Lessons of a Learning Leader.
'Lest I missed anything in my youth' (Alexander von Humboldt)
Posted: September 24th, 2015 by Anne Belingan
A financial services consultant from a global professional services company writes:
“ I would be interested to know what the overlap is of this public sector focused methodology with practice in the private sector. When developing this methodology was there any experience taken from the private sector? Has there been any though about applicability in the private sector? “
Anne Bellingan, pearcemayfield
BBC Specialist Trainer answers:
BBC relevance within the private sector is something I’m sure is exercising many minds right now! We are definitely seeing increasing interest in the use of the 5 case model from amongst our private sector clients. Let me give you a quick heads-up based on my understanding. The launch of the methodology was Treasury driven and the primary objective is for projects to deliver the best value for public money, and that decisions for capital spending proposals are enabled, based on accurate and thorough Business Case development and presentation. The methodology is derived from the Treasury Green Book, and is meant to be a hands-on application of the Green Book.
Because it has been birthed from UK Treasury and is focused on the spend of public funds I don’t think private sector collaboration was a priority. The major consideration is public sector spend and application, and that the expertise for writing business cases arises from within the public sector divisions, rather than dependency on external consultant business cases writers.
I have attached a statement made by Sharon White, Second Permanent Secretary HM Treasury, back at launch, regarding the 5-Case methodology and I hope this gives some clarity for you. She took the role of Senior Responsible Owner of the programme to launch the methodology, the training scheme and accreditation.
Better Business Cases Methodology
Statement by Sharon White, Second Permanent Secretary HM Treasury
“The need to get the best possible value from spending public money will always remain a constant for those entrusted with spending decisions. The need to reduce overall spending resulting from the financial crisis of 2008 has sharpened this requirement. The continuing downward pressure on the availability of public sector finance together with the ever growing upward pressures of demand for public services will continue to further increase the need to make better use of the resources available, the challenge has never been greater.
In this context it is vital that capital spending decisions are taken on the basis of highly competent professionally developed spending proposals. This Treasury guidance which has been refined and tested over many years provides a clear framework for thinking about spending proposals and a structured process for appraising, developing and planning to deliver best public value. All of which is captured through a well prepared business case which supports evidence based decisions.
This latest version of the Treasury guidance provides a practical “step by step” guide to the development of business cases, using the Five Case Model – using an approach which is both scalable and proportionate. It is recognised as best practice and is the Treasury’s standard methodology. Experience has demonstrated that when this guidance is embedded in public sector organisations, better more effective and efficient spending decisions and implementation plans are produced. At the same time the approach when correctly understood and applied provides a more efficient planning and approval process saving between 30% and 40% in time taken and cost of production of business cases compared with unstructured approaches.
It provides a framework for thinking and a process for approval which is flexible and scalable along with a range of tools that can be applied proportionately to provide clarity in the decision support process. The approach also provides a clear audit trail for purposes of public accountability.
All centrally funded public spending proposals including those subject only to departmental approval are required to use the Treasury approach and all Major Projects considered by the Treasury and Cabinet Office, through the Major Projects Review Group and projects approved by the Treasury must be prepared and presented using the Treasury’s Five Case Model method.
Now for the first time training in a correct understanding and use of the method will be widely available, links to which can be found via the Treasury web site. I am therefore very pleased to recommend the use of this guidance and the Treasury approved training and accreditation to all who are concerned with delivering best public value from capital spending decisions.”
Forward to “Public Sector Business Cases Using the Five Case Model, Green Book Supplementary Guidance on
Delivering Public Value from Spending Proposals”
Contact Anne Bellingan here
Download white paper “Enabling Better Investment Decisions” here
Book a place on Better Business Cases here
Posted: September 24th, 2015 by pearcemayfield
Patrick Mayfield and Adrian Boorman
Download Transcript here
Adrian Boorman (Customer Relationship Manager): Most of us know too well that our lives become more pressured as everyday passes. We all face a tsunami of information from an ever-increasing number of sources, with the result that it becomes increasingly hard to focus, to priorities, and to do our best work. However, help is at hand! And to explain more, I am delighted to welcome back to the studio the CEO of pearcemayfield, the professional development and consultancy company, Patrick Mayfield. Patrick, hello and thank you for joining us again!
Patrick Mayfield (CEO of pearcemayfield): Hi Adrian, how are you?
AB: Good thanks. Look, I know you have developed a very practical, hands-on one-day workshop event for delegates to address some of the challenges that I mentioned just now. But before we are looking at this in detail, can you explain was were the motivation and the driving force behind your development of a support package to help individuals with their personal organizational challenges? There’s a back-story here; perhaps you can share it with us.
PM: In one sense it is very simple. We responded to one of our corporate clients, who saw what we were doing and the way we behaved, and said: Could you help us with this? But the real back-story is that it’s been a lifelong passion of mine. My personal organisation has been first a matter of survival, and then a matter of performance, so I am always attending to it. I’m a bit of personal organisation geek I suppose, so the client didn’t need to persuade us very hard.
AB: So, client driven then?
AB: You mentioned your passion for things organisational, and I’m sure many of our listeners would be familiar with work that you have done around stakeholder engagement. So does this particular product, if I can call it that, workshop event, linked back to your research into the characteristics of high performers?
PM: Yes, it does. I suppose everything is linked, but very quickly the four top research conclusions we came to defining the distinctives around high performers were that they had a leaning the people, that they had a leaning to action, that they were self aware and that they guarded personal margins. All four are relevant to personal organisation, how we order our private lives, but the last one in particular was very revealing – around personal margins, around these people who were performing highly, guarded their personal boundaries very closely, they kept in slack in their diaries, so it made me curious about this whole issue of how you got first of all time, but then it lead onto other the areas of our lives.
AB: So, good personal organization, personal mastery underpins, it facilitates those personal margins, and in those personal margins, one can go off and engage with the stakeholders, and use one’s time more productively.
PM: Yes, yes.
AB: Do other sources converge on this thinking? Have you, for instance, been able to draw experiences of some of your own company’s major clients, or existing management techniques, and if so, how these informed your own approach and the development of the unique Person Mastery offerings.
PM: Well it is very interesting really, because the more we looked, the more we found connections with a number of things. You know, we have long involvement with PRINCE2®. One of the concepts in PRINCE2® is this idea of tolerance margins. I have to say that in practice, people plan in margins on PRINCE2® projects in a very predictable and unimaginative way. And often there’s pushback for the wrong reasons, by senior management, they sort of take away those margins. But discussing those and looking at those and related areas of management theory around Lean and so on, we begin to see that actually, you always need slack somewhere in the system, you always need somewhere to provide a buffer and if you don’t provide that you have got no reserves for resilience, no reserves for when something unexpected comes along that you need to attend to. What we looked at when we were doing the crib sheet research into high performers, was that the vast majority of people when something unexpected happened, would basically have a very limited number of options: they work longer hours, they gave up their weekends, or things just dropped off the end of the world, of their end of their “to do list” and never got done. Not so with the high performers.
AB: So to use an analogy: it is like the area at end of a runway, which isn’t generally used, until the day you needed and is better to use that than to run off the end across the motorway.
PM: Yes, yes. The error most of us make is when we see these margins, when we say this slack, we think “oh, that’s waste, I could be using that”. Well, when you use it up, there is nothing left for emergencies.
AB: Yes, absolutely. So, this is more than just time management then?
PM: Yes, absolutely.
AB: What makes it so different?
PM: What we have done is also had to key into research we came across from other sources around energy management. What people have learned in coaching top-flight athletes like Andy Murray and so on. Where actually the way we order our business lives is very alien the way we naturally work in our human bodies. There is a stress recovery cycle; stress is not the enemy per se, but chronic stress, you know, always being twenty-four seven on is very harmful. If you look at this like a stress recovery curve, like on a cardiograph. What we try and do in the workplace is organize lives where we are flat lining, we are always on. Well, in the natural world you are only flat line when you’re dead. So when you look at distress recovery cycle and perhaps begin to introduce more natural rhythms in the workplace. Not being slackers, but using slack in a sense of recovery time, in a sense to make, to exercise ourselves, so that we’ve got faster recovery rates.
AB: Right, I was going to ask you about stress. So you are not in your businesses of eliminating stress, cause stress exists when you get out of bed in the morning, but in terms of managing it.
PM: Yes your stress is a natural phenomenon and it can actually be very functional. Acute stress over stressing is probably a bad idea, and chronic stress is definitely a bad idea…
AB: Is this is just about method or does this include some practical tools as well, could you give us some examples?
PM: Well, from work with Agile we came across some writing on personal Kanban, Jim Benson and others have written about this. Also, we came across the idea of using lists in a more proactive way, as David Allen has done in his “Getting Things Done”. We have also looked at the work of Francesco Cirillo, I think his name in Italian, who’s got the The Pomodoro Technique®. What we’ve done is to spread out the whole mélange of techniques, that more or less interact with each other. We offer this kind of smorgasbord of techniques in our workshop; and don’t presume that they all fit anybody’s personal style or circumstances, and in the end we get the people to sort of say what are they going to go away and use. Everybody tends to select something.
AB: Right, so it is not a one size fits all solution?
PM: Definitely not, because we’re all different sizes aren’t we?
AB: OK, so how flexible is Personal Mastery? Who is more suitable for?
PM: I think this really comes back to some disciplines of self-management, self-reflection, self-awareness, and again that’s an emotional intelligence dimension. This is relevant to anybody who is a knowledge worker, whose main tool is between their ears, it’s their brains and it also begins to get you quite deep in terms of what your self-identity is. A lot of people are driven, they basically take the position that they are victims of their boss, or their environment and have to do this, that and the other. We generally challenge that and encourage people to say well, actually you can be quite radical about this and you should for the good of your organisation take ownership of your own boundaries and begin to say no, and that can be quite difficult for some people, but you have to be very clear and confident about the areas you say no to, and that clarity is ultimately about reconnecting with meaning in your workplace.
AB: Right. You have published a whitepaper, I know, which is going to be available as a companion to this podcast, I’ll explain later how listeners can get hold of it at the end. In it you refer to breaking the tyranny of busyness, I love that phrase I have to say, but can you just put some flesh on the bones?
