Decision Seminar

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up - it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Decision Seminar
The decision seminar technique (Laswell, 1960, described in VanGundy, 1981; 1988)) is a predecessor of the Think Tank technique of the 1960’s and is derived from a more sociological rather brainstorming procedure. It was primarily designed by a social science research facility to tackle applied social policy issues in an efficient way, focusing on past, present and future developments.

A core group of possibly 15 (joined as required by external expert, etc.), worked over an comprehensive period of time from a permanent chart and map room, using a standardised ‘general purpose’ conceptual framework:

Five Intellectual tasks

  • Clarifying goals
  • Describing trends over time
  • Analysing conditions that affect these trends
  • Projecting developments – how current policies are likely to turn out
  • Invention, evaluation and selection of alternatives to achieve desired goals

Seven Broad Information-gathering categories

  • Participants
  • Perspectives
  • Situations
  • Base-values (a SWOT-like analysis)
  • Strategies (how base-value position is used)
  • Outcomes (of the strategies)
  • Effects (on participants)

Value Analysis using Eight key values

  • Power
  • Enlightenment
  • Wealth
  • Well-being
  • Skill
  • Affection
  • Respect
  • Rectitude

Seven step Decision process

  • Gathering and processing information
  • Making and promoting recommendations
  • Developing and prescribing general policy rules
  • Deciding how to monitor adherence to rules
  • Applying the rules
  • Appraising the rules
  • Terminating the policy

This standardised conceptual framework was supported by a variety of techniques and a strong emphasis on clear record keeping and on the use of visible maps and charts.

Posted in Change Basics, Change Tools, Get ready for Change | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Critical Path Diagrams

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up - it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Critical Path Diagrams
The critical path method (CPM), and the Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), both devised independently in the 1950’s, but share similarities and now form the basis of many project planning software packages.

The description outline below is simplified approach to CPM and assumes that you can recognize component activities that are required to carry out your project, the sequence(s) in which they must take place and how long each will take.

Purpose
The purpose of CPM is to permit you to recognise, which activities lay on the ‘critical path’ – i.e. those for which any setback or rushing will affect the overall time for the project. This will assist you in managing the collection of tasks to accomplish fixed time targets overall.

More advance forms of CPM also know about the cost of each element, so overall costs can be managed as well as timing.

Critical Path Diagram

Fundamental Elements
The fundamental elements of a critical path diagram (illustrated above) are:

  • Arrows (blue) that represent activities – area of work that use up time or resources – e.g. ‘build wall’, ‘train personnel’, ‘print 1000 leaflets’.
  • These start (green) and end (red) circles that represent events – points in time that usually mark the start or end of an activity (e.g. ‘start wall’, leaflets arrive’); events do not, themselves, consume time or resources.
  • Sometimes you also need dashed arrows that indicate sequence (i.e. where one event must be completed before another starts even though they are not directly linked by an activity).
  • List all the activities and sub-activities required to accomplish your project and identify the events that start or end each of these activities.
  • Construct the map as illustrated above, showing the overall sequences you require. No event can happen until all the activities feeding into it are complete and no activity can start until the event it follows has happened. Unlike flowchart methods of representing action plans, classic CPM networks have no loops, optional routes or decision nodes. Every activity must happen in the order shown, and once it has happened, it can’t happen again. The diagram is drawn as if you have made all the decisions in advance and know exactly what has to happen, in what order (however see point 4 below!)
  • Check the diagram carefully, adding any details needed to make it function correctly.
  • Work out the earliest and latest possible start times of each activity, where there is slack, and where the critical path lies. Reviewing the example above, it is clear that they start building the walls on the second day, start tiling the roof on the sixth day, and complete at the end of the seventh day. The sequence of activities that goes through the upper branch is the critical path because any delay anywhere in this sequence adds to the total; there is no slack. However, the bottom branch does have slack in it – it needs only 2.5 days while the top branch needs 4 days.
  • Adjust as required should things not go as planned, amending the diagram to meet the new conditions, but these alternative possibilities are in your head; they are not shown on the diagram itself.
Posted in Change Basics, Change Tools, Get ready for Change | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Criteria for Idea-Finding Potential

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up - it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Criteria for Idea-Finding Potential
The focus and content of a problem statement can be adjusted and developed in a variety of ways. However after the development stage it is valuable to ensure that the way it is expressed will support the workings of the problem solving method you are using.
Isakesen, Dorval and Treffinger (1994) developed this straightforward checklist, which is supportive of this procedure:

  • Does it show the way to lots of ideas?
  • Is it the question about which you want to find ideas?
  • Does it locate the ownership clearly?
  • Is if affirmative in its orientations?
  • Is it free of criteria?
  • Is it stated briefly and clearly?
  • If the statement appears to falter on any criteria, perhaps you can modify it to reinforce its effectiveness for gathering ideas.
Posted in Change Basics, Change Tools, Get ready for Change | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book of the Week: Never eat alone – And other Secrets to Success

Never_eat_alone_Cover“Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time”, by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. Published 2005 by Random House Inc..

