Stages of Change Can Be Challenging

The only constant in life is change. And it’s so true! Every project you take on, regardless of size or scope, creates a change in the status quo. That kicks off several stages of change that result in a series of predictable emotions and behaviors.

We talk a great deal about change in our practice. Sometimes they’re easy changes, ones you look forward to, such as getting a promotion or moving into a new job at another company. But you still go through all the stages of change similar to the Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief – shock/loss, denial, bargaining/acceptance, sadness/depression (the hang-in point), and finally acceptance and even excitement about the new reality.

Stages of Change Have Predictable Behaviors

Think about the change of moving into a new, challenging job. You go through a sense of loss because you lose your colleagues in the department or company you’re leaving. You may experience a little denial, telling yourself it’s time to move on and you won’t miss your colleagues. You may experience sadness about the memories and friends you left behind. Then you accept the reality of the change – you’re moving on, it’s a little scary because you don’t know what to expect in the new position. You’ll be meeting new people and having to figure out how to work together. If it’s a new management position, you have the challenge of learning how to delegate and manage others. Then as you think about the challenges ahead, you begin to see the possibilities and start focusing on the new challenges you’re taking on. And finally, as you adjust to the new position and get to know your team and your colleagues, you begin to feel excitement and passion for taking on the challenges and helping the organization move forward.

Depending on your circumstances, you can go through these emotions quickly, in a matter of minutes or hours, or it may take days for you to cycle through the stages of change. If the new position is something you pursued, you’ll likely move through the stages of change quickly. If it’s something that happened to you and not one you actively sought, then the adjustment could take longer – even weeks or months.

Frequently, especially when people aren’t involved in creating the change and instead are just told about it, a few will never adjust. They can move between the states of depression and anger for months or longer (the hang-in point), unless the manager is skilled at either coaching them through the emotions or invites them to find alternative employment. Sometimes, the people remove themselves to find other employment options more suited to them. Either way, the organization suffers if these individuals are allowed to remain in a state of anger or depression. They can turn a positive environment into a negative one, putting a blanket of confusion, doubt and concern on the change process.

As a leader it’s important to recognize where your people are in each of the stages of change and coach them through their emotions. Your goal is to get as many of them to the other side of the emotional roller coaster as soon as possible, and to quickly remove those who just can’t get on board.

If you need help with this process, let us know. We have many resources available to help you coach your team through the stages of change.

Strategies and tactics in Tour de France

“I’m a sprinter. It’s my job,” said Mark Cavendish

Strategies and tactics. Roles and responsibilities. Mark Cavendish’s response clearly shows he knows his role, when the interviewer asked him how he did.

The strategies and tactics of each team change continuously during this 21-day race. The Tour de France, which started on July 2nd, is the world’s most grueling bike race. It crosses France, dips into the Pyrenees and then the Alps, before finishing on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Strategies and Tactics are Fluid

Each team of 9 riders and multiple support staff, is a highly organized and coordinated machine. Everyone on the team has a role and each person understands their role and the impact he has on the rest of the team. As Cavendish said, his job is to gain points in the sprint finishes, and try to win as many stages as possible. This helps the team move up in the overall General Classification, and it gains him individual points, as well as potential podium positions at the end of each stage. So far, Cavendish has 29 stage wins to his Tour de France career – more than any other rider in the 113 years of this race.

Teams wouldn’t succeed unless everyone knew their role. One leader is chosen as having the best potential to win the yellow jersey and thus the Tour de France. The rest act as support crew to keep him safe from crashes and make sure he’s positioned well to win points and lead the race. Some are mountain climbers who excel in the Pyrenees and Alps climbs. Others are domestiques who ferry water bottles from the team cars to their fellow team mates and create lead-out trains for the favored sprinter(s) on the team. Their job is to keep the leader and the sprinters safe and well positioned to win during the 21 days of the race.

