Lessons of a Learning Leader.
'Lest I missed anything in my youth' (Alexander von Humboldt)
Posted: October 15th, 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: 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.
Posted: July 14th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
The last year has been a season of publishing for me. September 2013 saw the launch of my first solo book, Practical People Engagement. This led to it being adopted as the core reference for APMG-International’s new Stakeholder Engagement Certification. Copies are shipping very well. People seem genuinely appreciative of its style and content.
And I’ve just come out of leading a series of Stakeholder Engagement Workshops in the UK and France, that also use the book as its reference. Leaning to People is one of the key behaviours emerging from our research into high performers and we major on this in the workshop. I find it fascinating as I work with clients on ways to develop this behaviour. It is a competence area that each of needs to consciously own and develop for ourselves.
The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook
A few months ago Richard Smith approached me asking if I would like to write a chapter on Stakeholder Strategy in a book about to be published by Kogan Page called The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook. This book is based upon the Change Management Institute’s Body of Knowledge, which was published last year. APMG-International sponsored the project, with the intention that this Handbook will become the core reference for future certification in Change Management.
Having read through the other contributions, I have found it has shaped up to become quite a powerful, extensive resource, with a strong coherence across all the facets of change management. Due to be published on 3rd November this year, you can pre-order your copy of the Handbook now through Amazon. I’m honoured to be part of this work.
Driving Up Benefits
For my part, I’ve come at this whole field from a programme and project management perspective. I worked on the 1997 edition of Managing Successful Programmes, and in particular authored the chapter on Leadership and Stakeholder Engagement. It clarified for me the absolutely central contribution of influencing people through relationships. Taking issue with the movie The Field of Dreams, we can build it, but they won’t necessarily come. In fact, it is well documented that there is to this day, much successful delivery that ultimately yields zero benefit. What a waste. Strong leadership and influencing skills not only enables better delivery but also drives up value from the investment through better adoption by the customer. Benefits realization only really kicks in on the back of strong senior and business-side leadership.
Others have come at this subject of organizational change management from different directions. Some, such as Richard Smith and my colleague Mark Withers have come at this from an Organizational Development perspective, where projects are merely necessarily vehicles as part of a wider strategic agenda. Others come at the subject from business analysis or employee engagement perspectives. Whatever our departure point, many of us meet around this subject of change management.
When Richard Smith spoke at the recent APMG-International Showcase in Westminster about the new Handbook he described change management as an emergent profession. In Australia and New Zealand, in particular, job titles with ‘Change Manager’ in them are rising.
I work as a synthesizer of different management fields. I look for patterns and transferable lessons from one field to another. So this emerging coherence and appreciation for change management makes perfect sense to me. We need to break down silos of thinking, jargon and communication within organizations – particularly between technology innovators and operations people – so that we get the best results. As Peter Senge argued, we need Network Leaders, people who work on the fringes of the different tribes within our businesses. These functional walls are often past their sell-by dates anyway, and owe more to out-of-date old-school thinking.
The authors of the Handbook gathered after the Showcase. It was the first time I had met some of the others. I had a blast talking with people like Ranjit Sidhu, Una McGarvie and Robert Cole. These were deep conversations with like-minded people from slightly different fields and diverse experiences. I’d like to think that this is much of what is the power of change management: purposeful conversations.
As for my chapter, I’ve laid out the proposition that engaging stakeholder is the essence of change management. Shrink it down. It could be two people talking where there is an outcome; they agree to do things differently. It is organizational change management in miniature.
Posted: June 30th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
Patrick Mayfield, experienced practitioner, author and coach in programme management and stakeholder engagement, presented to the Programme Management SIG on 29th May.
Patrick leads pearcemayfield, an Oxfordshire-based international consultancy and training business.
Through involvement in writing “best practice”, observing behaviours and the focus of BoKs, I have a growing conviction that we are focussing on the wrong things. It’s not that the majority of elements in, say, the APM BoK are wrong; they are necessary, but not sufficient.
From observation of high performers, there seems to be a very different emphasis as evidenced by a distinct but consistent pattern of behaviours.
The good news is that we can learn from High Performers and improve our own performance.
A few years ago there was some chatter on the internet, across certain blogs, that went like this: “if only we could get into the minds of high performers, find out what their mental checklist was, we could follow that checklist and get the same results.” It was straight out of cognitive psychology’s playbook.
So we decided to do some research into project and programme managers. We noted similar work by:
- Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus into skill acquisition by certain professions;
- David Partington and Sergio Peregrenelli’s phenomenological study at Cranfield into programme and project managers; and
- Andy Crowe’s work in the States into ‘Alpha’ project managers.
We called this the Crib Sheet Project. Our research questions were simply: “Do all programme/project managers have such a checklist? And if they do, is it the same?” We ran the same research design over two consecutive years – taking a cohort of volunteer programme/project managers and their line managers, sending them a weekly questionnaire, and then conducting telephone interviews with the subjects and their line managers at the end of six weeks. Weekly questionnaires allowed us to reconfigure and hunt for new data as questions arose from the data.
