Friday 26 August 2011

The Completion Gap

It has been a busy summer for fixing and upgrading our home. Charlie, our son, commented that there always seems to be someone doing something to our place. We have received advice from a designer, had stone walkways put in by a mason, and planting done by a landscaper.

I noticed that most of these experts quote on jobs based on an initial assessment, complete the work they have been commissioned to do, and then leave. The missing link is that most of them don't review the completed work with their client. This is an important step that has multiple benefits:

- Confirms that nothing has been missed
- Reinforces the quality of the work including sharing difficulties that were overcome
- Educates the client on how to maintain the work so that the quality does not degrade
- Provides the opportunity to receive thanks and to get a referral

As our landscaper rang our doorbell to say the job was finished and that he was going to leave, I asked for a tour of the work before he went. As he showed me the plantings, he also gave me tips on how to keep the gardens looking great - things I was not aware of. The ten minute tour gave me a chance to ask questions, to thank him for a job well done, and give him and his team cold drinks for the road.

This 'completion gap' happens all the time with change projects. Once the project plan is completed (or sometimes before then), and no implementation disasters have occurred, the team quickly leaves. Important steps such as outcome clarification (nothing has been missed), lessons learned (difficulties that were overcome), post launch support (maintenance so that the quality does not degrade), and formal recognition of the team ( thank yous, cold drinks for the road, and personal referrals) are missed. Could it be that the next project becomes the priority over the one that is winding down or is it that people don't know any better?

I am writing about these steps now. It is essential to get them right. You have to finish the job to do it well.


Friday 19 August 2011

Questionable Content

One of my parents' favourite stories was one of me when I was six years old. A university and wartime friend of my dad's came to visit. He had become a minister after graduation and had a congregation in Florida.

As he was leaving, he was speaking about his faith and suddenly crouched down beside me. He pointed at my chest, and with a smile said, "Do you know what is inside there, son?" Excited by the easy question, I beamed proudly and yelled, "GUTS!" My Mom and Dad laughed, but the preacher didn't.

I am now focused on writing the first draft, the guts, of my book. The following sections are being included for each of the questions a leader must answer to successfully manage their change project:

1981 - 2011 © Hermann International
Readers have different learning preferences. Each of the sections appeals to a specific learning style preference and all four styles are covered. My assumption is that readers will first go to the information formatted for their style preferences, and then move onto the other sections. The tailored approach is ideal for the time-starved reader. 

My objective is not for people to read the whole book, unless they want to. Rather, it is to provide information that will help them deal with the decisions they face. I would be delighted if they learned one thing that helped them along the way.

So far so good. I continue working through the 45 questions I have chosen, getting inspiration from the notebooks and emails I have saved from my career.  Only 225 sections to write until my first draft is completed. I'm getting there, one thought at a time.


Friday 12 August 2011

Tear Here

Things ripped out of last Saturday's papers

My amazing wife Barb hates it when I tear things out of newspapers. Any torn piece of paper is suspect, regardless of what it is. It doesn't matter whether it is an article I think I may like but don't have time to read, an article I have read and want to keep, or an article I think a friend would like. Even discount coupons are questionable. I think Barb sees my behaviour as the first step to becoming a hoarder, just like the people profiled on the TV show "Hoarding: Buried Alive."

I have been a 'tearer' (not hoarder) from  about the age of 13 years old.  I created collages from magazines and hung them in my room. These murals captured things that were important to me, similar to the hobby of scrapbooking. According to Wikipedia, scrapbooking started in the 15th century "as a way to compile information that included recipes, quotations, letters, and poems." As of Thursday, there are 147,257 books listed on scrapbooking on It feels good to not be the only tearer in the world.

How people interact with written material is an important consideration for my book. Since my audience is time starved, they most likely will seek out specific information based on an immediate need vs. read the whole book from cover to cover. The format I choose will have a direct impact on usability. If the reader can't quickly find the information they need, then they may not take the extra time to find it.

I see my book as a dynamic resource to be written on, bookmarked, and even 'torn.' The format I am writing in should facilitate easy navigation in hard copy format. I am not so sure about the electronic version. How do you enable these kinesthetic experience on a screen?
Phil's Kindle

Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of both formats. I received a Kindle as a present not long ago and I love it. As a new user, however, I find making comments cumbersome. I haven't tried highlighting but I dont' think it is going to be as easy as gliding a marker over a page of paper.
As I get closer to the publishing phase of my journey, I will need to think more about the paper and electronic versions of my book to make sure they are fit for the purpose - quick information based on immediate need.

For now, it is time to figure out how to use the Kindle highlighter.


Thursday 4 August 2011

Are you sure enough to be unsure?

About eight years ago, I attended a 'Persuasion Engineering' selling skills course in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was conducted by the co-father of Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP), Dr. Richard Bandler, and another master of the discipline, John La Valle.

John shared a conversation he had with his son's principal asking him: "Are you sure enough to be unsure?" I believe part of his objective was to confuse the principal, as I was confused when I heard the question. I've thought about this phrase ever since. I take from it that few things are absolute or completely certain. Context can change an answer from being right to wrong. Also, wisdom gained over time can prove an historic 'fact' to be invalid. As James Bond once said, "Never say never."

So how does this apply to change management? Firstly, it is not an exact science. There is no path that will work in all situations - each one is different. A framework can provide a good point of reference, however, there is no cure-all, multi-step, 'silver bullet' process. The best approaches are flexible and evolve over time based on the latest information available. Change is dynamic and therefore needs to be managed in a dynamic way.

Secondly, successful change management comes from the ability to listen to the people who are being changed, incorporating their recommendations into a plan. The consultant who professes to know the answer based solely on his or her experience is usually ignorant of the circumstances around the change they are trying to support. This is often how large change projects are managed. A command and control style is adopted as a way to communicate expertise and certainty of action. One of my tests of measuring the value of a consultant is to ask him or her what big mistakes they have made on past change management projects. If they say nothing or avoid the question, then I know they are amateurs who have little value to offer.

Thirdly, the best way to phrase a recommendation is to say, "Based on the information I have now, this is the best way to proceed," or, "From what we know now, we should do this, but we can't be certain until we see how it is received." Expertise enables you to act with confidence based on a read of the current environment. It doesn't enable you to guarantee outcomes. I confident about that, although I can't guarantee it.