Big change around the corner?
Thinking of setting up some kind of group to organize and consolidate your change work?
The end of that thought about the change group thing is where you need to pause.
Do this wrong and I guarantee you will reinforce your current problems and stroll along with them into your future.
Enough organizations have gone before you to illustrate what works and what does not.
Change Entity is For?
Most change management tends to jump quickly to the to-do list (and so it fails in some way).
Most organizations that want to set up a change group follow the same process (and so the groups are busy hives of the same status quo).
Ask, and answer, why you want this group. (And you thought gathering “best practices” was the first step).
I will change a word to help you- group becomes “entity”. Change Entities are different.
If your organization is about to go through genuine transformation (transformation is an overused word sometimes used disingenuously) a change entity might make sense. In this case the entity needs to be autonomous, it has to be connected as a partnership to the CEO/Top Leader and it has to have leverage and visibility.
For the really big stuff it absolutely HAS to have early outside influence. We just do not see the future from our own present without help.
“Why” in this case is to craft, guide and build toward a brand new future.
Does your organization come up with plans and then pass them off to someone or some function to “implement”? Is that really working for you? Could you make a list of how that is not working?
A Change Entity placed high enough, with enough autonomy, can knit together strategy and work. One well designed (outside influence set up correctly will help here too) can even help to craft smart strategy. If not crafting then planting the seeds for smart ideas.
Implement was in quotes earlier. Integrate and implement have a different feel and a different meaning. Implementation ends, integration continues. As you are thinking through this change entity thing keep in mind times when continuation makes sense and times when beginnings and endings need to be clear.
Are you short of competencies?
Is half of your stakeholder base contracted?
Is the reason it is tough for your organization to change because the resource loading takes so long (and never really fills needs)?
You can create a change entity that pays attention to old fashioned OD. Use projects, programs and initiatives as the forums to build skill and competencies. A change group can pay attention to who those externals are and how that knowledge and capability is being transferred to internal resources.
Improve Project Process
This is the most common reason Change Functions (a purposeful change of our word) are created.
The project teams are not doing their job.
STOP again. It is likely not their fault, but a combination of many things, that is making projects “fail”.
A well constructed change entity that knows CM is very different from project management, can help address the people equation, the project process itself and the ties to strategy and competency building.
Has to be said- do this on your own and things will get MUCH, MUCH worse. This is a scenario where a trusted adviser is your best bet. That and some dedicated, talented internal leaders.
This is the most common kind of change group with a long list of “should not have done’s”. The amazing thing about these groups is that they do not see the damage they are doing. They often have motivators beyond actually getting change to happen…
Maybe you just want to make the future arrive smoothly?
Maybe you are a young organization that will most likely change soon, but you are not sure when or what that might be?
Maybe you want to build capability and capacity?
A change group calmly designed and put together before that fact (the fact being inevitable change) gets your organization ready with all the tools, processes and a few good people, to tackle that upcoming change.
That entity can morph and grow when the change arrives. In the mean time it can also help facilitate our other categories of project process and strategy integration. If you truly are small all that is close together now- manageable.
Are you thinking of a Change Entity for your organization? First ask for what. Good answers might be: true transformational change, strategic integration, organizational development, improving your project process or smartly preparing for your organizational future.
Every year at the ACMP (Association of Change Management Professionals) conference I make a little list of the trends that will appear next year-in my head. I am usually right. ‘Nothing special about that though. Change practitioners are good at seeing patterns, knowing how things connect and taking educated guesses about what those connections mean. Maybe that is a competency. Maybe that is just paying a little extra attention to a bigger picture than others.
For this yearly prediction (parked in my head in the past now thrown into the written word) it is easy to get it right because, thanks to my location at the edge of the Silicon Valley, and senior stature, I am probably already consulting on the trend.
I can pretend I am a soothsayer :-):
2013 Change Predictions
- Change “synonym for sustainability”
- Tactical Backlash
- Round Two of Change Entities
- Trusted Advisers Return
Change “synonym for sustainability”
Judging from the character of this year’s conference and things I am seeing at client sites our next change wave is “trying to get things to stick”. The group think approaches will layer on another coat of the same hoping that something changes. (Hey that’s just like the environment that existed before we change practitioners arrived… funny things people, ha?).
