Tuesday, 30 June 2020

How to Help People Manage Change When They Are Short of Time

Two years ago, I began thinking of writing my next book. It was five years since the launch of my first, Change with Confidence, and I was itching to record my latest learnings on managing change.
My challenge was that people were reading fewer books or less of the books they bought. A recent survey by Michael Simmons estimated that people only read 20 to 40 percent of the books they purchase. Also, Jellybooks, an analytics company, reported that 60 percent of sample readers only finishing 25 to 50 percent of the e-books they started. I didn’t want to write a book that buyers wouldn’t read.

People’s lives were becoming busier, too. As the frequency and pace of change ramped up even higher, many spoke of having little time for learning after balancing work and personal commitments. As Christopher Shulgan summarized, “What they don’t have is the ability to disconnect from life.” LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report noted that not having time to learn is the number one reason people aren’t acquiring the skills they need. Josh Bersin, a learning and talent management consultant, estimated that “employees take less than 25 minutes of time per week to slow down and learn, one percent of their work time.” My informal polling revealed that many were relying on Google searches and scanning digital media to get the information they needed.
Business authors provided clues to my way forward. Daniel Pink shared that his newsletter subscribers “loved his Pinkcasts [short videos], but wanted the other material to be briefer and more focused.” Seth Godin said, “It’s not an accident that blog posts and tweets are getting shorter. We rarely stick around for the long version.” Chris Brogan framed my challenge with his question, “How much do you make people read?”

My goal was clear: to provide quick and easily digestible advice on overcoming change challenges for people short of time. I looked for examples of books that met this need. In the self-help category, Austin Kleon, Lilly Singh and Michael Bungay Stanier led the way in offering practical advice in simple, enjoyable and easy to read formats.

Kids’ books were another source of education. A Mentalfloss article on the theory behind the Little Golden Books series led me on a quest to learn and adapt attention-grabbing mechanisms used to engage and entice young readers for the harried business reader.
My research was complete. It was time to begin writing. My target readers were those involved in a significant workplace change looking for practical responses to address challenges. I created a topic list by recalling past change initiatives. For each, I dove into defining the “one thing” action I would take to give me 80 percent results in 20 percent of the time – there is no time for perfection. I experimented with content and format options to optimize speed of learning, and feedback from early readers made them more valuable.

This week, I finished Change on the Run: 44 Ways to Survive Workplace Uncertainty. Now, it’s in the hands of my publisher, Page Two. The “pub date” is scheduled for March 2021.

From now until the launch, I am hosting a Change on the Run podcast to share quick tips on how to manage uncertainty at work. Each episode, guests discuss their experiences on the chapter topic they choose and share the “one thing” they would do to address challenges if they were short of time. I also will post each of these chapters on my blog and LinkedIn. In times like these, most of us could use tips on how to manage uncertainty. I know I do. I hope our tips will help you, too.

Here is a link to Change on the Run Podcast: https://change-on-the-run.sounder.fm/. It's also available on Apple Podcasts and coming soon to Spotify and Google Podcasts.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

A Simple Framework for Managing the Unknown

Leaders struggle the most when they are faced with the unknown because they can’t rely on their experience to make decisions. They lack a tested map to guide them through new and complex situations like the one we are facing now.

Some leaders default to quick responses, ignoring the measured decision-making process they use in more familiar situations. I knew a leader who provided assurances to employees without the data to support them. He jeopardized long-term credibility for the short-term appearance of control.  When this happens, speed of action trumps pragmatic assessment, encouraging “gut feel” intuition or wishful thinking to guide their actions. Both approaches are highly risky and dangerous.

Leaders who make the best decisions adopt a process to evaluate a new situation. Each step helps build a framework for information gathering, issue identification, alternative generation and selection. There are four actions I have seen leaders use the most.

Assess the level of importance
This consideration provides context to the situation by determining its relevance to organizational goals and the strategies to achieve them. How does this situation impact our ability to achieve our goals? Without answering this question, everything urgent appears to be important.

Define what information is required
Specifying what data is needed to make a decision helps define the situation. Determining what information exists and what needs sourcing is the first step to building a fact base to use in creating and testing options. It also demonstrates that leaders are taking concrete actions to move forward.

