Lessons of a Learning Leader.
'Lest I missed anything in my youth' (Alexander von Humboldt)
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.
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: June 17th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
“The buzz on Friday from those who attended was better than for any other workshop I’ve ever attended! We learned a lot and collectively seem determined to put it all into practice”
Client Lead - Strategy, Performance and Communications Directorate | Science and Technology Facilities Council
“Just to say that I thought the course was excellent- far exceeded my expectations. John was a brilliant trainer- took the time and effort to help us all with understanding the content and made the experience thoroughly enjoyable”
Head of Strategic Policy and Programme Management - Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service
Call us now and discover for yourself why so many choose pearcemayfield as their L&D partner of choice
Q. Compared to our competitors how do you rate the QUALITY of our training?
Over 82% of our clients said “Better” or “Much better”
Q. How responsive were we to your needs?
“Very responsive / Extremely responsive“ said 94%
Q. How well did our course trainer answer your questions?
24% of you answered “Well” and 76% said “Extremely well”
Q. How useful will our training be to you in the future?
“Moderately” 9%; “Very useful” 56% and Extremely useful 36%
Q. How likely are you to recommend pearcemayfield training to colleagues?
“Likely” said 4%, “Very likely” a further 56% and “ EXTREMELY LIKELY” said 59%
Source: In-house data capture from SurveyMonkey post-event evaluation forms. Sample size 90 for period September 2012 – April 2014
Posted: April 16th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
Q: “We took our PRINCE2 certification with pearcemayfield two years ago and are presently managing our company’s PRINCE2 projects. Recently I stumbled across something which I feel may actually be a weakness in the PRINCE2 methodology. Since the project execution gets approved stage-by-stage by the Project Board, it is essential that the Project Board authorizes or rejects the execution of the next stage in the form presented during the Project Board Meeting. But what is the way forward if neither the Project Board as a group nor the Executive as an individual have the will to authorize or reject? What if the Project Board Meeting repeatedly runs out of time and postpones the decision-making to a follow-up session where the decision gets postponed again?
Is this actually covered in the methodology?”
Patrick Mayfield, Chairman of pearcemayfield and a respected Best Practice Author replies:
Thank you for getting in touch with us. You make an important point and we agree! PRINCE2 clearly emphasises that the central function of End of Stage control is decision-making. Everything in the timing of the meeting – including where sensible stage boundaries are drawn – and the Agenda of the meeting is geared towards making an informed “go”/”no go” decision. If the decision is not made, then much of the governance within PRINCE begins to fail.
It sounds to us that this is a stakeholder issue for you, in that either
- the dynamics of the meeting may be overloaded and lengthy, perhaps with too many extraneous matters,
- the people in executive roles do not have the authority, or
- if they do have authority, they are not using it.
I hope this clarifies somewhat the issues for you but do give us a call if you would like to explore in more detail.
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: April 11th, 2014 by Patrick Mayfield
Those businesses who are effective in engaging with people and gaining their trust and cooperation that will achieve sustainable good relationships with their workforce, Patrick Mayfield says
There has been a lot of negativity around a recent report by ORC International, stating that UK companies are struggling to engage their employees. In fact we are placed near the bottom of a list of 20 countries with only 48 per cent of employees reported to be engaged with their jobs.
For those of you who may not have seen the report, employees are saying that their employers are not recognising or encouraging innovative thinking, the very factors which are known to be key drivers in engagement.
Personally, I believe there is scant excuse for a company with a disengaged workforce, which derives from bad management practices, a lack of good training and poor communication skills.
I don’t want to dwell on these rather depressing statistics as this sort of pessimism serves little purpose. But what we need to do is concentrate on is finding a solution to reverse this sorry state of affairs.
People engagement is not difficult to achieve, but you do need to take steps to make it happen, it won’t just come about by itself.
One of the most powerful and one of the first rules of engagement is to listen; to ask people what their thoughts, aspirations, fears and needs are. By simply demonstrating an interest in someone is an effective way of starting to break down any barriers or misunderstandings. Listening to the viewpoints of people working in different departments and at different levels within an organisation can reveal factors you may previously have been totally unaware of. Face-to-face is the most powerful mode of engagement and businesses should be using it.
