Organization Design Blog
Organization design blog
Space as a strategic asset was last week's question. I got it three times in different ways but they are focused on the same idea – how do we know what space we'll need in the future, and then how do we use it to get best possible performance from the space and the people in it? Here they are:
1. In the last week we've been approached on the subject of domestic companies (in China) looking to make significant change to how they use space as a strategic asset of the business.
2. Wondering if you have any info or articles on how companies are responding to contraction and expansion in their real estate portfolios? Efficiency and cost effectiveness – while also maintaining great environments?
3. A client is looking for benchmarking metrics which would tell him at what point in eroding away his vacant space (flexible/soft/surge space) should he look at options to build or lease more space or look at significant consolidation.
The interesting things about the questions are the challenges and opportunities they imply. Although framed as workplace/workspace issues they are also about the design of the organization and the external trends and context that the business operation has to respond to as it develops and delivers its business strategy.
I am in the intriguing position of writing a change management point of view paper, methodology and toolkit that doesn't involve the words 'change' or 'management' or any combinations of the two. So far, I've done a couple of presentations on the proposed new approach, and had several conversations with people in various roles, industries, and generations on whether it has any merit. Like me they think it has but the challenge is converting it to something crisp, actionable, and simple enough to grasp. So far I've had two goes at writing the paper and after 3 pages each have given up on both. My personal BS monitor points to too much consultant jargon, too high a level of concept/abstraction, and not enough to guide the organizational seller-doers let alone the actual clients.
The received wisdom is that the majority of change efforts fail: the commonly quoted number is upwards of 60%. Indeed I got a white paper telling me just that earlier this week.
Whether or not this is true is open to debate. Consider the introduction of the i-pad as a 'change management' effort. Did this fail? Not according to sales statistics. Is Facebook a 'change management' effort? Did this fail? Not so far anyway. Did we change our views of the financial sector as a result of a 'change management' effort? I don't think so, but society's views (at least in the UK and US) of this sector have changed following the financial crash.
For some reason organizational 'change management' is held to be a planned effort aiming to convince employees that what is usually a pre-determined management course of action is exactly what the employees should – in the jargon – 'embrace'. There may well be 60% failure to 'embrace' a subtle, or not so subtle, form of coercion. But that is more likely due to the programmatic aspects of an 'initiative'.
Take your pick at the end of the year. It's either review of the past year, or predictions for the coming year or resolutions, or the impossible to avoid 'Sales'. So far I have managed to avoid buying anything in a sale, unless you count a secondhand book from the Oxfam bookshop which was at second hand book price and not an even more cut down 'sale' price. Apparently the UK hit an all-time record this year in the shopping spree that started on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day set a new British record for online shopping, figures showed today as crowds descended on high streets once again for another day of frenzied sales.
While thousands of shoppers queued outside stores up and down the country to get ahead of the game, millions more made the most of tumbling prices from the comfort of their own homes.
Fears of consumers tightening their belts in the face of tough economic conditions were quickly shelved, with an estimated 10 million shoppers believed to have spent about £2.9bn.
I'm getting ready for the New Year Resolution effort. What shall I resolve?
Taking a look at the week just gone – could it be described as 'typical' – I'm hoping to get some pointers.
Monday December 17
One of the time management things working in the UK and with colleagues on the US East and West Coast is handling the fact that 5:00 pm UK – normally construed as end of the working day, is 9:00 am US west coast – normally construed as the beginning of the work day. So I can easily do two days back to back in one day, as it were. How about resolving not to do two back to back days? Do I really want to take a phone call walking in pouring rain back from the station at 10:00 pm on the merits of using business intelligence/research in responding to an RFP? I have to recall from memory the PowerPoint I constructed on this as, fortunately, I have not yet got software that projects onto my retina a visual image of a PowerPoint as I am walking along. I think this is coming though.
Tuesday December 18
Well today I got up at my usual time, 5:30 am, and headed for the station. I could resolve not to travel on commuter trains, or within standard commuting hours. Oxford to Paddington requires speed to land a seat in the rush hour. It's impossible to get a seat on the Underground. Standing, it's not easy to respond to the overnight West Coast emails in a crush of people as one-fingered BlackBerry typing is laborious. Nor can I log on to finish the important document I started the evening before.
The creative non-fiction writing course I'm following over breakfast each morning is teaching me about character, conflict, and the narrative arc. I'm wondering how I can apply these techniques to my writing of the second edition of my first book Organization Design: the Collaborative Approach in order to give the new version "a compelling sense of momentum that carries the reader toward the conclusion."
On the face of it things look good. Organization design seems to have all the elements for momentum. That is, "strong characters who experience challenges and conflicts and undergo changes as a result." After all isn't this the story of organization design consulting and any organization design project? But how do I write the story in a way that doesn't breach Non-Disclosure Agreements, and somehow transforms the CIPDs HR Profession Map, Organization Design Competences from a series of uninspiring statements like "Leads systematic processes to manage job sizing and levelling, ensuring appropriate governance is in place to maintain the integrity of the grade structure," into vivid prose that captivates the reader?
I was speaking at the IFMA conference on Friday on change and communication. As my co-presenter, Al DePlazaola, noted, organizations spend 'shedloads' (new UK terminology I just bumped into) of time and money operating under the assumption that change can be managed. He showed pages of various 'change management' frameworks and models – look at the selection on Google Images and you'll get the idea.
