Friday 28 November 2014

When People Want the Same Thing, Give it to Them

This week, I interviewed people who will be taking on a newly-created role in the new year. I wanted to get their input on how to design a workshop for them to define their ways of working. 

The questions I asked included:

  • What does this role do and not do?
  • How could they collaborate together? 
  • How could they effectively work with internal partners?
  • What behaviours are most important to succeed in this role?
  • What does "good" look like for the first 90 days?
After a few interviews, I realized everyone was in their late 20's. These 'Millennialswere all intelligent, articulate and digitally social. Their feedback was consistent too: direct, candid and optimistic.

Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe believe that each generation has a common character derived from common traits. My interviews supported this theory. Feedback was consistent across business areas and geographies. Although the phrasing was different, the themes were the same. 

The last question I asked became my test of commonality among the interviewees: "What would make a successful workshop?" Most comments were consistent too:
  • Social connectivity
  • Variety of ways to interact
  • Clarity on expectations and next steps
  • Definition of what "good" looks like
  • Understanding the level of autonomy
  • Support to move the organization forward

My sense is that Millennials take pride in their input and expect it to be used. It's clear what they want. All I need to do is give it to them.


Friday 21 November 2014

Can you stop the train after it has left the station?

With most change initiatives, there is a desire to quickly get set up and make traction. A new team is formed, a charter is written and a timeline is set.

There is a pervasive feeling that we are behind, though we haven't yet started. Gaining momentum and pooling organizational energy are good things; people notice activity, new news is interesting and new projects can invigorate those involved.

There is a dark side to speedy project beginnings. Often (and more so now than in the past) the desire to show progress is stronger than the desire to set the foundation for success. Evidence of this: plans are created before the change has been fully defined, meetings are scheduled with no agendas,and solutions are declared that are not supported by facts.

Speed becomes the currency of change: process equals motion. The cost of this approach is that it results in delays, rework and additional costs in the future. A quick step forward is followed by two slow steps back.

The biggest risk the mechanisms of speed cause the strategic aspects of the change to be passed over for the warm comfort of project planning. Benefits are not substantiated, measures are not validated and the drivers of change--mindsets, skills, processes, relationships and systems-- are set with little rigour or interrogation. 

If you witness this phenomenon, it might make sense to return the train back to the station to complete the strategic work that was missed. Technically, it is the best solution but practically it isn't feasible. Momentum is a greater force than logic. 

What you can do is slow the train down so that the strategic work gets done in parallel to the planning and execution of set up activities.

You do so by asking questions that expose gap in thinking and areas of risk. Here are some questions that have worked for me:
  • Can you explain the change to me?
  • What must we change in order to realize the benefits? Does everyone agree? How do you know?
  • Have we reviewed our assumptions with leaders?
  • What are our metrics? How will they be measured?
  • Have you considered other options? What were they? What about this one?
  • Have we tested our approach with what worked well (and not so well) during past change projects?
  • What are the risks of moving this quickly? What can we do to minimize them?
  • Are you confident that we have done our due diligence before setting our plans?
Speed is important as long as you know where you are headed and have adequately prepared for the journey. A slower train can lead to a better ride and faster arrival.  


Friday 14 November 2014

10 Ways You Can Benefit from Speaking at a Conference

This week, Jocelyn BĂ©rard and I presented a keynote address at the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD) Conference entitled Future-Proofing Your Organization Through Change Agility.

We knew that a keynote is a different game to leading a workshop. The audience is bigger (700+), people are physically distanced from you, scripting is required for pace and flow and engagement is more difficult (especially at the end of a day at a conference).

Another challenge is that we had never worked together. Learning about our styles and choreographing our movements was a must. It would take continual revision and rigorous practice to get it right.

As with most important events in life, this one flew by. I will always remember exchanging confident nods with Jocelyn as we launched into our presentation. Delivering our work was as exciting as I hoped it would be.

The best part of the day was when people approached us afterwards to say they appreciated what we had to say. What a feeling!

There are so many benefits to speaking at a conference and only a minority of people choose to do so. Here are the ones that have meaning for me:

  • Crystallizes your thoughts on a topic
  • Establishes your reputation as an authority in your field 
  • Builds capability (public speaking, communication, etc.) 
  • Broadens experience base
  • Helps people become better 
  • Meet new people (Jocelyn and I met at a conference)
  • Promotes what you have to offer
  • Scares you and makes you overcome the fear
  • Ups your game
  • Provides a sense of accomplishment

  • All of these benefits have one thing in common: growth. The best part of my CSTD keynote was working with Jocelyn. I learned so much from him and our partnering. We combined our knowledge, experience and styles to create something better than what we could have created on our own.

    Immediately after our session, we shook hands and both said, "Let's do another". That's what most people say after leading their first conference session. You might too.


    Friday 7 November 2014

    How to Get Change Buy-in with an 80 Percent Solution

    For many years, I believed creating the best plan would lead to successful adoption of change--the better the plan the better the outcomes. 

    What I now know is that the goal isn't to create the best plan; the goal is to create a good plan that people will own and implement. The problem with the 100 percent "perfect plan" is that there is no room for people to contribute. Without providing inputs, people often feel that change is being done to them. This can lead to resistance, or worse, indifference.

    I remember defending one of my perfect plans to the detriment of its execution. Being technically right increased my ownership and decreased it in those who were being tasked with implementation. My inflexibility contributed to lukewarm execution. I had sabotaged the plan without knowing it.

    It is essential that people are given opportunities to provide input into change programs and implementation. People must see their fingerprints on the change before they devote themselves to following it. The 80 percent plan creates room for participation and co-creation, which leads to a pride, confidence, capability and ownership.

    Here are some tips on how to gain buy-in for change through contribution:
    • Refer to your plan as a "draft"
    • Set up a team to review the plan
    • Include a member of each group that is adopting the change
    • Demonstrate you are actively listening to feedback by asking open-ended, clarifying questions
    • Explain why some points of feedback will not improve the plan—don't make a change that will not improve the outcome
    • Acknowledge when an approach is better than yours—it's a win for the person who came up with it
    • Identify contributors by name: "Alka suggested that teams that work together should attend training together."
    • Attribute success to the team—this encourages future contributions and successful changes
    Buy-in and ownership are essential for successful change. Providing room for reflection, creation and contribution build a sense of purpose, commitment and resolve to do things differently. People must want to change themselves.