Archive for February, 2011

Plan B

Monday, February 28th, 2011

All the management books, coaches and gurus seem to be telling us that we have to make plans…. Hell, this morning I was in just a session with my clients!  “How are you going to do that?”  “What will you do if it fails?”  “Who could help you?”  “What’s the alternative?”  So I guess I can’t rail against the idea of plans.  However, there is a downside… They give you an illusion of control.  I suspect that is one reason that they are so popular.  After all, if you have a plan and are on-track you must know where you’re going.. .right?

The problem comes when your plan goes of the rails.  Time for Plan B… do you have one?

The trouble is before you can press the button to activate it, you have to accept that the first one didn’t work and that is never a pleasant experience.  In fact, sometimes it can be so hard that we won’t admit it, even to ourselves and deny ourselves the chance to pull the rip cord in time.  Plans give you hope, and that is hard to abandon.

Oh well, in the words of the old song, “Dust yourself off, brush yourself off and start all over again..”

IBM’s Making Change Work Study Gives Stark Warning

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

This is a guest blog, authored by Leslie Allan which I thought very interesting:-

Managing change in today’s organizations is not getting any easier. However, doing it well is the new imperative. How are organizations faring with moving their people and systems in new directions? IBM Global Business Services researched change management practices across the globe. Their extensive Making Change Work Study quizzed over 1,500 project leaders, sponsors, project managers and change managers from many of the world’s leading organizations, ranging from small to very large in size.

The IBM study reveals that the percentage of CEOs expecting substantial change has risen from 65% in 2006 to 83% in 2008. However, CEOs reporting that they had managed change well in past projects climbed from 57% in 2006 to only 61% in 2008. This constitutes a more than tripling in the size of the gap between actual change capability and needed capability. The costs to organizations are real and sizeable. Failed change initiatives bring in their wake budget overruns, disgruntled customers and demoralized employees.

How successful are organizations at implementing change? The IBM study reports most CEOs considering themselves and their organizations largely ineffective at bringing about change. The change practitioners themselves reported the following change program success rates:

• 41% fully met objectives
• 44% missed at least one objective
• 15% missed all objectives or aborted

In all, 59% of change initiatives failed to meet their objectives. This is quite a sobering result as we set about entering the second decade of the 21st century. Another sobering thought is the stark contrast between those organizations getting change management right and those that are struggling. The top 20% of organizations, the study reveals, are successful 80% of the time. Conversely, the bottom 20% of organizations only manage to achieve their change objectives 8% of the time. The top 20% of companies are ten times more likely to lead a successful change initiative than the bottom 20%.

Clearly, underachieving organizations can draw important lessons from the top achievers. What are the barriers to successful change and what are the key success factors that poor performers can leverage to their competitive advantage? The IBM study provides valuable insights into what poorly performing organizations can do to emulate the success of their better performing competitors. What are these lessons?

Through their research study, IBM revealed these key barriers to successful change:

• 58% Changing mindsets and attitudes
• 49% Corporate culture
• 35% Complexity is underestimated
• 33% Shortage of resources
• 32% Lack of commitment of higher management
• 20% Lack of change know how
• 18% Lack of transparency because of missing or wrong information
• 16% Lack of motivation of involved employees
• 15% Change of process
• 12% Change of IT systems
• 8% Technology barriers

Note how people factors account for the top three challenges and for four out of the top five. Getting the “soft” stuff right turns out harder to do than getting the traditional “hard” stuff, such as resources and technology, correctly aligned. What was once considered the unimportant “soft and fuzzy” aspect of organizational life turns out to be what makes or breaks change projects.

How can we get the executive and managers at all levels to better appreciate the importance of these “soft” aspects of change? What can we do in our own organizations to help embed more effective change management practices? What have you done so far? Please share your experiences?

Leslie Allan –

Bog hopping

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I was out walking today and had to come back via an unplanned route; a route that had I had any choice in, I’d have avoided as I suspected it would be a smidge muddy.  However, there I was, confronted with the reality of the situation and initially, although the path was 3” or more deep in water I was able to avoid it by scrambling up a parallel bank.  I was about 500 yards from the car and saw that I was confronted by more and deeper puddles. 

I should mention at this point that this area is home to well known bog.  I looked, assessed my options and decided that rather than face to known hazard of these puddles I’d take a chance and go off the path and try and pick a parallel path back, hopping from grassy hassock to hassock.  Initially this seemed to be working but as any of you who have tried to navigate through marshy ground will know, you never know when you are on solid ground.  I was only about 20’ from the path and suddenly found myself up to my knees in cold water and rather wishing I’d just marched through the puddles on the path!  Suddenly 20’ seemed a long way!

The odd thing was that once I got back to the path, I thought nothing of any the puddles or mud, and having already got thoroughly soaked, it hardly seemed such a big deal.  It left me thinking:-

  1. Sometimes the known problems are better than just hoping there is a better way
  2. That just accepting bit of something you don’t want can definitely be a the lesser of two evils, and
  3. Once the worst has happened, it is often not nearly as bad as you feared

Have you ever made matters worse by trying to avoid problems?

Choice = Power or How to reduce resistance

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I found myself pondering a situation today and wondering how I’d handle it and realised that one of the key issues for me was the fact that I had none of the facts in the case and had been offered only a binary choice, take it or leave it.  How you feel about that kind of thing perhaps is greatly affected by your life experience, your circumstances and your personal ‘wiring’, but I know my reaction would be very different had I been presented with the facts, been invited to contribute to the solution and come to a mutual conclusion on how to take things forward.  This reminded me that one of the key reasons that people resist change is because they are only given this kind of binary choice.  If you want them to go along with your plans, engage them, involve them, consult them and allow them to be part of the decision making process…

Snakes & Ladders

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I feel a bit like Forrest Gump, because I want to observe that “Life is like a game of Snakes & Ladders”.