We feel that none of these work. Our contention is that preparing a game plan, identifying the "burning platform" (we must change or else!) and following a prescriptive, model based, "10 step" plan, or similar, to bring employees along is not the way to go as the reality is that if your platform is burning, it's probably already too late.
These standard approaches to 'change management' developed in slower moving environments are not appropriate now. Our current environment is fast, fast, fast. People expect rapid digital communication, from answering email within seconds to dealing with tweets (in a nano-second). Not only that, as Ian Sanders notes in his FT article Think First Tweet Later people are likely to be getting these communications and responding to them as they are walking down the street or standing in the queue at the coffee shop. Change is happening too quickly to ponderously 'manage' it.
Below is the script for the talk I planned to give at TEDX Columbus on Friday (Oct 5 2012). Inevitably, it came out somewhat differently on stage. (The videoed on-stage version will be on You Tube in the next week or so). And this is the last installment of TEDX stuff.
The poet, Ben Okri, commands the workers of the world to 're-make the world', 'delight the future', and 'create happy outcomes'. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could 'delight the future' and create happy outcomes in working for pay? Let's consider the likelihood of this and see what we would need to do to achieve that outcome.
First though let's look at what we think of as 'work'. Some think of it as paid employment because we need to earn our living, while others think of it, more generally, as an activity that requires effort. And many activities can fall into either category. For example if you do the ironing then it's unpaid 'work' and if you pay someone to do it for you it is that person's paid employment.
The focus in this discussion is on paid employment – money earned by working. I'll cover three types of work and give one example of each plus an associated trend. I'll move on to look at three age groups in the workforce, and suggest three capabilities for each that will help these workers meet their work futures confidently given that trends are not predictions and we cannot say what the future will actually be.
First, think about work in three categories, albeit overlapping ones.
• Routine work: repetitive, assembly line sorts of things
• In person work: like doctors, teachers, shop assistants
• Data manipulation: like problem solving, information analysis, coding.
The strange thing about joining a new company is the strangeness of it. Everything is somewhat different from the known, but it is not completely unknown either. Some attributes of organizations tend to be present in all of them. Use of Microsoft Office is one example, having conference rooms, kitchen areas, photocopiers, and other office equipment is largely similar, so is the likelihood of enjoying a level of employee benefits. Similar organizational processes appear: a payroll system, expense and timesheet requirements, and phone numbers, business cards, and email addresses are part and parcel of most organizational life. But beyond these explicit and/or tangible aspects things are different, and it's getting to grips with those which are so fascinating.
This past week I've been continuing with researching and writing chapter eight of my forthcoming book. As I said last week, it's on management fads and fashions, and it's been an interesting foray into my prejudices and experiences, the academic theory on the topic, and the popular writing about fads.
At this point I'm pondering all the information and trying to get it into a manageable format that will engage readers. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, all about 'that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire' has the engagement factor down pat. I started to re-read bits of his book, looking for the nuggets that I remembered from my first reading of it. Of course, that rather side-tracked me as I drifted off into remembering my own teenage years consorting with people wearing Hush Puppies (one of the fads he discusses) the first time they were a fashion fad.
On Sunday, March 11, yesterday, I started to write the final chapter of my new book. It's a great relief to see the index hoving into view after six months of sitting here at my laptop – the post PC era has overtaken me while I've been writing. If the post PC era has also overtaken you for the moment you can listen to Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist, talking about this in a TechCrunch interview. As soon as I finish the book I'll have to ditch my PC and get whatever the post PC era item is. Or will I be succumbing to a mere fad if I do that?
How do I know whether the post-PC era statements are a fad or a trend? What is the difference? You'll be able to find out when the book is published at the end of the year, because management fads and trends are the topic of Chapter 8 – the one I've spent the last day and a half working on. Well, some of the time I haven't been directly working on it. I've been 'researching' the various management jargon generators seeing if I can come up with a management fad of my own. The generators are great fun and there are lots of them. Just type into your search bar 'management jargon generator' and you'll get a list of them. Then you can spend quite a while feeling amused at things like "This is no time to bite the bullet with our parallel incremental contingencies" or "Our exploratory research points to knowledge-based management alignment," at least I felt amused until I then cast a critical eye over what I had written in the chapter and decided to go and get a cup of tea.
Writing my new book on organizational health has made me even more aware of the parallels between organizational and individual health. So when I saw the documentary Forks over Knives which is about eating a completely plant based diet in order to avoid, as far as possible common chronic and degenerative diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strokes, I wondered whether some of the common 'diets' of organizations - increasing shareholder value, looking at short-term quarterly results, revering charismatic leaders, kneeling at the feet of management gurus, and so on - which lead to taking short cuts, ethical misdemeanors, jaded management, vast expenditure on not very much, and other chronic organizational diseases (ok I'm wildly oversimplifying) could be reversed by something equivalent to a plant based diet.
My first thought on the plant based diet was that it was fine for food savvy people who'd seen the documentary, read Michael Pollan's books, who could afford fresh fruits and vegetables, and who had access to sources of this type of food. I wondered how the mass of people who suffer from 'food insecurity' - a euphemism for 'not enough money to buy food' used here - would fare. It seems that they are the ones most likely to go for the cheap and easily available fast food options that offer none of the benefits of a plant based diet. I emailed Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the documentary's key presenters on this topic and got a very nice reply with some helpful hints.
