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    Wednesday
    Sep062017

    Have you got these Future Ready skills?

    How to get ready for the stuff that hasn't even happened yet

     

    So many articles and predictions can worry us wild about how jobs are changing, workplaces need to adapt and plenty of roles that are there now... won’t be soon.
     
    You don't need to be a futurist to work out that things keep changing and if you stay where and what you are…. yes, the future could indeed get more tricky for you. 
     
    Beyond the tech-crazy predictions and timelines of when it’s all going to hit the fan, there’s a more sensible and practical response that organisations and their leaders need -- that is, to get ready for the stuff that hasn’t happened yet.
     
    There’s a need to be future ready and there's a quartet of skills, a foursome of domains that will serve you so very well.  While these may not be as specific as in ‘go to this course’ or ‘get this certification’ (don't by the way) -- there are some domains of expertise that will help us handle what’s ahead, no matter our role, project, team, enterprise or industry. 
     
    The Institute for the Future and the World Economic Forum have both tipped in their thoughts over recent years on what’s needed and while that’s all good in a predictive sense, here’s what I’m seeing and hearing day in day out with teams and projects on being future ready. That is, ready for what your clients, the industry and the world might need of you, and gah! sooner than you might think.
     
     

    The Foursome of 'Future Ready'

    Think 
    We’re the only creatures who can think about how we think, so it’s worth thinking about how we can think better! This domain is about getting insights now… not waiting so long for hindsights to appear. Even though hindsight is a great thing, we need to get to them quicker so we can respond quicker. We need to be aware, awake, insight-full, reading, learning, thinking, reflective, improving, evolving, staying open…
     
    In the middle of last century - that sounds so o-l-d, the 1950s - two colleagues, Joe and Harry created the classic tool for identifying your relationship to yourself and others – the Johari Window.

    I remember laughing (or cringing) with colleagues about leaders whose ‘window wasn’t even there, let alone open!’ when it came to their lack of thinking and self awareness.
     
    Johari got you to assess yourself – and think – on some adjectives about your personality and whether they were ‘open’, ‘hidden’, ‘blind’ or ‘unknown’ to you.
     
    (Looks like Joe and Harry were clearly onto the Startup trend of combining their names or two words to create killer, entertaining business tools. Joe + Harry = Johari. See this giggle on fake startup websites for today’s tech versions of Joe and Harry.)
     
    There’s room in the Think domain for us to be more open, to work to reveal things that are hidden to us or we are blinded to, and to uncover the stuff that is still unknown to us.
     
     

    Connect
    If we’re intrinsically wired to connect with others, then this domain is about how we connect ideas and people and environments. We need to be synthesisers, sensemakers, distillers and integrators. To be able to take lots of stuff and find the pieces that belong, that work or could work together.  It’s integration, not isolation. Also it's anti-silo.
     
    I like to ask teams, “Do you see where the white spaces are here?" where you could move something to, where there is opportunity or possibility that's untapped.
     
    Sure, artificial intelligence will be able to do some of this for us, but there’s something magical about human connections with others, with information, with places and spaces that we will need forever.

     

    Adapt
    How do you adapt to changing conditions, situations, information and environments? This domain is about agility not rigidity. How willing are you to test, learn, experiment and dwell on the whole ‘failure IS an option’ thing? Is your project in such control-freak mode that trust is low and we can’t try something to see what happens?

    Try transforming something rather than tinkering with everything as I wrote recently.

    This is our need to be agile-ish; being able to pivot, change direction and give up on a thing you’ve been fighting for; being willing to embrace a new direction or belief. Yes, this can be tougher than we think. Aaah back to that thinking domain again!

     

    Share 
    How you spread, share and radiate your thinking, ideas, messages and solutions to others in your nearest loops …and wider loops is what this domain is all about. It’s how you pull people in to be part of something not just sending it out and crossing your fingers with hope. How do you bring people in? It’s inclusion not exclusion.

    How can you share things that help build, not break. This is being an influencer, shaper, communicator, engager… on topics that people might not be initially interested in or they have longstanding biases about.
     
     
    There’s an opportunity for us to think bigger; to make bigger shifts in our teams and enterprise regarding what we're going to build capability in.
     
    Think.
    Connect.
    Adapt.
    Share.  

     
    Together these will help get you ready for the future… aaaaaaand oh look, it’s here already.
     

    Monday
    Jun262017

    Are you tinkering or transforming? 

    The need for change in organisations and sectors all over the world created a whole field of expertise and a category of employee - The Change Manager, the Change Leader, the Change Consultant.  They live and breathe this stuff; they know what it’s about, how to do it and the impact a change initiative can have on people and the way organisations operate. They’re all about helping us get from here … to there. 

    Yet some change leaders don’t just deal with change anymore, they deal with even bigger stuff … transformation.

    Yes, change has grown bigger and become even more chang-ey; change that is more significant and more widespread and interconnected and ongoing is transformation. 

    (Possible cliche alert regarding 'transformation' : please don’t use a picture of a caterpillar and a butterfly to show how you are transforming a project, system or people. Yikes. Cliche alert. Woop! Woop!)

     

    Change : to make or become different. 

    In one of my earlier careers as an awards judge for communication projects, the panel would review submissions where entrants would declare that their goals were to ‘change the community’s perception of….’ or ‘change the customer’s behaviour’ or ‘change the way that…’- yet few of these declarations of change seemed to also declare by what amount or percent or scale they would change, to make or become different. 