The smart approaches will come out of well set up and correctly placed change entities. Those smart approaches will, more and more, be future focused. They will be less methodology/model and more perspective/attitude.
Once, I was engaged AFTER the end state.
“Help us make this work and last” was the contract. The phone will likely ring a little bit more for these next year.
There is a quiet (barely) current of backlash going on at this year’s conference.
The words I have heard are, “low level”, “tactical”, “for the one to three year consultant”, “easy to sell, useless for high level”, “where is the strategy?” and more.
Conferences are always some version of ware-hocking and snake oil wagons. This one is no different. Change practitioners are hungry to get away from status quo, group think, their own organization-duplicated silo’s and the inability to get the ear of leaders.
The conference is heavy with internals.
I stick with my rule that change does not work without external influence. There will be, and always is, a backlash against certain kinds of external influences. The more those internals interact with single or small groups of externals (and less with the big boys… [and girls] that ceiling is still pretty rock solid) the more they will see what works and what doesn’t. Or should I say “who” works and who doesn’t?
The ACMP panel would be smart to screen for, or better ask for, some controversy, inward perspective and a shake up of our profession. (Selfishly I would love to take that on!).
Round Two of Change Entities
Round one, over the last six to seven years, is the heavily organic or functionally placed versions of Change Entities. They are not called “entities”. They are “Centers of Excellence”, “Change Functions”, “Change Groups” (that is a little better), etc.
Round two (already starting, certainly my passionate choice for engagements) are the a Entities (no quotes :-). They will be connected to the owner, have an external voice and be built to provide old fashioned OD (Organizational Development if you missed that stage of our industry) in order to develop competencies that match end states.
Round two (maybe this is three?) will have both starting from scratch at the highest owner level (preferably of the NEXT change not this one) and redoing what already exists. Organic will always be there (if only to feed our second option…sorry snark).
Trusted Advisors Return
I have been, selfishly of course, awaiting the return of the Trusted Adviser.
That role is crucial to innovation, executive development and change. When that role exists it means, pay attention here because THIS is what CM needs, a senior leader reached out and took a chance.
Cheating I am on this one, because leaders are reaching out to me this year for first level conversations (that is how this trusted adviser partnership should start- no contracting, no client/consultant relationship, just conversation and dialogue).
Trusted advisers will do many things. That list I will save for another post…
Next year, about this time, be ready for the trends of change management after the fact, a backlash to tactical approaches, advanced Change Entities and the return of the Trusted Adviser.
Change Management (CM) bulleted to date:
- Organizations operating as they always had (environments did not change as rapidly back then)
- OD (Organizational Development) people became assets to be developed
- The rapid change of the dot com
- The reaction to that change, especially with the implementation of software and systems
- A templated, heavily marketed “empirically based” change approach
- Change management title, visibility and inclusion in projects/programs/initiatives (the good-part results of the previous bullet)
- Lots of huge change in organizations, constant technology updates and the insertion of CM into project work
- The reaction to this project focus (which brought in some OD, began to balance business and people and started the slow push against the guru’s and methodical fill-in-the-blank certificated approaches)
- The creation (and consulting for) of change entities, communities of practice and (shudder) change functions
- Today- all of this mixed together in a myriad of forms
By tomorrow I mean 2014.
There will be Change Management AFTER end states. (Before too we hope) This might be cheating to “predict” this since I have had two roles that fill this definition (one started right before end states), but no one ever really predicts things without some clear signals (they just see them first and jump on it).
The clear signals:
- The push back to the original approaches.
As soon as you have push back against founders, gurus, and old sages analysis begins. Did any of that stuff really work? Has anyone checked? Or is the group think so powerful everyone new to the thing just keeps doing it the way it has always been done. (What kind of formula for change is THAT?). This was preempted a little with the creation of the 70% “failure” statistic. Use deflection to get people to blame elsewhere for the exact thing you would be measured on without that distraction.
- Big, monster transformational change.
Sometimes this is because that is exactly what the change is, transformational (just about everything will be different and it is hard to compare end states to now). Other times it is because organizations themselves are huge, global and involve thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of stakeholders. The process needs to be transformational in those situations (a little like the differences between project, program and enterprise). Big change tends to blend from one thing to the next. The end of one big change is the start of the next. Change entities help to address this, but will not be successful without the addition of change sustainability practices.
