Friday, September 27, 2013

Change Management 101

We continue to receive many requests from our clients for change management programs and we offer them excellent workshops following the methodologies and insights of change management gurus such as Prof John Kotter and the Heath brothers.

During the session, participants tend to ask these types of questions - all to do with very practical steps that are often foremost in the minds of change champions, managers and supervisors.  Here is a sample of some of the questions and I would love to hear from you as to how you would respond:

1. "There is a massive change coming and my team is suffering from change fatigue"

There is no question that we now live in times of VUCA - volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  The pace of change is fast and furious.  We know this rationally just by looking at the progression in the mobile phone technology that we use daily.  When did you last hear any moaning or whinging about the latest release of the iPhone new operating system - even though it certainly does take some getting used to....

Yet, when it comes to thinking about change in our work environment, all of a sudden we are just worn out by the pace of change.
We suggest that team leaders and managers constantly shake things up in their teams without waiting for the announcement of a major organisational change.  If the team has the sense that change is always around them, they will move away from victim thinking.  They start to accept that change happens at work - constantly!

Encourage people to take on different tasks.  Invite them to sit in different seats in meetings.  Challenge them to do one different thing on their way to or from work. 

2. "I don't believe that the new change is going to work, so how on earth will I sell this to my team?"

This is a tough one because not every business decision is in your sphere of control or influence.  Simple fact.  Yes, you can try out your influencing skills and motivate upwards in the line to ensure that you improve the processes or the outcomes.

Sometimes, the reality is that you cannot make any adaptations to what has been decided and you need to make peace with it and move forward.  Just having an internal, whinging conversation with yourself about it, is not going to make any difference to the final outcome.  But, what it will do is pull the rest of the team down with you in terms of their thinking.

Without you knowing it, people's eyes are on you all the time.  How you talk and how you frame conversations has a powerful impact!  No matter how tough the times are, your own concerns and doubts are for behind closed door discussions.  In front of the team, you demonstrate quiet confidence and authority.  People will role model themselves off your attitude.

Think Ernest Shackleton - he needed to get his men safely back from their failed expedition but never let on to them just how dire the circumstances were.  They all survived.

3. "The change is being planned by the top management team and they have no idea about the implications on us further down the tree."

Work on your influencing skills.  Make sure that you build your level of credibility.  YOU need to become the person who top management turns to when they want to know what the impact of the change will be.  

This is not something that you can achieve overnight.  It takes a concerted effort to build the right network so that when you need to call on them you can.  Remember the strength of weak ties.  You need both a very close network as well as a loose network so that when these changes happen, you can tap in to the network to connect you to the right people.

4. "Not all change is perceived as positive - some involves a re-structure that does not impact everyone in a good way."

Yes, sadly there are changes that have an impact that is not positive.  All you can do is be there for those who need your support.  Don't make judgements.  Simply say that you are there to assist as needed.

5. "Stress levels are through the roof because of the pace of the change."

I would love to say that you should offer the team the MCI stress management course!  

There are techniques that you can use to reduce stress and anxiety.  One of my favourite ones is to ask people to remember the very worst thing that has happened to them - and sadly most people have had some really bad things happen to them in their personal lives.

Compared to those terrible events, usually what we experience in the workplace is relatively minor.  We need to remind people of this constantly.

6. "I have told my team about the changes several times and I am frustrated because there are still questions OR worse still, no one is adopting the new way of doing things"

When we think that we have communicated enough - we have only started!  Communicate in different ways.  Email is not nearly enough.  Say it in team meetings.  Use posters.  Add in to newsletters if possible.

Where possible, make it in to a game or a challenge.  We all love a competition and if there is a way of injecting fun in to it, do so.

If they are really not taking to the change well, also consider looking at what could be changed in the system or in the environment to make the change easier.  Think of the lion in the Animal Kingdom in Disneyworld.  Instead of training him and begging him to sit on the rock so that the guests to the park can see him, they heat or cool the rock depending on the weather.

7. "I am in a company that suffers from analysis-paralysis.  So much planning happens and then nothing moves until the last moment - when it is often too late."

This is often a mind-set that permeates many teams.  Keep the energy high!  Push people to solutionise.  Send the message that the view is forward and that near enough is good enough.  Don't slip in to paralysis mode yourself.  Apply your decision making skills and take a stand on a decision with the facts that are currently available.

The high value of the LEGO Serious Play methodology!

This is a fabulous post from Robert Rasmussen, one of the top facilitators worldwide of the LEGO Serious Play methodology:

Why invest in training if anyone can buy bricks and claim they are using the LEGO Serious Play method? 


Now that LEGO SERIOUS PLAY is open source, any Maria, Carlos, Kim or Peter can order LEGO SERIOUS PLAY kits and invent ways to use the kits.
And naively, people who have not yet benefitted from LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator training may believe they are experiencing the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology. After all, they purchased and are using the special LEGO SERIOUS PLAY kits.

This would be like buying test tubes and thinking you know how to conduct scientific experiments or buying paints and attempting to create museum quality art.

How to playfully coax, coddle and cajole reluctant participants to build, even when they don't know what to build or why it's going to help their understanding, is also an acquired art that one can begin to acquire by learning from the best.

