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Strategic Change Management

Strategic Change Management is a deliberate system of changing people processes and tools to achieve organizational goals which align well with the aspirations of the team members.

Basics of Change Management

The Conceptual Construct         Change management is based on accepting the vitality of the first  15% of effort in identify what needs to be changed in people, processes and tools in any organization. If this aspect does not have a wide acceptability and the ownership of ideas is not transferred to people, the processes will never get refined whatever tools we use.

This underscores the dynamic, participative and vibrant “energisation” of people to challenge the status quo as a tool to excite the processes. Once suitable energy is transmitted to the environment, out of the box solutions appear from nowhere to augment the staid thinking in an organization. The key word is “excitement” of the widest cross-section possible to accept change as a continuous and inevitable process.

If enough energy and time is not spent with a wide base of participants in this 15% profile, the 85% of strategy executives would be a self-defeating process in trying to follow a muddled thinking along confused road maps by a group of motley and uncommitted lot.

People, especially committed people, throw up ideas that CEO, may not be able to originate. This wider participation by the base throws up multipurpose options to energies the organization as per perceptions of the “people who run” the organization.

The Four “E”s

Enabling, exciting, educating and empowering the organization are thus the basic tools that get the people aligned to the objectives of the organization by collaborative change management processes. You don’t have to conjure pictures of grand ideas to change – change happens one baby step at a time by the entire organization remaining committed to helping the baby take those stops.

Amongst all this, there is a great need to “invert the pyramid” to get a 360 degree perspective at all times. The energy, focus and Intent of the leaders must, however, be infectious and be crystal clear in their sincerity to the followers along the pyramid at all times. The team is quick to discern ulterior motives of leaders, if any. Once detected it is a difficult task to reverse the downward slide.

A Continuous Process

Strategic change mgt is a continuous process. The big picture must be clearly seen through by leaders, from all perspectives to evolve “Blue Ocean Strategies”. Any amount of change applied along the principles of Red Ocean strategies will only yield marginal results and tire out the organization. All leaders need to constantly excite their pyramids to look for these blue Oceans and charter a path along these seas.

The acme of skills of good leadership is constantly challenging status quo and generating options for better people participation to enhance their productivity. Unfortunately, more often than not, “leaders” work towards an aim with the same organization, people and levels of thinking and expect a positional change in their bottom lines. This does not work.  No sooner has one organization created to achieve an objective, started working efficiently, leaders must look for new ways to reorganize the systems, processes and tools. This can happen when leaders do not get “emotionally attached” to demons they have created.

Inverting the Pyramid

The term “Inverting the Pyramid” applies to non bureaucratic style of functioning by the leaders. They must recognize and reward talent, if they hope to keep the people responsive to organizational aims and objectives. If there is a bull run in which leaders can not differentiate the wood from the trees, mediocrity, sycophancy and demotivation of the “excited” employees would take place to the detriment of the organization. The leaders must learn to wear all the six hats while encouraging their teams to do the same constantly. Any organizational model that does not reward creativity and originality of thought is doomed.

The 15% Theory

Then there is the “theory of application” of the 15% Theory. What needs a change is always more important than the change itself. This cannot be a once in a year ritual in board rooms. It is a mixture of continuous formal and informal dialogues amongst all “collars”(white or blue) of the organization. Leaders should be astute enough to “sniff” signs of trouble and “gauge” processes, people and tools that need to change constantly. This applies to all leadership rungs of the organization at all times.

Inevitably, informal non conformist interactions provide better options, grass root upwards. In learning to “mange and lead” by walking around, the leader must remain in constant touch with ground realities. His office needs no curtains and doors and he should be seen more on the shop floor or the market place – in touch with his people, products and the markets. This, without courting populist gimmicks, can transmit the intent, integrity and honesty of purpose of the leader to the environment. It will make him approachable and spur dialogue for change a change for the better.

The 15% theory energizes the people in an organization and challenges them to outperform themselves, not for self promotion (which the leaders must do automatically) but for the larger organizational good.

The nature of the change is secondary to the perceptions that employees have regarding the ability, competence, and credibility of the leaders

Change follows a cycle of preparing for the change, getting your hands dirty in the change process and management of the spinoffs after change. The role of the leader remains supreme and cannot be debated. What can be is the quality of leadership, its vision, perseverance and ability to carry the teams through the change with a song on their lips. Leaders energy is contagious both ways.