The strategies and tactics of some teams are to concentrate only on improving their standings in the General Classification with the goal of getting both a team win and the overall yellow jersey. For them, the early stage wins are less important than making sure their key guy and their sprinters are safely positioned and don’t lose time to any other teams.

Other teams focus on earning King of the Mountain or Sprinter jerseys, and building the strength, endurance and collaboration of their team members. These teams may be newer to the Tour de France, and haven’t developed their members into the well-oiled machines of BMC, Team Sky, Movistar, or Astana.

The Tour de France is an excellent example of strategies and tactics at work, as well as teamwork and leadership. Over the course of the 21 days, each team’s strategies and tactics may change depending on external factors, such as weather, illness, crashes, and competitive challenges from other teams. The overall leader could crash out of the race or get so ill he has to abandon. If that happens, the team needs to pick another leader to rally the rest of the team around.

Listen to the interviews and you’ll gain insights into some of the strategies the teams are using to be successful.

How might you apply some of these same concepts to your business? What can be learned from the Tour de France?

Leading by walking around

Leading by walking around is a great management techiniqueThis article about leading by walking around (http://bit.ly/leadbywalking) stimulated recollections about my own experience while working at National Decision Systems. The first three years were the best experience of my career. Why? Because the CEO did exactly as this article suggests. He led by walking around.

He wouldn’t just call people on the phone or send emails. He dropped by their office unannounced and asked thought-provoking questions. Visiting people where they work is an excellent leadership technique to follow and one I made sure to model.

I remember one such visit to my office after turning in my report on the most recent user conference I had run. My first thought was, “Oh, oh. What did I not do right?”

He wanted to know why I thought the conference was successful. How did I measure success? Wow! No one had asked me that before. I had to really think about it. The purpose was to generate new sales, which we did. It was also to get customers more engaged with the products….which we did. So that met two of my measures of success. The 3-day event went smoothly for attendees – that was another measure of my own. Yes, there were hiccups, but only I was aware of them, and I resolved them right away. The customer feedback was also excellent, so that also told me we hit a home run.

Leading by walking around makes an impact

The CEO’s appearance in my office to sit down across from me and ask my input made a real impact on me. I modeled my own leadership that way with my direct reports. Instead of sitting in my office and calling them in, I got up and went to their desks to ask questions and get their input. I did this with people in other departments as well. If I had a question that needed answering, I walked over to their office and asked the question. That action helped me build great working relationships throughout the company and a willingness to help even when it was outside their immediate scope of work. If they knew the answer or how to get it done, they would pitch in.

Leading by walking around helps you build those relationships. You also learn so much because you give others the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise. This type of technique should not be to deliver bad news or only to give praise. If the only time you visit someone’s office is to do either of these, then eventually the staff gets jaded.

Visit your people in their offices to ask thoughtful questions and find out what they know. You might be very surprised and learn a few things yourself!

Applying lean agile techniques

The growing popularity in Lean Agile techniques compel us to reassess how we can use the various tools presented by these relatively recent additions to our “management toolboxes.”

In today’s world of nearly “instant” everything, we tend to drive decisions based on “gut feelings”, or simply in reaction to requests or directives. Too often we are forced to do this due to external forces we don’t control, regardless of the impact those decisions may have.

This approach can derail our intentions to reach longer-term strategic objectives.

Use lean agile techniques to drive sprint decisionsFor example, the Agile Strategy Execution Framework presented by ASM.com mentions two key processes that help drive more “agility” into achieving strategic success. Those are “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives”.

Both of these processes utilize the collaboration of cross-functional groups in achieving their respective goals.

Systems Thinking supports lean agile techniques

It is valuable to note that ensuring the right type of “thinking” needs to be practiced throughout the framework model, and that means using “Systems Thinking”.  This “systemic”, or “holistic”, approach to applying this framework is part of the “secret sauce” to being effective and successful in reaching your strategic objectives.

If the term “Systems Thinking” sounds new to you, be assured it is not. Peter Drucker’s mentors in Vienna, Austria are considered to have shepherded Systems Thinking from the physical sciences into business management. Drucker then refined and articulated its applications. Many of the greatest organizations and businesses of today have been practicing Systems Thinking and teaching it for decades. For a brief overview, click here for an article about it.

