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It's 
VISUAL

SENSEMAKING

with Lynne Cazaly
using The Visual Mojo Method
SYDNEY: August 23

1 day practical workshop for your team
Build this powerful, influential skill to help make sense of change, communicate clearly and engage people in the most challenging situations

 

 
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    Thursday
    May042017

    Where's your project on the path of change

    Many change and transformation projects are spoken about as a 'path', 'journey', 'ladder' or 'roadmap'.

    In short, we're here and we want to get to .... there.

    Sometimes change and transformation can feel alot less safe than a simple path or road. It feels more like a gigantic cliff! And Jack Canfield's quote about 'making your parachute on the way down' or the entrepreneurial advice to 'grow wings as you're plummeting towards earth' (aka 'grow a pair!) ... who even wants to jump into a change when you're not sure how safe the whole path will be, let alone the landing!

    Whether it's a structural change, a process or system change or a shift in culture towards new ways of working, it's in that metaphorical language we speak (paths, journeys, ladders and roadmaps) that we hear the cues and clues about where we are and where we want to get to.

    We also hear about some of the roadblocks, barriers and obstacles (hey, more metaphors*) that are both hindering and helping progress through a transformation.

    *Hint: Listen out for these metaphors; you can build lovely rapport and help people shift when you hear these metaphorical barriers and then talk about them, rather than telling people to 'move on'.

    Change and transformation doesn't just involve the stuff or things that are changing; it involves the people, the humans doing the changing.

     

    How about a ladder?

    A path, journey or roadmap up say, a ladder of change can be tricky, treacherous... and for some impatient leaders, suitably time wasting. Knowing where you're at can help with leading that change.

     

    At the bottom of the ladder are organizations and teams in chaos; they’re losing ground and on the decline. They are resistant to change, fearful and frightened of change and don’t know where to begin. They’re moving in reverse. They think they're standing still but it's worse than that. These are the businesses that go ‘belly up’, that become insolvent and are wound up. Too soon and they’re gone.

    There are plenty of businesses close to chaos but they’re attempting change and transformation. They’re a little stuck. When teams and organizations resist change – which often happens in the early stages of a change or transformation - there is a sense of being in neutral; poor levels of productivity and a feeling of not getting anywhere. Going in circles, simple changes aren't being adopted and it’s all too easy to continue the old ways of working. Why change?

    Progressing up the ladder (or along a path of change) are organizations and teams that are intent on change and transformation but they’re… distracted. They’re too busy looking at competitors and not responding, or they’re focused on internal changes that deliver little impact (or are unnecessary in the first place), or their attention is taken off the positive process of change by other significant troubles. This includes industrial, legal, financial or media crisis stuff. They're in the media everyday. They’re busy all right, but productivity and transformation suffers because they’re focusing on distracting stuff.

    If you think of an organization as aiming to make forward progress through change and transformation, each of these stages of the change path or ladder see the business slipping, with wheels spinning, engine revving loudly, just not getting anywhere!

    As a remote Australian outback fan, I'm often w-a-y out there, holidaying in our 4WD, taking paths less travelled, seeing the ochre-red sands of central Australia or the remote bush tracks where few tourists go. Spinning wheels? Not good. Get traction and get outta there!

    And in change, that's where we get to a tipping point…get outta there.

    Up over this point in change and transformation is where productivity changes, focus is shifted and positive friction is achieved, traction is gained.

    At the shift stage, organizations and teams are making changes and transformation. The decision is made, they're onto it. They’re bringing new processes and ways of working to the business … but it’s still a hard slog. Change is not the norm; the dynamic of progressive change isn’t leveraged and change takes significant effort to get traction and to stick.

    Once the team gets to perform, productivity goes up, change initiatives begin to ‘stick’ in a positive way and the path to being transforming culture is smoother. Positive change initiatives build on previous changes made and the culture is a higher performing one. There is acceptance of change as the norm; ‘This is what we do. We change. We keep changing because that’s how we do things around here.’

