Rome awaits – Jonas and Mark speaking on Innovation

24 01 2012

In February Mark and Jonas are working with a large group of  senior managers from a  global building materials company on innovation. It’s not what you make that matters but the way and ways of making both the product and business. We expect to challenge their thinking in terms of how to do business better and different in a market that is massively affected by an economic cycle or downturn. They are doing the right thing, change themselves before the competition do or the market demands it.

It’s better to change on the upwards slope of the curve or somewhere near the apex rather than in the tail spin of decline. We expect to push them to think differently and take control of their future in the industry. Should be fun !!



Its not about them it’s about us !

14 07 2010

A not so blinding insight came to me the other evening, helped to some degree by a Cohiba and a Talisker…( a good creative mix if ever there was one).  Many of the change initiatives that large organisations undertake they do so to change them… the people they have employed. The top management somehow plan and vision and strategise the future state they want to achieve and forget it’s all about us... a combined effort … not about getting them to do things differently. When we start to think about our organisation and our company and our strategy then there is not us and  them, just us.

What stops senior management using the people they have to change the business for the better?  In my experience its a number of things:

fear of losing control

not having a method to involve others efffectively

underestimation of the ability of their own people

Taking each in turn let look at what can be done.

Power is ultimately about getting people to do things. If you can give away the control to others but have them do things in the direction you wish, isn’t that just a different kind of power.  Some form of engagement process would do this, set the challenge and agenda for change but have people in the organisation who work there every day, do the planning and idea generation for what can be improved. The fear that top management have is that it might not work. Be brave, take the risk and see what your employees are capable of, given the chance.

Engagement is a great idea that fails to get many managers excited because they don’t really know how. It ok if you have a small team to get involved, but what happens if you are the board member with a team or division with 250 people – is engagement really easy at this level. Well try to think of it as a community activity and not a process for business. Is it possible to get over 250 people involved in something that they want to see happen in a community – open source software regularly does this with thousands, getting  a village fete up an running can involve scores of people, sports event hundreds of competitors, so yes it is. We use transformation workshops, large as you like, to get people engaged with structure – open space is another technique.  Engagement is something people give you , you need to give them a process to make it easy to get involved.

Finally, are they up to it – does your staff care?  Well ask them to find ways to make money and save costs and cut jobs and they might not be. Ask them to take some control and responsibility for their future and growth of the business and I think you will find they can be creative, focused, business like and innovative in finding ways to be different and better.

Remember its not about you – the senior team and them the employees, it’s all about US

Leadership is where you find it

6 05 2009

I have a number of personal contacts who are teachers and who happen to work in good schools here in the UK.  What do I mean by good schools… not my definition but that of the inspectors who have rated at least two of them ” outstanding” in terms of the education they provide.  What is interesting to me is that in both of these schools the teachers I know and it seems their peers find the leadership of the head master appallingly bad.  In one where I have much more knowledge,  the heads actions would not be tolerated in any other organization.  Poor work ethic,  poor technical skills in their subject,  atrocious man management,  blame culture and not backing staff against parents or the local authority in times of  disagreement.  So what is happening?  In these two examples both schools in terms of performance of their task are really outstanding against an external standard and the experience of the kids.

My belief is in areas of vocation, rather than jobs,  people rise to the challenge of doing good work regardless of the head of the organisation.  More so than in a commercial organisation the drive and determination of the staff makes great things happen. The larger good, the clear worthwhile goal , the uniting interest , serves to somehow replace the leadership placed by authority.  A good result can be gained by the leadership emerging from a second, third level line of the organisation.  In these institutions people lead themselves where there is a vacuum of real direction and support – in some instances in spite of objections and interference from above.

So what can we learn from this? Well  shared goals and uniting beliefs, which are hallmarks of a vocation, seem to have more drive than any vision or mission from a leader who you don’t believe adds any value. Can we as managers of people get more shared understanding and more of a core belief in what we are doing? I think we can.

What is really sad is how good could these schools be if the head teachers were good? that is such a waste !!

Relationship mapping – know who you know

23 03 2009

In these days of cyber networks its easy to think we are really well connected, have contacts,  know people and are linked in.  Well relationships are critical to  leadership and even more so when taking others on a change journey… so why not pay a little more attention to the relationship we have.  Making explicit what is implicit is  a starting point.  As an exercise for individuals relationship mapping is a great way to make you think about who you know, and what they know and how they influence your success.

See the text below for a way of mapping what is, what should be and how to get from one to the other… no man is an island, or even a small nationalistic country – co operation, interdependence and plain old scratching each others back is back in fashion… not that it was ever really out.

If you don’t know who you know, how can you manage relationships to ensure you are successful in leading change? We all have circles of influence – some formal given by position and rank, and many more informal given by history, shared interests, debts, favors and recommendations. If you want to really make an impact in change leadership you should know who to bring into your camp who may not be there, and how to influence the ones who already are.

Take a large blank canvas; a flip chart pad is idea, but the back of a poster or a large format paper. A3 is probably the smallest which will work well.

Draw a circle in the centre with your name or initials in the centre. Then start to map the surrounding space with the names, or if you only know the position/title of the people who are in your network currently. Follow these guiding rules:

The most frequent meetings/ interactions should be closer to your circle.

Importance of the relationship is shown by size of circle

Influence you have is show by the size of the arrow going from you them

Influence they have over you is show by the arrow going from them to you.

You will finally after some thought have a diagram like this below representing the current state of you network.sue-circles-of-influence-one

The next step we encourage people we work with to take is to then think about the distance, should any be nearer, denoting more frequent interaction? Should any be further away? Should there be anyone on this map that is not currently? Are the arrows showing the relationships and influence that you need to be successful? Who should you be more influential with in this network? It’s also useful to ask if there are people in the network that should not be there for this project, but demand attention regardless.

We then ask them to update or redraw the map – showing the network that they should have as a change leader.


The second map shows the change in line strength denoting reducing or increasing influence, and also some new contacts to make, HR, the Head of Logistics, Accounts and Amanda. The frequency of the interaction between Sue and some of the contacts in the network have also changed in this example as the importance of their relationships change in the light of leading change.

The next step is deciding what action to take in each case to move from diagram one, to diagram two.

Change the way you change

14 03 2009

For the last week I have been working with a large group of internal consultants expanding their understanding of the nature of change management and the role of consultants.  The participants of the programme, which is an accredited programme awarding certificates in consulting fundamentals, were already practitioners of change. However in their public service setting they were mainly concerned with and focused on the optimization of logistics and supply chain matters.  In their evolution they has used a number of sophisticated optimization tools, spread sheet and analytical engine based techniques to deliver improved efficiency and performance.  Unfortunately the success of this approach has made many of them, and their organization’s managers blind-sighted to many of the other approaches and alternative tools available to manage the successful change.

What  was most surprising to me was the lack of emphasis placed on the softer skills of consulting and change,  the relationship building and influencing skills.  The week was revealing in many ways… the depth of confidence and belief in the methods that the participants displayed,  the restricted range of approaches they used,  the organization constraints placed upon them ( by an organization clearly in need of change)  and the lack of engagement with the client that many of them expressed. It seemed the clients needs were secondary to getting work done.

As we progressed through the module of study and education,  there were many occasions where the sound of pennies dropping was akin to standing next to a slot machine paying out the  jackpot !

Relationships and influence are everything in change management ! No tool, regardless of provenance or power will work where there is no trust and credibility.  People chose to change, people chose to follow, people chose who to trust and these choices  are all based on relationship and influencing skills.

So what is my point in this post? If you work in change leadership, as an internal consultant or manager of projects then think about what you concentrate on when leading change, if its tools and processes then you need to change the way you change.  Influence is everything – any system can be made effective if the people who use it want it to work well. You role in leading change is creating the conditions for people to want to do a great job and get great outcomes, without influence you are playing the game with the dice loaded against you.

Dream, Dialogue and Deliver – the process of change

1 03 2009

We seem to  strive to find the perfect process for change and the means of getting people involved in change in our organizations.  I am not convinced there is a perfect formula, a magic bullet or a perfect recipe.  However the human condition seems to demand some involvement and some discretion in all elements of life we participate in.  Why would committing to change be any different?

In the 6o’s Martin Luther Kings  raised the masses ideals with his “I have a dream” speech. Obama is doing the same now, raising hope when times are tough, sharing a dream for a strong and influential America, whilst at the same time encouraging people to take responsibility for the change – a dialogue of commitments.

Without a dream to aspire to you cannot inspire others to do something.  Delivery is about shared perspiring – doing something that is worth doing, and making the effort to do it well.

The key it seems to us is the ability to create a dream, Visioning, that is credible and aspirational at the same time.  That dream demands a dialogue with the congregation, the staff, the participants, those affected by its realisation, this we call Engagement.  Executing is the  process of delivery, getting things done through others and making sure they have the means, the information, the resources, the energy to do so.

There are not magic wands in change, but there are some approaches that work if used with skill and consideration for the context.  As they say en France Bon Courage !!

Implementing change

9 02 2009


Implementation is not hard, its just about consistency and stamina. If you have applied the 3E approach and have clarity of vision, shared and understood in terms of a concrete challenge, and you have the right people involved and committed to action then implementation is a grind but straight forward. The role of the leaders in implementation is one of a provider of resources and a information. Monitoring of the right measures is crucial as is communication of that to the right people in the right way. Having feedback on performance is crucial to maintaining momentum, and energy. Why do you think running machines with monitors are so popular and stop watch lap times so motivating for runners? Human’s need to know how we are doing, and that is one role of the  leader in execution of change – scores on the doors for people.

All implementation will hit problems. There is not a battle plan in the world that will survive contact with the enemy. In change leadership the same applies in terms of implementation, just add people to make it obsolete. However, having a plan to start with is important. It’s the box to think outside of, it’s the route to deviate from, and it’s the budget to exceed or beat. No plan is the solution, just part of the process.

Leaders need to be tenacious, resilient and at the same time humble enough to admit when things are tough. Stick with it and tell people how they are doing,  implementing change in a nut shell.