- Outside influence.
Things are buzzing in the change management peer world against tired approaches and for change approaches that REALLY make sense (yes on many levels). Practitioners are getting a little tired of being the scapegoats for “failed” change when they know full well the structure of many organizations makes real change very difficult, especially at the individual level. And let’s face it- change sustainability will be marketable.
- Still looking for ROI.
Business minds insist on ROI. The practice of change management has struggled with this for a long time. How do I quantify the number of employees I helped keep in the organization? How do I measure the savings I created by connecting things from multiple functions to create new processes that sped things up? How do I get credit, in numbers, for all the achievements some executive I coached/consulted will make later? And how would I ever prove it was because of me (I might get the leader to mention me, but only numbers count)? And, really, why would I want to use a whole bunch of time creating these numbers (that might be hard to prove)? Now think of sustainability efforts where those original metrics that the practitioners fought so hard to create get quantified? Change sustainability might turn out to be the fix for one of our huge difficulties as practitioners.
Change Management has come a long way from the curves, troughs and approaches based on death phases; through templated approaches; to entities within organizations that leverage talent inside and out; to a change sustainability set up for tomorrow. The signs are there internally in organizations and from the external voices. The change process runs from idea well PAST end states. 2014 and beyond will show us that.
What is new, what is changing and what refuses to change for the change management profession?
This is, of course, IMHO, take everything CM with a grain of salt.
Awareness down to the individual stakeholder is new.
There are a lot of things written, pushed, manipulated out there when it comes to change management. The world of CM thought is one search away. It appears a lot of people are making those searches. I have been surprised at the level of questioning that comes as a result of those search journeys. People are surprisingly astute, open to thought and willing to question when it comes to change.
Change Management thought used for operational work.
On many, if not most, projects (not always with much real change) there is a CM resource. Not only is this assumed to be an important role, but people push back when it is not. Personally I used to have to work hard to build trust, now I am received with open arms- a change management consultant on board means there actually MIGHT be some change!
Internal change practitioners.
They were always there, now they have the label. One reason is that they have vocally stepped up (CM is about people so everyone wants to try it at some point). They have created Communities of Practice, they have volunteered for extra work in order to build an internal CM resume and they have pushed senior (but usually mid level) leaders to include CM in some way. This category of new will be next years “changing” as they gain leverage and create successes.
End State and Goal Focus
There is much more talk about the future and the real reasons for change. The more that happens the more transparency needs to exist. Honesty and clarity are core components of successful change.
The original gurus have lost sway.
Change Management as a practice is finally beginning to mature. There are enough senior practitioners out there now who have been through big engagements that the original approaches can be questioned. “Why is it we focus so much on resistance?” questions tend to change the way CM is approached. Not much questioning of approach has happened in the last 10 years- that is changing.
Collaboration and virtual environments are producing results.
It could be argued this virtual thing has gotten out of hand (everyone calls in even though their offices are right next to each other). With the global nature of almost all business, virtual was inevitable. Now that the tools are better and organizations are doing more change around social media and different ways to interact and share information, successes are starting to show up. It is easy to use collaboration to create wins within CM (Yammer for dialogue to build FAQ’s is my favorite so far). Turning that into operational interaction that gets information sharing and saving to the right level might be another “changing” for next year.
Levels of CM.
Not only are CM resources almost assumed for projects, but multiple specialties are often included. Partially gone are the days when the change management consultant did all the training, made all the videos, created all the communications and then somehow (by giving up sleep) actually PRACTICED change management. We have junior, mid and senior level consultants now. Sometimes there are all three on the same large transformation.
Some things are slow to change.
My list of CM status quo:
- Heavy reliance on templates (why? for documentation? for planning? to cover your “you know what”?)
- Urgency. Not going away, not necessary to get rid of. The perspective that there HAS to be a sense of urgency is status quo guru stuff and is all about push change. People are onto this.
- The list of deliverables- Readiness Assessment, the survey, individual readiness yellow/red/green chart, the plans. Versions of these do make sense (as does some status quo all of the time). Again, it is the way they are approached and the reasoning behind including them that is status quo. One decision by a senior leader throws all those deliverables completely out of whack (so what was the reason to create them again?).