    Ultimately, organizations and teams that reach transform, do so because they are agile and adaptive; they make change stick, and then reinvent, experiment and review to make change an ongoing part of how they work. 

    From some of my blog posts, enews and social media shares, I often hear back from people in industries and sectors that say they are too low down on this path towards change. That they want to get moving; they want to change quicker; they need to or they'll be disrupted, replaced and decimated as a business... and possibly an industry.

     

    Everything about your organisation speaks

    In an earlier career in communications, I remember learning (and then lecturing) that 'everything about an organisation speaks'. It speaks to you about the culture; everything from how you're greeted, to what you see, to how people are sitting in pods and rows, to how a meeting room is 'all table' and no space.

    How your organisation responds to change says so much about its culture. And if you want to change culture, you need to change how you see, lead and communicate about change.

    The way you lead change says everything about your culture. Change brings renewal; if you want to change culture, change how you lead change.

    This is why I think the reference to change as a death, a dying or a grief process is done. References to endings and beginnings are done. Change is ongoing. It needs to be part of "how we do things around here."

    Rather than allowing change to be a burden, a challenge or a drudge, change can be the catalyst to shifting culture. The move is on from spinning wheels and being stuck in old ways, to a shift, up up up to higher levels of traction and performance.

    To change culture, change how you lead - see and speak - of change.

    Thursday
    May042017

    The 'death model' of change is done

    If you don't like change, you are going to like irrelevant even less.’ - Eric Shinseki

    Change and transformation are constant in organisations, and the reality is that leaders need to lead that change. And get used to leading it.

    It's through change that organizational culture is created, demonstrated and lived.

    Your capability as a leader is often measured by how well you lead change and transformation, and how well you’ve helped a team or organization shift from ‘here’…. to ‘there.’.

    Over time, it can be challenging to keep on leading change and transformation projects - particularly if the team is feeling a little change weary!

     

    Oh no, not "pushback"

    Some team members resist and pushback on the change initiatives you’re leading. This type of resistance and response can build and next thing you know, you have a groundswell of support against a change, not for it.

    Leading change is a daily part of being a contemporary leader. And leaders need to feel comfortable with the discomfort that can come from their efforts of leading change. Even when the going is tough.

    We’re living in a VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and to lead change in this environment takes a mix of know-how, mindset and action that positions leaders as the true transformers of organizational culture.  

     

    More "urgency" won't help

    How do you help people understand why this change is just as, or more important than the last one you led? There’s only so much ‘urgency’ you can create as a reason to change, or to push or engage people to change.

    I was facilitating a kick-off leadership workshop with a project team recently and that cliched phrase of "create the urgency" was trotted out endlessly. *groan* They were too focused on pushing people... a kind of "hurry up and change" message.

    Yes sometimes it’s a challenge to get strong buy-in from across the whole team and beyond. There might be pockets of support, pockets of dissent and a bunch of people simply sitting in the middle, waiting to see which side of the change fence they might end up sitting on.

     

    So. Many. Questions.

    Sustaining high levels of engagement throughout a change program is a challenge. Questions can come from all quarters. You might want to answer every question that people have but sometimes that’s not possible. It may feel like you have little time or you may feel there’s a sense that the questions would never end, and that you would get the same questions over and over and over….

    How do you handle the resistance, the comments, questions and frustrations of team members… without letting it get on top of you, disrupting the rest of the team, or putting a stop to the transformation that’s underway? I think this is an ideal facilitation capability. There are ways to open up discussion, handle the tricky subjects and then wind things up without shutting people down.

     

    First, let's STOP with the 'death model'

    Where have you learned about how to lead change?

    Much is learned from the leaders who lead us and the changes we've been through with them. And much of that can be flawed, dated, tired, slow and stodgy.

    Come on, there’s only so much that a PowerPoint slide with the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model of grief can do to help inspire and engage you lead change! As highly regarded as the model is, it’s about death and dying.

    Enough with linking change to death. How uninspiring!