About the Authors
The youngest partner in Deloitte Consulting’s history and founder of the consulting company Ferrazzi Greenlight, the author quickly aims in this useful volume to distinguish his networking techniques from generic handshakes and business cards tossed like confetti. At conferences, Ferrazzi practices what he calls the “deep bump” – a “fast and meaningful” slice of intimacy that reveals his uniqueness to interlocutors and quickly forges the kind of emotional connection through which trust, and lots of business, can soon follow. That bump distinguishes this book from so many others that stress networking; writing with Fortune Small Business editor Raz, Ferrazzi creates a real relationship with readers. Ferrazzi may overstate his case somewhat when he says, “People who instinctively establish a strong network of relationships have always created great businesses,” but his clear and well-articulated steps for getting access, getting close and staying close make for a substantial leg up. Each of 31 short chapters highlights a specific technique or concept, from “Warming the Cold Call” and “Managing the Gatekeeper” to following up, making small talk, “pinging” (or sending “quick, casual” greetings) and defining oneself to the point where one’s missives become “the e-mail you always read because of who it’s from.” In addition to variations on the theme of hard work, Ferrazzi offers counterintuitive perspectives that ring true: “vulnerability… is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today”; “too many people confuse secrecy with importance.” No one will confuse this book with its competitors.

Synopsis
One can shape the book in four sections. I will try to make you understand the essentials of the book, here.

Section One: The Mind-Set

  • When you help others, they often help you… success in any field, especially in business, is about working with people
  • Real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful… it is about working hard to give more than you get
  • You’ve got to be more than willing to accept generosity… often, you’ve got to go out and ask for it
  • Instead of thinking “How can you help me?” think “How can I help you?”
  • A goal is a dream with a deadline… think of your goals and write them down… your goals must be in writing… your goals must be specific, challenging and demanding, as well as believable… set goals that require risk and uncertainty
  • Start finding future clients before you have anything to sell them… get to know these people as friends, not potential customers
  • There is genius, even kindness, in being bold… people with a low tolerance for risk, whose behavior is guided by fear, have a low propensity for success… besides, the worst anyone can say is no
  • The choice isn’t between success and failure; it’s between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity… The recipe for achievement is a medley of self-assuredness, dogged persistence, and audacity
  • Being liked can be the most potent, constructive force for getting business done

