Lessons of a Learning Leader.
'Lest I missed anything in my youth' (Alexander von Humboldt)
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
Posted: June 11th, 2015 by John Edmonds
John Edmonds explains why he believes that Project Managers can be key agents for change in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world and explores the challenges they face.
Download Ten Steps to Leading Change White Paper by John Edmonds
Posted: May 19th, 2015 by Richard Rose
Richard Rose, Director of Finances & IT and Training Consultant replies:
The OBASHI framework was invented by Fergus Cloughley and Paul Wallis of Stroma Software Ltd. during late 2001, following their collaboration on a project to help plant managers visualise and understand how and why IT assets supported business services within British Petroleum, Grangemouth, Scotland.
The subsequent OBASHI methodology was born out of the need for business professionals to easily understand the dollar per second value of dataflow that supports their business services in a simple and meaningful way so accurate and better informed operational and strategic decisions could be made.
Cloughley and Wallis recognized that by developing a methodology around the OBASHI framework, the existing methods for costing and valuing the flow of data in the Oil & Gas / Process Control industry could be made universally applicable to flows of data in all sectors.
Mored details on OBASHI® Business Design Method Foundation
Posted: May 15th, 2015 by Patrick Mayfield
No, it’s inevitable. In today’s business environment it is almost impossible to fail somewhere along the way.
The issues are: first, will I accept that reality? Then can I act so that when I do fail, it is cheap and useful?
Time was when we would develop methodologies that tried to avoid failure altogether. This was a conceit. The way it was typically evidenced in project management was to start further and further back in design:
“We need a plan first.” (This seems like good sense, doesn’t it?)
“Well we need a business case first.” (Of course, who would argue with that; I wouldn’t.)
“Yes but before that we need a Project Brief.”
“Yes, but before that we need a Project Mandate.”
“OK, but before that we need some kind of Strategic Objectives.”
“Yes, but first we need our Vision, Mission and Values.”
We can carry on with this seemingly-rational nonsense for as long as we wish – many consultants and business “gurus” do just that. (Confession time: I own up to having done that in the past as well! )
But when do we actually do something? Where is the execution?
“Oh, no. We’re not ready for that yet. What if we do the wrong thing or do it badly?”
I sometimes think we’ve created a kind of management Catch 22 where we go around and around in ever decreasing circles, never achieving anything substantive. Fear of failure has become a sort of management political correctness. It’s time to face this demon. Is failure always a bad thing? Surely the worst failure of all is never achieving a return on our efforts. Truly we have become victims of paralysis by analysis.
There are two realities we need to get to grips with in breaking out of this syndrome:
- The world is more complex than our models. It is a world where there are unknowns. The unknowns prevent us from planning out all failure. Only as we experiment, execute, are we going to discover more about that complexity.
- We often operate in a management culture of fear. Fear is always bad counselor. Fear is a dreadful strategy and a poor modus operandi. We need courage. With courage we can devise small steps of execution where we are not betting the farm, but instead discovering more and learning from these unexpected results.
My colleague, Richard Rose, and I spoke recently at a conference on Agile Project Management. I found many there who were new to Agile. Others, by contrast, had been so long immersed in Agile practice that they had forgotten the true value of incremental, Just-Enough-Design-Up-Front management. When I said, “Failure is not an option, it’s inevitable,” it seemed lights went on within both groups. Those weary with traditional management that promises much but delivers little, and those immersed in newer, more empirical approaches, both need to be aware of the value of limited failure. We hypothesize about this complex world, test, examine the results, adapt and move on. W.E. Deming had nailed this years ago in his PDCA cycle.
We need a kind of empirical humility about what will happen if we take this action, test it and then see if we are right.
I’d like to think this is what my fellow consultants and I truly make our most valuable contribution. We are sense-makers.
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