    Ever been in this workshop?...

    "Welcome to our workshop today about change. Firstly, here's what dealing with grief and death is like. Here's what's going to happen to you throughout our transformation program... there's no way out"

    We’ve got to move on from the ‘death’ model of change to a more contemporary approach, of change being constant, living, dynamic and a necessity. This is what business agility is; it's what's agile, adaptive, responsive and needed.

     

    Risky career business

    Change and transformation needs to be led … every day. And leaders need to do that in an inspiring way.

    Yes, there is a real risk or fear that the change program you’re leading could fail. Some of them do. And if you’re judged on your performance or capability to lead a team through a rapidly changing environment, this can impact your credibility, marketability, success and career path.

    But don't let that hold you back from trying new things and applying more contemporary approaches to change.

    As a leader of change, you'll be charged with the responsibility to design, engage and execute change - and it needs to be done in a human way. Coupled with leading your own cohort, you still need to maintain a strong sphere of leadership influence among peers and beyond.

    It’s a fine balance between:

    • leading the team,
    • leading the change and
    • leading your own career.

    And that's not griefworthy or deathly.

    Carry on. Keep going. Look for a lighter style and approach to change and stop with the comparison to death.

    Wednesday
    Feb082017

    Planning is a waste. Spur of the moment is often good enough. 

    ‘The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’ - Walt Disney

    There’s a message here from the Director of Your Life; don’t wait for the script to arrive. Get on with it.

    Everyday life is the biggest improvisation of all. No script. No rehearsal. Get straight out onto the stage of life and start performing! 

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving!

    Spur of the moment is often good enough 

    For many planners, strategists and forward thinking folks, planning is a part of their everyday life. They plan their morning; they plan their lunch; they plan their afternoon; and they plan family holidays, expeditions and adventures. But to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous life which is how the world is now operating, to plan can sometimes be too slow.

    Start before you're ready

    How about the idea of starting before you're ready and making things up as we go along?

    I joke with friends and family that there are some cities and towns in the world, that if I had the opportunity to visit them again, you could take me to the airport right now. With nothing more than my phone with a payment app + my passport in my back pocket, I would work it all out as I went. 

    That idea can freak some people out. But I really would be willing to do that.

    Starting before you're ready is a response based on a theory around improvisation. Step into a community or public theatre in almost any city around the world and you will be able to discover the talents and prowess of improvisers. They step onto stages, performing for paying public and they are able to create and deliver an incredible performance almost every time.

    At the end of an improvised show, many theatergoers ask, ‘can we come back tomorrow night and see this performance again?’ Some audiences don’t realise that the show they just saw was fully improvised. Perhaps, a suggestion was given from someone in the audience to start a scene for the performance. Perhaps, one of the performers has added their own ideas. In fact, this is what improvisation is. It’s cutting loose your censor and setting free the inhibitions in your mind to deliver creativity.

    When I first learned the skills of improvisation with Impro Melbourne and was encouraged to step onto the stage as a performer, I always felt that I needed to rehearse a bit more or prepare in my mind what I was going to do or take some notes. Just as improvisers step onto a stage without a script -- so must we in workplaces today. 

    The idea that we can start before we are ready, gives us permission to just have a go, to not have a plan, to not have a script, to not have a structure and to not have any clue where this might go!

    What?! This can be terrifying for those who like to plan, for those who like certainty, for those who like unambiguous situations and for those who like to keep it all under control, known, certain and sorted. Trying to keep it all steady and calm. This is a little different to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that are now in full swing in most industries across the globe.

    If you are 80% ready to go, then go.

    Start before you're ready says don't worry about planning... well, not fully anyway. Not down to the final point.

    If you are 80% ready to go, then go.

    If you are 40% ready to go, then go with something.

    If you are 20% ready to go, then go with that.