The Leadership

Organisations look up to the leadership for a large number of things. The foremost is the leaders supportive role in providing the overarching vision, coherence and capacity to operate seamlessly through the chaos of the work and market place. This translates into leadership’s extreme tolerance for ambiguity and capacity to absorb Ristakes (Risk plus Mistakes) in the environment around them both in and out of the organization. That develops faith which simplifies the leader led equation where teams continue to surprise the leaders by their initiative and proactive adaptation to change.

Poor leadership runs counter to this and produces archaic and staid organizations incapable of following the routine, leave aside manage change. Trust and faith in leadership is therefore essential in a team but what is more important is a trustworthy and faithful leaders who have the temerity to carry their teams through thick and thin of change

Leadership before, during and after change implementation is THE key to getting through the change. Unfortunately, if you haven’t established a track record of effective leadership, by the time you have to deal with difficult changes, it may be too late.

The Organisation

Much like healthy people, who are better able to cope with infection or disease than unhealthy people, organization that are healthy in the first place are better able to deal with change. This warrants deliberation as all bad organizations also wish to change for the better and create an environment conducive to change. But as unhealthy people need doctors it is often wiser for leadership of these organizations to get a professional third person management of the change cycle.

As a leader you need to establish credibility and a track record of effective decision making, so that there is trust in your ability to figure out what is necessary to bring the organization through. If the organization does not have such leaders there is a need for an overhaul at the top

The Slog

Leaders play a critical role during change implementation, the period from the announcement of change through the installation of the change. During this middle period the organization is the most unstable, characterized by confusion, fear, loss of direction, reduced productivity, and lack of clarity about direction and mandate. It can be a period of emotionalism, with employees grieving for what is lost, and initially unable to look to the future.

As per experts, during this period, effective leaders need to focus on two things. First, the feelings and confusion of employees must be acknowledged and validated. Second, the leader must work with employees to begin creating a new vision of the altered workplace, and helping employees to understand the direction of the future. Focusing only on feelings, may result in wallowing. The leadership has to play the role of an orchestra conductor at such times. Being able to identify each discordant or out of sync activity and apply hands on corrections. He has to lead from the front balancing the vision and employee concerns constantly. In any case if the leader follows the 15% rule the team would be on board and there would be willing participation by the team to see the change through smoothly. More often than not good change initiatives lose out to ego battles in the board rooms. Good leaders introduce the change after taking everyone on board.

After Effects

Once people begin to see positive results of the change it is far easier to see these changes materialize. The leadership and the team having committed to the change must approach it with a vigor and intensity matching that of the leader. If these fears and initial change side effects are not managed cohesively, the team is more likely to spin back into cynicism and status quo complicating the task of the leaders.

Defining Roles

Taking a cue from Three Idiots, the leadership has to develop a capability to coherently define the role of each member of the team. Having identified the right man with the right attitude for the right job, the leader must provide him adequate latitude in his sphere of influence to excel. Most important the leader MUST NOT play favorites during the process of change, more than at any other time, lest it sabotages the change process.

Conclusion

No leadership “formula” can work effectively if the leadership dimensions do not account for the employee’s interests on the foremost. It is best articulated in the Chetwode motto placed at IMA and followed by the Armed Forces.

The Safety, Honour and Welfare of your country comes first  – Always and every time.

The Honour, Welfare and Comfort of the men you command comes next.

Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time.

                                                                                              Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode

Often all change management cycles fail when leaders invert this pyramid.

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Proactivity Pays

Proactive Leadership

Leadership means exciting, enabling, educating and empowering the team to deliver across the full range of activities in a swarmed manner, happily & willingly.

The acme of leadership’s deliverance is in producing results by each member of a team in such an egoless manner that every activity generates multiple options for the leadership to exploit to achieve the organizational goals. Creating this win-win situation for the organization, leader and the led remains the basic art of leadership.

Articulation of Intent       

When each member of the team pushes the envelope to the best of his capabilities, the combined synergy that is produced far outstrips the imagination. A leader has perforce got to be the visionary who articulates his intent unambiguously and leads from the front in each endeavor of the team. He has to have the third eye to be to see situations and conflicts arising well in advance and take corrective measures in time to propel the team. Proactively pays!