Section Two: The Skill Set

  • “Preparation is – if not the key to genius – then at least the key to sounding like a genius” – Winston Churchill
  • All people naturally care, generally above and beyond anything else, about what it is they do… if you are informed enough to step comfortably into their world and talk knowledgeably, their appreciation will be tangible… as William James wrote “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated”
  • Before you meet someone, find a point of common ground that is deeper and richer than what can be discovered in a serendipitous encounter… use resources like Google to do this
  • Frequently, people won’t get back to you when you send them emails… you have to put your ego aside and persist in calling or writing… setting up meeting takes time… it is up to you to take the initiative… sometimes you may have to be aggressive… try calling at an unusual time, like 8:00AM or 6:30PM, when someone who is busy is more likely to pick up their own phone
  • When cold calling someone, creating and maintaining a sense of optimism and gentle pressure around the appointment is all part of the dance
  • Try to make gatekeepers like secretaries your allies… never, ever get on his/her badside… always respect the gatekeeper’s power…treat them with the dignity they deserve… if you do, doors will open for you to even the most powerful decisionmakers… later, thank gatekeepers later by phone, flowers or a note to make sure you will be treated kindly the next time you want access
  • An email, letter, fax, or postcard often has a better chance [than an phone call] of landing directly in the hands of the person you’re trying to reach
  • Invisibility is a fate far worse than failure… therefore you should always be reaching out to others… never, ever disappear
  • Behind any successful person stands a long string of failures… but toughness and tenacity can overcome these setbacks
  • Shared interests are the basic building blocks of any relationship… make a list of things you’re most passionate about… use your passions as a guide to which activities and events you should be seeking out to create relationships
  • Follow up first… the follow-ups that people remember best are the ones they receive first… give yourself 12 to 24 hours after you meet someone to follow up… cite something in particular you talked about in the course of the conversation, which can serve as a mental reminder of who you are
  • Don’t remind people of what they can do for you, but focus on what you might be able to do for them… even if it is just clipping relevant articles and sending them to people in your network who might be interested
  • Always express gratitude”
  • Never forget to follow up with those who have acted as the go-between for you and someone else
  • Conferences are good for mainly one thing: they provide a forum to meet the kind of like-minded people who can help you fulfill your mission and goals… on the other hand, real, actionable insight mostly come from experience, books and other people
  • Helping the organizer is a great way to meet people at conferences… contact the organizer in advance and tell them you are willing to devote a chunk of your resources – be it time, creativity or connections – to make the event a smash hit
  • Ask questions at conferences… a really well-formed and insightful question is a miniopportunity to get seen by the entire audience… be sure to introduce yourself, tell people what company you work for, and then ask a question that leaves the audience buzzing
  • When meeting someone for the first time, focus on them… ask questions revolved around what the other person is thinking, what is troubling them
  • Try to connect with super-connectors… a disproportionate amount of super-connectors are headhunters, lobbyists, fundraisers, politicians, journalists, restaurateurs, and Public Relations specialists… these people can improve your network dramatically
  • In one study, 56% of people surveyed found their jobs through personal connections…of those personal connections that reaped dividends for those surveyed, few were good friends… in fact, often the most important people in our network are those who are acquaintances… this is what researchers call the ‘strength of weak ties”
  • Acquaintances represent a source of social power – the more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are
  • Are there worlds you want more access to? If so, see if you can find a central figure within that world to act as your own one-person host committee
  • Small talk – the kind that happens between two people who don’t know each other – is the most important talk we do… those who can confidently make conversation with anyone in any situation tend to be more successful… the goal of small talk: start a conversation, keep it going, create a bond, and make the other person like you… small talk needs to end on an invitation to continue the relationship
  • When it comes to making an impression, differentiation is the name of the game… you differentiate yourself by being yourself… also, vulnerability can be a great way to differentiate yourself
  • The best icebreaker is often a few words from the heart
  • You have about 10 seconds before a person decides, subconsciously, whether they like you or not… it is not a time to play hard-to-get, keep a distance, or play mysterious… we should take the initiative in creating the impression we want to give… smile and be the first to say hello, which demonstrates confidence and immediately shows your interest in the other person
  • Successful communication depends on the degree to which we can align ourselves and our style to match those we interact with… deliver your message in a tone and style that fit the other person best
  • When all else fails in small talk, say: “You’re wonderful – tell me more”

Section Three: Turning Connections Into Compatriots

  • In your initial conversations with someone, try to find out what motivates them… most people are motivated by health, wealth, and children… health, wealth, and children affect us in ways other acts of kindness do not… when you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty
  • Connecting is a philosophy of life – its guiding principle is that every person you meet is an opportunity to help and be helped… no one gets ahead in this world without a lot of help
  • The only way to get people to do anything is to recognize their importance and thereby make them feel important… every person’s deepest lifelong desire is to be significant and to be recognized
  • Learn to become indispensable… start thinking about how you’re going to make everyone around you successful… think of it as a game – when someone mentions a problem, try to think of solutions… don’t wait to be asked, just do it
  • Real power comes from being indispensable… indispensability comes from being a switchboard, parceling out as much information, contacts, and goodwill to as many people – in as many different worlds – as possible… try to make a point of knowing as many people from as many different professions and social groups as possible… people who have contacts in separate groups have a competitive advantage because we live in a system of bureaucracies
  • “You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in your own success” – Dale Carnegie
  • 80 percent of building and maintaining relationships is just staying in touch
  • People you’re contacting to create a new relationship need to see or hear your name in at least three modes of communication before there is substantive recognition
  • A shared meal in your own home is a powerful way to comfort, nurture, and connect people… try to use such events to meet new people using an anchor tenant… an anchor tenant will allow you to reach out beyond your circle and pull in people who wouldn’t otherwise attend