PM: Yes, yes I can. One of the great seductions of all the tools – the communication tools that we have now, and the internet as a backbone for this all happening, is that they have turned on us and they are all vying for our attention now. And if we are not self-aware enough, we can end up just servicing our inbox. Somebody, for example, described the e-mail inboxes, as somebody else’s to ‘do list” for you. This is about getting our clients on the front foot in life. Begin to say ‘actually I am going to consciously choose when I look at my e-mail inbox’. And I am going to be very conscious about the heuristics, the filters I will apply to what comes through my inbox, to filter out rather more than just spam, but to begin to say ‘ actually, I cannot and should not deal with that. This is really for people whose main tool is their brains and how they work. We talk about things like focus; how if we are knowledge workers, we really do need to reserve time for focus on one thing at a time and there is emerging research around multi-tasking. Some of our listeners will not want to hear this, but the research shows conclusively male or female we cannot multi-task and be as productive as we thought.
AB: Patrick, I have known it ever since I was a small boy, I am delighted for you to say that! I guess a lot of this has a relevance and a usefulness beyond the work environment, beyond the office.
PM: Absolutely, we get clients saying ‘I have tried this with my partner and we are using this to jointly plan our holiday’ and so on. And that’s encouraging because often people apply work disciplines because they have to. This is an indicator that they are actually finding this valuable in its own right and transporting it back to home. Let me say another thing: there is a lot of guff talked about work-life balance. Since when was work not part of our lives? I am not trying to blur the boundaries of work time, but that’s a false dichotomy right there.
AB: Yes, absolutely. And why should the tools not be universally used?
AB: I believe the development working title for what we have been discussing today, Personal Mastery, was Organising Yourself More Effectively, which seems to do what it says on the tin to me, but there you go. Why did you ultimately decide to call it Personal Mastery?
PM: Because we wanted to make this move generically relevant to a wider audience of clients. Organising Yourself More Effectively – this is beyond time management, we have all been on time management courses. This is really more about how we look at ourselves, what is our true identity, what is the meaning in our work, what is my energy level and how do I observe it and regulate it and work with it, and so on. So this is really an area that leaders are beginning to attend to, much more often, Personal Mastery and I think our productivity begins here.
AB: That’s a statement to think about! I must come back to something you mentioned earlier: Pomodoro?
AB: Italian for tomato and there my knowledge ends, so you must explain that, I can’t let you go…
PM: Very quickly, you can check this on Francesco Cirillo’s excellent blog site. But it all started when he was a student trying to revise for his exams. He had a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato and called it The Pomodoro Technique®. Check it out.
AB: And one uses that to time blocks of workload.
PM: Yes, it is just consciously chunking large pieces of work using that aid, and now of course we have Pomodoro apps on every kind of electronic device.
AB: Could be one of my five portions a day?
PM: Well, maybe I need to talk to you about that!
AB: Another conversation for another day. Patrick, thank you. Another most interesting discussion and one which surely has relevance for us all certainly. One very last question: do you or your own team use any of the tools and techniques in your organisation?
PM: It would be hypocritical if I didn’t and our team do, yes. For example, we use Kanban boards for sharing our work and that’s a life saver for me?
AB: Well, that’s a testimonial for those listening, I am sure. Patrick, thank you again.
To access the white paper, mentioned in this podcast, please click the link that you’ll find on the podcast page and if you’d like to follow on any of the issues raised in the discussion, or find out more about what pearceamayfield can do to support you or your organisation’s’ learning and development challenges, then Patrick and his team would, of course, be delighted to hear from you. Contact him direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our website at www.pearceamayfield.com or call us on 01235227252.
Thank you for listening.
Download Transcript here
Posted: September 18th, 2015 by Patrick Mayfield
We find those who recognise and acknowledge their skills gaps (the consciously incompetent), who have been in the fight longer and are more experienced, need ‘training’ less and are the most hungry to learn”.
In this Podcast Patrick Mayfield talks about the differences between the push of ‘training’ and the pull of ‘learning’, the importance of encouraging vital conversations in the classroom and highlights what makes for a quality learning experience that leads to subject mastery and returns value to the workplace.
How Adults Learn- Download Podcast Transcript
Adrian Boorman (Client Relationship Manager):
I am sure that most if not all listeners would agree that an understanding of how we learn as adults is extremely important in the provision of successful, productive and enjoyable training experiences and that this in turn plays a vital part in the delivery of business change.
To help us understand this little better I am joined today by Patrick Mayfield, CEO of pearcemayfield, the professional development and consultancy company, and Patrick has many years of experience as a knowledge worker and delivering optimised learning solutions. Patrick, hello and thank you for coming in today.
Patrick Mayfield (CEO of pearcemayfield): Hi Adrian.
AB: Can we can begin with something rather fundamental please, could you explain the relationship between training and learning, and indeed what makes for memorable training and enjoyable and effective learning and perhaps how you personally came to understand about this?
PM: Well, let me just use a non-academic workaday distinction between training and learning. This really relates to the common usage of both of those terms – training is a kind of push solution in helping people be trained to do something and learning is the pull process of someone gaining mastery over some subject or skill. So one is push and the other one pull, now in the common usage of the term training, it tends to have better applicability to mechanical skills; you just introduced me as a knowledge worker; well, all of our clients are knowledge workers and they need knowledge skills, in other words they need to know how to apply knowledge as part of their everyday job and it seems that in those contexts, the degree to which they pull their learning, work out the application and modify things, modified theory in the everyday jobs, in different situations. It is absolutely vital to the performance that they get.
