Friday 30 September 2011

Back to the Future

In early 2000, someone in my office started taking notes in black 9" by 7" notebooks. Within weeks everyone seemed to be walking around with them - including me. For the next eleven years I captured my meeting notes, to do lists and lessons learned in these handy journals. Each time I completed one I would put it on my shelf in chronological order, just like the scene from Alister Simm's 'The Christmas Carol.'

This week, one of my tasks was to reread all 55 notebooks (9,350 pages) to extract lessons learned I might have forgotten. I figured there would be many thoughts that had been jotted down during past change projects that would be perfect for my book. I was right. There are some great ones that were captured in the heat of the moment. Less exciting is the amount of time it takes to read 55 notebooks. I am on notebook 20 with one day to go!

Beyond collecting these  nuggets, I learned the following about the notes I took and the way I took them:
  • I created an index for the first three books and then abandoned the practice
  • Each book has a "Thank you for returning my book" inscription in the front cover, just in case it got lost, which only happened a few times when I left it in someone`s office or a meeting room
  • Our sons, Sam and Charlie ,drew in the backs of them when they joined me at the office on weekends
  • There are a lot of references to passion and energy
  • Our businesses had many highs and lows over the years
  • Training sessions were defined by the people who attend them, especially in different geographies - same content, different interpretations
  • Leaders were very quotable, e.g., "You, can't rebuild a ghost."
  • I have worked with so many fascinating and talented people
  • There are a lot of references to pushing the boundaries to become the best - no regrets on risks taken
  • I contemplated writing a book about learning style training design in 2000 (my concern was that it was not an exciting topic)

There are many details of our lives that we forget unless they are recorded and reviewed. George Santayana said, ``Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.``  Perhaps a complementary thought is ``Those who forget their lessons never learned them.``


Friday 23 September 2011

Becoming a Platinum Member of My Own Rewards Program

Over the past five months, I have received tremendous encouragement from friends and family. It has helped me stay on course through the twists and turns of doing something new. Just yesterday, I received an incredible note from someone I haven't seen in eight years. He said, "...keep on with your passions. Know you have people cheering you on from the sidelines. Be sure to leverage those people on the sidelines when you feel a need for perspective..." What a powerful message and kind gesture - I will reread it often.

I realize, however, that I need to take accountability for my motivation. Motivation is inspired from outside but built from within. I must be my number one cheerleader. I must be responsible for fanning the flames of my passion and ambition.

Rewards are an important element of any change project. Whether for celebrating milestones achieved or acknowledging the hard work of the team - rewards matter. This is contrary to an article I read recently. The author said you must be wary of rewards and to use them selectively. On the surface, this partly makes sense. They should be used to reward specific events or behaviours and not handed out without merit. What I don't see is the implied caution in using them. It reminds me of a quote from the early 90s TV show 'Twin Peaks.' Kyle Maclachlan says, "Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it, don't wait for it. Just let it happen." Everyday seems a bit much, however the spirit feels right.

I only have witnessed two situations where rewards and recognition were not motivating. The first was in a unionized manufacturing environment when the individual was teased for being positively recognized. The second was when someone didn't like the reward she had been given: "What am I going to do with a utility knife?" Every other situation left people feeling appreciated and recharged. 

If rewards are an important part of change project management, then why shouldn't it be an important part of a project to write a book on change management? I need to build them into my work plan so I can celebrate milestones achieved and acknowledge hard work.  I must build my own rewards program of which I am a platinum member.

The two rewards I have planned are a new technical t-shirt for my first marathon in October, and the CD and DVD of  A-ha's final concert. They may not be on your list of rewards but they definitely have me excited. Now, I must keep doing the work that will earn them.


Friday 16 September 2011

Going Social

It won't be long until the writing and editing phases of my book adventure are completed - probably six to eight weeks from now.  Then I will move to the selling phase, marketing my book (and me) to agents and publishers. I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time thinking about these next phases before they get here. My first thought was to become better connected to the world through social media.