Section Four: Trading Up and Giving Back

  • Be interesting… people tend to hire people they like… but also remember that people hire those they think can make them and their companies better… so be aware of what you have to say that others might benefit from you
  • In every job and at every stage in my career, I have had some expertise, some content that differentiated me from others and made me unique, made me more valuable in my relationships with others and the company I worked for… what will set you apart from everybody else is the relentless you bring to learning and presenting and selling your content
  • Creativity in business is often nothing more than making connections that everyone else has almost thought of… you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just attach it to a new wagon
  • The one thing that no one has figured out how to outsource is the creation of ideas… a unique point of view is one of the only ways to ensure that today, tomorrow and a year from now you’ll have a job
  • There is no better way to learn something and become an expert at it that to have to teach it
  • Identify the people in your industries who always seem to be out in front, and use all the relationship skills you’ve acquired to connect with them… take them to lunch… read their newsletters
  • To this day, I face rejection on a regular basis… passion keeps going through the rough times… there will be continual changes and challenges requiring you to be persistent and committed
  • Develop a niche… think of several areas where your company underperforms and choose to focus on the one area that is least attended to
  • Powerful content communicated in a compelling story can energize your network and help you achieve your mission… for example, in telling a gripping story, the Dalai Lama understands that the message must be both simple and universal… figure out how to spin your story in a fashion that is a) simple to understand and b) everybody can relate to… what truly moves us as human beings and prompts us into action is emotion
  • Few talents are more important to managerial success than knowing how to tell a good story
  • Focus on your personal brand… I went out of my way to take on project no one wanted and initiated projects no one had thought of doing… I sent recommendations to the CEO… he never responded, but I never stopped sending those emails
  • To become a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value… try to initiate projects on your own and in your spare time
  • “Everyone sees what you appear to be… few really know what you are” – Machiavelli
  • Increased visibility might be important for your career, and for extending our network of colleagues and friends… people who are known beyond the walls of their own cubicle have a greater value
  • Try to create buzz around your interests… think about how reporters can help you create buzz… the majority of journalists’ stories are from people who have sought journalists out, not the other way around
  • Start making calls to the reporters who cover your industry… have lunch with them… spend time reading their articles, figuring out what they cover, and what kinds of stories their publications like to run
  • Learn to be brief… pick the most interesting points about your story and make them fast, make them colorful, and make them catchy
  • Consider writing articles for publications… articles provide a terrific environment for meeting anyone anywhere… the odds will never be stacked so clearly in your favor… consider sharing credit and offering a byline to the person who becomes most helpful…. Welcome their co-authorship… by article’s end, whether it’s been published or not, you’ve managed to learn a great deal and to meet a group of important people who potentially might be important to your future
  • Reach out to the sort of important people that can make a difference in your life and the lives of others… seeking the influence of powerful people in our lives in not crass or misguided – it can be enormously helpful… the more accomplished the people we associate with, the greater our inspirations become
  • Trust is the essential element of mixing with powerful and famous people – trust that you’ll be discreet, trust that you have no ulterior motives behind your approach
  • Big company CEOs realize that to make things happen – whether it’s public policy or a big deal with a public company – you need others
  • There is no substitute for personal initiative
  • Ben Franklin believed every person should be part of a social group, if not three… he believed a group of like-minded, achievement-oriented individuals could dramatically leverage each other’s success to do things otherwise impossible
  • The most important lesson of all: Never give in to hubris
  • Commitments aren’t commitments unless everyone involved knows what is on the table with absolute clarity
  • Potential mentors tacitly notice your respect for them and are flattered by the attention you give them… there’s no better way to signal your interest in becoming their mentee
  • It never hurts to ask – the worst anyone can say is no
  • Finding a talented, experienced mentor who is willing to invest the time and effort to develop you as a person and a professional is far more important than making career decisions based purely on salary or prestige… attach yourself to great people and great teachers
  • Mentors often offer guidance because mentees promise something in return – they will work nonstop in an effort to use the mentor’s imparted knowledge to make the mentor and his firm more successful… also, mentors must care about their mentees

Take Aways

On asking someone for career advice: “I’m thinking of transitioning into your industry at some point. Is there anyone you know who you think could lend some helpful advice?”

On Bill Clinton: Clinton used to jot down names and information about people he met in a little black address book he carried around with him… when asked why, he said “I’m going into politics and plan to run for governor of Arkansas… I’m keeping track of everyone I meet”… Clinton would make it a nightly habit to record, on index cards, the names and vital information of every person whom he’d met that day… the lessons we can learn from this:

  • the more specific you are about where you want to go in life, the easier it becomes to develop a networking strategy to get there and
  • be sensitive to making a real connection in your interactions with others.

On cold calling: “Don’t cold call – ever… instead, make a warm call… try to get others to make a connection… four rules to warm calling:

  • convey credibility by mentioning a familiar person or institution,
  • state your value proposition [how can I help you],
  • impart urgency and convenience by being prepared to do whatever it takes whenever it takes to meet the other person on his/her own terms,
  • be prepared to offer a compromise that secures a definite follow-up”
Posted in Book of the Week, Change Know-alls, Change Tools, Get ready for Change, Theory | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creative Problem Solving

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up - it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Creative Problem Solving
Osborn’s Checklist the origin of Classic Brainstorming is the root of creative problem solving (CPS). There are a variety of general structures: ‘define problem, generate possible solutions, select and implement the best’ which can be found extensively, in several different academic traditions.