AB: So, it is very much a two-way process then- delivering the training but then the individual who’s receiving the knowledge has to pull as well, it’s two way.
PM: We have a real problem here because we do occasionally, for example, get people in company training who don’t want to be there and they came along because their boss told them to and that’s the worst possible environment. There are others who come along and say “OK, fill me, teach me”. Well, neither of those are positioning themselves with a positive attitude to pull relevant learning in that context, and we find that clients get the best when there is leaning towards each other, both of the subject matter expert, who comes to help people learn, and delegates who are wanting to pull that learning. Then you can have a very interesting conversation, so rather than being a teacher or a trainer, the dynamic changes so that the professional becomes a learning facilitator, stands alongside the learner and helps them exploit the material to its maximum effect.
AB: So, the most rewarding delegates to work with, I guess, are those who are not passive, but are knowledge hungry. “Give me, give me, give me” if you like..
PM: Yes, that’s right. I wouldn’t take this too far but, there is a general tenancy that clients who already have developed a degree of mastery in whatever subject they are taking, often are the most appreciative and hungry learners because they have what is called a conscious incompetence; they know enough to know that they need to know a lot more. They have practiced things enough to know that actually they could be more skilled in the practice of it. So there is a strange paradox: those who know very little and have practiced little if anything, sometimes are the least hungry, whereas those who have been in the fight a bit longer and are rather more experienced who need training less are actually those who gain most learning.
AB: That makes complete sense. What do you think of the points of difference that mark out the exceptional, I don’t want to call it training, let’s call it the exceptional learning experience from the delegates point of view, from the merely good.
PM: I think it’s really how the person who is leading the learning event positions themselves. What we try to do at pearcemayfield is out the delegates in the spotlight. This is very difficult when you’re up against and need to go through content in the class discussion against some kind of exam curriculum. And when there is a lot of content, you tend to talk through the material very rapidly. Much better experiences often where you are standing alongside the delegates who already have assimilated the information, but are now trying to make it fit within their existing frame of understanding, within the context of their current role, the current work challenges and say “how would this work here”. And that’s when the conversations in the classroom become very vital, and that is often where isolated learning like distance learning or e-learning loses out because they don’t have access to those quite spontaneous discussions.
AB: The kind of discussion that we are having now.
PM: Absolutely, yes.
AB: I want to come back to the trainer, the leader of the event in a moment, but just a pick up on something that you said: when there is a formal syllabus to be covered, a lot of work to get through, a concluding test of knowledge, surely there is a potential there for conflict between the need to achieve short-term examination success and development of longer term, more permanent, competence and mastery. There must be a conflict there, how do you see that circle being squared?
PM: You are right that there is a tension. Let me put it that way rather than a conflict, and I think what we try and do as people who lead a learning experience in a classroom context, is to give people enough confidence so that apparent conflict doesn’t become an anxiety. What we often notice is that the discussions close down, let’s say over four and a half day programme, when you’ve got a major practitioner examination, public examination on the morning of the day five, what we often find is that the conversations become less expansive, less exploratory as you approach that exam, as you go through the week. And that in a sense is a pity; it makes it rather a more closed experience because people are quite rightly concerned to get through the exam so they want to know quote “the right answer” end quote; where as beyond exam, that is not the issue is a closed question situational judgement quite often.
AB: Yes. What about mentoring and coaching and support groups, personal development pathways, workshops; do these have a part to play as well in adding value and longevity to that training experience which has been inevitably a bit compressed for the reasons you explained.
PM: Yes, very much so. We don’t like to look at the transaction with our clients as simply the event, or the purchase of e-learning or distance learning; we try and look at it is an element, a central element, a key element in the whole learning process, both before and after. So, for example, one of the ways we are able to take very curriculum-centered programmes and make them a more agreeable learning experience is by helping delegates engage with the material before they come, so there is a kind of pre-learning. We ask them certain questions; they go hunting for answers in the material that we sent them, so they already come to the classroom experience with some frames of reference, some standard terms definitions, and some concepts; we send them videos and so on. But afterwards we still feel the duty of care, if it’s a certified programme where the implicit objective for everybody there is that they get a qualification. That can’t be the end outcome for them or for their employers, so what we try and do is provide them with solutions beyond that, such as, what we were talking about in an earlier podcast with Paul Matthews – Learning Pathways, and so on. We see that is supporting these people in not just leaving them as consciously incompetent with a piece of paper, but actually gaining mastery over this material.
AB: Right, and continuing to support after the event.
AB: And before the event then, the quality and relevance of the pre-course material, provided it is absorbed by the delegate, is also a critical factor to success.
PM: Yes. Another key way we do this is where we have a knowledge and understanding exam, at foundation level exam, compared to an analysis, an integration exam, a practitioner exam. A lot of vendors will separate that and do the knowledge bit first, then move on to the practitioner level. We don’t. We coach from practitioner right from the start, so we are always talking about application. And one of the outcomes of that is that people just take and pass the foundation paper as a trivial interruption in a four and a half day learning experience focused at practitioner level.