As trained facilitators know, the science and art of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology are embedded in the theoretical foundations of the methodology and the accumulated experiential learning of facilitators who have completed training and are actively engaged in designing and
facilitating workshops and learning from doing.

The workshop flow and how to engage trust and build confidence that allow the insights and stories participants share to go deeper and deeper has to be experienced, and is close to impossible to explain. And how to question components or elements of the models others build
in a non-threatening and productive manner is best demonstrated in real time.

How to design open and inspiring challenges, with enough structure to address the goal of the workshop while still leaving room for new, unanticipated and surprising constructions and stories, could be the topic of a Ph.D. dissertation.The days of training are barely enough to provide some parameters and context to create challenges that get to the essence of complex issues and deeply held beliefs.

A Toolkit of Actions that Work!

One of the most powerful aspects of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY process is when teams create a landscape where individual models relate to each other in specific ways or a shared model. Both processes require the facilitator to empower the confidence of individual participants while protecting the group from the dominance of one or two members. And when the group is completely stalled, there are emergency actions that move the group forward that a skilled trainer will share.

The lasting value of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop comes through the documentation. Trained facilitators are exposed to a variety of templates and options for ensuring lasting value of the workshops they design and deliver.

Monday, September 16, 2013

3 reasons why on-line learning DOES work!

I was a panelist at the recent LEARNX conference in Sydney and there was certainly a large amount of scepticism in the room about on-line learning - and how the self-paced learning model can in fact result in sustainable changes in behaviour.

I have seen first-had that on-line learning, at the right time and in the right place, can in fact lead to improvements in  performance!  At the very least, there is as much chance of improvement as there is with face to face training delivery.

1. We are becoming so much more accustomed to the concept of self-service

Who last went in to a bank to complete a transaction?  Who last saw an insurance broker?  The shift in the way in which business transactions take place have also had a ripple effect in the on-line learning world.  We want our learning in short bite size chunks and we want to access it from our computers, laptops and mobile phones wherever it is more convenient.
Transferring over to on-line learning is no longer attached to the major drama that used to accompany it years ago.  It is in fact what is expected by learners!

2. The trends in the uptake of on-line learning are on the increase.  Major organisations that used to have firewall issues are building their learning LMS outside of the firewall and are providing options for participants including:

  • Engaging and interactive forums for conversations to promote the social side of learning and to make the process more inclusive
  • Interactive exercises and gamification  to involve and engage participants
  • A whole range of different ways of learning to appeal to different learning styles such as resource libraries for the theorists and the ability to print out workbooks and job aids for the tactile learners. 
3.  There is a far stronger body of knowledge around instructional design for on-line learning development.  We have more choice with regard to authoring tools and there are more and more examples of excellence around as well as many more case studies that highlight successful roll-outs.

We have so many better, cheaper, faster ways of implementing the learning and for conducting on-going follow-ups to embed the major outcomes. 
Did I mention "better bang for buck"?  
Did I also mention, more reach to many more participants?

AND - Performance management becomes part of how the whole elearning set-up is created and so training and performance are no longer separated. 

Speak to us about our elearning suite of programs to enhance your training!


Monday, September 2, 2013

7 Leadership lessons from the elections

What can the political arena teach us about leadership?  No matter which side of politics you sit and who you consider voting for, there have been many examples of some great - and some very poor - leadership skills on display.

These are some of the key ones that I have noticed over the past few weeks:

1.  Leaders are highly articulate!  They are not only able to present well - they can also formulate their arguments in such a way that they are understandable by a broad audience.  They do not ummmm and ahhhh their way through their pitch - they use a few well chosen words to capture the key messages.

2. Great leaders cut through the nonsense and do not hide behind words that are less than truthful.  It is just so easy to pick up when someone is not quite upfront with what they are saying.  And you know what - that loss of trust plays a huge factor in leadership.  If you want buy-in, creating trust is step number 1.

3. Leaders use their body language well.  They display genuine Duchenne smiles that are go right up to their eyes.  There is nothing worse than some false smile that does not light up your face.  And whether you want to believe it or not, likeability is a strong factor in leadership.  Yes, people who are likeable are able to influence others far more readily.

4. Leaders are there for the long haul and their egos are not the most important part of the equation. Yes, you need to be confident and sure of yourself but no, it is not all about you alone.  In the work context, we know full well how people's egos destroy culture and create dysfunctional teams.

5. Great leaders are aware that eyes are on them all the time.  They do not really have the time to be able to step backstage and have a minor meltdown.  Leaders are quietly confident and minor irritability is well hidden. 

6. We are very quick to form impressions of people so those leaders who are well presented and groomed tend to make that first good impression.  Not great that we should form opinions based on what people look like, but it does happen: ensure that we do put our best foot forward.

7. Don't be afraid to confess to making mistakes.  Leaders make errors - they cannot predict and judge every situation accurately.  Acknowledging mistakes is a way of building up that level of trust and ensuring that lessons are learnt for the future.

SO: for you in your own organisational context - please, oh please, do not repeat any of these leadership mistakes.  It is easy to sit at the ringside and criticise and it is not so easy to act as a leader! Watching these lessons in action is better than reading any book on leadership. They are playing out painfully in the public arena and what we do as leaders plays out in front of our teams. 

Remember that it is time to play to win!  Game on!