However, the account illustrate here was formulated by Sidney Parnes in the 1950’s and has been build upon continuously since then by various authors, e.g. Isakesen and Treffinger (1985) Isaksen, Dorval and Treffinger (1994 and 1998).

The method can be used as a training programme and has a very extensive track record linked particularly with the Centre for Studies in Creativity of the State University College at Buffalo, New York, the Buffalo Creative problem Solving Group, and with the Centre for Creative Learning in Sarasota, Florida.

In it’s most extended and formalised form it has the six stages shown below, each with a divergent and a convergent phase. However, more recent publications seem more interested in focusing on procedure and technique issues, with less weight on the full elaboration of this structure.

The following, based on Van Gundy (1988’s) description, is a very brief skeleton of a very rich process, showing it in its full ‘6 x 2 stages’ form:

Stage 1: Mess finding: Sensitise yourself (scan, search) for issues (concerns, challenges, opportunities, etc.) that need to be tackled.

  • Divergent techniques include ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice If…’ (WIBNI) and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Awful If…’ (WIBAI) – brainstorming to identify desirable outcomes, and obstacles to be overcome.
  • Convergent techniques include the identification of hotspots (Highlighting), expressed as a list of IWWMs (‘In What Ways Might…’), and selection in terms of ownership criteria (e.g. problem-owner’s motivation and ability to influence it) and outlook criteria (e.g. urgency, familiarity, stability).

Stage 2: Data finding: Gather information about the problem.

  • Divergent techniques include Five Ws and H (Who, Why, What, When, Where and How) and listing of wants, sources and data: List all your information ‘wants’ as a series of question; for each, list possible sources of answers; then follow these up and for each source, list what you found.
  • Convergent techniques again include: identifying hotspots (Highlighting); Mind-mapping to sort and classify the information gathered; and also restating the problem in the light of your richer understanding of it.

Stage 3: Problem finding: convert a fuzzy statement of the problem into a broad statement more suitable for idea finding.

  • Divergent techniques include asking ‘Why?’ etc. – the repeatable questions and Five Ws and H.
  • Convergent techniques include Highlighting again, reformulation of problem-statements to meet the criteria that they contain only one problem and no criteria, and selection of the most promising statement (but NB that the mental ‘stretching’ that the activity gives to the participants can be as important as the actual statement chosen).

Stage 4: Idea Finding: generate as many ideas as possible

  • Divergence using any of a very wide range of idea-generating techniques. The general rules of Classic Brainstorming (such as deferring judgement) are likely to under-pin all of these.
  • Convergence can again involve hotspots or mind-mapping, the combining of different ideas, and the short-listing of the most promising handful, perhaps with some thought for the more obvious evaluation criteria, but not over-restrictively.

Stage 5: Solution finding

  • Generate and select obvious evaluation criteria (using an expansion/contraction cycle) and develop (which may include combining) the short-listed ideas from Idea Finding as much as you can in the light of these criteria. Then opt for the best of these improved ideas (e.g. using Comparison tables).

Stage 6: Acceptance finding

  • How can the suggestion you have just selected be made up to standard and put into practice? Shun negativity, and continue to apply deferred judgement – problems are exposed to be solved, not to dishearten progress.
  • Action plans are better developed in small groups of 2 – 3 rather than in a large group (unless you particularly want commitment by the whole group). Particularly for ‘people’ problems it is often worth developing several alternative action plans.
  • Possible techniques include – Five Ws and H, Implementation Checklists, Consensus Mapping, Potential Problem Analysis (PPA).
Posted in Change Basics, Change Tools, Get ready for Change | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book of the Week: Leading Change

Leading_Change_CoverIntroduction
Significant change has grown tremendously in organizations during the past two decades due to powerful macroeconomic forces. Whenever human communities are forced to adjust to shifting conditions, pain is ever present. Some of the most common errors when transforming an organization are:

  • Allowing too much complacency,
  • Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition,
  • Underestimating the power of vision,
  • Under communicating the vision by a factor of 10x-100x,
  • Permitting obstacles to block the new vision,
  • Failing to create short-term wins,
  • Declaring victory too soon,
  • Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture.

Chapter 1 & 2
These errors amplify in a rapid moving competitive world. These errors can be mitigated and possibly avoided. The key lies in understanding why organizations resist needed change and the multi-step process to achieve it, and how leadership is critical to drive the process in a socially healthy way. There are many factors necessitating organizational change including technological, international economic and opening market forces. They create both more hazards and opportunities for organizations. Useful change tends to be associated with a multi-step process that creates power and motivation significant to overwhelm all the sources of inertia and is driven by high quality leadership, not just excellent management.

The eight stage process follows from the errors in leading change:

  • Establishing a sense of Urgency,
  • Creating a guiding coalition,
  • Developing a vision and strategy,
  • Communicating the changed vision,
  • Empowering broad-base action,
  • Generating short-term wins,
  • Consolidating gains and producing more change,
  • Anchoring new approaches in culture.

It is important to go through all eight stages in sequence; however, normally one operates in multiple phases at once. A purely linear, analytical plan is likely to fail. There are many forces at work creating a dynamic, complex and messy environment. This is why leadership is so critical, not just management. Management is a set of processes that can keep a complicated system of people and technology running smoothly. Leadership is a set of processes that creates organizations in the first place or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances. Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.

Leading_Change_Process

Chapter 3
Kotter breaks down the process of creating and leading change within an organization into an Eight-Stage process of leading change. In chapter 3 he explicates on the first stage: Establishing a Sense of Urgency. Completing this stage requires a great deal of cooperation, initiative, and a willingness to make sacrifices from many people. A high level of complacency and a low sense of urgency, Kotter asserts, constitute the two most significant impediments to change. In addressing complacency, he presents nine reasons organizations experience complacency. Before this, however, he explains that most companies face complacency despite the fact that they have highly intelligent and well-intentioned individuals.

  • First, companies often lack a visible crisis, and so employees fail to feel compelled to address problems within the company, though they do in fact exist.
  • Second, companies tend to lull themselves into a false sense of security with the mere affluence of the corporate headquarters. This environment serves to instill a sense of success within employees.
  • Third, managers will measure themselves and the performance of others against low and easily attainable standards. Furthermore, these standards actually deceive employees as to the success of their results by failing to compare their results with those of their competitors.
  • Fourth, organization structure may cause employees to focus on narrow functional goals of the department they are involved in, rather than establishing a sense of contribution to the overall performance of the business.
  • So, fith, an employee may feel successful with their personal work and fail to realize that the performance of the company is declining.
  • Sixth, internal performance feedback composes almost 100% of the feedback employees receive during their tenure. Without crucial external feedback from outside stakeholders, they will never realize the reality of their performance.
  • Seventh, those employees who do seek feedback from outside stakeholders and initiate honest discussions regarding company performance are admonished for inappropriate behavior.
  • Eighth, the human tendency to deny what we don’t want leads to suppression of problems and avoidance of the work necessary to address them.
  • Ninth, senior managers often cultivate a lethal sense of complacency within a company’s employees through “happy talk”. This serves to downplay problems and embellish success, ultimately fostering a false sense of security.

Kotter provides nine ways to overcome complacency, and he also asserts that a strong leader is required to facilitate these methods. A leader must establish a crisis to cause employees to realize internal problems; he must eliminate false signs of security; set standards of achievement high enough that “business as usual” will not suffice; broaden functional goals and their measurement to encompass company goals; explicate the reality of performance through the use candor and external feedback; increase employee interaction with the customer; use external consultants for honest feedback; facilitate and encourage honest discussions and eliminate “happy talk”; and emphasize future opportunities and the incredible possibility of success in capitalizing on those opportunities.

Chapter 4 to 7
Chapter four deals with the second stage: Creating the Guiding Coalition. In order to actuate change within an organization a strong guiding coalition is needed. The right composition of individuals, level of trust, and shared vision is critical to the success of this team. Furthermore, one strong leader cannot make change happen, and therefore, it is his responsibility to build such a strong composition of people that can lead the change as a team.

For such a team to be successful in leading change, it is crucial that its members share a sense of problems, opportunities, and commitment to change. Furthermore, these teams must possess significant credibility within the company in order to be effective. Kotter offers four steps necessary to put together a guiding coalition.

  • First, position power: does the team possess enough of the right individuals with the skills and influence to affect change?
  • Second, expertise: does the team have the necessary level and diversity of expertise to produce intelligent, informed decisions?
  • *Third, credibility: does the group possess the credibility to influence the company and actualize change?
  • Fourth, leadership: does the group include enough legitimate and respected leaders to lead the change process?

The two most critical characteristics of a successful team is the trust shared among its members and the sincerity of the commitment to a common goal. Kotter further asserts that trust is fundamental to creating a shared objective. Furthermore, the most typical goal used to bind a team together is a commitment to excellence, and a strong, genuine desire to maximize the performance of the organization. Consequently, a strong leader is necessary for he possesses the ability to encourage people to transcend short-term parochial interests, and commit to furthering the excellence of the company. In short, Kotter says to build a guiding coalition that you must find the right people, create trust, and develop a common goal.