- We should do whatever we can internally with internal resources. ‘Never gonna go away. This may make sense for operational work where competency can be trained and developed. It rarely makes sense when competency needed requires experience OUT of the organization. The ONLY way you get that is with externals. CM is one area where I would venture to say external influence is essential to success.
Stakeholders are open to this change management thing. Approaches (and so successes) are following that openness. Change Management is changing. Now if we could stop with the templates, false urgency, spreadsheets and “we can do this ourselves” attitude we will be closer to a mature approach to change.
Three ways to influence change listed: through the owner, through mid-level leaders and today’s deeper dig into silent influence.
I am a restless external consultant who sees possibilities, goals and end states right on the horizon- if only people would focus on getting there. So sped up change, reduction of gates, quick decision making and the energy that comes with taking a journey together is my first choice for approach. Owner influence works the best for this. Implementary leader is a second option. I must admit though, silent influence can be effective (and yes enjoyable when I summon up my reserve of patience).
Effective? How so you ask?
All change must, in some way, be sustained.
Just past the end state are a series of smaller end states that are the change becoming status quo. (I know sounds horrible to have that great change eventually become the thing that needs to change). How well those small end states are reached and held and integrated into the organization is sustainability.
Silent influence can be powerful for sustainability- especially for external consultants. We see through the status quo. We see the new possibilities. And we see what will get in the way of that happening. So silently we can do the things that will reinforce the change later.
- Can we encourage a tweak to the performance management system?
- Can we get a senior leader to approach their decision making process and their communication of those decisions differently (in a way that will make this change last through iterations)?
- Can we help to egg on the design of metrics that everyone can use and tie to the change?
- Can we continuously emphasize each small step as a positive forward moving process (rather than fixes of all those countless mistakes we made in the present and the past)?
Sometimes our silent influence is simply to teach acceptance of new, newness and change in general.
Sustainability is made up of our next three categories.
Operationalization is a big fat word that officially means to quantify a “fuzzy concept” (Wikipedia) or define a concept so it can be measured (Dictionary.com). In our case we will put those two definitions together to mean, “turning change into something you do every day”. The best version of that is process change. Process usually creates some good measurements. A big part of operations is finding ways to see if you are doing all those regular day to day things better as the days go by. In the case of change you hope you create a scenario where you are REALLY doing things better.
Silent influence can be used to remind those integrating the change into operations how important certain things are. Silent influence might be catching people doing things the old way and in a positive, light hearted way calling that out. Or, even better, and really silent, is to teach those who will be there long after you leave how to do this.
Silent influence can come with helping to create metrics that turn change into something that is done all the time, and provide numbers to reward that transition.
Operationalization comes when the change is part of the way you do things. It is both a part of sustainability and the environment after the change has sustained for a while.
This is probably the first silent step.
None of our other categories will happen without some sort of behavior change. I kept these “out of order” on purpose though. Behavior change should be happening all the time. Not so crazy that nothing good lasts, just incremental to make things better. (If something is genuinely working it does not need to be changed, but checking once in a while is a good thing).
Silent influence here works. It works if you are tied to the owner, it works if you are connected to the implementary leader, it works if you must be “silent” continuously. Sometimes behavior change happens by setting up things that make the “new” patterns easier.
Maybe it is a technology change that must work as well as possible before the stakeholders are asked to learn it.
Maybe it is new patterns from leadership that model a certain interactive behavior (on one engagement I had to silently teach leaders to counsel their reports in an interactive loop- they insisted out loud they new how to do this).
Maybe it is building awareness of certain things. My favorite is teaching an end state approach by calling out each time something is the opposite. (It is easy to do- an end state focus is a learned behavior).
There are many, many times when we as externals can silently lay things out knowing the direction forward if those things are accepted and turned into behaviors. I have to admit I am beginning to appreciate these transitions in “client time” (client time being much longer and drawn out than I would choose- or would have chosen, now I am beginning to see the two time frames).
This might be the category where we are a little less silent. Calling out all the good behavior changes, all the things that are beginning to become how you do things, change that seems to be sticking helps to culturize the new. But, again, doing that through others can be more powerful and more effective (and more sustaining).
