flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘change

We are right.  Oh, hold on.  We were wrong.  Completely and utterly wrong.

Have you been in a situation, say, of supporting the invasion of Iraq to destroy WMD and then finding out you were duped.  Well, let’s face it ~ finding out you were wrong.  Wrong about the evidence.  And more importantly, wrong about your certainty.

I’ll argue you that we are not grown up, not quite grown up, until we’ve experienced being utterly wrong, about the facts, their interpretion, our certainty and our right to dismiss the other side.

Yes, we were wrong to dismiss the other side.

We need to seek an apology and forgiveness but I am not going there today.

Converging ideas about new work, organization and management

Today I am getting my thoughts together about the amazing convergence of ideas in business and the current tensions between the old guard and newcomers in management.

Management theory was laid out before World War I and has been a matter of frills and extensions for 100 years.

By the turn of this, the 21st century, we had begun talking about positive organizational scholarship, distributed networked models, and yes, mytho-poetical approaches.

Believe me, these ideas are an 180 degree about turn.  Our first impulse is to say they are wrong.  And they will be wrong in parts. There is no doubt about that.  Nothing is every completely right.

Equally, just because ideas converge, does not mean they are right. Not at all.

But we have to challenge our impulse to dismiss ideas because they are unfamiliar.  If we have a scrap of intellectual honesty, we must recognize that they are inconvenient to those of us who have invested heavily in understanding old ways.

It is our job to go forward with them and turn them into working ideas, to find out their limits, and to find out their worth.

Self-esteem and Nathaniel Branden

As one more piece of the jigsaw puzzle, I looked up the work of Nathaniel Branden.

Branden has worked on self-esteem for 50 years.   Here is one of the touchy-feely ideas that gets rejected out-of-hand.

What struck me is that Branden has asked a question that I haven’t seen asked before and I hadn’t thought to ask.

Can modern businesses survive without people who have high self-esteem?

In times of rapid change and technological development, how can we work, except with people who believe they can cope and who believe they have a right to happiness?  Anyone who expects less is unlikely to rise to the challenge of modern day living, simply because they will accept 2nd best.

And the corollary, of course, is what happens to a company when it is staffed by people who have low self-esteem?

The empirical test for an HR Director, I think, is what happens to people when they join the organization.  Does a person with low self-esteem gradually change to become a calm, composed, assured person who is neither whiny nor dictatorial. Or does the opposite happen?

Self-esteem may be the critical competitive competence of our 21st century world

In the meantime, the world moves on.  We can be sure youngsters with high self-esteem are self-selecting environments that are healthy.

Indeed, I’ll predict that the western country that concentrates on developing wide spread self-esteem will come out best placed as we work through the financial crisis and shift of power to the East.

Enjoy.  We need to relearn our trade.  There is plenty for us to do.

So you want to be a manager?

Harvard Professor, Gary Hamel asks “What problem was management invented to solve?”

How to do things with perfect replicability, at ever-increasing scale and steadily increasing efficiency.

“What is the problem that needs solving now?”

How do you build organizations that merit the gifts of creativity and passion and initiative?”

Are we on the verge of a post-managerial society?

Many organizational designers have been asking: will we have managers of the future?  Here are some of the central dilemma.

Talent

What is the role of talent?  Is it something to be bought and profited from?  Or is what emerges from the configuration of the organization?  Are we talented because we are talented together?

What is the key concept in organizational design?

Understanding how to create organizational value by installing the right feedback loops

What is the nature of change in this century?

Purposefully and creatively experimental

How do we manage risk and not knowing the outcome of our creative experiments?

Set clear boundaries about risk.  Engender insights that minimize risk.

Gary Hamel also asks:

“How have you been trained as a business innovator? What investment has the company made in teaching you how to innovate?”

What will global organizations look like?

The Internet is making it possible to amplify and aggregate human capabilities in ways never before possible.

What does it feel like to learn social media on the double?

My computer knowledge is like that old fashioned holy cheese that you never see in the shops any more.  It joins from end-to-end, and thankfully, it rests on a solid foundation of computer science, but it has holes from years where I’ve either worked with someone who was very good with computers, and they did everything, or we had little to no IT at work, and we were back to taking our work home at night or working on the back of an envelope.

So holes, I have. I know what it feels like.  But I have surrounding ‘cheese’ to guide me and some sense of the basics.

I look at people who are hastily climbing on the social media band-wagon.  And I wonder what that feels like.

