wasting energy, time, emotion on it is certainly not going to keep you ‘winning’. The answer is to become skilled at giving feedback to the person you need to. Proper non emotive feedback (not a slam dunk)

But lets track back to a question I posed earlier. What do you do if you are the boss and you see it happening between two peers or two of your team?

Lets start with what not to do.

1) Don’t make a judgement. Don’t tell one of them they are right and the other is wrong. You know where that will lead don’t you? No? Who has become the problem now?

2) Don’t ‘bang their heads together and tell them to sort it out or you will!’ either. You know what kind of damage that will cause to your reputation as a manager don’t you? Positional power as a problem solver between people? Good move? (anyone that thinks yes at this point should call me now!)

When I run conflict resolutions, one part of the process is to get people to look at the problem from the other persons point of view. You might want to try that. It takes every ounce of your coaching skills (and if it this point you are getting worried then you do need to go to and talk about their coaching culture programme!), but as a boss or as a peer all you are doing is facilitating enough thinking between two people to get them to talk the problem through for themselves (perhaps with someone like me to make it work well between them if its not a good role for you).

You can of course sit them down (individually), tell them that you know something is not right between the two of them and ask if they want to talk about it. If you can get them to unload with you it might help (especially if you don’t try & solve the problem; see the reasons above!), and then when the moment is right you can ask, ‘what are you going to do about it’.

If you get all the reasons that its not up to them you might want to ask your version of ‘Are you right or are you winning?’.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Matching Motivations

One of the most widely know axioms around motivation is “you cannot motivate people, they motivate themselves”. Most of the times that I have heard that spoken its been followed with a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, “So what can you do?”.

I came upon this once when working with a small business that provided professional services to their clients. Most of the work was delivered on a consulting basis and that generally meant they were paid by the hour. The GM of the business was keenly aware that the business existed around the simple maths that the salary out-goings couldn’t exceed the billable hours. Like most consultancies they recognised that there were non billable situations where the team was working on the business itself or in pitches to get new work. The team completed time-sheets on a weekly basis, allocating their working hours to specific projects or to non-billable time.

I noticed that the GM was routinely frustrated at time-sheet time and it was never a good time to talk to them. One day I asked about that to see what was going on. The GM told me that one member of the team was always late with their time-sheet, made lots of excuses for not doing it and when the time-sheet arrived the non-billable hours was always excessive. The GM knew that this person performed well with clients and built good relationships and really worked hard for the clients whose portfolios she maintained. At the end of the download the GM said, “She doesn't seem motivated to get what this business is about, she might have to go!”.

So how can that happen? A capable individual that should be an asset to the business and a boss who has begun to think they aren't motivated and thinking of letting them go! Seems a waste doesn't it, but how often have you been in that situation? I’ve met it many times.

I volunteered to have a chat with the employee about her job and how she was finding it. What I found was a highly committed woman, who loved her work and loved her clients. She really liked helping them and doing things for them. No lack of motivation at all. But she was beginning to sense an issue with the boss and that was making her wonder if she “was working in the right place” So not only did we have a boss thinking about cutting an employee loose, but the employee was thinking of going. It was just a matter of time to see who acted first. Looked like a self fulfilling prophesy about to come true! In either case reputations would be damaged in the marketplace, and neither was going to enjoy the experience.

I sensed that I was facing a motivational disconnect. I was pretty sure that neither were talking to each other and that it was all being built up their heads as the only conversation was with their self-talk. I asked if I could facilitate a discussion between them and as I wanted them to get a better understanding of themselves as well as each other I used a simple tool that I use in our “your attitude is showing” workshop to give a platform for that discussion. Without it in the middle I would have an “he-said, she said” type conversation.

Sure enough the employee was focused on ‘making the world a better place for other people’ (social) and not that interested in money (utilitarian). In fact when I talked through the information with her so that she understood herself better and why the boss was having difficulty she admitted that she had real difficulty ‘charging’ hours to her clients as it ‘seemed wrong’ to do so when all she was doing was ‘helping them’. What we had was a highly utilitarian motivation (the boss) facing a social motivation (the employee).