Identify sources of expertise (internal and external) 
Leaders who know people with insights and knowledge about similar situations is the next best thing to having it themselves. Identifying these resources and speaking with them builds understanding, identifies options and pros and cons for each. Often, people outside the industry hold the best information and experience.

Consider organizational implications of different courses of action
Capabilities and culture are important considerations when assessing options. What will work well in one organization may not work well in another. Considering options through these lenses can predict how successful they will be if implemented. 

Combining these actions creates a simple framework for managing unknown situations. It allows leaders to quickly determine the importance of the decision; the information required for making it; sources of experience to tap into; and internal considerations that will impact each option’s effectiveness.

Managing the unknown has become ‘business as usual’ for most leaders and is a must-have capability. Building a simple framework around a new situation is the best preparation to address it, one that will help leaders now and in the future.


Thursday, 2 January 2020

What 3 words will help you achieve your goals in 2020?

You can learn a lot from taking stock of the past year and setting goals for the next one. Through retrospection, realization and aspiration, you can build the skill of goal achievement.

have been using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words" approach to annual planning and evaluation for seven years. After choosing your goals for the year, you select three words that will guide your mindsets, actions and behaviour toward attaining them. At the end of the year, you assess how effective each word was in keeping you on track toward success.

My primary goal for 2019 was to finish the first draft of my second book. The words I choose to guide me were leapspace and determined.

Leap was my prompt to take risks and not play it safe. The premise and format of my book are nontraditional, and I didn't want to compromise on my concept. I would rather receive criticism for something true to my vision than praise for something ordinary. Leap helped me make decisions that aligned with my ambition, some that were out of my comfort zone.

Space was my guide for managing my calendar. I needed to balance work and writing. Every consulting assignment I committed to would mean less time to write, but each would provide new insights on how to lead change. The balance between writing and consulting felt right for 2019, although clients’ needs influenced my calendar more than the space I intended for them.
Determined was my trigger word to exhibit drive, perseverance and tenacity. When barriers appeared, I pushed through them. I also used this word as a mantra: “you are determined, do it.” Determined played a similar role to leap. In hindsight, a different word might have been more helpful.

When I moved to a new office in September, I neglected to transfer my three words Post-It note on my monitor. Without visual reminders, leapspace and determined lost a lot of their power. They became vague notions instead of concrete productivity tools. I won’t let this happen again.

My three words for 2019 helped me stay focussed on my goal when I used them. I will work on using my new words consistently this year.

My primary goal for 2020 is to finish my book. Once I have completed my first draft, I will progress to the editing and publishing phases. This is my launch year!

The three words to guide me to success are precisionforward and enjoy.

Precision will direct the quality of my writing. Given my chosen format, I must make every word count and delete the ones that don't. I will need to cull some chapters to reach my target length. Precision will be a factor in selecting the ones to be cut. It will also direct how I communicate about the book. I must be clear and concise to get noticed.

Forward is about making continual progress. There is no time to stall or rest if I am going to be successful. Regardless of setbacks and delays, I must keep moving forward. As long as I do so, I will achieve my goal.

Enjoy is a new type of word for me. It’s a reminder that your path can be as fulfilling and pleasurable as your destination. Achieving a goal without being conscious of how you did it loses part of its value. Self-awareness leads to improvement.

I feel inspired by my new three words posted on my monitor. Now it’s time to put them to work. What three words will guide you to achieve your 2020 goals? There is no time to waste. 


Sunday, 30 December 2018

3 Words Can Guide You to Success in 2019. What are yours?

How will you stay on track to achieve your goals next year? This is a question I ask myself every December. Defining my goals isn’t a challenge; avoiding distraction so I can accomplish my goals is. 

This will be my sixth year using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words" exercise to think, act, and behave in ways aligned with achieving my goals.

Here is how Chris’ technique works: After setting your goals for the year, select three words that will act as prompts to guide you through the decisions and tasks required to achieve them. For example, in 2017, one of my goals was always to speak the truth to clients because that is how I could provide the best value to them
 – especially when they didn’t want to hear it. The word permission was my trigger to communicate my insights, observations and risks directly.

Your three words act as guardrails for your mindsets, actions, and behaviours. Keeping them visible and front of mind informs the choices you make as you complete your tasks. You are conscious of your words, and the price you will pay by not following them.