AB: Right, you mentioned, and I said that I want to come back to the role of the trainer, the leader in the event and surely the true differentiator in any training organisation is that learning leader himself or herself and great training organisations are great, not just because of their material, you mentioned that, but because of their people, who they are, what they do, how they do it, the way they operate, run the course, the technologies they deploy; would you agree with that, that is absolutely vital?
PM: Yes, I thought a lot, obviously, about what makes a great trainer. And I think it isn’t just subject matter mastery, and in fact the exam assessors know this when they assess trainers, they don’t just look for subject matter mastery, they look for indicators like mastery of the materials, real life experience, experience out there in the world of actually applying this stuff, so that these people aren’t totally theoretical. But I also look for something else, I look for the ability of somebody with a group of people, in a discussion of the kind I’m talking about, who are able to so empathise with the group of people who may be coming from different places that they can read the room, that they can see where people are coming to life with things where other may be struggling, where they can draw in and do a little bit of classroom dynamics management really; bring people into conversations in different ways, break them into groups, vary the tempo the day, the activities and so on. All of these are absolutely crucial to everybody’s learning journey so what I am looking for is a high order awareness, group awareness, social awareness, by a learning facilitator, what we call a trainer.
AB: Right. Providing an experience that level of quality necessarily means very small group sizes, I would gess. What are the commercial implications for that? If you put twenty people in a room that’s not much of training experience, but equally with only four it’s a tall order.
PM: No, but this kind of thing does perpetrate in the educational art. In academia they still have these models of lectures style education. The training materials are often, if there are on PowerPoint for example, are just glorified auto-cues for for the subject matter expert, who then goes off onto a great ego trip, and that for me is not learning. It’s about getting alongside somebody, seeing the subject matter from their perspective and helping them recognise its relevance and how they may use this. Thinking about how adults learn in terms of tempo, so we vary with lots of different exercises. One of the big eye-openers for me for example Adrian, was on our Managing Successful Programmes training, where with major transformation programmes we have some fairly senior people coming on these courses; people who have been around the block for a few years, managing multi-million dollar changes. Well, I was astonished to see how they relished doing the floor mat exercise on the second part of the morning of day one; where they would build a map on floor where they would construct models that would walk through the map. They loved it! It began to help me realise that these people have been chained to their desks for years and yet they work fundamentally hands on, kinesthetic type learners, who love to do with their hands. So that was a major learning for me. I think education tradition has patronized people “you sit there like quiet little things”, while the expert, the professor, talks to you and then we’ll give you a written exam and then you are educated. Well, no thank you! We are not wired that way.
AB: Right, I can see the level of commitment that you make. Perhaps, one final question which follows on from that. What is the best way, or what are the best ways of evaluating the results of, and the benefits from, any learning experience? Is it a question of “what did you learn today”, is it maybe a question of “would did you change today” as a result of the effort you have put into it? It is a big question, I know, but I would appreciate your thoughts.
PM: There has been a lot of intellectual horsepower in doing this at the end of a learning experience. I think ultimately though, it’s about the value that is created in the workplace and only recently have we begun to be allowed by some our clients to measure this. It has been extremely helpful. We now try to see what is the relationship to what we do in helping people gain mastery of something, to them truly evidencing that with value in the workplace. That is the key, that is the only question worth answering. Everything in between, from the exam pass rates to evaluation sheets, so called happy sheets, to psychometric testing and so on; are all proximates of the ultimate thing, so for example can senior manager deliver a successful transformation through what is offered?
AB: And I guess, it is measured as far as your company is concerned by the number of people who came back and said “that was a great experience, we got a lot of value from that, we have now got a whole new set of challenges, can you help with these as well?
PM: Yes, and one of the paradoxes I think, of the training industry is the whole idea of enjoyment. A lot of our clients come back to us, secretly because they have had fun. The experience has not been a painful one. They’ve had a lot of joy, it has given them hope in their work, and that is really pleasing because I think that part of learning is about redeeming what we have made work, which is boring, grinding, dreadful stuff.
AB: That is interesting because we have come full circle with the question I asked at the beginning, when we said we would talk about how adults learn, and actually you just said, really, exactly how any human being, even if they are really young and small, they learn through having fun.
PM: Yeah, I don’t suppose I shouldn’t say that on a podcast, but we are all just grown up kids.
AB: I see no hands going up, Patrick. Look, as always, a very illuminating discussion. Thank you for joining us and food for thought as always. So if I can try to summarise just briefly: I think the message that you’re sending very clearly is that there is a very broad range of learning options matching these to individual need, that sensitivity before, during and after a training event is essential if there’s going to be a real and long lasting impact for the individual and on the business environment.
PM: I know you are trying to close down this podcast, can I just say one other thing?
PM: My blog was originally called “Learning leader” because it is ambiguous, I am learning myself and I think that’s a key to really accessing. It’s a never ending quest for us, we are always learning how to do this better.
AB: That’s a pretty good way of ending this podcast. We are all in it together. Patrick, thank you very much indeed.
Posted: August 21st, 2015 by John Edmonds
The head of a Global Change Management Office writes…
“For some time now we have been witnessing an explosion of change across our business with projects still the main vehicle for delivery. In theory, our change managers are recognising and addressing subsequent communications and engagement challenges around the initiatives that are driving this change but in practice I’m not so sure! What can I do to address what I see as relationship issues?”