Both the “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives” outlined by ASM.com can benefit from the organization and facilitation techniques drawn from General Electric’s “Work Out” concepts. Whether teams are working on problems in design, process, operational, behavioral or cultural issues, their solutions will be more clearly articulated, more effectively measured and adjusted to with greater agility.

By working out issues in the collaborative, cross-functional teams, both deep dive activities and small bets can produce solutions that are better aligned with longer term objectives and create greater value for the customer and the business.

A lean agile techniques we use is what we call “Sprint Workouts.” These cross-functional team meetings are half to one or two full days in length. The meetings are focused on specific outcomes and support at least one strategic initiative whose results can be measured and communicated quickly and effectively. The stakeholders are clearly identified prior to the meeting and informed of the intent of the Sprint Workout. This produces buy-in and stay-in for quick solutions.

3 Tips: Making Strategic Planning Agile

Creating and managing change is in the pressure cooker! The 2001 introduction of the “Agile Manifesto” by a consortium of thought leaders of the software development industry has now spilled over into nearly, if not all, aspects of managing organizations of all types. This includes strategic planning.

First and foremost, let us accept that Strategic Planning is necessary and requires time, diligence and innovation. Nevertheless, there are tools you can use to make strategic planning agile, speeding up the planning process and achieving the same, and often better, results. Agile is one of those.

Here are three ways you can make Strategic Planning agile

  1. Run your planning retreat in a manner that includes breaking into teams that operate in SCRUMS. The teams, each led by a facilitator, follow the iterative process in a very compressed time frame of 15 to 45 minutes (see SCRUMS) to achieve relatively small, discreet goals. These group collaborations, when facilitated using some key Lean Six Sigma tools, will more rapidly create the results you need in assembling your Strategic Plan.
  2. Apply Systems, or Strategic, Thinking rigorously to maintain an “outcome-based”, or “future-oriented” focus on the planning and implementation of the strategic initiatives. This ensures you concentrate your thought processes and behaviors on evaluating the entire organization as a “living system,” and includes considering the overall environment the business operates in. This helps to make strategic planning agile.
  3. Create the structures, processes and culture that ensure everyone in the organization understands their role in making the business a success. This may include deploying a proven tool, like the Agile Strategy Manager, that aids you in tracking, managing and adjusting your desired goals as everyone does their job to reach them.

Agile Decision Making Framework makes Strategic Planning AgileUse a proven framework for planning. It helps drive the use of a common language for communicating, following, measuring and managing plans throughout the organization. Applying Systems Thinking also ensures the outcomes you identify are creating value for your customer. And don’t forget the importance of providing your people with the best tools available to track and report progress. This also helps to make your strategic planning agile.

Practicing “Agile” techniques, beginning with the Strategic Planning process, will permeate the Strategic Management process. Your organization’s various teams will implement the broader strategic initiatives and their respective tactical tasks. Keeping those tasks aligned with the organization’s strategic initiatives will help the teams adjust and innovate in a much more “Agile” manner.

Celebrating your and your people’s successes will be so much more impactful when everyone realizes that being AGILE and COMPREHENSIVE are not mutually exclusive endeavors.

Agile Decision Making Framework is Flexible

The answer is Yes, you can! The question is, can you use the Agile Decision Making Framework for anything besides strategic planning?

Adapting the Agile Decision Making framework to social media planninggThe beauty of the Agile Decision Making Framework is that it can be applied to any type of project – even marketing and social media planning. The framework helps you focus your thinking by answering five strategic questions as you work your way around the template.

Many social media plans I’ve seen start with identifying your ideal customer and their specific needs. While this is important, it’s not the place to start.

Define your outcomes first

As with strategic planning, you need to start with your future outcomes. That way the actions you take are designed to help you achieve those outcomes. Otherwise, you’re just throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework, start with Phase A, answering the question, Where do we want to be?  What do you want to accomplish through social media marketing? They should support the higher level outcomes of your organization’s overall strategic plan. Once you’ve determined which social media outcomes can help support those, you can begin to focus on your ideal customers and their needs. In the process, you’ll need to also identify which social media platforms they use the most so you focus your efforts there when you’re ready to take action.

Once you’ve completed Phase A, move on the Phase E. This will help you identify the future external factors that could have an impact on the actions you take today.  These become your future Opportunities and / or Threats that you need to consider so you’re prepared to respond should any of them occur. Why look at the external environment you ask? Because your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. What happens locally and even globally can have profound effects on your customers, their needs, and their desires for your products and services.

With social media, you have to continually be tracking these future trends because new platforms emerge and popular ones lose favor. You don’t want to be stuck on an island by stuck on an islandyourself after your customers have moved over to another platform. If you don’t periodically focus on Phase E, you could be missing the boat!

Once you’ve reviewed Phases A and E, you can move on to Phase B. This is where you identify the specific targets you want to reach and track through social media, answering the question, How will we know when we get there?

These may include the number of click throughs on your links, or a specific increase in customer engagement on your Facebook page, or a percentage increase in website traffic and/or subscribers to your email list. The more specific, the better, so you can track your efforts and see what progress you’re making.

Phase C comes next, answering the question, Where are we today?  The first three phases were focused on your future outcomes, your ideal customer’s needs, external trends, and specific goals. This phase looks at your current situation. What are your Strengths and Weaknesses related to social media? Are you just starting? Do you have a strong team working in this area? Do you need to hire a consultant to help? How well do you know the various platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc.? How well versed are you with Google Analytics and Google Adwords? Those are the kinds of skill sets you want to list under your Strengths and Weaknesses. You should also fill out the Opportunities and Threats areas, which came from the external scan you did in Phase E.

By now, you should begin to see some major themes evolving. These become your high level strategies which you list under Phase D, answering the question, How will we get there? These are the specific actions you need to implement to close the gap between your current situation and your future outcomes. Some high level strategies might be training, hiring external talent, creating a social media policy, and customer engagement. Under each strategy will be specific actions you need to take, such as finding online training webinars, advertising for talent, researching social media policies you might adapt to your organization, and creating a content calendar.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework makes the process of creating your social media plan fairly simple and fast. The next step is to write it up and share it with your team. Then start to implement it!

Planning without action is just dreaming.

Leading Cross Functional Collaboration

As organizations mature, the tendency to operate in silos and wage turf wars is a natural phenomenon. This usually results in weak, if not non-existent, cross functional collaboration on just about everything except really pressing matters. And then, it’s only to solve really serious problems in a reactionary fashion.

Truly healthy organizations have productive lines of communication and constantly engage in robust and productive discussions between departments and within departments.

Cross functional collaboration has its benefitsAn excellent way to foster productive communication is to engage employees in a collaborative process to help keep expenses in check. Have them spend half a day to two days in a structured session talking about how to manage expenses. This is best done in a group of not more than 24 people with one to three individuals from each department.

During the session, have them address problems or challenges that THEY see can be corrected or improved. An outside facilitator can greatly enhance the results. He or she can cut through the politics and create an environment that lets innovative ideas to bubble up. This is hard to do with an internal facilitator leading and coordinating the process.

During a public half-day event of this type that we led for individuals from different companies, one realtor found $60,000 in savings. Multiply those savings by the 20 or more realtors in her office and you begin to see the possibilities.

We have also seen two industry–leading firms, one an animal feed company, the other a construction firm, identify more than $1.5 million each in ongoing annual savings. These two sessions involved two full days with staff from various departments and senior executives of the organization. Both firms have more than 200 employees.

Obviously, some planning is required, as is an understanding on the part of the organization’s leadership about what is important in the process and why. It’s also important to identify up front what long term outcomes are possible from a cross functional collaboration exercise. Part of the process includes ensuring that accountabilities are established during the session – not afterward.

