Lessons of a Learning Leader.
'Lest I missed anything in my youth' (Alexander von Humboldt)
Posted: December 15th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
One of my favourite passages in Lord of the Rings is towards the beginning of the second book in the trilogy: The Two Towers. Aragorn, as leader of
the Fellowship, is now seeing the mission fall apart before his eyes. He is having a bad day. Boromir is slain, valiantly but vainly protecting the hobbits Merry and Pippin, who are now captured by the marauding band of Orcs.
It gets worse. He discovers that Frodo, the Ring-Bearer, is also missing, along with Sam and one of the boats.
What should he do? They have just spent a precious half hour giving Boromir a river burial, as befits this great warrior of Gondor, and time is ticking away. It is urgent! Should he, Gimli and Legolas pursue Frodo and Sam to protect the Ring-Bearer (the ‘Main Thing’ of the mission, perhaps?) or seek to rescue Merry and Pippin from the Orcs?
What he does next is an object lesson to leaders in what I would call the Strategic Moment. To be sure, the situation requires urgent action, but it must be strategic action. If Aragorn makes the wrong call then the consequences could be dire.
‘Let me think!’ said Aragorn. ‘And now may I make a right choice, and change the evil fate of this unhappy day!’ He stood silent for a moment. ‘I will follow the Orcs … My heart speaks clearly at last: [emphasis mine] the fate of the Bearer is in my hands no longer. The Company has played its part…’
For me this illustrates a number of qualities of a good leader in a
- He pauses.
Despite the pressing urgency of the moment, the good leader actually does something counter-intuitive: he slows down. The cavalry may almost upon the archers but they hold it for the right moment. What is crucial is that the aim is sure.
- He faces reality. This is not the time for indulging in denial or retreating into self-pity. Aragorn doesn’t bleat, “This isn’t happening!” (that all-too popular idiom these days) or start to take out his frustration on those comrades who happened to be around. No, he calmly faces the situation as it really presents itself. As Max de Pree once said, “A leader defines reality.” This not the time for grieving or, worse still, to indulge in the blame-game. As William Durant, founder of General Motors, once said,
“Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.”
- He gives the situation his total attention. A strategic moment is a mission-critical moment. In pausing, this is not the time for being distracted. Mental focus is one of the key disciplines of a good leader.
- He searches his head and his heart. As Spencer Johnson has written elsewhere, we make better decisions when our head and our heart agree. We make better decisions that are congruent with our value systems and passion as well as making rational, logical sense.
- He releases himself from what he cannot do, and focuses on what he can.
Strategic decisions are as much about saying ‘No’ to options as saying‘Yes’ to others. Leaders are always alert to the waxing and waning of what Stephen Covey calls their ‘Circle of Influence’. At times we can influence and control more than at other times; that’s just accepting reality. A real source of unhelpful stress is to get frustrated and angry. We tell ourselves that we don’t have as much executive latitude today as yesterday that some on our project aren’t as cooperative or as available today as yesterday, that key stakeholders don’t seem to be as responsive to us as they have been in the past, and it’s not fair! We can’t afford the luxury of a “pity-party” now. We need to assess with the situation as it really is now.
- He is prepared to redefine the Mission. The ‘Main Thing’ was to escort the Ring-Bearer to Mordor, but Aragorn reflects deeply enough to make even this mission statement negotiable. He identifies the real ‘critical success factor’ of his mission – to protect as many of his party as he can. What is not negotiable is his value of protecting those whom he can protect. Reflection helps him distinguish values and practice. In project terms, this is called ‘reviewing the business case’. In truth, the great project leader will never lose connection with the fundamental ‘why’ of the project. We need to stay connected with the business case, to refine it, re-state it and re-communicate it continually to our team. Out of this we can give authentic direction.
- He takes positive action. Follow through a decision with an immediate step towards it. As a leader you need to model the response for your team. This is not the
time for ‘paralysis by analysis’. Unless we identify and act upon a positive practical response to the Strategic moment, then no matter if we have done all the above, we have failed. Consider the question, ‘What practical steps can I, as leader, take now, to model and reinforce this new strategic direction?’