Silent influence here might be encouraging certain new customs, traditions or patterns that reinforce the change. Culture is about the things we do together over time. It is about repetition, pattern and history. Change can be about moving away from history. So silent influence here can be helping to integrate something good about the past (or the current present) into the process of change. You should always take something with you into end states.
Silent influence can help change behavior; operationalize small, measurable things; turn the change into cultural patterns and, ultimately sustain end states. Silent is slower, silent takes patience, but silent can be powerful.
A review of yet another change model reveals:
Lewin reworked (marketed?) by Kotter and re-purposed with new synonyms for a new model.
It is not 1946 nor is it 2001 and the stuff from 2007 is looking a little stale too.
I am happy to be the black sheep that insists it is time to break away from change management group think and an endless regurgitation of the “gurus” and “change leaders” of the past. Yes, at least for one, tons of books have sold and awards have been given. Which to me, proves my point.
So if you, as a leader or client or consultant or practitioner, are at all interested in opening your mind to something new, and I would argue better…
Here are some tips:
- Go out and look back
Approach everything you do with change from a future back perspective. Use goals. Use end state descriptions. Use your imagination. Just stop starting from now (or “as-is” or “current state” or “present state” or name your own project and operational buzzword).
- Make Sense
Something is always the trigger for behavior change- want, need, necessity or force. At some level change has to make sense. Yes that may be at the, “You do not want to lose your job role, do you?” level. Even at that level change can make sense in a way. But not if your perspective is that resistance is automatic. Take that perspective and you will get what you are creating.
- Lose the “Readiness” thing
This whole idea of “getting people ready for change” is just a cover for pushed change (rather than pull like you would have with make sense and an end state focus). It works for the guru evangelists and SELLS because it fits the slow organizational process for change. Any model that “fits” is going to have even slower change than normal and some nasty lack of sustainability on the end of the timeline. Yes there are lots of things you can do to prepare your people and organization for change- addressing structure, changing performance measures, speeding up approvals, developing executives (and connecting them to the hands on work in some way). If that is what you are doing when practicing “readiness” fantastic (from what I have seen as a follow-up change agent I doubt it though). Just come up with a different word.
This is 2000+. Anyone interested in change has read the gurus (along with a gazillion other books that still preach the same focus). Move past the basics of herding people to your desired future state. All those “we could never do that at this organization” things will be what helps you change- try actually doing them. Frosting one of the many models over status quo just covers the stale cake. Start thinking of change differently and maybe begin to look people in the eye and have dialogue (therein lies another problem with change virtuality, a different obstacle). You will likely find there are things that can change before, and to help, people behavior change.
Four quick tips for change management: look back to now rather than out into the black, change must make sense (does your approach address that?), readiness is a made up term that has lost its luster and mature in your approach to change (maybe read less and look more). A fifth tip for you- listen to the words you use. Are they push words or pull words?
I am working on these in my lab.
Some of my initial specs:
- With these you can see past silos.
- They will have a cross functional filtering capability that shows you the things they are doing over there that have to do with what you are doing here.
- The higher priced custom edition focuses clearly on end states.
- Each set adapts to the end state of the particular user.
- If you point them at a list of tasks the filtering mechanism reduces the list to a sensible level.
- There will be a special option that filters out audio in meetings that does not have to do with team building or movement toward the end state.
- The ability to see over hills and obstacles will also be an option.
- Night vision will be built in for those late planning sessions (or Alaskan engagements).
- You will be able to turn them around, look into the mirror mechanism and see clearly where you are in relation to the change.
- I am considering a software add that, when you turn them toward yourself, gauges your ability (possibility?) to get consensus on something.
- Yes you will be able to use them to take pictures at the company holiday party.
- Of course it will have Facebook link up for those pictures.
- They are, of course, rose-colored.
If only there were binoculars that saw ahead, zoomed out past silos, narrowed down lists, revealed your strengths and inadequacies and also took good pictures. Change Management would be so much easier.
The turkey is waiting in a bed of brine.
The table is set from one end of the dining room to the next (with some extra seats for the “Thanksgiving Orphans” who have no family close for the holiday [US I realize, use your own country equivalent holiday for comparison]).
