Monday, 29 June 2009

Michael Jackson, passion, and box ticking

We will probably soon be observing an expression of public grief about the tragic death of Michael Jackson that could well match, or even excede, that of when Princess Diana died. Now doubt large quantities of creative energy & financial resources will now be expended on paying tribute to the talent and life of Michael Jackson. The news is reporting today that copies of his albums have sold out in shops across the World. Factory runs will have been rescheduled to produce 1000s of t-shirts, calendars and books, I suspect.

This is not meant to sound cynical. Along with millions of people I too am sad at the passing of his creative genius in both music and dance (as Germain Greer chose to highlight). And I appreciate the need to grasp at some of his magic through photographs, CD's and memorabilia.

But all this has got me pondering about passion.

How many organisations can hope to get even a smidgeon of the passion, loyalty and verve that Michael Jackson provoked in his lifetime and now in his death? How many chief executives appear on T-shirts, how many Annual Reports are sold out, how many poems are written about the company procedures? How many company songs are sung more like John Redwood singing the Welsh National Anthem than the people spontaneously singing Jackson's songs outside the hospital where he died?

Daft questions of course - but I am left wondering whether in the pursuit of the rational, the logical, and the detail something has been lost? Have organisations now become so organised... proceduralised, quantified and target driven... that passion has been left out of the equation? Where is the poetry, passion and verve in most organisations?

I suspect it is still there albeit buried under box-ticking protocols and well researched (but essentially dry and dessicated) business plans.
For me the mark of an exceptional leader is one who can balance the need for organisation with the need for passion.

Therein lies much success, I suspect.

Change alchemy: Safety

Not losing face is so important to us that we often even help our enemies to avoid it.

Any change carries with it an implicit threat that those who designed or practiced the past must be wrong and therefore lose face. Therefore it is vital to make it safe for people to change and give up the past.

In other words when people attempt to practice or think in the new ways there should be only praise and no punishment. Experiments may go wrong but the good intent must be honoured

Do the leaders in your organisation maintain face by changing or not changing?

How can you make it safe to change?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Change alchemy: Targeted communication

I have yet to visit an organisation which does not have a ‘communication problem’. If change is underway then these problems are magnified.

With regard to managing change, therefore, it is always a wise thing to do far more education, communication, involvement, engagement and consultation than you really think is necessary. Even then it probably won’t seem to be enough.

It helps to target your consultation, communication and education – different groups of people will have different needs and objectives. With shrewd planning, less can be more.

As a leader, how do you help people to be committed to a change, how can you make sure they understand what is happening, and how can you allow them to shape at least part of the future?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Change and grief

Usually grief is associated with someone dying or dealing with the end of a long term relationship. Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ book On death and dying (1969) is well known and her ideas have been extensively applied to work around managing change in organisations

When a change is proposed, the reaction of many people is not dissimilar from a grieving process. But what are people grieving for?

In my view – what people are missing is the future they thought they were going to have and the certainty that they had around their place in that future.

This suggests that managing change is very much an emotional process as well as everything else.

As a leader, how will you handle that emotion? What ‘rites of passage’ will be needed to help everyone ‘move on’?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Open Space

Open Space was developed by Harrison Owen. According to Harrison, the idea came to him after an ordinary conference he spent a year designing. He left thinking to himself (and the evaluations proved it) that the best bits of the event had been the break-times when the participants had networked and exchanged ideas with a wide range of people. He resolved to create a conference process that was, in essence, one long coffee break!

Just like a coffee break at an event – you get to talk about the most important things – things that you choose (rather than have chosen for you). You also get to move around and dip between various conversations. Unlike coffee breaks, in an Open Space event you get to know what everyone else is choosing to talk about so that you can join in, as you wish.

An Open Space conference begins with a clear overarching theme and with all the participants usually sitting in a large circle. The rules and principles of the event are explained to every one by skilled facilitators. (One rule, for example, is the Law of Mobility: if you enter a discussion, stay only as long as it is proving to be worthwhile to you. When it stops being worthwhile, move away. One of the key principles is ‘Whoever comes is the right people’ meaning that meetings of one, ten or fifty are equally valid and you work with whomever turns up.) The participants are then invited to suggest an issue that they feel passionate about. After a pause, people come forward, the agenda is built and the event comes alive.

Over the course of one, two or three days, meetings are held, decisions are made, information is recorded and exchanged (having computers and printing facilities on site is a very helpful) and all in all a great deal of work is achieved. Participants have often commented that sometimes months of work can be done in the space of a few hours using this approach.

Open Space is ideal when various interests of different groups are largely unknown and there is a great need to forge some connections between key stakeholders. Open Space allows themes and issues of common interest to emerge in a wholly bottom-up way. It may appear ‘too open’ for some - but it has been shown to be most useful & productive. This is mainly because Open Space is driven by what concerns people the most.

Further information:

Open Space Technology – A User’s Guide (second edition) by Harrison Owen Published by Berret Kohler 1997

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The vision thing - dreaming not smarting

What do you want to achieve? I find it useful to apply the ‘DREAM’ (rather than SMART) framework to my goals:

  • Deliverable – how, when, who etc will bring this goal about
  • Real – how is the world going to be different when this goal is realised – how will things look, sound, feel... Different?
  • Ecological – how does this goal balance with other goals or parts of your life?
  • Affirmative – make sure the goal is phrased in the positive rather than the negative
  • Mine – whose goal? This has to be your goal – “what am I going to achieve”

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Change alchemy: Inviting people to the future

  • Leading change is seen by many as daunting mixture of alchemy, tenacity and luck. What are some of the critical ingredients to add to the crucible?
  • Having a clear and communicable vision of how the world (organisation, context) will be different is essential.
  • Describing what people will be doing more or less of, how systems might change, how decision making will change will help put shape to the future.
  • Done well it will draw and invite people into this future.
  • Are you managing a change at the moment?
  • Do you have a future vision which is
  • justifiable,
  • positive,
  • meaningful,
  • attractive and
  • relevant?