    It seemed that a little bit of change was still change and for many in the field, that was enough. Tick. Done. Change has occurred. Next project!

    Change often seems to have a defined and finite scope. 

    But to transform is something else. It's often seen as something different

     

    Transformation means ‘marked change’.

    Is transformation a change you can see? Is it obvious, noticeable, significant, ongoing and interconnected? Could you perhaps keep track of it or mark it on something: “A year ago we were there, last month we were there and now ...we are here! Look! Transformation."

    Do you remember the pencil marks on the kitchen wall? As you grew in height you could see that transformation had occurred, and a marked change had taken place. You might have done this for your own kids, or pets or plants or even your unread book collection. 

    Transformation is change. But I fear that while we're all so involved and committed to a piece of change, it’s actually just … a tinkering. 

    Tinker. Tinker. Tinker. 

    A tinkerer was somewhat of a gypsy; they’d travel from place to place and make a living by fixing and mending metal pots and pans and tools. The noise was a ‘tinker’. 

    You can hear it - when someone is working on an old car under the hood, or they are rattling around in the utensils drawer in the kitchen looking for a potato masher or a pot lid or the spoon that completes that set of salad servers. Rattle rattle clank clang and tinker. Yes that noise. 

    Tinkering was about improving, to try to mend, to fix it up or improve. A little. 

    Of all the effort that goes into change and transformation programs in workplaces, this is what I see: lots of effort. To improve. Hours and days, weeks and months of time and effort. So many meetings, information packs, version control of the information packs, flow charts and arrows, more meetings, working groups, town halls and whole-of-staff gatherings, more meetings and presentations and packs. 

    But not enough of decisions, actions, experiments and results. As a recent Harvard Business Review suggested, many of our changes aren’t ambitious enough. 

    Many changes or shifts are too delicate, bite size - just a morsel or a crumb. The end result : tinkering. Little changes. Petit. Picolo.  Over a l-o-n-g period of time.

     

    We’re not really changing that much... are we?

    We might be aiming to change a lot of processes or systems and structures, or hell yes, let’s change people, even just a few degrees would be great. And yet that is hard work. To get everyone - all of them - to shift. A little. All the teams, units and departments to all shift one or two degrees. That’s a big deal

    Rather than tinkering on a little something with everyone, why not look at how you can truly transform a pocket, a division, a team, a squad or a unit. And dramatically. Markedly. 

     

    Pockets of transformation

    Internal hubs, accelerators and pockets of innovative joy are popping up everywhere in cities, communities and businesses. Some companies are setting them up off-site in a cool warehouse-style environment, others are cordoning off a meeting room and labelling it ‘The Innovation Lab’ or ‘hub’ or ‘foundry’ or ‘garage’ or other mechanical-workshoppy-sounding noun where things are being furiously made. 

    Whatever you call your transformation pocket - and your business doesn’t need to be large to do this - be sure that you actually transform something... rather than tinkering with everything. Start there. 

     

    Do you major in minor or minor in major?

    Jim Rohn’s advice to avoid ‘majoring in minor things’ perhaps suggests we could avoid the large, unweildy and lengthy change we're trying to make to somethin' little. That can turn out to be a big mess. 

    There is a more helpful (diagonal) opposite. It’s smarter, more lean and more agile to start with ‘minoring in major things’. That is, carry out little experiments on some of the bigger things. 

    Then you can move step by step towards the big deal of majoring on those major transformative things. 

    (And the other distraction, that's minoring in minor things - ooh, it’s all a bit scary so we don’t do very much of anything at all. It's an area of big fear. We distract and procrastinate and confabulate and obfuscate.)

    Too often the default change initiative is majoring in the minor. I think you need to keep a look out, and then get outta there. 

    It could look like this: 

     

    Where agility happens 

    So go ahead and 'have a crack' at radically changing something. This is where transformation is born. This is where success and learned failure live. It's way more experimental, experiential and insightful. 

    With some experiments launched, you can see how they go. Then you can experiment faster, and get results faster and these will be results that are noticeable and reportable, applicable ... formidable. You'll be playing a leaner game (a-la The Lean Start-up) with yes, perhaps a low-fidelity version of that something, but with insights and data that pour back to you way sooner than a long drawn-out change effort involving a cast of many and a calendar of many months... or years. 

    This approach schools us so the next one we launch - if it turns out that it’s actually worth launching another one or "rolling" anything out to anyone - will be more efficient, more valuable and simply work better.

    Leave those little barely-there ‘just noticeable differences’ for the marketing world and their product packaging on supermarket shelves. They don't belong in change and transformation. 

    Don’t fall into the safety of a too subtle, too gentle or too soft change - it keeps you busy but... it will do that for years. Yawn!

    Too many people, projects, teams, units, industries and organisations are tinkering. 

    You can keep tapping away on a little bit of metal somewhere - tinker tinker - gently and fearfully at the edges of what could be great, hoping to make a few indents ... or you can melt the thing down, change it markedly (transform it) and see what new there is to work with.

    It’s minoring in major things, in transforming some. This will help get you ready for bigger transformations up ahead. This is marked change and this is the type of transformation the world requires us to make today. 

    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.