Category Archives: Change

Simplicity – An Expert’s View

In his book Simplicity, Edward de Bono, one of the World’s greatest experts on thinking, outlines his case for simplicity.

He believes that complexity is always failed simplicity.

Simplicity, he states,  is not always the natural state, you have to make it happen.  And that might require change.

Just because something has endured doesn’t mean it is the best way to do things now.  There may be a better, simpler way.

The lazier a person is, the more likely they are to find the simpler solution. Henry Ford employed lazy people in his plant as they could find the most efficient manner of producing a car and the result was an efficient production line.

But unless simplicity is set as a priority, it will not be ‘built in’ to any solution.

There is an elegance in simplicity that is appealing and often cost effective.  For example, software that is too comprehensive is too complex.  Only a fraction of the functions of Microsoft Office are used by the majority of users and so lower cost, less comprehensive solutions, such as Google docs can thrive.

Recognising that complexity also generates waste, the Lean Six Sigma movement looks to remove all waste and only undertake processes that add value.  These are often the most simple solution.

Edward de Bono has a passion for simplicity and as always, his research is comprehensive and his conclusions are well supported, resulting in 10 rules for simplicity.

His rules are:

  1. You need to put a high value on simplicity – Very few people do this.  We look for simplicity only when the complexity to difficult to manage.  If a task is within our skill level and not too taxing, we will not look too hard to make the process more simple, despite the value that simplicity can add.
  2. You must be determined to seek simplicity – The value of simplicity is something that you need to actively seek.  We generally like simplicity when it costs us nothing or when it is free to implement.  There are are however savings to be made in implementing simplicity.
  3. You need to understand the subject matter very well – You need to be very clear about what you are trying to do.  You need to understand the values, processes and outcome involved. If you don’t understand the system fully, you may end up with a simplistic result rather than just being a simple solution.
  4. You need to design alternatives and possibilities – Design is critical here to find alternative methods to achieve which are both effective and simple.
  5. You need to challenge and discard existing elements – Challenge everything.  Everything needs to justify its continual existence.  Systems and operations have a natural tendency to grow complicated.  if you can’t justify it being there, then shed it!
  6. You need to be prepared to start all over again – It can be very tempting to modify an existing structure rather than build from scratch.  The more difficult and expensive the system, the less people want to scrap.
  7. You need to use concepts – Concepts are useful for simplifying complexity.  They provide the first stage of setting the direction and purpose.  Concepts are designed to be vague, however, after setting the direction, you must get specific to simplify the system.
  8. You may need to break things into smaller units – Complex systems work best when they are broken down into sub-systems.  Smaller is inherently simpler.
  9. You need to be prepared to trade off other values for simplicity – Comprehensive can mean complex.  Simplicity may require you not look for comprehensive solutions to ensure what you get is as simple as possible.
  10. You need to know for whose sake the simplicity is being designed – Users? Owners? Customers?  Simplicity is a trade off.  To make something simple for one stakeholder might make it more complex for another.

Consider these rules when you are crafting a solution or as part of a business process improvement project.  Simplicity gives you an elegant and often friction free solution which sounds like something to aspire to.

Dare to Aspire

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Training Analysis Checklist

Individual and Team performance can be elusive.

Just when you have achieved a level of performance that you want, the environment changes, resources are taken away or members of the team are replaced.

It is a combination of knowledge, skills and attitude that creates individual and team behaviour.  Improving performance therefore requires us to change that behaviour

Training is a excellent way to re-establish a high level of performance, but it needs to be training focused at achieving specific individual and business needs.

Performance then, is where knowledge, skills and attitude align to the business needs.  So any training plan needs to be focused on ensuring that an individual’s knowledge and skills are developed to align to that business need and people motivated to having a supportive attitude.

To establish the necessary training for the individual and teams a level of Training Needs Analysis is needed.  This ensures the maximum level of training is achieved for minimum financial outlay.

Here is a checklist that will help you consider the training needs of your team and help you construct a training programme that will help you re-establish the performance levels you need to have your team thrive.

