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    Entries in change (22)


    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.


    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.


    Leader as Facilitator 

    We know the days of barking instructions to people in teams and telling them what to do are fading. 

    Yes sometimes you still need to give instructions or directions but overall, people need to be engaged. Global engagement scores are not good. Must try harder. 

    Additionally, there are countless untapped capabilities in teams the world over, with people just itching to put their experience to work - if only they were asked.

    And plenty of teams aren't quite working at their peak levels of performance because the environment, situation or processes they're working with are slowing them down, stifling them or hindering their opportunities to collaborate and deliver.

    Leader as Coach : too slow and inefficient?

    The Leader as Coach approach has been in play in many industries and organisations for years, decades perhaps. I remember running a Coach the Coach program for a big bank who were helping their leaders be better at those one-on-one conversations. 

    And while coaching is still a highly valued and valid leadership tool, many leaders find the drain, drag and pace of one-to-ones less efficient than they'd like... and need. 

    As one leader said in the bank's coaching program:

    "It take sooooo long to get that person to realise what needs to be done, to go through that GROW model and get them on-board with it. I just don't have the time or patience". 

    And while that may run counter to what leadership or leaders should be like, the realities of pressured schedules, busy teams and project deadlines mean leaders need to leverage more than the one-to-one... at least some of the time. Granted, the one-on-one coaching conversation is a must for performance, development and other discussions. It will always be needed. No argument there. 

    Leverage for impact

    So how else can leaders leverage their time and the interactions with their teams, to inspire the tribe, get them engaged and aligned to the work that needs to be done... and then go ahead and get it done?

    The shift from 'Leader as Coach' to 'Leader as Facilitator' is well underway. 

    Leaders are noticing that leverage is possible when they're adopting the role of a facilitator of their team. Group harmony and cohesion is strengthened and the sheer energy or 'vibe' of the team, tribe or group coming together seems to lift people to build higher levels of team performance. 

    Facilitators make progress easy... or easier. They run a process, respond to what happens and draw on communication tools to make this progress. 

    As a participant in a recent Leader as Facilitator program said:

    "Now I'm able to get stuff done; we talk as a team, I can help remove barriers across the team, we can make decisions and I'm better able to handle the general sh*t that goes down daily in our team." 

    (Note, this leader wasn't naming his people as sh*t; it was more about the finicky, challenging issues and hiccups that happen throughout a typical day when leading a diverse team).

    So leader as facilitator, hey?

    Ah don't be mistaken, facilitation is not ‘soft’ work. Be assured, there are many effective and well-structured approaches and techniques that professional and full-time facilitators use to achieve swift, creative and relevant outcomes with a group.

    And though the 'Shit facilitators say' meme is a good laugh, it's time those cliched phrases and lip service statements were sent to the trash file; they're dated and a poor first response for a present day leader using facilitation approaches with their team. 

    There are many more contemporary, authentic, empathic and realistic ways to get stuff done in teams and keep the team connected to the piece of work via facilitation skills. 

    Diversity demands it

    A leader adopting the capabilities or behaviours of a facilitator is able to achieve outcomes that have a direct connection to business goals, and importantly, get genuine input and contribution from teams and units across the business.  

    It's not enough for a team to meet to just to talk or discuss. In the volatile, uncertain and complex world that businesses operate in, decisions, input and diverse contributions are paramount. 

    In trying to facilitate and drive these types of meetings, many leaders head into steamrolling territory, shutting down contributions or closing down creativity without even knowing it. You might have just caused what you were trying to avoid!

    Then when the room is silent, you might not know what to do. Was it something you said or did?  Possibly. And there's also something else you can do to change that again. 

    It's not soft

    Business facilitation is not about looking at a candle and taking three deep breaths, holding hands or singing 'Kumbaya'. Some industries and fields use this to good effect. I'm not a proponent of it. 

    It's a balance of people participating and contributing AND achieving business outcomes.

    The leader as facilitator needs to balance the business imperatives of:

    • Achieving outcomes
    • Boosting engagement
    • Driving productivity
    • Encouraging contribution.