My 2018 words were courage, discerning and moment. Here’s how they guided me to success:

Courage represented my desire to make big moves in 2018. I was beginning to write my second book and didn’t want to compromise the picture in my head of what it could be. On the book front, it worked. I pushed myself to break standard formats and approaches. It also supported my goal of changing my presentation style at conferences, trusting the audience to customize the content live instead of me assuming what would be most useful. Courage motivated me to take risks at each session. What I still need to work on is the courage to say no more when faced with requests for my time.

Discerning is how I wanted to make decisions. This one worked well too. It helped me test my decision process: was I considering all options, what were the pros and cons of each one, and who had experience I could learn from? It also helped me resist giving a quick answer that was not aligned with my goals.

Moment is about focusing on the present instead of thinking about the past or guessing about the future. The more I could stay in the present, the higher my productivity. This word was effective in keeping me present when speaking with others but didn’t help to avoid distractions when I was by myself.
Overall, my 2018 words did their job of helping me achieve my annual goals.
My number one goal for 2019 is to finish writing my next book. All three of my new words need to guide me to this goal. Here they are:
Leap is about jumping into new and unknown territory. I must be fearless to create the book I must make, which is very different from my first. This will require taking risks and making mistakes; if I play it safe, I will fail. This is not an option.
Space refers to room within my calendar to seize opportunities or solve problems. I can’t fill my days at the expense of flexibility. This has always been a challenge for me: Defaulting to saying yes without weighing the consequences. I know I will be tested throughout the year and space needs to guide my behaviour.
Determined signifies the spirit behind never giving up. It’s about drive, tenacity and perseverance. Passion is the emotion that underscores these traits. I will achieve my goals this year and passion will fuel my progress.

Choosing my 2019 words builds anticipation and excitement for the new year to begin. My goals and word guides are set. It’s time to perform. Posting my three words on my monitor and reviewing them every morning will keep me on track. All I need to do is follow them.

What three words will guide you to success in 2019?


Thursday, 8 March 2018

What would you do with a small change budget?

What would you do if your business needed extensive change support but didn't have a budget to fund it? Someone asked me this question at a networking event. Her company was about to embark on a digital transformation with only a small budget to support the people side of change.

Unfunded change needs is a common predicament. Many leadership teams are aware that people need support to adopt change, but don’t allocate the necessary resources to meet them. Sometimes, there are no resources to allocate.

Part of a change sponsor’s role is to make a business case for required resources, highlighting the benefits of appropriate support (faster adoption, higher utilization of new practices, better performance) and risks (slow or no adoption, service disruptions, increased costs) of not making this investment.

If the budget for change support is less than needed, the sponsor and project team must decide how best to use it; what will contribute the most to successful adoption of the change.

The options include:
  • Complete a diagnostic on the organization’s readiness for the change and define what is required to implement it
  • Build awareness of the change, why it’s important, and what people need to do to make it successful
  • Coach project team members on planning for and implementing the change
  • Coach leaders on their role as sponsors of the change
  • Support leadership steering meetings where members make decisions on the project
  • Review the internally-created change plan and provide recommendations
  • Oversee the most critical element of the change

If you could only afford one type of change support, which one would create the most value? What would you choose?

Each option has pros and cons. For example, completing a diagnostic would identify current perceptions of the change, risks to be managed, and support requirements to do so. But without ongoing influence, the project team might ignore these recommendations in favour of a faster start-up.

I would invest the small budget in supporting leadership steering meetings where members make decisions on the project. These status meetings are crucial to the success of the initiative because this is where leaders review progress, evaluate risks and make decisions including allocating resources.

Decisions are made based on the information and experience available. Leaders don’t always ask the questions necessary to validate the data and recommendations they receive. They accept project assessments like “we are all green” or “there are no significant risks” without sufficiently testing them. As one leader explained, “You need to trust, but verify.”

A neutral party with extensive change experience would ask the right questions to ensure leaders have accurate and sufficient information before making decisions. Their role would include being a “devil’s advocate” to identify risks. They also would add perspectives and options that might not be known to the internal team, broadening leaders' perspectives and options to consider.

Although a small budget for a change initiative is never ideal, it can be optimized through targeted support. Providing leaders with in-depth change experience when they need it most ensures their decisions are based on accurate data, multiple options, and knowledge.  It also builds their capabilities, including an appreciation for required change support.


Tuesday, 2 January 2018

What 3 words will guide you to success in 2018?