She wasn’t ‘not motivated’ just motivated differently. Once the boss understood this the solution became easy. The boss changed her time-sheet so that it recorded hours helping clients and hours helping the boss and made no mention of money, rates, charge-outs and all the other necessary things that the business needed to make money. The boss left that part to her accounts team.

Why did the boss manage the outcome that way? Why didn’t the boss explain to the employee why she had to do it the way the company wanted? The boss understood that she couldn’t motivate the employee but she could provide the environment for the employee to motivate herself. That is the job of a leader after all.

So if you find yourself thinking that someone isn’t motivated and yet they seem to have the capability then it might be that you are not matching your requests to their motivation.

p.s if any of my subscribers would like to understand their workplace motivation just click here and then when you jump to my web-site page just click on the complimentary profile link (near the bottom). I will run that profile for you just as I did for that boss. Consider it a gift of knowledge. Self-knowledge (the kind a leader needs)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Negotiating to what?

A client recently asked me for ideas on negotiating to win. My thoughts turned to this clients natural style and the strengths & also challenges that this would bring her in a negotiating situation. The client is a high I in DISC terms and if you’ve been on our dynamic communication programme you will know that high I’s tend to influence through charm, charisma and persuasion. But I’s don't tend to do detail and I thought “how do I talk to her about one of the keys to negotiation?

I like to tell stories and share real examples so I was going to tell her about another client of mine and her recent success in contract negotiation. That client is a D/C in DISC terms and her high drive is coupled with a high need to get things right. So she is really big on preparation, putting a lot of time in to it to make sure she has all the facts, knows all the data and really understands the levers to pull (and when I say all I do mean all). She had to go in to a negotiation with a client who had been a little difficult the year before (a combination of sexism, power games and some rudeness thrown in; I am sure you’ve met the type). This year she dealt with all that by knowing exactly what she wanted from the negotiation and what she wasn’t prepared to negotiate on. She fully analysed the contract, the clients needs and past requirements and had all the facts and data at her fingertips. Needless to say, she got everything she wanted and there was no room for any games because of all her prep.

But before I launched in to this tale, I realised that my client had used words that you don't seem to hear so often any more; “Negotiate to win”. Over the last decade or so we have got used to the concept of “win-win” so much that I wonder if it affects how sales people think before they go in to a sale. Do we bother too much about ensuring that the customer wins that we sometimes dilute our win?

Let me say now that I am a firm believer that if you want a long term relationship with a customer you cant have a win-lose or win at all costs mindset. The term relationship implies mutuality and you cant have that if anyone loses. So if your market is relationship based then win-win is a necessity. But does this mean you have to go in to sale to give the customer a win? How do you know what a win is for your client before you go in to the negotiation? If this is your first meet or you’ve not exchanged much information beforehand or spent a lot of non negotiating time with client to get to know what drives them, then you wont know until you get there. If you are in a wholesale commodity market and volume is king then you are unlikely to have all that information to hand (unless the previous sales-person kept notes!)

So if you cant know what the client wants as a win, then there is only one side of the equation that you will know and that’s yours.

So do you spend time being sure of what a win means for you and your business? After all not all sales are good sales! Are you a margin driven or volume driven business? Where are your breakpoints and advantages in your supply chain? Do you reward your sales people the right way to match the levers in the business? Do you give them enough slack to conduct a negotiation the way your customers will be looking for?

So we come back round to where I started. To good old fashioned prep. Do you know what you want from the sale? What would constitute a win for you? What do you have to negotiate with? Know your facts! and then the bits that I think really give the sales-person their advantage. Do you know yourself? Your style; your behaviours and your motivation? so that you can manage yourself in the sale. Can you sell to your customers style so you know how to maximise your chances of a winning sale?

Maybe I should give my High I client a call and tell her that story after all!

p.s I look forward to comments from my sales focused clients. What would you add to these thoughts? Lets grow this topic!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who do you want to lead?

I recently spent some time with a group of managers who were challenged with changing their business direction. Their new leader had realised that what they had inherited was in a little worse shape than they thought, so some key players were gathered to strategise. It was interesting to see how that went and how they behaved.

Teamwork is always fascinating, especially at the senior level. In their own environment, leaders who are powerful and capable are often suddenly different when they are in a room with their boss. You might recognise the situation yourself e.g. where the boss has a particular way of thinking and therefore we must all follow that process, or when the boss says something we all know is “inaccurate” and no-one tells them or how about the situation where the boss is telling you all what to do in your areas even if that view is dated or counter-strategic. I’m sure you have more examples of your own.

I wonder if most leaders understand that this happens, and if so whether they are happy with this or whether they struggle to find ways of making sure that their team “shares their views” and is “open to discussion” and” empowered” in reality.

A long time ago I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The further up an organisation you get the more likely it is that people will do what you say just because of the position you hold. This amazed me as (at that time) we were in the 20th century and I thought that we had actually thrown of the concept of serfdom centuries before. But, out there in the corporate world we can sometime still adhere to concepts redolent of baronial structure.

I began to see this as very dangerous, because no-one can know everything and therefore the risks to the business were greater if a leader thinks they do, even when they are far from the coal-face. I also think thought that there was little point in having a team if you do it all yourself! What’s the point of hiring someone to spend day after day analysing the marketplace if you know you can assess it in twenty seconds and make a major decision!!

Sometimes a leader will say to me “ how do I empower my team to take ownership of their division while.......” and I listen for what comes after the word while.

Those words are my clue.

Not a clue to how the team can improve their performance, but to the behaviour of the leader I am talking to. The “while” is often behavioural. It is sometimes something like “while ensuring urgency” or “making sure that they don’t take too many risks”. There in from of me will be a fast pace, driven individual who has a high sense of urgency or a deeply analytical and reflective person who needs to know all the facts before they decide.

If the time and situation is right and the leader is reasonably self aware we will have a conversation about “empowerment” and whether it means “be like me” or “do it the way I would”, because that’s what those words really mean. “How can I empower my team to do things the way I would?”

At that recent meeting with the new team, the leader was obviously very process driven and struggled with the approach that some of his team were taking when thinking about the strategy we were creating. This caused some tense discussions as the leader started to impose their structure on the session. Eventually the leader began to see that their desire to manage the “way” that we were strategising was impacting on how well the team were able to think. When the leader realised this they had the guts to stop managing the “how” of the process and not impose their way of being on the team. They chose to manage their needs for themself by asking questions to gain the understanding that they needed to suit their way of thinking.

In recognising that not everyone thinks the way they do, they chose to let their team do what they are good at. The leader chose to step back and see if all the different ideas that were coming up satisfied the strategic “what” that they had set them. They chose leadership, not boss-dom.

The start point for leaders to empower their managers is to focus on the “what” and not the “how”. Let your behavioural style choice be that (just yours) and to accept that the power of your team is that they don’t think the same way you do, so the process needs to be flexible and not just your way.

So when you find yourself looking at your direct reports and thinking that you would like them to be “more” something or “less” something else, take a step back and check-in as to whether those things are attributes of your behaviour that you value (and if you are not clear on your own
behavioural style, you need to be; self awareness is key to leadership )

If you find that what you are asking for is part of your own style then take a look at what the individual is or isn’t doing and consider it from a different perspective. Try asking yourself “what do I need from them that I am not getting?” followed by “if that is the case, what am I not giving them that they need?”.

Is their lack of urgency really because you did not agree delivery timelines with them? Is their risk taking a result of lack of data that you have? You might find, like the leader I mentioned, that what you really need is to ask questions to satisfy your thinking needs and that in the process you may value the difference in theirs.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Whose values are creating your culture?