Yes, when it comes to actual practice there can often be a widespread culture of “learned helplessness”, where managers show a growing lack of confidence in their plans being met, and where failing to meet the business case is seen as usual.
Ask yourself: Is something missing? Perhaps you have been looking for answers in the wrong places. All too often the treatment of relationships with people within and around a change project is sporadic and marginal, a sort of afterthought from the ‘core’ issues of network diagrams, Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, user requirement specifications, and the like.
Many managers still seem to see the business of leading people, at best, as marginal to the challenge of driving change through. Engaging and influencing people is seen as a sort of sideshow to the ‘real’ practice of managing a project. At worst, it is dismissed as being too ‘soft’, an embarrassing subject to ‘proper’ business people, definitely not something to get in the way of ‘hard’ technical execution.
So what really happens if you ignore relationships on a project? What would happen if you didn’t do any significant engagement with people outside of formal progress meetings? You don’t need to look far for the answer. As a consequence many people who should be involved feel neglected. This encourages fear, and sometimes anger. Non-cooperation and resistance grows. The project may well be completed, the project manager moves on, feeling that they have delivered to contract. But what of the expected positive outcomes set out in the business case? These are usually absent and there is often a wave of resentment and poor performance in the wake of the project. Without attention to the people issues you can expect a host of problems to ensue.
You are not alone! A client once told us that his organisation decided to replace an internal stock fulfilment system that had become redundant to needs. So he went to one independently minded operations manager to explain the plan, how he would be impacted, how he would benefit and so on. Not long into the conversation, he was interrupted with: “Oh well, we never did use the old system anyway!” I’m not sure which is more shocking; that this had only just come to light, or that the previous project never engaged with this manager. The result was that, although the previous system had been delivered, it had never been exploited in this area of the organisation, benefits had not been realised and the business case had not been met. But no one seemed aware of this.
Perhaps this is an extreme example but we have come across many other examples of poor engagement leading to delay, frustration, additional cost, and poor benefit realisation. Maybe the problem is less to do with core project management, but more to do with a lack of commitment around the project after it delivers, largely attributable to poor relationship management with key people.
Fortunately, the exact opposite also happens, when an organisation engages people early, ably and continuously – well before delivery in fact – when the best outcome is more likely. More than that, we have seen projects and their related operational changes exceed planned benefit realisation, particularly where key people around the project have worked creatively to identify and realise additional, unforeseen benefits.
These positive cases are where leaders engage people well, involving them appropriately and in a timely manner. Every one of these change leaders has clear idea of what they need from each person, during and beyond the project. They have a plan for taking people through the journey of the change. Those affected are treated with consideration and dignity, led to better places and supported along the way.
(If this resonates within your organisation and you would like to learn more about leading change or need some practical help and support with stakeholder engagement, get in touch!).
Posted: August 11th, 2015 by Patrick Mayfield
Many have been led to believe that project management, change management and related fields, are simply a matter of organisation – working the right processes and tasks, writing the correct documents and having good governance mechanisms in place and so on. People just distract and get in the way. Some tend to concentrate on these technicalities rather than leaning towards people, resulting in huge waste.
Because relationships are the critical factor when leading change, to ignore them is to likely to lead to a dissatisfied workforce and an unsatisfactory outcome.
I believe that the term ‘stakeholder engagement’ is preferable to the more common ‘stakeholder management’. If a stakeholder is defined as anyone with an interest in a project or its outcome, then the project leader will be engaging with those over whom they have no direct authority, such as those from different departments or external customers or partners. So how can we claim to ‘manage’ them?
Organisational change will always cut across different business functions, boundaries and across silos of working and this is where stakeholder engagement will lead to successful outcomes. I have another fundamental concern with the concept of managing people. In my view, we manage things, not people. We lead, direct or motivate people, but we don’t manage them.
For successful change, buy-in from senior management is essential. There may also be internal partners, such as departments or teams within an organisation, or external partners like consultants or trainers who will all need to be fully on board. Those less directly involved with change can still be affected, particularly with respect to resources. For instance, if additional or different resources are needed for them to be effective in the change, these external parties will need to know what’s expected of them and given encouragement and support.
From my own experience of leading programmes and projects, talking with other practitioners and reading literature on all aspects of human nature, of influencing people, motivation and shaping change, I have identified a number of principles specific to engaging and influencing people. These principles serve as compass points in the sometimes chaotic world of change with people of all kinds and serve to be universal, self-validating and empowering.
Listening is a powerful strategy
Ask the person you are looking to influence for their thoughts, aspirations and fears, to show that you are genuinely interested and begin to break down any barriers to change. This helps to focus on the need for change rather than present the solution first. Often, merely listening to someone helps them open up and buy into what you are trying to achieving as you both look at the problem together.
Leaders give a clear reason why something needs to be done and if managers are able to adopt a stronger leadership role, then change is more likely to happen smoothly and have a better change of sustainability. Although it is important that the future vision is explained by senior management, it also needs to be unpacked by the direct line manager into the practical implications for the individual concerned. Stakeholders in change expect purpose, meaning and a picture of the future you are aiming to realise.
Develop new habits
The goal of change is to develop new and often better habits, but people’s behaviour is not going to change overnight and old habits are going to take a while to change. In fact, such are the strength of old habits and such is the effort needed to summon up the energy to develop new ones, there is often resistance to change.