Up to now, my participation in social media has been limited. I have been an active member of  LinkedIn for years, regularly updating my profile and contributing to group discussions. It has been an easy way to stay connected with friends and peers. Also ... hmm ... there is no  'also' - that's the extent of my social media experience, which, when reread, sounds very limited. I haven't made the time for personal social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I signed up on Facebook in 2008 and never went back to my home page - who had the time? A friend created a Twitter account for me two years ago and I never went back to my home page - who had the time?

To build a social media strategy, it is essential to take the time to do it right. Using the word 'strategy' in this context seems grand for me. It implies building a fact base, considering alternatives,  and making outcome-focused decisions. It is hard to do so when you you know nothing about the subject.  

Although I am rocketing up the social media learning curve, I know there is so much more to learn about effectively 'going social.' I feel like I have purchased a social media t-shirt but have not earned the right to wear it (similar to the wonderful Cadbury Bournville brand ad).

My first steps have been updating my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  As I anticipated, participation is addictive. Each update is a little nod to myself as I progress through my life - what's not to like? These reflections seem vibrant and fascinating, even though I am having them about four years later than most people.

Connecting my networks is my latest accomplishment. I feel I am missing 'strategic' things but have no clue what they are. Hopefully, I will come across them in time. For now, here is my 'Tell the World I Am Writing a Book' social media strategy. Please let me know what I am missing.


Friday 9 September 2011

Wind Them Up

Writing is going well. I have already passed the halfway mark of my first draft. This week I reviewed a few sections of what I had written. I realized that my views were being phrased in neutral terms (e.g., "You may want to do this..."). It is not a big issue since my objective for the first draft is to get the content captured versus spending time on style. But maybe it is if this is the way I am thinking. My book is intended to share actions that have proven to be successful versus outline options to be considered. The reader needs to know what to do in as little time as possible. Therefore, I need to get to the point.

Another observation is that my text is clinical versus energetic. This is the opposite of what I want to do. I need to infuse hope, courage and passion into my style because these are the characteristics that lead to a successful change.  Projecting energy and passion is the way to do it.

I felt the power of energy last week when I attended a Saga concert at the Sound Academy in Toronto. Saga is a progressive rock group that hit its highest popularity in the early 80s (with two singles: 'Wind Him Up' and 'On the Loose'), making the Billboard charts in the US and achieving cult status in Germany and Puerto Rico. To date, their career has spanned 34 years, 31 albums and 8 million discs sold.

Phil at the concert
The energy of the band was incredible. It radiated from the stage throughout the 90 minute plus concert. What a great feeling it was to be there, six feet from the stage, excited and inspired. This is the level of energy I need to infuse into my book.

So, the two changes I have made to my writing is to be more definitive about my advice and build energy into the tone.  It has had an immediate impact. I am finding the content is more fun to write. Also, I am recalling more interesting details of stories that the reader should enjoy. Just writing this blog post is making me 'pumped.' It's time to get back to writing!

48 seconds of energy from Michael Sadler of Saga

Friday 2 September 2011

Blinding You With Science

It struck me the the other day how many idioms I use when I speak and write. I am not sure if it is just me or if everyone has this 'Achilles Heel.' See what I mean?

As I was pondering why I default to these communication shortcuts, I remembered a book I had bought in the late 80s called 'The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.' It was promoted as the 'ultimate book of knowledge,' which sparked my curiosity.

The authors, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph R. Kett and James Trefil, defined cultural literacy as "a shifting body of information that our culture has found useful, ... the foundation of our public discourse, ...the context of what we say and read." One of the first chapters is on idioms that they describe as things that make no sense "unless you know what they allude to."

These definitions hint at the dangers of using idioms in writing. Information does 'shift' over time and idioms only are useful when the reader knows what they 'allude to.'  And what about 'our culture?' Which culture is that? Given these variables, there is a high probability the reader will not understand some of the words that are written. The probability is even higher when the text is translated into different languages.

When I started my book, one of my goals was to "create a resource that people find relevant, practical and helpful." I was keen to avoid change management jargon, which I find is a barrier to understanding many books on the subject. I didn't realize I need to avoid cultural jargon, too - 'Blinding you with cultural science' is a version of the same mistake.

So, as I write I will screening for cultural expressions. I will also have others do so in the editing phase, both in Canada and abroad. Keeping it clear and simple is a good principle to follow.