Calling the Calling

An essential component of leadership function is to convert each member of the team to be a self-starter. Initiative, innovation and experimentation are the key to exciting and empowering the team. However, the leadership has to be acutely conscious of putting the “right peg in the night hole”. Each person finds his mean in certain specific activities. If positively energized that becomes the person’s calling. A progressive and enabling leadership works towards discovering this calling in each member of the team and assigning him requisite missions. An empowered team member working in sync with his calling will always produce the best results-no matter what!

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is an attribute most often misunderstood with warped thinking. It is not. It is the ability of self energized team members to generate out of the box blue ocean strategies to perform an assigned mission. Debono articulates this well.

Application of OODA Cycles.

As the OODA cycle enunciates by its name-there are times to observe & orient so as to deliberate and debate on all aspects of a problem at hand and generate multiple options. This is the phase that demands utmost sincerity in discussing debating and evolving options. Once the decision is taken, the team needs no more discussion but acts in a synergized manner to generate the desired momentum towards the next OODA cycle. The faster a team completes a OODA cycle, greater are the chances of success.

 When such proactivity permeates the environment you stop managing but leading change.

Do that and watch miracles happen!

Strategy Execution

Strategy takes wings with Execution

Man, so also woman, desires to work to a plan and works all along with intent and purposes by carrying out the right SWOT analysis and measuring his step towards the goal sure of success. However, despite all the right strategies, planning and boldness why do his plans often land up in a soup?

Yes, you guessed it right. It is the failure to implement the strategies with feet firmly on the ground while the head is held high. Strategy execution thus is the most critical part in any operation cycle for sound mission accomplishment.

What Does it Mean?

Strategy execution is a discipline which defines an organisation’s ability to deliver on the designed strategy.

All good strategies hinge on three basic ingredients for success..

Execution..

Execution..

Execution..

So how does one go about DOING IT?

Leadership

The Naked Fakir - An Inspirational Leader

Volumes can be written about this intangible sun in the strategy solar system. However, it would suffice to say that only a leader can make execution happen with his/her commitment, clairvoyance and perseverance to see the strategy go through. At each level, the strategy needs and begs good leaders to see it through with their commitment and personal involvement while maintaining high standards of personal motivation across teams. These are must for the leadership to succeed:-

  • Know your people and profession.
  • Be Realistic.
  • Set clear goals and priorities.
  • See plans through by constant but discreet follow up.
  • Just reward system.
  • Be a dedicated coach.
  • Lastly and most important – know yourself.

Intent

Intent Matters

It is futile to reiterate that execution’s biggest enemy is the change of focus or intent which chips away at the delivery model of execution. Incidentally studies have revealed that strategies are only optimised to about 63% due to lack of right execution plan and environment.

Howsoever complex the strategy, its execution requires matured intent at each level. Diffusion of this very critical component can create dysfunctional work environment with processes, people and resources being pulled in different directions. As long as the team is clear about the intent, and every member is aligned to this intent chances of success rise manifold.

Road Map

All roads to success need road maps. The strategy execution road map, designed to fathom intricacies or nuts and bolts of the plan, is like sharpening your axe for 6 hours and cutting it in 2 rather than chopping away with a blunt axe. So to begin with, the execution map needs an overarching game plan for the road to be traversed with – a basic blueprint with the requisite signage and resource plans integrated with pragmatic time lines. This is the primary leadership domain and needs undivided attention of the leader.

Core Execution Processes

These are the strategy process, the people process and the operational process.

  • Strategy Process.   As outlined above this process must clearly highlight the destination and the road that leads up to it. It must consider all intangible and tangible parameters which would be required to achieve the goal. Internal and external environment, milestones, capacity to execute the strategy, resource management and people leadership matrices are critical components of this process.
  • People Process.   This decides who is going to get you there and thus calls for right selection of leaders and teams. A robust people process plan merits application of right talent through various stages of execution and an effective system of rewarding achievers and mentoring under performers.
  • Operational Process.    A sound operational process links strategy and the people to the results. It provides the milestones on the road maps and links them to resources, time and goals. This process is in the realms of operational art and merits a deep commitment to various tangible and intangible activities.

 Synchronization

This is the most critical element of the strategy execution processes. Unless there is synchronization among all these processes, goals are likely to get blurred, people dis-empowered and resources frittered away. Time is the biggest casualty which snowballs into cost and credibility crunch.

Leadership Matrices

A corrupted JPEG photograph. Result of a photo...