Since I am the turkey cooker alone I sit at 5 AM.
This holiday is about giving thanks to all those great things we have and have available- people, skills, possibility.
If you looked at change this way every day could be Thanksgiving!
Five things I am thankful for in relation to change:
- Possibility. I really appreciate the beginning of change when end states are first being described. “You could do this, you could do that, you could even TRY this…”. Possibility is a blessing.
- Expertise. Change leverages, highlight and improves the people involved. Good change makes individuals more useful, talented and marketable (scary for retention…or a tool for loyalty). Expertise is blessing.
- Energy. There is nothing better than the electricity of people interacting, being pulled toward a goal and accomplishing things. Energy is my favorite change blessing.
- Newness. Everyone likes new stuff. New stuff, material and otherwise, feels good to hold, own and use. Newness also creates a great contrast to or comparison with stuff that has been around awhile. Newness is a blessing.
- Tradition. Thanksgiving as a holiday is steeped in tradition. Each family has their own added elements. Just like organizational change. Each organization has a history. Some of those historic events and processes are important to hold on to, revisit and layer over the new. Tradition is a blessing.
The US Thanksgiving holiday is a chance to settle in with family in front of a fire, at the table with lots of good food, drink, conversation and togetherness. It is a holiday of thanks, for the past and as pre-thanks for possibilities. Taking that tradition of thanks for blessings and applying it to change might help you see the good of change. This list is five things to start with-possibility, expertise, energy, newness and tradition.
Maybe a little early for this post, but now would be the time to plan if I am accurate.
Last year I guessed (with selfish intent of course) that corralled groups of change practitioners would appear inside organizations. I was dead on correct. They are variously called “Centers of Expertise”, “Change Entities”, “Change Management Function” and “Change Management Group”. Change Entity is my term because I think status quo structure (performance management, reporting arrangements and the effects of internal politics) gets in the way of change, and the change practitioners ability to effect change. Regardless of the name or the relationship within the organization this is a much-needed 2012 addition.
I also took a stab at third-party arrangements and the fact that they put a wall in between the two people leading change, the owner and the high level practitioner. Contingent arrangements, sorry kids I have to use this word, are just DUMB for high level change. Despite what procurement says this arrangement does not save money and causes all kinds of hidden costs and angst. Happy I am to relay, clients are starting to get just as irritated as the true consultants stuck in this scenario. They now talk about the difficulty of getting high level consultants in (and keeping them there), the disappearance of any connection between efforts and the endless supply of templates and plans that end up accomplishing little but checks on the to do list. It’s as if I told them this was going to happen…
2012 already has a slew of higher level roles. The rates are going up, some markedly. The complaints about low-level talent are escalating. And there is a balance beginning to be understood about the need for external and internal roles.
So for 2013:
- More engagements will be direct with consultants. If this practice has not hit your area you may be saved from it (I say that to both consultants AND clients).
- Problems will arise around those change groups that were formed. As with most change senior consultants will be in demand to patch things up.
- Change practitioners will begin to be included very early in the process and high up. This is already starting to happen. One version is to bring someone in for something currently in the process and use them to set up the next thing at the same time. Good stuff.
- Change Management will mature just a little more with push back against “scientific” approaches and a move to the art based on the science.
- Since there is going to be a bubble of demand (once the first owner twitches and spends money for growth the rest are going to panic) in 2013 consultants will gain the upper hand (in a good way for them and client results, we have to feed our families and there is a lot of parked cash).
- The mini battle amongst practitioners between linear project support CM and higher level program perspective will continue (well past 2013).
2013 will bring a mini bubble for change management, especially for senior practitioners who can connect things at a high level and make that understood individually. The contracting relationship has been heavily strained by parameters and walls built within organizational structures. Internally and externally problems with that connection will become obvious (and owners who find a good trusted advisor will buck the system and make changes). At least I hope this is what happens.
My competency light list gave you 10 capabilities for a good change practitioner or leader.
How to Build Change Management Competencies gave some suggestions for addressing these at an individual level
Time for an organizational level version.
The ability to:
- Big Picture viewers.
- See tangibles.
- Understand time- past, present and future.
- See patterns.
- Compare, contrast, differentiate and relate.
How Can an Organization Help Develop These?