    If you continue to plan out every single step of your idea, of your business opportunity, of your entrepreneurial thoughts or of your team's actions, your capacity to respond to that uncertainty and those changes are minimized. By the time you've finished planning, the landscape has changed! To be able to start at anytime - particularly before you're ready - gives you the opportunity to respond, to adapt, to be agile and to be flexible.

    Over the longer term starting before you're ready helps reduce your inhibitions, your structures, your limitations and your beliefs about what can be possible, what you can create and what you can do.

    Get momentum and get something 'out there'

     

    And for the procrastinators among us (yes, me too), starting before you're ready is a very cool way to get some momentum, to get something 'out there' and get over your need for it to be finished, perfect or better before you put it out there.

    Have a crack. Try it out. Start before you're ready and then document what happens. You could be on to something truly life changing for you and those you impact with your thinking, creativity and work.

    Improvisation maestro and master, guru and god, Keith Johnstone suggests that spur of the moment thoughts and actions are as good -- or better -- than the ones we try too hard at.

    Stop trying so hard. 

    Wednesday
    Feb082017

    The 'triple threat' work skills for the future

    Trying to make sense of the ongoing changes in the world seems like a tough ask sometimes; as soon as you’ve got your head around one shift or change ... ‘thud’, along comes another, and then another. This is the world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity (VUCA) after all. 

    So what are we to do? 

    And the emphasis is on ‘do’. We can’t just sit and wait things out. Mind you, pointless ‘doing’ isn’t too helpful either. 

    With the big world, your work world and your own world undergoing constant shifts, tweaks, adjustments and aftershocks, there are some critical work skills that will do you well - both now and the future. There's machine learning, artificial intelligence and more VUCA so you’ll need something that’s sharp and has staying power in your backpack or the often-quoted “toolkit” to ride this out ...and keep on riding. 

    The Institute for the Future and the World Economic Forum release details on what they think you’ll need for the future. Add to that what I’m thinking and seeing when I’m working with business, and yes, there’s a dose of Sensemaking capability needed.

     

    What’s the triple threat?

    The ‘triple threat’ isn’t about the world’s demise - though with some changes recently, it could well head that way sooner than we were planning! 

    Triple threat: it's the three powerful skills I think will make you a sure thing for better thinking, more useful solutions and a stronger bias for action… no matter what happens with the evolution of work. 

     

    Why a triple? 

    An actor who’s known as a triple threat is a threat because they can do more than just act. They can sing and dance and act. They’re more of a threat to succeed and get a wider range of gigs than the single domain expert who’s a great singer but… or acts well but can’t do much more. Nothing wrong with focusing on acting -- or any domain -- but having a couple of other domains of expertise in your kitbag will simply take your further, for longer. 

    Football players (catch, pass and kick) or cricketers (bat, bowl and field) or netballers (shoot, pass and defend) who are triple threats are indomitable. They’re everywhere. They’re higher profile. They deliver greater value. They’re truly indispensable. And they’re probably feeling super-fulfilled too. Imagine using all that talent in so many areas and doing all much good, bringing that much value. 

     

    Distributed -- not diluted

    While deep expertise is ace, some transferability or ‘neo-generalism’ as Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin in 'The Neo-Generalist - Where you go is who you are’ explain... is the thing. It’s my favourite book of the moment. It speaks of the ability to be a specialist and a generalist. To ‘traverse multiple domains’ and ‘live between categories and labels’; now that’s a winner in my eyes.  

    With triple threat work skills under your belt for the future, you’re more able to cross disciplines and blend opportunities that might have passed the single domain expert by. You're able to combine, mix and cross-pollinate what you learn from one area/gig/field/job/contract/experience... and apply it in another.

    Steven Johnson in ‘Where good ideas come from’ calls this looking for ‘the adjacent possible’ ... and it has a dose of his ‘serendipity’ about it too. As he unpacks seven of the innovative spaces and places where good ideas come from, you can see how having more than one domain of expertise is like capability on steroids! 

     

    The triple threat of work skills for the future

    The triple threat work skills for the future? 

    I think you’ve got to wonder, think and then do something with what you find out. 