This is my fifth year of using Chris Brogan's "My Three Words" exercise to fine-tune my annual goals and define what I need to do to accomplish them.

Here is how it works: After setting your goals for the year, select three words to guide your actions and behaviours to achieve them. Keep these words visible and refer to them often, especially when making decisions on how you spend your time.

It's easy to get distracted or invest time in low priority activities; immediacy often trumps importance. "My Three Words" keeps you on track by making your goals and planned actions top-of-mind. Stating them as questions provides you with quick check-ins to ensure you are following your plan -- is my schedule flexible so I have room for unanticipated requirements or opportunities? A year-end review sharpens your ability to plan for success in the following year.

Picking effective words is harder than it seems. From experience, vague goals lead to low-power words. You need to be clear on what you want and what you need to do to achieve it. Like most things in life, the amount of effort you put in determines the benefits you receive. The first three words I think of are rarely the ones I select. 

My 2017 words were Aspire, Prioritize and Permission

Aspire described my desire to aim higher, to move beyond what I had accomplished before. It acknowledged that I am best when out of my comfort zone. This word was an excellent guide. Last year, I worked in new industries, presented to new groups and adopted a new approach to writing and formatting my next book.

Prioritize is a theme that spans across the last five years. I wanted to prioritize my time and activities and avoid distractions and detours. 

I struggled daily with following this guide. Every potential opportunity was explored to the fullest without assessing whether it warranted the time investment. I failed to apply selection criteria including whether the initiatives were set up for success, if my skills and experience would make a difference, and if my time could be better spent. The cost of my conduct was lost time on my priorities. In August, I wrote "no" over my list of 3 words taped to my monitor. It was a more powerful word.

Permission was about speaking the truth as I see it to provide the best value to my clients and readers. This word guided me through difficult client conversations and edits of presentation notes and articles. Speaking honestly led to better dialogues and learning for everyone, including me.

My assessment of 2017's words has been a valuable input into choosing the ones that will guide me in 2018. It has toughened up my selection process and replaced what initially seemed like good words with better ones. 

My three words for 2018 are: Courage, Discerning and Moment

Courage is what I will need to make big moves in 2018. It will affect the content of my next book and how I get it seen in a busy world. 2018 is the year of "going for it," and I will. 

Discerning refers to the decisions I will make. My choices will determine my ability to achieve my goals, especially preserving the time and maintaining the focus I will need. Consistently, I will ask "which option will best contribute to achieving my goals?"

Moment is about being fully present and making my time matter.  Being present and productive is the foundation of achievement, not dwelling in the past or future. It's the only way to be my best.

I have printed out my 2018 words and taped them to my monitor. Each day will begin by reviewing them. I plan to use them often on my path to success.

What three words would help you achieve your goals?


Monday, 21 August 2017

Influencing Commercial vs. Supply Chain Change Management

Business functions, like organizations, have cultures. They are defined by the mindsets, actions, and behaviours that govern how work gets done.

A function’s culture can have more influence on how a change initiative is managed than the company’s culture. Identifying the dominant culture, either function or company, is important to people supporting change because aligning with it increases their level of influence. The greater the influence, the greater their contribution to preparing people for new ways of working.

I realized the difference between Commercial (Marketing, Market Research, and Sales) and Supply Chain (Manufacturing, Logistics, and Distribution) cultures when I helped a global organization refresh its operating model. We held three design workshops that were attended by cross-functional representatives. Two were Commercial-led and one was Supply Chain-led. The Commercial-led workshops were similar in agenda, activities, and tone, even though the sponsor and attendees were different. The Supply Chain-led workshop was completely different – the planning process, session design, and discussions bore little resemblance to the first two.

The reason for these differences lies in the areas of focus. They affect how these groups think, what they value, how they invest their time, and what they discuss. The biggest difference is the outcomes they seek: Commercial strives for growth while Supply Chain strives for cost savings. Examples of growth outcomes are increased sales, market share, and profit. Cost savings outcomes include higher case fill rate and asset utilization, and lower operating expenses.

Growth and cost savings outcomes can be in conflict. Think of the Marketing Brand Manager who is motivated to quickly change product packaging based on new consumer research to increase brand awareness and sales. And the Plant Manager in charge of production who is motivated to delay this change until the existing packaging inventory is used to reduce material waste and operating costs. Both contrary perspectives are correct within the context of the different outcomes they seek to achieve.