This example isn’t just a cost-cutting exercise. It’s a motivating process to get your workers thinking and acting creatively on a daily basis. And it’s a way to open up communication across and between departments. This benefits everyone and directly affects the bottom line in a positive way.

Regardless of the age of the organization, creating an environment for cross functional collaboration focused on problem-solving is your big benefit. This includes the topic of cost-cutting. Helping your employees learn how to actually communicate across departments is excellent preventive medicine.

Please contact me if you would like to learn more about how your business can benefit from this type of workshop.

Millennials Will Change the World

Oh to be young again!

When I watch Ted Talk videos by Millennials who are smart, confident and know what direction they want to take with their lives, I wish I were 30 years younger to share in that future. WOW! I mean, really, WOW!

Stacey Ferreira - Millennials are ScrewedThese young people like Stacey Ferreira have it together. They aren’t stupid or lazy. They have different expectations based on the world they’re exposed to. These Millennials have a different outlook on work/life balance. They want to be productive. Millennials want to have an impact on changing what doesn’t work. They aren’t afraid to share their opinions and ideas with top executives. If you don’t like what they have to say, so be it. If you do, use it. These 2 billion Millennials are out to change the world.

That’s so different from when I was starting my career. Those were the days of learning corporate gamesmanship. Remember the book, “Games Mother Never Taught You”? It’s about all the terminology women need to know and the game-playing that goes on in traditional corporate workplaces run predominantly by men. That was about understanding the football and baseball strategies and terms and applying them to what was happening in the work place. If you wanted to get ahead, you learned to play those games. And I got so tired of it. What a waste of time!

Millennials have a totally different outlook. It’s not about who plays the game best, it’s about doing it together to improve the product or strategy or workplace or world. These are collaborators, working together in open offices, not turf warriors protecting their kingdoms. I would love to play in that world instead of the one I grew up in.

But the future is about the younger generation. We adults who have been there and done it differently, need to stand aside and support them, nurture their creative spirits, and help where we can.

What an amazing generation this is!

The Art of Possibility: Rule Number 6

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “Kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again 20 minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and a n apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so god damn seriously.’” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”

           “There aren’t any.”   

~ from The Sixth Practice in The Art of Possibility

 

I’m re-reading The Art of Possibility by Dr. Rosamund Stone Zander and Boston Philharmonic Conductor Benjamin Zander. The chapter, Leading from Any Chair, discusses the “silent conductor” in all of us – the importance of leading from wherever you are in life or work. We don’t need to be managers, CEOs, and senior executives in order to lead. Everyone can be a leader, regardless of age or position. We lead by helping others do their best. If we know how to perform a task, we demonstrate and explain the process to another person trying to learn it. We don’t wait for “the boss” to tell everyone how it’s done. We don’t hold back from showing someone else because we want to be better than him or her. We help them learn so we can all do our best. In this manner, we are all leading as “silent conductors” from any seat.

The art of being a “silent conductor” is to listen and watch for passion and commitment from others. In The Art of Possibility, Zander suggests the leader look in the eyes of those individuals and invite them to share. Speak to their passion. Ask yourself, “who am I being that they are not shining?” That gives you, as the leader, the opportunity to be a “silent conductor”, to ask for feedback, and pass the leadership baton.

Even children can be leadersIn The Art of Possibility, the chapter on Rule Number 6 is about humor and lightening up. Often we take ourselves too seriously. As leaders we frequently try so hard to prove our worth, to succeed against all odds, to be better than everyone else, we forget that the goal is “together we all win”, not “I win, and therefore you lose.”

Our “Calculating Self”, as Zander calls it, wants to survive in a world of scarcity. It’s the voice that tells us take actions that get us noticed, to be strong, to be right, to win at all costs. It’s the voice that drives us on, always striving for something just out of reach. We’re never satisfied.