What do you fear?

  • Are you a fearless leader?
  • Are you more or less fearless that your colleagues?
  • What do you fear?
  • Is that getting in the way of you becoming an even greater leader?

The real you?

  • When you are at work, doing what you do, managing people, leading people...
  • How much of the time do feel like the real you...?
  • 10%, 62%, all of the time?
  • Do you feel like you are acting out a part that has been given you, or saying things that you would not say if you were the real you...?
  • Would it be better to be more like you at work or not? 

Friday, 12 June 2009

The power of twitter

I am feeling empowered by the new media this morning - my tweeted question to Sir Liam Donaldson concerning H1N1 Flu was asked by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News last night!
(about 1.55 in)
So twitter works!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Chairing skills

Prompted by the fact there are probably going to be lots of new Chairs of various local government (and other) committees appointed over the next few weeks, here is my checklist of what skills an effective chair needs to use - wisely and appropriately: 
  • Listening – really listening to all that is being expressed by the people present, verbally and non verbally
  • Designing – creating agendas that are focused around clear objectives and shaping the ‘process’ of the meeting so that these objectives are achieved elegantly
  • Negotiating – earnestly looking for ways to make sustainable decisions and build consensus around those decisions
  • Adapting – to the various people in the meeting and handling the diversity of different styles & preferences well so that all can make the contribution they wish, to achieving the objectives
  • Allowing – making sure there is the ‘space’ for innovation, reflection, theory and action to be blended into producing the best decisions
  • Arranging - ensuring the physical layout for the meeting is appropriate, comfortable, spacious and interactive
  • Reviewing – regarding the meeting as process which should be critically examined on a very regular basis to ensure the meeting style, agenda, timing (etc.) are all fit for purpose, and having the confidence & courage to change where required

Monday, 1 June 2009

Carrying out a ‘confidence audit’

In the article below concerning the single measure of confidence for the police service, I suggested that carrying out a ‘confidence audit’ might a productive way forward for any police service intent upon improving how much confidence their local citizens have in them

This short posting proposes how such an audit might be conducted. The outline steps in carrying out such an audit could be follows:

  1. Clarify the purpose and scope of the audit at a senior level – involving both the Executive Command Team and the Police Authority
  2. Select the team of people to carry out the review (I would recommend a ‘diagonal slice’ of officers and staff from different parts of the service and from all the tiers from frontline to senior management)
  3. Ensure that all team members have the necessary support and commitment to take full part in the Audit process
  4. Assemble & analyse all the information currently available on how much confidence the local public has in the local service.
  5. Carry out some scoping and cross validation with members and representatives of the public (especially including young people) to find out what kind of police service would give them confidence and what they think of the existing service
  6. Determine what a ‘high confidence’ police service would be like – including its operational procedures, corporate culture, and organisational structure (using the information gathered above and the creative power of the group)
  7. Agree what data needs to be gathered (and how) in order to assess the gap between the ‘high confidence’ specification and the current situation
  8. Carry out the data gathering / research process, and analyse the data
  9. From this analysis (and with reference back to the existing performance & public perception information) identify where the most significant gaps are.
  10. Prepare a summary of the information and outline set of recommendations
  11. Convene a big meeting of stakeholders – internal and external – including members and representatives of the public
  12. Present the findings to this big meeting and allow full, rigorous and authentic debate about what should happen next
  13. Draw together the findings from all this process and present to the Police Authority and Executive Team for review and action

This process is based upon a few key ideas:

  • Data gathering is critical so that a ‘scientific’ approach to improving confidence can be used to challenge established practices
  • Starting from where the public is at is critical – as it their perceptions which will be tested by the new measure
  • Since delivering services which deliver public confidence is a whole organisation responsibility – the whole organisation will need to be involved
  • As mentioned elsewhere on this blog – there is a need for ‘stractegy’ rather than a ‘strutegy’ to ensure robust improvements in confidence
  • This process must be led from the top of the organisation and so sponsorship needs to begin and end there.
  • Creativity is vital so that fresh approaches can be used to ‘reach’ the public
  • Delivering public confidence will be as much about identifying what more the police service needs to do as it will be about identifying what less needs to be done – there will be both driving forces to harness and restraining forces to handle & reduce.
  • A balance will need to be made between fostering lots of small creative ideas to deliver public confidence and shrewdly prioritising what are the few key things which need to be done at an organisation wide / strategic level.
UPDATE: Feedback from one chief constable on this approach who said:

  • Needs to factor in national research in what contributes to confidence as there is plenty of information already available (e.g importance of keeping people informed of progress of cases, making frequent but localised communications
  • Perhaps too much emphasis on what comes from a single large meeting to discuss findings
  • I agree about the need to prioritise the number of initiatives taken forward, given police budgets likely to be cut by 10% over the next three years. If we are to do something additional, we must be convinced that it will be effective.
To which I replied:
  • Yes, absolutely agree on the need to harness evidence based practice in all of this. I am a long time advocate of the need for more evaluation of policing practice – at all levels.
  • I take your point about perhaps too much emphasis on the big meeting idea. I guess I tend to go out on a limb with these a little because a) I know they work so well in gaining wide ownership of & consequent action on the issues involved and b) there is a tendency to focus too much on written ‘strutegies’ – where the emphasis is on gloss rather than palpable action (a ‘stractegy’ as I call that). But, as I say, I do take on board what you say.
  • And prioritisation will become critical as the cuts begin to bite. You might find this blog post of interest as my ‘one pager’ methodology to help people plan where to focus efforts...