Tuesday 15 September 2015

Just Read an interesting post on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-culture-your-digital-transformation-hilton-barbour by Hilton Barbour. 

It's interesting to consider the impact of culture on organisations. It's even more interesting to consider how we will control the culture that accelerating, digital technologies will engender. 

At times some feel as though they are helpless to control and get the best from the technology - we are but victims of the technologists development trajectories; going in a direction of their choosing. 

Clearly the answer is to take control appropriately and test and adopt the opportunities the technology continues to provide. The knack continues to be in developing an organisation agile and flexible enough to achieve this! 

Saturday 24 January 2015

Change Management the Easy Cut

I was chatting to a fellow change professional the other day and we were having the age old conversation ... "why is change and communications support always the first part of a programme to be cut?"

There is lot's of evidence and reasoning out there that highlights how critical the human and change support factors are in making a programme a success John Kotter and others have clearly articulated the common causes whilst survey after survey highlights the cost of failure.

The research points to a failure rate of between 60 and 90% with most scholars settling on 70% as the mean likelihood of failure for your change project [ref. Burnes, Kotter, Senge, Hammer & Champy, http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/change-management-the-horror-of-it-all.html]
Bain & Co, McKinsey and so the list goes on] ... yet change support still gets cut.

So why does change support get cut first?

So here's my theory. We as a group of change professionals are just hopeless at clearly defining and articulating what the benefits of the specific change support are! I believe there are some age old things we still fail to do effectively to avoid the dreaded axe:
  • Have the numbers and believe in the numbers - many of my lean colleagues can articulate a benefit statement to 7 decimal places. Their view is as subjective as anyone elses but they articulate it as fact based not conjecture.
  • Communicate a clear case for change - clearly communicate to colleagues and clients what will happen if change support isn't included. This once again is fact based not an emotional outburst.
  • Use the research - there is plenty of research out there on why programmes succeed / fail. Know it, use it, quote it.
  • Cultivate the sponsors - we all know the importance of clear and tough sponsorship. How often do we use it to benefit our own change agenda though?
So as we enter 2011 as a community let's make change stick.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Maslow may just have had a point ...

I'm sure we are all familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

If i'm being honest i saw this as a theoretical model that had little to do with me for many years.

However, as i continue to work with clients on transformational change programmes this becomes increasingly relevant.

Recent market downturns have also reinforced this. 

I can map the types of work i do against the market cycle, the change curve and Maslow ...

In 1991 in a book titled, "The Nature of Risk" by technical analyst Justin Mamis the following diagram appeared ...

For many of us this diagram looks pretty similar to Kubler-Ross Change Curve from the 60's.

However i believe the wording on this curve best reflects the feelings of the senior leaders / CXO's that i tend to deal with. For many, the last 2-3 years has been a journey from panic when the markets dropped through discouragement, walls of worry ... to an even more unsettling point now - denial. Why is this unsettling? The key issues at the moment surround the levels of confidence required to push on and drive growth into their businesses. What do i mean by this?

At some point the business has to stop focussing in on cost reduction and efficiency management and switch to driving product development, sales attraction and growth of profitability and market share.

This is all great text book MBA stuff ... however, as ever, for those of us interested in the 'people' the picture isn't so simple.

Let's take an 'average' employee on their journey through this economic cycle ...

1. In the good years i'm near the top of Maslow's pyramid. Looking for respect, personal growth, a pay rise and the opportunity to further secure my status.
2. As the market gets worse and my company starts to lay off i start to move downwards in the pyramid. My focus is on securing my role and showing i 'belong' as a critical member of the team. In fact for many, hiding in the team is a survival mechanism in itself!
3. As the market continues to worsen the focus turns even further to safety and security. How can i keep a job, pay the bills and maintain a position of social respect.
4. The market returns to growth and i can start to push back up the pyramid. 

So heres the catch ... retention and employee engagement is now an enormous challenge at point 4. From the employees perspective ...

... you've treated me like a commodity, laid off my friends, pushed back on offering me financial or security based rewards ... now you want me to be part of the team that will turn this rounds and grow this company into success? Oh and by the way the competitor has just offered me a job too ...

As i said above the model actually looks like the Kubler-Ross change curve.

It's my belief that the senior management are going through Mamis' curve whilst the employees are going through the Kubler-Ross curve.

It's our job as change managers to bring these together. 

We have a number of tools in our armoury to achieve this through influencing, culture alignment but most importantly the battle for employee engagement is only just beginning!

Saturday 14 May 2011

There is a new plague sweeping across the workforce ...

Over recent months I've become aware of an issue. No doubt many would refer to it as a symptom of the wider engagement debate or just the way of life.

But i have become very aware that quite a few folks seem to be complacent.

Surely In this age where redundancies, performance improvement plans and bad news are all around us; I should be highlighting how fantastically motivated and competitive everyone is

As i say, I'm not aiming to look for the reasons why or join the engagement debate, but I do have some thoughts on what we should all be striving to do differently:

1. Treat every day like it's your first in the job. You start at a company with a hunger and passion to make a difference and the intention to go the extra mile. How many of us treat every day like this?

2. Consider where you are in the pecking order. How good are you and where do you rank against your peers and the competition? Many bosses, and clients ARE working out the pecking order.

3. Seek and act on feedback. Ask your boss, your clients and your peers "how am i doing?" Don't wait to be told! If you want to get ahead in the pecking order you need to understand what good looks like.

4. Have an improvement plan and keep it going. All the psychology and research shows that those with personal goals and improvement plans are more likely to be successful.