The answer is to ‘unfreeze’ old habits, before moving on to positive change. Unless this is done carefully, people will revert back to the old ways, because it is easier. So involve and engage all stakeholders with the change and establish new ways of doing things by rewarding the desired outcomes to help make the change permanent.
Minimise the pain
Embracing the early signs of denial, anger and resentment (the unfreezing) will help to guide stakeholders through a crafted change strategy, effective implementation plan and into the process of accepting and internalising change. Recognising and looking for ways to minimise the pain of change or of the current situation, are likely to lead to successful change.
Make an emotional connection
There is little doubt that people engage with their stakeholders better if there is some kind of emotional connection. We can draw a parallel with public speaking, where we would all much rather listen to someone who presents with genuine passion rather than read from notes or give a dull PowerPoint presentation.
When people go to work they are inclined to behave quite differently than outside work, they bring a professional persona with them. But this doesn’t mean that change leaders have to be devoid of emotion. Employees need to be led by people who aren’t afraid to reveal their more sensitive human side, who are trustworthy and can be counted on to keep their word.
Honesty is the best policy
Sometimes stakeholders are used to being treated with duplicity and deceit and it may take a while and some courage before they start to believe and trust you. A reputation for integrity, however, will reap rewards when faced with adversity. Give people the benefit of the doubt, under promise and over deliver and deliver any bad news early. Tell people what you don’t know, figure it out, then provide an answer and, if you have a conflict of interest, be honest and say so.
As with most life situations, different people respond to change in different ways and it is important to explain to those who will be affected exactly how they will be affected in an open and honest way. Yet it is equally as important to create an environment of excitement and anticipation, a sense of need for change and for all stakeholders to understand why ‘now is the right time’.
Whether change has a positive or negative outcome will depend entirely on the people involved. All parties should be allowed to express their own views, talk about their fears and desires and ask questions about the future if blockages to change are to be avoided. Only by building relationships and engaging with stakeholders, giving them the confidence in their own abilities to use change to their own advantage, will an organisation achieve sustainable and breakthrough change.
Click here to learn more about Patrick’s book – Practical People Engagement.
Click here to watch our ‘The Key Skill for Leadership (Stakeholder Engagement)’ on YouTube.
Click here to learn more about our Stakeholder Engagement / People Engagement Courses.
Posted: July 27th, 2015 by John Edmonds
This month a senior manager asks, “I am quite concerned that we are not managing our projects as well as we might and it has been suggested that we implement PRINCE2. Can you refer me to an organisation that has fully adopted the PRINCE2 method and done it successfully?”
John Edmonds, Director of Strategy and Marketing and Head of Training replies:
“That is a very interesting question, and one that I have heard several times before. However, it is not really the RIGHT question.”
A key principle of PRINCE2 is that you should tailor your use of the method according to your organisational context and to the type and scale of project that you are running. In other words, there is no “full adopted version” because your use of the method could be very different to another organisation, but both approaches would still be considered to be appropriate.
In fact the essence of PRINCE2 can be expressed in the seven principles of the method. If there is evidence of each of these principles in practice, then that organisation has “fully adopted” PRINCE2.
Taking that even further, PRINCE2 has been designed as a generic approach to project management, so it can be used by any type and size of organisation in any sector, anywhere in the world! Will it work for you? There is no reason why not. So your question should therefore be more along the lines of, “How should I adopt PRINCE2 in my organisation?”
More on PRINCE2 here
Contact John Edmonds here
Posted: July 21st, 2015 by pearcemayfield
Patrick Mayfield, CEO of pearcemayfield and author of Practical People Engagement, and Paul Matthews, Managing Director of People Alchemy and author of Informal Learning at Work, discuss the challenges facing L&D professionals in the twenty first century and the role of informal learning.
“So much formal training is averse to the way in we all naturally learn… there is a better way, ‘learning by doing’…..”
Download more information on Learning Pathways here.
Posted: July 17th, 2015 by Patrick Mayfield
Many leaders focus on the future, on the what might be, on the vision. And rightly so. Leaders are at their best when they give hope to those that follow them, and vision is very much about giving them that hope in a better future.
But there is a less emphasized area of good leadership that does the exact opposite. Leaders sometimes get us to focus on the past, where we have come from. The main value in this is to connect us with our heritage, our corporate identity, and the values that were there when we began. Who are we as an organisation needs to be a part of our mission, our intent, our reason for being, as well as perhaps being a part of that visionary future.
In more so-called primitive societies, elders would share around the campfire the stories of how the tribe came to be a distinct tribe. These stories give everyone both a sense of identity, continuity and of hope in themselves. These stores often gave everyone valuable insights into what they need not learn again the hard way. They can also illustrate core values as they were being fashioned, again something very much part of core identity.
My friend, Mike Hill, who happens to also be the Bishop of Bristol, calls this the “creation narrative”, where our leaders (the elders) tell the story of how we came to be. In these stories are the vital nuggets of what made us distinctive, why we broke with convention and started something new. There are implicit messages that there are some things we should never neglect or surrender. As an example, here is my company’s creation narrative. Enjoy, “like” if you will, and let me know what you think.
Posted: June 12th, 2015 by John Edmonds
“ I work in a busy PMO and have just had a very interesting conversation with my company’s Head of Change and Implementation. He believes that Change Management strategies can be put at risk because our PMs are not also competent Change managers. Is he right?!”
