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    Entries in change leadership (16)


    Blue-Sky Thinking, Strategy & Story

    Blue sky thinking is up there, out there, up ahead….
    We can’t see it yet but we have many ideas, possibilities, hopes. Blue sky thinking isn’t cliché; it’s thinking where there are no preconceptions and no limitations by current beliefs.
    When you put blue sky thinking to work – at work, at home, or anywhere else in your life or community – see it as three stages or steps, not just the singular step of thinking.
    See it as:

    1. Thinking
    2. Strategy
    3. Story

    Once you’ve done the ‘out there’ thinking, convert it to action and create the strategy that will reinforce and bring the thinking to life.
    Yet many organisations stop at this point.
    ‘We’ve got the strategy; see this spreadsheet and these tables and documents; that’s the strategy’
    Not so fast. I think you need to push on and create something else: the story that spreads the image and vision of those possibilities that you’re working towards.
    Make the thinking and strategy more tangible, possible, visible and real – after all, those on the team who will be enacting the strategy may not have had the benefit of weeks (or months or years) of discussions, debates and conversations that you and the team have had in creating it.
    Go beyond the the blue sky thinking; translate it to the strategy… and then go further and craft the storythat will bring the thinking to life, down on the ground where great work is getting done.
    An example: 
    A current project I’m working with a senior leader on is helping the team visualise ‘what good looks like’. The team has plenty of challenging work ahead of them. A visual map, strategy and story will bring their blue sky thinking to life, bringing it closer and making it more possible, attainable and less abstract.
    The bottom line is:
    it’s helps people make sense of it all, connecting dots and seeing where they are on the path to reaching the blue sky.


    Is there a meme in your message?

    So you've got this message and information you need to share, spread, roll out or deliver to people.

    You want them to take it up, listen to it, understand it, know it, trust it and love it so bad that they'll 'do it' and then share it with others so more people listen, understand, know, trust, ....

    But wait.. what! They're not? They must be. Aren't they?

    Not only are they not sharing it as you'd like, they're not acting the way you'd like. They haven't taken it (fully) on board, and they haven't changed their behaviour.

    In fact it's worse than you think; they have done something with it! They're making fun of it. (Yes they are; just not in front of you.)

    They've found the funny in it. They're sharing that. They've found the laughing bit, the rude bit, the cheeky bit and the risky bit. They've found the part that is shareable ... and unfortunately it's not your PR-speak "key message".

    Every message needs a meme 
    A meme is a central idea, a shareable, viral, culture-based and symbolic message - every message needs ... a meme. Without it, your message is just, bluh.

    That's not to say your change or leadership message needs Grumpy cat or some Rickrolling or even Shark number 2 - but it does need:

    • a clear idea on why they should care
    • an element that just has to be shared with others; and
    • visual punch that hits them between the eyes.

    With the rise of Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat and other smartphone and visual social sharing tools, you've got to create a clearer visual picture of your message so that it can be passed on.

    'Meme' comes from the Greek word 'mimeme' to mimic or imitate. (Yes, well they might be imitating your message but not how you'd like them to be!)

    Get meme therapy
    Go get some contemporary meme therapy here at Meme Generator and you can see what people are buying in to, understanding, altering, editing and sharing. (I make no apologies for the naughty or 'inappropriate' memes that might be at that link. They're memes after all!)

    Then you can go deeper into the thinking on the physics of it all from Nova Spivack, or check out the research behind memes from biologist Richard Dawkins and his work on evolution and how things spread... (and mutate) including his views on how the internet has hijacked the meme.

    Pause. Before you punch out a list of BS bullet points on that slide deck for your presentation, spend some more thinking time to craft, create and generate something that will stick, transfer, build and ... live on.

    Give them something they want to mimic... for good.


    Ideas that


    In the fight for attention in a world full of noise, how do you make your message interesting, engaging, actionable and viral?

    Seth Godin asked 'how do you make something 'new'?" when he delivered a presentation on his tour in Australia last year. I visually captured his presentation ... and then my visual idea of his idea was shared

    We have chances, opportunities and choices to connect with people and get our message across. How well are we really doing?

    Think of the word 'remarkable' : what is it that makes what you're sharing, selling, saying remark-able, or worth making a remark about. 

    Seth Godin encourages us to be impresarios: producers, creators, curators.
    What's creative about your message, your thinking and the change you're leading?

    PowerPoint slide decks are dull and boring; bullet points are bullish*t!

    What's the cost of people not seeing (or sharing) your message? Or the cost of you not seeing another way to create and deliver it?

    Seth says attention is precious.

    Make the most of it when you get the opportunity to share your idea. 


    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. 


    Pull the Plug on Change : Bullet Points are Bullshit

    "Pull the plug! Go on I dare you! Step out from behind the PowerPoint slide deck you've created."

    I said this to a leader of change in a health insurance business and he said ....'No. I can't do that!!!'

    But if you're 'rolling out' your communications and key messages for that change and transformation project you're working on - just as this leader was - you don't need a slide deck, a pack or a bunch of pages with boxes, arrows, chevrons and bullet points in it!

    In fact those bullet points you've got there? They're bullish*t.

    There. It's in print. I think bullet points are bullish*t. 

    They boring, linear, impossible to memorise after about five - unless you're a memory champ - and they do little to inspire or inform, particularly during times of change. 

    Most of all, bullet points often show up as a default option in PowerPoint. But you need to buck the default if you want to get engagement and understanding with your message. 

    With all of the information flying around your organisation and team, you want your change messages to get a little more cut-through than the notice in the kitchen that cleanliness is everyone's responsibility!

    Just because you have some key points to make about change, doesn't mean they need to be communicated as points.

    Unpack your entire message across different dimensions: a story, some data, a quote, the rollout plan, where things were, what they'll be like in the future, some engaging questions, some customer insights, the trends in the industry. 

    So this leader who I challenged to 'pull the plug'? We took his PowerPoint pack of bullet points and crafted some flip charts, posters, key messages, a couple of stories and some questions to have dialogue with the team. 

    That's what he rolled out across the country. No PowerPoint in sight. 

    He did pull the plug; and his people were so pleased he did. He stepped out from behind the pack of pages. Now he's talking, engaging, interacting and co-creating the change process with his team. That's leadership!