Imagine a look alike Las Vegas casino but in Johannesburg. Now imagine around 70 organization design consultants sitting in there in one of the artificially lit hotel conference rooms working through an eclectic program of presentations, exercises, flag twirling, journey mapping, world café, and other things beloved by 'interventionists'. I was one of the 70 at the New Africa Organization Design Forum Summit there. My task was to talk about the myths of organization design. At points I found myself asking myself 'am I seriously part of this community?' this question perhaps brought on by the ODD sessions. I finally worked out that ODD was an acronym (organization design and development) and not intended to be a descriptor so clearly I was confused there, but maybe not.
The program veered from the sedate, and the 'I've heard this a thousand times before', to the wacky in unpredictable sequence, each session with its own specific language and vocabulary that required a jargon buster (unfortunately not provided). Similarly it veered from participants being seated and listening attentively to a presenter with power points to scrabbling on the floor picking up the bones and beans that John Ballam sowed amongst us in his superb method of shaking us out of our known worlds of 'adaptive systems', 'holistic thinking' 'new paradigms', 'mental models', and so on leading us towards 'shamanism', 'healing', 'energy fields', 'the consistency of the unseen', and 'fractals'. His mix of theatre and chaos theory started with his own chanting, dancing and sowing and finished with all participants doing a short stomp dance with pelvic wiggles. (Odd or not? Form your own views).
I've been thinking about business models this week - what makes it easier or more difficult for companies to change or adjustment their model at regular intervals? Failure to do that has significant consequences as AT & T, a US telecoms company, found out. Originally established in 1885, in 2005 it was bought by SBC for around $16 billion. SBC was one of the 'baby bells' that was spun out of the company, known as 'Ma Bell,' as part of a 1984 court-ordered break-up.
The failure, at the time, of leaders of AT & T to change its business model in order to take advantage of new technologies such as wireless and internet were cited as reasons for the takeover. But they are not alone in this failure as Clayton Christensen, of Harvard Business School, and author of several books on innovation said on hearing that AT & T been bought. 'It is a tragic fall [for AT & T] and I lament the passing, because it was a huge disruptive success in its day. The world is filled with companies that are marvellously innovative from a technical point of view, but completely unable to innovate on a business model.'
This past week I've been racing to learn new things: Salesforce's Chatter, Chaos theory, Google docs, sharing Dropbox folders, my new Livescribe pen, our move from Sametime to Webex, and how to follow the author guidelines including the Harvard referencing system for my new book.
So is this an unusual number of new things to learn in a week or a normal number for most people? I'm wondering if I've particularly noticed because so many of them are new technologies to me. Salesforce's Chatter is apparently just like Facebook, in fact one of our beta test group (we're trying it out before the rest of the organization gets it) asked if it was on a Facebook platform. It isn't but for those people who use Facebook it will be easy to make sense of Chatter. I'm not a friend of Facebook for various reasons - I'm hoping that Siva Vaidhyanathan author of a book I'm currently reading The Googlization of Everything and why we should worry will tackle Facebook as his next book. He's a professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia so it's a deep and thoughtful approach to a phenomenon that isn't quite what it might seem.
Here's a quote from an email I received this week:
"We are about to undergo a space renovation to provide a more collaborative work environment and allow us to start hoteling*. We recently announced this initiative at a staff meeting and there was a lot of apprehension from the employees regarding the change. Do you know of a good change management training course that is offered? I think it would be beneficial to everyone to ease their concerns and show them than change can be a good thing."
In the email quoted you have a classic situation. Leaders believe that to develop the organization they need to provide a more collaborative work environment and start hoteling. That is the strategy piece that aims to develop the organization. The change management piece is helping workers adapt to the change in circumstances and context that this development strategy brings about.
So, organization development is not the same as managing change. To make it simple OD is strategy and the change management is operations. But with this in mind it is obvious that in order for organizations to develop/improve then aspects of their operation the process, people, space, technology, have to change. Thus organizational development and change management are intertwined.
I've been involved in several change management discussions this week. The project I'm involved in is a large scale change in the way of working. We have a lot of good business reasons to move from what we're calling 'old ways of working' - compartmentalized, individual, space entitled, fixed location, single function - to what we're describing as 'new ways of working' - shared, collaborative, no space entitlement, dynamic, and cross functional.
We're struggling with manager incomprehension about the whole thing. As a colleague said, "I think we have a major hill to climb in obtaining management receptiveness to this. I believe they are generally wary of this form of change, this degree of change, and this need for change. They are reluctant through a combination of:
- 'rather leave as is' = 'life would be a lot easier'
- 'I am not sure how to do any of this'
- 'this sort of thing has failed before'
- 'I am very wary of being caught in the middle of something which could turn nasty'
- 'I am convinced the unions and staff will not go for this'
- 'I am not entirely confident about my leadership team and where they are'
- 'What? This as well as everything else?'"
Last week was one of surveys and tests. I'm involved in a review of a telework pilot project involving a survey and also the implementation of a survey on work style and work practices. Plus that week a couple of the dissertation students I am working with are planning their research design which involves selecting a survey instrument and devising methods of using it effectively. Additionally I got an email saying I had to take a mandatory training and pass an end test on this. I found myself doing lots of thinking around getting the most from tests and surveys, and having some interesting discussions on this.