1. The Training Need:

  • Who needs it?
  • What is the business area that the training will support?
  • Is the skill or knowledge lacking on the team or just in this individual?

2. The Audience:

  • Who is the audience for the training?
  • What is their knowledge of the topic?
  • What are their duties?
  • What are they expecting?
  • Are there any motivational problems to be expected?
  • What is the cultural behaviour for the target group?

3. Course Content:

  • Are there any regulatory parts to teach?
  • Is there a CIPD or other professional body to consider?
  • What are the possible resources?
  • Are there policies and procedures to teach?
  • Are case studies of value?

4. Delivery:

  • Will it be an internal course?
  • Who will teach?
  • Will you outsource?

5. Timing:

  • When is the training opportunity?
  • Start Dates?
  • Length of course?
  • Frequency of the training?
  • Venue?

6. Business Needs:

  • What is the business need?
  • What is the business strategic aim?
  • What are the organizational future plans?
  • How much training is enough?

7. Anticipated Problems:

  • Budgetary limits
  • Availability of the learning team
  • What resources do you need?

While this is not a formally structured Training Needs Analysis profile, it provides a useful list of considerations that will help you understand your training needs and so allow your to decide on where to spend training effort to achieve a higher level of performance.

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Pilot Change Project Checklist

If you have a large organisation or wish to undertake a number of change projects it is prudent to consider running a pilot change project. A short change event that is aligned to the larger strategic goal but small enough to be an initial excursion into the overall change programme without being fully committed.

This will allow you to:

  • Gather feedback on how change will be accepted within the organisation
  • Assess if the culture will accept and integrate the change
  • Establish credibility with a ‘quick win’
  • Ensure that there is appetite for further change.

When running a pilot change project, it is useful to have a simple but robust plan of what you are going to do, who will do it and how you will sell it to the significant stakeholders.

Here is a checklist of things that you may want to consider.

  1. What is the right mix of people for the change team – What knowledge and skill will you require and who has the sort of tenacious attitude to carry the project to a fast and successful completion.
  2. Who has the credibility, the knowledge and the drive to lead the project? Is this someone in your own organisation or is a consultant a better choice. A member of your team will know the processes, procedures and people within the team which could be an advantage but exposes them if the event fails. A consultant has a fresh view, will have the skills to implement the change and can be the scape goat who takes the blame if things go wrong of the culture resists the change.
  3. What is the aim of the project? What does ‘a good job look like’? Have a clear idea of the success criteria and ensure it is communicated to the team so there is a shared understanding of the outcomes.
  4. What are the achievable stretch goals? Is there more that can be delivered than just the basic project?
  5. What are the achievable deadlines? Is it better to have a successful project delivered a little late or to have a project delivered on time but without the ‘bells and whistles’.
  6. What project methodology will you use? Is an agile approach like DSDM useful or do you need to use something with more governance such as Prince 2?
  7. When you run into uncertainty, what framework will you use to guide team decision making and problem solving? Do you want to formalise the approach to provide rigour and an audit trail or is flexibility more important?
  8. What resources are necessary for success? Allocation of resources is critical both for delivery of the outcomes you desire and to demonstrate that senior management are committed to the change event.
  9. How will you hold people accountable? With accountability comes a degree of commitment and a mechanism to allocate both blame and rewards for performance.
  10. How will you reward success? Team or individually? Based on effort or outcomes? As a result of success alone or of benefit for the organisation as even a failed change programme can be beneficial? Understanding what motivates your team, and the rewards that create that motivation will help you achieve the best from your team.

With this short checklist you can begin to plan the change event. There are, however, a number of things to consider.

Beware planning in too much detail as things will often change and planning too early means you ‘plan twice’. Detailed planning can also become reassuring even if there is no progress but it will not move your towards our outcomes. Activity isn’t progress.

Beware predictable surprises which you can identify with a little forethought.

Changes will often generate second order problems (problems that you hadn’t initially identified but arise because of the influence the change has over the system). Be prepared to deal with these and ensure you have a level of contingency because such problems use up your time, effort and resources.