How quickly can someone learn to use social media?

  • How happy are they to use a computer, or do they inherently distrust the box?
  • Do they use Google and email?
  • Do they have the first idea what to do when “everything changes”? Do they even have somebody to call when their router mysteriously stops working?
  • Do they use YouTube or Flickr?
  • Do they have their own website?
  • Do they use Skype?
  • Do they know anyone on Facebook or Twitter?
  • Do they blog or know anyone who does?
  • Have they set up a web2.0 community?

And this is on the technical/use side.  What social skills do they have?

  • When was the last time they spoke to a stranger (about something meaningful or useful)?
  • When was the last time they were surprised by a stranger or formal acquaintance?
  • Do they relate as readily to a 15 year old as to a 45 year old as to a 75 year old?
  • Do they talk easily to people of all walks of life and cultures or do they get confused?
  • When was the last time they worked in a group when they were not “in charge” or “following orders”?
  • Can they make the distinction between ‘letting things unfold’ and ‘being lazy”?
  • Do they make the distinction between stiff “politeness” and warm “courtesy”

How quickly can someone take up social media?

My own best guess is that it would be a couple of years to learn social media from a good start.   For many people making a standing-start, it might take a decade because they need to learn a whole new set of social skills.

I don’t even think training courses are sufficient.  Training is for people who have the basic ‘education’ needed to turn general skills into specific, contextual skills.

We can train a geek to set up social media and we can train a community organizer to use social media.  For a deeper understanding, and wider reach to the larger community, we need systemic change.

We need a roll out which helps change the way we do business with each other and increases the use of technology on a day-to-day basis.

Which firms will win the social media race?

I know this is a big ask.  And that is why it is a revolution.

Firms which don’t go through a big re-think are likely to be overtaken by ‘new kids on the block’ who aren’t carrying the baggage of old ways.

Individuals should just get moving using social media at home for personal business and doing community work.  Then move to socially-mediated organizations as soon as they can.

Investors will be watching.  Many are disbelieving that life is changing.  Well, I have seen that before in other contexts.  They will lose their shirts.  Early adopters, though, will not necessarily make much money but they will make a lot of contacts.

Timing is of the essence.  But as we cannot switch without skills and experience, gaining both is key to our future prosperity.

For all of us, doing ‘two’ both at once is key – continuing to make  living from the old (which will get overtaken) while investing in the new.

While the big institutions don’t manage the change, we will have  to do it ourselves – work in old organizations and socially-mediated organizations at the same time.

Art Kleiner

I haven’t read any of Art Kleiner’s books.  How did I miss him?  Well, I seem to have missed him and it is time to make good.

Managers & the Core Group

I am taken with the idea that every organization has a core group. The group could be corrupt, of course, but every organization does have a core who are part of the value chain.

I joined a university early in my career for that reason.  As an academic, I was part of the core, while as a psychologist in HR, I was not.

The perils of neglecting the core

Many of the tensions in modern organizations arise because ‘managers’ have tried to dominate the core – the academics in universities or the doctors in the health service.  It doesn’t work.  Trying to dominate the core, or heart, eats away at its vitality.

Nurture the core

We, managers and administrators are here to serve.  When we understand the core, or heart, and help it function as it should, our organizations flourish.

Managers & the Influencers

And of course, within the organization are groups who are very important because they influence the process in a critical way.  Radar in MASH is much more powerful than the Colonel.  And Hawkeye, a Captain, dominates the Majors with his wit and grasp of the essence of war.

Social dynamics

Kleiner points out that when we first start working with an organization, that we must read the social dynamics. Who has undue influence?  Who has privilege. Formal rank may not matter very much.  When does it, and when does it not?

On the periphery

When we are on the periphery, irritating as it may be, it is worth acknowledging how the system really works. Then we can influence the system, even if we will never be part of the core.

Supporting the core

When we are managing an organization, we can acknowledge who is the core ~ not to give them further privileges, they have those already and will defend them to the last ~ but to subtly influence their acknowledgment and influence of other stakeholders who may not be core, but who they cannot do without.

In the university world, there is a cute poem that begins with students who splash through puddles, then associate professors who can jump over puddles, and Professors who are so magnificent that they can jump over the University Library, the Vice Chancellor who can speak to god and the Departmental Secretary ~ she is god.