One way to increase your influence during change is to align with the desired outcomes of the dominant culture. Here are three ways to do so.

Communicate how your recommendations contribute to achieving the outcomes
Noting how your contributions help achieve the dominant culture’s outcomes is the easiest way to increase influence. Established outcomes provide undisputed rationale for approval of activities. If your rationale is sound and the other alternatives contribute less to the outcomes, your recommendations are likely to be approved.

This tactic also works for recommendations about running a project. For Supply Chain-led initiatives, recommendations that eliminate rework, simplify processes, and better deploy resources are well positioned to be approved because they reflect outcomes valued by the dominant culture.

Work within preferred outcome time frames
Marketing and Supply Chain orient differently to outcome time frames. Supply Chain projects have a greater focus on annual results, even if the project runs longer than a year. In contrast, many Marketing projects focus on the long-term outcomes over interim targets.

The difference in timeline orientation is most pronounced when interim targets are missed. Supply Chain focuses on closing the immediate gap, whereas Marketing focuses on when the gap is best filled over the duration of the initiative. Working within preferred time frames increases the relevance of your recommendations.

Use existing templates associated with the outcomes
Credibility is enhanced when using frameworks and formats people are accustomed to and comfortable with. Visual alignment can assist comprehension and credibility, and reduce barriers to adoption.

Commercial templates sourced from brand and sales plans or customer and consumer data reports, and Supply chain templates from asset purchase approval and operations planning communicate validity and rigour. Familiarity and acceptability can lead to greater perceived value, acceptance, and support.

Cultures guide the management of change initiatives. For some, it is the company’s culture and for others it the leading function's. Identifying the dominant culture is an important step to influencing change.

Different functions, like Commercial and Supply Chain, have different cultures with different areas of focus. Aligning with them increases the influence you have on change by evoking familiarity, increasing credibility, and lowering resistance.

Connecting with the outcomes valued by the dominant culture is a powerful way to increase your influence and contribution to managing change. A good first question to ask is, “What does this project seek to achieve?”

Sunday, 6 August 2017

What I Learned from Lilly Singh's "How To Be A Bawse"

Lilly Singh is a digital media star with over 12 million Youtube followers on her iiSuperwomanii channel. She is also an entrepreneur, actor, world-touring entertainer, People’s Choice Award winner, Forbes, Time, and Inc. leader list member, brand ambassador, and two-time author.

Her latest book, How To Be A Bawse, A Guide to Surviving Conquering Life, soared to number two on the New York Times Best Sellers List when it was published in April. It is a hit.

Why did I read this self-help book written by someone whose audience in 2014 was 80 percent 14 to 25-year-old women? Research. I was looking for a fresh voice and perspective on the personal development space before starting my second book.

I noticed How To Be A Bawse on a table of books at Costco. It was hard to miss. The front and back cover are powerful, the table of contents intriguing and layout eye-catching. This is the inspiration I was looking for – homework can be exciting.

How To Be a Bawse is a collection of lessons Lilly has learned as she became “a Bawse” or, as defined on the back cover, “a person who exudes confidence, hustles relentlessly, reaches goals, gets hurt efficiently, and smiles generally because he or she fought through it all and made it out the other side.” Or as she told Jimmy Fallon, “Someone who conquers their whole life, not just at work, at home, in relationships, how they communicate; they just don’t survive life, they conquer it.”

Here is what I learned from How To Be A Bawse about creating an engaging and helpful guide:

  • Bite-sized learning is best – the book contains 50 short (2-5 pages), “easy to digest” chapters, one lesson per chapter.
  • Put your fingerprints on knowledge – multiple tips have been noted in previous self-help books, and yet are given fresh perspectives and applications, e.g. “I’ll visualize exactly what I want to happen” (The Magic of Believing, Claude Bristol); “Don’t be afraid to ask for things” (Self Esteem and Peak Performance, Jack Canfield).
  • Role model learning – share what you do. Lilly continually shares how she has been successful by following the lessons, which bestows authenticity.
  • Begin with a story – stories are engaging teachers. They provide context and relevance to the advice. They also provide personal credibility if they are about the author.
  • Use metaphors and analogies – they make insights relevant and real. “When you are climbing the ladder, the heaviest piece of clothing you wear is your pride.” Got it.
  • Help people take action – Lilly includes short action plans at the end of some chapters that help people apply her lessons, transitioning readers from intent to adoption (e.g. "Make an Investment. Outline one investment in each currency that will help you reach your goals: Time, Energy, and Money”).
  • Be quotable – Most chapters are summarized in easy to remember soundbites (e.g. “At the end of the day, you can’t learn new things if you’re always the one who is giving the lessons”; “Being a Bawse isn’t always about being the best; it’s about placing yourself in the best situations.”