It often occurs to me that one of the most challenging roles of a leader is creating a values based culture. A culture where the company values are readily adopted by everyone within the organisation and used as a guide for their decisions and actions. It often appears that people can accept the values at an intellectual level but using them as their guidebook is another challenge entirely.

Having watched the development of values based culture’s in action I find that it takes a number of key voices to actively accept the values, using them visibly and vocally in what they do, for a culture to spread and take hold.
Its like the 100th monkey theory. If you’ve not heard of it, here it is.

The basis for this idea was derived from a story in the 1979 book Lifetide: A Biology of the Unconscious by Lyall Watson. He reported on research conducted by several anthropologists on the macaques in the islands off Japan. According to the story, in 1953 one of the anthropologists observed an aged macaque female wash a potato to get the sand off of it before eating. She, in turn, taught another to do the same thing. The pair taught others, and soon a number of the adult macaques were washing their potatoes. In the fall of 1958, almost every macaque was doing it. Then macaques who had had no contact with the potato-washing monkeys began to wash their food. It appeared, concluded Watson, that as the practice spread through the monkey communities, a critical mass was approached when 98 and then 99 monkeys washed their food. Then, when the hundredth monkey adopted the practice, critical mass was reached, and the practice exploded through the monkey population.

Its not actually a true event, but the story was repeated in the media and passed around and reported as true until just about everyone had heard about it and believed it. This story became a meme that demonstrates a meme!
Meme’s work like that (and for those who have not heard of memes, the meaning is “an element of culture or system of behaviour that is passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means).
The thing about memes is that you only get them from someone you trust. Trust opens the door into your belief system. Its like your unconscious says to itself “ If they believe that this is the way we do things around here, then I should too“.

That’s why a values culture starts at the top; with one or two leaders who stand out because their actions match the values they espouse and those values are the ones you see on the wall every day when you walk in through the door.
The more that leaders quote the values, live the values and expect others to live the values the more likely it is that others in the organisation will adopt them too. Gradually those values become “the way we do things around here” and not just a set of words on a wall collecting dust. If people of influence, who sit outside the recognised leadership hierarchy, are seen and heard to espouse the values then even more people will join them.
Once the belief is embeded its hard to move. It takes a lot of energy to develop and a lot of courageous conversations by courageous people. You know this is true if you've ever inherited an organisation where people believe something counter-productive to your organisation. You may even see it in your engagement scores!

In the world we live in, business needs every advantage and point of difference that it can get. Is your culture giving you that advantage? Are your company values creating that culture? Are your leaders consistently walking the same talk, and is that talk matching your company values? Are your key players spreading the right meme? 

Or are you losing the one advantage you cant buy off the shelf; a unique company culture.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why is the important word

When you embark on a change programme you set out with the intention to succeed, don't you? As a leader you have thought the change through and know what you are going to do (change the structure, implement a new system or process etc.) and you've had to build a business case to justify the spend against the return and benefits for the company. You get the green light to go ahead and start to implement your plan and make the change happen. Then you find, as the new structure is in place or the system starts to run, that the benefits are not coming or months later you are asked to review the change against your forecasted benefits and you can see it's not happening. People aren't really doing their new role in the structure or using the system the way it was designed. They are doing something else. Have you been here before or seen this happen? You should have, as it happens in 90% of change programmes.

In troubleshooting such programmes I come across frustration and confusion in the minds of so many managers. Some just want to get rid of the people who aren't doing the job and others up the stakes and make non appliance of the new system a dismissible offence. Others start to tinker with the structure or the system to apply band-aids as it obviously cant be working. Leaders point to nicely drawn business structures and organisational charts and ask "Why isn't it working?".

The key is in that word "why".

Often when leaders go out with their change they explain "what" is going to happen and sometimes "when" it will happen. Many forget to fully explain "why".