Managing organizations

Helping an organization maintain its vitality doesn’t take a lot of heavy-handing action.  Indeed, the opposite.  It takes a little system thinking.  A gentle nudge here and a tactful reminder there.  Sometimes a good humored reminder of reality when we stand aside and stop protecting people from their own arrogance.  When the harm will not be permanent, a lesson in cause-and-effect can be salutary.

The core will always be there.  We destroy value when we deny it. And we risk corruption when we sweep relations between stakeholders under the carpet.

Relationships matter. Interests matter.  We need to get real.

Look harder for an organization whose core you respect

Art Kleiner makes an important point.  There are many organizations whose core is rotten ~ who are evil at heart.  We may be in that core, or we may be fretting about our lower status on the periphery.  What counts is whether we essentially believe that the interests of the core group are good for the organization and our community.  If we believe that, then we stay.

Otherwise, we need to look harder for an organization whose core we respect.  It’s best to be part of the core.  If not, we can serve it.  Gracefully.  Thankfully.  With a little reverance, but with understanding that the core needs others too and that we should help them manage their relationships with others.

Remember power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  We should never let something we respect become so isolated from reality that it corrupts itself with meglamania.

But to change an organization, to nurture its vitality, we must believe that the interests of the core are the organization’s interests.  We need that deep down belief to respect the core and to help it confront issues about its relationships with others.

Am I rambling?  I like the acknowledgment of the core or heart of an organization.  Remember in the words of Colin Powell, leadership is follow me.  We must believe so deeply in those we lead and serve that we want them to be at our side in the heat of enemy fire.

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Art Kleiner

If you want to change an organization, you start by changing the patterns in which people talk together, the things they talk about, the frequency of their contact and the makeup of those who overhear them.” –Art Kleiner, Who Really Matters

Yesterday, thanks to Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace, I discovered Art Kleiner.  My, he writes well.

When you thought there was nothing left to do but grind your teeth

If you have ever been situation where you are helpless, oh, what am I talking about, you feel that every day when you are stuck in traffic, when you call you bank’s call center and when you sit through interminable ineffectual meetings.

Every time you feel helpless, mix it up a little.  Not loudly or aggressively or even mischievously.  Just talk to someone else. Shift the pattern of interactions.  That’s all.

And watch the stifling atmosphere dissipate.

If you are in traffic, let some one in or if you are always letting people in, indicate that you want to go next and let people help you.  Bank call centre’s defeat me, I must admit, but try beginning the call by sincerely asking about their day – that is a lousy, lousy job.

If the meeting is dull, actually listen to the bore and look at them.  OK, not for too long but try half a second?  If you usually speak, try taking notes.

Mix it up.  Just a little.  And let the tensions leak away.

UPDATE: Wow, I didn’t preview the format.  Mixed up for sure.




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Subprime crises ~ again?

Umair Haque‘s article in the Harvard Business blog of yesterday nudged me to think through Donella Meadows 12 levers to change a system.

Umair thinks a lot of activity in Web2.0, or social media, is little more than a “sub-prime crisis”.  And implicitly, he argues that we will continue to have sub-prime crises until we improve our moral and ethic act.

I think we will continue to have sub-prime crises because it is possible for sub-prime crises to happen. What is possible is possible. We don’t control everything!

But we also don’t have to lurch from crisis to crisis.

Managing systems is a little more than just managing

My argument though is that we have to think more clearly.

  • We can think about systems as systems.
  • We can watch that we don’t confuse our individual behavior with system behavior.
  • We can understand the linkages between our individual behavior and system behavior ~ and work clearly on the linkages without confusing these with our emotional reactions to changes in system behavior.

Sadly, few of us are educated in systems thinking. Even fewer are fluent.

In the management world, we have long separated the work of the line (the people who do work) – from managers (the people who make the system) – from staff (the people who manage the managers).

  • It is very necessary for managers to think clearly about systems without  muddle the overall effect with what any one of us does. The art of management is also leveraging without exaggerating or underestimating any of levers.
  • And the staff – the managers of the managers – have their role in training managers and holding up a mirror of their behavior so they have accurate and timely feedback.

Next step in clarifying my thinking about systems

My next step is to review my current think with what Donella Meadows wrote on managing systems.

The subprime crisis is a good impetus to check the quality of our systems thinking!

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Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

Mary, the HR Body put her cheerful face around the door and said “Lunch”.  Yep, I was keen.  There is just so much that I can take in at one time and the Dashboard at Xoozya is pretty comprehensive.

She dangled a key.  “Bring valuables,” she said, “but leave everything else as it is.  We’ll lock the door”.