  • Use sub-headings – titles help people scan for importance or speed, used often on the internet.
  • Pictures make the point – photos and illustrations are easier to absorb and are more stimulating than text because visuals add life to the content – use them freely.
  • Change it up – variety adds a feeling of movement, energy, and interest – heading styles, fonts, layout…be creative.
  • Use pull quotes – blowing up key points creates emphasis – you can’t miss them, especially if they take up a full page. They answer the question, “What is the most important thing you need to remember?”

  • Be different writing a “me-too” book diminishes meaning and threatens purpose. As Lilly says, “I wanted to make sure that whatever I offered was not only up to par but different from what was already out there.”
  • Motivate the reader Lilly checks in with the reader to motivate them to keep reading. Speak directly to the reader as they experience the content, as if you are along for the ride. A good example is in the Introduction: “Don’t feel bad if you forget things! I encourage you to read chapters over and over again because becoming a Bawse is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.”
  • Be directive – you are the expert so say what you believe is true. Lilly is in charge, evident by her “Rules for Reading this Book,” recommendations (e.g. “If you skipped to this chapter…now put the darts away and start from the beginning of the book”) and “Congratulations” in the conclusion.
  • Make it personal – a path to trust is showing vulnerability. Lilly shares her life’s doubts and low points through stories and journal entries, which brings the reader closer to her and the lessons she’s learned.
  • Humour makes things interesting – people fully engage in the moment when they are amused. As Lilly says, “I’ve worked really hard on writing this with the intent of making you laugh and inspired.” She is funny with a purpose; her humour supports her point, and she does so “with a healthy hint of sass.”
  • Make titles interesting – Books compete with all other forms of media so make your topics engaging (e.g. “You Are Not a Parking Ticket” – unwarranted validation leads to entitlement, and “The Alphabet is a Lie” – focus on Plan A; don’t have a Plan B).

I learned a lot from reading How To Be A Bawse, both from the lessons themselves and how they have been presented. Lilly does have a fresh perspective on creating a self-help guide through her content, formatting and style. Interestingly, her approaches would work just as well for other types of communication like public speaking and coaching.

What I learned most was the author’s ability to succinctly convey insights. Three of my favourites are:
  • “It’s clear that the majority of failed relationships are caused by one thing: having different priorities”;
  • “As with all expectations, you risk disappointment”; and
  • “Successful people understand the importance of positivity.”

Lilly’s lessons will guide far more than the creation of my next book.

So, do you want to be a Bawse? I know an excellent self-help guide that will help you become one. But as Lilly Singh says, “Everything takes effort.”

Friday, 2 June 2017

What Elite Running Can Teach Business About Measuring Performance

There are many parallels between business and sports. They are both highly competitive, performance based, and operate within variable environments. Both identify objectives for a period of time ranking, speed, and endurance for elite runners and market position, growth, and profitability for business. 

Running is often used as a metaphor for business because of its similar operating conditions. They employ strategies to best deploy limited resources to accomplish aggressive goals. They also strive to maximize results by managing inputs of production – people, process, and technology. 

Adages such as "it's a marathon, not a sprint" and "run your own race" help to broaden perspectives on how to win within ever-changing environments. Nike's recent Breaking2 quest to beat the two-hour marathon threshold is the ultimate metaphor for businesses setting and implementing strategies to maximize outputs. All inputs  talent, course, climate, fuel, and equipment  were optimized to achieve record-breaking performance. The lead runner, Eliud Kipochoge, improved the world record time by two minute and 32 seconds and missed the target goal of two hours by only 25 seconds. He is planning for his second attempt.

A skill business can learn from elite running is how to measure performance against objectives. 

Businesses track performance against their target objective, noting gaps or overages. Anything below the objective is viewed as failure and above is a success. Elite runners take a different approach: They track against their current average performance. Anything below this level is a failure and above is a success.