A study of students in the USA found that some tended to favour "what" questions, others "how" questions and another group favoured "why" questions. In my experience of change, everyone is a "why" person. Without a clear understanding of "why" the change is happening people don't really buy it. Even if they appear to have no choice (you take the computer off their desk and give them a new one with the systems fully loaded) the project doesn't deliver to its full potential. If they don't fully acknowledge the "why" they will never fully engage in the "what". This is why I.T people often find that users have their own favourite pieces of software loaded up and use that rather then the expensive system the company implemented. This is why people continue to do the old job even though the structure clearly shows that the job is now different.

Change challenges our certainty. We go in to work every day certain that we know what will be there and what we are there to do. We get used to it and in many cases it becomes part of us and who we are. When someone comes along and challenges that certainty, many people will hold on to what they know until they are sure that they understand "why" they need to change. If you don't provide any "why" or a robust "why" some will not let go of their current certainty at all, willing your change to fail so that they can get back to what they know is right or at worst actively working to subvert your change to prove you wrong.

Those that do come along because you have their trust, may not grasp the change with both hands and embrace it and engage in it. They may not even realise this themselves.

It's as if the word "why" is a filter to their beliefs. If the "why" is fully understood then the "what" will be too and the "how" will follow as they engage in your project. The less clear the "why", the more cluttered their filter and the less likely that the what and the how will have a smooth path to delivery of your objectives.

If your organisation is on the path of change, walk round a random sample of people and ask them "why were we doing this?". Any organisation that is set to successfully achieve the change will have consistency of reply and will find people happy to explain it and their part in it. The greater the variety of the answers, the more faces expressing confusion and the lack of certainty or willingness to discuss the change the less likely it is that the change will deliver.

And if your first 5 people say "what change?" you have real problems!

Change in a difficult climate

In difficult economic times most organisations face some form of change. It is predictable that with potentially lower profits most companies will look to fixed cost reductions and that normally means staff cuts.

Staff cuts are often seen as the easiest change to make and for many managers staff cuts are the automatic reaction to any tightening in any market. These are threatening economic times and the move to staff cuts in more obvious, however in good times it is often baffling that value and growth creating opportunities are forsaken because of the pursuit of fixed cost reductions. Those of us that survived the slash and burn approach to change in the 1980's know that many CEO's made their name on short term margin improvements that had long term lasting damage to the company's ability to grow; key knowledge was lost through early retirement policies, retention of "cheaper" staff also meant lower performance and the cutting of development of good leadership skills.

In bad times this short term versus long term argument is harder for most companies, particularly if survival is at stake. However it is easy to get sucked into panic measures and make the wrong moves for the right reasons. Not everyone is going to the wall, but most will be looking at job cuts to maintain margins in the coming months.

If you've lived through economic cycles before, you have that experience to draw on and you will have seen the right and the wrong way of making those decisions to cut numbers. If you were in junior positions then and now you are in a role that is responsible for delivery, it's a good time to remember all the decisions that you saw which had devastating effect (the ones where you said "when I am a manager I wont do that"). Its very different when you are under pressure from your board or from the shareholders to make the right decisions for the longer term when perhaps their perspective is short term position or shareholder value.

The key thing to remember is that a cycle is exactly that. There is an end to it. Smart companies are using the current climate to take a look at where they may have got a bit fat in the past few years and where they are performing or not performing. Really smart companies are looking at the opportunities that the cycle brings them. Often those that make the smartest moves during the downturn come out of the cycle in the best position to take the larger market share from those that made short sighted decisions. For example, those companies who take a "we can fire them when we dont need them and hire them when we do" find that it takes longer to recover because they don't have talent in place when the market begins to open up again. Being in the best position to take opportunities as they open up is vital to coming out of the cycle in a healthy position.