On the telework pilot project we're going to take multiple approaches to data gathering. So we spent a full day working out the time lines, the methods (including: survey, 1:1 interviews, focus groups with randomly selected participants, review of measurement data collected e.g. sickness and absenteeism rates, customer satisfaction scores, etc. and review of the communications strategies and materials) so it will be a labor intensive next few weeks on this. What we're hoping is that we will get information that we can use to develop best practice guides for others who want to introduce or extend teleworking practices.
I think I'm sitting in my home office. It's actually the local coffee shop. I've just read an article titled Designing Your Own Workspace Improves Health, Happiness and Productivity. It tells me that "Studies have revealed the potential for remarkable improvements in workers' attitudes to their jobs by allowing them to personalize their offices." Why do I need to personalize my space? Well here's the answer: Because "When people feel uncomfortable in their surroundings they are less engaged -- not only with the space but also with what they do in it. If they can have some control, that all changes and people report being happier at work, identifying more with their employer, and are more efficient when doing their jobs."
Oh, but my employer wants me out of the space for all kinds of reasons that add up to a whole range of cost and efficiency savings plus the noted productivity gains. (If you're interested, another article I read lists all the pluses of having a mobile workforce from both employee and employer perspectives). So, when I go to the bricks and mortar office where my employer is based I don't have an office. I am one of the growing band of mobile workers who books a hoteling space and sits as and where.
The past week I involved both gathering and distributing resources - mainly book title, articles, and websites. There was no single event sparking this, rather each meeting (of which I had a minimum of five each day) spawned something to look up or pass on. So I thought I'd collect in one spot everything that I put in my gunny sack on during the week and see if there were any themes or patterns or whether it was just a random collection of stuff.
Note that I'm not employed by M cKinsey Quarterly and nor do I get a commission for promoting their articles but I did like four that passed through my in-box this week and I passed on the details to colleagues.
Last week's memorable discussion focused on new business models. One person arguing hotly that there were no people with the skills and know-how to change legacy computer company business models into cloud computing business models, or how to change company IT departments running standard software and hardware into 'cloud' departments (or no departments).
This may or may not be true. That same day I'd been reading an article, The Business of Sharing, on the new business model of renting/sharing items. Organizations mentioned who used a renting model included Zipcar, Bag Borrow or Steal, Netflix, Rent that Toy, and TechShop. Couch Surfing and thredUP were discussed as sharing models.
Having been well indoctrinated by David Allen (Getting Things Done), Stephen Covey, Time Management International, et al, at the end of each month I review what has happened in the way of meetings, ideas, books/articles recommended, and do something with them: file, trash ...
February 2011 has proved a rich picking on many fronts. As I do the cull among the reminders to myself to pick up library books, and buy milk I find
a) Approaches from individuals in South Africa, India, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Finland- all interested in organization design training
b) Contacts from people wanting to enter the field of organization design - Frieda, Emily, Laura, Helle, Tiffany (why all women?)
c) Several book and article recommendations:
d) A host of ideas to mull over related to new ways of thinking about organizations most captured cryptically in my Daytimer in a way that leaves me struggling to remember more of the context e.g. the collectively circled three words "serendipity, spontaneity, sublety",
e) Notes of meetings I've attended (I now find I have 8 standing meetings a week, each of an hour) and during the month I've run three workshops with an average of 12 people each, additionally I've met one to one with over 30 people, and made first time phone contacts with several others.
f) Notes about meetings I've attended e.g. why is 'reset' the word of the moment?
g) Many, many actions arising from the meetings that I need to do something with or about.
This past week I've heard the words 'business model innovation' several times. So now I'm curious to know whether this is a passing fad or a more sustained interest in the topic. Four different things all took me to the business model innovation place:
First, an HBR Idea Cast, Finding Profits in a World of Free, interviews Saul Berman of IBM who is just about to publish (February 17 according to Amazon), a new book Not for Free: Revenue Strategies for a New World. The puff on the book says:
It used to be only dotcom start-ups lacked workable business models. But now the ubiquity of cheap communications and computing is deeply wounding business models across the board. ...
What can you do to ensure that you have a business model that will work today and in the future? Create new revenue models, advises Saul J. Berman in Not for Free. The most important strategy now is wringing new income streams from existing assets, physical and digital, by exploiting new segments, new uses and new value additions.
Organization design and development activity is usually not tracked or evaluated in any meaningful way. Practitioners do not know whether their work has directly resulted in improved organizational performance. A report from the UK's Roffey Park Institute highlights this deficiency in OD the Roffey Park Institute's report Best Practice in OD evaluation.
The authors say that
We approached our research aware that there are many practitioners in the field of OD who believe that its systemic nature makes it hard to measure; some hold a world view that says it's inappropriate even to try.
.... In the prevailing economic climate we would argue that it is critically important. And as we emerge into a post recession world, we believe that being able and willing to demonstrate the impact of OD on the effectiveness of organizations will be imperative if the discipline is to maintain and increase its credibility.
Last week I got a reminder from the Organization Design Forum that:
We Are Now Welcoming Proposals for 90 minute Concurrent Sessions for ODF's 2011 Annual Conference! May 9-12, 2011 Austin, Texas - The Omni Hotel "Beyond Structure: Designing for Engagement in the New Normal"
As organizations continue to anticipate, adapt and respond to an uncertain environment, engaging employees and customers through design must take on new approaches, shapes and forms. Both traditional and non-traditional elements of design must be considered as organizations look to the future. This conference will provide the forum for skilled practitioners, academicians and business leaders to learn, discuss, debate and practice the next generation of organization design methodologies.