There are three methods of trying to coerce people into changing their behavior in order to create a transformation within the company. Kotter calls these three methods authoritarian, micromanagement, and vision. Vision is the explanation of why a change is needed. Kotter claims that vision is a central component to all great leadership and that it is essential in breaking through the forces that support the status quo. He continues to talk about what a viable vision consists of and how to implement it effectively.

Kotter says that in order for change to take place there needs to be a shared sense of a desirable future. Two of the pitfalls he describes are under communication of the vision and inconsistent messages. He also talks about the magnitude of the task and some of the human resistance factors that play into possible failure. One of the interesting factors that Kotter describes as “difficulties inherent to the process” is the internal struggle and doubt the guiding coalition has with change. He says that there are many questions that the guiding coalition has to answer in their own minds before they can effectively implement the change within the company. He continues to say that this takes a lot of time and communication. In the remainder of the chapter Kotter outlines the seven key elements in the effective communication of vision: simplicity, metaphor, multiple forums, repetition, and leadership by example, explanation of seeming inconsistencies and give-and-take.

Chapter 8
Chapter eight delves into the concept of broad-based employee empowerment. Although the term “empowerment” is used widely and maybe overused, the concept of empowerment cannot be overlooked when implementing change efforts. Kotter speaks of removing barriers to action that will help the change effort. This allows even the lowest level employees to participate in the change effort. As a manager we remove barriers to change by ensuring that our current structure does not hamper vision and therefore prevent change. By aligning our systems with our vision, the change process can be a more efficient and less timely process. Kotter also speaks of the value of employee education with respect to empowerment. Education allows for the actual empowering of your employees instead of just telling them they are “empowered”. Obviously change efforts take “actual broad-based employee empowerment”.

Chapter 9
Kotter explains the value of “creating” short-term wins to the change effort in chapter nine. Kotter states generating short-term wins allows a better chance of actually completing the change effort. However, these short-term wins are only effective if they are visible to many, the terms are unambiguous, and the victory is closely related to the change effort. A victory generated to meet these requirements creates excitement, certainty, momentum, and serves also to quiet critics. So you ask, how do we do this? Kotter states that PLANNING for results instead of praying for results is the key. Kotter also talks about the difference between “gimmick wins” and actual short-term victories. Kotter states that short-term gimmicks can be effective at least for awhile, but managers must not hurt the future of the company in order to provide short-term wins today.

In conducting long term changes in companies, one of the main problems companies run into is claiming victory too soon. Company CEOs and high level executives can derail change initiatives by celebrating small victories too much. While celebrating small victories is important in any change operation, too much emphasis on them will produce a false sense of security. Kotter outlines five steps to succeeding in change programs at Stage 7.

The first step is to introduce even more and harder changes in the company. Then bring in more help to ensure the programs success. Third, senior level managers must continue to provide a strong focus on the purpose of the change initiatives. Next, decentralization of projects is imperative. This allows the leadership to focus on the specific projects and give them a better chance to succeed. Finally, companies need to eliminate unnecessary interdependencies in their company. Following these steps should allow companies to continue to progress with their change initiatives and to ensure their success.

Chapter 10
So a change has been made in the corporation or whatever group that required it. Great! Now, what’s there to keep it from going back to the old way of doing business? If the new way is not anchored in the culture of the business, nothing at all, and time will show that. Chapter 10 of Kotter’s book deals exclusively with the perils of not changing the culture as well as his recipe for how to get it done. In any organization the common practices it clings too tend to become more like a living being than an ideology. This has the effect of making them very hard to get rid of. However, failing to do so, especially in the rapidly changing world of today, will almost always lead to absolute failure. Just think if there were still major corporations out there that refused to use computers. Where would they be?

Even something not so significant can be a major impetus for total change. After all, even if a change is accomplished, but several years later the changes revert back to the old way of doing things, the change really didn’t matter at all. Often times this is what happens when the driving force for change, be it a CEO or manager, leaves the organization. Without that individual’s spark, the fire goes out and things fall apart. The real key to lasting change is not just in changing vision or mission statements or even training manuals, but in changing the corporate culture itself.

Kotter looks at corporate culture as being made up of both the Norms of Group Behavior and the Shared Values of a company. All things under this list range from the hard to change to the very hard to change based primarily on their relative visibility. That is to say that it is easier to change the way a company reacts to a customer request than it is to alter managements view of quality versus quantity. Kotter goes on to give three reasons why culture is difficult to change (151):

  • Because individuals are selected and indoctrinated so well.
  • Because the culture exerts itself through the actions of hundreds or thousands of people.
  • Because all of this happens without much conscious intent and thus is difficult to challenge or even discuss.