Often a downturn will provide opportunities to increase market share unexpectedly. That market share might not bring in the revenue that it did a few years ago but it will do on the upturn of the cycle. If a competitor fails in the downturn, are you in a position to take up their share and service their customers in a way that you hold them on the upturn? You wont be if you've cut your key staff to the absolute minimum. Yes of course you can pick up the failed competitors staff if needs be (and I have heard this argument on many occasions). But is this the time to set about converting a large group of people from the culture they knew to your "way of doing things" and do you really want to service a new customer with exactly the same people who looked after them but failed? Having key performers able to absorb new business effectively into your systems & processes is the only way to really take the market share and hold it.

The failure or possible weakening of a competitor is often an opportunity in itself, but be careful. There are many examples of take-overs whose intention was to grow the company out of problems. Some of these were vanity take-overs boosting the ego of the CEO or the board but some of these were just poorly informed decisions. A take over is a massive programme of change. To integrate the new business with yours is a massive challenge to your culture, your systems and your leadership. It takes considerable effort and resource (and dare I say specialist help) to achieve. Acquisition is a skilled path and needs to be entered in to strategically with your own house in order. If your stock system is inefficient and wasteful then the addition of a vast array of new stock is not really going to help, and who knows it may even destroy the profitability of the business that you bought.

These are good times to get your house in order but the key is to make the best moves to maintain the opportunities of tomorrow and being ready for change should the cycle throw a growth opportunity your way:

• Trim your excess fat well. Look at your business performance with a cynical eye and see who has performed well and who let the market perform for them.
• Don't mandate percentage cuts across the whole business. It may seem easier to ask for a 15% staff cut from every manager but not everyone had 15% fat. This is a good time to really review your business.
• Look hard at your pet projects. Every business has something that the board or the CEO just liked the idea of. If they are not performing or not for this market at this time, shelve them or drop them.
• Get clear on your strategy and the KPIs for the downturn. Make sure your people understand them and know that they are for the short term. Clarity is sound leadership at the best of times but in hard times it is vital that everyone is rowing the ship in the same direction.
• Raise your leadership game. Now is not the time to resort to command and control management style (or even worse, management by fear). Motivated people will find solutions to the problems you face if you ask them.
• Keep your dialogue up, maximise your communication and draw on the talents you have with an inclusive approach. The more people understand the better they can do.
• If you do have to cut numbers, do it well. A downturn is no excuse to text people to tell them they have lost their job! Remember that those who stay will judge your leadership by how you treat those that go. Manage redundancy badly and you will notch down the commitment of those that stay behind.
• Educate your managers in leadership of change and an understanding of what people go though during change (ask us about our programme on Leading though transitions) and educate your people in dealing with the impact of change. After all, change is likely to be an important part of their lives in the coming years.
• Be aware that people will always try to look busy. If someone has less to do because your market has shrunk its not necessarily their fault. Work with them on focusing their time well.
• Work hard on morale. You cant afford big bonuses or celebratory parties today so get creative on what you can do. It's a good time to write personal notes to people to recognise their efforts and walk around a little more and show some presence. A hands on touch can lift morale (as long as you dont spread doom & gloom)
• Use enforced changes to your advantage by also improving the culture of the organisation in the process. Any well managed restructuring programme will have a solid communication approach, so use this to get across more than just the minimum of consultation
• Don't forget your values. Now is not the time to ignore what the company stands for . If you drop them now and operate in a completely different way don't expect people to believe them tomorrow when things are good again. Values are there to guide your leaders in how they should behave in bad times as well as good.

Change in difficult times needn't always be bad. In fact good leaders take the adversity of the situation and use it to their advantage to improve morale, embed their culture, improve leadership skills and raise the games of people with potential. Go in to your change with an opportunistic and positive mind-set and you you may find that you achieve exceptional results.

Ultimately the challenge of change in difficult times is a test of good leadership. Making good decisions for the short-term while maintaining the long term for the business is vital to your legacy for the business and to the reputation that you and the company carry forward.

If you are planning change, make sure you are well supported and if nothing else remember the words of Anton Chekhov.."If you cry 'forward' you must make clear the direction in which you want to go"

Who needs to change?