    Leader as Facilitator is all about using approaches that achieve the things that need to be done. 

    Understanding how to be a Leader as Facilitator puts all of these imperatives to work in contemporary workplaces and makes great things happen.

    Overall, this is about a culture of leadership, a style of leadership in your organisation that you create. It supports teams and leaders with the capability they need to influence, drive and deliver. And that's not 'soft'. 


    Having a Design Mindset

    The skills we’ll need for 2020 and beyond are shaping up as a slick looking list!
    The skill of having a design mindset is right up there. 

    This doesn’t mean you need to know your way around design software, or know which colours go with what or even what an industrial designer does.

    Rather it’s the frame of mind, the mindset that you adopt to think, solve and respond to what’s going on in your team, business, industry … the world. 

    Beyond ho-hum
    A same/same response to strategy, performance, capability, culture and our teams is too ho-hum now. We can’t do the same as we always have.

    Businesses who need to adapt and thrive (that includes the solo operator right through to mega-global big name players) need to increasingly take a design approach to many parts of their business. 

    A Design Mindset
    I think a design mindset looks like this: 


    • Involve: it starts with people, finding out what’s going on, what’s working, what’s not, what’s needed. This is about connecting to your customers, colleagues, users, stakeholders.  
    • Ideate: you come up with ideas, possibilities; it's ingenuity at work. Here you use your creativity and problem solving smarts to think of possible solutions.   
    • Implement: start something, do something. Don’t wait until it’s complete, test out a minimum viable product, process or service. Put stuff to work, try it out, experiment and take note of what happens. 'Have a crack,’ as we say in Australia. 
    • Iterate: You improve and evolve and keep working on it. Release another version, go again, ‘Have another crack’. The refining, adapting and responding is what keeps you agile, current and relevant. 

    Having a design mindset is vital for change leaders, strategic planners, product owners, business owners, team leaders and executives.

    And when you adopt and apply a design mindset to the situations, projects and pieces of work that you're working on, you're better equipped to remain competitive and respond to uncertainty.   

    Strategy is changing; leadership is changing; organisations are changing. 

    We need to also change how we think about what we do if we want to get closer, go further and deliver better.


    Change Leader : What's your front page and headline?

    A paragraph in the change pack I spied at an organisation this morning read like this:

    We need a more contemporary reimagining of our integrated administrative capability.

    What? What does that mean!!? You're leading change and you're communicating like that?

    You can read more thrilling gobbledygook here by using the automated generator! But really, do leaders still distribute uninspiring, time wasting and mind-numbing change messages like this?

    Unfortunately they do.

    But we must do better. We must be clear, inspiring, real, relevant, brief, to the point. And then get on with it and listen, engage, and keep inspiring throughout the change.

    So how to communicate before, during and after change?

    You can take a leaf from Simon Sinek's angle on Start With Why, or the earlier version of it from Bernice McCarthy and the 4MAT Frame, loved by trainers around the world.

    Or you could go PR-style and craft out your key messages. In some of my earlier roles on communication campaigns and strategies we'd create a 'story house'.

    We'd build our key messages from the ground up:

    • what is a foundation message, must be delivered message (like the concrete foundation or slab)?
    • what is a structural, framework kind of message (like the wooden frame)?
    • what is a higher vision, overarching message (like a roof)?

    Another approach is to think sharp and engaging; to think in front page and headline style. 

    What will the front page of your 'edition' on change read like? What story will you be leading with?

    Where is the investigative piece? The history piece... the bit about why this is happening, the inspiring information about others who have taken this path, the reason why the business needs to do this... and what it means for the team. 

    What are the headlines about this change? Where can I find the further details, the background, the unpacked data and spreadsheets and research on it? Where can I find the 'long read'? Where is the photojournalism on it - show me what it will look like? Where's the shipping news: what will be happening when - what's arriving when and where? What will be starting, what's stopping and when is that happening?

    Delete that workplace waffle that reads: We're going forward with our plans to implement systemised third-generation paradigm shifts.


    Go clear, bold, strong, interesting, engaging. 

    Create your front page and your headlines; build your readership for this change.