    Sing, dance and act. 

    Bat, bowl and field. 

    Shoot, pass and defend. 

    At work, it's curiosity, ingenuity and creativity.

    It looks like this... all bright and breezy: 

     

    Curiosity is to wonder.

    It’s about questioning. What’s going on? It’s a facilitation of a diverse conversation and dialogue. It’s about scanning, listening, reading, absorbing. Hmmmmm!

     

    Ingenuity is to solve.

    It’s about thinking. More deeply. It’s connecting dots. What does this mean? It’ssensemaking. Looking back, working out what’s needed next. Coming up with plausible solutions and ideas. Ahaaaa!

     

    Creativity is... to create.

    Of course it is! But not arty painting - unless that's what you're doing! This future work skill is for making, shipping, delivering, doing. It’s about the hack. Get it done. Tick! 

    The Triple Threat of Work Skills for the Future are: Curiosity. Ingenuity. Creativity

     

    These are a triple threat because they are adaptable, flexible and transportable.

    They encourage you to be open to different perspectives and they create conditions to wonder what the heck is going on… and to respond, to work out 'what are we gonna do about it.' Oh, and then actually do it!

    Don’t just wonder. Don’t just think.

    Finish the game, the play, the third act and get into action.

    Do.

    Then you’ll be able to wonder again, think some more and put some more things into practice. 

    Go you triple threat you!

    Wednesday
    Feb082017

    A story will help you make sense

    When the world feels all upside down and its challenging to understand what's happening or why, it's often in hindsight that we're able to see what went on.

    This is sense making at work. It's how we connect the dots and draw some conclusions from what was uncertain or complex.

    With Sensemaking rated as a vital capability for the future of work as work keeps getting re-worked, we've got to look at human, helpful and effective ways to make sense - that don't involve drowning in fathoms of data.

    In making sense, stories are critically important. Not so much the telling of stories, rather the hearing, the distilling and the getting to the essence. That's the sense part.

    Even micro narratives, tiny little slivers of a story are worth grabbing and capturing. It could be a phrase, a statement, a couple of words, a slang term or a quote.

    When people drop these little micro-gems into the conversation, look out, grab them and capture them. Reflect them. These will help you make sense.

    It’s a little like how panning for gold might give you hundreds or thousands of little pieces of golden glitter, but no big nuggets. Yet it’s the mounting up of those little shimmers that can give you the right to say you’ve ‘struck gold’.

    So don’t discount the little pieces of glitter, the little slivers of a story, the tiny segments or phrases or grabs. Together they can make some wonderful sense.

    In sensemaking and making sense, you’ve got to tune in those listening skills to hear the slivers of stories; to listen to what people are saying and sharing with you… to capture those.

    Don’t just wait for facts and data. Engage in the anecdotes, the stories, the tales and the telling.

    In my earlier career, my first career, I worked in public relations. Oooh, don't throw tomatoes or boo and hiss. It was good PR. It was community relations. I worked in public health, education, government, training, media, sport. It was about helping people understand what was going on and how they could either get involved … or run the other way!

    Whatever the topic, project, program of work or PR piece I was working on, we always had to craft key messages. When you watch someone present to the media, and if they've been media trained, they'll be delivering their content in sound bites and key chunks - those repeatable, printable, quotable quotes that the media like to broadcast. It's a short chunk of sweet loveliness on the topic. (Oh and at the bad end of the scale are those nothingness quotes that politicians like to sprout. Not those.)

    The same can apply in communication, leadership and workplaces the world over. You need some sound bites and digestible chunks for your listeners and viewers to take in and understand - for your employees, teams and tribes to grab hold of.

    Gather together the little slices, pieces, chunks and cues. Together they can give you incredible sense and help show what people are thinking, wondering, learning, sensing and making.

    Collect the stories you hear - even the tiny little ones - capture them, visualize them, share them and reflect on them… put them together, for they will help you – and the people you’re working with - make sense.