The canteen wasn’t far and I could hear the buzz as we approached.  It was just as hyped.   Salads, fruit and hot food and the refreshing absence of the cloying smell of old fat and overcooked vegetables.  Sweet.

Mary, ever the professional, asked nimbly whether I ate fish.  I do, and she said, “I’ll get two fish pies – they’re good.  You grab some salads.  I’d like plain lettuce and tomato and pear or some fruit.  Water OK to drink?”  I caught up with her at the cashier where she introduced me as noobe and I put my food on my tab.  We grabbed napkins and cutlery and she led the way to a corner table.  “We’ll join Peter Wainwright, the HR Director.  You remember him, of course?”

As we approached, Peter rose, smiled warmly, and said “Hello, Jo.  Welcome to Xoozya!  Here’s to a prosperous and happy alliance.”

We fumbled around, as one does, arranging trays and getting comfortable and he asked about my morning.  I told him it was clear I have some thinking to do to set up a communication system that leaves me informed but not overwhelmed with information.

He nodded and added: “Well, take your time.  Every minute that you spend in exploration now pays off handsomely in comfort and organization later.  We also want you to base your judgments on what matters. You’ve joined us with your skills, as has everyone else here,” he said, waiving his hand at the crowded canteen.

Future capability and value

“There are skills that are essential to what you do and there are skills that will change with technological change.”

  • “We want you to jot down the skills that are absolutely essential to what you do.  These we will nurture and respect.”
  • “Then there are skills that are going to change significantly over the next five to ten years.  We want those on a separate list because those require significant investment in time and energy”.
  • “And there are skills that we don’t use anymore.  Those we give a respectful burial.” He smiled.  “When we have identified a skill or process that we no longer use, we get an occupational psychologist to document it and we make a display for our skills museum.  Then we have a little wake,” he chuckled, “to see it off.  It’s quite cathartic.”

Nostalgia for skills & practices of the past

“So which skill in the museum is best-loved?” I asked.  “Which grave attracts the most flowers?”

“Ah, we hadn’t thought of doing that.  Good idea.  We should put the skills up on the intranet with the choice of . . . flowers or . . . a good kick . . . or a big ? mark for ‘who was this!’.  And see what we get back!”

My induction so far

Well, I obviously have some thinking to do.  It is only lunchtime and I have to think about

BTW

Which skills are utterly essential to your work?

And which will change so fundamentally in the next five years that you will need to retrain?

And which skills deserve a respectful burial?

Which are you happy to see go and which will you miss?

And if you are enjoying this series, please do feel free to join in!

  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section
  • Grab the RSS feeds for posts and comments top right
  • If you comment on this post from your blog, please link back to this post from the words Jo Jordan, flowingmotion, or Xoozya
  • Tweet the post
  • Stumble the post

And PS, if you are new to this blog, Xoozya is an utterly fictitious organization.  This series began on the spur of the moment as I started to explored the principles of games design and Ned Lawrence of Church of Ned mentioned how much time people put into designing their avatars, or online identities.  Xoozya is an attempt to imagine what an organization would look, sound and feel like if it were run along lines recommended by contemporary management theorists.

And PPS Ned is an online writing coach and is available for hire.

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Don’t blog in a vacuum – comment on other people’s blogs

Any “coldie” as I have heard people from the 1.0 or cold-war era called, will hesitate to take part in online discussions, and is amazed that “post-coldies” do, and quite happily. Do! Do take part!

I have just discovered Barbara Sliter’s site Creatorship and I discovered it in inimitable 2.0 style. I went to the Chief Happiness Officer blog. Alex was doing something with snow (pardon me I’m from Africa); Steve Roesler was guesting; Galba Bright joined the discussion of one of Steve’s posts; he had a look at one of my blog’s and said you will enjoy . . . You are right. Thank you. I do.

Thanks Galba, Steve, Alex and not least, Barbara. If you are interested in leadership, personal development and real-world applications of complexity theory, you should have Creatorship on your feed reader.

The promise of the 21st century

I know a lot of people my age who are rather gloomy about the way the world is going. Change is certainly in the air. Whether we see it as good or bad, depends on the meaning we perceive and more so, on our intuitions about how we will be connected in the new order of things.

That is why I love Barbara Sliter’s site. She has the gift of pointing to a horizon that welcomes everyone, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, from your country and mine.

One excerpt:

“we’re ready for more: more meaning, more challenge, better environments, interesting work, balance in life. We’re ready to be co-creators”


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