Towards the end, through line manager validation, we identified a small sub-group that Crowe calls the “Alphas”, and that these did display a distinctly different modus operandi. It seemed that these “alpha-traits”, as we called them, did have personal checklists, but they were different from each other; no two checklists seemed to be the same. However, what was more consistent were their patterns of behaviour, which we came to believe were learned behaviours. These emergent patterns of like behaviour were:
- Personal margins. All the alpha-traits kept back a portion of their time. To them this seemed obvious, whereas the majority allowed themselves sometimes to be fully scheduled. This basic time management discipline helped the alpha-traits draw on a buffer when the unexpected happened.
- Leaning to action. If personal margins allowed them to react, most of their overt behaviours were the opposite, leaning into the challenge of their programme or project.
- Taking these first two patterns together, it was illuminating that one respondent, a portfolio manager in a police authority, remarked in their interview, “The study made me think how reactionary I am for most of the time.”
- Leaning to relationships. This was by far the most marked pattern. We sought to identify how the subjects used their time when they had a choice. So we measured ‘discretionary time’. One of the ways we studied this was to divide this discretionary time between task-oriented activities and people-oriented activities. The results were dramatic.
The majority of the population spent between 8-12% of their time in people-oriented activities.
Whereas, the alpha-traits spent between 60-80% of their time in these activities in any given week.
For example, one interim programme manager told us: “I made it my business when I came here to immerse myself in the business community, to understand who was who, and how they functioned.”
- Self-aware. We didn’t intend to validate this bedrock of emotional intelligence, but this emerged quite strongly. The alpha-traits took seriously “thinking about my thinking”, challenging their hypotheses and seeking to improve their working priorities. An indicator of this was that they could all articulate their top five most important areas, whereas the majority struggled to list five.
Dr Norma Wood, as Interim Director General at the Major Projects Authority (MPA), was responsible for the oversight of a public annual portfolio in the UK Government of £440billion. Part of MPA’s initiative is to improve the performance of these major projects through their leadership academy. She reflects that the module on “Personal Mastery” is one of the most illuminating in the whole programme.
The Dreyfus brothers similarly formulated their skills acquisition model. It seems that the Competent, Proficient and Expert levels are more context-specific, intuitive, but also people at these levels ‘own’ their own learning and actively work on honing their skills.
Most of organisation’s L&D efforts invest in the lower order of competence levels, and fail to use alpha-traits as models and coaches.
If we are not yet at the alpha-trait level, most of the patterns we observe, especially with the tyranny of the urgent, feel counter-intuitive, rather like steering a rear-wheel car into a skid.
We need to reappraise what is important to our work. Our focus isn’t necessarily wrong, just limited and unbalanced. We need to see the bigger picture. Our alpha-traits seem to notice more as relevant in their work that others often miss, such as the quality of relationships with key stakeholders.
In my recent book, Practical People Engagement, I propose the Value Ladder as representing the key states in the business life cycle of change – deliver, use, embed – as steps on a ladder. What binds these steps together throughout the life cycle from start to finish are a leaning to action and a leaning to relationships.
We can view these steps as a transition model going through Kurt Lewin’s three states of Unfreeze, Move (use), and Refreeze (embed). What goes with this is the task of working with people to maximise benefit realisation. If we view this journey through these three states from the point of view of business stakeholders learning new competences, then we can expect a dip in performance when they hit conscious incompetence. This is not often allowed for in business case planning.
Again, I contend we have been focusing, emphasising the wrong things. The good news is that we can consciously learn to develop these new behaviours.
Posted: June 28th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
Earlier this week, I kicked off the APMG-International Paris Showcase by talking about our research into high performing programme and project managers. There were some really good questions at the end.
One delegate came up to me afterwards saying how that what I had said was “honey to my ears”. She felt that the problem was with French culture after having got used to this approach under a British manager. Well, I’m not at all sure that it is a national trait at all, given the positive feedback I received that day and my albeit limited experience of working in France. I believe it is primarily an issue of awareness and confidence, but we are testing this in the field.
There was much interest in the focus around personal disciplines, an area where most of think is trivial. We are all recidivists when we come to personal organisation, which is why the emotional intelligence bedrock of self-awareness is so important. High performers regularly re-examine what they do, how they think and feel about things, and adjust.
If you’d like to see the slides, here they are on Slideshare below, and here they are in Prezi (which I actually presented from).
Posted: June 19th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
Last night I attended the launch of a new version of DSDM in London. This was auspicious for the DSDM Consortium because this new version also marks 20 years since it was formed.
I was given a copy of the new reference, and I like it. It continues to improve as a method.