My first suggestion would be to put a time-framed ban on PowerPoint and see what happens.
Without a skilled facilitator (notice I DID NOT say “presenter”) PP is a one way tool for dissemination.
Start recording answers and responses to things. Having to write it down or type it is a first step in paying attention to it.
Make sure your senior leaders model ACTUAL listening. I would define actual listening as the kind of listening that produces something tangible as a result. That would show you really were listening and even went to the next step.
If your leaders are not doing this don’t bother moving to the second thing in our list.
Because they are not very curious.
Listeners usually want to know (or are painfully trained into the whole process of them being equal to those they interact with). Maybe they only want to know about the world in relation to themselves. That is a start.
To develop curiosity in your organization you have to create an environment where questions are the norm and listening to answers (maybe acting on them) is expected.
Do that and you will have an organization with people who dig even deeper and use the answers to create more questions.
Provide opportunities for them to them test out what they received.
Your employees need the chance to poke, prod, test and re-question.
So they can learn to analyze numbers, “fact”, good guesses and perspective.
During my time at Deloitte I had access to some business and white paper databases (Harvard Business Review, Forbes etc.). Get something like that and then teach your employees how to put outside information in the context of your organization. (Did I mention executives modeling things?).
So you got people asking questions. You got people paying attention to answers. You threw in the addition of analysis.
Does anyone care about anything?
Does anyone care about someone else’s perspective (other than their bosses which they hope to emulate for compensation)?
We are not digging into some touchy feely interpersonal HR thing here (although that might help some). There are many times, with change especially, that understanding why someone does something or why they feel a certain way can make a big difference for forward movement and results.
Think of any situation where you have agreed to disagree. If you can get to the mutual agreement part some empathy has been exchanged.
Set up ways in your organization where people can agree to disagree. Teach them to compromise and move in each others directions once in a while.
My immediate family is four distinct viewpoints. It is almost impossible to agree on things. A little like the organizations I work with. In our family we compromise and we take turns making decisions. We are just a little organization. Honestly it can scale.
The Big Picture
Unless your leaders emulate this ability you are going to have a tough time building it within your organization.
You could bring in someone at a high level who can craft big picture scenarios and is very good at seeing them, but lots of things will have to change around them for that ability to transfer. (Believe me I have lived the role).
My plug for a high level trusted adviser gets inserted here. I could teach a CEO and a their implementary leader how to be better at this. It would then be their job to pay it forward.
EVERYONE sees tangibles.
Usually too quickly in a change timeline.
It is seeing the right tangibles at the right time (accomplished by the right people) that is the competency.
Anything you can do in your organization to get away from project management and timelines and dates and deadlines will help you see a bigger picture and get better at putting tangibles in context with people and process.
Train your organization to reward and acknowledge when the right work is done at the right time with the right people.
Look for balance here.
Are you all about your history, your past, all the fantastic people and accomplishments you have had?
That is, sometimes, a great way to welcome in new people and to “brand” your culture.
It is also a good way to have your firm slowly slip into insignificance.
Be careful of a past focus.
Are you all about fostering innovation, coming up with ideas, giving your employees free reign to create the next killer thing?
Do operations suffer?
Be careful with a daydream culture.
Does everyone in your organization put in a solid hard day of work, pat themselves on the back, go home for a little shut eye and start again?
Or is there constant worry that the next bad thing is about to happen?
Being “in the moment” and just accepting the passage of time is not always a good thing.
Teach your leaders and employees to understand that the past is a foundation, the future has possibility (if you can get good at defining end states) and the present is where things actually happen. It is nice to have something to shoot for; it is nice to have the work to get there matter; it helps to have achievements and history to feel good about. Foster all that.
Yes you are different, but not THAT different.
Find ways to call out HOW you are different and why that is good (I don’t mean cheerleading cultural mission statement stuff).
Also find ways to show that you aren’t naïve enough to think that the wheel has not yet been invented.
Make sure you provide opportunities for your organization and its people to put things together when that make sense. Take them apart when it doesn’t. Test. Prod. Analyze. And do those things with both shared and opposite perspectives.
It is hard for an organization, as opposed to an individual, to build this list of competencies. It is hard because it will require change. (Which comically takes these competencies).