I am always fascinated how leaders respond in the crucible of a crisis. These are not just Strategic Moments for the mission, but also defining moments in the character development of the leader, herself.
It seems to me that the first Strategic Moment in a project for the typical leader comes almost immediately. A client requirement is given her which is a dangerous cocktail of ambiguity and prescriptiveness. She probably hasn’t been included in the ‘pre-sales’ feasibility discussions, and this half-baked solution is almost dumped on her as a fait accomplis. What does she do when the Account Manager is demanding an immediate start: ‘Just do it!’ It takes guts, not methodology, to press the pause button in these situations.
However, if she does it enough and make the right call enough times, each time it gets easier. And she grows as a leader.
Peter Jackson’s excellent movie of Tolkein’s Fellowship of the Ring finishes just before this incident in the book. The second movie in the series – The Two Towers- skips this fascinating moment: Jackson has Aragorn hurling himself into pursuit almost immediately. The movie looks at the story, no doubt, through a postmodern lens, a view that can only appreciate the chaotic, the fast-paced and more obviously magical. But here in the book is, I believe, a classic literary portrayal of timeless leadership wisdom.
So next time you have a crisis, and everyone is clamouring for an urgent remedy, press the pause button …
…. and have the courage to wait …
… until your heart speaks clearly.
Posted: November 17th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
Patrick Mayfield discusses Leading Change in a VUCA enviroment
This presentation was first given at the APMG-International Showcase in Bangalore, India.
Posted: November 16th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
It sometimes feels like everything is subject to change. Ironically, this now seems to be true of the field of change management itself. We are about see a major sea change in the key qualification in change management.
Until now the major certified training for Change Management in the UK has been the accreditation based upon Cameron and Green’s Making Sense of Change Management. This book (MSOCM) has served many of us well. Practitioners have come to this subject from a number of different backgrounds, and the book has largely done what its title says: it has helped us make sense of change management. The authors insist that the search for a unified method of change management is a vain quest; reality is far more complex. It defies humans’ behaviour being reduced in such a way.
Where’s the Road Map?
This may be true, but nevertheless, this leaves change leaders with a problem: where is the road map? Also, the curriculum based upon MSOCM is patchy and laden with references to multiple authors. On occasions the authors speak positively, but lightly, of someone’s contributions to the field, but leave us guessing as to what the practical take-away for a change manager might be.
In fairness, Cameron and Green never aimed for their work to be primarily a qualifications source book. So there are some bumps with the level of detail and richness of examples.
New Kid on the Block
The news is that MSOCM will be replaced for this qualification by a new book: The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook (ECMH). (Self-disclosure: I wrote one of the chapters.) This latest work is itself based upon the Change Management Institute’s Body of Knowledge. (See my earlier post: Change Management in Miniature .) I have no great appetite for bodies of knowledge in general, but I found this BoK useful and stimulating. Further, the work to write the subsequent ECMH was co-sponsored by APMG International in partnership with the Change Management Institute. APMG International, has announced that MSOCM will be replaced by the new reference work before the end of 2014, with a new curriculum and set of exam papers to boot. Accredited training in line with this will be available through us in January next year.
Overall, I’m glad of this development. It puts some serious support behind the vital role of change leaders and change agents. This as an area of growing felt need among our clients, and we are already setting in place other proven approaches to support them.
My early assessment is that the new curriculum will add some much-needed strength and guidance to critical practice areas such as overcoming change resistance, the levers of change, and sustaining the outcomes of change.
Refreshed Solutions in 2015
From 2015 we will also provide a re-registration to the new book for our existing change management graduates, as well as offering our clients a range of help in their difficult changes. My conviction is that this is weakest link in the value ladder, the place where organisations fall short in realising the benefits from their investment in projects. If we can improve transition management in all its guises, it can have a huge effect in back-end outcomes.