Criteria and suggestions are in the Call for Presenters form which can be downloaded from our website.
One of the things I get asked a lot is about making organizations flexible and adaptable so that they can weather the forces that assail them from various directions. Looking out of my window this morning at the torrential rain and gusting winds I wondered if the weather would clear for my running training this evening and I consulted the weather forecast. It was accurate. The rain stopped.
It's much more difficult to get any accurate forecast for organizations to plan against but a couple of days ago I got an email from the University of Houston, reminding me that I'd previously shown interest in their Certificate in Strategic Foresight.
Yet again I turn to my 'rules of thumb for change agents' first printed, as far as I know, in Organization Development Practitioner in November 1975. The author was Herbert A Shepard who was according to the introduction on the Herbert Shepard Foundation website.
A pioneering thinker in the Organization Development movement, an engaging teacher and mentor of exceptional depth, scope and humility with a gift for recognizing and nurturing the potential of others. His unselfishness, utter sincerity, compassion and unwavering commitment touched lives, forged lasting friendships and helped shape the careers of a generation of leaders and social scientists. He held faculty posts at several universities including M.I.T., where he received his doctorate in Industrial Economics. He founded and directed the first doctoral program in Organization Development at Case Western; developed a residency in administrative psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, and was also President of The Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.
On the programs I was running in Shanghai last week I was asked by several participants at different points and in different contexts to explain the differences between coaching, counseling, mentoring, and consulting.
On the flight back to the US I was thinking about this and wondering what the best way to answer was. In the course of this musing I wondered if there was a cultural distinction. Did the US/UK language have four different variations of what is essentially the same thing - advising people about a course of action, either by helping the individual come to his own approach or by telling him/her what to do. And does Mandarin only have one word for these multiple advising approaches?
One of the rules of thumb for change agents is 'never work uphill'. I mentioned this to someone who I was talking with last week who in a general conversation said how upset she was that there was massive change going on in her department, no-one at her level knew what was going on, rumor was rife, and when she'd asked her manager what the story was she'd been told that it was not a discussable topic with people below a certain grade.
She did not know that I had several conversations with the head of her department during the summer. What he wanted to do was change the way the physical space was used in order to accommodate a large team of people (80) coming to work on a long-term project, and to establish a physical and on-line library for shared documents and materials. When I told her she asked why I hadn't been able to do something to make the Department Head's approach more effective.
Last week was curious in that I stumbled across all sorts of stuff that will be useful in my work with clients. But what I noticed was that the stumbling was entirely random. How would I know, for example, that the BlackBerry polling system that I wrote about was available unless I happened to be sitting in that particular session where it was being used.
How do people get to hear about stuff that is potentially useful? How do they squirrel it away for the time when it might be? I read somewhere (where???) about a pen that when you write in one language speaks in another. OK so I am going to Shanghai next week a pen that does that would be very useful now I come to think about it. How do I find out where I read about it?
Yesterday I was at day one of a two-day off- site with around 200 people participating in a form of Future Search conference.Future Search is a planning meeting that "helps people transform their capability for action very quickly." In this case we were looking at four knotty problems to be tackled with three outcomes
- A depicted vision, strategic roadmap and high-level project plan with established deadlines for each project.
- A thrust for immediate implementation of project plans
- A healthier team, networks, and alignment
The office move that I've written about a few times is now imminent. Two weeks to go.
This is where the many weeks and months of exhortation to think about packing, reminders that everyone only gets two crates, lists of things which can or can't be taken and weekly change management one hour preparation sessions, not to mention email updates, FAQ site, town halls, management emails, etc, etc, all seem to have fallen on deaf ears - even though people appeared to be attentive, participating and involved.
Suddenly people seem to be waking up to the fact that orange plastic crates beginning to decorate the place are not early signs of Halloween but receptacles for their items. They seem totally baffled by the now reality that their allotted two crates do not hold 10 years of documents, acres of fluffy toys from the tops of their computers, endless commemorative mugs, plaques, and other memorabilia, forests of potted plants, and their personal desktop toaster.
Yesterday I was driving a 300 mile trip and listening to stuff. On the way down I listened to Chesil Beach, a novel by Ian McEwan. Florence, one of the characters achieves her life's dream of being a highly regarded musician. The other Edward, does not achieve his dream to write a series of history books. He life sort of fades away and sadly, he recognizes that he has lost his dream. The story is of choices made and paths not taken.
The thread of achieving dreams was continued on the way back. On the second part of the drive I listened to my second audio book. It was Dan Rather's narraration of 'The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of our Nation' - an incredible panorama of people whose stories he told - all in relation to achieving the American Dream. Most involved massive amounts of work, difficult trade-offs, bags of endurance, and fleeting glimpses of the Dream as they reached for it. And many did achieve their dream and got to the work-life balance that accompanied it but not easily or without struggles en route.
Yesterday I got the press release for the toolkit I wrote earlier this year. It's just been published and the press release reads as follows:
"New, practical 'change tool' from the CIPD, designed to help organisations gain confidence to adapt and grow
Change and re-organisation should mean 'business as usual' for organisations in 2010, but for many it remains a challenge, particularly in difficult economic times. The launch of the latest addition to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) collection of practical tools, focusing on change, re-organisation and the role of HR professionals within this context, will help organisations adapt and build towards a sustainable future.
The tool, Approaches to change: building capability and confidence, allows the user to think through the issues affecting their organisation, with diagnostic exercises and checklists to complete. It is designed to help HR generalists and business partners who are working to develop change management capability and supporting their staff in coping with a planned disruptive change.
Next week the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development are publishing a change management toolkit I have written. More information on this will follow but meanwhile here is an extract from the introduction.
All organisations are in flux: changing their focuses, expanding or contracting their activities, and rethinking their products and services. Most organisations more than 10 years old look nothing like they did even five years ago. And it is likely that in the next year or two organisations will not look as they do today.
Emergent change is nothing new but feels more pressing and more urgent to deal with. Nowadays, organisations and their stakeholders are demanding increased accountability, there are concerns about sustainability and the environment, and a heightened emphasis on cost-effectiveness and quality improvement. These, and many other environmental factors, are putting pressure on organisations to be alert, flexible, and continuously responding to change.
In this month's World Future Society email newsletter that I get I read that foresight is the single most critical skill for the 21st century. Here's why:
Foresight is critical to achievement in all areas of your life, including your major life decisions. People who lack foresight are likely to find themselves unemployed when jobs are unexpectedly lost to new technologies, competition from overseas, or shifts in consumer tastes. Foresight is the key to survival in a world of disruptive innovation.
Foresight enables you to see opportunities, avoid threats, and chart the fastest path to your goals. The key to success is seizing opportunity when it arises. But you need to see the opportunity and be prepared to take action. That's why foresight gives you power and agility to achieve any goal you want to achieve.
Received wisdom suggests that today's workforce includes workers from four generations. A wave of generational research has classified these as Veterans (sometimes referred to as Traditionals, Matures or the silent generation), Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y (also known as Millennial), and generalized the characteristics of each generation. While the range of years used to define each group varies slightly depending on the source, a 2008 Conference Board report Shifting the focus: Updating your work-life approach to integrate employee engagement and talent management, May 2008 summarizes each generation as follows:
I was amused to read Lucy Kellaway's column in the Financial Times on Monday. It's all about the blurring of the lines between home and office. She wants to know why it is that people eat cereal at their desks. What prevents them from the 90 sec exercise of eating it at home? She suggests that:
"Over the past decade there has been a steady onward march of objects, activities and emotions from hearth to cubicle, so there is now almost nothing left that belongs entirely at home.
Modern office workers can conduct all their most intimate morning rituals at work. They turn up in sweat pants, take a shower, clean their teeth and apply make-up. Offices double as wardrobes and laundry rooms with damp towels, spare clothes and shoes strewn carelessly around the place."
Leading change is top of the agenda right now. Yesterday someone sent me a piece from Saturday's NY Times. It makes the point that "Leaders shape followers' perceptions. That is what actors do. And what is it that great actors have? A presence." The article goes on to describe a five day course in theater techniques taken by
some of the 50 fellows at the World Economic Forum who came to New York this week to explore how theater and the arts can help them, say, someday run an international conglomerate or a finance ministry. ... The idea was to teach the fellows - who hail from 40 countries and range in age from 26 to 36 - the techniques that actors employ to hold an audience's attention. ... A second aspect of the week's activities is to see art and culture as a vital force for social change."
In the organization I'm currently working with I met a person who's worked there for 44 years, and all in the same building. Many members of the workforce are long serving and it's a challenge now that the whole office is moving to a new building to develop a pragmatic approach to the emotional trauma many are feeling about the move in a way that will enable seamless business continuity. Somehow we have to encourage people who wouldn't dream of moving to a new job, new office, new house, etc. to at least keep an open mind about what it will mean for them. I have to hold back on judging them for being less than adventurous, and tap into the vast organizational knowledge they have to add value to the move in some way.
Pursuing this thought this took me to a coaching website that I get a regular email newsletter from (Life Trek Coaching). I remembered that last week's 'lecturette' had been on curiosity. The writer suggested that 'the key to unleashing curiosity is letting go of fear. Nothing squelches curiosity more than being afraid to fail, or being afraid of making mistakes, or being afraid of embarrassing oneself. Curious people live by the mantra "fail often to succeed sooner".
I'm involved in a head office move project. A lot of people are not thrilled about the move for various reasons that include concerns about threats to job security, loss of status (as people lose 'their' offices and space becomes shared,) need to learn new skills, change in culture, changes in communication norms, ability to make the change, shifts in influence and control, changes to commute route. Each of these concerns is also an opportunity - but somehow the opportunities get drowned out by the noise of the concerns. People don't think they're going to be 'happy' in the new space.
So I was interested to read a piece in the World Future Society email update on the economics and politics of well-being. This relates that:
At the organization design training program I've been facilitating this week there's been lots of discussion on the politics of organization design. One person described at some length the blocking behavior of one the senior people and the difficulties in moving the work forward in this situation. He was looking for suggestions in how to work with people who were passive aggressive, confrontational, and plain stubborn.
A different challenge was presented to a manager working on a project involving a move from one head office to another. The new office has much less space, and the intent of the move is to introduce a new culture with collaborative working, flexible working, and generally different working practices, including people working in an open plan environment rather than having their own offices. This too has led to debate on the connection between status, hierarchy, and power, and the lengths people will go do to defend the office space they feel is an entitlement of their position.
'Change management' is one of those phrases that is bandied about without much consensus on what it is, why you need to manage it, and how you would manage it if you could. In an attempt to clarify this for myself I started to look around for usable information. There is a lot of information. One academic article written by Street and Gallupe, A Proposal for Operationalizing the Pace and Scope of Organizational Change in Management Studies, is helpful. The abstract reads as follows:
Organizational change is an important construct for management theorists, yet organizational research is being hampered by inconsistent and incompatible operationalizations of the construct. This article presents a proposal for improving clarity about how the types and characteristics of organizational change can be operationalized and measured. In particular, the scope and pace of organizational change are examined and a common approach is developed to measure the impacts of these two factors on patterns of organizational change.
I got totally bogged down today in a piece I'm writing about managing change. Briefly I've been asked if I could consider approaches to change and provide some frameworks and activities to help people get started and/or improve their managing change skills.
It's one of those topics that seems utterly clear to begin with and gets progressively more murky the deeper down you dive into it. I began with trawling through all the articles I have collected on it, before going to my bookshelf and finding the several books I have on it. Then I went to find a definition. There are thirteen of them on the site I went to. I was pleased to see I could also find them in other languages including Dutch, Korean, Portuguese, and Russian should I want to. I resisted the temptation of this displacement activity and focused on the task in hand.
Yesterday I mentioned telepresence in my blog and later in the day went to a telepresence meeting - my first experience of using this technology. I'd read one definition of it in a white paper from Frost and Sullivan a consultancy. They say it is
... a tightly integrated set of visual, audio and network technologies and services that together deliver an immersive, life-like communication experience. The goal is to reproduce the best characteristics of direct human interaction that result from a face-to-face meeting.
The value of the medium is said to lie in the cost savings to a company. Although there is a heavy investment in installing the technology and keeping it running - recieved wisdom suggests that this is more than paid off in terms of direct and indirect costs of travelling to meet people. Additionally in their white paper Frost and Sullivan suggest that there are also green gains to be had from teleconferencing.
Day to day organization changes are continuous and people are usually able to adapt well to these: for example people leave a work team and new people join, or an IT system is upgraded, or a new policy is introduced, or an unexpected event occurs but things return to 'normal'. Where people find things more difficult is when there is a 'disruptive' change - which can be planned, as in a merger of two departments, or unplanned as when a problem is discovered (think of the recent Toyota recalls) and the landscape of the organization has to change dramatically.
Last week I was in the UK running an organization design training program and meeting with various other people. It was great fun - not just catching up but also collecting a whole lot of information and suggestions on various topics that came up in the course of the conversations. So I've been spending time following up on some of those.
The first category of stuff was on websites that people have found useful. In the course of the week I looked at:
Go Ask Anyone: This website offers packs of conversation cards that trigger conversations by asking a question. The pack 'Go Ask Anyone' is a great icebreaker activity. (In fact I've used it, but then gave my pack to someone else - so it was good to get the reminder). Sample Questions: "Which three people would you combine for an ideal mate?..." "What one event in American history would you erase if you could?" "If you could know one secret or mystery, but could never tell...." Each pack has: 52 cards.
"One of the most common reasons that redesigns fail is the all too common assumption that the job essentially ends with the announcement of the new design."
This quote is taken from Competing by Design, by David A. Nadler, Michael L. Tushman. Although written a while ago it still holds true. However, I've found that suggesting review meets with resistance. But without reviewing opportunities for improvement are lost and/or things can go disastrously wrong.
There are several good reasons for doing reviews:
- They help you to evaluate your success in achieving your design's objectives.
- They identify anything that is out of alignment that needs work, and surface tasks still to be completed. (These may be things on the list or they may arise out of the review work).
- They identify the impact of change so far - using the measures and metrics, you have in place to track success.
- They provide the opportunity to recognize and reward the achievement of project team members and others involved.
- They enable you and your team to reflect on the organization design process and learn from your experience: reviewing gives you information and knowledge to share with other projects teams and with your stakeholders
In trying to convert myself from my ThinkPad to a Mac I am driving my own behavioral change e.g. I'm slowly learning to insert my signature block manually on emails (Mac) - rather than it appearing automatically (ThinkPad), and stopping myself thinking what a ridiculous waste of time doing this is but instead getting to a level of automaticity to press the signature block key(s) before inadvertently sending with no signature block.
So when I saw a white paper from Pilat land in my inbox called 'Driving Behavioral Change' with a note from the sender saying "the thing that I find very interesting from this is the fact that individuals receive change in the brain in a way that pain is received, completely fascinating" I stopped tormenting myself with the Mac and turned to read the white paper.
Yesterday I went cold turkey on my lovely IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad in favor of a MacBook Pro. Why? Because in the office I worked in the computer I was issued with was the Apple. For some time I have sat with both computers side by side, working on both but going back to the safety blanket of the ThinkPad when things got frustrating, time consuming, or just too difficult on the Mac. It had taken me ages to get my ThinkPad set up just the way I liked it. (Following the theft of my previous ThinkPad), and I felt adrift in the Mac world that has very different conventions from the Microsoft world.