So how does a leader try to tackle these seemingly insurmountable odds? Kotter recommends treating them like what they seem to be; living things, just living things that have to die. He even goes so far as to tell a story of a GM who gave a eulogy for their old business practices at a meeting. Kotter believes that, like a dearly departed friend, old policies have to be given credit for what they did and how they were great, but then have to also show how the new is better than the old.

Kotter’s last point is that the cultural change, as difficult as it may be, must come last and not first. To try and put the culture in limbo first and then change the system is to put the entire organization at great risk, too many negatives can creep in along with it. Instead, he says, it is better to go in and articulate what must be changed, implement the changes, and then alter the culture around that.

In summary Kotter offers these tips to remember when anchoring change in the culture (157):

  • Culture change comes last not first
  • It is dependent on results
  • It will require a lot of talk
  • May involve turnover
  • Makes decisions on succession crucial

With the many changes occurring in the world today, Professor Kotter describes the difficulty of predicting where the businesses of the future are headed. He, however, does affirm that future organizations must possess certain fundamental traits if they intend to survive in the 21st century. One such trait is a distinct organization-wide sense of urgency.

Kotter describes, as he does frequently throughout this book, the necessity of future businesses to eliminate complacency. Organizations will be forced to make changes often, and a sense of urgency is the best tool to counter this complacency, as it often allows employees to better cope with frequent change. Another essential attribute is higher level cooperation or “teamwork at the top” as Kotter describes it. It is no secret that when the essential members of an organization work together, it is easier to get that organization moving in the right direction and, therefore, successfully implement change. These individuals must also be able to effectively build and communicate vision. When “high-ranking” members of an organization are consistently working as a team as well as acting upon a well-developed and well-communicated vision, it is much more likely that those beneath them will follow their example. Kotter goes on to outline the importance of what he calls “broad-based empowerment” and “delegated management.” Time is a valuable commodity, and the likelihood that future corporations will have it in abundance is slim at best. A broad leadership base coupled with effective delegation will make communication and decision-making much faster and more efficient processes. To piggyback on this point, Kotter maintains the necessity of future organizations to possess limited levels of interdependence. Such interdependence should be kept at a minimum, as unnecessary departmental, group, and individual interdependence only slows things down within an organization. Finally, Kotter asserts the overwhelming importance of corporate adaptability. A need for change is not always predictable, and in the modern fast-paced world, it will be necessary for organizations to remain flexible and ready to implement change.

The desire to further one’s education throughout the duration of life is a key ingredient to maximizing potential. There are five key characteristics exhibited by life-long learners: the propensity to take risk, humble self-reflection, aggressive solicitation of opinions from others, careful listening and openness to new ideas. Through the use of these techniques, life-long learners are able to fully exploit the benefits of compound learning and eventually become the transformational leaders that they sought to be.

Leading_Change_Hero

Posted in Book of the Week, Change Know-alls, Change Tools, Theory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Criteria for Idea-Finding Potential

More than any other situation Change is about cooperation and collaboration. No matter if your company is in serious trouble or just wants to find a new way to line itself up - it always needs people to initiate, moderate, steer, coordinate and live that Change.

So what? The problem is that often people simply don´t know how to cooperate. Of course people cooperate on a daily base, but this is mostly routine, it´s like a form of vegetative state. Change causes different needs and different needs urges people to modify their behavior.

Over years I have collected several “Creativity Techniques” to support Cooperation between people – not only in times of Change. It is always better to be prepared than surprised…

What are Creativity Techniques?
Creativity techniques are heuristic methods to facilitate creativity in a person or a group of people. They are most often used in creative problem solving.

Generally, most creativity techniques use associations between the goal (or the problem), the current state (which may be an imperfect solution to the problem), and some stimulus (possibly selected randomly). There is an analogy between many creativity techniques and methods of evolutionary computation.

In problem-solving contexts, the random word creativity technique is perhaps the simplest such method. A person confronted with a problem is presented with a randomly generated word, in the hopes of a solution arising from any associations between the word and the problem. A random image, sound, or article can be used instead of a random word as a kind of creativity goad or provocation.

Criteria for Idea-Finding Potential
The focus and content of a problem statement can be adjusted and developed in a variety of ways. However after the development stage it is valuable to ensure that the way it is expressed will support the workings of the problem solving method you are using.

Isakesen, Dorval and Treffinger (1994) developed this straightforward checklist, which is supportive of this procedure:

  • Does it show the way to lots of ideas?
  • Is it the question about which you want to find ideas?
  • Does it locate the ownership clearly?
  • Is if affirmative in its orientations?
  • Is it free of criteria?
  • Is it stated briefly and clearly?

If the statement appears to falter on any criteria, perhaps you can modify it to reinforce its effectiveness for gathering ideas. See also the CATWOE criteria.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment