Friday 31 October 2014

Using 5W Questions to Navigate Any Situation

Last night, my brother, Steve, and I took my dad to the hospital emergency ward. At 91 years old he had fallen. 

Our dad seemed okay after the fall although his left eye and the top of his head were red and swollen. Nurses at his seniors' residence were monitoring him throughout the week and noticed his abrasions were getting worse. An appointment with the doctor prompted the precautionary visit to the hospital.

It took a couple of hours for my dad to be admitted and we spent the next six hours watching as he progressed through a series of tests. 

The '5W questions'—Who, What, When, Why, Whereare primary tools of journalists, researches and problem solvers. They are the first to be asked and create an overall picture of a topic or situation.

The 5W's are excellent change management questions too. Each question requires factual answers and cannot be answered with a "yes" or "no". They help to gain perspective, develop hypotheses and support decision making on how to move forward.

Here are the questions we asked (and ones we wished we had):

The tests are ongoing, far longer than we thought. More questions are required. This time, I will write them down in advance so there are none in the 'should have asked' column.


Friday 24 October 2014

What triggers your performance mindset?

Last week, I ran a half marathon. I wasn't in the best shape given I was battling a cold and had missed a couple of training runs. As I approached the starting line, I didn't feel like this was my day to break any records. 

A fun part of runs is reading the humorous posters that people display along the course. Even the most popular phrases―"Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon", "Worst Parade Ever"--continue to inspire smiles. 

There is one sign that I look out for at every race: "Touch Here for Power". I always take the opportunity to veer off the path to hit the star-burst on the poster to receive my motivational power charge. 

I used to do it because it was fun. Now I do it because it has become a trigger for my performance mindset. Immediately after I hit the target my mind focuses, I take stalk of my physical condition and what I need to do to maximize my speed. 

Within seconds I have formed a game plan. I may decide to rehydrate at the next water station, eat a snack, change my stride, run faster or slower. I am confident that I am improving my performance regardless of the action. 

I also have tricked my mind into believing that I am getting energy from the sign. It gives me a psychological edge when battling pain, exhaustion and ever-depleting resources. Performance is a mental and physical pursuit.

The same phenomenon holds true in business. Before I give a presentation, I call on my triggers to focus my mind, survey my environment and maximize my performance.

Here are the triggers I have developed:
  • Introduce myself to everyone in the room―for large groups, meet everyone sitting at the front three tables
  • Angle my body so that it is squarely facing my audience
  • Control my breathing―breathe in, hold my breath and exhale for three seconds 
  • Smile
  • Begin with an open-palmed welcoming gesture
  • Share a story that either relates to the audience or my topic

Two kilometres before the finish line I saw another "Touch here for power" sign. Again, I veered over and hit the star-burst, triggering my performance mindset. 

Although my legs were starting to cramp, I sped up at the end to pass a few runners. 

It felt like a good race but nothing spectacular. When I got home I was surprised to learn that I had achieved a personal best time, 1:13 faster than my fastest half marathon.

I will continue hitting power signs and activating my business-related triggers. Having a performance mindset helps me to be my best.


Friday 17 October 2014

8 Tips on How to Roll Out a New Process

Lately, I have been helping organizations roll out new global processes. They require people in different geographies and functions to work differently than they do now so that they can work similarly in the future.

This requires people to take on new ways of thinking, tasks, skills, behaviours, relationships, and sometimes systems.

Many years ago when I led my first global process project, I assumed that people would be as excited to operate consistently across the globe. After all, they would speak the same business language, do the same things, easily share best practices and become more efficient. What's not to like?

What I quickly realized is that there are many reasons why a business area would not want to adopt a global process. The more common ones are:

  • Not customized to the needs of the business area
  • Unproven locally
  • Unknown
  • Confusing
  • Being forced upon them
  • More costly
  • Longer to execute
  • Someone else's success
  • Created by unknowns
  • A disruptor of the current success formula
  • Hard and looks like work 
  • Similar to something that was mandated in the past that failed 

I realized that rolling out global processes happens incrementally over time. People must understand how it can help them before they become interested in learning what it is and how to do it well. 

Teams also need to discuss how it can work for them and be able to make modifications that make it more effective without compromising important areas of commonality. This is when they fully support the new approach and call it their own.

Not providing time and space to reflect on the process and how it can fit with other practices leads to avoidance, bare minimum adoption, outright abandonment and, at worse, sabotage. 

Here are some tips to enable people to take on new processes:

  • Explain the 'why' before speaking about the 'how'
  • Back up the benefits with hard facts. If you don't have any then realize that the process will be viewed as an untested hypothesis
  • Define the principles and components that need to be the same across the business; everything else is negotiable
  • Realize that people are emotionally attached to the current ways they do things, which can be sources of pride, expertise and accomplishment 
  • Invite teams to make the change better. Assuming that you have a perfect solution is naive, creates a source of resistance and negates opportunities for co-creation
  • Focus your efforts on making a pilot business area successful. Peer testimonials hold the most credibility and value
  • Build in time for absorption of new ways of operating—thinking, actions and behaviours 
  • Recognize and reward the business areas that adopt the process first. This is the best way to create demand for new things and replicate successful transition paths
Rolling out new processes takes awareness building, interest, knowledge, skill and practice. Most of all, it takes people who take on new ways of working that they have co-created, ones who say, "We did this."


Friday 10 October 2014

10 Tips for Forming New Teams During Change

When riding on the subway this week, I noticed that the guy beside me had placed his bag on the seat between us. How rude to take an extra seat.

I scanned the subway car and saw other people doing the same thing. There were also people who held their bags on their laps not imposing on prime sitting real estate. 

Why were some people taking extra space and others not? Were some rude and others considerate, or were some just unaware of the impact of their actions? 

It is easy to judge people you don't know. This is what happens when new teams form during change. New relationships are formed between people who have different expectations and do things differently. Some team members attribute these differences as premeditated disparities while others see them as natural diversity.

The first approach assumes negative intent while the second assumes neutrality. One interpretation leads to division and entrenchment while the other leads to discussion and inquiry. 

Here are some tips to avoid misunderstandings and negative perceptions:
  • Immediately schedule a meeting for people to connect
  • Ask people to share their backgrounds including roles, accomplishments and aspirations—people forget
  • Acknowledge that it is normal for people to do things differently given their different leaders and experiences
  • Align people around a common purpose or goal
  • Do something social. New and fun experiences leads to shared memories and fresh bonds
  • Ask team members to create rules of engagement based on their values and definitions of high performing teams
  • Insist on team members who are located in the same city to sit together
  • Use video conference technology to engage remote team members—conference calls are not good enough
  • Celebrate early successes as team accomplishments
  • Hold frequent team meetings to align on goals, share information and manage any challenges
Change management is about helping people move from where they are to where they need to be with minimal disruption. Managing early team dynamics is essential for minimizing misunderstandings and tensions that get in the way of this transition and better performance.

The guy beside me on the subway stood up to give his seat to a senior citizen who got on our car. Maybe he wasn't so rude after all.


Friday 3 October 2014

7 Ways to Manage Expectations During Change

Last Friday night, my back seat passenger window refused to go up. When I investigated, I could hear the motor mechanism clicking, but the window didn't move. It was probably jammed, I thought.

The next day, I went to my car dealership and was able to get a technician to take a look without an appointmentthings were looking up. He said it was probably a faulty cable. It would cost $500 to repair and take about two hours install the new part.

"$500!" I exclaimed, with a look of horror on my face. "Couldn't it be something else?" I pleaded. 

"I hope it's not the motor" he said. Motors must be more expensive than cables, I thought.

My car repair experience is similar to most activities in life: we evaluate how well things are going based on our expectations. Often these predictions are not based on fact but rather wishful thinking.

Organizational change operates in the same way; exceptional performance can be perceived as sub-standard results when compared to unrealistic expectations. "I was expecting X," is a common comment from leaders whose perceptions are higher than reality.

Here are six ways to manage this bias when managing a change project:
  • Build awareness up front that the project plan (or outcomes) will need to be adjusted if conditions change or the agreed level of support is not provided—not doing so leads to impressions of mismanagement or failure
  • Brief leaders and their teams on changes (and how they will impact them) as they occur—delaying communication only make gaps appear worse
  • Compare progress with similar change projects—either internal or external—facts and data are the best defense against guesses
  • Build in room for variances in your plan—provide timing ranges when specific dates are unknown (e.g., week of September 29)
  • Identify contingencies you can activate quickly if your original plan is no longer possible—minimize the gap
  • Stay connected with stakeholders, especially those managing the business, to proactively test and adjust assumptions
  • Remind people that it is normal for a change plan to be updating—people often forget
Setting realistic expectations is critical to the success of any change project. Without them, some people are going to be disappointed regardless of the benefits of the outcome.

My window repair cost $479.25 and took one and a half hours to complete—slightly better than my informed expectations. The dealership washed my car too, which was a bonus. As I opened and closed my now working car window, I felt lucky.