Posted: November 16th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
Question from a ‘war-weary’ IT Director: “We are attempting to integrate two organizational units with disparate IT systems and processes. Our systems analysts have discovered quite a lot of information but ownership is sketchy and there are few diagrams to help. Any suggestions?”
Richard Rose, Pearcemayfield Director and Consultant Trainer replies:
It seems to me that OBASHI®, a business modelling method that both business and ‘techies’ can use is relevant here. If you are running your ship under the ITIL® best practice approach to IT Service Management, you may well have a configuration management database holding a lot of the underlying information required to populate the bottom layers of an OBASHI Business and IT diagram (see below). However, your concerns about ownership are answered by the top two layers (Ownership and Business Processes). The other layers are Applications, Systems, Hardware and Infrastructure – hence the method is called OBASHI.
Placing the elements above or below each other within the framework signifies a relationship between the elements. For example, placing an Owner element above a Business Process element signifies that the business processes belongs to that owner. Placing a business process above an application signifies that the process uses that application etc…
Elements can then be connected on the Business and IT diagram to denote a physical relationship, such as the connection between a piece of hardware and an infrastructure element. Building up a set of pictures in this way (possibly on multiple OBASHI diagrams) helps you describe the organization and get the ‘Big Picture’. Once you have the big picture of all your assets, processes and their ownership, you then have the opportunity to use the diagrams for analysis and will be able to identify duplication, redundancy and latency of any of the elements within the enterprise.
I would advise your systems analysts to document their findings in the form of these diagrams – even if it merely serves the purpose of mapping the technology before they hand it on to your business analysts or process analysts to draw the picture together at the top level.
By the way, these Business and IT diagrams have an even more useful purpose in the realm of organizational change as they represent the current blueprint or operating model of the business. The future model can then be designed and compared with the current model to identify the capabilities and projects required to deliver the future state.
OBASHI® is a registered trade mark of APM Group Limited | ITIL® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited
Posted: November 10th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
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Posted: November 1st, 2014 by Adrian Boorman
Contents of the Paper
- JUST MORE TIME MANAGEMENT?
- DO I REALLY NEED THIS?
- WHAT DOES OYME DELIVER?
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- SO WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR ME?
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Posted: October 14th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
How we can help you explore your options, understand your problems better, recommend solutions or just be there to execute projects on your behalf.
Posted: October 1st, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
Last week I was speaking at a project management conference in Prague. I received a warm welcome and met some very switched-on practitioners. As a result my presentation on the Behaviours of High Performers seemed to resonate with most of the 180 or so delegates there.
At the end of the morning I was invited to join the speaker panel where questions were open to the audience. As the panel session drew to an end someone asked me a very pertinent question:
“You laid our four behaviours you observed in high performers. Which one is the most important?”
I had toured the conference through:
- Personal Margins
- Leaning to Action
- Leaning to People
I explained that each of these four were not independent of each other, so the question was a good one. Some behaviours drive the rest. If you held a gun to my head I would choose one. The behaviour, or better still the habit, that drives all the others is, I believe, Self-Awareness.
The practice of self-awareness is where I stand back from myself and my results and observe my thought processes, and where could I improve my approach the next time around. If I were to regard myself as an Agile project, then it would be a kind of personal retrospective at the end of a sprint. I have learned to be curious about myself, and about the evidence of my performance. I ask myself such questions as: “What did I learn from that? What results were driven by what I did or by circumstances? What could I have done better? What should I stop doing? What if I had done the opposite? Next time round, when could or should I schedule the preparatory work? Is there a checklist for this situation that I can now develop?” and so on.
I now do something like this as routine when I journal, and I journal almost daily. I believe it is making me better at what I do.
Daniel Goleman and others have identified this all-too-infrequent practice of self-awareness as the bedrock of emotional intelligence; that quality that separates high performers from the rest, that separates us from animals driven purely by instinct.