Measuring gaps versus objectives can direct analysis toward justifications (conditions weren't right) compared to improvements (this condition was right). Dan Sullivan describes how this focus effects people in his book Learning How to Avoid The Gap: "The result is a continual sense of missing the mark, feeling deficient, accompanied by a sense of frustration." As performance improves, the gap reduces, and yet capability gains may not stick because they are not reinforced. Successive failures can lead to despondency and decreased confidence, reducing the probability of future success.

The opposite effect is true for elite runners. Each performance improvement is acknowledged, capability builds, and confidence increases. As Judd Hoekstra explains in his book Crunch Time: How to Be Your Best When It Matters Most, "As your performance improves, your average shifts, which takes your game to the next level." Achievements lead to stronger capabilities and further progress toward the objective.

The benefits of focusing on performance improvement are equally applicable to any type of change made to how people work. New behaviours, processes or systems take time to fully adopt and recognition of advances through the transition motivates future gains. It may even lower resistance to new ways of working.

Where to focus is a strategy in itself. Measurement of performance improvement acknowledges that success comes in increments; measurement of performance gaps reinforces the size of the performance improvement that is needed. It's a choice between beating the world record by two minutes and 32 seconds or missing the objective by 25 seconds. Which one would you choose?

Another running adage comes to mind: "Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months, and years they spend preparing for it." Feeling like a champion along the way usually leads to the best performance.


Monday, 1 May 2017

Does Digital Transformation pose anything new for Change Managers?

Digital transformation is a hot topic in the media. Many news sites and consulting firms have published their takes on the opportunities and threats associated with it. A Google search will direct you to numerous articles with instructive titles like “5 Winning Ways,” “Six Stages,” “Nine Elements,” and “Top 10 Trends” of digital change. There is even a link to a specialized Executive MBA in Digital Transformation.

Digital transformation is defined as an organization’s use of digital technologies (e.g. mobile, cloud, social, big data, robotics) to improve how it operates to achieve its goals. It typically alters a company’s business and operating models, including how the organization creates value through products and services, processes are designed, and employees, suppliers, customers and consumers communicate and transact.

Ford Motor Company is an example of a digitally transforming organization. Responding to socio-economic, environmental, and consumer trends, it is evolving from being an automaker to a car and mobility services business. As Mark Fields, President and CEO explains, “We have to recognize what is going on in the world around us, embrace consumers’ desire for connectivity and mobility, and use the data available to us and new enabling technology to better anticipate and foresee their needs.”

An account manager for a digital platform provider told me that installing digital technology is rarely an issue. The problem is the low levels of adoption by employees after it has been implemented. The new functionality (or the system itself) is not used as intended, which reduces the benefits realized from the initiative. This is not a new challenge for change managers.

Bigazzi, a UK-based consulting company, reports similar findings: "The main obstacles [to digital transformation] relate to company culture, organizational complexity, and the lack of processes that enable employees to engage, collaborate and innovate." These potential barriers are not unique to digital transformation; they apply to any large-scale organizational change.

Digital transformation doesn’t pose anything new for change managers. It is a type of change just like a merger, restructure or efficiency drive. The specifics of the future destination may include different elements or have different levels of importance, but the process to define it and approaches to help people take on new ways of working (mindsets, actions and behaviours) to get there are the same.

One element that appears essential to digital transformation is trust among stakeholder groups (networks or “ecosystems”). As Klaus Schwabs, author of The Fourth Industrial Revolution counsels, “You are about to define a new level of trust between yourself and your employees, between yourself and your customers, between yourself and your key stakeholders and shareholders, and... between you and your partners.”

Earning greater trust implies changes to how leaders and their teams think about their stakeholders, how they engage with them, and how they behave when doing so. As Accenture’s Technology Vision 2017 report suggests, “To become a true partner, companies will need to shift their thinking, and replace the immediate sales goals of the past with goals that customers and employees have themselves.”

Digital transformation, like all other large change initiatives, requires sound change management strategy and implementation for the defined outcomes and benefits to be realized. Boston Consulting Group and the MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) conducted a two-year research study of designing digital organizations. Its analysis suggests three requirements to design a digital business:
-      Develop a visionary business strategy
-      Identify gaps in the current operating model and identify needed changes to them – roles, processes, ways of working, stakeholder networks
-      Create a team accountable for implementing the changes

This looks like solid change management to me.