A corrupted image hides any truth

In today’s competitive business environment people often take the short route to success by sacrificing basic leadership matrices. This may work in the short term but what about the marathon? There, they find themselves marooned, shamed and humiliated in the eyes of the ones they lead and the world at large.

Corruption, nepotism and egoistic policies are the three biggest challenges leaders face. A fall from grace along any of these three is suicidal. The recent spate of scams in the Indian market place depict the rot in standards of leadership being provided to the nation be they in the field of politics, bureaucracy, defence or the corporate culture.

To discuss the first- mother of all leadership ills – Corruption. While adorning the highest possible leadership positions where the temptation is too high – people succumb to this great devil, get caught and undermine the faith of an entire generation in the leadership matrices to be followed. Leave aside the disgrace they bring to themselves, they undermine the organisation they lead and demoralise the very fabric they had vowed to defend and be custodians of. They deserve no mercy.

The next in the cardinal sin is nepotism as a leadership matrix. A large number of so called leaders lead through the power of the pen they yield. Suffice to say that they lead sad enterprises bereft of any team spirit and deliver mediocre results.

The worst sin of the leadership matrix is ego. Leaders operating out of this paradigm of life rather than the true values and systems they are appointed to promote create leaders who are corrupt and breed mediocrity through sycophancy.They may rise in careers for a short time but their fall from grace is the worst. Leaders operating out of  these premises of ego and nepotism finally become corrupt and corrupt the organisations they are supposed to lead. This corruption may not be financial alone but one that corrupts the work environment, breeds sycophancy and marginalises talent in the organisation. The net impact is a corruption of minds and emergence of environment managers who sing the bosses tunes over integrity and loyalty to the organisation.

Good leaders thus must guard against the ills of ego subverting their people and organisation. No amount of repeating the Chetwodian Motto is enough to ensure that you excel as a leader through character borne out of an egoless state in which the credits are of your people and failings are yours.

Only then can you be called true leaders.

Perceptions

And we all make our choices..

Like a blind man feels his way

Eleven Cs of Engagement

The Universal Inner Structure of Leaders

At the outset you can pin these down to some definitive qualities such as courage to decide, will power to persist, initiative to be a self starter, knowledge of self, ability to deal with people, and knowledge of the job to reach selflessness based on an ideal or vision.

All these are well taken and must exist in varying proportions in a leader. This discourse is set to comprehend the universal inner structure of a leader as out lined in Bhagwad Geeta.

The key is the characteristic inner structure of a leader that should harmonise his thoughts, words and deeds. A leader who can achieve this ubiquitous synergy in this universal inner structure rises above the mill of the run leaders. He can operate from a level of self confidence borne out of his character to achieve the impossible. He can dispassionately and objectively observe the world around him in a holistic manner and initiate his thoughts to spur significant changes in the organisation.

Such leaders are above petty politicking at the work place and can operate under conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty to evolve cogent answers to complex work problems. Once this universal structure is in place, rest becomes a natural function of this trait. Such leaders develop the courage to walk the edge, have strong will power, can deal effectively with people and develop ideal visions for their organisations and the people.

Somehow in our quest for money, name or fame we disturb the fine balance required to develop this inner quality. That is when the doom begins and despite good short term results we sacrifice the long term sustainable leadership position

Pushing the Envelop

This term is often used in the leadership domains as a fancy burn out strategy by those attempting to prove their mettle in the leadership ladders at various levels. Translated – it means working hard beyond the call of duty.

It can be interpreted in a variety of ways depending upon who is looking. I have seen people drive themselves and their teams hard in the quest to achieve results. There is nothing wrong with that, provided the furious activity results in creating desired velocity (a product of speed and direction) in an environment conducive to learning and growth.

When organisations and leaders decide on a policy to push the envelope, which can not be a continuous process for fear of early burnout, there are few pertinent issues which merit consideration.

  • Firstly, the 15 percent theory must be applied diligently to ascertain the velocity required to be generated. The intent must be very clearly debated, designed and conceived to provide the doctrinal umbrella under which the organisation should operate.
  • Secondly, the ownership of ideas should be transferred to the people responsible to execute the desired missions. This calls for flattening of hierarchies and creating an environment of trust and faith. It should lay down the parameters of work culture reducing one up man ship in the organisation.
  • Thirdly, the empowerment module under such conditions requires adequate lattitude to each leader to operate independently with in his/her sphere of influence.
  • Fourthly, there should be a regular work audit to ensure teams maintain direction.
  • Lastly, while pushing the envelop, it should be the foremost duty of each leader to ensure that his team does not burn out doing non essential activities.