At a client meeting the other day I heard words that I think I’ve heard a thousand times over the last decade. “They need to change” said the GM, who then went on to dissect the performance of his workforce who were “stuck in the past”, “resistant to new ideas”, and “unwilling to go that extra mile”. He then outlined for me the change programme that had been put in place over the last year, which was inevitably failing due their “intransigence”.

Very few changes start at the bottom of the tree. The Russian revolution aside, history shows that changes are made by people in a position to make them. The top of the tree. The ideas for change come from the top and so they should. That’s what the organisation’s leadership is for; to provide direction and business clarity, to analyse the trends and meet them with innovation.

So it is only natural to look down from the top of the organisation and conceive of the new ideas that those at the bottom should be implementing. By and large leadership is what workforces expect of leaders, and while many people are initially resistant of the idea of change, most workforces I have met understand that the company has to make changes to keep ahead of, or in touch with, the competition.

The trouble with looking down from the top to the bottom is the bottom is looking up at you. “We need to change” is your rallying cry. But the “we” often falls short when it comes to “I” And the bottom notices this and knows you don’t mean “we” at all.

With this thought in mind I asked the GM what the change programme had incorporated for the leadership of the organisation. Aside from a few shuffles of position under the banner of restructuring, the same leaders were in the top positions doing roughly the same things. Yet the workforce had to change its behaviours and its attitudes and align to a new set of values.

It brought to mind a quote that we use on our business cards. Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”, which I think is great guidance for CEO’s and GM’s leading change in their organisation. “What am I doing now that is not in support of the changes I need? “What behaviour do we need to adopt at the top to engender the change throughout the organisation?” and “What demands am I making that are counter-cultural or change destructive”

Change starts at the top, not just with an idea but with demonstration.

Many years ago I worked in a business that was implementing a spending freeze in line with its bottom line focus. To make a major statement it was announced that all business travel was to be stopped completely. The immediate impact was great. Throughout the organisation people got the message, and started to consider little ways that they could tighten the belts in their area.
A week later a small announcement followed to say that the travel ban had been modified and that people of a certain grade and above would be continuing to travel first class.

The message was immediately lost. The belief in the business took a step back. People gave lip service to the profit drive. Why? Everyone knew that a total travel ban would not work. Some people had to travel as part of their job. Destination dependent would have been acceptable. Role dependent and business class for long distant would have made sense. But grade dependent? And still first class?

The message was “the change is not about us, it’s about you”. That one message destroyed all the good intent of the profit drive and impacted on change programmes for years to come, as it installed suspicion and cynicism of the leadership group.

Many years ago I read a book by Chris Argyris, called “Overcoming organisational defences”. It was in my early years as a change agent and trouble-shooter of change failures. It made me really aware of the unwritten rules that propagate the business and run counter to the change you are trying to make. A favourite of mine, came when I was working with a business that was streamlining its management information systems and as a result reducing the number of people in its accounts department. The initiative was founded on good I.T and should have worked but it didn’t.

I follow my nose in these things and asked the people on the ground what they were doing and where their time was going. In the course of one discussion I noticed some piles of papers on one employee’s desk. They didn’t look like the standardised, cost effective reports I had been shown by the head of IT. I asked about them. “Oh, they are for the CEO and the Chairman”, I was told. These “special” reports were being hand created to mach a report that he CEO had used in the past. It turned out that a number of senior people also had their own “special reports”

The change was not about these senior people, in their minds so in a few simple requests they were wasting the vast spend of the I.T project and ensured that the head of accounts could not cut to the numbers that had been part of the project justification.

And of course the workforce saw and the workforce lost belief.

My advice? Remember Ghandi, and before you say that your workforce is resistant to change, ask yourself “What do I need to do differently? “What behaviour do I need to have” and “What counter-cultural demands do I make?” and be the “change you want to see in your world”