Friday 26 December 2014

Why It's Important to Take Stock of 2014

Media is filled with best and worst lists of 2014—best business books, worst movies, best "best of " lists, etc. Although they are momentarily appealing, they only share one person's subjective view of what good (or bad) looks like for the year. 

What is more valuable is a comparison of results to goals. This is the only meaningful way to measure success and learn from the process.

Measuring your yearly accomplishments allows you to assess whether you achieve your goals. It also allows you to reflect on what what worked and didn't work and which approaches you should start, stop or continue to achieve next year's goals.

I tried a new goal setting approach this year based on a blog post by Chris Brogan written on January 1st. He recommended choosing three words "that sum up what you want to work on changing/improving in the coming year". It's a simple and effective way to prioritize, make decisions and keep track of your progress.

I chose my three words over two weeks. It was important that each one connected to my purpose of helping people and organizations  be more successful by working in new ways. My three words are: purposeful, groundbreaking and global. I used them as guides as I choose how to invest my time.

Here's my assessment of my ability to achieve each one:


I had a purposeful year. The assignments I took on had meaningful goals, both for the organizations and people working on themthere were no 'change for change's sake' initiatives. Also, I took on many speaking engagements that provided immediate, positive approaches for attendees, including people going through a downsizing initiative, managers trying to motivate not-for-profit volunteers and specialists seeking to have a voice during constant change.


This was not a groundbreaking year. I did do a few new things this year including working in new industries and partnering on a keynote presentation with another author. Both broke new ground and were successful, but didn't reach the 'earth shattering' expectations I had set. I have learned that being groundbreaking in itself is not the goal, although things may be groundbreaking to achieve other goals.


I had a global year, both from business and mindset perspectives. Ninety percent of my assignments were with global organizations working on global projects. They all held fascinating challenges (and rewards) of working across multiple geographies and cultures. I have also developed many new international relationships. It's a global world and I feel good about my presence in it this year.

My analysis has taught me a lot about how choosing three words each year can guide my actions and behaviours. Taking stock at the end of the year is informing my next year's word selection too. More on them later.


Friday 19 December 2014

How to Minimize the "Get it done before the holidays" Syndrome

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I get the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, reflect on the year and plan for the next one. 

That's my plan every December but it never seems to work that way. This is one of the busiest times of the year. Whether it's achieving yearly goals or completing projects before the holiday, schedules are full and people are overloaded.

This year has been no different; projects have been sped up and one was even pressed to start before year's end. Beyond the personal impact of working around the clock, there is a business cost to this rush: people aren't doing their best work. 

Efficiency becomes the goal at the expense of effectiveness. Getting things done is more important than doing things well. The closer you get to the office closing, the more short cuts are taken. At worst, commitments become check box exercises with the intention of reviewing them after the holidays. 

If the pre-holiday season is an environment where people don't do their best work, how do you avoid this "get it done before the holidays syndrome"? Here is a checklist to minimize the effect:

  • Assume that 25 percent of your time in December will be spent on last-minute requests
  • Avoid scheduling important meetings one weeks before the holidays
  • Don't schedule training sessions two weeks before the holidays—attention is low and attendance is a challenge
  • For meetings that you must hold just before the holidays, send action items out within 24 hours along with an invite to review them in early January—people will forget them
  • Ask when people are returning from holiday—it might not be the first day back
  • Be patient with your colleagues and yourself—most are caught up in the holiday rush. 
Following these practices may even give you the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, reflect on the year and plan for the next one. Happy holidays!


Friday 12 December 2014

10 Questions to Ask When Starting a New Change Project

I just started an exciting change management project. The goal is to enable a global roll-out of a new cross-functional process. 

The 'what' and the 'why' of the project are clear but the 'how' needs to be defined after internal capabilities--resourcing, skills and culture--are assessed and understood.

The 'discovery' phase of this assignment includes interviews with key stakeholders and a deep-dive review of documents. In addition to learning about the business strategy and how it is being delivered, we need to understand how people work together.

Triangulation, the technique of comparing different data sources to distinguish between facts and fiction, is helpful to create an accurate picture of the organization. This is needed before determining how to position the change and develop the best transition process.

Interviewing is the most effective and interesting part of the discovery process. Asking a set of questions to a diverse group of people will give us the puzzle pieces to assemble the organizational picture. Triangulating the answers will help identify the ones that don't fit.

Here are 10 questions that create a good picture of an organization:
  • What does success look like to you about this change?
  • What are people struggling with (pain points) without the change?
  • How will the organization and operators benefit from the change? 
  • What changes were successful in the past? Why?
  • What changes failed in the past? Why?
  • What should I know about your culture? How so?
  • Why might people resist adopting the process?
  • How would you roll-out the change?
  • How would you get people involved in making the change?
  • What last thoughts do you have about making the change?
Questions are powerful tools to gain understanding of how an organization and its people operate. Doing so in a structured way with the right questions will help you help them to change their picture for the better.


Friday 5 December 2014

When Decision Making is Clear, Change Follows

I have been working with organizations that are changing their operating model. Their new structures, processes and approaches have been designed to make them more focused, faster and efficient.

There are many drivers of this type of change including new mindsets, roles, relationships, skills, behaviours and systems. A focus of change management is to help people understand and commit to new ways of working so they can fulfil their new roles.

The change management plan answers the question, "How will people understand what is changing, why it is good to do so and how will I work differently under the new operation model. Town halls meetings, written and video communication, new team awareness sessions and process and skills training are common activities to achieve this objective.

It became clear this week is that decision making is the most important aspect of the transition that needs to be decided and communicated--who makes them, who is accountable for providing inputs, what process will be followed and how they are communicated. All other aspects of the change are connected to this aspect of organizational governance.

Some organizations have shied away from clarity on decision rights. The momentary harmony of ambiguity is more compelling than executional precision. An initial false sense of alignment is created until opposing positions arise and the organization slows down. Without clear guidance, outcomes are determined as much by personal power than organizational design.

Many organizations are now identifying  the need for clear decision making governance. They are investing time and resources to define and communicate how decisions will be taken on everything from strategic priorities to expense approvals.

For each key process, they define: 

  • What decisions need to be taken?
  • Who owns the decision (who makes the final call)?
  • Who participates in making the decision--who provides input, is consulted and is informed?
  • What forums are they made in?
  • How are the decisions acted upon?
  • How will they be measured?

These details may seem obvious but often they are missed, especially the forums in which decisions are made. When this is unclear, decisions can be made to early, without proper input or participation. 

The most important aspect of new ways of working is decision making. When that is clear, people know how to get things done. When that is clear, the other drivers of change quickly follow.