John Edmonds, Director of Strategy and Marketing and Head of Training replies:
The short answer is YES! Project managers, to be effective, need to be competent change managers as well. Often, projects to introduce new or changed products or processes or to put on an event are planned without appropriately considering the change that the project result will cause in its environment. Project Managers DO need Change Management skills.
Over the last twenty years or so we have seen increasing levels of professionalism amongst project managers as more organisations adopt recognised project frameworks and more people take accredited project management training courses. However, Project Managers need something else in addition, and that something else is change management. By this I am not referring to ‘change control’ – an essential tool of the project manager to control issues and requests for change to the scope of a project. Change management is something entirely different and can be described as “an approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organisations to a desired future state.”
So, why is this important to a project manager? Well, quite simply, the whole point of your project is to introduce change to one or more organisations, and whilst you, as project manager, may not be a part of the desired future state, you are a catalyst for it happening and many people may be looking to you for guidance, ideas, expertise and advice about that transition.
Now the challenge. Whereas project management is a series of relatively well-defined processes and concepts, the ideas behind change management are rather more equivocal. For project managers who thrive on certainty the uncertainty and ambiguity of change is a challenge. Yet however vague change management might seem when compared to the relative discipline of project management, we have no choice but to recognise its vital part in organisational transformation.
The pace and scale of change in organisations appears to be increasing and the associated challenges as complex as ever. Many of the challenges are what we often label as ‘soft’ ones – such as culture, emotions, motivation. Ironically there is nothing soft about them, they are very hard! Understanding change management and being able to lead others to grasp its importance is becoming increasingly essential. Project managers can lead the way here. Are you ready to pick up the challenge?
The pace and scale of change in organisations appears to be increasing and the associated challenges as complex as ever. Many of the challenges are what we often label as ‘soft’ ones – such as culture, emotions, motivation. Ironically there is nothing soft about them, they are very hard! Understanding change management and being able to lead others to grasp its importance is becoming increasingly essential. Project managers can lead the way here.
Are you ready to pick up the challenge?
More on Change Management
Contact John Edmonds here
Posted: June 12th, 2015 by John Edmonds
Why Project Managers Need Change Management Skills
Over the last twenty years or so we have seen increasing levels of professionalism amongst project managers as more organisations adopt recognised project frameworks and more people take accredited project management training courses. This, of course, is good news.
However, to use a well-worn phrase, it is necessary but not sufficient.
To get straight to the point, project managers need something else in addition, and that something else is change management. By this I am not referring to ‘change control’ – an essential tool of the project manager to control issues and requests for change to the scope of a project. Change management is something entirely different.
Change management can be described as “an approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organisations to a desired future state.”
Why is this important to a project manager? Well, quite simply, the whole point of your project is to introduce change to one or more organisations, and whilst you, as project manager, may not be a part of the desired future state, you are a catalyst for it happening and many people may be looking to you for guidance, ideas, expertise and advice about that transition.
Now the challenge
Whereas project management is a series of relatively well-defined processes and concepts, the ideas behind change management are rather more equivocal. For project managers who thrive on certainty the uncertainty and ambiguity of change is a challenge.
Yet however vague change management might seem when compared to the relative discipline of project management, we have no choice but to recognise its vital part in organisational transformation.
So what characteristics would enable project managers to become better catalysts, and how can they develop the skills and knowledge required?
The characteristics can be summed up as:
Project managers need to act as a role model throughout the organisation. This involves setting a positive and meaningful example of how to lead change successfully. Two particular ‘audiences’ for this role modelling are senior managers and middle managers. Both groups in turn need to be encouraged themselves to become role models, and project managers can be instrumental in making this a reality
Stakeholder engagement is so often the weak area of any project. In a recent survey three quarters of organisations stated that they defaulted to a top-down approach to communication and less than 10% encouraged dialogue around change initiatives. Project managers must begin to prioritise engagement and communication, as people need to understand and buy in to the case for the change if that change is to succeed. Stakeholders need clear answers to the ‘why?’ questions around change. Once again, if project managers set an example in this area, others may well follow.
Ultimately change happens within the organisation, projects ‘simply’ deliver the products that allow it to happen. Therefore the need to empower others is paramount. Change leaders at all levels in an organisation need to be recognised, equipped and supported so that they are empowered to play their part in successful change.
How can project managers develop their change management knowledge, skills and abilities?
Well, the good news is that training and qualifications in change management have been developing and maturing over the last few years and there is now a growing global recognition of the certifications and institutes available.
At pearcemayfield we have aligned ourselves with a change management qualification that is recognised by the Change Management Institute and which utilises an extremely valuable reference book as its core syllabus. We find this provides our delegates with a rich variety of ideas in an accessible structure that really equips them with a range of concepts, ideas, techniques and tools.
The pace and scale of change in organisations appears to be increasing and the associated challenges as complex as ever. Many of the challenges are what we often label as ‘soft’ ones – such as culture, emotions, motivation. Ironically there is nothing soft about them, they are very hard!
Understanding change management and being able to lead others to grasp its importance is becoming increasingly essential. Project managers can lead the way here. Are you ready to pick up the challenge?
More information about Change Management