Archive for January, 2012

2 years on (nearly)

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

As we approach the second anniversary of Carys’ death, it feels appropriate to take stock and see how things have changed.  Normally when you live your day-to-day life, one day feels much the same as another… until something seismic happens.  We don’t really recognise Change when it creeps up on us gently, one day we are full of youth and vigour and the next we are feeling our age and looking back with nostalgia.

We had our world changing event 2 years ago and suddenly nothing would be the same again.  That isn’t the same as saying nothing would be good again, but at the time it felt that way.  Two years on, my youngest is half way through the university course, that he hadn’t even started back then.  My middle child is months from leaving the university she had only just joined two years ago.  My eldest has changed job and left home.  I spend my time rather differently.  I’m more selective about the work that I do and how I find it.  I recognise I have other priorities these days and have two roles to fill for my children and a gaping hole to fill in my own life.  Much as one might wish it otherwise, these things don’t magically fix themselves, you have to get into the hole and fill it with your own labour.

I write this piece partly in the knowledge that there are others out there who are at a different and darker part of their journey and in the hope that this might help them, and also as a reflection on the different faces of Change, one passive, that sculpts, shapes and erodes without you noticing and the other active that doesn’t happen if you don’t make the effort and do the work.  We so often deceive ourselves into thinking that the former won’t happen and the latter will… Life just isn’t like that!  In both our personal lives and business ones we need to take responsibility for both faces of Change and act to make our plans, our dreams and our desires take shape.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”  John Wooden

“Know how to live the time that is given you.”   Dario Fo

Behavioural Conflict

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I listened to Major General Andrew Mackay talking about what he perceives as key shortcoming in the Army’s management of the conflict in Afghanistan.  He suggests that in modern warfare, in which the civilian population’s ‘hearts & minds’ have a significant impact, it is essential to understand their thinking, needs and values if you wish to influence them and their behaviour.  This seems pretty elementary stuff in the field of business, but if it is being overlooked by an institution as big as the British Army, then perhaps it bears examination.  In warfare, and change management, you have to win the hearts an minds of the populace.  No one behaves in a way that damages their self interest, so you have to understand how they perceive and measure this.  Whether it is in the size of their harvest, the amount in their wage packet, or the rate of expansion of the local cemetery, you simply have to understand it, if you wish to influence it.

The war in Afghanistan has cost the British taxpayers something like £18b, and there is no clear success or endpoint yet, certainly little visible R.O.I.  Most companies don’t have this kind of budget for an unclear result, so remember, step 1 in any change program, define a clear vision of what success looks like (for everyone involved, not just you!), step 2, is understand the WIFM factor for the people affected (not just you!)

How many people have died needlessly in Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world because of cultural ignorance and insensitivity of the leaders of those who are trying to help?  You can’t bomb your way to peace, and you can’t bully your way to harmony…

New beginnings

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Stuart Lancaster, the new interim England rugby coach, has stepped into the breach created by Martin Johnson’s post-World Cup resignation.  He faces a dilemma that many bosses face when entering into a new leadership role, how to find the balance between experience and new ideas / capabilities, between proven performers and youthful enthusiasm and vigour.  When you step into a new company or role, you can see much that is wrong with it (and it is easy to talk this up), however jettison too much of the old guard and you destroy the backbone of the organisation.

He is faced with creating a new culture and setting out his vision of how he wants England to perform and behave.  To clarify his selection criteria.  It is never so easy to send a clear message as when you are new in the job.  People are looking to see what you stand for and will interpret your actions, even if you don’t spell out your thinking, so beware leaving it others to say what you are thinking!

There is no single right answer but it is important to be clear about what you are trying to do and what your criteria are.  People will always debate the How, but hopefully you can rally support around What you are trying to accomplish.  So in Stuart’s case, his job is to show he is building a squad capable of challenging for and hopefully winning the next World Cup, who the right players are is anyone’s (and everyone’s!) guess…

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”   St Francis Of Assisi

“What the caterpillar calls the end the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”   Lao Tzu quotes

A Year of Challenges?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

We all know that it is a challenging economic environment out there, but my year has started with some rather different challenges.  The first client has had to challenge their leadership team and make some hard decisions about who fits; the second needs to challenge the firm’s way of working in order to succeed.  I was asked how to win a million pounds of extra business and I said that the people who could make an ally out of the current financial situation were most likely to be winners.  In a ‘steady state’ economy people tend to follow ‘steady as she goes’ strategies, as encapsulated by the phrase “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”, but in these turbulent times more radical courses are not contemplated but necessary.

Why not start your new year by herding up your sacred cows and culling the herd a little?

“Sacred cows make the best hamburger”  Mark Twain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain