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    Entries in business agility (21)

    Tuesday
    Apr302019

    Learning and Development

    L&D: does it stand for learning and development or long and drawn-out.

    Is it time for L&D to be more responsive, to lead the way in agility, experiments and lean solutions?

    I was speaking with an L&D team about running my ‘ish' workshop for the organisation - where people learn to challenge perfectionist tendencies and work until it's 'good enough', working in increments and iterations. The L&D team said, "Actually, WE need that!"

    Often an organisation’s learning program is embedded in an annual calendar; by the time the dates come around there’s other/better/more responsive things out there, the market has shifted, and the skills need has shifted. Does your organisation still work on an annual calendar? (Sure, a calendar works for availability, logistics and managing budget).

    Is it time to get more agility into L&D? How responsive is something that’s planned a year or more out? How does a team or project and the skills and capabilities they need change in that time?

    Could L&D run on shorter 90-day cycles for example, responding to the needs in the business and what’s happening in the market, offering stuff swiftly to build skills now, not in 365 days time?


    Saturday
    Jan132018

    Retrospective: Look back with some structure and process

    The end of a project, calendar year or quarter and there can be lots to wrap up, finish up and look back at. 

    For some of us, things just keep on keeping on. The calendar or end of project may be irrelevant; perhaps there's not even a whiff of time to slow down to review anything. 

    When you do have a moment to pause, reflect, gather some thoughts or input or review in readiness for what's ahead, here's a little something for you. It's for you or for your team, unit, project, organisation...

     

    A Template for a Retrospective

    Retrospective. It's a word that comes from Latin roots meaning 'I look back at.'

    So get together and start looking back. That is, have a conversation or meeting to talk about what went well and what didn't go so well and how you can make the best of all of that. You don't need to dwell on it all for hours and hours; in fact this tool helps you take what happened and shift it forward for change. 

    Rather than a dull meeting based on vague questions or a meeting where loud mouths reign and interrupt quieter members of the team... here's a tool for you to lead the conversation with. 

     

    A Visual Focus

    The power of visuals in meetings, conversations and communication are undeniable. They help people hear each other, they help us focus, they help us stay on track because we can actually see the work to be done.

    Use this template to not only lead the meeting or conversation, but to capture some of the content that's contributed by the team.

    I've put together some instructions if you need 'em in a PDF here or a little video here

     

    Alone or together

    Whether you do it alone, in a team (or a family, yeah that's a great idea), with the project team or across units and divisions, spend just a little valuable time looking back and reviewing with a more formalised structure and process.

    A retrospective view helps give people the opportunity to contribute, to participate and voice their thoughts. Plus it gives you a rich trove of insights and sensemaking from which to do more or to make some changes and adapt for what's up next. 

    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.