It is tempting to believe that you are so familiar with your organisation that research isn’t required but this isn’t always the case. Indeed, it is rarely the case and you should understand where you have limited knowledge.

Your change initiative may cross organisational boundaries.You will need a way to access different knowledge silos within those organisational stovepipes.

Finally, the culture of the organisation has developed over years and will be deeply rooted. The change will need to overcome this cultural resistance and offer the same reassurance that the old state did.

To gain best value and quick wins, you may want to consider change as guerrilla warfare. You will need to carefully select your key points of leverage and get maximum value for minimum effort.

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Best Practises in Change Management

Change management is possibly one of the most difficult tasks that a manager or management team can attempt.  More often than not, these managers will bring external consultants in to support the change process.  But having an awareness of the common approaches and “Best Practices” can help you understand the scope and magnitude of a change project and give you options to consider when planning your change.

Here are some elements of ‘Best Practise’ I have encountered:

  • Recognise the need to change and ensure that you articulate that need in a compelling way, demonstrating that not changing would be catastrophic.
  • Start with and maintain senior management and executive level support, to demonstrate that the change initiative is a company wide commitment and a strategic level project, garnering the full support of the companies resources.
  • Understand the organisation’s ‘readiness to change’ as change can be emotionally disturbing to both the staff and the shareholders.
  • Communicate effectively to create buy-in. Then communicate some more.  Use all of the communications channels that you have access to.  You must create an level of understanding, involvement and commitment from your personnel.
  • Instil a feeling  of ‘readiness and commitment’ to sustained change and help people see this as a process that will allow the organisation to adapt to future environmental conditions.
  • Create change teams that demonstrate the characteristics of the new organisation, generate some high profile quick wins and so demonstrate the benefit of the change.   This will communicate the benefits of the change more dramatically than any speech and will create a level of momentum for the change process.
  • Use a structured framework.  A change framework will give you structure around which to create the change and give you a mechanism to justify your actions to the budget controllers and senior managers
  • Consultants do have a part to play as you can use them to supplement your team and so your organisation can continue to be productive during the change process.  Aim to use consultants effectively, having them do what you want them to do.  Avoid employing a large consultancy and have them ‘doing’ change to you according to a boilerplate solution that neither discriminates you from other organisations nor exploits your unique characteristics for best effect.
  • Pay attention to what has worked before in other environments, not to copy them wholesale, but to identify what might be beneficial and so you can exploit what you learn piecemeal.  This will need to be within the context of a ‘systems’ approach as you will be influencing other parts of the organisation with any change you make.  Consider the impact as part of the planning discussion.
  • Ensure your changes link to your corporate strategy as your strategy will define how you will apply your resources and people to create value in the current future economic environment.  Your processes will need to align to this strategy and be as efficient as possible.
  • Listen to the ‘voice of the customer’ as they are the people that should benefit most from the changes you are implementing.  Ask the question, is this adding value for the customer and aligned to our mission.  South Western Airlines aim to be the cheapest low cost airline and so their Value to the customer is in being cheap.  They change nothing that doesn’t ensure that they remain lowest cost budget airline.  Simple.
  • Select the right processes for reengineering as not everything will add value to your vision, mission and customer.  Use the 80/20 rule to identify the processes that will add most value when changes
  • Maintain Focus on what you are trying to achieve. A man with 10 priorities has no priorities. Don’t try to reengineer too many processes at once.  Pick those processes that will add most value, be easiest to change and so garner the momentum we discussed earlier.
  • Maintain teams as the key vehicle for change as they are mutually supportive, innovative and provide a level of ‘corporate memory’ even if members of the team move or leave.
  • Choose and use the right metrics for measuring the performance of both the current process and to assess the future process and so quantify the benefit of any change.  Again this benefit will then become tangible and so communicate value for you.
  • Understand risks and develop contingency plans ad nothing you plan will follow the plan from start to finish.  Understanding the risks and reviewing them frequently will help you keep an eye on the issues that will have a negative impact and so prepare for them.
  • Have plans for, and communicate a need for an attitude of continuous improvement.  The environment is constantly changing and you and your organisation will need to flexible enough to adapt to those changes.