Organisations must continuously push the envelop – but this should be a fun activity aimed at bringing out the best in each team member rather than focussing on profits. Once the teams take on the ownership of ideas and gets the requisite fredom of action, profits automatically follow.

Experiment, Endure, Experiment

Rendering of human brain.

Unleash your potential

Leadership of organisations big or small can be frustrating if it is attempted in Closed User Group (CUG) environments with low appetite for risk taking. Such organisations at best break even and are no fun to be part of. The moment you find yourself in such a bind where creativity is subject to hide bound rules and regulations, I recommend it is time to pack your bags and quit.

For one, if you are a creative person with an innovative streak, these CUGs will kill it first before you realize it.

Second, they are averse to change and believe in the magic of “don’t fix what ain’t broke” – status quo rules supreme here within the ambit of their rules.

Third, they will not allow you to experiment and would want better results following the same archaic rules that govern them. If you walk on the edge here, they will be the first to push you over.

Fourth, Ideas die fastest in such environments, frustrating all your baby steps at change management. These organisations normally are happiest chasing change along well beaten paths.

Fifth, Creativity is a dirty word here..using it can muzzle you faster than you can imagine.

If you are serving in an organisation which bides its time within the status quo..time you moved on.

To be a happy and successful leader, accept lower remuneration but an environment which enables you to experiment, explore, endure and then experiment some more.

Try it…it will make leadership fun!!

Must You Have Conflict at Work?

Conflicts

Well conflict is a tough word..can we say differences?

My linkedin friend Justin Barry asked a pointed question on the discussion board

How do you approach and deal with conflict at work?!

His take is pasted below:

Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

Another way of looking at conflict: “A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people. If you’re the boss and your people fight you openly when they think that you are wrong – that’s healthy.”

Why is this happening?

So lets get back to basics.  Conflict occurs because people are not getting what they need or who are seeking their own self-interests.  You may say that conflict is inevitable because we are dealing with people’s jobs, pride, ego etc.

It could be that conflict arises because of :

  • Weak leadership
  • Poor communication
  • Dissatisfaction with management style (e.g lack of openness)

Does this matter, well it SURE does if

  • Affects team/organization performance
  • Affects staff morale
  • Polarizes people
  • Impacts people or team cooperation
  • In extreme cases, eads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting, name-calling

BUT remember that conflict can also be positive if

  • Resolves and provides solutions to business problem
  • Provides open communication channels
  • releases positive emotion and deals with staff’s anxiety and stress
  • Helps build trust
  • People improve their understanding and skills of the people and the organization they work for.

The Risk of Conflict can be REDUCED

There is action you can take to reduce these incidents from happening.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Set expectations around goals and staff performances
  • Communicate frequently and honestly
  • Be open about your concerns so everyone knows where you stand.
  • Agree that it is good to disagree so people understand that healthy disagreement would build better decisions
  • Let your teams grow and learn from their mistakes.

    My Take

    Conflict Resolution

    These arguments and suggestions are well taken but these are pragmatic efforts at answering the questions from a managerial rather than leadership perspective. Good leaders take the team on board by clearly articulating the “intent” and explaining the “why” of each activity. Once these are explained and the leader has an open approach towards taking in criticism based on continuous feedbacks..conflicts begin to minimise.

    Each human has a desire to out perform the given standards. A good leader doesn’t pit one member of the team against the other to ensure better performance or does not institute individual rewards for accomplishments. Instead he sets parameters for each member to push the envelop and out perform himself. In such forgiving and enabling environments personal conflicts are minimised to a large extent as team members work to produce collaborative answers. They do not hesitate to take or give advice and suggestions to improve work in their sphere of influence. In such win win environments alone can conflicts be minimised for the larger organisational good.

    Such leadership environment can only be developed by leaders willing to learn, love, share and mentor their team mates. They multiply the power of their team members rather than adding them.

    If conflict still persists, it is time to change the leader.

    I would end it with this quote

    “Put organisation above self..it will largely help you flow like water and brush aside what obstructs your thoughts. If your thoughts are powerful enough they will erode the opposition over time. Else, you like water, again choose the path of least resistance to follow your organisational goals.