Both in personal and professional life it seems to be that you work really hard to build momentum, begin to forge ahead and then just as you are beginning to feel that you are going to break through to the next level of the game, suddenly something happens to propel slithering down a snake. 

It is really hard to pick yourself up and begin the game once more.  However, what choice do you have?  I think you have to just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and like the song says, start over.  I’m not sure that I’ve felt that the snakes have taught me much, it seems much more a test of resilience than a lesson.

What is your experience?  How do you motivate yourself to rejoin the game?   Do you just recast the dice or try a different strategy?

Scientists of the Subprime

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Could an understanding of biology have prevented the credit crunch? The complex world of banking evolved – and profited – thanks to the work of analytically gifted maths and science graduates. But when the crash came, something new was needed. Now banking regulators are turning to a different kind of science, asking if an understanding of ecosystems or the spread of infectious disease could help reform world finance. Ehsan Masood examines the role of science in the City.”  This is the blurb for a Radio 4 programme tomorrow night at 9pm.  I think it is fascinating how such an apparently conservative organisation as the Bank of England is prepared to look outside the box to see what can be learnt from biologists & science to better understand how complex systems work.  Clearly the world’s finance system is both hugely interconnected and important.  Understanding how the systems that we all depend on can be threatened is vital.

In my work I have visited many different companies, sectors and companies and am always gobsmacked at how many think their problems are unique or feel they have nothing to learn from other non-related sectors, if you want to get out of your box, you have to both look and think out of it!  I shall listen with interest.

The Physics of the Quest.. a recipe for transformation

Monday, February 14th, 2011

“…I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest” – a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.”    Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers to learn that I like this quote.  Change starts with a willingness to leave the familiar behind.  It is obvious really, how can it be different it you are clinging to everything that you have and were? 

It is often the half truths we hide behind that hold us back and keep us hiding.  We tell ourselves that everything is okay, that we are happy as we are, that we don’t have time…  I am a huge believer that the Universe  speaks to us and can teach us if we just stay aware.  Notice what you notice, it is inevitably significant.  Why did it seem important?  Not just everyone, but everything has a piece of the puzzle if we do the work to find out how.  Treat it all like a Rubric’s cube and turn it round in your mind till it falls into place.  Do all this and I guarantee that your journey will not only be underway but you will already be changing.  Dare to tell yourself that you want or deserve more, or need something else and you can not only let go but move towards it. 

Often the hardest truth is not that we are in some way lacking but that have more potential and value than we dreamt. But this was said so much better below:-

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”   Marianne Williamson

Life Lessons?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

I’m not sure if I have any answers today, only a question “Do all Life Lessons have to be learned painfully?” I’d love to hear your thoughts please.

My own memory is selective and so I’m hardly the best point of reference for this kind of thing.  If I think back to learning in general, then I can say that my recollections are that whilst these involve hard work, I don’t recall them necessarily being painful.  Indeed, I find myself wondering if we recognise these lessons at the time, or if it is only with hindsight that they stand out?

Or perhaps I’m more stupid that, maybe I learn them, have a blinding moment of clarity and then promptly forget… it’ll the next “OUCH”.  What is your experience??

“Challenges make life interesting, however, overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”  Mark Twain

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”   Robert Byrne

“Life is sexually transmitted and always fatal.”

“Best thing about life – its never so bad that it can’t get worse.”

The Nature of Partnership

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

As I approach what would have been a our 25th anniversary and begin the process of building once more, I find myself reflecting on the nature of true partnership.  Marriage is simply one type of partnership; there are many others and all have their difficulty.  However it seems to me that they probably all have at their heart the same issues and challenges.  It is all about alignment and how that is achieved and maintained.  I think that first of all comes a period of exploration, during this phase you explore and seek to understand whether you are both not only both seeking the same thing, but if you are happy to do so using compatible means.  This means lots of communication.  Of course communication happens at many levels and is so much more than just the words you exchange, and absolutely embraces the alignment of what one does with what was promised.  You have to both need and want similar things, or perhaps be able to supply each other with things of equal value.  This means that there needs to be trust that this ‘supply’ of what is needed is going to be maintained and the trust is built slowly by experience.

Of course, over time, people and businesses change and so can their needs, if we are lucky these changes happen in ways that are compatible and do not threaten the partnership.  Communication is our way of not only maintaining our partnerships but also of continually assessing their state.

I find it amazing how, in this connected, internetted age, where we are continually bombarded by ‘communication, something as simple as communication is still so a great a challenge.  We don’t just interpret what each other says, but what we don’t say; sometimes silence shouts loudest.  However, as we never have full information as to what is happening for the other partner, we can often be missing vital data in our interpretation.  Of course, over time, we gather more data, so it is easier to fill these data gaps and make correct judgements in long-standing partnerships.

To give this any kind of chance there has to be goodwill.  Goodwill enough to do the work, to fill the gaps and explain the silences.  The interesting question is “Where does this goodwill come from?”  Is it inherent in our nature / personality or a factor of our need, or some combination of the two?  What do you think?

“The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be- and when they’re not, we cry.”

“Without trust, words become the hollow sound of a wooden gong. With trust, words become life itself.”

Thank You

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I just wanted to say a very public “Thank You” to everyone who remembered us, called, sent flowers or thoughts yesterday. It was good to know we were not alone and she was not forgotten.