Starting almost from computer scratch again even though my Apple is loaded with their version of Microsoft Office is hard work and time consuming. There are many, many things I am struggling with. My long-suffering computer expert brother (and Apple fan) is getting a stream of emails. Today's already include:
One of the things that people preoccupied with the 'day job', 'putting out fires', and the myriad things that besiege them in the present have difficulty with is preparing for the future. (I wonder how many organizations forecast the difficulties that would arise from the volcano erupting in Iceland?). Nevertheless future thinking and 'horizon scanning' are skills that managers should have high on their personal development agenda. Why do they need these skills? Because, as a paper from the International Futures Forum (a non-profit organisation established to support a transformative response to complex and confounding challenges and to restore the capacity for effective action in today's powerful times) put it
What is the difficulty with evaluating OD work? There are several reasons that I've come across
• There's very little client or consultant appetite for reviewing and evaluating effectiveness, so that part of the process doesn't get built into the proposal or business case. Without making an ROI case for the evaluation piece why should it happen?
• Designing a rigorous evaluation takes time and specific skills in research methodology, internal auditing, or similar.
• Organisational circumstances move on and the focus switches to the next thing so once an intervention is either designed or implemented it becomes time to lose interest.
• On a trade off basis clients would rather put money into the more visible pieces of work than the behind the scenes pieces of work (like evaluation).
• There are no standards against which to evaluate. So while there are, for example, bodies developing 'sustainability' standards, or 'green building' standards, or 'management' standards I don't know of any bodies developing OD standards.
Continuing from yesterday's theme one reason why there is confusion around organization development (OD) definition is that there is a lack of an underpinning theory that would give rise to a consistent, coherent, bounded, but perhaps 'agile' or 'adaptive' one. Linda Holbeche calls OD "a 'scavenger' discipline". Going on to say, "It is an eclectic field that borrows from many other disciplines and theories". (Impact, Issue 26).
So, is it an issue that there are no rigorous or unifying theories of OD - as there are theories of philosophy, religion, or medicine? Well yes, if there were a body of work that formed the basis of yardsticks for judgment and comparison, it would make for easier distinction between the types of practitioners - in the same way that, say, once someone with a medical issue is clear that they are interested in acupuncture over homeopathy, they can select the practitioner based on other factors (location, price, 'chemistry', reputation, etc). Alternatively it may not be an issue if the OD practitioner him or herself can be specific about what his/her form of OD looks and feels like in practice - in order to give potential clients accurate information on whether, to continue the analogy, they are getting a homeopathic practitioner or an acupuncturist to cure their headaches.
I still can't answer the question 'What is organisation development?" and it's a question that I am asked a lot, particularly in terms of the relationship and distinction between organisation design and organisation development - but let's just stick with talking about the latter.
This bafflement was brought into focus again yesterday when I was asked to comment on a discussion paper "HR's role in developing OD solutions to manage change" and then complete a survey on OD. (This is open for anyone to do).
There are some reasons why I can't answer the question partly because as a researcher pointed out "It is a complicated topic ... in which there appear to be some strong and opposing views."
On Saturday I went to see the Oscar Short Films (Live Action) nominations. There are five in this category. The sequence started with the showing of Kavi that tells the story of an Indian boy and his parents who are forced to work as slave labor in a brick kiln. It was very hard to watch and in a sense is a story everyone knows about. The movie site is well worth looking at as it, and the film, is a vocal advocate of ending slavery - making the point that:
"Today, slavery is illegal almost everywhere, yet it continues to flourish. Bonded labor, a form of slavery, often occurs when people are tricked into taking loans from creditors who have no intention of letting them repay the loan. The creditor then uses violent intimidation to keep his workers slaving with no hope of escape."
Somewhere along the line I heard the word TRIZ. Always interested in new words I looked it up i.e. Googled it. (I don't think TRIZ appears in my print copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, but I'll check next time I'm near to it. To explain - my print copy of the OED is in a different location from where I currently am but Google is at my fingertips).
Once I'd looked up what it was I remembered that I'd been talking to someone about innovation and he had mentioned TRIZ, as it's a problem solving/creativity tool. Briefly, it works on the principle that someone, somewhere has solved a problem in an innovative way that is similar to the one you are trying to solve. I found a good beginner's article on the topic that explains this in much more detail but here's the headline explanation from that article.
"TRIZ is a problem solving method based on logic and data, not intuition, which accelerates the project team's ability to solve these problems creatively. TRIZ also provides repeatability, predictability, and reliability due to its structure and algorithmic approach".
Earlier today I was looking at McKinsey Quarterly's Risk Roundup for 2010. They ask the question "where will the greatest risks-known and unknown-flare up on the global business landscape this year?"
Looking at the three sets of information (the Economist Intelligence Unit, the Eurasia Group, and the World Economic Forum) they present it is alarming to see the wide ranging nature of the risks, and this is before the 66 (so far) people who have left comments weigh in with the additional risks they've spotted. It's all very gloomy and depressing.
But the Eurasia Group Report reminds us that 2009 has, in fact, been quite ok. So looking forward into bleakness we can remember happier times. It opens with the paragraph:
In February's Fast Company there's a preview of the forthcoming book Switch: How to change things when change is hard, by the brothers Heath (Chip and Dan). I haven't read the full book as yet. It goes on sale on February 16, so I'm only going on what I've read in this article. My first reaction to the extract was that it sounded identical to theories of positive deviance. I was right in that when I searched my desktop I found the article by Richard Pascale and Jerry Sternin that the Switch article had triggered in my mind. (Except that I'd forgotten the names of the authors of the article on positive deviance and only remembered the concept, while the Heaths mention the authors but not the article or the term 'positive deviance').