The Consortium has always recognised that given the Framework’s ambitious reach “one size fits all” is a false trail. After all, DSDM goes beyond inward-focused build to embrace a complete Lifecycle from idea to deployment, as well as scaling up to large-scale Agile development. So the message in the new version is “tailor intelligently”, given the context the Agile team finds itself within. In my opinion, this core reference gets it just about right, including a very helpful chapter on tailoring.
The improvements include clearer, simpler diagrams and helpful icons. As a visual learner, I appreciate this. Thought has gone into a good use of colour, particularly for identify which stakeholder group a particular role comes from or represents within the team. One particular example was very helpful: in the chapter on People, Teams and Interaction there is a very useful graphic comparison of team interaction across distributed teams in two ways using video conferencing (see photo).
I’m glad the new Lifecycle has been simplified. The Exploration and Engineering phases have been merged into a single Evolutionary Development phase. Good. In my experience, Agile teams are creative enough with the discipline of timeboxing to know when to move from exploratory work to more convergent build.
Products have been reduced from 17 to 14 and there is a much clearer diagram positioning each of these within the DSDM Lifecycle.
There are better reference and explanations of well-established techniques within Agile practice such as User Stories.I found this chapter well written.
Less is More
There are a reduced number of chapters. The language is clearer and sometimes less dogmatic. For example, each iteration should ideally have no more than 60% Must Have requirements.
For me, there is one disappointment: the page layout. I had hoped with the new version, the layout for such large pages would either have wider margins – useful for practitioners to make their own notes – or else gone to double-column. Instead I fear that the single column, narrow margin layout will continue to inhibit some readers from mining the wealth of material here.
A Positive Leap Forward
Overall, though, true to the philosophy of DSDM, this version evidences an evolutionary development by the Consortium. We will be using this version on future versions of our Agile Project ManagementTM Practitioner Certified training, and I will probably weave some of this material into our Agile Application Labs also.
Thank you, DSDM Consortium, for this contribution to the field.
Posted: June 17th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
Q: A reader of Patrick Mayfield’s book Practical People Engagement, presently studying for a Masters degree at a London University, writes to him with reference to the impact of psychological bias on the writing of Business Cases…
I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for giving us such an invigorating book (Practical People Engagement). It’s an excellent piece of work, and, believe me, I’ve never finished reading any book in 2 days in my entire life!
Could I ask you to shed some light on a thought please?
Practical People Engagement – page 193: Business Case.
According to a 2006 Cranfield University School of Management study on business cases in the ICT industry, 96 percent of the respondents develop business cases, but:
• 69 percent were not satisfied with the business case development process
• 68 percent were not satisfied with the identification and structuring of benefits
• 81 percent were not satisfied with the evaluation and review of results
• 38 percent admitted that benefits claims were exaggerated to get the business case approved
My concern about business cases is that they don’t include ‘sunk’ cost and ‘opportunism’ costs which arise from the opportunistic behaviour of stakeholders (such as suppliers, contractors, and employees etc…) in other words contractual and transaction costs). These costs are not even part of a contingency or buffer and eventually will impact on the bottom line! Non-inclusion must surely lead to an incomplete the business case?
I believe, that EI (Emotional Intelligence) is missing from the business cases which are more based on CI (Cognitive Intelligence) and therefore opportunism is not allowed for. Would you agree that if we can address this, then we’d make better business cases and hopefully improve the statistics above?
I’d be really interested to know your thoughts on this.
Patrick Mayfield, Chairman of pearcemayfield and a respected Best Practice Author replies:
Thank you so much for your kind and complimentary remarks about my book. I’ve been delighted not just by all the very positive feedback that I’ve received but by the demand for delivery of workshops on the subject of Stakeholder Engagement, both at home and abroad.
On this one, yes, there is a very real problem on psychological biases. For a good recent treatment of this I’d recommend Steve Jenner’s excellent “Managing Benefits” and yes, mostly Business Cases are written from a Cognitive Intelligence perspective.
But, as I’ve maintained for a number of years, the Business Case is more than an attempt (despite biases) at a rational ‘Why”, it should also connect with the Communications Plan as an emotional reason.
There is a similar issue with Vision Statements. These are often laboriously edited and re-edited by the few, but are consistently under-communicated, and then without personal stories of how people in that visionary future might benefit.
Also, since you are aware of the literature on psychological biases you might be interested to know that my Value Ladder (Practical People Engagement: Page7) originally had ‘bias to relationships’ and ‘bias to action’ as the two supports. Then my friend and colleague Mark Withers pointed out the negative and unconscious connotations that ‘bias’ has these days; hence they are now worded ‘leaning to relationships’ and ‘leaning to action’.
You may be interested to know that pearcemayfield is now offering accredited Better Business Cases ™ Practioner training both as public courses and also in-house for our clients, but the key to me on improving the statistics Cranfield collected seems to be frequent and sensitive assurance on these business cases.