It takes many forms: the parent who acknowledges his child’s B+ and says, “That’s good, but with a little more work, you could have gotten an A.” Or the boss who tells his people, “I expect your work to be perfect; regardless of what it takes to achieve that.” Or the educator who tells her students, “Follow the outline exactly without deviation.”

Rule Number 6 reminds us to “lighten up” and stop taking ourselves so seriously. There are many paths to success and we each have different approaches. Rarely is there only one “Right Way”. So when you find yourself falling into the trap of the “Calculating Self”, stop and ask yourself:

What would have to change for me to be completely fulfilled?”
“What new possibilities might emerge if I were to change my thinking?”

Is it the situation or the people you are with? Is it an expectation you have that others can’t live up to? What change will bring about peace of mind to you and to others? Perhaps it’s merely to interject a little humor into the situation.

Laughter is a powerful tool for dispelling tension and opening up possibilities; such as . Zander’s comment to the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra when they were practicing Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. The students were tired and tense, having just taken standardized tests, and were missing notes and key entrances in the music. He said, “Take it straight through the second movement, and NO MISTAKES. If you make a mistake…..a five-hundred pound cow will fall on your head.”

And that’s what The Art of Possibility is all about….seeing possibilities where none seem to exist. You can find the book on page 4 of our Strategy Book Store.

Employee Rewards Can Be Motivational

Recently, I came across a book I haven’t opened in a long time. It’s called 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, by Bob Nelson. The book (which was updated in 2012 to 1501 Ways to Reward Employees) lists a variety of ways to use employee rewards as a way to recognize achievement. These include no cost ideas such as one-minute praises and bravo cards, to low cost ideas like bringing the person a bagged lunch for a week from a gourmet sandwich shop. It also lists ideas for more expensive rewards, such as trips, dinner for two, and various types of gift certificates.

In my experience, how the employee rewards are delivered is critical. If the praise isn’t heartfelt and the recognition is done to fulfill the requirements of a weekly recognition program, the staff will not feel appreciated. It won’t feel authentic and they will grow to resent it.

Employee rewards must be authentically delivered and heartfelt.So before you launch a recognition program, be sure to clearly define the scope of the program, and the types of behavior you want to recognize and why. Are you doing this just because you heard from others that employee recognition is important? Or are you doing this to try to shift behavior, create a new culture, and/or work towards a long term organizational goal?

Ken Blanchard has written a great deal about the subject of leadership and building high performing teams. Praise needs to be authentic and heartfelt. Don’t praise just to go through the motions. In his book, The One Minute Manager (recently updated), he talks about catching people off guard doing something right. Then giving them praise at that moment. Those are the “one-minute praises”. Don’t wait until the staff gets together for a team meeting and then give the praise. It will come off as not authentic and something the boss is doing to prove what a great boss he or she is. The staff will resent it.

On the other hand, if it’s appropriate to give praise in a public setting such as a staff meeting, do so, but make sure you gave the individual a one-minute praise beforehand, even if it was days before. The public recognition will be an additional and more well-received reward; especially when the behavior being recognized fits within the scope of the rewards and recognition program you’ve established.

All that being said, here are some unique ideas I came across in the book, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees:

  • Close a few hours early one day and take everyone to a shopping mall. Give each person $25 to spend and tell them to gather together in one hour. Then share and compare what each person bought with their $25 and why they chose the items(s) they did. This could be instead of a holiday or sales bonus.
  • Hold occasional fun contests. These should be planned by the managers, not the staff. If staff members are assigned on a rotating basis, it becomes another chore or work-related task, not a fun event. Contests can include St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween costume contests, or themed pot luck dish competitions. Rewards can be cash and/or gift certificates for restaurants, movie theater tickets, sporting events, etc.
  • Celebrate a Day of Excellence once a year with fun learning activities for all employees. Or let each staff person choose a day during the year that is their “special day”. Managers then surprise that person with fun activities during lunch or late in the afternoon of that day.

Let us know your thoughts about employee rewards programs and any unique ideas you have implemented in your organization.