If we are currently facing an employee engagement crisis, we should perhaps also be admitting that we are facing a leadership dilemma. Leaders are the people who set direction, they chart a new course and to engage people effectively, you need someone to lead the way. People need purpose, they need meaning and some sort of picture of what the organisation they work for is aiming to realise.
I think we have to take care not to confuse ‘leaders’ with ‘leadership’, as although all leaders are managers as well, not all managers are leaders. For example, on the road to engagement, you need to ask ‘how’ and ‘when’, so involving a degree of management thinking alongside a leader’s perspective. It is helpful to remember that when we refer to leadership, we’re not talking about positional power and authority, leaders can and should arise from all levels within an organisation, regardless of their power or seniority. What I’m saying is that a business needs to have both leaders and managers, working in tandem towards achieving engagement.
There is growing evidence that people who make better leaders have a bias towards action. These people also display a distinct bias towards developing and maintaining relationships. The self-aware, proactive manager instinctively understands that relationships are central to success and think about their relationships in a real and active way.
Which brings me to thinking about another rule of engagement – collaboration – giving employees a voice so they can be heard and understood. Collaboration should never be an abdication of leadership, but is often a very potent form of it. Well executed collaboration mobilises people to take part in peer group discussions and can often help to develop healthier, new habits in the process. Asking a group of people to participate in some form of collaboration is in itself a means of engaging with them. And what could be more transparent than signalling to a group of employees that you welcome their views and participation?
Participation using this sort of technique can generate passion, which should be noted just as much as any rational conclusions and recommendations. In less formal collaborative sessions, people may feel they can speak more freely on matters that they might be more cautious about in a conventional meeting. This can provide valuable insights about people’s real frustrations and hopes.
An organisation with employees who are all eager to learn and develop is a vision which appeals to us all. But that organisation should be clear that, in order to achieve this, it requires employee engagement to be an integral part of its strategic plan.
Around 50 years ago American psychologist, Frederick Herzberg, first wrote about ‘motivation factors at work’. He differentiated between ‘hygiene’ or ‘maintenance factors’, such as salary, work conditions and work-life balance, which can cause dissatisfaction if missing, but do not necessarily motivate employees if increased, and true motivation factors – such as achievement, recognition and advancement.
His central theory is still relevant to employer/employee relationships today. Certain factors in the workplace cause job satisfaction, and a completely separate set of factors cause dissatisfaction, the two acting quite independently of each other.
Engagement is not an exact science and often feels more like an exploration into the unknown at times. But it is those businesses who are effective in engaging with people and gaining their trust and cooperation that will achieve sustainable good relationships with their workforce.
Posted: April 4th, 2014 by pearcemayfield
Press release on RootsSudan March 2014
SCHOOLS IN SUDAN EXCEL WITH HELP FROM OXFORDSHIRE/UK TRAINING COMPANY
A charity school initiative, supported by Oxfordshire/UK based training company pearcemayfield, has led to two schools in the town of Yei in Southern Sudan achieving outstanding academic results.
Roots Sudan is a charity that pearcemayfield as a company, and people within pearcemayfield have supported for a number of years. The relationship began when John Edmonds, Director of Strategy and Marketing and Head of Training at pearcemayfield, first visited South Sudan as part of the company’s CSR policy in 2008. John explains: “We were keen to give something back to our world. Since then the charity has been gradually raising funds and supporting educational initiatives in that country.”
This week, John Edmonds was delighted to receive a message from Sudan saying that one of the schools, Nehemiah Orphanage Secondary School has been declared the top performing school in the whole of Southern Sudan. In addition, the Nehemiah Primary School came top in the Primary Leaving Exams for the whole region of Juba, Yei and Lainya with the top three performing students coming from the same school.
John Edmonds continues: “We have been supporting both these schools by building and equipping school libraries and classrooms, so are delighted and encouraged to hear that we are making a difference to the lives of young people in a country with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.”
Roots Sudan has benefited from the support of pearcemayfield, including a campaign where the company donated £5 for every place booked on its public training events.
For more information on Roots Sudan visit www.rootssudan.org