These points are not exhaustive but are presented a considerations for anyone thinking of implementing a change event.
As a general guidance for any planning, what you are aiming for is:

An organisation that has a strategy that is making best use of resources in the current and short term future environment, employing efficient processes that exploit the talents and strengths of you team and add most value to the customer and shareholder.

Easy to say…not so easy to do…

Dare to Aspire

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6 Tips for Change That Sticks

The pace of change in the business domain is frantic. Look around and you will quickly see changes  in the Political arena, in Economic and Sociological dynamics, in Technological innovation and increasingly the Environment.  the combined impact from these changes can be dramatic for any organisation.

As Leaders and Managers, we adapt to these changes by attempting to predict the long term business landscape and then adapting our strategy and operations to be more effective under those conditions.

We then attempt a change process that aim to adapt the organisation into a structure and with processes that are more likely to produce target outcomes given these predicted conditions.

Unfortunately, even if we manage to achieve the planned changes, we often find that there can be insufficient ‘stickiness’ for those changes to endure and there can be a general slip back to the way things were.

Here are 6 tips to maximise the chances that your change programmes will endure:

1. Link your changes to a vision that reflects the purpose of the organisation:

  • Why does the organisation exist (other than to make money for the shareholders)?
  • How does this change achieve that purpose?

Answer these questions and make sure they are well understood throughout the organisation.  Make the reason for change as compelling and memorable as a jingle from a commercial.

2. Have everyone play a role in the decisions for the change:

  • Involvement generates a degree of commitment to the change process.
  • Involvement in the change process means that individuals will feel the loss if it fails and so are more motivated to ensure it works.
  • Involvement in a successful project lets the team say ‘look what we have done’ with a feeling of pride and commitment to the future of the organisation.

3. Recognise that change can be frightening for some people:

  • Some personality types change in an instant and are happy to work in the new structure at a moments notice.
  • Change can, however, be unsettling and some personality types don’t react well to any kind of change.  Ensure that you help them through the change process and bring them along.  The new state will soon be accepted as the norm and these people will thrive again.

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:

  • Use every communication channel open to you and ensure that the message resonates at all levels and from all of the key people.  There must be a single message about, what, when, how, who and WHY!
  • If the team don’t have questions, then they don’t yet understand the level of impact the change process is likely to have, so ask them questions and get them thinking about the change, after all involvement creates commitment!

5. Positive reinforcement generates momentum:

  • If you see someone acting in a way that supports the new order of things, take the opportunity to give them positive feedback.
  • If you see someone acting in the old ways, then coach them into the new patterns and then praise them when they are supporting the new order of things.
  • Positive feedback reinforces change, any change.

6. Have descriptive and clear measures of performance:

  • Feedback is the breakfast of champions!
  • Clear feedback that shows how the new structure and process is adding more value than before increases the chance that the change will stick.
  • If people associate the change to a positive outcome on a company level (eg. profit) and a positive outcome on a personal level (eg. I keep my job!) it is more likely to stick.

These tips will not guarantee that your change process will yield an enduring new strategy or supportive structures and processes, but they will support the change effort in very compelling way, stacking the odds in your favour.

Dare to Aspire

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Managing Strengths

The previous posts ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ and ‘34 Strengths’ outline how individuals can perform better if they apply their strengths to any endeavour rather than try to improve upon their weaknesses.

Consider an orchestra.  The first violinist doesn’t want to be the conductor. The first violinist has a skill, a strength in playing the violin.  They have become first violinist by focusing on that strength and achieving their highest potential with the violin.  They have no interest and possibly no talent for conducting and so would not aspire to the role.

But how often do we take a person performing at the top of their field and turn them into a manager, as if, by being good at sales automatically qualifies them to be a sales manager.

It is more efficient and more effective to focus on the strengths of the team and management them appropriate so that the ‘violinists’ can all perform as first violinists rather than promoting them into becoming poor ‘conductors’.