5. Don't wait to be asked. Be pro-active and innovative. I've yet to speak to a C Suite client who doesn't recognise and expect staff to identify and propose improvements.

I really do believe that complacency is the opium of the masses, be brave and just say no!

I've finally found the definitive way to make change stick!

Well after my endless contemplation, client experiences, internet and book research I've finally found an answer to how to make change stick ...


This wasn't exactly what i was looking for but it did give me a well earned smile along the way on my epic journey.

I guess the search goes on, but it does highlight the need for persistence and the fact that we should all take time out to smile once in a while.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Making a breakthrough!

I was chatting with a client today about "breakthrough" change. What do i mean by breakthrough? Unprecedented, step changes in performance.

A great demonstration of this is the Mens High Jump World Record

The Men's High Jump World Record tells us a huge amount about how we evolve and change and what is required to create a step change in performance.

Game changing transformation will only occur when:
  • We challenge the rules. Moving from a standing jump to a running jump is a game changer that allows for a step change.
  • We think outside the box and look to do things fundamentally differently - the scissor kick.
  • We stand back and analyse the intended outcome and the capability we have at our disposal - the Fosbury flop. (The interesting thing about this is that it actually lifts the centre of gravity of the body by up to 20cm giving a huge advantage over prior forward facing techniques.)
We can apply these techniques in business to obtain breakthrough results. The problem isn't the capability or desire to deliver significant step changes in performance, I believe it is more that we have become accustomed to an ethos of continuous improvement, cost cutting and efficiency saving. We all expect to be targeted with a 5% cut here, a 3% improvement there; but how often are we given the space, freedom and support to stand back and deliver significant game changing improvements?

So how can we facilitate breakthrough?

At the heart of achieving this is a mindset change. Our ability to perceive and implement step changes is limited not by capability but by expectation. If we set stretch targets for teams and remove the barriers to invention, we will see that necessity is the mother of invention. Time and time again I have seen teams achieve step reductions in lead times, 20% margin improvements, 30% cost reduction ... purely by being asked to do so!

To create this mindset change there are some tools that teams will need, creative thinking techniques, problem solving approaches, case studies to show it is possible and most importantly challenge. This challenge takes many forms, but as is so often the case it often comes down to having somebody asking "Why." 

If any change leaders are in doubt, just pick up a copy of Rita Mae Brown's Sudden Death and flick to page 68 ...“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” 

Saturday 26 February 2011

Why doesn't lean stick?

I've often been asked by clients and colleagues alike "why doesn't lean stick?"

Clearly this is not a totally true statement. We can all point to examples of companies with an ingrained lean or six sigma culture. However this is not the norm, and in many cases far from it.

I have regularly seen both private and public sector organisations jump on the lean band wagon. Undertaking lean workshops, rapid improvement events, Kaizen events and so on. Quite often these events give the company great benefit and deliver efficiencies, improved team working and all the other benefits they'd hoped for.

So why doesn't it stick? Why don't they continue these events and undertake the strive for perfection? After all, they know it works, they may have invested in training staff to facilitate, mentor and support the improvements; many even have their own lean academies ... but lean just isn't embedded.

So here's some of my thoughts on why lean doesn't stick ....
  1. There is no big plan for it! It's not communicated and planned as part of either the business as usual or the change plan. It's just a trial or pilot event. As such everyone goes along with it to make the boss happy. The team delivers the benefit and then moves on to the next big thing.
  2. Where's the buy-in? Either the senior management are bought into the benefits, or the pilot group are bought into the desire to improve their area. But very rarely are all staff bought into the process and the benefits. In fact, quite often there can be resentment against perceived benefits.

    I've personally seen employees feel neglected as their colleagues in the pilot area are lauded as the new heroes. I've seen workforces concerned that the efficiencies delivered will mean job cuts or additional work.
  3. The workforce never owned it. All too often consultants come in and make it look easy but don't leave a truly sustainable team behind that can really deliver it. Yes the training has been done, yes the facilitator has work shadowed an event or two, yes the facilitator is a capable 'good' chap or lady. But that doesn't mean they can actually deliver ongoing programmes. They may still lack confidence, capability or the influence to convince their colleagues / stakeholders of the changes necessary.
  4. Skills and experience are tough to get. At the heart of lean is an enquiring mind and a sixth sense for what tool works where. To achieve real change you need these skills and often in-house lean facilitators will need time to acquire them (if they ever can!) Time is something they rarely have. They are not allowed failures and are expected to have a perfect record of delivering unbelievable benefits. This is clearly unrealistic. Nobody becomes a guru overnight.

    Often the solution to this is to hire experienced practitioners. This can give benefits and quick turnaround but points 2 and 3 still come back at you!

Maybe the answer to the above points is really simple ... almost lean!

Maybe it's ok not to embed Lean throughout the organisation.

Maybe for some organisations the journey to perfection is too much of a stretch.

Maybe if you have a team, it needs to be small, expert, integrated and delivering measurable ROI.

Maybe it's ok not to invest in lot's of training, academies, handbooks and consultant speak.

Maybe you can just use lean when you have a specific problem area. Call in an expert for a few days to fix the issue. Replicate the solutions where appropriate and then get back to business as usual.

 Lean is without doubt a great set of tools to have in the toolbox. I'd recommend all organisations to have them. But like any tools they need to be used appropriately.

Whatever approach(es) you use, they need to be considered, planned, value for money and not just the 'next big thing.'