So, do yourself a favour. Treat yourself like a work-in-progress. Be kind to yourself when you fail or get a less-than-brilliant result. But above all, learn from it, and adapt.
Posted: August 15th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
Q: “What language should we use internally to introduce Programme Management practice?”
Richard Rose, Director of Finance and Information for pearcemayfield replies:
If we are to consider the language to be used in introducing programme management from a top-down approach, you need to bear in mind the strategic or portfolio view which focuses on organizational capabilities, benefits to be derived and the strategic objectives to be satisfied. In this context programmes may be seen as co-ordinating business-led change across a number of initiatives to achieve a strategic goal, which at board level would make perfect sense.
However, if we are to consider the question from within a programme environment you should not forget that programmes focus on delivering benefits to the organization and you would be well advised to steer clear of technical jargon at programme level. The key to delivering programmes successfully is to engage with the organizational units for whom the change is being introduced. By adopting their language and engaging empathetically with the business stakeholders, the programme manager (and therefore the programme) will gain far greater credibility with those who will undergo the transformation activities. This in turn will drive up the probability of success.
‘Techno-speak’ should be left to the project teams when they deliver the outputs and enablers for the programme as it is at this level that the technical details are ironed out. However, the technological solutions need to be translated into operational terms for the organization which is where the business change manager’s role steps into the fray.
All-in-all it doesn’t matter from which perspective you view programme management because the constant factor is operating seamlessly with the business.
If you would like to explore what our Managing Successful Programmes products can deliver for you then please do get in touch with us. I believe that pearcemayfield is uniquely placed to offer you the very best of programme management support available in today’s marketplace with courses designed by one of the MSP 2007 edition chapter authors, Patrick Mayfield.
Whatever your needs, from accredited training to Foundation, Practitioner or even Advanced Practitioner level to senior management briefings for those who face the challenge of taking their organisations to new levels of performance as well as prioritising investment in projects, we can help. We even offer a one day overview, designed for anyone involved in an MSP programme to provide a basic appreciation of the main features and terms of MSP.
I hope to have the pleasure of working with you in the future.
Don’t forget you can win a free ecopy of Patrick’s new Book Practical People Engagement (PPE) worth £24.38 if your question gets featured by us.You can ask us your questions here
Posted: July 15th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
This question was raised by an IT analyst at a global bank this month. His team had been using Agile approaches but had dwindled in numbers until now only he remained. He had posed the question to a trainer who said, “No.”
Let’s look at this a little more closely.
If you approach Agile working as a system of practices, roles, processes, techniques and artefacts, then I would agree. How can you have a Scrum of one? Where is the self-organizing team?
However, if you approach Agile as a mindset, a way of attacking your work, then I would disagree with the trainer. I use Agile all the time in my own personal organization. It is possible to scale Agile down to just yourself.
Let me give just three examples:
- Timeboxing. I use a variety of pomodoro apps on my laptop and tablet. When I am doing specifically creative work, I protect myself from distractions and, as far as possible, from interruptions, set the pomodoro timer and chunk the work up into a series of, well, sprints. This simple technique has helped me to focus and really does make more productive. You can find more about the pomodoro technique here…
Personal Kanban. Strictly speaking, Kanban originates from Lean, but kanban boards have been enthusiastically adopted by many Agile teams. Jim Benson has written an excellent book on this, and the personal kanban is regularly the most popular technique people take away from our Organizing Yourself More Effectively (OYME) workshop. I use Trello on my laptop and iPad. I like the way can “pull” work from my “To Do” column, and I’m getter better at knowing and limiting my “Doing” bandwidth.
- Next Steps. Equivalent to elements in a product backlog, I favour David Allen’s guideline of the 20-minute rule: break tasks down to 20-minute chunks; do the next one, and if it takes not more than 20 minutes it is practically actinable in my working day.
So when you approach Agile as a mindset, there is every reason to say, “Yes” to solo Agile working.
If you are interested in learning more and improving your productivity, we run a powerful OYME workshop.