As managers then, we should consider how best to motivate, manage and achieve the best results with the strengths of our people.

the 34 strengths can be managed and motivated in the following manner:

Achiever – Give this person tasks that stretch them
Activator – Give this person scope to set their own goals
Adaptability – Give this person opportunities to deal with change and crises
Analytical – Give this person challenges, complex problems and tough decisions
Arranger – Give this person responsibility
Belief – Give this person tasks that engage their passion
Command – Give this person a task and then let them go
Communication – Give this person opportunities to exploit their communications skills
Competition – Motivate this person with competitive language and the chance to rise to the challenge
Connectedness – Give this person the chance to build bridges in the team and with customers
Consistency – Give this person stability and processes that endure
Context – Give this person historical information to better asses the current situation
Deliberative – Give this person tasks that requires rigorous thinking
Developer – Give this person the chance to help other people grow
Discipline – Give this person the chance to brig structure to chaos
Empathy – Let this person read the moods of others and sense unrest
Focus – Give this person goals and deadlines and let them achieve them
Futuristic – Yoke this person’s vision of the future
Harmony – Give this person a pleasant environment and keep them away from conflict
Ideation – Give this person the chance to develop ideas and their creative side
Includer – Give this person the chance to build teams
Individualization – This person will build effective reward / performance systems and identify an individual’s motives
Input – Give this person the chance to search for solutions or in the research field
Intellection – Give this person the chance to think broadly and deeply about a problem
Learner – Give this person the chance to stay current in a fast changing field
Maximizer – Give this person the chance to improve the systems and processes of the organisation
Positivity – Give this person the chance to motivate the team and create dynamic organisations
Relator – Use this person to generate genuine trusting relationships
Responsibility – Use this person where quality output is required
Restorative – Use this person to identify flaws and problems in the organisation
Self-assurance – Give this person the chance to make difficult and meaningful decisions
Significance – Give this person the chance to stand out
Strategic – Give this person the chance to anticipate problems and create long term solutions
Woo – Use this person in a public facing role and to build long term relationships with key customers

For more information on the strengths movement, I recommend the books, StrengthFinder and Now Discover Your Strengths and the Strengths in Action consulting group.

Dare to Aspire

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34 Strengths

In his book,’ Now Discover Your Strengths‘, Buckingham outlines the 34 themes that the Gallup analysis has identified.

These are:

Achiever – Driven to achieve goals

Activator – Impatient for action

Adaptability – Flexibility to take advantage of the moment

Analytical – Look for patterns and value data

Arranger – Coordinating others and resources

Belief – Bound by certain core values

Command – Driven to take charge

Communication – A natural explainer, presenter and public speaker

Competition – Focused on competing to win

Connectedness – Focused on finding the reason or cause for things

Consistency – Balance is important

Context – Looking to history to find reason for the present

Deliberative – Careful, vigilant and searching for certainty

Developer – Find potential in others and seek to grow them

Discipline – Seeking predictability

Empathy – Reader of the emotions of those around them

Focus – Require a clear destination

Futuristic – Dreamer and innovator

Harmony – Always looking for agreement

Ideation – Fascinated by ideas

Includer – Engaged in adding people to the group

Individualization – Intrigued by the individual qualities of each person

Input – Inquisitive and a collector of information, facts, books and ideas

Intellection – Stimulated by thinking and mental activity

Learner – Focused on learning and gaining knowledge

Maximizer – Excellence is your measure of success

Positivity – Build teams with praise and positive feedback

Relator – Bonds deeply with people

Responsibility – Takes psychological ownership for anything they commit to

Restorative – A problem solver

Self-assurance – An unshakeable faith in their strengths

Significance – Driven by a need to be seen as important in the eyes of others

Strategic – Absorbed by a high perspective on the world

Woo – Winning Others Over

People will have a number of strengths.  The online assessment that Buckingham’s book allows you to use will provide you with a list of your top 5 strengths.

If applied properly, these strengths can be applied to your tasks for a more efficient and effective performance.

If you are in a leadership or management role, then identifying the strengths of your staff and applying those strengths to the appropriate tasks will allow them to perform well and improve output and performance.

If you are interested in how to exploit the strengths of your team then perhaps Strengths in Action can help.

Dare to Aspire

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