The Challenge of Capturing Heads and Hearts for Change

Any organisation is in constant change. New processes, new IT, new customers, new products, new services, all present continuous and evolving challenges. Managing that change and the engagement of the colleagues to that change  is a massively complicated task requiring a basket of skills in psychology, mentoring, communication and negotiations and, that rarest of all things in business, pure common sense, but mostly communication.. and most of that communication is actually listening to what is actually being said.

    Following are some observations from the cheap seats of witnessing, experiencing and ultimately managing, a wide variety of change programmes. Things that work. Things that definitely don't. 

s   Something to throw into the melting pot and maybe think about before you embark on your next BIM project, or transformational change matrix... organisational restructuring or just trying to understand why fabulous, no brainer ideas don't always get the traction they obviously deserve and why 38% or all IT projects actually fail! 

     1. Don't always question. 
OK. I know it is what most of us are told to do, and what the business gurus were tell us. They implore us to 'question everything- challenge every assumption'. Of course you still do that, just don't get obsessed with it. Instead, revitalise the casual conversations and information sharing as a normal business practice. And devote as much as half of your time to developing that dialogue. You can't expect to learn a lot just by challenging your staff. They will, more often than not, give you the answer they think you want, especially if they have to give answers off the cuff. Welcome, unreservedly, one another's thoughts and opinions and give them time to respond. NOT just 24 hours and then take their silence as acceptance. 

2. Establish a nil tolerance for Mediocre Practice but don't polarise the process and focus too much effort on establishing Best Practice.

    Instead focus on ways to eliminate worse practice. When is best good enough anyway? A Best practice will invariably come out in the end if you are initiating the other 19 ( or so) principles. Well a few of them anyway. Incrementally it is a much quicker fix, for both you and the customer. In any case the question you should be asking is 'Are you benchmarking yourself against the mediocre, the safe, and the obsolete? Is just it a 'me too' action. Do you want to be a  Karaoke business or a business that actually inspires.
One business improvement  per week by each individual which can be as insignificant as  oragsing theri draw, wil prodcue 53 buiens simprovemnts a year , That what turns any orgaistion into a world class orgaisnstion. 


    3. Actions SHOUT.

If you can vividly show the effect, good or bad that results from the implementation of their ideas you reinforce the feed back of the original signal. Or, as Spiderman puts it to Dr Octopus, you get 'harmonic reinforcement'. Show them that you take their ideas seriously, and they will trust you more seriously to share their ideas.
4. Actively Look Out.

    Scan the horizon, not just through the myopia of market analysis or the telescope of your marketing or sales department. Your competition is an awfully narrow field of view. And, have regard not just for at the usual suspects, the competitors in your field or your own market. 

Most of the good ideas don't come from your own staff (Or you for that matter). You are not the stewards of all things 'magnificent'. Humbleness is truly attractive and inspiring. Acknowledgement of others contribution wins friends and accomplices.
5. Experiment Persistently.

    Assume nothing. Enlightened trial and error outperforms any planning of intellects however flawless their rationale. You can, and must, plan ahead to know where you want to go, and what steps you will have to make to get there. But then put the plan aside and focus on the first steps. Regularly stop to reflect on the action and repeat the process.
6. Let go of the need to be right. It's OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.

    Your mistakes are your experience. Pass it on. If you malign failure, you destroy entrepreneurship, snuff out innovation and in the end you harm the company. If you "forgive and forget" because you want to be that great boss you always wanted to work for, that same mistake will be repeated twice or a dozen times. Failure is normal, accept it, move on but demand that lessons be learned and communicated through the entire organisation.

Expect no less from everyone in your organisation.
7. Empower but support

    It is absolutely all right, positively, to give assignments to people who have never done it before. The codicil is that, if you do, then it is your responsibility as a manager to provide them with a network of expert advisors whom you trust. Legitimacy lies in competence as much as position in the organisation chart. Position without competence results in disaster. Competence without position results in helplessness.
8. Don't refer to the 'Internal organisation'.

    Talk about specific people. Referring to other organisations of the company as "them" is laying the ground for future excuses about the lack of results for everyone.
    Organisations are almost inevitably impersonal, complex, and change every 24 months anyway. People and communities however are far more stable, resilient and trustworthy.
9. Kill off internal client-supplier relationships.

    The internal market approach is the very worst possible form of internal collaboration. A client-supplier relationship in a monopolistic environment is the epitome of bureaucracy. It damages the social network and value of the company and paralyses its ability to solve problems for the customer. If you want to reinforce the silo mentality that is the next best way of doing it.
10. Before deciding on a plan, always ask with whom the plan was discussed.

    The raison d'etre of the corporate manager is not to come up with the bright ideas, but with ideas shared with other stakeholders. Reject all proposals and action plans bearing only the signatures of your staff.
11. Involve people collectively in your thinking.

    If you merely want compliance (at best) rather than real commitment then use managerial authority to deploy programs and plans from the top-down. Then sit back and watch it all unravel. If you really want people to adopt your views and act accordingly, you must engage in meaningful conversations with them, and not "cascade down" or "communicate messages". If you have a teenager you will l know exactly what I mean.

Think about the power of stories. No-one is won over by a PowerPoint slide, a chart no matter how pretty, other people’s Mission Statements, or an Excel spread sheet.. Nor will they ever adopt for themselves another person’s goals. Intellectually in the short term it may possibly penetrate - short term in this case being the five minutes after the Ra-Ra speech until the next problem hits them as they get back to their desk. For medium or long-term participation you need to connect emotionally (How to do that? Well that is the tricky part and the reason why 99.999% of all managers, including you and me are not Steve Jobs. Mukti millionaires an captains of industry, we are just doing the best we can with little training and mediocre mentoring and few role visible or accessible models we can learn from)

12. Management is not so much about delegating to individuals than about organising and empowering groups.

Effective action ("execution") in any organisation is all about coordination and synchronization. Speed of execution is best achieved by self-synchronisation of competent people who understand and trust each other. The first job of a manager is to detect who these people are and make sure they work together in the right setting (working group, project team, community of practice...) Or separate them if they or in a dysfunctional group. .

13. It's not about giving objectives.

It's about making sure they understand your intent. If they really understand your goals and if it makes sense to them, they will figure out what to do by themselves. It is by far more difficult to articulate a clear intent than to give objectives. Those that figure out that particular trick are the true leaders. Remember the power of the story.

14. Never give targets without negotiating them first.

Giving measurable quantitative targets without negotiating them with those responsible for making it happen is just bad management. But negotiate hard and if you do shift their comfort zone, give them the support to deliver. Not an excuse to fail.

15. Don't Squirrel knowledge

Don't think that you always know what information is 'good' for your staff. Let them know what you know, give them access to every document you have, unless it is explicitly confidential or for a damn good reason. Don't work on a "need to know" basis. No one ever said 'Oh, that Barry bloke, he communicated too much'. Let them sort out the information overload. There are plenty of tools and tricks to help them. Even if you do cocoon them they will always find out but via half-truths, conjecture, second-guessing, the water cooler whispers and will arrive at completely at the wrong idea. Paranoia is a part of almost every human activity so don't give it more oxygen. It is far easier to manage any fallout than motivate the disenchanted.

16. History is good- Look back.

 Encourage the promotion of the myths and legends. Balance market studies, action plans, specifications etc. with case studies as stories, lessons learned and  good practices. Spend some time reflecting on past experiences. And ingrain all new employees and stakeholders with the story. Commitment to the past reaffirms the company's culture and the brand.

17. Don't promote people that sound smart, but those who make sure that smart things happen. 

The company's promotion process is the primary driver of employees' emotional positivity. It isn't money, or perks or glory. It can build or destroy confidence or simply reinforce the CGAS attitude.

18. Don't expect dedication from someone who fears for his job.

All efforts are stalled by the fear of job loss. If you need to fire people, do it at warp speed, and make sure it appears to all as an exceptional event.

19. Never manipulate your staff. You actually can't!

Employees are hypersensitive to inconsistencies and incoherence across an organisation. They immediately detect every ripple of manipulation when they hear conflicting messages. Largely, because they are looking for them and we come circling right back to the paranoia thing again. Establish trusted relations with your peers first. Trust is the bandwidth of communication
20. Get yourself a knowledge technology coach.  

Communication and collaboration technologies are dramatically changing. E-mail for collaboration is becoming extinct. You need to up your game and use whatever channel you can to harvest, care for and share the stories you want to define your business.